Malawi security lapse: The bucks stops with you, Madam President

We are concerned with the security breakdown in the country. No matter how hard certain ideological zealots aligning themselves with the government may try to water down this unfolding tragedy, the truth is, there is still security breakdown in Malawi. As we speak now, some prisoners have just escaped from Zomba Prison. But to get to grips with such security breakdown, we, at the Nyasa Times, would like to recall a number of factors that we contend have contributed to this.

When Mrs. Joyce Banda became President, one of her earliest public assignments was to visit the notorious Maula Prison, where she distributed gifts to and entertained prisoners. Things were said there regarding respecting the dignity and rights of prisoners. It must be mentioned that the President, who champions the rights of women and children, must have driven close to Kamuzu Central Hospital, where guardians attending the sick are finding it hard to find a place to sleep. The quality of maternal and child care being provided here is substandard, something that could be attributed to both the  Bingu wa Mutharika and Bakili Muluzi governments.

Around the same period, Mrs. Banda appointed Loti Dzonzi as the Inspector General of Police – and just like his boss, Dzonzi has been on so-called tours aimed to mend the broken relationships between the Police and the public. He has even publicly chastised officers for not respecting the rights of accused and convicted individuals; in fact he has called for the resignation of officers who believe in the hardliner approach.

As if this is not enough, we are appalled to learn that about 35 of the recently pardoned 377 prisoners are very, very bad people – to an extent, other prisoners rioted at learning of their Presidential pardon. There must be something discomforting here. The Attorney General Ralph Kasambara spent some time in Zomba Prison; could he have perhaps promised some of these thugs that one day he would come to their rescue? Is this not similar to Muluzi’s attempt to pardon Clive Macholowe just before he left power?

Whatever the case, we are reminded of what one American President, Harry Truman inscribed on his table during his presidency: ‘The buck stops here’, he had written, a reminder that a President cannot pass the buck of responsibility to any other officer.

Our President should have gone through that list of prisoners to be pardoned. How would she find time, Nyasa Times wonders, to do that, when she is so busy traveling around the country, and doing jobs that ministers should be doing?

One cannot fight violent crimes we are currently experiencing with the Bible and kid gloves.

Just to remind ourselves that, the very donor organizations that use human rights discourses in evaluating our justice and prison systems have kept silent when the US and Britain have benefitted from  the use of Guantanamo Bay, the rendition system and, for the US specifically, their refusal to be a signatory to the ICC.

We cannot have a Bible-wielding Inspector of Police who humiliates his officers in public, when we are in desperate need for motivated and fired-up officers to protect us, at the time when women and children are being raped and murdered with impunity.

Madam President, in 2014, people are not going to measure your government by what the DPP did before 2012. It will not make sense to continue blaming the late Mutharika and his DPP. In fact, lest we forget, bad as Bingu might have been, he was ruthless when it came to internal security. That is a historical fact we at the Nyasa Times will not attempt to revise.

For your information Your Excellency, you cannot become a good President by continually reminding people of how bad your predecessor was. Nyasa Times is reminding Your Excellency that the public sympathy you have been enjoying in your first 100 days is on its last legs.

We would like to remind you, that we are the same Malawians that made Kamuzu Banda Life President in 1971, and yet, a few decades later, stripped him of that honour and even had him arrested just before he died. We are the same Malawians that tore our clothes and lay them on the road for Chakufwa Chihana’s motorcade to pass, but ended up punishing him politically come election time.

We are the same citizens that said ‘ngakhale wokuba yemweyo’ as we ushered a convicted felon, Bakili Muluzi into power, but ten years later, we collectively refused him the third term opportunity. We are the very Malawians that defended Mutharika with our lives when the MCP and UDF tried to oust him from power after 2004, but a few years down the line, we willingly shed the blood of 20 compatriots to remind him of how much we despised his policies.

Your Excellency, when you sit in those cabinet meetings, try to look around and study the faces surrounding you, think about who they served before, who they lied to, and how much of their advice you can trust, especially when it comes to security issues.

Accusing the DPP or any of their agents of being responsible for the current security breakdown is tantamount to using a false scale, which we are warned against using in Proverbs 11 verse 1.

The buck stops with you, Madam President.


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