Malawi civil servants who are currently on strike over demands for better pay on Wednesday closed Kamuzu International Airport (KIA) in the capital Lilongwe and took to the streets to march to the Capital Hill to present a petition on their grievances.
Air Traffic controllers at KIA could not operate forcing Kenya Airways and Ethiopian Airline to cancel flights to Lilongwe.
Thousands of civil servants backed by air traffic controllers – through their mother body, Civil Service Trade Union (CSTU) – are protesting high cost of living resulting from last May’s 49 percent devaluation of the currency, the kwacha.
The strike started slowly last week but has spread with teachers joining in and closing schools. Nurses have also threatened to join the strike to paralyze major hospitals, which are already short of health workers and medicine.
On Wednesday morning, the angry servants, who carried placards and tree branches, convened at the Kamuzu Central Hospital roundabout before proceeding to the Capital Hill under the escort of heavy police officers.
The civil servants are demanding a pay hike of 67 percent and leveling of wages on the same grades within the government departments.
Speaking during the presentation of the petition, CSTU President Eliah Kamphinda Banda said all they want are fair wages and emphasized that the leader of the government negotiating team, McPhail Magwira, should be removed.
“We will only go back to the negotiating team if only a Mr. Magwira is no longer in the negotiating team as he has shown that he is crooked. We don’t want people who are cheats to be part of this,” he said.
On his part, one of the members of Capital Hill negotiating team Willy Samute said the government will try its beast to address the issues that are on the petition.
“We agree entirely with some of the concerns and we are hopeful that it is the government’s wish to address them,” he told the gathering after receiving the petition.
Meanwhile, unsigned statement purportedly issued by the Government Negotiating Team (GNT) said government had offered its employees “ reasonable “ pay hike “within the prevailing economic conditions and is intended to ensure that the progress towards economic recovery remains on course while addressing the legitimate expectations of civil servants.”Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :