Call it modern slavery! A Farmers World retired employee, Gibson Phiri, recently walked close to 300 kilometres from Mkanda Trading Centre in Mchinji to his employer’s Head Office at Kanengo, Lilongwe, to inquire about his outstanding dues.
Phiri, 57, comes from Kajepo Village in Traditional Authority Mzukuzuku Jere in Mzimba and worked for one of Malawi’s leading farm input supplier as a porter for 22 years.
He voluntarily retired in January 2019 due to ill-health and patiently waited for Farmers’ World to process his dues.
However, the dues were not forthcoming until the frail widower, who has been living with his three unemployed children, undertook a journey to Kanengo to demand explanation on his pension and other benefits.
By the time went to Mkanda Trading Centre for the interview with Phiri, his family was surviving on begging.
“My employer is very heartless. Imagine when my wife died two years ago, they never helped me. And I am not healthy either, yet they are withholding my money,” said Phiri as he held tears in his eyes.
Phiri said he could have died by now if it was not for the generosity of communities surrounding the trading centre.
“Farmers World has tortured me to the bone. Amwenye amenewa saganizira za munthu [These Indian investors do not care about us]. It is such torture that prompted me to walk from here to Kanengo to demand explanation on my money,” he said.
One of the residents at Mkanda Trading Centre, Lucius Phiri, condemned the management of Farmers World for abdicating its obligations on their retired employee.
Phiri could not understand how a big company could allow its former employee rot with poverty “while his money is stuck somewhere”.
“Is it not possible for HRDC [Human Rights Defenders Coalition] to fight for such people? I mean, we need a mass demonstration to denounce torture that Malawians are going through in companies owned by Indian investors. It’s very unfair for someone to walk all these kilometres just to find out where his money is,” he said.
But Farmers World Human Resource Manager, Richard Kachere, justified the anguish Phiri went through, arguing his company did not flout any labour law by subjecting the retired employee a 12-month wait before he could access his dues.
Kachere accused this reporter of harbouring a personal vendetta with Farmers World.
“Firstly, I would like to express my disappointment with the presentation of the issue brought to us by you. As a journalist, you must be very aware that you make a stand ONLY AFTER hearing both sides – those are key tenets of natural justice. Unfortunately, you have solely concluded that Mr. Phiri was ill-treated” without cross-checking and verifying that point with us. That must be condemned in the strongest sense from our side as it appears that you have already made your stand and you are now working backwards to buttress that “fact”,” he said.
Kachere further threatened that his company would commence lawsuit against this reporter if he went ahead to write and publish the story about Phiri’s suffering.
“We understand our view is clear and understandable, and we would like to reiterate the fact that anything diverting to our laid out facts, which shall be meant to deliberately tarnish our image and taint our public view (as already observed in the email below) shall be vigorously contested and that shall include litigation against yourselves, if necessary,” threatened Kachere.
Meanwhile, Nyasa Times has been reliably informed that Phiri received his dues this year and has since relocated to Mzuzu. However, Kachere could not provide the date when Phiri got his payment.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :