17 May 2018

Malawi: Chikwawa Cane Cutters Strike Over Low Wages

Chikwawa — There was commotion in the morning hours of Wednesday around Chief Lundu area in Chikwawa District when cane cutters burned down part of Illovo Cane Fields and blocked the M1 road in protest against low wages.

Chikwawa Cane Cutters Contractors, Spokesman, Louis Kasuzweni, confirmed to Malawi News Agency (Mana) that apart from burning part of sugarcane fields, the cane cutters also went on rampage destroying their contractors' offices.

He said that, "We are very much disappointed with the conduct that our employees showed in the morning hours of today. The cane cutters have a forum which they call Joint Consultative Committee which specifically looks at their welfare and is chaired by the District Labour Office.

"If they had issues we were supposed to hear from this committee. It was a surprise to witness them protesting without following proper channels." The Spoekesman pointed out.

Kasuzweni who owns Unalonga Cane Cutting Company within the area said the employees broke windows of offices, destroyed the fence and water taps among others in showing their anger.

"As cane cutters contractors we really condemn the behavior and we believe that discussions are the only best solution to address issues in the labour industry," he said.

The spokesman disclosed that each employee gets around K1, 150 ticket per portion in the sugarcane fields which produces around 3.5 tons in a day but they wanted it to be raised to around K2, 000.

Other cane cutting contracting offices that were not spared in the fracas included Longoni, Mukunkha, Makhaza, Our Father, Sitikamba and Zikomo.

Illovo Communications Manager, Ireen Phalula said her company was briefed of the situation.

"Indeed some fields of mature cane were set on fire but the situation will not disrupt mill operations as the cane was due for processing in the next two weeks. As such, the processing for this cane into sugar has been brought forward," she indicated Phalula.

Chikwawa Police officers led by Officer in Charge, Assistant Commissioner, Dave Chingwalu, rushed to the scene to calm the situation. So far, no arrests have been made.

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