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The nightmare of security agencies’ houses

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Saunders Juma

Some jobs demand that the occupants be given institutional houses for easy mobility to work stations whenever work demands. However, Malawi is failing to provide decent accommodation to officers in security agencies like Malawi Defense Force, Immigation Department, Malawi Prison Service and the Police. Our reporter THOMAS KACHERE finds out how challenging is the life living in government provided shacks.

Sitting next to her child at Kanjedza police yard, Mercy—a mother of four— says she has been living in the small Police house because she has no option. She cannot afford accommodation outside the campus.

However, Mercy, a wife to a Police officer, says it is not easy to stay with children in a one-bedroom institutional house.

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While life can be ‘manageable’ during the day, Mercy says life is a misery at night. The sleeping plan in the house becomes a nightmare as six people are supposed to share the one-bedroom house.

“Some children are made to sleep in the store room. We are a family of six and we just live to see the next day. Imagine six people living in a one-bedroom house. How do you think we live? Of cause, all my children are girls but we still face challenges when it comes to place to sleep,” she says.

She decries the living conditions of Police officers, especially at Kanjeza Police yard, saying it is an embarrassment to call them houses.

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Mercy says she shudders to think what would have been a situation if the children were of both genders.

“It could have been a big headache to allocate places for children to be sleeping. More so when it comes to need for privacy,” she said.

Another occupant of an institutional house at Kanjeza Police yard, James Kalero, has an innovating approach to the problem. He decided to extend the house using plywood.

Kalero, a family man, said another problem is that Police officers are failing to own property because the houses are too small.

‘’If my institutional house was big enough to accommodate me and my family, we would not annexed verandas with plywood and iron sheets to create more space.

“I am not comfortable and if the government has plans on infrastructure development, the Police and soldiers should be considered. We are suffering in silence and we need help because it is even challenging, mostly when relatives come to visit that means father in-laws cannot sleep here,’’ he says.

He says he would have gone for a rented house if he were earning enough a month.

One Police officer in Lilongwe said accommodation for Police officers is a security concern as well as a human rights issue.

“How can a Police officer, working at Area 30 be staying in Area 24? Sometimes, we knock off at night and we have to find our way back home. Staying in institution houses would have been ideal.

“As officers, we cannot afford to rent decent houses in some decent locations like Area 18 because our salaries cannot support that. Institutional houses are important but they have to be decent enough,” he says.

He said at least if the Police had decided to give a decent amount of money as house allowance so that men in uniform could be able to rent decent houses.

The situation is not any better in Mzuzu as most of the houses were extended using iron sheets. Officer Same Kauma says there is no difference with other places like Blantyre Zomba and Lilongwe.

“Our problems are the same and if government wants to reduce our challenges building more houses could be one of the remedies. This applies to all the police departments whether working as a traffic officer or prison department,’’ he said.

Deputy Minister of Lands, Abida Mia, says the situation on the police houses is unfortunate because they were built long time ago.

Mia said the government has planned to construct additional houses for the officer across the country.

‘’Our ministry intends to build 1000 houses for the police for this financial year but the intention is to build 10,000 houses for the police,’’ she said.

The deputy minister added that the state president has also come up with a new plan to ensure that the police officers have decent houses.

She said: ‘’Obviously police officers’ houses are not in good conditions most of them need maintenance like roofing, painting because they are very old’’.

According to Mia Malawi Housing Corporation has also constructed 119 houses to lessen the challenge in Mzuzu.

The country has up to 14,500 police officers most of whom live in communities with civilians due to inadequate houses.

In August 2016, the Democratic Progressive Party led government announced that it had secured a $450 million [approximately K328 billion] loan from the Indian government for construction of 10,000 modern houses for the Malawi Police Service (MPS), Malawi Defence Force, Malawi Prison Service and the Immigration Department. It was established that only constructed 15 houses.

Governance commentator, Saunders Juma, said the infrastructure of police houses in the entire country is pathetic and very shameful taking in mind that Malawi’s independence is 56 years old.

Saunders Juma added that it is very painful to note that people who serve the country like men in uniform are not taken care off.

‘’You cannot take pictures of police houses and show to the World, it will be a shame. According to how I see there is no political will in politicians, political parties to uplift the working and living standards of our men and women in uniform,’’ he said.

Juma then said politicians use this when campaign time but once they get into government nothing happens.

‘’You will find that parliament can pass a budget for the houses of the police, but they get out of government without implementing it. Case being Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) led government which passed a budget to build 10,000 houses of the police and Army although on paper they said the built 215 but they cannot show us where they built these houses,’’ he said.

He said Police officers are working as slaves who serve the very same government but cannot at a single day stand up to protest.

‘’These are the people that are taking care of this country security wise. I think government needs to be taken to task to make sure that it fulfills all the promises made to Malawians, Juma said.

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