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TIME FOR UNCARING ESTATE OWNERS TO LEAVE – CDEDI

NAMIWA: Our findings are that it is only a handful of estate owners who have responded to effects of the devastating cyclone

The Centre for Democracy and Economic Development Initiatives (CDEDI) has
noted with regret that most owners of various estates growing cash crops such
as tea in the country have abandoned their poor Malawian workers at a time
they need them most.

Our observation comes against growing debate as to who actually benefits from
the proceeds of the tea, tung, coffee and macadamia industry that has been in
existence for the past 100 years or so?

A recent visit to the tea-growing districts of Thyolo and Mulanje has revealed
that the estate owners are not moved by the plight of their workers who have
been affected by effects of Tropical Cyclone Freddy, which have moved all and
sundry into caring mode.

Our findings are that it is only a handful of estate owners who have responded
to effects of the devastating cyclone by doing something to mitigate the
suffering of their workers.

For instance, in Thyolo, it is only Nchima Estate that has provided relief items to 300 affected families surrounding the estate while Eastern Produce Malawi Limited (EPM) fixed the bridge on Msuwadzi River in Thyolo and, also, contributed K2.5 million towards for relief items to affected people in Mulanje.

What is worrying is that it is only a few players in the industry who are ready
alleviate the suffering of locals when disasters strike, while the rest, most of
whom have been using cheap labour to enrich themselves and their families
abroad for the past 100 years, just sit and watch the locals suffer. Worse still,
doing all this at the expense of the locals, from whom they grabbed land.

It is against this background that CDEDI hereby challenges the estate owners,
especially those affiliated to the Tea Association of Malawi (TAM) to commit to the following:

  • Voluntarily release idle land to allow for relocation of the landless affected
    families in Thyolo, Mulanje and Phalombe districts;
    .Improve all roads in their catchment areas to gravel standard and work on
    bridges and culverts connecting their estates to the main roads;
  • Revive corporate social responsibility initiatives such as providing potable
    water, constructing health facilities and providing bursaries to needy students,
    and;
  • Improve working conditions and general welfare of the workers in the
    plantations.

CDEDI would like to seize this opportunity to remind authorities, including the
estate owners, that the land the estates are using in Thyolo and Mulanje under
freehold tenure was grabbed from the locals’ forefathers. British colonialists
inflicted pain on the locals in the early 1890s and, to-date, nothing has been
done to heal the same.

Previously, the estates used to provide jobs and markets in time of need but,
today, most of them have either abandoned the core tea-growing business or
those still in the business are using technologies that have replaced labour
demands.

This development has created more idle land on one hand, and
dilapidated structures and destitute ultra-poor locals on the other. It is a
mockery to think that the landless ultra-poor locals can rebuild their lives in
these difficult economic times.

In search of natural justice, CDEDI hereby requests Thyolo and Mulanje
district commissioners to summon estate owners under their jurisdiction to an
all-inclusive stakeholders’ meeting and demand from them commitment to the
aforementioned measures.

Last, but not the least, CDEDI hereby informs the general public that in the
event that the estate owners ignore the aforementioned demands, we will,
beginning May 2023, mobilise communities to work on the affected roads and,
thereafter, mount tollgates.

Alternatively, estate owners not ready to commit to the demands above should
peacefully, and quietly, leave Thyolo and Mulanje districts!.

SYLVESTER NAMIWA

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

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