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Editorial CommentOpinion & Analysis

The ball is in Peter Mutharika’s court

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It was reassuring to hear President Peter Mutharika warning that he would deport expatriate bosses who ill-treat Malawian workers based on racial prejudice.

This is obviously good to many Malawians, especially those who work as unskilled labourers, who have mainly been on the receiving end of racist treatment.

Many Malawians recall that some expatriate bakery owners have been locking Malawian workers inside their bakeries, overnight. There are also stories that some employers have overworked their employees without any extra pay, which is obviously against labour practices.

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While the country needs investors, Malawians are not ready to relive experiences of their forefathers who were slaves in their own land during colonial times. Investors should not hold the country to ransom just because they have money.

But we have ourselves, as Malawians, to blame for the ill-treaments that we suffer at the hands of racist employers. Labour inspectors who are paid by the Ministry of Labour are not doing their work. Even when abuses are reported, the labour offices do not move decisively. Memories are still fresh of a poor woman who was allegedly abused by her manager at one lakeshore resort in Mangochi, just because she was black and the manager believed and said that she had no brains.

We are also mindful that some international chain stores leave their underpaid workers to find means of getting home after releasing them very late in the evening. Unfortunately, most of their workers are young ladies who can be prone to other abuses just to find their way to their respective homes.

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The issue was reported to the labour office, but the abused woman never got justice while the racist boss is still working. Perhaps Hinteregger Jurgen, an Austrian, was deported because he allegedly called the President a monkey.

There is need for a sober soul-searching as to why these cheeky investors abuse our people. Chief among the reasons is that we are failing to prop up the economy to enable our own people to go into entrepreneurship or get skills to land decent jobs.

Most Malawians have also lost their buying power to the extent that they pick any jobs available on the market.

This is where the ball bounces back into the President’s court. Mutharika’s administration must come up with good policies that can enable Malawians to emancipate themselves from economic bondage. The government must look at interest rates that commercial banks charge when Malawians try to borrow money to start up businesses. The racist investors thrive in Malawi because they borrow money at zero or reasonable interest rates from their countries.

The government must also check corruption among Ministry of Labour officials that encourages the officials to look the other way when Malawian workers are being abused.

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