Malawi Police detain ring leader in Blantyre City Council strike

Defiant Blantyre City Council (BCC) employees have entered the second day of their strike without their gang leader who was picked by police on Monday.

The leader, only identified as a Mr. Kamowa from the Council’s Health Department, was arrested after he led the pack in openly daring the police and BCC management.

On Tuesday,  Kamowa was still at Blantyre Police Station but efforts were being made by some employees to have him released.

Employees at BCC started staging their strike, one of the several across Malawi, demanding a salary increment of 150 percent which they believe will be in line with the current cost of living.

Chanza: Workers demand he must go

They also want to force government to remove the Director of Administration (DAS) Alfred Chanza who they accuse of running the Council as a personal property.

Reports indicate that since he joined the Council some five years ago, Chanza has so far employed over 30 people without going through interviews.

Most of these people are his direct relations, sons, daughters and other relatives of his friends including concubines.

Chanza is currently being investigated by the Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) on the same issue including a multitude of others.

The staff members are also calling for voluntary resignation of the entire executive committee of the Workers Union which they have described as “a bunch of helpless and corrupt minds.”

“People are being sacked with no proper reasons and disciplinary hearings. The Ombudsman, Anti Corruption Bureau and the Labour Office officials are all aware about this but surprisingly nothing is being done to redress the situation,” one angry striking employee told Nyasa Times on Monday.

He added: “They are busy engaging in politics and fattening their pockets yet workers are suffering. Imagine, for instance, refuse collectors are working with bare hands. They have no uniforms, no gloves and no boots but the union is there. They have failed us and they must all go.”

Initially the workers planned for the strike after BCC failed to implement a 30 percent salary increment promised to them a few months ago through the council’s Workers Union.

But they only changed tune on the day (Monday) they started downing their tools to demand a 150 percent upward adjustment.

Nyasa Times also understands that other issues the employees are not happy with include gross nepotism, advertising of posts already filled by people they handpicked and the set up of the newly established commercial department which has over 80 percent of staff members who did not go through any interview.

Others include promotions of some staff members on the basis that they are either workers union members or spies of Alfred Chanza and also the unexplained transposition of jobs for some professionals.

For instance, human resource officers were sent to work as traffic officers (but the office has nothing to do), auditors as store keepers, store keepers as debt collectors and human resource manager as fuel officer.

Meanwhile, leaders of the BCC Workers Union were on Tuesday morning scheduled to address the striking workers at the Engineering Department at Ginnery Corner where the whole action is taking place.

On Monday, Nyasa Times understands that BCC management refused to talk to the go-slow employees and instead threatened them with dismissals if they do not resume work by Tuesday.

But as of Tuesday morning, some employees who spoke to Nyasa Times at Ginnery Corner vowed not to resume work until their demands are addressed.

All gates to the campus where, among others, the fire brigade section is housed and all BCC vehicles are parked, remained locked with huge locks the workers specifically purchased for the task.

Reports also indicate that management has hired about 40 armed police officers who have been patrolling the vicinity of campus while the offices at the head office (Civic Center) at Chichiri remain deserted.

If the industrial action, which they have dubbed ‘strike of the decade’ continues, residents in Blantyre City will have to endure the offensive stench from the heaps of garbage which are a common site across the city.

On Monday the employees were seen in jovial mood as they chanted anti-management songs as they burnt used tyres while also carrying tree branches and stones. They were only stopped by armed police from the Police Mobile Service.

The strike is taking place when the Chief Executive Officer Emmanuel Ted Nandolo is reportedly away in China and is expected back in office next week.

Since President Joyce Banda took over the reigns of power, Malawi has turned into a nation of industrial strikes as both employees from government and the private sector continue pressing for salary adjustments following the devaluation of the Kwacha that has resulted in prices of basic needs skyrocketing.

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