The Inspector General The Director General
Malawi Police Service The Department of Immigration
National Police Headquarters and Citizenship Services
P/Bag305 Immigration Headquarters
Capital City P.O. Box 331
Parliamentary Committee on Tourism
The Malawi Parliament
The Honorable Minister
Ministry of Homeland Security
The Honorable Minister
Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Culture
Tourism House, Off Convention Drive
Petition to Eradicate Bottlenecks in Security Provision by The Malawi Police Service and Malawi Immigration that Negatively affect Tourism Growth in Malawi
We hereby submit our petition to you to help eradicate bottlenecks in security provision by your institutions that negatively affect tourism growth in Malawi. This follows multiple complaints by our operators in the industry. Our members have been observant of the security strategies by your institutions and conduct of some of your officers as regards handling of security matters on the roads, offices as well as at border points. We believe the Malawi Police Service and The Malawi Immigration can employ better strategies, and tame the retrogressive behavior of some of their officers. We are ready to suggest solutions that can work for both sides without compromising security of the country and tourism growth which we believe is of interest to all of us.
Firstly, there is rampant police harassment of tourists on the roads of Malawi that affects tourism image of the country. Professions in the Malawi Tourism and Hospitality sectors are worried due to too many Police stops and checkpoints that end in asking documentation and probes by our Police affecting travel time and increasing in security of both local and international tourists. This negatively portrays the country as an insecure destination and not friendly to travelers.
Secondly, there have been instances of delayed provision of services and harassment of tourists by the Malawi Immigration officers. Some of your officers take advantage of delayed issuance of visas and call for bribes from our members and tourists to expedite the processes. We have noted that delayed issuance of Visas are due to poor coordination within the department as well as deliberate ploy to create panic so as to benefit from bribes. It has also been noted that the Immigration Officers on our roads use Chichewa fluency and color of skin as a measure of calling for documentation of travelers. This is discriminatory, a factor that does work against tourism growth in most countries.
It must be understood that tourism is one of the key development goals of the country which is also highlighted in the Malawi 2063 Pillar number 3 which was launched by the Malawi Government recently. The priority is to make Malawi a regional and international tourist destination. Tourism growth minus tourists’ numbers is afar fetched dream. Negative publicity in this highly sensitive service industry is one of the key factors that kills it. It has been noted, therefore that strategies by the Malawi Police Service and the Malawi Immigration are some of the drawbacks to the attainment of this goal.
We have sampled some of the communications that our membership, that operate tours, shared, for you to appreciate the gravity of these well-meaning turned backfiring strategies by your noble institutions. We understand that security is also critical in the tourism sector but we are asking for better strategies to reduce harassment, bribes and poor service. The following are some of the sampled experiences in this regard;
1. I am on my way to Salima and between Kanengo and Mvera Trading Centre there are 5 points where traffic police officers have stopped us. What impression could we be giving to tourists to be stopped 5times within a small distance. At some place the two groups are just 500 metres apart. In this country we should stop joking if we want to develop meaningfully(dated 2nd September 2021).
2. I went to Johannesburg and I was marketing Malawi to one of the white South Africans by telling him how good the country is. He cut me short and said he can never come back to Malawi. He said they were intimidated and tortured by the corrupt traffic police officers. I was very ashamed of myself and I stopped immediately. Imagine how I felt.
3. Last time I had a problem with immigration when my clients applied for Visas online. They were issued the very last minute after I involved the DOT and the immigration PRO. Imagine the immigration officer I was talking to telling me that they had a funeral so he would issue the visas when back.
4. One time I was applying for my clients to pay for their Visas at a point of entry and an officer blankly told me to give something to the boss so that the Visas come out faster. Honestly, should we call this the Warm Heart of Africa?
5. Some of my friends from Zambia have mentioned the same thing about too many police roadblocks checking and asking unnecessary questions in order to get some money from motorists especially foreigners.
6. I travelled to Livingstone this other time. We went in and out of Zambia with no police officer or immigration officer stopping me. Here foreign registrations attract their interest and will bebothered at every opportunity.
7. This traffic issue is a big issue in tourism. It must be taken seriously and talked to authorities. Zambia tour operators are avoiding packaging Malawi because of the behavior of our traffic police, they are a disservice to tourism. Being a foreigner is not indicative of crooked. Every foreigner on the road is treated as a crook.
8. True, we went to Livingstone and came back but no police officer stopped us. Here it is too much. I wondered in Zambia whether their police didn’t see that we are foreigners. In Other countries you only stop at a toll gate to pay and not anyhow.
9. Malawi is now chairing SADC therefore we have to live as an example on tourism promotion.
10. These matters seem to haunt Malawi and Mozambique plus a few other countries.
Following this earnest discussion of our members we resolved to pen you for your action. We are also very ready to engage you further on some of the solutions we believe can meet in between our beautiful nation’s security and tourism. We therefore propose the following, without preempting;
1. We hold a joint meeting to discuss these issues further and come up with a way forward.
2. The Malawi Police Service and the Malawi Immigration must train their officers in how to handle tourists.
3. There must be toll free lines at Malawi Police Service and Malawi Immigration where such incidences can easily be reported.
Thank you for your attention as we look forward to your urgent attention to these matters.