Tonse Alliance Govt earns praise for professional handling of truck drivers’ strike

The Tonse Alliance-led administration, through Ministers of Information and Homeland Security, Gospel Kazako and Richard Chimwendo Banda, has earned the praise of motorists and social media activists in Malawi for the ‘professional handling’ of the strike by the truck drivers.

Kazako and Chimwendo Banda are being credited for employing ‘contact and dialogue’ approach instead of confrontation when dealing with the striking truck drivers.

Mid this week, disgruntled truck drivers under the Transporters Association of Malawi, Fuel Transporters Association of Malawi, and other unions staged a sit-in demanding increased wages and amendments to Covid-19 regulations that require testing for travel.

Malawi Defence Force delivering fuel

They also asked the government to back their demand for a K140, 000 minimum wage, lamenting that despite the government setting a minimum wage of K140,000, employees are not adhering to the directive as the drivers are still being paid K40,000.

The strike resulted in the delayed distribution of fuel at commercial gas stations and, if not contained, would have threatened fuel supply chain.

Thus, the motorists and activists commended Kazako and Chimwendo Banda for their ‘tireless efforts to find a solution to the drivers’ grievances’.

The public hailed Kazako for providing timely updates on the strike, fuel situation in Malawi and the steps the government had taken to ensure that the sit-in does not end in a fuel crisis.

On the other hand, Malawians have given Chimwendo Banda a credit for leading the government negotiating team that secured an end to a sit-in on Friday.

The Homeland Minister, in collaboration with other Cabinet ministers and senior government officials, engaged the truck drivers in a series of discussions to try to find a common ground for addressing the grievances.

Their efforts finally paid off on Friday with the truck drivers calling off their strike.

During a joint press briefing on Thursday, Kazako and Chimwendo Banda said the government would take a number of steps to address the grievances.

They said, among others, that government has committed to giving 86.7 percent of wet cargo to the local transporters.

“Government has also agreed to reduce truck drivers’ passports of 48 pages to K60, 000 down from K120, 000. We have also agreed to come up with a taskforce to ensure implementation of the resolutions made,” he said.

Following the announcement of the end of the sit-in, some motorists social media activists took to their forums, commending the ministers for ‘working very hard to contain the strike’.

Lilongwe-based motorist and mechanic Arnold Mwindi Mhango said it was even more commendable that the government used amicable means to reach a consensus with the striking truck drivers.

“Government would have used force to chase the striking truck drivers from the streets, but it didn’t! This is what we call mature democracy, and I pat the government on the back for achieving that feat,” said Mhango who operates a garage at Area 18.

Writing on Minibus Drivers Forum, Andrew Sekeni said the government had demonstrated maturity in handling a strike.

Sekeni observed that it was probably the first time that a strike by truck drivers has ended without some damage to property has been done.

Social media activist and Masters’ Degree student, Felix Katemula, said he was impressed with the ‘contact and dialogue’ spirit that the Tonse Government had demonstrated by inviting the disgruntled drivers to a roundtable discussion.

“I wish to urge the Tonse Alliance government to a ‘contact and dialogue’ approach when handling matters of national importance,” said Katemula.

Kazako attributed the success of their negotiations with the truck drivers and hauliers to the collective efforts by ministers and the senior government officers.

He said it was therefore proper that a credit should go to everyone that took part in the discussions, including the concerned drivers and hauliers themselves, for understanding and appreciating what the government is doing for them.

“The Tonse Alliance government, led by President Dr. Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera, believes in an open door policy. That is why we value the importance of coming together to resolve differences wherever such a need has arisen. And we thank the drivers and the hauliers for understanding and appreciating this,” he said.

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