Malawi president abandons striking public servants for Africa—South America Summit

President of Malawi - Joyce Banda

As the strike by civil servants rages on in Malawi, head of the civil service, President Dr. Joyce Banda leaves the country to Equatorial Guinea, amid futile calls to the president to curtail globe-trotting from several groupings and commentators.

President Joyce Banda leaves Thursday February 21 2013 to attend a the Africa—South America Summit in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, meant to among other things, discuss on the cooperation between African and South American countries in the fields of infrastructure, energy, agriculture and sustainable development, leaving behind un resolved civil servants demand of a 67 per cent pay hike.

Malawi’s Minister of Finance has completely ruled out the possibility that such a demand can be met. The Minister, Dr. Ken Lipenga has revealed that if the demanded per cent is effected the country’s public servants wage bill jump from K92 billion (about $263m) to K276 billion (about $786m) which according to government is un bearable.

Presidential press secretary has indicated that the Malabo meet is so important as most countries in South America face similar challenges as Malawi, and since South America has overcome such challenges, Malawi can borrow a leaf from their experience.

In a statement, presidential press secretary Steve Nhlane has explained that Africa has a cooperation agreement with South America as a bloc of countries where the member countries work together in such areas as science and technology, health, human development, agriculture, trade and investment, since Malawi, as a developing country faces some challenges in uplifting the lives of its people, the country is poised to benefit from the participation, more so with the government’s economic recovery plan program.

Dr. Joyce Banda, who since coming into power in April last year, has been trying to employ different ways in healing Malawi’s damaged  international relations with several countries and international bodies, is also expected to hold bilateral talks with her Guinean counterpart and South American leaders attending the meeting.

However, some commentators observe that the Malawi leader needed to first of all see to it that the mess in the civil service, which falls under her authority,  is sorted out, because with the strike taking a new twist on every other day, most government operations are being paralysed and the economy affected likewise.

Meanwhile the country’s consumer rights body (Cama), which recently petitioned the government over issues that also relate to the ones raised by the civil servants, and the country’s trade unions mother body have thrown their weight behind the strike.

In its January 17 2013 petition, Consumers Association of Malawi (Cama) demanded that the president and her cabinet cut on both international and local travel which is draining the much sought resources in the government coffers also highlighted the issue of salary adjustment in the civil service.

MCTU has in its statement asked its affiliates and other trade unions to offer appropriate solidarity if government does not show any seriousness and commitment to resolve the labour dispute on wage increase, stressing that the strike will only come to an end if government would agree to earnest and serious negotiations that would be concluded with positive results within reasonable time.

In her 2012 appointments,  the Office of the President and Cabinet announced that Her Excellency Dr. Joyce Banda is the President of the Republic of Malawi, Commander-in-Chief of the Malawi Defence Force and the Malawi Police Services, Minister Responsible for Statutory Corporations, Civil Services Administration, Nutrition, HIV and AIDS, National Registration Programme, and the Green Belt Initiative.

For now it has been broadcasted that the two warring parties will meet Thursday February 22 2013 to counter offers.

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