|September 9, 2005
Civil servants stage strike in pension row
Several thousand Malawi civil servants barricaded government offices at the start of a one-week strike to demand the resignation of Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe, a former International Monetary Fund executive appointed to the post last year, in a row over pension benefits, witnesses said. President Bingu wa Mutharika’s government promised a 400 percent increase in pension benefits for public servants in 2004 but the Treasury only offered a 50 percent rise this year. “We want the minister out because he has betrayed us over the new pension structure which he promised he was going to implement this year,” Civil Servants Trade Union president Thomas Banda explained. According to him, all 50.000 members of his union were on strike and government offices had virtually come to a standstill in Malawi’s three main towns Lilongwe, Blantyre and Mzuzu.
Gondwe dismissed the calls for his resignation, saying pension demands would take a back seat to other government spending priorities including more than $70-million for fertiliser and maize to avert a food shortage affecting 4.2-million people. "I will not resign because they want me to... government cannot afford to increase the pension benefits by 400 percent now because that will mean that I will have to borrow close to $58-million from commercial banks," Gondwe claimed.
(Independent Online, South Africa)