‘Nzeruzayekha’ cause chaos. Immigration Department

…fires people without procedures

…shouts at staff like his children

Another retiree, another appointment by President Lazarus Chakwera and total chaos at the Immigration Department never seen since Malawi’s independence in 1964. The cause is Director General- Retired Brigadier General Charles Kalumo, who has now been christened “nzeruzayekha” by his subordinates.

Immigration and Citizenship Department morale is low, and the headquarters has been abandoned. Kalumo has camped at the Regional Office in Lilongwe, where he is running a reign of terror- shouting at public servants as if they are his children or farm workers.

Minister Ng’oma in Blantyre during a meeting

The Investigator Magazine clandestinely attended a meeting with Homeland Security Minister Ken Zikhale Ng’oma, which they chased the media but forgot our reporter, who dressed in almost similar colours to most staff- a dark blue top. Well, the attendance paid off, and we got an insider feeling.

Zikhale Ng’oma promised to investigate the matters, but the extent of the allegations and issues made it unlikely he could influence the ultimate removal of the ‘iron man’ of Immigration, which is in total chaos due to the lack of leadership and capacity of Kalumo.

Zikhale interracted with citizens who were at the immigration offices for passport

Reign of terror to cost taxpayers

The Immigration Director General has created a reign of terror and uncertainty that professional public servants are no longer sure of their employment and prospects. Transfers are random, and interdictions are now a daily routine.

“Nobody is sure where they will end up tomorrow. He suspends and interdicts people by mouth, in corridors and front of passport applicants. The office now seems to be run like a farm, not a government institution. No procedures but only the word of one man” charged an officer.

The Department is now paying more on relocation costs, and staff at the Headquarters in Blantyre fear for their colleagues in Lilongwe who have to be subjected to a daily routine of harassment.

Most senior officers in Lilongwe have since been sent home for crossing the Immigration dictator.

One of the service users confirmed seeing the Brigadier General shout at staff at the permit section in Lilongwe in front of him, something he branded “gross unprofessionalism” from a leader.

“The interdictions don’t follow prescribed procedures and rules of natural justice. The man is too emotional and the biggest demotivator at Immigration. Verbal directives do not work in public service. Government will pay a lot for this recklessness,” said another.

Emotional decisions, actions, and threats of staff need to stop, as well as unilateral transfers. Managers at the institution warned the Minister, saying most of Kalumo’s decisions break fair labour practices rules and are made without recommendations from the disciplinary rules.

One-man band leadership

The managers at the department further claim that the Director General personally does technical work instead of providing leadership and strategic direction for the department.  He also makes unliteral decisions, jumping everyone.

The Director General personally does technical work instead of providing leadership and strategic direction for the department

His dictatorial centralised power style is said to be affecting the smooth running of the department, with a few relevant decisions being pursued.

“The DG needs to recognise hierarchy and involve technocrats. He can’t be a one-man operator in this big department. He needs to do proper management meetings at the headquarters,”

Kalumo, apart from not attending meetings, the chaotic DG also runs a parallel management structure, leaving managers to get free salaries from the government.

Because of his one-band leadership style, promotions and vacancies have not been filled for years now at all levels.

Holed up at the regional office

The MCP administration has made it a policy to move all government services to Lilongwe, but the Immigration Department has yet to officialise this centralisation policy. Only its Director General has moved to Lilongwe alone.

The Department is headquartered in Blantyre, but plans to relocate to Lilongwe are in the pipeline, and the Ministry of Lands is expected to finish buying off the MTL building in Lilongwe to be used as an Immigration home.

“There are no offices for headquarters staff, so it’s ridiculous for the DG to continue insisting people without office space should relocate to Lilongwe.

“He sent most of the senior managers home; he left the management team in Blantyre where he is supposed to be,” narrated another official.

“Management meetings should comprise of Heads of Sections at Headquarters and all regional Immigration Officers, which is not the case at the moment,” another added, raising governance questions about the capacity of Kalumo to run an entire government department.

The DG is accused of engaging external stakeholders on issues related to the department without proper procedures, which has caused challenges to the department’s operations, including unwelcome outside interventions.

Passport melee is his weakness

Only 80 per day passports are being printed in Lilongwe, and the supplier backed by Kalumo to please State House links was identified without proper procedures. Read the Platform for Investigative Journalism’s latest report for more on passport procurement.

Only 80 per day passports are being printed in Lilongwe

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