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Malawi flights cancelled as striking workers close airports

BLANTYRE-- Airlines, including Ethiopian Airways and Kenyan Airways, cancelled their flights into Kamuzu International Airport as workers joined the on-going strike by civil servants in Malawi.

Stranded travellers were simply told there are no flights.

"I was supposed to be in Nairobi today but I will have to spend another night in Lilongwe," said a British national.

Chileka International Airport was also closed. South African Airways was scheduled to land at the airport Wednesday. 

Meanwhile, Pres Joyce Banda was scheduled to fly out of Chileka International Airport Thursday morning to attend the Africa—South America Summit in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea.

Eliah Kamphinda Banda, president of the Civil Service Trade Union (CSTU), said the airports will remain closed for as long as government does not respond positively to their demands.

"Government has not answered us yet so we can't tell how long will the strike take," he said.

Government spokesman Moses Kunkuyu told a press conference in Lilongwe Wednesday that government has made "an offer" to the civil servants.

"The civil service leadership will meet with the government negotiating team tomorrow to discuss the offer," he said.

Kunkuyu, who is also Information Minister, could - however - not specify what percentage government was offering the civil servants but Finance Minister Ken Lipenga said Tuesday government could not afford the 67 per cent pay hike the public workers were demanding.

The civil servants say last May's 49 per cent devaluation of the Malawi currency, the kwacha, has eaten into their buying power.

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