History Of Malawi

TODAY IN THE HISTORY OF MALAWI: Workers’ strike, riots and looting in Blantyre.


Today, the 4th May in 1992, about 3,000 workers at David Whitehead and Sons Textile Factory Company in Blantyre stopped their machines and moved outside the factory to demonstrate against lower wages and poor working conditions.

This was in the wake of the pastoral letter by Catholic bishops read in catholic churches across the country on Sunday the 8th of March 1992 followed by the demonstrations by university students a week later in solidarity with the bishops.

Lilongwe based Secretary General of the Southern Africa Trade Union Coordination Council (SATUCC) called Chakufwa Chihana had been arrested on the 6th April 1992 upon his arrival back from Lusaka, Zambia where he delivered a key note address at a conference organized by exiled Malawians on democratization in Malawi.

He is reported to have paid a visit to the workers at the textile factory at some point earlier on. Later in the month end of April after Chihana’s arrest, a strike for better wages by clerical and technical staff at Chancellor College of the University of Malawi had also taken place.

The striking workers at David Whitehead and Sons Textile Factory Company in Blantyre were dispersed by the Police, but the following day on the 5th of May 1992, they continued their strike activity.

On Wednesday, the 6th of May 1992, the workers marched towards the City Centre in Blantyre picking up as they went along, other urban workers.

These demonstrations in the City Centre also attracted unemployed youths and some students, who together confronted the security forces resulting into running battles with the police, looting and vandalism.

Specifically, targeted by the rioters were the shops owned by Dr. Kamuzu Banda the head of state through the Press conglomerate giving an impression that the unrest had a definite political element.

News Clip from BBC Focus on Africa, 11 May 1992.

The armed police used live ammunition to disperse the rioters and in the process shot dead over 40 people while injuring many others and arresting some.

According to the Amnesty International’s report dated 18th May 1993, the Government of Malawi failed to respond to demands for an independent investigation into the deaths of over 40 people shot dead by the armed Police.

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