Malawians working for the flagship project – Salima Sugar Company – have accused their Asian managers of practicing racism and demanding sex from female workers in exchange of favours.
An undercover investigation by the Nyasa Times recently established that the Asians have been maltreating the local workers while at the same time demanding sexual favours from female employees in exchange for employment or other considerations.
The Asian managers are overseeing the operations of the company under concession with the Malawi Government.
With the emergence of private sector investors in major growth sectors such as energy, water, communications, and government policy is promoting the financing of flagship projects through Public-Private Partnership (PPP) arrangements.
This arrangement is done under the third Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MGDS III), which will be implemented from 2017 to 2022. It is the fourth medium-term national development strategy aligned to the country’s long-term national development aspirations, which are articulated in Vision 2020.
And like any other flagship project, the Salima Sugar Company project was established to spur economic growth and development in the country through multi-dimensional and integrated design.
Implemented by the Green Belt Authority (GBA), the project aims to attain food and nutrition security, increased household incomes and exports through sustainable irrigation and agro-processing.
But local employees have expressed fear that Salima Sugar Company could soon become another concentration camp for the poor Malawian.
A number of employees complained of gross abuse, including sexual harassment against female staff by their Asian managers.
Five female workers separately interviewed at the farm alleged their managers ask them to have sex with them in exchange for better working
conditions and other favours.
The female workers explained that the managers also demand sexual favours from prospective employees for them to get employed.
“Life is never easy for ladies in that company. But we choose to suffer in silence because we have nowhere to go,” said one of the female employees.
On the other hand, male employees complained that their managers use racist attacks on local workers.
“These managers are racists and they constantly use racist words when talking to us. They don’t create a humane working environment for us. For instance, we work without protective wear. We are only given protective gear when the company is receiving visitors,” said a male employee on condition of strict anonymity.
“They do most of their operations in secret. And that is why journalists are never allowed access anyhow. They turn away journalists even when prior appointment booking was done. This is to ensure that no one knows the hell we are going through inside this company,” he added.
Three female employees confirmed to Nyasa Times in separate interviews outside the farm that their Asian managers make sex demands from them.
They said women who rebuff their sexual advances are subjected to unfriendly working environment and can eventually be forced to resign.
But the estate manager, a Mr Rahan, management rubbished the workers’ complaints, describing them as the cry of the incompetent workers trying to gain people’s sympathy.
However, as if to confirm these concerns, the management, led by a Mr Rahan himself, recently turned away journalists on a tour to appreciate the progress is making in achieving its goal of attaining food and nutrition security, increased household incomes and exports through sustainable irrigation and agro-processing.
Rahan referred us to the company secretary, Dr Charles Thupi, at the company’s Head Office in Lilongwe.
Thupi, on the other hand, said he was not aware of the complaints. He also doubted if the managers of Asian origin were behind the maladministration.
He said all the labourers are not under the management of Salima Sugar Company, saying the company outsources of its labour from Madison Holdings Limited.
However, the Malawi Congress of Trade Union (MCTU) Deputy Director Jessie Ching’oma has condemned the abuse of female employees at the company.
Ching’oma has challenged the Malawi Government to rise above the concession agreement and ensure the reports are investigated and culprits made to account for their actions.
- In the next article, Nyasa Times will take you through the poverty burden communities surrounding the Salima Sugar Company have been forced to shoulder because of failure by the company to give compensations to the households that were displaced to clear the way for the implementation of the project.