13 May 2012

Tanzania: No Bad Soldier, but a Bad Commander


SECURITIES of employment concerns are enormous both in public and the private sector. When seeking employment that is one of the criteria of accepting a job.

Recently I was flabbergasted to see a TV footage in which city militia were up in arms fighting for their survival. It is about the security of employment that they feel they have been denied for a long period.

The fact that some of the militias have been serving the Ilala Municipal Council for more than ten years should be a cause for concern to everyone, who is standing for justice in this country. The militias in uniform were demonstrating in uniform which is a rare case for soldiers to do so.

Recently one veteran of Bukoba war was narrating to me that it is not ideal for a soldier to demonstrate or protest in public. But if someone is pushed to the wall, often the person, who is stressed and emotional ends up behaving in an awkward way. The statement issued by the Ilala Municipal Council Mayor, Jerry Silaa was trying to clear the air the authority was not at fault anyway.

The mayor refuted rumours circulating among the militia that there was a new replacement for the city militia. This is after a group of militia demonstrated last week, had complained to the media that there were plans to replace them.

I think the mayor deserves our commendation for having been bold enough to speak the matter to the public to clear the atmosphere. In his remarks, the mayor said that at the moment the council were still in the process of reviewing security structure for the Ilala municipality. It is not the first time that Mr Silaa has gone public to explain things.

I was impressed and many were too, when last month he spoke to the public on the issue of operators who were given the task to enforce the by-laws on parking lots and no parking zones with the municipality. Upon media reports that a woman was victimized by the operators, he made a quick intervention on the matter.

First of all he did apologise to the woman whose car was locked by the operators and the mob justice came to her rescue and broke the chain tied to her tyre. It is interesting to see how leaders can make interventions to influence the public opinion and rare to find those who can go all the way out to apologise for the actions or inactions of their subordinates.

The advice to the city authorities is based on the security of employment. It is very clear that what Mr Silaa has said is valid on the issue of the process of restructuring the security structure. But the militia deserve attention and consideration. I, for one, would think that the security structure should take into consideration the plight of the militia in terms of their benefits and remuneration.

If the authorities are serious they should think in terms of giving these militia their basic rights. To many it is that act of giving them decent contracts rather than subjecting them to three months contracts. Most often when people hear that individuals have subjected their domestic workers to casual labourers condition it appears very inhuman.

But we should not allow authorities such as city councils to pursue such policies especially with their militia. We are all aware of the type of risks such militia is taking time and again to deal with those who violate the cities by-laws and regulations. We are aware of the risk surrounding their working environment.

I cannot say that such militia are a nuisance to the public and that is why the city wants to replace them. What I know with the same set of militia if they are trained, groomed and supervised they can perform wonders. In Mr Silaa's own words he says: "It should be known that there are 45 permanent militia employees and the rest of militia work as labourers, which means they are on contracts." According to him the authorities issue new contracts after every three months.

I was surprised to hear that there are militias who are lucky because they continue to receive these new contracts for three months. When someone's contract is not guaranteed this person is uncertain and bogged down, Mr Mayor how will you expect them to carry out their duties diligently and efficiently.

We should be realistic that the type of job that involves security needs to be given due consideration. To many of us subjecting the militia to three months renewable contracts is not healthy for the safety of our city. When we try to play it down that the militias are not qualified to serve in their current positions, we are not really solving the problem.

These men and women who are in uniform are working against the odds to meet their performance contracts. Is it true that they are not competent as some would like to suggest that people especially hawkers and traders are complaining? If the militias are not doing their job properly, probably it is the failure of their supervisors who are perpetuating arm chair leadership.

There is no bad soldier but a bad commander. Let the city authorities understand that some of the complaints which point to the failure of the council to address the issue of militia's security of employment will continue haunting them. Speaking to the 'Daily News on Saturday' recently one of the street militia, Dennis Mkuvalwa complained on how the Ilala municipal authorities have been mistreating them, by offering three months contract, no vacation and a lower salary of 4,000/- per day.

"Most of us have been working for more than 10 years and we get three months contract, we don't get the monthly pension contribution and also there is no overtime allowance," he complained. Another city militia Adam Mwandali said that they have been promised to get permanent contracts, however, the promise has not been fulfilled.

"I spoke to Ilala municipal council lawyer; he assured me that by the end of this month we would get our permanent contract. We are more than 300 and each one of us you see have a family that depend on us," he said. He added that their complaint started years ago but their need have not been met yet. Let us be kind to our people.

We are all Tanzanians and know very well what our people are going through. The city militia case is just a drop in the ocean. Let the city authorities review the security structure in the best interest of the city militia. There is no way one can just abandon people who have served in an organization for over ten years and think of laying them off, which I believe Mr Silaa can never entertain such a resolution.

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