11 January 2019

Malawi: Labour Minister Bemoans Tobacco Tenants' Pathetic Living Conditions

The pathetic living conditions that tobacco tenants in estates are being subjected to have made Minister of Labour, Youth, Sports and Manpower Development Grace Chiumia to warn estate owners.

During her visit to Kasungu on Wednesday to inspect estates and farms on child labour, the minister noticed that tenants are living in appalling conditions where a family of seven shares a small shack made of grass and covered with mud.

The minister said the way the estate owners keep tenants is not humane, saying they are rather kept like animals.

"Look at a house a tenant is being kept in, very small and without any ventilation, and you find a family of seven staying in this house. You will find the father, mother and the children and sometimes have chickens in the same room. The same room is also used as a kitchen.

"This is bad, how do you think the health of people will be. The estate owners come here and go to sleep in their good houses, how do they feel?" wondered Chiumia.

The minister warned against the behaviour, saying it should stop immediately. She said if estate owners want to grow tobacco and keep people as tenants, they must have standard houses.

The minister also noted that most of the tenants' children do not attend school; some help their parents while others just stay home.

An estate manager at Khalidwenchuma Estate in Sub Traditional Authority Mawawa in the district, Yusuf Bonongwe said they try their best to keep the tenants safe but sometimes the tobacco market is not always good which forces them not to give the tenants the necessary requirements.

"We cannot do all but we try our best. Most of the tenants stay in good shelter that are just good enough to dwell in despite being shacks," said Bonongwe, adding that his estate was child labour- free and encouraged workers to send their children to school.

Kasungu has over 22,000 tobacco farms, according to the district's labour office.

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