Gregory Gondwe, Malawi Best Blogger 2014

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Look Beyond Tobacco Price Fixing

As I declared in my previous columns, I have no qualms with tobacco price fixing as directed by President Bingu wa Mutharika. I know this is in sharp contrast to Malawi Congress Party (MCP) President the Rt. Hon JZU Tembo who has problems with this system.
The reasons that I registered then were, among others, that the buyers were trying to exploit our poor farmers and a few rich farmers as well, we will discuss how.
Now something more serious has glared its head up in the Northern Region, I am not sure what the situation is in other regions, but there is a life-size exploiter in the north, milking the tobacco farmers of their ‘golden chloroform’ dry.
What is happening up there is perhaps to attest that Malawian people are not only warm-hearted but they are purely lukewarm. Therefore, it is wrong to surmise that Malawi is the warm heart of Africa based on this.
When Malawi was hit by drought, other local traders decided to try their chances across the border in Tanzania but because Tanzanians are exceptionally patriotic, they never allowed any single Malawian to buy their maize. Instead they were bringing the commodity into the country and offered it at an exorbitant price.
In addition, it really breaks my heart to imagine that the Tanzanians with the help of Malawians bought the maize in the country.
My heart is now bleeding profusely with the discovery that the Tanzanians are back in the North and are going around our villages buying tobacco from the farmers at meagre prices, thus between K20 and K50 per kilogram.
This is a repetition of what exactly happened last year. Worse still, some unpatriotic Malawians help them carry out the ruse and as if this is not enough, they also sell or hire registration numbers to use at our Auction Floors.
Once they earn the ‘free dollars’, they go back to their country and leave the farmer poorer than before. Any surprise that there are very successful business people across the border then?
The problem might be considered not serious enough as it is concentrated in just a corner of a less populated part of the country and therefore does not warrant any government action.
However, to an extent, several factors come to bear, one of them being economical of course, but here I want us to discuss how these foreigners find it easy to cross our border and even operate these kinds of businesses in the country at the expense of our poor country folks.
One aspect to look at is on entry. There is more work for the Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) if we are to take into consideration how foreigners bribe their way into the country. Most of the laxity displayed by our Immigration Department is as a result of palm greasing, take it or leave it.
I have on several occasions left a foreigner at the Songwe border for failing to produce proper travelling documents, only to meet the same person hours later in Mzuzu. How they get as far as that, is left in your good guess.
The same situation also exists with foreign commercial sex workers that have infiltrated all over the Northern Region. There are some sinister businesses that both the police in the road blocks and the immigration officers conduct with these ladies of the world’s oldest trade in order to grant them passage. No wonder we have lost most of our officers to the HIV/AIDS scourge.
Usually, what happens is that we have the foreigners buying tobacco in the villages and foreign women selling sex in social joints. When a patriotic Malawian reports to the nearest police of the illegal immigration status, the Police say that they are not immigration officers.
I was told by police officers in the North that the Police can only come in if and when the so called illegal immigrants commit or are suspected of committing a crime.
I would therefore like to know if there is any need at all to have immigration officers in districts because seriously speaking, I believe that every Malawian should be both the police and the immigration officer.
Now, Mutharika has declared that he wants to emulate the good things that Kamuzu did. I suggest that he should look back at the security elements Kamuzu employed to make sure that our villagers were not infiltrated with strangers some of whom reap us off.
Since the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) paramilitary wing, the Malawi Young Pioneers was disbanded, we have known no peace in our villages. Of course I will be wasting time to expound on the ills that the paramilitary wing committed because that is what has been covered extensively by all and sundry.
To avoid all this, the country badly needs a replacement of the MYP that should be professionally trained and well equipped to guarantee law and order for villagers who now feel more vulnerable and insecure than before.

No comments: