MINISTER of Home Affairs Grace Chiumia was on Friday, stopped from entering Maula Prison premises where she wanted to address officers who are currently staging a strike.
One of the warders said all they want is a circular which will also indicate that their grades have been changed, just as what has happened at the Malawi Police Service.
“From what we gathered, the Minister was coming to discuss with us. But all we need is a circular telling us that our grades have also changed. As it is now, a person who is a constable in the Malawi Police Service, is at par with a sergeant in the Malawi Prison Service. That is very unfair. These changes should also happen at Malawi Prison Service,” said the warder.
Chiumia has insisted that contact and dialogue is the only solution to the issue. “If they had any grievances, they were supposed to write through their Commissioner. We would have discussed. When I heard they are on strike, I decided to go and hear their concerns. When I reached Maula Prison, they blocked the road, but managed to pass.
However, I found that the main gate was closed. They were chanting. How are we going to address their concerns? We needed to hear their voice but they insisted they were not going to open the gate and I left the place,” Chiumia said.
The minister said the changes being noted is a way of addressing concerns that officers at Immigration, Malawi Police Service and Malawi Prison Service, have been raising for a long time.
“People have been on the same grade for a long time. Some of them have been working without promotion for over 10 years. We decided to do a functional review as one way of dealing with the problem. We started with Immigration Department, thereafter Malawi Police Service. Next is the Malawi Prison Service,” Chiumia said.
On Saturday, people who wanted to visit their friends and relatives at the prison were still not being allowed to do so. Two barriers were erected on the road to the prison. The officers have said they will be forced to take drastic measures if government continues its casual approach to the issue.
“We believe government will take this issue seriously. If nothing is done, on Monday we will employ new strategies. One of them is that we will stop giving the prisoners food,” said one of the officers.
On Friday Chiumia said despite the strike, everything is normal in as far as issues to do with prisoners are concerned.
“They are receiving their food. That’s the thing I am happy about. We don’t want to break prisoners’ rights. We have also put in places measures to make sure that no prisoner escapes,” she said.