Despite that June and July are the coldest months of the year in Malawi, 28 year old, Jimmy Masangwi is spending all the nights of these months outside. Not that he doesn't have a home but it is what his work demands him to do. He works as a security guard for a certain security company in Blantyre.
Operating security firms is one of the blossoming businesses in the country that has attracted alot of people's interest. Walk in the streets of Blantyre, Lilongwe, Zomba and Mzuzu and see how many rapid response cars and uniformed security guards you will meet. Many business people including high profile politicians are operating security companies which are creating the much needed employment.
An interview with Masangwi and several other guards working with different security firms revealed the problems that these guards are going through in their companies. Chief among a list of problems is the salary that they are getting after spending 30 sleepless nights.Some get as little as K4,000 (US$28) per month. As if this is not enough, they get their money as late as the 7th of the following month.
This is a very sad development considering the fact that life has become expensive and people cannot survive on US$28 the whole month. These are people who have families that depend on them, they have to pay house rents, buy food and other necessities, pay for the children's school fees.
Masangwi also said that when companies or individuals hire guards from the security firm, they pay alot of money which in most cases is charged on daily basis, but the guards themselves get very little at the end of the month.
Recently a high profile politician who runs a security firm was locked in his office by his employees because of misunderstandings over salaries. Unfortunately these guards have no means of communicating their grievances to the relevant authorities because only a few of the security firms have labour unions.
As Malawi continues to enjoy the international recognition as one country whose economy is growing faster, these security guards are still a long way from benefiting the gains of this economic growth. They rarely get salary increments and their conditions of service are very poor despite being a sector which employs alot of people.