Mr President no more avoiding in civil servants wage hike demands

AVOIDING has been and will most probably continue to be a strategy most people use in conflict management. The strategy involves staying away from an issue that causes disagreement, perhaps with the hope that the issue will solve itself.

Judging by events in the past year or so, one would rightly claim that the strategy is most obviously used by president Bingu wa Mutharika’s administration. Surprisingly, the Mutharika administration continues to use it despite observing its dismal ineffectiveness in previous related situations.

Two telling examples of its usage are readily coming; the academic freedom saga and the judiciary support staff strike. You need not be reminded that it took the Mutharika administration more than eight months to solve the historic academic freedom saga. And most recently, it has taken more than two months for the judiciary staff strike to reach to an end. Reason? Avoiding strategy, of course!

Mutharika

What has been of interest in the most recent days is the pronouncement in the local media that the civil servants have given government seven days ultimatum to increase its salary by 67%.

Civil servants’ cries of 67% salary increment is said to be necessitated by two things; the ever skyrocketing prices of essential commodities and goods, and the ever stable salary scale. Though the ultimatum fall short of specifying the next action should government fail to honour it, one would not help but expect wa Mutharika administration to treat the ultimatum with the urgency and the seriousness it deserves.

One would not be completely wrong to argue that the civil servants ultimatum is perfectly timed knowing that government is a now an easy target. But whether this argument is convincing or not, or whether civil servants’ concerns are warranted or not, that should not be an issue; what is an issue here is how best and fast the government can address the civil servants concerns so that there is no a repeat of the academic freedom and judiciary strike gaffes, among others.

It is interesting to note that the civil servants ultimatum comes at a time government has accumulated enough knowledge after learning, if at all it did, from previous almost similar cases. Conceivably, it is from this background that Malawians seem to be a little less perturbed with the ultimatum as the widespread thinking seems to be that the government will, at least this time, press the right panic button.

Malawians expect its government to do the right thing. They expect the government to face the ultimatum head-on. Such expectation is not only justifiable but also workable. This is the case knowing very well that it is only when government presents itself as listening and welfaristic is the other parties concerned willing to sacrifice some of their demands for progress’ sake.

It is upon this spirit that the academic freedom saga, the judiciary strike, and many other burning issues came to a negotiated compromise. Were it not for government’s overdue spirit of give-and-take, acceptance of error, treatment of negotiating parties as partners etcetera, those issues would still be not solved up to date.

That is why the expectation now is that the Mutharika government will make a timely application of the give-and-take spirit in the civil servants’ 67% salary increment quagmire so that not even a month passes with this issue being an issue.

But being “unpredictable” as president Bingu wa Mutharika himself openly boasts, it would surprise few to see his administration using the very same tested-and-failed avoiding strategy in addressing civil servants’ 7-day ultimatum. And should indeed president Mutharika use this strategy, Malawians should better forgive themselves for being the worst voters on earth!

The thing is: If indeed experience is the best teacher, then let president Bingu wa Mutharika know that avoiding is nothing but an escapist strategy that, in addition to wasting time, postpones the problem only to find it more established and more complex later. And, if indeed experience is more than 100 professional teachers, then we lest be assured that the Mutharika administration is this time well-armoured to deal with the civil servants concerns differently positively.

Otherwise, after all the experiences, one would not be arrested on arguing that president Bingu wa Mutharika is an ‘unteachable’ student of the 21st century should it take his administration one or two months to tackle the civil servants concerns.

*Henry Chizimba, Fourth Year, Education Humanities, Chancellor College

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