The United States Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labour 2014 Country Report on Human Rights Practices has faulted Malawi’s inability to ensure good working conditions.
The report has stated that Ministry of Labour and Manpower Development lack teeth to bite those who flout labour laws in the areas of minimum wage and environmental health, among others.
According to the report posted on US Embassy website in the country, the ministry has failed to effectively enforce the minimum wage as official minimum wages applied only to the formal sector.
The report, based on 2014 data, has indicated that the ministry’s enforcement of the health and safety standards was also poor as while the law specifies a maximum fine of K20 000 or five years’ imprisonment for violations, the fines were not sufficient to deter offenders and no jail terms have ever been reported.
The Ministry of Labour and Manpower Development, while acknowledging that the fine is too little to deter would-be offenders, clarified on the actual fines offenders are charged when found flouting the law.
The ministry’s public relations officer Symon Mbvundula said the general fine as per the Occupational Safety, Health and Welfare (OSHW) Act of 1997 is K10 000 ($22) plus K500 for each day the violation continues or in default five years imprisonment.
He said: “However, courts these days use Fines Conversion Act of 2005 in which case, the quoted fine is multiplied by 20 [because the bill was enacted between 1996 and 2000] to come up with a total fine of K200 000 [$444].”