Center for Social Concern (CFSC) has called for the enactment of the tenancy labour bill that would protect the rights of both tenants and landlords in the tobacco industry.
CFSC in a research conducted in 2014 revealed gross exploitation of tenants in tobacco estates as there is no clear legal instruments that would protect their rights.
Speaking during the dissemination of the research findings in Mzimba on Thursday, CFSC program officer for economic governance Mathius Kafunda said the research exposed inhumane working conditions tenants are subjected to in tobacco estates.
Kafunda said “most tenants survive on insufficient food stuffs and in most cases eat once a meal in a day despite doing all the tedious work in tobacco production.”
He said the research found that “44% of tenants and their families live in overcrowded and poorly ventilated grass or tobacco stalks huts.”
The research was done in main tobacco growing districts of Kasungu, Mchinji Mzimba and Rumphi and the districts where most tenants are derived from such as Zomba, Phalombe Thyolo, Machinga and Mulanje.
According to Kafunda the research further faulted the recruitment procedures of tenants which he said were more like human trafficking.
“There is an increasingly use of aggressive means of recruitment such as middlemen and returning tenants. With growing competition and demand for cheap labour, the system is shifting from a form of formal artisanry to a more extensive organization and linked fraudulently networks for migration of tenants and their families,” he said.
Kafunda said the research also revealed that there are no written contracts between tenants and estate owners and in the absence of a clear law on tenancy labour, tenants are duped and paid meagre wages for their hard labour.
“A total of 71% of tenants have either oral or no contract at all with their landlords. Oral contracts depend solery on the confidence and trust that both parties will faithfully perform their obligations. And should there be disagreements on the contract, it becomes extremely difficult to enforce,” said Kafunda.
On child labour the research found that 55% of children in tobacco estates are involved in stitching tobacco leaves as unpaid family workers in readiness for tobacco curing.
The report findings show that the involvement of children in tobacco estates labour results into 84% of them attending classes with advanced ages and eventually dropping out of school
The research was commissioned to look at the various processes in the tenancy labor system and how it impacts on the tenant growing the tobacco.
District labour Officer (DLO) for Mzimba Russell Mhone said lack of specific legal provisions on tenancy labour in current legal frameworks is hindering their offices from administering justice when it comes to tenancy labour disputes.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :