United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1993 - Malawi, 30 January 1994, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa528.html [accessed 2 August 2015]
This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.
The year 1993 gave promise of ending one-man, one-party rule in Malawi. In October 1992, Malawi's leader since independence, the Life President, Dr. H. Kamuzu Banda, called for a referendum to determine whether or not Malawi would continue as a one-party state. On June 14, 1993, Malawians voted by a margin of two to one in favor of a multiparty system. Two days later Banda publicly accepted the results and acknowledged the need for change. In late 1993, seven political parties were legally registered and operating openly, and multiparty elections were scheduled for May 17, 1994. Dialog between the opposition and the ruling Malawi Congress Party (MCP) resulted in the establishment of a National Consultative Council (NCC) and a National Executive Committee (NEC), both with representatives from all registered parties, to oversee changes in the Constitution, laws, constituency boundaries, and election rules and procedures. In November, Parliament passed bills eliminating from the Constitution single-party clauses (such as Banda's Life Presidency), appending a bill of rights, establishing a multiparty electoral law, and repealing detention-without-trial provisions of the Public Security Act, as well as the Forfeiture Act and Malawi's restrictive dress code. Late in the year President Banda underwent brain surgery. During this period, the MCP established a Presidential Council to rule in his place. The Council dissolved in early December when doctors pronounced Banda fit to resume presidential duties. As 1993 came to an end, President Banda's nominally parliamentary, single-party Government was in a caretaker status. Internal security is the responsibility of the National Police. An increasingly assertive populace, the growing independence of the judiciary, and an active opposition press, in addition to international pressure and the predisposition of some senior government officials, influenced the police force to curtail the worst of its abuses against the Banda Government's political opponents. The police, however, still employed physical force in dealing with suspected criminals and, in some cases, deprived them of their legal rights (see Section 1.f.). There were no reports of police being tried and punished in the courts for such abuse, but credible reports indicated that prison officials were disciplined, and in some instances fired, for such behavior. During the referendum campaign, the MCP's Youth League and the paramilitary Malawi Young Pioneers (MYP) intimidated and harassed multiparty advocates. Intimidation by the Youth League and the MYP diminished sharply after the referendum and disappeared entirely in December when the army moved to disarm the MYP. The initial stages of disarmament were violent; over 20 people were killed, and extensive property damage was done to MYP and MCP facilities. Four soldiers also were killed. The army quickly enlisted the cooperation of the police to address civilian aspects of the disarmament operation. Small, densely populated, and landlocked, Malawi has a predominantly agricultural economy. Nearly 90 percent of the population derives its income from farming. The main cash crops are tobacco Malawi's most important foreign exchange earner tea, coffee, and sugar. In 1993 the economy was rocked by severe shortages of foreign exchange, high inflation, and scarcity of critical agricultural and industrial inputs. Shrinking real wages led to wildcat strikes throughout the country, which exacerbated declines in productivity. The gradual improvement in Malawi's dismal human rights record evident in 1992 accelerated in the first half of 1993 as campaigning commenced for the referendum. "Pressure groups" (i.e., parties in waiting) began to hold public rallies, attracting crowds often in excess of 20,000 in spite of instances of MYP intimidation of multiparty supporters, police manipulation of rally permits, and arbitrary detention of opposition activists. Returning exiles were in several instances detained on arrival. In some cases, opposition leaders successfully took the Government, the MCP, and the MYP to court for such abuses. Over a dozen political prisoners were released in 1993, including Chakufwa Chihana, Vera Chirwa, Gwanda Chakuamba Phiri, Fred Kazombo Mwale and three arrested in 1965 in connection with an armed rebellion led by former cabinet minister Chipembere. Limitations on the activities of Asians remained in effect.
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:
a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing
There were no political killings in Malawi in 1993. Although both during and after the referendum campaign vague rumors circulated of suspicious deaths at the hands of the police and the MYP, they were difficult to substantiate, despite the efforts of international observers monitoring politics and human rights in Malawi. In February Flora Kapito, an employee of the Electricity Supply Commission who had been arrested in May 1992 for possession of multiparty literature, died of injuries sustained while she was in prison. Opposition calls to investigate the case of three Government ministers and a parliamentarian who died suspiciously in 1983, officially in an auto accident, yielded no response from the Government.
There were no reported cases of disappearance for political reasons in 1993.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
Credible reports indicated that police continued to beat prisoners during initial detention and interrogation at police stations. The police also continued to deny monitoring groups access to these facilities, thus calling into question the Government's willingness to hold police accountable for such abuses. There were no specific reports of women targeted for abuse by the police or other Government entities in 1993. Conditions in prisons improved, partly as a result of inspections and recommendations by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), but the Government acknowledged there was room for more improvement. The prisons are seriously overcrowded, nutrition is inadequate, and sanitation poor. The substandard conditions can be attributed largely to a lack of funding. To improve the penal system, authorities have demoted or fired abusive wardens. In November Parliament separated the prison service from police oversight and authority.
d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile
In November Parliament passed amendments to the Preservation of Public Security Act (PPSA), repealing those portions which authorized detention without trial. The courts had already been ordering the release of those detained without charge or trial. By year's end, it was too early to determine how effective the Government would be in ensuring that police no longer arrested people without bringing charges against them or referring their cases to the courts. The early stages of the referendum campaign were marred by the arbitrary arrest and detention of political opponents of the MCP. United Democratic Front Chairman Bakili Muluzi was arrested in February on charges that he had embezzled MCP funds when he was the MCP's Administrative Secretary and then Secretary General from 1977 to 1981. He was released on bail on February 18. The court dismissed the case against Muluzi for lack of evidence on April 1, but police rearrested him the same evening indicating that they would file new charges for the same offense. He was released the next day. Reverend Peter Kaleso was arrested and briefly detained early in the year for purportedly insulting the Life President while speaking at a public rally. A magistrate judge later acquitted Kaleso. In January Felix Mponda Phiri, editor of the New Express, was detained on returning to Malawi with the first edition of the paper, held for 17 days, and released without being charged. The number of new cases of arbitrary arrest and detention of the Government's political opponents decreased gradually during the referendum campaign and all but ceased thereafter. However, arbitrary arrests and detentions of a less vocal group, suspected criminals, did not decrease perceptibly. Long-term prisoner Vera Chirwa was released in January. Her husband Orton died in prison in 1992. Both were serving life sentences on charges, widely considered spurious, of plotting to overthrow the Government and assassinate the Life President. Chakufwa Chihana, arrested in April 1992 and sentenced in December of the same year on sedition charges, was released on June 12, 1993. The Supreme Court of Appeals reduced his original concurrent sentences of 18 and 24 months to 9 months in March 1993, and he received the standard 3 months off for good behavior. In October, to mark President Banda's return from surgery in South Africa, the Government declared amnesty for 229 prisoners. These included people who were convicted of political crimes, had served long sentences, were ill, or had demonstrated good behavior. The remaining prisoners considered that the process of determining eligibility for amnesty was a random one and staged a riot, during which two prisoners died. Although the Banda Government never practiced forced exile as a means of political control, a sizable number of Malawians left the country over the years for political reasons. When these voluntary exiles started to return to Malawi to participate in activities prior to the referendum, police detained most and held them without charge for periods ranging from 24 hours to several months. In a few cases, police continued to hold detainees despite court release orders. Fred Kazombo Mwale, the President's nephew, and two of his wives had been held without charge on a presidential detention order since 1991. A High Court justice ordered their release in early 1993, but police and prison officials did not comply with this order. Mwale and his wives were finally released in July as national and international attention on their case intensified. Edward Jika, of the Zambia-based United Front for Multiparty Democracy, was detained in early 1993 when he entered Malawi. A High Court justice ordered police and prison officials to present him in court, which they failed to do. As a result, the justice ordered his release. Police and prison officials ignored this order also until shortly after the referendum, when they released him. Following the referendum, President Banda declared a general amnesty for all exiles. Most remaining political detainees were released, and exiles began to return to Malawi without incident. In November Parliament created a returnees' committee to assist the exiles in rejoining the community. The committee estimated that approximately 500 Malawians returned by year's end. Incommunicado detention continues, but to a lesser degree. Police continued sporadically to restrict access to prisoners. Chakufwa Chihana's wife and his lawyer were at times denied the right to visit him. The lawyer of returning exile Edward Jika was denied access to his client. In July the High Court, citing the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights, ruled that there was no legal basis for restricting the access of lawyers to their imprisoned clients. Subsequently, defense lawyers could gain access to clients. Pretrial detainees made up a high proportion of the prison population. Poor record keeping and the reluctance of the police force to account for its activities precluded an accurate estimate of numbers of pretrial detainees. According to sources in the legal community, however, there are probably several hundred. The Government has acknowledged the problem and attempted to address it by setting aside specific time for court personnel to review and process pretrial cases.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
