Riot police in Malawi deployed
Malawi – Heavily armed riot police were deployed on the streets of Malawi’s major cities on Thursday as the government braced for protests against tough reforms designed to right the economy and win back investors. In Blantyre and Mzuzu eyewitnesses said riot police had been deployed along the routes the marchers were expected to take. In Lilongwe, the administrative capital, protestors were to gather at the district commissioner’s office. Many Malawians are feeling the pinch from economic reforms that have been instituted by President Joyce Banda.
“Our chief concern has been the flotation of the kwacha which has led to unreliable market prices and forcing the currency to slide down… against the dollar,” said John Kapito, the outspoken executive head of the consumer group leading the protests. The reforms, which are backed by the IMF, have “led to the suffering of poor Malawians,” he claimed. Half of Malawi’s 14 million population live below the poverty line and the country is highly dependent on donors, who make up 40 percent of its development budget.
One year ago similar economic protests descended into nationwide rioting and looting that left 19 people dead. Then the riots, to force the government of the late president Bingu wa Mutharika to make greater reforms, were fuelled by anger over chronic fuel and foreign currency shortages. Against this backdrop police vowed to “guarantee maximum security to protect life and property.”
But while the situation remained tense, fears of widespread unrest appeared to have been overstated. Many schools, banks and other businesses opened normally, although private schools shuttered their doors. “We have called for peaceful demonstrations and we assure the business community not to panic,” said Kapito. “We have deliberately taken routes where business is not conducted.” – AFP
Renco Mine workers’ wives, villagers protest
On Monday, about 800 workers’ wives staged a demonstration at the mine, blocking the main entrance and workers from going to work. They crippled operations at the gold mine. Yesterday, villagers from the surrounding community joined the protests, accusing the mine management of sidelining locals from employment, as well as polluting nearby streams with dangerous chemicals that led to the death of their cattle.
When NewsDay visited the mine yesterday, the wives said they had slept at the main gate where they also cooked and blocked the police from entering, demanding an audience with mine management. They are demanding their husbands’ annual bonuses, a pay rise to above poverty datum line, as well as better working conditions. The lowest paid worker at the mine who falls under Grade One reportedly earns less than $200.
Renco Mine workers’ wives committee chairperson Doreen Madzora said they were protesting on behalf of their husbands who could not strike out of fear of victimisation. Shingirirai Zvavamwe, the villagers’ spokesperson said the mine, opened in the ’70s, was reneging on its promises on social responsibility programmes to develop the community. Renco Mine manager Syprine Kachisa said he was not authorised to talk to the Press yesterday and referred all questions to managing director Ashton Ndlovu, whose phone was not being answered.
25 hurt at Medupi protest
Lephalale – Twenty-five workers were injured during a protest at the Medupi power station in Lephalale, Limpopo, on Wednesday, Eskom said. Violence broke out when strikers tried to stop buses taking their colleagues to the construction site, the parastatal said in a statement. Meanwhile contractors were trying to bring work at the site back to normal.
It was temporarily closed on Wednesday morning because of the strike. “The protest action, by a group of workers employed by contractors at Medupi, resulted in workers being sent home, to ensure the safety of people and assets on the site. “Eskom cannot condone violence. We wish those workers who have been injured a speedy and complete recovery.” The utility said the circumstances around the industrial action were being investigated. “Today’s protest mainly involved workers affiliated to the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) who are employed by Hitachi Kaefer and Murray & Roberts Projects.” Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim claimed management provoked the protest.
“We think that companies at Medupi they are extremely mischievous and we think that there is a deliberate agenda to consistently create frustrations and to provoke workers for the sole intention of delaying the project so that they extend their benefits in that project.” He said last week workers queried the bonuses they were paid. “Management was not prepared to co-operate and they refused to speak to their full time shop stewards.” On Friday about 1100 workers employed by Alstom Kentz at Medupi went on strike, resulting in the company locking them out. “Today was a culmination of all that frustration. There’s no doubt we must talk to our members. We cannot allow fights between our members,” Jim said. Eskom said Medupi’s first unit was expected to start generating power to South Africa’s national grid by the end of the year. – Sapa
Protest staged demanding effective PDS
IMPHAL, January 16: The second day of the statewide protest organized by the All Manipur Democratic Women’s Front demanding proper Public Distribution System concluded today with sit in protests observed in areas located within the districts of Imphal West , Imphal East and Thoubal.
Banners demanding effective distribution system and non involvement of political favoritism in the PDS , Womenfolk representing different local civil organizations staged the protest at Lamshang area. The organizations are Taothong Apheiba Meira Paibi Lup, Luker Meira Paibi, by Sagoltongba Makha Nupi Lup, Konthoujam Lairembi Meira Paibi at Konthoujam assembly constituency, Khundrakpam Awang Youth Development at Khundrakpam, Lousangkhong Mayai Leikai Nupi Lup , Sekta Makha Leikai and Sekta Awang Leikai Nupi Lup at Lamlai area. The protest was also observed at Charangpat Mayai Leikai, Langathel Maning Leikai at Thoubal district. Laphupat Tera Khunou Nupi Chaokhat Lup and Imoinu Meira Paibi Women Association observed the protest at Mayang Imphal area.
The protestors mentioned to the media that there are certain irregularities in the distribution of the essential consumable and non-consumable items distributed under the PDS and that the prescribed amount under the AAY and BPL schemes have not been given to the deserving public in totality. The resolution taken by the protestors appealed the State government to look into the ineffectiveness regarding allocation of the PDS items and to make necessary corrections in the interest of the public.
Detainees In Eshil Go On Hunger Strike
Palestinian detainees, held at the Israeli Eshil prison, declared hunger strike in protest to the transfer of 27 detainees into solitary confinement, and to the ongoing violations carried out by the soldiers against them. The Palestinian Ministry of Detainees issued a press release stating that the detainees started their hunger strike one day ago after the Israeli Prison Authority forced 27 detainees into solitary confinement.
The detainees said that the army is escalating its attacks against them, while the prison administration decided to deny family visits for one month. Approximately two weeks ago, undercover soldiers of the Israeli Prison Administration broke into section 15 of the Ofer Israel Prison, and attacked several detainees. The detainees said that dozens of soldiers broke into section 15, and forced them to stand under the rain for an extended period, before violently kicking several detainees and hitting them with batons.
Four of the attacked and wounded detainees have been identified as Khalil Al-Kharouf, Ibrahim Abu Al-Asal, Mohammad Ibrewish, and Shaher Al-Heeh. Soldiers also transferred several detainees from Ofer to the Hadarim prison. Israeli soldiers carry out repeated and similar attacks against the detainees in different Israeli prisons, detention camps, interrogation and detention centers.