Government hides the truth

If you go to one demonstration and then go home, that's something, but the people in power can live with that. What they can't live with is sustained pressure that keeps building, organisations that keep doing things, people that keep learning lessons from the last time and doing it better the next time.
Noam Chomsky

Power is a drug on which the politicians are hooked. They buy it from the voters, using the voters' own money.
Peter Newman


The Mhlako Triumvirate

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


Reports are coming in  that the Police have swept the streets of Blantyre of all Idle and Disorderly persons. I do not have the exact wording of the law in front of me as I write but my memory tells me that an idle person is one who has no visible means of support. I guess that someone who is hanging around town apparently with nothing to do and with no visible means of support will have regular places of abode and a ready explanation as to how he supports himself. That does not mean that he has to be in paid employment in a country where a significant percentage of people are either in the informal sector or sustain themselves by semi-subsistance agriculture. Many millions in Malawi are forced by circumstances to move around on foot without even a tambala in their pockets. They are POOR. There are many just hanging around  looking for an opportunity for a little 'ganyu' (task work) or are actively seeking employment. Poverty and unemployment are not yet criminal offences in Malawi.
Like 'Behaviour likely to cause a breach of the peace', the 'Rogue and Vagabond' charge is one that is regularly abused by the Police who, in the belief that they should be seen to be doing something, round up people at night including prostitutes who quite clearly do have some visible means of support.
We have millions of unemployed school-leavers who have nothing to do all day but hang around with their friends. There are very little outlets for their energies. There is not much hope in many of them that they will ever find a decent paying job. Towns are places where things are moving; where there is more of interest than in the back alleys of an informal township. Towns naturally attract the idle. There's always something happening that can keep the idle entertained for free.
THE EMPLOYED, THE INDIGENT, THE POOR - all Malawians have every right to be on the streets of our cities, day or night. But just see how the Police treat a group of youths walking through the town at night.  And, as long as these people behave themselves, there is no reason for the Police to harrass them.
It is unfortunate that the Police paint a picture of these peope as mbava (criminals) demanding of them an explanation.At night the town belongs only to the rich who can afford to visit by car.No nightime  'window shopping' that is the norm for most cities throughout the world.
No doubt among the crowds of the idle there are numerous crooks. But the Police have to do their job properly and observe and trap those that theys suspect. Fishing with a big net is not the right thing to do. A hook withe tempting bait is what should be used. An effective Police force should be able to rid the streets of the crooks without enadangering the freedoms of the innocent.
There was a reprot on Facebook today that a poor woman selling bananas with her child strapped to her back was swept up an taken away. The City has the responsibility for keeping vendors off the street. To do so they must be consistent and constant. Our authorities should note that a frustrated street vendor in Tunis set himself on fire in protest at the way the authorities handled him. This small spark set off wildfires in most of the undemocratic and oppressive states in North Africa and the Middel east.
I was not aware of what was going on when I saw Police and the public in some sort of altercation opposite the MSB Bank where for years I have seen a group of apparently idle persons who seem to clock on and clock off duty with the regularity of the hourly paid worker. I regularly exchange banter with them - we are all people of the Blantyre streets. I have often wondered what they do. Why pick them up now? I have often suspected that they are involved in businesses that may not be strictly legal. I woud have thought that in all the years that they have been 'operating' from their office on the streets, the Pollice should have ascertained whether they are actually criminally active or not - and act accordingly. They should not rely on a catch-all and irrelevant law - a throwback to a British law that was designed, I guess, to oppress the poor.
Police propoganda, however, appears to be working. It is working because they do not tell the whole truth. On a phone-in programme on Capital Radio last night the majority of those who phoned insupported the Police action. Unfortunately, this reaction merely reinforces teh impression amongst the general public that the Police have unlimited powers.
Malova (unemployed - 'loafers') will be with us until the economy can be moulded by our Economic Engineer to provide employment or opportunities for the unemployed.

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