The Rapid Assessment Survey on the tenancy labour system in tobacco plantations in Malawi which was conducted by the International Labour Organization (ILO) following request by Malawi government shows that there is massive abuse of labour rights by the owners of the estates.
The study revealed that there is generally widespread abuse of labour rights of tenants, with some abuses bordering on forced labour or slavery like practices.
Secretary for labour, youth and manpower development Patrick Kabambe said the Malawi Government acknowledged as early as 1994, soon after the first government in the multi-party democratic dispension was ushered into power that tenancy labour was inconsistent with the democratic order.
“Government issued a statement to take corrective measures. However disagreement amongst stakeholders derailed progress such that to date very little has been achieved.
“Government observed that the debates and even the studies have mainly focused on the economic side while completely over shadowing the human rights aspect, which ironically prompted cries that moved the stakeholders to initiate action,” he said.
Kabambe said there is need to join forces with the rest of the international community in this cause to free millions of victims from degrading dehumanizing and life threatening treatment at the hands of unscrupulous people.
It is important to bear in mind that the laws of this country, namely the Republic Constitution and the Employment Act, and also the international labour standards prohibit forced labour and slavery like practices without compromise, he said.
“Tenancy labour needs to be put in its proper context-notably, whether it amounts to forced labour so that government is properly guided on action to take,” he said.
Kabambe commended the ILO for providing the technical and financial support saying the study will go a long way towards informing government to take action in addressing the plight of tenants while at the same time ensuring that tenants and all other beneficiaries of the tenancy labour system.