Malawi Congress of Trade Union leadership changed: Mambala and Mkwezalamba lose seats

There was electricity in the air as the jubilant delegates and observers that filled the conference hall at the Malawi Sun Hotels in Blantyre sang, cheered and ululated as they ushered in new leadership of Malawi Congress of Trade Unions (MCTU) on Sunday at the labour movement’s 5th Quadrennial Congress.

The election, however, showed its ugly face on the MCTU’s vocal President, Luther Mambala, and his outspoken youthful Secretary General, Robert Mkwezalamba, both of whom were shown the exit after serving just one constitutional four-year-term each.

Mambala lost to his former vice, Muwake Chauluka by 60-78 votes, respectively while Mkwezalamba’s position went to Pontius Kalichero who won by 72 votes to Mkwezalamba’s 61.

Kalichero is General Secretary for Civil Servants Trade Union of Malawi (CSTU) while Muwake also doubles as President for Teachers Union of Malawi (TUM).

But reacting to the elections results, especially on the two top most positions of president and secretary general, some delegates to the conference predicted doom for the workers’ national confederation, arguing that the new team will not be able to discharge its duties as effective as did the outgoing team because they both come from the civil service.

Ministry of labour officials and observers counting votes for the president

Said one delegate: “This is a worrisome situation; MCTU is gone and finished. How do you expect these civil servants to stand up against the government? Would they be courageous enough to challenge their employer?”

“We are very much worried, especially with the removal of Mkwezalamba from the system. This young man is courageous and visionary. If they had given him another term of office, workers’ well-being would have improved for the better unlike the new comers who have failed their members in their respective unions,” added the delegate.

Ronald Mbewe, who is General Secretary for Transport and General Workers Union, was elected vice president while Grace Nyirenda retained her post of deputy secretary general which she assumed unopposed. Mary Dzinyemba (general secretary for Commercial and Allied Workers Union) was voted treasurer general.

But the congress was not without drama as TUM and CSTU walked out of the meeting in the middle of the presentation of the treasure general’s report, in protest against the disappearance from the deliberations of their president (Chauluka) and his General Secretary, Denis Kalekeni.

It later transpired that the two were summoned by Labour Minister, Eunice Makangala, to a meeting at Mount Soche Hotel to force Chauluka to withdraw from the presidential race to pave way for Mambala. It is not clear why she allegedly took that stance.

Standing on a point of order, a delegate from TUM confronted Mambala who was then chairing the session, to explain the whereabouts of their leaders, in which Mambala responded that he had no idea.

“All TUM delegates, please let us walk out of this meeting until we are told where our leaders are have been taken to and why,” demanded some delegates before being joined in the protest by their CSTU colleagues in solidarity.

It took about 30 minutes before they returned to the conference accompanied by their two “missing” leaders, who confirmed to the congress that they asked to withdraw and pave way for Mambala.

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