Junior Game Rangers in the various parks and protected areas across the country are staging a strike beginning last Wednesday, in protest against government’s failure to address their concerns which they raised last week.
The rangers in their letter to the Director of the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Brighton Kumchedwa asked for promotion of officers, provision of Personal Protective Equipment in the wake of Covid-19, Risk allowances and salary arrears among others.
They also complained that government has been unable to neither train more Parks and Wildlife Assistants (PWA) nor build the capacity of those in service for over ten years.
But after the elapse of the seven day ultimatum which they gave government to address their issues, they say the responses from authorities have not been satisfactory.
Spokesperson for the concerned group Twabi Chimimba said in an interview yesterday that they are not backing down, complaining that their counterpart from Malawi Prison and Police Services are given preferential treatment.
“What the Director did in his response was to outline to us the efforts that he has been doing before, but what we want is action. It is a pity that our department which generates revenue for the government is neglected in such manner when others which only consume are always prioritized, so we will continue with the sit in until our demands are met,” Chimimba explained.
According to Chimimba a junior Game Ranger gets K18, 000 field allowance to suffice for 21 nights, an amount he said is little if compared to the cost of living and the risk associated with the work that they do.
He said the Covid-19 pandemic has increased their risk saying the poachers that they arrest on daily basis in some establishments come from neighboring countries where the pandemic is the on the rise
Based at Mwabvi Game Reserve in Nsanje, Chimimba gave example of himself that he has worked on the same grade for 12 years without promotion, decrying the existing 70 percent vacancy rate in the department.
“Our crucial demands right now are promotions, field allowances and risk allowances which we want attached to our salaries,” he added.
With the ongoing strike The Sunday Times gathers that there are no ongoing patrols thereby giving room to poachers and unscrupulous individuals to kills the protected wild animals for their tissues and ferry trees illegally.
The development raises fear that some of the endangered species like pangolins which according to government records are less than 500 across the country, may become extinct should the strike prolong.
When contacted, Kumchedwa referred us to Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Environment, Tourism and Wildlife Isaac Katopola who said government has started tackling some of the issues that the 360 junior game rangers are raising.
“By Monday, we will have tangible feedback to our striking officers, I should mention that we have prioritised long term issues like promotions and field allowances,” he said.
The industrial action is taking place at Nyika, Liwonde, Lengwe and Lake Malawi National Parks, Vwaza and Mwabvi Game reserves among other establishments.