Mediocrity still a problem in Malawi

By Emily Mkamanga

Apart from other negative practices which affect progress in the country, mediocrity comes first. Without doubt, the public reforms were designed to get rid of mediocrity in the country, especially in government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs). There is no need for half measures if the country is to achieve meaningful development.

Good development includes good roads and bridges to ease transport challenges.  Unfortunately, this is not th case in this country. Some of our roads are poorly done and only last one rainy season. Probably contractors are striking deals with officials first and look at formalities after bribes have exchanged hands. Indeed, corruption has contributed to the country’s mediocrity.

One can remember that the former president Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda did not subscribe to mediocrity.  In 1971 after inspecting the Chilumba-Karonga Road, he publicly said he would not pay for that poorly done road. The contractor had to redo it to be paid.  During his time, civil servants maintained discipline. They would be at work the time they are supposed to be there. Government officials worked hard and civil servants were paid by the 27th of each month. It was unheard of to see civil servants going beyond the 27th of the month without pay.

Unfortunately, in the multiparty era, this has become a norm. This problem gives a big headache, especially to those who live in rented homes where if rent is not paid by 1stof the month the landlord pushes you out. It is usually believed that if the government delays salaries then it is due to unavailability of funds.

It was shocking to learn that civil servants’ salaries delay of August 2021 was due to mediocrity. President Lazarus Chakwera and Vice-President Saulos Chilima learn from the media about the delays.  When they went to offices of responsible officers at Capital Hill, they found them selling and buying samosas instead of sorting out the problem. This was indeed mediocrity of the highest order. Very likely they were speechless.

In the same vein, many government offices have been reduced to food vending parlours. At times around 9am, one finds some civil servants busy buying nsima to eat.  Other officers smell dried fish, etc.  No one is surprised to see senior officers in government buying or selling snacks through the windows. This shows that  standards have gone down in the civil service.

Some civil servants who seem not to have heard about government reforms are police officers.  The media, especially social media, is awash with stories of drunk police officers.  Ironically, these are people who are supposed to keep law and order. 

Last but not least, most government officials look at a pay day as a holiday. As soon as their salaries are deposited into their bank accounts, they take some days off. If you visit their offices, you will only find messengers.

Indeed, mediocrity is costing the country heavily.  There is an urgent need for Chakwera and Chilima to come up with rules and regulations to stop this mediocrity.  The public reforms must be taken seriously and not just a by the way thing by the Tonse Alliance administration.

Malawians should take seriously practices and systems introduced by the government because they go a long way in improving the country.  For example, keeping the cities and towns clean should not only be done to attract tourists. It should be a norm.

***Views expressed are those of the author***


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