Last week, the Blantyre City Council was caught pants down when, having gotten wind of news that Vice President Saulos Chilima will visit Manja Township, it immediately went into high drive, deploying men and women labourers to slash overgrown grass by the road side and to sweep the streets clean.
And boy, what a site it was! Everyone associated with the council appeared to have been running helter-skelter, to an extent that the top-shot at the council had to abandon his official Mercedes Benz on that dusty earth road just so he could see with his very eyes what his boys on the ground were doing, lest he starts panicking.
That was not all! It appears there is a lot of negligence at the council as the Vice President was also taken to a site in Chilomoni where a bridge at Chilomoni Fargo that links the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ reportedly collapsed and no one is working with a sense of urgency to see to it that Blantyre lives up to its billing as a city and not some obscured remote place in the middle of nowhere.
It is good that Chilima saw through the scheming of the council officials whose intentions to hoodwink him into thinking that they are diligently serving residents of the commercial city backfired as he told them point blank in Manja to put a stop to what they were doing as he already knew they had been neglecting their duty of keeping the city clean. And when we come out to chide the councils somebody says we are going overboard, what insolence!
There is no way we, the citizens, are going to let such institutions get away with such kind of work ethic and yet the taxpayer keeps dipping hard in the pocket to give such entities billions of Kwacha and yet the council employees refuse to earn their keep.
Just fancy, another government owned company, which enjoys monopoly on the market, can afford to keep its customers a whole three to four days without electricity and it is still business as usual for those at the company. We indeed joke a lot in this country; we have a long way to go if at all public institutions are to, one day, give the people a flawless service.
May be the call out by Chilima was just the right tonic that BCC needed to get their act together (let us hope that is what they are doing). This should serve as a reminder to all city and district councils, as well as all parastatal institutions, that Malawians will not tolerate mediocrity in as far as the performance of such organisations is concerned. Let us face it; we all are aware that these institutions subject us all to shambolic social service delivery.
The Martha debacle
So, after putting on display a stellar performance before an interviewing panel and cruising with ease past President Lazarus Chakwera, who gave a nod for Ombudsman Martha Chizuma to appear before Public Appointments Committee of Parliament as the last stop, Malawians were left with their mouth wide open when 18 members of the committee (we are told it is made up of 21 legislators) made her stumble on the last block.
Not that she perhaps could not fail; not at all but the dynamics that led to her being declared not fit for the Anti-Corruption Bureau Director role is what made most of us to view the developments with suspicion.
For starters, how could both opposition and government side members of the committee give her extreme ratings? We were told that one side gave her a one out of 25 while the other side gave her 25 out of 25. Even the explanation by Pac chairperson Joyce Chitsulo that the members did not vote per say but were simply rating the candidate hence not requiring a tie breaker, to me, is not convincing enough.
Those with eyes could clearly see through the outcome that it was nothing but petty politics at play. It is sad that the wishes of Malawians to have an effective system that would stump out corruption are being crucified for the sake of serving party interests by the concerned Pac members. It was even said that one particular member showed up with just two minutes to spare before the whole rating exercise was concluded but went ahead and gave a uniform mark with the members of his/her particular block.
The big question is; what is it that our politicians are afraid of? Here is a candidate that has aced all tests that have been put before her and yet somebody wants to frustrate her. Let us, for once, act as a people who really wish to see our country progressing and not dragging it back to the pangs of the very corruption that Chizuma distastes (as evidenced by her impressive work at the Office of the Ombudsman, which even made Pac to endorse her contract renewal).
Let us leave it there but one thing is certain; next week will be very interesting.
Stephen Dakalira is a seasoned Journalist who works as Times Group’s Online and Digital Executive Editor. He is also the Assistant Editor of The Sunday Times Newspaper, and author of Full Circle column which appears in Malawi News; all of these under the Times Group stable.
He has previously worked in key positions for some of Malawi’s key media institutions such as Malawi News Agency, Capital FM Radio and Star Radio (Now Timveni Radio).