Tag Archives: lilongwe

Picture Caption: Comfort Chitseko on the front page of the BNL Times (Malawi newspaper) in October 2011 -- accused of being an activist. / Photo by: Comfort Chitseko

Revamping the Malawi Police Service

Comfort Chitseko on the front page of the BNL Times (Malawi newspaper) in October 2011 -- accused of being an activist. / Photo by: Comfort Chitseko

“I was detained, in jail for 7 days for no reason,” said Comfort Chitseko, who was arrested by Malawi police in October for allegedly conducting demonstration without authority consent and seditious act (according to Malawi police).

“I was having lunch with my cousin before I was arrested. They put me in the local jail cell and then they eventually transferred me to Maula Prison. I did absolutely nothing wrong,” he said.

During the time of Comfort’s arrest, the country was in chaos. The July 2011 protests caused tension across the nation.

Comfort now awaits a court hearing for the false accusations. He is not the only one who has experienced the flagrant abuse of power by the police.

“Time and time we experience that the society is saying that we mishandle suspects,” says Commissioner Nelson Bophani from Malawi’s Police Service in Lilongwe’s central region.

Since the infamous July 20, 2011, protests, the Malawi Police Service has yet to recover from their unjust and violent reputation.

Many police authorities recognize Malawians’ criticisms of police’s arbitrary arrest and even brutality. The Police Service understands that kindling a relationship with the public is what the nation needs.

“The public is expecting a lot from us,” said Detective Lucy Mkute from Kanengo Police Service.

She feels that changes are already being made within the Police Service. “We are respecting human rights and the rule of law,” she said.

Many changes have been made in government administration since the leadership of Honorable Joyce Banda, including the replacement of the Inspector-General of the Malawi Police Service.

Since being appointed, the new Inspector-General, Commissioner Loti Dzonzi has initiated an ‘Investigative Interviewing Skills’ workshop for all investigators and prosecutors in the Police Service.

“It is the desire of the inspector-general that we change the image of the Police Service,” said Commissioner Bophani. “His intention is to do it by imparting skills to all investigators and prosecutors.”

Commissioner Bophani stated the Inspector-General believes that implementing a course in Investigative Interviewing Skills may also help reduce police violations.

“The Police Service needs to avoid using torture and violence – instead we should use our skills. It’s what Malawi needs.”

Children in Malawi run away due to lack of food

Tikhala Chilembwe - former street kid turned aspiring doctor

Tikhala Chilembwe used to be one of many street children in Malawi, but he has since returned to school. Photo by Desiree Buitenbos

Co-written with Sibongele Zgambo from Zodiak Broadcasting Station 

Its 10 p.m. in Malawi’s capital, Lilongwe, and the nighttime vultures that characterize the city at night are out in full force.

Prostitutes prey on drunk men stumbling out of dimly lit bars, while stray dogs are on the hunt for scraps leftover from the hustle and bustle of daylight hours. These desolate streets are no place for a child to grow up, yet many often do.

A 10-year-old boy who didn’t want to give his name says he has been sleeping in a gutter outside a popular grocery store for the past three years. He says poverty pushed him into the streets after he lost both his parents to AIDS.

“Most of the time, I beg for money to buy food because I have no one to look after me,” he says. “The problem is some men at night will beat us up and take all that we have sourced throughout the day, leaving us with nothing at all”

Chimwemwe, 12, also left home with dreams of finding a better life in the big city, but his experience has been more comparable to a recurring nightmare.

“Some men rape us night,” he says “Others beat us and tell us to go away saying that we are thieves in town”

According to UNICEF, there are approximately 8,000 children living on the streets in Malawi’s major urban centers. Most of them are boys, and 80 per cent are AIDS orphans. These youngsters are often labelled by locals as purse-snatching, thugs, but the reality is that many of them have suffered unimaginable physical and sexual abuses.

Dr. Joseph Bandawe, a clinical psychologist at the Malawi College of Medicine, says that homelessness disrupts the sense of safety and security that children need, and as a result, they wander through life lacking self-confidence and being wary of adults.

“The trust and confidence that good things will happen to them is not there,” Bandawe says.

“This affects their social interactions – defining the way they’re able to relate to other people, and the boundaries of what is acceptable and what is not.”

Bandawe’s explanation might explain why many of Malawi’s street kids are tempted by a life of crime, but he also suggests that building trust and restoring family ties is imperative when returning troubled kids to school.

Chisomo Childrens Club is a local non-profit working on child poverty issues, and their main mission is to integrate youth back into an ordinary way of life. According to Irene Ngumano, a senior social worker for Chisomo, the biggest challenge in terms of rehabilitation is working with families who were willing to let their children go in the first place.

“Many families that we are working with are poverty stricken families who typically don’t have three meals a day,” says Ngumano.

With Malawi’s escalating economic problems, inflation now stands at a staggering 10.9 per cent, causing the prices of essential commodities like bread and sugar to skyrocket. This implies one thing: the number of street children is set to increase unless there is radical policy change.

But Ngumano adds that if families are facing financial difficulties, Chisomo provides monetary assistance which enables them, at the very least, to feed their dependents.

Such was the case with 17-year-old Tikhala Chilembwe who ran away from home in Grade 3. He slept under a bridge for years, until he was discovered by Chisomo social workers who reunited him with his legal guardians and resumed his education.

“My life is okay right now,” says Tikhala, with a smile. “When I’m finished school, I want to become a doctor and I am going to work hard to achieve my goals.”

