By Chancy Namadzunda:
Leader of Opposition in Parliament Kondwani Nankhumwa has called on Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (ADMARC) employees to defy Minister of Agriculture and Irrigation Development, Robin Lowe’s suspension.
According to a statement released on Friday, Nankhumwa has urged the employees to return to work on Monday, calling the suspension an ‘illegal directive’ and they should not ‘not become collateral damage in the Tonse Alliance government’s quest for political expediency’.
On Wednesday, Lowe announced a series of measures ameant to solve the problems at ADMARC among others being the suspension of about 4,063 employees.
However, Nankhumwa said the approach that the Minister of Agriculture has taken leaves a lot to be desired and is suspiciously dangerous.
“ADMARC was established through an Act of Parliament to serve both commercial and social functions, primarily designed to help Malawi become food secure at national and household levels.
“For many years, since its establishment, ADMARC has been playing a pivotal role in helping millions of poor Malawians across the country, particularly those in rural areas through supplying affordable grain and legumes for household consumption, as well as buying agricultural produce from subsistence farmers.
“It is without question that ADMARC has been strategic, and is still very important to Malawi’s food reserve objective and to the entire economy. It follows, therefore, that those decisions regarding this strategic parastatal ought to be deliberative and encompassing. This is the reason why Parliament has always been involved in all the previous decisions regarding the restructuring of ADMARC.
“A cabinet minister cannot just wake up one morning and suspend the operations of ADMARC, including forcing out all employees. This is a shocking decision by President Lazarus Chakwera and his Tonse Alliance administration, and I wonder where they are getting those powers from.
“The minister said government has a plan for the corporation’s turn-around, which will be announced within three months. What is in that plan? Would the minister care to share that plan with Malawians? Why should the Tonse Alliance government suspend the operations of ADMARC before the necessary consultations?
“What Honourable Lowe should care to know is that sending home over 4,000 employees is a huge decision that ought to have been carefully thought through? In change management, it is important to walk together with the people who will be directly and indirectly affected by the change that is being made in terms of communication to avoid a backlash,” he said
Nankhumwa further said it is obvious that the plan is to retrench a majority of these ADMARC employees, and many of them on political grounds.
“In three months, the ‘leave’ that Honourable Lowe is talking about will turn into a ‘lay-off’, and the salary will dry out. People will lose jobs, which is what this is all about.
“These employees are human beings; mothers, fathers, uncles, aunts, brothers and sisters, with families. Many people depend on them for their livelihood. Honourable Lowe is not just sending home 4,000 employees; he is actually killing the livelihoods of thousands of other people as well with this one inconsiderate and politically-motivated decision.
“A good corporate turn-around strategy must be laid bare and be allowed to be tested by key stakeholders. Why suspending operations and sending employees home before disclosing contents of the strategy? This is suspicious and stinks more of politics than any turn-around strategy.
“The Minister of Agriculture must make a Ministerial Statement on this in Parliament, including giving a detailed account of how government plans to implement this turn-around strategy and a full ownership and management profile of the individuals or consultants that will be involved in the operation,” said Nankhumwa
He also urged the Legal Affairs Committee of Parliament and other relevant committees of Parliament to look into the matter to see its efficacy, and whether or not the move made by the Minister of Agriculture is in the best interest of the people of Malawi, the taxpayers.
“It is my considered opinion that there should be a thorough and exhaustive legal process before we begin to tweak and dismantle the operations and structure of ADMARC,” he said