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Transporters call off strike after meeting government officials

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Richard Chimwendo Banda

Transporters finally ended their strike Friday after five-hour discussions with government delegation.

The strike led to fuel distribution challenges in the country over the past three days, leading to long queues of vehicles at many filling stations.

Transporters Association of Malawi representatives met cabinet ministers who included Minister of Homeland Security Richard Chimwendo Banda, Trade Minister Sosten Gwengwe, Deputy Minister of Transport, Nancy Mdooko and Minister of Civic Education and National Unity Timothy Mtambo.

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Speaking to journalists after the meeting, Chimwendo Banda said the meeting was fruitful as it was agreed that 86 percent of upcoming transportation business would be given to local transporters.

Banda said the transporters had also asked for their inclusion in the Affordable Inputs Programme.

An executive member of the association, Byson Mipando, commended government for calling for the discussions.

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“We are calling on all the drivers to call off the strike. The trucks should start operating immediately,” Mipando said.

As the fuel distribution situation got worse on Thursday, Malawi Defence Force (MDF) deployed its personnel to drive and escort some of the trucks carrying fuel to filling stations.

The military provided the escort to fuel tankers from the country’s borders to National Oil Company of Malawi (Nocma) reserves. They also oversaw the distribution from the reserve sites to commercial gas stations.

The drivers started their protest on Monday and by Wednesday; some of them had blocked a road in Lilongwe, resulting in some arrests.

Government spokesperson Gospel Kazako had told a press conference on Thursday that the strike was surprising.

He said government had already addressed all the demands the drivers raised during a similar strike in November 2020.

He said among the demands was that the government should review the minimum salary for the drivers to K140,000 from K60,000.

However, the drivers went on strike as they were not receiving the adjusted salaries as agreed earlier. They claimed that their employers were failing to give them the money due to financial difficulties resulting from lack of business from the government.

They said the strike was intended to pile pressure on government to award more fuel supply contracts to local transporters.

George Khaki, president of the Employers Consultative Association of Malawi, was quoted in the media as saying the strike was unfounded.

“If they wanted to have industrial action, that industrial action should have been against their employers. Not against the government, because the government is not a party to the employment contract,” he is reported as saying.

As the panic set regarding fuel supply, Malawi in Energy Regulatory Authority assured in a statement that the country had enough gas to last for a month.

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