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Of civil slavery, showmanship

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By Wesley Macheso:

A few days ago, the State President and his vice gave us a reason to laugh when they visited government offices demanding answers for the delay of salaries of civil servants.

It was an act which was dubbed daring and revolutionary by some media gurus, who seemed to forget that the two men work in the offices that they allegedly stormed.

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In our excitement, most of us also forgot that the President and his vice are too big to be busy sweeping the yard when they have employed incapable men and women in the name of ministers and directors to do the job. It is either their servants are not performing or the problem is with the two.

In Malawi, civil servants have always been taken for granted for as long as I can remember. These are some of the lowest paid people in the country and, at the same time, they are ordered to perform miracles at work.

The devaluing of civil servants is perhaps what has led to rampant corruption in our land. It is amazing how our leaders talk about structural adjustment and mindset change when they are failing to address basic factors that have led to distorted minds in the first place.

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The allowance culture being bemoaned in our civil service is a direct consequence of poor pay, but the political leadership will not talk about that.

They will keep on beating about the bush, hoping that the rat will jump out when they know that they ought to dig a hole to kill the pest.

If you take time to visit residences of Malawi Police Service personnel, you will understand why some of these people are always looking for bribes when they go out working.

Sometimes one wonders whether traffic police officers, for example, are on our roads to enforce the law or to simply make money for their bread. These are people who live in destitution because the government neglects them and, yet, they are expected to safeguard this nation with their lives.

Corruption is never justifiable, but sometimes we can understand why some people become corrupt. We live in a dog-eat-dog country.

And among civil servants, teachers are the ones most looked down on. This time, the President and his vice made a show because the delay in salaries was across the board.

But in the past months, teachers have been receiving their salaries late and nobody said anything about it. The ministry was numb, as were political stuntmen, because teachers don’t matter at all.

It is appalling how this country dreams of developing when our education system is never given attention. We are too busy thinking about cheap fertiliser and handouts instead of shaping minds that will put an end to this dependency syndrome.

Unless we elect a government that will seriously invest in education, this country will never see the light of day. We will continue to dance in poverty until the philosophy that considers teachers inferior is discredited. And it takes a government to do that.

The public sector reforms we love to talk about, but not implement, will not come to fruition for as long as working in the civil service remains a form of modern-day slavery.

Whoever makes decisions on behalf of the leaders of this country needs to go back to the drawing board and re-strategise so that they know what is important and what is not.

Civil servants are the engine of this ailing economy and they need to be treated with the respect they deserve. We cannot end corruption in this country if the civil service is regarded carelessly.

The State President and his vice needed not put on a show to tell us that they are concerned with incompetence in their offices. They know what the problem is and they should have sorted that out with their ministers and line managers.

Unlike others, most people in Malawi are not interested in political stunts, as they are busy trying to feed their families. With all that talk during the election campaign period, we expected that we would not be here grumbling about basic things such as salaries.

The Tonse Alliance administration must demonstrate that they are indeed better than the hounds we got rid of. We need to move past basic stunts to something worth the news.

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