Malawi: Security Expert Warns Chakwera That Malawi Might Degenerate Into Chaos With Rise in Cost of Living

Expert in conflict and peace management, Master Dicks Mfune, says series of events in the country reveal early warning signs and might degenerate into chaos should the government, especially President Lazarus Chakwera, fail to manage and prevent them.

Mfune is referring to the rising tide of frustrations reflected in pending strikes or risk nationwide social unrest coming against a background of healthcare workers and Judiciary support staff alongside magistrates planning to down their tools to push for implementation of their revised allowances and a review of their conditions of service, respectively.

Similar protests are also expected from road contractors, who are bitter about delays to get paid for jobs already certified as completed.

Said Mfune: "This pattern might lead to nationwide demonstrations because we had the devaluation of the kwacha, which has caused misery in the lives of people. Government has mitigation efforts like Mtukula Pakhomo, but in workplaces, people are not benefiting from that.

"People are frustrated and with the misery they are going through, much as they are in essential service, they also get tired and put tools down. We don't want them to strike, but how do you expect them to survive?"

Mfune hoped that the National Peace Commission will also intervene, but noted that due to lack of resources, it could be constrained.

He said: "The challenge is that we think we can handle things like in the one-party era, where if workers provide grievances, then you threaten them with dismissals."

Speaking in his personal capacity, Kamuzu University of Health Sciences public health expert Professor Adamson Muula, who witnessed the 2001 strike by healthcare workers in the country, feared many people would lose their lives if the strike takes place.

He said several promises by government officials, up to ministerial level, have yielded nothing, which has created a culture of mistrust, leaving the President as a potential honest broker.

Said Muula: "Had government not promised these healthcare workers, it would have been a different case, but you can't work in an environment where you are promised something and then nothing comes up even in the face of a conciliator.

"Common sense must come in and do so quickly. The only office remaining is that of the President because the rest have been making promises without fulfilment."

Malawi Congress of Trade Unions (MCTU) secretary general Madalitso Njolomole said MCTU encourages its affiliates to conclude negotiations before resorting to strikes.

"We have heard the concerns from Judiciary and healthcare workers from social media. But their grievances are genuine and they have the right to present issues to the government on their own," he said.

Healthcare workers through Physician Assistants Union of Malawi president Solomon Chomba and National Organisation of Nurses and Midwives in Malawi president Shouts Simeza said they had not received any response.

Yesterday, Chomba agreed with calls for Chakwera's intervention, saying he believes the President has Malawians' and healthcare workers' welfare at heart.

On his part, Simeza commended other sister unions for coming to their support.

Ironically, Minister of Health Khumbize Kandodo-Chiponda said in an interview yesterday that talks were underway between government and representatives of the healthcare workers.

"They are our children, so we are still engaging them. I cannot preempt what is being discussed, but when all is concluded you will be informed," she said.

On Tuesday, the Transport and General Workers Union; Communication Workers Union of Malawi; Textiles, Garments, Leather and Security Guards Workers Union; Malawi Union for the Informal Sector; Hotels, Food Processing and Catering Services Workers Union; Shipping, Customs, Clearing and Allied Trade Union and Plantation and Agriculture Workers Union issued solidarity statement for the judiciary and healthcare workers' strikes.

Meanwhile, members of the Malawi Allied Building Contractors Association are also expected to hold protests today in Lilongwe demanding payments from Roads Fund Administration of a combined K14 billion dating from January this year.

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