Last week, our housekeeper’s mother was very ill and she went to go visit her and nurse her. Her husband, our guard, arranged for one of his distant relatives to come and take on her tasks. This worked quite well until we arrived home from work on the day that our housekeeper returned, and my housemates discovered that 50USD had been stolen from them. As they did not know this new staff person, they had written down the totals they had hidden in the house, and checked it immediately when she left for the last time. In Malawi, it is very typical for staff to steal and not think that it is an issue, as ‘azungu’ have so much that they surely wouldn’t miss anything that went missing. I have had friends whose staff stole all their socks, hundreds of dollars, or even gardening tools. Thankfully, our staff members have never stolen from us, and as they live behind the house in our complex and are dependent on their jobs to support their three children, I doubt it would ever become an issue.
The Jos sat down with our guard and housekeeper to give them the bad news and ask what ought to be done. They were shocked and our guard was so outraged he was shaking. He immediately said that he would go to his family and have the money returned, and if that did not work, he would take his relative to the police. This is an amazing reaction, as family generally sticks together here, and the jails here are dangerous and overcrowded to such an extent that some crimes that would result in a small fine sometimes take years to be heard, leaving the accused sitting in jail for that length of time!
The next day, our guard went home and all the male family heads met and discussed the issue. They called the girl to them, questioned her, and she admitted that she had taken the money. Our frustrated guard, asked why she thought she could steal from the employers of her relatives, and she stated simply that she didn’t think it would be a problem. He then told her off and told her that she had jeopardized his family’s wellbeing, and that it was horrible that after a year of working for the Jos without any problems, that this would happen. The council of elders told her to return the money, but she had given it to a neighbour to have it changed into Kwacha, so they had to spend a few days tracking it down.
Thankfully, the issue has been resolved, with the money being returned to the Jos, and our staff being secure in their positions again. It was an interesting experience though, and the cultural and educational differences in Malawi of understanding the concept of ownership and potential consequences of actions were very clear.
Welcome! My name is Katiana and I am a development professional pursuing my dream to live out Isaiah 1:17 to the best of my abilities. I am passionate about teaching and working with vulnerable families and children to improve their lives sustainably.
This blog is composed of my personal opinions, which do not necessarily reflect the opinion or views of institutions or organizations that I may be or have been affiliated with.