EDITORIAL: Viral wedding photo calls for stricter monitoring of local authorities

Social media was set alight over the weekend when an unusual photo of a wedding in one of the districts in Southern Province went viral.

The groom was dressed shabbily, wearing rubber flip-flops that are locally known as slippers or Kamba mbili, in rags in fact. But he confidently took his marriage vows.

Comments varied, but that was before the whole story came out. The groom has been bedridden for some years. He has strange swellings both on his hands and feet and cannot work with his hands or wear shoes even if he had them.

Theirs is a story of deep love and even deeper misfortune. In their own words, they sometimes sleep on empty stomachs. But despite their obvious extreme poverty, local officials had placed them in the third category in social stratification (Ubudehe) yet they qualified for the first category, that of most needy so as to get social support.

This case pointed at very serious shortcomings in the local administration that it even attracted the attention of senior government officials and some well-wishers wishing to help the family.

But that issue should not end there, even if the case is resolved, someone needs to answer some serious questions.

A case like the above-mentioned family is the reason the Government set up social protection programmes. Someone definitely failed in their job and there could be more out there.

While authorities were in the process of revisiting the whole social stratification process, that wedding photo should push them to strengthen their monitoring tools. But above all, sanctions are called for against local leaders who spend the whole day sitting on their hands while the people are suffering.