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Where are the human rights activists?

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Residents of Matuwi Village in Traditional Authority Mponda in Mangochi District are a sad lot. Their daughter, Christina Mtsinje risks losing her sight after her expatriate boss allegedly smeared pepper in her eyes.

According to Mangochi Police Station, the suspect, Hugo da Silva, who is a head chef at Sun ‘n’ Sand Holiday Resort, was arrested and released on bail.

The poor daughter of the village was taken to hospital but remains worried that she risks losing her left eye which remains half open. Christina alleges that da Silva deliberately and purposefully used his hands to administer the pepper in the woman’s eyes.

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Da Silva and his friends, Christina said, rolled with laughter as the poor woman struggled to fight off the pain in her eyes.

A week later, the only agents who have shown interest in the story are our sister paper, The Daily Times, and the law enforcers. The human rights activists are quiet. Not that their quietness is anything new because as music maestro, Lucius Banda, sang: akakhala wamzungu ndiye imakhala nkhani [the activists would speak if the cruelty was visited on a white person].

Even the Ministry of Labour and Manpower Development is mum on the issue. Surely by now, the ministry headquarters has received a report of the incident from their district representative.

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This issue is not as simple as the ministry and the resort’s management want Malawians to believe. There is an issue of gender-based violence, violence at work place as well as inference of racial based violence.

Let us assume that a poor Malawian worker did the same to da Silva who is a Portuguese national. Would the ministry keep quiet? By now, government would have been foaming on the mouth civic educating us on how to respect investors.

The poor woman alleges that da Silva and his colleagues, who are obviously non-Malawians, derived a lot of amusement from her agony and rolled with laughter. Can you imagine what da Silva and his colleagues take poor Malawians for?

Secondly, the resort’s management has been insensitive to its poor Malawian workers by allowing da Silva to continue working while he has these serious human rights violation allegations hanging around his neck. By keeping him in office, Sun ‘n’ Sand management is sending a signal that it is prepared to protect da Silva and that it cares less about the poor worker who does the donkey work at the resort.

While we hail the police for arresting da Silva and granting him bail, we ask them to thoroughly prepare for the case and ensure that justice prevails: we are not prepared to hear that a docket has grown wings and mysteriously taken to flight.

But this column takes great exception at the ubiquitous pretenders who are busy gyrating as human rights activists. And they come in all shapes and sizes. Some are even ashamed of their rallying cry and use euphemisms such as “key populations” or “minority rights”.

Come to think of it, who constitutes key population between victimised poor Malawians and their heartless expatriate bosses? And between the rich investors and the peasant worker, whose rights are a minority?

Perhaps the plight of poor Christina cannot catch the attention of the rich sponsors from the West.

Yes, what with facts that the country has witnessed a lot of abuse at work places but the issues just fizzle out like that. We are talking of complaints of abuse of Malawian workers at several holiday resorts and cases of poor Malawian workers being locked up in hot bakeries overnight.

We are also mindful of the treatment that Malawian guards suffer at the hands of foreigners when they are forced to be under security lights, exposing them to danger from thugs. And most of these guards are never provided with sanitary facilities or food during their night shifts.

And Christina’s plight came to light just two days before Malawi joined the rest of the world in observing 16 days of activism against gender-based violence. The activism mainly tilts towards ending violence against women and the girl-child. Is Christina’s plight not befitting the billing of gender-based violence?

Malawians expect the Minister of Labour and Manpower Development, Henry Mussa, to rise to the occasion and protect the poor Malawian worker who voted in the current administration.

We want to see action from the government, and gender activists. Malawians are especially interested in seeing if at all the human rights activists, in general, will fight for poor Christina. Will the activists see her poverty or her plight? Will they consider her as a key population? Will they see her rights as minority in the face of the mighty and obscenely rich bosses?

Feedback:ichitosi@bnltimes.com

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