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National Registration Bureau staff out on bail

The national registration exercise was Monday interupted in some areas after National Registration Bureau (NRB) staff refused to work demanding their arrears.

The biggest drama was in Mzuzu Monday when NRB staff camped at Mzuzu Police Station to press for the release of 14 colleagues who were arrested on Sunday.

The 14, who were arrested following an order allegedly from Minister of Home Affairs, Grace Chiumia, were later released in the afternoon.

They have been charged with two counts of conspiracy to commit a felony and unlawful gathering.

The drama Monday ensued when other NRB officers in Mzuzu City and others from Ekwendeni refused to register people and flocked to Mzuzu Police Station to hold a vigil in solidarity with their arrested colleagues.

The situation became tense when Mzuzu City Deputy Mayor, Alexander Mwakikunga, together with four other councillors, joined the NRB staff in pushing for the suspects’ release.

Youth and Society Executive Director, Charles Kajoweka, also joined the gathering. Some NRB officers were seen carrying placards insulting Chiumia.

But the police were thereafter seen running with files and later took statements from the suspects.

Speaking in an interview, Northern Region Police publicist, Peter Kalaya, said the police have released them on bail because they feel keeping them in custody will be violating their rights.

“In fact, there are some areas which we want to investigate on their charges. So, we cannot keep them in our cells forever. Therefore, we have given them police bail and we have told them to report to our Mzuzu Police Station on September 22,” Kalaya said.

In Zomba District, NRB staff also boycotted work and marched to the District Council where they notified officials that they had stopped working.

One of NRB officers at Naizi Primary School, Israel Ndelezina, confirmed that they agreed to put down their tools, hence the registration exercise was halted on Monday.

“It is not only in Zomba or Mzuzu where registration processes have stopped but countrywide. We have decided not to work because the National Registration Bureau is reluctant to pay us our arrears. We are already working in hard condition and without the money how are we going to progress? If it continues like this then we will not go back to work,” Ndelezina said.

At Tax Office in Blantyre we also noticed that officers did not register people.

Meanwhile, NRB spokesperson, Norman Fulatira, has said the bureau is discussing the issue with the United Nations Development Programme.

It is the second time for officers to go on strike. In August, NRB officers and drivers also threatened to go on strike because of arrears.

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