Malawi: Rumphi Residents Protest Over Unpaid Public Works Wages

Rumphi — Beneficiaries of the 2018/19 Public Works Programme in Rumphi, Tuesday stormed the office of the District Commissioner (DC) to present their petition demanding payment of their wages.

Among the protesters were; Rumphi Residents Association (RRA) leaders, Traditional leaders, people with disabilities, the elderly and the young people.

They marched from Bumba Primary School to the District Council offices where they presented their petition.

RRA Executive Director, Moir Mkandawire said Rumphi District LDF Public Works Programme beneficiaries worked from December 24, 2018 to January 19, 2019, but are yet to be paid.

He said this has disturbed the beneficiaries' plans to acquire subsidized fertilizer for their agricultural activities.

"The situation at hand can be better termed as a disaster that needs urgent attention, because 4,000 people have failed to access their farm inputs in 2018/19 farming season due to lack of money," part of the petition reads.

Mkandawire questioned the rationale of some districts remaining unpaid, while other district were paid in time.

"We want to understand the reason behind leaving Rumphi and other four districts without paying them while the rest have received the funds in time. We will be tempted to believe that government does not care about us," he said.

Meanwhile the protesters have given Rumphi District Council a seven day ultimatum to pay the wages and have threatened to go ahead with their earlier planned vigil at the Council offices.

"We demand that this issue be sorted within a period of seven days and failure to do so, the beneficiaries will hold a vigil here at the district commissioner's office up until payments are made," it added.

Mkandawire said the programmes goal was to improve income levels and reduce food insecurity among the poor households and less privileged, and that it was unfortunate that beneficiaries had failed to buy fertilizer and other basic needs.

DC for Rumphi, Fred Movete acknowledged receipt of the petition and promised to direct the petition to relevant authorities for appropriate action.

He commended the protesters for demonstrating peacefully.

Movete assured the concerned beneficiaries that authorities are looking into and he hoped that by next week everyone would have been paid.

"I have been told by the national local government finance committee that there were some delays in processing the release of the funds but I have been assured that by next week all the payments will be done," he said.

The DC opposed the idea of the vigil at the council's offices saying it would lead to poor sanitation as the council did not have enough toilets and water to carter for the protesters.

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