Opposition parties and civil societies in the country have expressed concern over government’s delay in tabling the Tenants Labour Bill which, they argue, once enacted will protect the rights and interests of tenants.
The Malawi Congress Party (MCP), the People’s Party (PP) and both local and international organizations took turns in separate interviews with Nyasa Times describing the present status of tenants in the country as awful.
Malawi, which survives on an agro-based economy, depends on tobacco as its main foreign exchange earner.
Thousands of tenants working on various tobacco estates across the country especially in Kasungu, Rumphi and Mzimba have repeatedly raised their voices over substandard perks and living conditions.
MCP parliamentary legal affairs committee chairperson Lewis Chakhwantha, also a lawyer by profession, said it was disheartening that government seemed to be very unconcerned about the bill.
According to Chakhwantha, there has been no interest on part of government as regards the bill despite heavy stimuli from various stakeholders.
“Tenants are not protected,” he said. “They are always even on the losing end because they don’t something on paper with which they can take their bosses to task. As MCP we are ready to pass the bill because it will become an integral aspect of most of the people we represent.”
Baxter Msadabwe, 31, of Mpini Estate in Mchinji told a team of journalists visiting the area recently that life is hell living like a tobacco tenant.
“I have been here for three years now but I can’t say my life has changed for any better,” he said. “Our bosses deduct hefty amounts before we’re paid.”
Msadabwe further said there is no contract signed between them and the estate owners when they commence work, saying the situation makes it problematic for them to take their bosses to task.
“Sometimes they [estate owners] give us the sales sheets at the eleventh hour deliberately so that we have no time to calculate what we are supposed to get. And since there are no laws, we have no say.”
PP’s spokesperson Ken Msonda said as a party they were in support of anything that will benefit Malawians.
“The Bill is crucial in changing the lives of tobacco tenants,” said Msonda. “We fervently join all others that are calling for its tabling to parliament.”
Other organizations that are concerned include International Labour Organization (ILO), Centre for Social Concern (CFSC), Malawi Congress of Trade Union (MCTU) and Tobacco Tenants and Allied Workers Union (TOTAWUM).
TOTAWUM vice president Regina Redson confirmed that the union has been pushing government to pass the Tenants Bill to no avail.
“Some of our arguments have always been that, for instance, there will be a significant drop in cases of child labour and general exploitation since the proposed Bill rules out all acts of exploitation,” said Redson.
Malawi laws demand that a tenant should be given basic necessities of life such as food and accommodation but it lacks in-depth and enforcement outline.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :