Malawi cash cropThe tobacco tenants in Malawi are being exploited. No matter how often we have heard this before, it is important to keep stressing it. We need to clean up our national forex earner and take care of our citizens, also the poor ones.
The tobacco tenants bill of 2012 is not enacted by Parliament because the same powerful people in Parliament who are to vote on it are among the ones committing the crimes against their tenants. And reaping obscene profits from the sweat of others. Apart from the question why such unethical individuals should be in Parliament, this is a system that defeats democracy. The Parliamentary seats are not open to any citizen of Malawi, somehow the system has been corrupted and only the rich inner circle have access to the democracy. That is not democracy, it is dictatorship of the few, and clearly here we have an area where it is at the expense of the many.
The Nation of today calls for new laws. But we all know it takes years to enact a new law. The tenants bill has been in Parliament for two years and nothing is being done. We need not start all over, we need to enact that bill sooner than later. Today I propose. But until the unwilling obxtruction of a few extortionists in Parliament has been overcome: Malawi does have some laws that, outdated and insufficient as they are, were designed to protect the worker against exploitation by the rich and powerful. These laws are not enforced! Given the political will, we can start enforcing today.
But the newspaper that calls for new laws can also play an important role: a series of articles about the working consitions in our national forex earner, the tobacco industry. Opening a newspaper with a big photo of the working conditions and living conditions of child labourers, with headlines like: President leanes children in the lurch! Or: government lax on its own laws! Or: where are our MPs? Lots of photos, lots of testimonies. And of course the journalist can take the victims to the police victim support unit and ask for clarification on their laxity. And maybe take a (large) number to the ministry to demand action? That is also where the CSOs come in. It is easy to sit in an airconditioned office and write a report. But it is much better to go into the field and bring the police and labour inspectors over to the real world, to enforce the laws that are there. Photograph the whole action, report every violation and bring it to the minister until action follows action.
I propose that the police switch today from traffic fines as an income generating activity, to labour laws as an income generating activity. Visit those farms, every day, and fine those extortionists, those rich criminals who are taking advantage of the lawlessness, install sanity in our national industry of tobacco. Catch the criminals who are abusing our population. The president can order the ministers of labour and justice to start today! Liberate the child labourers from exploitation and give them a chance to go to school, a chance to make something of their lives. Check religiously on the minor points of the laour law, check for violations of safety measures, of minimum wages, of working hours and overtime pay. Check for physical abuse, sexual abuse, mental abuse, and show no mercy for the criminals who take advantage of our population. This is a national issue, not some little thing, this is the wellbeing of our population, this is our international standing and it is an issue which could (if properly enacted) secure Arthur Peter a second term the way subsidized fertilizer did for Bingu. A big social issue is a great asset for the political career of a politician as well as an important improvement of the situation in our country. Hail the tobacco farmer and hail the politicians, police men, labour inspectors and others who will enforce our labour laws!


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