Malawi has both traditional and modern court systems. In the past, only the regional and national traditional courts tried capital offenses. The Attorney General, however, announced the suspension of these courts in October, citing the NCC's intention to review the appropriate role of the traditional court system. The trend toward moving serious criminal and political cases from traditional to modern courts continued in 1993. In most cases, only the modern courts permit legal counsel. The right of appeal exists in both systems. By law, defendants and their attorneys are guaranteed access to government-held evidence. In practice, they often do not see the evidence against them until they are in court. The modern court system consists of magistrate courts and the High Court, whose members sit on a Supreme Court of Appeal when the need arises. The President appoints the Chief Justice and, after consultation with the Judicial Service Commission, other court justices. According to constitutional amendments passed in November, the President must have parliamentary approval before removing a judge for incompetence or misbehavior. Traditional court justices, including justices of the National Traditional Appeal Court, are appointed directly by the President. A typical traditional court panel consists of three traditional authorities and a magistrate judge. Police officials handle the prosecution, and defendants conduct their own defense. In April a traditional court sentenced Dedza District MCP Chairman Mlombwa Phiri to death for shooting a district police commissioner, whom he was alleged to have suspected of multiparty leanings. Amnesty International protested the sentence, noting that traditional court proceedings lacked the fundamental features of a fair public trial, such as the defendant's right to counsel. The case was under appeal at the end of the year. Through seminars, workshops, and training, some improvements have taken place in the functioning of the traditional court system. At year's end, with the suspension of the regional and national traditional courts and a review of the entire system under way, many in the legal community, including high court justices, were predicting that the future of traditional courts was at the local level, where they would continue to hear cases involving small claims and customary law. In 1993 the modern courts became increasingly bold in their decisions against the Government and the MCP. In one case, the court awarded, and the Government paid, Machipisa Munthali the equivalent of over $1 million for wrongful imprisonment. After completing a 6-year sentence in 1974, Munthali was immediately redetained without charge, trial, or explanation for an additional 18 years. Another long-term detainee-turned-opposition politician, Aleke Banda, successfully sued the MCP for defamation of character based on remarks against him which an MCP official made at a referendum campaign rally. The court awarded $75,000 in damages, which Banda collected with difficulty from the MCP. In the appeal of Chakufwa Chihana's sedition case, the Supreme Court granted both the defense and the prosecution the right to employ British queen's counsels to make their arguments. The Supreme Court stopped short of acquitting Chihana, instead reducing his sentence to 9 months. The Government has not removed any judicial officials in response to the judiciary's newfound independence. No known political prisoners remained at the end of 1993.
f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
Oversight of the police was a significant weak link in the political transition process. Political liberalization has inhibited, but not completely ended, the practice of the police entering houses at will, under special entry authority, to conduct searches for suspects or incriminating evidence. During the MYP disarmament operation in December, the army and police, with Government approval, entered many private homes in search of hidden MYP members and weapons. The forced purchase of MCP membership cards stopped. There were occasional threats of forced population resettlement during the referendum campaign, primarily to inhibit opposition activity in MCP strongholds. The MCP did not carry out these threats, however, and after the referendum, generally shifted from negative to positive incentives to generate political support. Parliament repealed the Decency in Dress Act in November. The Act had banned slacks or skirts above the knees for women, and long hair and bell-bottom slacks for men.
Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
a. Freedom of the Press
In the past, two government/MCP-controlled newspapers and one government radio station spread the Government and party line on all subjects. An opposition editor and a UDF official were briefly detained on press-related charges in early 1993. In March the Government temporarily banned two opposition newspapers, the UDF News and Alliance for Democracy's (AFORD's) Malawi Democrat. The High Court later lifted both bans. The unfettered, aggressive media were an explosive new force. By the end of 1993, more than 20 independent newspapers were in circulation. In September the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation, based on a broadcasting code of conduct worked out between the Government and the opposition, canceled long-running, regularly scheduled pro-Banda/MCP programs. Independent journalists practiced less self-censorship. The independent press criticized the Government vigorously, and after the disarmament of the MYP in December, even MBC reporters and producers began broadcasting news items and press statements critical of the Government. In November Parliament changed the sedition laws to include "intent to incite violence" as a necessary component of sedition. Parliament did not, however, repeal the law prohibiting journalists from publishing or communicating outside of Malawi any information which might tarnish the country's reputation. The chief public prosecutor must authorize any prosecution brought under this law.
