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  • Christine Chumbler
    Sep 9, 2003
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      Strike Looms Over Workers' Payrise

      African Church Information Service

      August 8, 2003
      Posted to the web September 8, 2003

      Hobbs Gama

      Civil servants in Malawi have threatened to go on strike next month,
      following the Governments decline to improve their pay package and
      working conditions.

      In 1999, the Government, due to pressure from the Civil Service Trade
      Union (CSTU), instituted a commission, which recommended that public
      servants be offered a 300 percent wage increase in line with the cost of

      But since then, no single increment has been effected. Randson
      Mwandiwa, chairman of the Governments negotiating team, who is also
      Principle Secretary in the Ministry of Gender, shattered the workers
      hopes recently when he said they had to wait until a Government
      committee released its recommendations.

      They should give us a bit of time. They cannot expect any increase
      until recommendations of a wage policy analysis are known, said

      Malawis over-staffed civil service with over 100,000 employees, is
      among the lowest paid in southern Africa. Some workers earn as little as
      US$15 per month.

      CSTU General Secretary, Pontius Kalichero, has blamed the Government
      for rampant corruption among top officials, and the abuse of public
      resources by President Bakili Muluzi, who makes endless political
      rallies with large entourages. It is unfortunate that while the
      Government is talking about financial discipline, its spending does not
      match its words, charged Kalichero.

      Defending the Government, information minister, Bernad Chisale, said
      the president plans for his trips and spends according to the funds
      allocated to him.

      Malawi is facing hard economic times as a result of withdrawal of
      support by the International Monetary Fund and other major donors,
      because of poor governance, over expenditure and unfocused policies.

      The frozen aid amounts to about US$ 87 million.

      Heavy borrowing from the domestic market and spending beyond budget
      limits have seen the Malawian Kwacha plummeting to K107 to one US dollar
      by end of August.


      Malawi Launches Its First Child Registration Programme

      African Church Information Service

      August 9, 2003
      Posted to the web September 8, 2003

      Hamilton Vokhiwa

      A registration programme of all children born in Malawi has been
      launched, making it the first time babies born in the countrys rural
      hospitals and those below the age of three are being registered.

      Minister of Gender, Alice Sumani, described the exercise, also known as
      Vital Birth Registration, as a move to offer children security from
      exploitation by relatives who grab property when their parents die.

      Sumani said compulsory registration of children ensures that they have
      access to basic services, and that they are protected from cases of

      This development, comes against a background of increasing concern that
      in Malawi, many children are sidelined when sharing property because
      their names are not included on the list of beneficiaries.

      According to recent statistics, more than 50 million children
      world-wide go unregistered each year, representing more than 40 percent
      of total births .

      Officials from the National Statistical Office here said that during
      its first phase, the programme is concentrating on nine districts,
      registering what they called millennium children those who were born
      from January 1 of the year 2000.

      The registration would also help the Government to have accurate
      projection of the countrys population.

      UNICEF representative, Catherine Mbengue, described the launch as a
      significant milestone in the organisations efforts to implement
      programmes for the uplifting of the rights of the child. UNICEF is
      financing the programme.

      She added that birth registration opens the door to a range of other
      rights, including education and health care, regardless of social

      The officials said the registration of children would also help the
      authorities to come up with realistic figures in times of humanitarian
      disasters such as famine, as that experienced last year.


      Malawi Has High Incidence of Property Grabbing - Judge

      The Post (Lusaka)

      September 4, 2003
      Posted to the web September 4, 2003

      Bivan Saluseki

      THERE is a high incidence of property grabbing in Malawi, that
      country's judge Tujilane Chizumila has observed.

      During a public discussion on the constitution review process in Africa
      organised by Women for Change and American Friends Service Committee in
      Lusaka on Tuesday evening, judge Chizumila said in Malawi most women and
      children were being left without goods because of too much property

      "What is happening, you really wonder why those things are happening,"
      she said. Judge Chizumila blamed culture for such acts. She said certain
      cultural practices were being practiced yet the law was in place against
      such vices.

      Judge Chizumila said when Malawi decided to review its constitution in
      1998, one of the areas of interest was the presidential term of office
      which was cut from life tenure to two-five year terms.

      She said people also looked at human rights and the crossing of floor
      by members of parliament. Judge Chizumila explained that the problem was
      that most commissioners were from different backgrounds.

      She said women refused to participate in contributing to the
      constitution and in the process lost out. Judge Chizumila said even
      among the commissioners, they realised in the end that they had no
      rights and authority to change the Constitution but merely "add full
      stops, commas and change the language".

      And Women in Law and Development in Africa country co-ordinator
      Constance Lewanika said she was a very sad woman because of what was
      happening to the Zambian Constitution.

      Lewanika said 39 years after independence, Zambia still had a
      Constitution which excluded women and children by denying them their
      rights. "Instead of talking about implementation, we are still on the
      drawing board where we still have a problem," she said.

