When you think its peace and safety,
A sudden destruction,
Collective security for surety, ye-ah!
Don’t forget your history;
Know your destiny,
In the abundance of water, the fool is thirsty.
Rat Race – Bob Marley
Where there is no vision, the people perish
Societal decay, poverty, unequal opportunities, a growing addiction to alcohol, drugs and the culture of a quick buck as opposed to sweating for food, lack of discipline in the armed and police forces, lack of visionary leadership in fulfilment of the words of prophecy thay say: “Where there is no vision, the people perish”; and many other socio-political ills are some of the reasons why gruesome killings, violent robberies and many evils are the order of the day in Malawi.
Looking at the security situation in Malawi today, one cannot help but wonder if at all there is anyone in charge. You see, at risk are not only the rich (especially people known to carry loads of cash), but even albinos, hapless girls, you and even me.
Crime is so rampant that no-one can claim to be safe. People are, as we speak, being mugged on the streets in broad daylight with no-one raising the alarm. Even in your own home, work place, in manses and parishes you are not safe. Churches haven’t been spared either, a couple have been reported to have been vandalised.
Cabinet ministers’ residences? Ask Hon Atupele Muluzi. Presidential villas? Ask Vice President Saulos Chilima. The thieves of Malawi have little or no fear of “champions of reform”. In police compounds and barracks?
When the defender becomes the predator
Well if the criminals are, as reported, emanating from our own security organs, would you feel safe even if you were dwelling in a police compound or barracks? Would you feel safe with a potential armed and violent robber for a neighbour? I wouldn’t.
I know I have posed many questions, responding to which is not a day’s job at least for you and me. Because, if the security professionals, who earn their living under the guise of protecting you and me, at best – have no clue; and at worst – are the perpetrators, what chance do we have of solving this riddle?
But solve it we must hence, this write-up to share a thought or two.
What is clear is that our political leaders, themselves victims, are equally helpless and what more, they are as clueless as a nun squatting in a cucumber field.
What cannot be argued is that police officers and soldiers, themselves often caught armed to the teeth – carrying out burglaries; can no longer be trusted.
What is crystal clear is that our security and insecurity, now lie in our own hands. You may not like this, I do not like it either. But sadly, this is where we are at.
The answer is that, of necessity, we must engender and re-ignite a sense of collective security for surety.
- The armed criminals, the body parts grabbing murderers, the albino killers are a very small proportion of the many peaceful and harmless Malawians.
- The police and politicians will not solve this problem.
- Individual vigilante actions will only worsen the insecurity and will put the “John Rambos” at grave risk.
Against the background of these undisputable facts, is why I propose collective security.
What is this phenomena?
Good and/or active citizenship goes beyond casting the occasional vote every five years. It entails playing a positive and active role in our society and the communities we live in.
It does not include keeping quiet when a known criminal is roaming freely in the hood, to strike at will, again and again.
Living under the illusion that the incidents that have been happening of late to fellow Malawians and even non-Malawians, will not and cannot happen to you or your kin, is not an option. Living under the delusion that “we are clever, sophisticated and have precautions” is, as the elders say in the vernacular, ‘doing it to yourself with a finger’.
Look at it this way: when the bad hombres “visited” the VP, we laughed about it. They came a grade lower and dated a minister’s house, we joked about it. At that time, I should admit, I too was living under the illusion that the goons are only after fat cats.
But not anymore.
Recent incidences more than prove that you or I could be the next. The villains are now onto us and they are changing tact, targets and sinking to despicable and horrendous levels of brutality, every day.
The VP and ministerial thug visits and the general reaction there to, reminds me of one Martin Niemöller (1892–1984). He was a prominent Protestant pastor who was an outspoken public foe of Adolf Hitler. For his trouble, he spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camps.
Niemöller is best remembered for this quotation:
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
Yes. The thugs paid the VP a visit, we laughed – because we are not VPs. Yet another gang of hoodlums “toured” Atupele’s residence, we joked about, thinking we are safe because we are – afterrrrroll – not ministers. The thugs became bolder, they went for albinos. We just sat “phwiii”, because we are not albinos, hence “safe”.
Now when they come for you: what will happen?
Of course Nyasa Times will carry the story of the misfortune, plus pictures of your mutilated carcass, for effect. A hundred or so people will grab their iPads, androids, and what have you and deliver moving eulogies in the comments section when we are gone – minus some body parts.
That will be it. You will not come back.
My Malawi, My View
Ladies and gentlemen, I do not care what you plan to do with or about the criminals marauding your neighbourhood. I intend to deal with the ones marauding mine. Enough is enough.
I would however be very foolish to go it alone. Vigilante style is not only unsustainable, but outright suicidal.
For the record, let me add that I can afford a watchman or two. But I know that when the criminals have exhausted my neighbours’ houses – who have no guards – they will, as sure as the sun will set, one day pay me a visit. I can install security gadgets, but was the VP’s residence left to the elements?
If my guards are lucky, they will run for dear life, leaving my family and I to face the music. If my guards are unfortunate, Nyasa Times will do the honours, and just like with the poor girl with missing body parts, you will bark-bark-and-bark; then the story will die a natural death, while the criminals get more blood thirsty.
What I am advocating is that we should not waste time looking to the police for answers. We should not afford ourselves the luxury of looking to politicians to fix the underlying causes which are societal decay, poverty, unequal opportunities, the culture of quick buck as opposed to sweating for food, lack of discipline in the armed and police forces, and leadership gone to the dogs.
These will not disappear any time soon because: as a people, we have tendency of praising mediocrity even when all evidence shows that what we are praising is, in fact, as incapable as a eunuch.
But having said that, just because these ills are here with us for a while, it does not mean we should offer ourselves as sacrificial lambs to criminals. This would be madness.
In numbers and unity there is strength. Beginning with the smallest communities, villages, streets, locations – working upwards – we can solve this once and for all.
A good example is the case of Area 36. People know the delinquents causing trouble. Chiefs know them. Landlords know them. Those cheap hoodlums have houses. They do not operate from the skies like paratroopers.
Fact is: they are a minority. Yet the masses are cowering under these toddlers. While Malawians have always been known and respected for being docile, this now beyond stupidity. The majority should get organized and put the criminal minority where they belong.
What to do:
Warn young ones (and the most vulnerable) that these are difficult times and using the gadgets you buy for them to play with (selfies et al), encourage them to quickly report suspicious looking characters or delinquents to so and so – as agreed in your network /community or whatever.
And the community cannot fail to contain the situation. Mishaps will happen, but incidences will decline or be circumvented altogether.
And at any rate, in the context of the in the abundance of water – a fool is thirsty adage, only an irredeemable bunch of idiots can tolerate to be chopped to pieces by a handful of amateur criminals.
I want to believe we are a resilient people and can overcome. No-one will do it for us. Let us overcome this wave of crime and horrendous murders, so that future generations can believe and live the dream of the Warm Heart of Africa we once knew, again.
This was my two cents worth. I wish all the souls we have lost to these hoodlums eternal peace. All these deaths are unnecessary, let us act, together. No quota for criminals.