When William Tayub, once Malawi Deputy Ambassador to Mozambique, visited the place he used to know for the past 40 years as Mangochi Post Office in September 2017, he was greeted by a new brand: Mlambe Centre.
Like everyone, either born or raised up in the lakeshore district, Tayub has always followed turn of events in the country, and particularly in Mangochi district, and his September visit was to prove one thing.
“I heard about the Mlambe Centre concept under the Public-Sector Reforms Programme (PSRP) initiated by the Malawi President, Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika, upon assuming power. When I saw it taking shape right in Mangochi, I knew Malawi was on the move,” explains Tayub.
His second visit to the Mlambe centre was in January 2017 to get his driving license renewed.
“For the first time, I had my driving licence renewed right here in Mangochi without travelling to Zomba, where one had to endure extended delays due to unimaginable congestion,” explains the former Malawi diplomat.
Tayub’s excitement is a general feeling among the majority of people in Mangochi where running businesses, owning vehicles, and travelling abroad is among the priorities of many residents.
The Mlambe Centre is an ‘offspring’ Public Sector Reforms Programme (PSRP), President Mutharika’s brainchild aimed at creating a civil service that is professional, efficient and productive in delivering services to the masses.
The piloting of the Mlambe Centre has been done in Lilongwe and Mangochi before it rolls out to the rest of the country.
It brings the services of Malawi Posts Corporations (MPC), Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA), the Directorate of Road Traffic and Safety Services, Department of Immigration, and the Registrar General under one roof.
The Mlambe Centre, also known as the One Stop Public Service Delivery Centre, is designed to offer multiple services such as the issuance of passports, driver’s licences, certificate of fitness (CoF) for vehicles, change of vehicle ownership, national Identities as well as birth certificate and death certificates.
They are also designed to provide tax inquiries services, business name registration and postal services.
The establishment of such one stop centre in Mangochi has stirred excitement among many people including traditional leaders.
“We consider ourselves very lucky to have this development considering our needs as people of Mangochi,” says Sultan Chowe, whose area has arguably the highest number of people who travel to South Africa for greener pastures.
“Most of our children in Mangochi frequently trek to South Africa and the cost of process travel documents like a passport was usually because they had to Blantyre or Lilongwe for that service or to Zomba to get a driving licence.
“But today, all those services can be accessed right here in Mangochi under this one stop centre.”
In just less than six months that the Mangochi Mlambe Centre has been operational, the patronage has demonstrated how convenient and handy the facility is to the masses in the district.
From October last year to February 12 this year, the Immigration section had already handled close to 1,000 passport applications, according to the centre’s Immigration Department Officer In-Charge, Shadreck Chikwezeka.
“This is a clear indication that most people who applied for passports in Blantyre previously were from Mangochi. Bringing the services at their door-step has made life simple for them,” Chikwezeka says.
According to the immigration officer, the demand for passports is always growing with over 25 applications being processed every day.
The other sections, among them the MRA, the office of the Registrar and the Directorate of Road Traffic and Safety Services are equally experiencing high patronage.
The manager for Mangochi centre Daniel Bwanali applauds the concept of Mlambe Centre.
“It’s workable, and it’s working,” Bwanali explains. “At first when we were opening, people did not believe that the centre was really offering all those services. But now, they are beginning to believe and they are coming in their large numbers.”
According to Bwanali, the centre has taken care of one major setback where clients seeking services from some of the centres such as MRA and Immigration had to pay through banks.
“This was a challenge at the beginning but now we have now sorted it out. People are now paying right away here and issued with receipts accordingly.”
Equally excited with the Mangochi Mlambe Centre is the Mangochi District Commissioner, Reverend Moses Chimphepo, who describes the development as a “well thought out initiative’.
Chimphepo says with a population of around 1.2 million, nothing better can meet the needs of the district whose people are always on the move for better opportunities.
The DC believes that with processing of passports within reach, issues of travelling abroad without papers will be minimized as distance and expenses of transport and accommodation had been deterrents to many passports seekers.
“Here is the development that we have all been waiting for and what remains for us to do as council is to sensitize people that there no longer need to travel to Zomba or Blantyre to process their passports and other documents for their cars and businesses,” Chimphepo says.
To the people trusted with the task of implementing the Mlambe Centre concept, it has been an exciting but very challenging project to achieve as per testimony by one of the former PSRP Commissioners, now Chief Director of the programme, Seodi White.
“It is exciting because this is the first time to have a project of this nature,” says White. “To have multiple public institutions working under one roof in a coordinated and efficient fashion for purposes of providing better public services to the people of Malawi is ground breaking.
“The challenge has been to get all institutions and support them for full integration. It has taken us three years to achieve this.”
The Chief Director hails the full support of the Cabinet, led by President Mutharika, for approving the name Mlambe and its concept.
“The concept would not be anywhere near it is now if the State President had not supported it. His commitment comes to a climax when he launches the Mangochi Centre on Thursday, February 14,” she says.
In an interview, Minister of Information and Communications Technology Nicholas Dausi says the establishment of one stop centres shows government’s commitment in enabling its citizens to access information and service transactions at a single point thereby saving their precious time.
“The service centres will lead to direct access and enhanced convenience for citizens,” Dausi says.
When all is said and done, people like William Tayub will always look to the minds behind this concept for their improved daily living.
“The Mlambe Centre is a mark of leadership that lives its words; leadership that departs from the usual way of doing things and goes the unusual way and nails it”.
But perhaps, more precisely, one would add that the achievement underscores the words of the very PSRP architect when the ambitious journey began.
“Reforming the public service is not a matter of multiple choice: it will be done and it must be done. And it must be done now,” the voice of President Arthur Peter Mutharika still echoes from that memorable day, February 2, 2015, when PSRP was launched in Lilongwe.
“It will be done because the public, especially the young generation, wants change – therefore, we cannot afford to pass over a country to the new generation when we are resistant to change.
“So, the reforms will be done because the public wants them to be done.”