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
A November 1993 amendment to the Constitution provides that "no person shall be hindered in the enjoyment of his freedom of assembly and association," as long as he does not infringe upon the rights of others, endanger public order or public morality, impose restrictions on public officers, or act in a manner not "reasonably justifiable in a democratic society." During the referendum campaign, police and other government officials grudgingly granted freedom of assembly. While opposition groups frequently faced problems in obtaining permits for rallies, large political meetings were held although political parties other than MCP were still illegal. The Government tolerated the so-called pressure groups as forums for free political association but often harassed their members. Following the referendum, Parliament legalized political parties. Police then granted rally permits readily, although there were occasional reports of MCP officials encouraging local officials to change the venue of an opposition rally at the last minute so that the MCP might use the original location for its own rally. During the labor strikes that occurred around the country in September, police did not arrest strikers for failing to obtain permits. As in the past, individuals and organizations associated freely in nonpolitical activities.
c. Freedom of Religion
Malawi does not have a state religion. Religious groups may establish places of worship and train clergy but must register with the Government. An informal presidential decree that no new religious groups should be registered served to prevent legitimate religious groups from establishing a presence in Malawi. In general, however, restrictions on all religious practices eased. In September the Government revoked its ban on Jehovah's Witnesses and certain other religious groups which refused to join political parties or accept a ruling government as sovereign. Religious groups are free to establish and maintain links with their churches in other countries, and the Government does not restrict members from traveling abroad for religious purposes. Malawi's sizable Muslim minority (estimated at 20 percent of the population) conducts its religion and builds mosques freely. Foreign Islamic organizations have funded the latter with no governmental interference.
d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation
Freedom of movement both within and outside the country improved in 1993. President Banda declared a general amnesty for all exiles in June, and many returned. Denial of passports on political grounds was no longer common. Legal provisions restricting the movement of those convicted of political or criminal offenses continued in force. Employees still had to request permission from their employers to travel abroad, but such clearance appeared to be routinely granted. In a few cases, police delayed the travel of political opposition leaders at checkpoints between regional boundaries, but it was not clear whether such actions were taken on individual initiative or at government direction. Formal emigration was neither restricted nor encouraged. Malawi does not apply any particular restrictions of the movement of women or most minorities (including expatriates) except for Asian residents and citizens, who while free to travel within the country, must nominally reside within four urban areas (Lilongwe, Zomba, Mzuzu, and Blantyre/Limbe). In Lilongwe, a planned capital, they must live in designated neighborhoods. Asians are also banned from running any business outside the urban areas, although the political parties, through the NCC, tentatively discussed the possibility of lifting this prohibition. Malawi continued to host Mozambican refugees, the largest refugee population in Africa. The Mozambique Peace Accord, signed on October 4, 1992, brought an end to open hostilities in that country, but fears among refugees were slow to subside. Because of the devastation wrought by more than 16 years of war and southern Africa's worst drought in a century, refugees did not return to many areas of Mozambique. While the Government of Malawi encouraged their return, it made no attempt to force the refugees to depart before they were ready and able to do so. The Government and international organizations estimated that more than 300,000 Mozambican refugees left Malawi for their homes, with 700,000 remaining. While this large number of refugees strained Malawi's roads, health care facilities, and land, fuel, water, and food resources, the Government continued to cooperate with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other relief organizations to sustain the Mozambican refugees.
Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government
Freedom to change their government peacefully was the cornerstone on which Malawians began to build a new political system. At the beginning of 1993, politics was dominated by the President for Life and his Malawi Congress Party, the only legal party. Parliament rubber stamped the President's decisions, and candidates in all elections were preapproved by the President. After the national referendum, the opposition and the ruling party negotiated a transitional arrangement which gave the former a formal role in monitoring the existing Government and in crafting and introducing legislative reforms. In June Parliament repealed the section of the Constitution which prohibited parties other than the MCP, and granted Malawi's political exiles general amnesty. The principal mechanisms of the transition are the NCC and NEC, which include equal numbers of representatives from each registered political party. The NCC is a deliberative body in which the parties are working out the constitutional, legal, and electoral shape of the new system. The NEC plays a monitoring role, tracking the progress the Government and Parliament make in implementing the decisions of the NCC. Malawi's first multiparty elections for a president and parliament are to be held on May 17, 1994. As in past single-party elections and the referendum, suffrage is to be universal among adult citizens, without regard to gender or tribal (indigenous) origins. In November Parliament passed laws related to the elections scheduled for May, including the lowering of the voting age to 18 years.
Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
In the past, the Government did not allow either domestic or international organizations to investigate alleged human rights abuses. This situation began to change in 1992 when the Government invited the ICRC to inspect Malawi's prisons. A two-person delegation from Amnesty International visited Malawi for 2 weeks in November and met with government officials, the police, opposition leaders, and others. A few domestic human rights groups formed in 1993, but at year's end had not developed methods for monitoring the country's human rights situation. The Government continued to refuse to investigate, despite opposition calls for a commission of inquiry, the 1983 deaths of three government ministers and a parliamentarian. At the time of the deaths, the Government claimed the four had died accidentally in an automobile wreck. For years, however, widespread rumors alleged that the accident had been staged and that the men had been shot for political reasons on the orders of senior government officials. In the fall of 1993, several independent newspapers conducted and reported investigations which they claimed produced evidence implicating the Government in these deaths.
Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status
Women and men above the age of 20 have equal legal status and are supposed to receive equal pay for equal work. In practice, however, women do not have opportunities equal to those of men. Historically, women have been unable to complete even a primary education and are therefore at a serious disadvantage in the job market. Women constitute 70 percent of all full-time farmers. Thirty percent of these women are heads of household. The Government included in its 1993 development policy a specific plan of action for women. The plan proposes that each ministry designate an officer to deal with issues concerning women and women's affairs. Most ministries have done so and are trying to allocate funds to support women's programs in their respective ministries. The Government reserves 33 percent of the places in secondary school for girls. In 1993, for the first time, all of these spaces were filled. However, women may not attend school at any level if they become pregnant. University women may return to their studies 6 months after the birth of a child. The Government cooperated closely with international donors seeking to enhance educational opportunities for females, especially at the primary school level. Both the Government and nongovernmental organizations have sponsored programs to support better general education for women and girls. The National Commission on Women disseminates information on women's rights. Women across the country began to form groups advocating empowerment of women in various fields. The "Women's Voice" group, for example, encourages women to participate in the political process. Malawi society does not practice systematic violence against women. However, spousal abuse is common, although it is not discussed openly by women. Occasionally the press reports instances of sexual abuse and harassment of female students by their male teachers. There are no apparent efforts by the Ministry of Education to address this problem.
The Government does not spend a high percentage of its budget on children's health and welfare. Despite women's access to maternal health services and extension programs, infant mortality remains the 10th highest in the world. Very few orphanages exist, and the Government is only beginning to address the necessity of intervening on behalf of children as the AIDS epidemic destroys traditional extended family and village care. There is no pattern of societal abuse against children, though a few small ethnic groups continue to practice female genital mutilation.
Citizens of the northern region occasionally experience discrimination in employment outside that region. Most Malawians of African heritage are members of indigenous tribes, which are not discriminated against by the Government or society. By law, Asians may not own businesses in agriculture or transport and strict rules govern where they may own property.
People with Disabilities
The Government has not mandated accessibility to public buildings for the disabled, but it does help and support them. Self-supporting businesses, run by and for the disabled, operate successfully in Malawi. Special schools and training centers target individuals with disabilities.
Section 6 Worker Rights
a. The Right of Association
Because most Malawian households derive their income from the agricultural sector, either directly from what they produce or through seasonal, informal employment on estates, government figures indicate that only 473,000 persons approximately 14 percent of the work force earn formal wages. Approximately 10 percent of this group fewer than 50,000 employees are organized in trade unions. Most organized workers are unskilled laborers on large agricultural estates. Restrictive colonial labor legislation was subsumed largely intact into Malawian law. In response to continuing bouts of labor unrest, however, Ministry of Labor officials announced in September plans to review and modify the legislation. Malawian workers have the legal right to form and join trade unions. For government workers, the right is limited to unions whose membership consists solely of government employees. By law and in practice, all unions have been required to affiliate with the Trade Union Congress of Malawi (TUCM). The TUCM, ostensibly independent of the Government, was until late 1993 highly restricted in its activities. In response to a prolonged period of sporadic strikes, late in the year a group of new TUCM leaders formed a "caretaker committee" which they tasked with the revitalization of the TUCM. At the same time, the Ministry of Labor announced a policy of decentralized dialog, negotiation, and collective bargaining in labor matters which, inter alia, emphasized the right of workers and employers to organize freely into trade unions and employers' associations, respectively. At year's end the effectiveness of these actions was uncertain. In 1993, Malawi experienced unprecedented labor unrest. Starting in May, sporadic work stoppages at individual companies occurred in Blantyre, the country's main commercial city. In August, September, and October, wildcat strikes including a nationwide civil service strike spread throughout the country. The unrest was generally nonviolent, two exceptions being the fatal shooting of a striker at a sugar plantation and the destruction of a tobacco estate's medical clinic. Government intervention was limited, and negotiated resolutions of workers' demands was the norm. Malawi's official unions played no significant role in either leading or resolving the labor unrest in 1993. In contrast, Joint Consultative Committees (JCC) worker/management councils established within the last 2 years in numerous private enterprises and state-owned firms provided forums for negotiations and were often successful in defusing tensions. Ideally, the committees were to consist of elected representatives of workers and management. Often, however, worker representation was determined by employer appointment. The TUCM is a member of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), although the ICFTU suspended the TUCM in December, and the Organization of African Trade Union Unity. It also belongs to the Southern African Trade Union Coordination Council (SATUCC). The Government closed SATUCC's Malawi office in 1992, following the arrest of its chairman, Chakufwa Chihana, on charges of sedition. In September 1993, SATUCC received the Government's approval to reopen its Malawi office and it plans to return in early 1994.
