The brutal murder of any human being, regardless of their social status, is a sad thing. It must be prevented at all cost.
But, sadly, we seem to have become a nation that is slowly normalising murder. In Limbe, a small-scale businessman was brutally killed by little low-lifes who have turned our cities into territories where they can exact any kind of affliction on commuters with little to deter them.
The criminals are not strangers to police officers; so their continued stay outside prison walls would rather be seen as deliberate.
They pose some of the biggest safety threats to people, especially at night, and officers patrolling various strategic locations appear to be purposely ignoring those where the criminals roam.
In fact, sometimes even during the day, these villains—mostly street connected boys—have the audacity to rob people of their wallets and mobile phones in full view of others.
They are the landlords of Limbe, Blantyre and Lilongwe towns and exude some very ridiculous insolence in their evil ventures.
But that is what you expect if the police treat these delinquents with kid gloves. They are confident that for all their evil deeds, including robberies and murder, there is no real retribution to come their way.
It is no surprise, therefore, that in Blantyre, some people have ganged up against the town and city robbers and have vowed to mete out mob justice on them.
You can condemn such people for going for such extreme options, but in the absence of proper remedies from the police, that is all they are left with to protect their lives and property.
In fact, most cases of mob justice are attributed to the police’s failure to provide adequate security to civilians.
We have heard several cases of people being slain in cold blood by criminals who are still at large.
In Dedza, a senior Malawi Revenue Authority official who was reportedly resolute in cracking down on corruption at the customs office was murdered at his own house by people suspected to be unhappy with his clampdown.
There was just some subtle assurance from authorities that justice would prevail. We are still waiting for that to happen.
But that incident has obviously instilled some fear in other officials who are not sure about their own security. After all, they are not seeing anyone being punished for the brutal crime.
A lawyer was also brutally killed by murderers. We have not heard anything about their arrests. It appears they are on the loose; free to go after anyone else who could be their next victim.
The state of our security needs some serious attention. Elsewhere, this should have been taken as a crisis demanding various stakeholders to come together to find solutions.
But it is not happening in Malawi and it is nothing surprising.
All we are hearing are excuses from Police Inspector General George Kainja that the service is understaffed and does not have enough resources for the optimal carrying out of security services.
So, essentially, Kainja wants us to understand that because the Malawi Police Service (MPS) does not have enough personnel and resources, murders and robberies can be forgiven.
We all know that there is no government ministry, department or agency that has enough resources. It is about prudently using the little that they get for maximum impact.
Otherwise, the state of insecurity in this country is really disturbing. It could even be scaring potential investors away because one of the major inducements for businesspeople is security. They are forever reluctant to take their money into a country where there is a risk of being robbed.
Then there is the issue of suspicious recruitments of police officers. Recently, there was backlash from some quarters directed at MPS over what was seen as fraudulence in recruiting new officers.
Pictures of some new officers who looked too young for the police job made rounds on social media, with some people downrightly stating that the seriousness that was being exercised in recruiting police officers has been thrown to the dogs.
Such lack of trust towards this important security institution is dangerous.
What is required, perhaps, is for relevant authorities to conduct a deep audit of the whole process to find out if the laid-down procedures were followed.
Otherwise, if this is left to persist without any clearance, we are setting a very bad precedent. In fact, here is straightforward work for the Ombudsman to do. Just like the office has probed recruitments in several government entities, it should not let the police one pass by.
The point is that if the recruitments were unprocedural or outright fraudulent, some deserving people must have been left out.
The statement from MPS that all procedures and guidelines were strictly followed in the recruitment exercise cannot be taken as the absolute truth. The fact that some quarters raised eyebrows is enough to call for an investigation.
Alick Ponje is a features writer at The Times Group. He graduated from the University of Malawi with a bachelor’s degree in education, majoring in literature in English. He believes that quality reporting is critical in bringing positive change in communities. Alick is the Southern Africa Development Community journalist of the year (2020) in the television category. Follow him on Twitter @aponje