oth Peter Mukhito and Loti Dzonzi were not just plucked off the streets by presidents Bingu wa Mutharika and Joyce Banda and put at the helm of the Malawi Police Service (MPS). They are both career cops who went through the paces from recruitment, to the initial six months training and all that rigmarole that makes a complete cop. They both rose through the ranks, held various positions until they ended up at the epitome of the nation's internal security. All our police chiefs since independence from Great Britain have had their pluses and minuses. It was particularly difficult to be a police chief during the one-party state because you were ultimately the liquidator-in-chief, if you see what I mean. I slightly recall the reign of McJames Kamwana but I sufficiently have quite a bit of recollection about one Mac Williams Lunguzi.
He was a nice cop. Most of those who worked under him would testify. Read Jack Mapanje's seminal 'And The Crocodiles Are Hungry At Night' and see how 'human' he was against all odds. He was so good that when he mutated into politics his name came up as a possible leader of the MCP until fate cut short his life via a wrong-packed tractor.
And the late Mutharika didn’t dub Mukhito 'the best IG ever' for nothing. There might be something the fallen leader saw in his top cop. It’s sad that Mukhito will be remembered more by how politics mired his work. And the guy had taste, just check his favourite whiskey line!
As for the new IG, I recall first encountering Loti Dzonzi when the idea of the police having spokespeople was just being mooted at Area 30. Dzonzi was the first - if not among the first - officers to speak for the police. Dzonzi had a buddy named Edger Saiwa, together they gave the police quite a human face.
Dzonzi has worked under various police chiefs in the backroom and you can’t honestly pinpoint the successes of at least five police chiefs in recent times without seeing Dzonzi's handwriting all over. The police chief has to assemble a team to work with. The success - or failure - of a police chief depends on the calibre of team they assemble.
So if a number of IGs kept Dzonzi in strong positions all these years how come he can fail to tick at the top job the first year of his appointment? In fact, quite a few people are of the view that Dzonzi should’ve been IG many years back.
I am bringing all this background because of the unfair blame on the IG that he is soft on crime and criminals because of his professed faith. We, Malawians, call ourselves a God-fearing country. Quite a misnomer in itself but I don’t think there has ever been a professed atheist at the helm of the police in Malawi since we gained independence. So is it because Dzonzi carries his Bible in his car that his faith becomes an issue?
Some say his faith made Dzonzi discount the 'shoot-to-kill' policy in the MPS. That can never be further from the truth because the IG said nothing new really. There has never been a legal 'shoot-to-kill' policy in the MPS. Of course Bingu, in one of his many carelessly thoughtless statements, made mention of this but the statement had no legal basis.
Police officers in all civilised nations bear arms and are trained how to use them. It would have been law of the jungle if police officers just wake up and started opening fire at whoever they suspect was up to no good.
That said, nobody is happy at the dramatic increase in crime in Malawi. We all want to live in a Malawi where guards' heads aren’t cracked open daily by heartless thugs. The media don’t take pride in reporting on cash heists daily.
It is therefore healthy to have a national conversation to get to the bottom of this dramatic surge in crime. For example, Dzonzi and his team at Area 30 and beyond must get worried whenever police officers are implicated in a crime syndicate. Other than just treating them as mere thugs, these cops should be further probed to check if there is a third force in existence whose aim is just to muddle the waters for ulterior motives.
Private security companies should also be of interest. There’s been a number of ugly incidents involving guards from private companies that leaves a lot to be desired. Maybe there should be legislation guiding these companies because it seems nowadays as long as one has capital one can set up a security firm and go head-hunting for guards. How these guards are trained nobody is interested, there is no background checks at all. Nobody from the national security service has an interest in the operations of these private security companies.
By the way, empty and careless statements by ministers like Uladi Mussa who claim to have evidence that a certain political party distributes arms to its youths must not be condoned. It’s unfortunate that Mussa heads (politically) the police but he should ordinarily have been pinned down to proffer the evidence. If he can’t do that, what’s his motive in making such spurious allegations?
Otherwise the deteriorating crime situation is no laughing matter. There are several aspects that can be explored that can help our police find solutions to the escalation crime. But if we narrow our conversation to the IG's faith or some non-existent 'shoot-to-kill' policy, we will just be dancing in circles.
---©2012 The Maravi Post.