Teachers in over crowded schools on strike for unpaid ‘double-shift’ wages

LILONGWE, Malawi – Primary schools in Lilongwe are over their capacity. There are not enough classrooms to seat 8,000 or more students per school, and students are forced to sit outside.

In fact, schools in the area lack funding and government support.

It an attempt to accommodate all students with an education while optimizing the use of limited classrooms, the government in 2010 implemented ‘double-shift’ teaching. Teachers could be asked to work all day and receive additional pay. While some students are taught during the morning, the others are taught in the afternoon.

“The double-shift allowance was rolled out in all of the primary schools in the country,” said Dennis Kalekeni, the general-secretary for the Teacher’s Union of Malawi. Teachers granted the double-shift allowance were paid for working a morning shift, and again for working an afternoon shift.

In spite of the overly crowded classrooms, lack of teachers and many other issues that double shifting has created, most primary school students still enjoy going to school. The enforced double-shift means for them an opportunity for an education.

From May 2010 to July 2010, teachers from Mdzobwe educational district were paid accordingly. However, after July 2010, they were no longer given their entitled double-shift allowance.

As a result, 41 teachers from the 4 primary schools in Mdzobwe Zone are now on strike. “They promised us our money since 2010. They promised but they lied,” said Issac Chibwana, the spokesperson for the striking teachers.

The teachers object to the injustice asserting that they have been deprived of their entitlement to remuneration for far too long.

“I tried to have a meeting with the director of the Ministry of Education, only to find out he went to Rwanda,” said Kalekeni.

“They do not have concrete information to provide to the teachers, as to when they will get paid.”

On the other hand, the district education manager from the Ministry of Education stated that he had informed the teachers that their double-shift allowance would be incorporated in a supplementary budget (to be discussed sometime in February).

However, 17 months of unpaid double-shift wages leave teachers frustrated and angry. They are doubtful of the promise.

Meanwhile, 65,000 Lilongwe primary school students have been out of school since January 13. “They are running around with nothing to do,” said Chibwana. “They would rather be in school learning.”

Steven Malunga, chairperson of the Vendors Association for Tsoka Market

The street vendor’s motto: “Freedom is bought by blood”

Lilongwe street vendors have been headlining Malawi media for quite some time and it doesn’t look like their name will be out of the news anytime soon.

There have been a few battles between street vendors and riot police, creating chaos in the city. Since moving their business onto the streets of Lilongwe, street vendors have been confronted by city council officials and police, advising them to vacate the streets and return to their original selling spots in the markets.

This week, Lilongwe will have to prepare for another showdown.

It all started after the recent attacks on some Malawian women who were not wearing long skirts. Street vendors in Lilongwe said their name was tarnished from being accused of such acts.

“We love women and we protect our women. We would never hurt them,” said Steven Malunga, the chairperson of the Vendors Association for Tsoka Market.

“After the women boycotted us because they heard we were the ones attacking them, business has not been the same and now street vendors left their spots in the market to sell their merchandise on the streets.”

Malunga said he wants to put an end to what he considers defamation of character to all street vendors by using a seven-day campaign.

“The campaign is a method to disassociate the street vendors from thugs who are the real culprits of the attacks,” said Malunga.

He said thugs selling their merchandise on the same streets were posing as street vendors. Street vendors and thugs were being categorized under one title – vendors.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Steven Malunga, chairperson of the Vendors Association for Tsoka Market (Photo by Kara Stevenson)


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A joint operation with police authorities, the Vendors Association and city council members decided to use the seven-day campaign to get street vendors who are selling their merchandise on the streets, back into the market. This way authorities are able to differentiate who are the real street vendors and who are not.

“We are looking for the original vendors. Not the fake vendors. I want the original vendors to go back to the market to trade their business,” said Malunga.

Justin, a street vendor selling his merchandise on the street said he heard about the seven-day campaign and said he does not intend to move back into the market.

“Business on the street has increased sale profits. Also, there is no space to accommodate all vendors in the market,” said Justin.

Malunga said if street vendors are not situated back into their designated posts, anything could happen. He used this example: “If a child doesn’t listen, what happens to them? They get punished.”

Justin and many other street vendors challenge to face any officials after the seven-day campaign is over.

“We will deal with them when the time comes,” said Justin.

The seven-day campaign will officially end this Monday. According to a message (written in Chichewa) that was posted on several trees in Old Town, the street vendors stand strong; they will not be moved!

A DEAD PERSON IS NOT YET KNOWN!

A message from Lilongwe street vendors (Photo by Patrick Maulidi/ZBS Journalist)

WE, STREET VENDORS,
LABORERS, GOODS-CARRIERS AND
MINIBUS TOOTERS,
WE HAVE AGREED NEVER TO VACATE
NOR LEAVE OUR WORK BECAUSE
THAT’S WHERE WE FIND OUR DAILY FOOD

WE ARE WARNING ALL THOSE THAT
HAVE BEEN PAID TO BETRAY US
AND ARE BEING LED BY MR. STEVEN MALUNGA.
WE ARE SAYING MR. MALUNGA IS NOT OUR VENDORS CHAIRMAN
BUT FOR DPP PARTY.

WE DON’T WANT TO CONFRONT ANYONE
BUT IF YOU START CONFRONTING US, MAKE SURE YOU STAND FIRM AND FINISH WHAT YOU HAVE STARTED.
BECAUSE IF YOU RETREAT, WE WILL FOLLOW YOU TO YOUR RESPECTIVE HOMES.

WE WILL DIE FOR OUR COUNTRY LIKE GADAFI
WHO ONCE SAID
FREEDOM IS BOUGHT BY BLOOD