      Lewanika said the current constitution review process was highly
      contentious in terms of how to ensure that the majority of Zambians were
      included in the Constitution. She said women do not want a process that
      excludes their rights.

      Lewanika said inspite of the problems women were facing, they were not
      silent but continue to make challenges. "We are not giving up. We have
      to challenge the existing status quo.

      We will fight the bitter war to its conclusion," said Lewanika. And a
      women's rights activist from Nigeria, who is also a lawyer Toun Ilumoka
      said people could only defend the Constitution if they took ownership of
      it. Ilumoka said people defended what they believed in.

      "If people take ownership of the Constitution and the process, they are
      more likely to defend it," she said. Ilumoka said it was important to
      entrench a culture of respect for constitutionalism. "If you want people
      to develop and abide by the Constitution, you must allow them to
      participate in it," said Ilumoka.

      And Uganda's Rakai district member of parliament Sarah Kiyingi Kyama
      said the struggle to have women in decision-making positions in her
      country had been made easy by President Yoweri Museveni. Kyama said
      President Museveni had made the women's struggle for equal rights more
      bearable as men had started respecting women.

      She said women had become more confident to participate in leadership
      positions in Uganda because of policies put in place by the government.
      Kyama said of the 301 members of parliament in Uganda, 73 were female.

      And Lebolang Liepollo Pheko from South Africa said 2.5 million people
      in her country made submissions during their constitution review. Pheko
      said 73 per cent of adults knew about the constitution review process.


      Zambian threat to sack strikers

      Zambian Vice President Nevers Mumba has warned striking civil servants
      that they face being dismissed next week if they do not return to work.

      But Union leaders have defied the government's order, accusing the
      government of intimidation and vowed that they will not back down.

      They have rejected the authorities' call to renegotiate the agreed deal
      on allowances.

      The general secretary for the Civil Servants and Allied Workers Union
      of Zambia (CSAWUZ), Darrison Chaala has been quoted by a Zambian
      newspaper, The Post on the web, as saying that the workers have to be
      ready to be fired in order to win their battle with the government.

      "We have the powers to grind government to a halt," Mr Chaala said.


      About 5,000 civil servants are on strike over the authorities' refusal
      to pay housing allowances agreed upon several months ago.

      The government says it does not have the money to pay the workers and
      that the strike is illegal.

      Mr Mumba said that many of the workers had broadened their demands to
      include better working conditions and were using the strike as a means
      of causing political instability.

      The strike has been in progress for two weeks, paralysing many
      hospitals and magistrates courts, with teachers refusing to teach when
      schools open next week.

      "If it means killing us, hunting us, arresting us, we have to go. We
      are tired of being intimidated. We shall not surrender. No retreat, no
      surrender, the fight continues," said Mr Chaala.

      Lusaka journalist Dickenson Jere told the BBC's Focus on Africa
      programme that many Zambians feel the government has failed to handle
      the current crisis well.

      The journalist said that the worst affected sector is the health
      service, where many doctors, nurses and general hospital workers have
      joined the strike.


      A public relations officer at the University Teaching Hospital in
      Lusaka, Sarah Kamanga, is quoted by AP news agency as saying that it was
      difficult to gauge the effect of the strike, but about 35 people died on
      Tuesday while waiting for attention at the hospital.

      Mr Jere said he feels the government would find it difficult to carry
      out its threat to sack workers who continue to strike.

      "Some of them have worked in the civil service for over 30 years," he

      Last month Zambia's state prosecutor postponed the trial of the former
      president Frederick Chiluba, due to striking judiciary workers.


      Zambian workers sue government

      Public service workers in Zambia have commenced legal action against
      the state for 'breaching the agreement' to pay civil servants housing
      allowances equivalent to up to 80% of their basic salary.

      The two-week countrywide strike by about 120,000 civil servants, which
      paralysed Zambia's public services, was called off on Monday as union
      leaders, opted for a change of tactics.

      Trade union lawyer Kelvin Hang'andu said the action was being taken "in
      the best interests of workers".

      In an attempt to find a solution to the crisis, last week Zambian
      President Levy Mwanawasa called for a national conference of opposition
      parties, civil society organisations and church groups to be held within
      the next four weeks.

      Financial crisis

      Mr Mwanawasa's government says that the state has not got enough funds
      to pay the workers their outstanding housing allowances housing
      allowances dating back 14 months.

      Western donors have cut aid of about $100 million to support Zambia's
      economy because the government had failed to cut spending.

      According to the UN information service, IRIN, the IMF said on Monday
      that Mr Mwanawasa's government had exceeded its budget by 300bn kwachas
      ($70 million) and had not "sufficiently explained the overspending".

      Zambia is categorised as one of the least developed countries and
      qualifies for the Highly-Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) debt-relief
      programme of the IMF and World Bank.
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