b. The Right To Organize and Bargain Collectively
Collective bargaining is protected by law, but its use is limited by stark labor market realities. Unskilled laborers outnumber available positions by a ratio of eight to one. By contrast, skilled workers, because of their scarcity, enjoy a relatively high demand for their services and, therefore, higher salaries. The latter have had some success when negotiating employment terms, either on an individual basis or, as was the case with the railroad union, collectively. Antiunion discrimination by employers is prohibited by statute, but enforcement of the provisions through civil suits does not occur. Most individual labor disputes, usually in the form of a worker claiming unfair dismissal, are initially referred to the Ministry of Labor for resolution. The Ministry typically attempts to encourage a settlement between the parties and does not actually adjudicate the merits of the claim. Malawi has no export processing zones or free trade zones.
c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
Forced labor was widely practiced during colonial times. Although never formally outlawed, it is not practiced except for prison labor. Sentences which include a component of "hard labor" are routinely handed down upon conviction for criminal offenses. Hard labor has, however, generally meant light gardening or road maintenance and can be waived for medical considerations.
d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children
Malawian law defines persons under the age of 12 to be children and prohibits their employment. Persons between ages 12 and 14 are eligible to do "light" work in a family business. Enforcement by labor inspectors is not effective. In the large agriculture sector, children help out at a young age both on family farms and on smaller estates, where laborers are given a quota to meet and entire families work towards reaching it. Children are rarely employed in industrial jobs, which are few in number and pay better than does agricultural work. There is no law mandating compulsory education of children.
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
Malawi's legislated minimum wage varies by location. Workers in the cities of Blantyre, Lilongwe and Mzuzu receive a minimum of $0.70 (Malawian kwacha 3.00) per day; workers in municipalities and townships are entitled to a minimum wage of $0.63 (mk 2.70) per day; rural workers are entitled to a minimum wage of $0.56 (mk 2.40) per day. As most Malawians earn their livelihood outside the formal wage sector, they are not affected by the prescribed minimums. Wages are primarily derived from the Government's prescribed minimum wage scales and by comparison to civil service wages. Industrial employees received the highest wages, with most private commercial firms intentionally setting their wages higher than those for similarly experienced government employees. Agricultural workers tend to receive only the Government's prescribed minimum wage, with some additional benefits such as access to basic medical treatment and farm supplies on credit. Minimal Ministry of Labor enforcement of the decreed wage rates, and agricultural labor practices in which harvesting quotas are sometimes met by entire families rather than by a single worker have reduced some actual agricultural wages below the mandated minimum. In 1993 high inflation rates and shortages in basic consumer goods made the minimum wage insufficient for the provision of basic needs. In practice, even those workers who received a wage tended to supplement their incomes through farming activities carried out through the extended family network. Effective September 1, legal minimum wages were increased by approximately 13 percent. The estimated rate of inflation in 1993 was approximately 23 percent. The standard legal workweek in Malawi is 48 hours with 1 day of rest, usually Sunday. Workers obliged to work on Sundays and official holidays must be paid overtime. Occupational safety standards are set by law. Their enforcement by Ministry of Labor inspectors is erratic, and workers particularly those in industrial jobs often work without basic safety clothing and equipment.