If you have gone through Chileka or Kamuzu international airports, you have probably met some shameless airport staff that ask you for money or gifts as if they deserve a tip from every passenger.
At the security checkpoint, they will ask you how many kwachas you are travelling with. If you have some, they will—politely, with a smile on their face—ask how much you could share with them—for their lunch or just a drink.
Before you start thinking the begging is done lightheartedly, let me tell you that none of this is a joke. These are just greedy men and women who are after free money.
But this doesn’t end with the staff positioned at the security check-point. It seems the staff in bright green high-vision coats also have creative ways of begging from passengers.
On the check-in queue the other day was a white lady whose bag had been carried by a Chileka International Airport’s staff member. It wasn’t a heavy bag and the lady made it clear that she could have managed to carry it through, but the gentleman insisted on helping her.
The airport’s network was slow that day, which meant passengers had to stand on the queue for long, but this did not dissuade the gentleman who kept on dragging his conversation with the lady, making me wonder who was doing his work as he chatted.
As the lady approached the counter, he told her how her bag looked original and further explained that such bags could not be found in Malawian shops. The lady smiled politely, but I could sense that the man’s sentimentalities about the bag had not ended with the compliment.
After a moment or so, he told the lady that he somehow knew that she was definitely going to buy a new bag from wherever she was travelling to, and that if that were the case, she would have to bring the old one back with her and give it to him.
I was ashamed. I don’t know how the conversation ended, but again, this man was not joking. He really wanted the bag.
That we are living in hard economic times is obvious; hence the need for people to find ways to survive, but whether this includes people with full time employment begging from others, I don’t know.
This is an awkward tendency that seriously needs to be checked; otherwise we run the risk of being known for begging, and even put off some tourists that undergo such type of experiences.
When a street kid approaches you to ask for alms, you understand and are sometimes compelled to give a little something to a disadvantaged child who without a choice finds themself in an underprivileged position.
The same goes for the elderly and the disabled. Although some of these people have a chance to lead an economically meaningful life, some still struggle and justifiably need assistance.
But not employed people. This embarrassing behavior should stop.