Minister of Labour and Manpower Development, Henry Mussa, on Tuesday disclosed that Government has activated plans to ban tenancy system in Malawi as way of addressing problems which tenants experience in the hands of the tobacco estate owners.
The tobacco tenancy system in Malawi is partly responsible for child labour and poor working conditions.
Briefing journalists in Lilongwe, Mussa said government intends to ban tenancy in Malawi following extensive consultations which were done last year supported by study which was done national wide with support from International Labour Organization (ILO).
Mussa disclosed to the press that draft Employment Amendment Bill is currently at Cabinet Committee stage and that it shall be tabled at Cabinet once approved.
The minister was however quick to appeal to all Malawians and development partners to render support to government in order to ensure that any possible adverse effects that abolition of the tenancy labour system may bring, are kept to a minimum.
“Tenants deserve to enjoy their labour and human rights just like any other person,” said Mussa.
Mussa said the bill is expected to be passed before the end of this year.
The Minister said consultations which the Ministry undertook showed that Malawians agree that tenancy labour system is bad and therefore the divergent views held on the tenancy labour system by stakeholders is evidence enough that any effort to regulate tenancy labour is bound to
pose serious implementation challenges.
One of Malawi’s social Catholic arm, Centre for Social Concern (CFSC) recently conducted research where it unearthed that tenants are facing numerous callenges in Malawi.
CFSC made various recommendations to government following the study.
Some of the recommendations include that the country must standardize the tenancy labour contract with a framework that promotes the personal development of the tenancy labour worker and the estate owner.
“There must be mechanisms that grant a win-win situation instead of the current zero-sum game, highly skewed in favour of the estate owners.”
CFSC also recommended quick adoption of the Tenancy Labour Bill as subsidiary to current labour legal regimes in such a way that adequately provides for the regulation of the tenancy labour and the adjudication of disputes between tenants and estate-owners
The report also recommended immediate intervention of institutions such as Tobacco Association of Malawi, that government must provide basic terms of the tenancy labour contract between estate owners and tenants.
ILO senior standards specialist, Christina Holmgren, said it is high time Malawi took tangible steps in the issue of tobacco tenancy system which has been outstanding for the past 20 years.
Holmgren said ILO would like to see Malawi taking steps in dealing with the issue although she said the actual abolishment may not be immediate considering the future welfare of the tenants after losing their jobs in the plantations.
“One step at a time, no matter how small it is, but this issue has to be dealt with. We cannot continue talking about the plight of tenants and the poor conditions they are exposed to if we are not ready to start taking tangible actions about it,” said Holmgren.
Chancellor College lecturer, Ngeyi Kanyongolo – who was one of the consultants in the ILO research and production of the report, revealed during a presentation that tenants in tobacco estates don’t usually sign employment contracts and are subjected to the poorest working conditions.
“They live in overcrowded housing, with 19.4 percent of tenants staying in houses where over seven people use one room for sleeping. The whole tenant family is involved in tobacco production, where the husband is enrolled but his wife and children work without pay,” said Kanyongolo.
Forced labour, child labour, discrimination against women and in some cases serious violations of civil, political, social, economic and cultural rights are some of the challenges tenants in Malawi continue to face.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :