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Monday, July 15, 2024

Exportation of labor to Israel, Optics in Geopolitical Relations…”I strongly commend Nankhumwa for raising those concerns”

Dr. Daniel S. Dube

NANKHUMWA: raised the concerns

First, this debate commenced on Thursday, in Parliament as Leader of The opposition Hon. Kondwani Nankhumwa brought the matter to the floor. It was denied vehemently by Leader of the house who demanded evidence from the Opposition Leader. Fast forward Friday, the very things that the Opposition Leader stated happened. A plane landed in Malawi and we noted almost several media houses reporting on the story.

I would like to commend The Leader of the Opposition, Hon. Kondwani Nankhumwa in raising concerns on the floor of the Peoples House regarding the labor exportation to Israel. This matter is a national issue which required national consultation as well as a sober debate with the government through Ministry of Labour summoned to explain the labor process and how government recruited the youths as well as the legal framework of the agreement.

Geopolitical Relations
All of us know that the background of this story is that Hamas attacked Israel and killed 1300 Jewish people and took hostages. This was atrocious and wrong. In response, Israel has killed 12,000 Palestinians. The Israel government has cancelled 90,000 Palestinian work permits. The Palestinians can no longer return to work in Israel. India and Malawi are supplying the bulk of the labor.

By Dec 2022, the Israeli occupation accounted for 72% of all Palestinian trade, according to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Economic Development (UNCTAD). In 2022 the unemployment rate in Gaza was 70% among the youth. In 2021, 81.5% of Gazans lived below the national poverty line. It is anticipated that 500,000 Palestinians will go into extreme poverty by the end of Dec according to the UN. The International Labor Organization (ILO) has stated that 182,000 jobs (61% of all jobs), had been lost in Gaza since October 7. Malawi will be filling these jobs.

Malawi Exporting Labour

The spokesperson of the Malawi Government has stated that this deal involves the private sector and the government. We need to know which companies are involved and when they were formed. We need to know the full terms of the deal. We also need to know what protections will our young have with respect to Housing rights, healthcare rights, social welfare rights, employment and legal rights while in Israel. We want to know if they have insurance in the event of death or if they develop long term health effects of employment in Agriculture or Construction. We want to know whether these young men will have long term financial benefits at the end of their employment. As the case may involve huge sums of money we want transparency with respect to the profits of the “private” companies and ensure that these do not violate our Labour and Human Trafficking Laws. The president should release his own government’s consultations with the human rights commission, the ministry of labor and the AGs opinions.

On a diplomatic front, we have serious concerns that need a sober reflection. The Palestinian-Israel conflict is so difficult and our involvement at any level is so complicated that it needs serious administrative resources that we do not have. Dr. Kamuzu Banda was adeptly able to align Malawian interests with the West and at the same time maintain a solid public non-aligned stance. The geo-political circumstances of the time are not comparable to our circumstances. Dr. Muluzi, Dr. Mutharika I, Dr. Mutharika II had our foreign offices build a careful relationship with the Arab World. First, it has been Morocco, giving us tactful support in human resource development and Fertilizer, Egypt giving us financial access to Arab financial institutions when the mainstream European institutions have not been able to assist us. Saudi Arabia has most recently given us $20 million USD and the emirates who have opened up their markets to us.

At a technical level, we need to be able to maintain bilateral relationships with anyone without involving ourselves in complex global diplomatic issues where the long term effects may harm our country. The world opinion on the Palestinian-Israel conflict is for Palestinians’ right to exist and decidedly for ceasefire and diplomatic resolution of the war. We abstained at the UN general assembly on the question of ceasefire. The issues are so hard for Malawi to be involved in. We need thoughtful foreign policies. (The Russian Ukraine debacle illustrates the shallowness of our foreign policies, we criticized Russia on the Ukraine war and then run to them faster than Usain Bolt to get the donation of fertilizer) We are way too poor and we are ourselves at war to be careless with our international relations.

At a time, when the Gaza issue is now a global problem, Malawi really needs a non-emotional and thoughtful diplomacy. In deference to Dr. Banda, Malawi indeed comes first not in the short term but in the long-term. I am not convinced we have the executive vision nor the supporting technical resources to manage the fall out from the Arab world. The optics of this deal are bad. I am uncertain of the morality as well. I hope we do not pay a bigger price for the miscalculations noting the strong responses coming from our African neighbors.

The best is for Malawi not to send its productive youth outside to a war zone but create jobs within the country. That said, I call upon government of The Tonse Alliance to reflect deeply on these arrangements before we find ourselves isolated and targeted as a state supporting the Israel War effort.

Once again, I strongly commend the leader of the Opposition for his leadership. I implore, members of the house to study the delicate issues carefully and make intelligent decisions. I also call upon other national legal institutions such as the Law Society of Malawi, The National Chamber of Commerce, Human Rights organizations and the Trade Unions to weigh in this important issue.

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