LILONGWE-(MaraviPost)-Barely eight months after the Ministry of Labor, Sports and Manpower Development announced plans to abolish tenancy labor system by replacing it with wage bill, some country’s civil society organizations (CSOs) have come out of their cocoons cautioning the authority against the move arguing that the hasty approach on the matter will bring more harm to tenants than good.
In the new proposed wage bill, landlords in tobacco and tea estates will be mandated to pay their tenants (employees) monthly salaries including medical scheme, housing, annual benefits among others. The wage bill will be embedded into the Employment Act with an amendment bill on Section 3 subsection 4 that landlords be considered as employers while tenants as employees.
In this new proposed wage bill which is under the cabinet committee’s scrutiny intends to punish anyone who imposes tenancy on others with MK2 million as penalty for such perpetrators.
The labor Minister Henry Mussa made it clear at the time that an amendment in the Employment Act will be enough in phasing out tenancy and replacing it with wage bill.
“After thoroughly weighing concerns raised by different players in the tobacco industry, the ministry decided to abolish tenancy system in Malawi which is similar to Thangata system of labor the colonial masters championed before the country attained independence. Instead of having an independent legislation, cabinet decided to embed the concerns on tenancy with a section into Employment Act for an amendment.“, Mussa said.
But addressing the media on Saturday ahead of all stakeholders’ conference on tenancy labor slated for December 20 in the capital Lilongwe, some CSOs that have been advocating for introduction of tenancy labor bill since 1992 have asked ministry of labor to trade carefully with the decision of abolition of tenancy.
The taskforce wants to see vigorous and clear benchmark of phasing tenancy that it meets international standards and addressing tenant’s challenges facing in the country.
“We’ve about 3 million tenants working in tobacco and tea estates whose lives are so pathetic. Therefore, the grouping want the wage bill to be inclusive in all spheres of the entire tenancy system because hasty approach on abolition won’t do us any good.”, said Robert Mkwezalamba of HRCC.
Tenancy labour is mainly practiced in tobacco estates in central region as most tenants migrate from southern districts of Mangochi, Machinga, Zomba, Phalombe and Thyolo who are subjected to bad conditions of works such as planting, harvesting period with without proper equipments.
Although, Malawi was tolerated this oppressive system of labor, its neighbours , Zambia, Zimbabwe graduated into wage labour where tenants are paid according to work done to produce food and cash crops with contracts attached to the farming.