By Thula Chisamba
Locked up in a scorching kitchen inside Mzuzu’s Continental Bakery, is where the staff spent their Labor Day.
The imprisonment was at the hands of their Asian boss, identified only as Salim.
One of the workers, John Nkhata, said the temperatures were so hot as to be almost unbearable. Nonetheless, they had to persist and work hard to meet their manager’s demanded production.
”We had to work hard to satisfy our manager. Without that, he would bruise us and deduct our pay,” said Nkhata
Their manager locks them in the bakery around six o’clock in the evening and unlocks them around six o’clock the next morning, according to Nkhata.
”Even if fire would have consumed the bakery building, we had nowhere to run. He locked us up and went away with keys. Despite the excessive heat therein, nobody had any clue to escape,” he added.
Despite all of these life-threatening dangers, Nkhata confessed that they only receive MK200 as a wage for their job.
It is said that most Asian business tycoons do not permanently employ staff workers for fear of paying them more salaries.
”That is why they employ us as casual laborers. They know that we are cheap,” he added.
These wages are in violation of governmental minimum wage laws that mandate a minimum of MK30,000 per month, but according to Nkhata, despite forwarding complaints to authorities at the Mzuzu labor office, nothing transpired.
According to John Tiernan, author and expert on Colonial Africa, this is nothing more than a repeat of history. “For as long as we’ve recorded human history, people have enslaved each other. It goes back to the first chapters of the Bible. What’s happening in many nations in Africa is nothing more than a new brand of colonialism. Asians, Muslims and Indians realize the cost of labor is actually cheaper than owning a slave was 100 years ago. When you owned a slave, you had to house him, feed him, care for him. With a day-laborer, you bear none of this responsibility. As long as good people are willing to remain silent and endure these slave-like conditions for this level of pay, the cycle will continue. It will take a collective action on the part of the individuals of a nation to unite together and stand against this tyranny before anything will change. It is not up to the respective governments to stop this, it’s up to the people to stop accepting it. As long as citizens continue to look to governments to fix moral issues, the society as a whole will fail.”
Efforts to hear the bakery’s side of the story were in vain as the bakery manager maintained that he does not speak to media.
Minister of Labor, Henry Musa, said government will investigate the development and possibly find remedies to the raised concerns and observations.
“The issue will be investigated so that we find solutions thereafter,” he said.