Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Police fire at Malawi tea workers

Riot police in Malawi have used live bullets and tear gas to disperse more than 600 protesting former tea pickers.

The angry crowd marched to the district commissioners office in the southern tea-growing area of Mulanje, demanding redundancy pay.

Official barricaded themselves inside offices when workers threatened to burn crops if their demands were not met.

The government has laid off more than 800 tea workers to prepare for the privatisation of its tea plantations.


"The police fired into the air and threw teargas canisters at the rioters," District Commissioner Sipho Moyo said.

The workers chanted anti-government songs and demanded their severance pay within seven days.

In a petition they threatened to burn crops on the nearby Chitakale Tea Estates if they do not receive their pay.

According to Raphael Tenthani in the commercial capital, Blantyre, the workers burnt part of the state-run estate last week.

"The situation is explosive. I have written to the ministry of statutory cooperation to look into matters," Mr Moyo said. Tea is Malawi's second largest foreign export, after tobacco.

By Just Us posted 29 September 04


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