- Sep 9, 2003Strike Looms Over Workers' Payrise
African Church Information Service
August 8, 2003
Posted to the web September 8, 2003
Civil servants in Malawi have threatened to go on strike next month,
following the Governments decline to improve their pay package and
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
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
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
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
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.
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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