As we commemorate the historic struggles of workers world wide in this month of May in which labour (workers’) day falls, there are notable female workers in Malawi who deserve to be honored as heroines of the workers’ rights and the broader struggle for human rights and democracy in Malawi.
Among these is a woman by the name of Flora Kapito, a worker at the Electricity Supply Commission of Malawi (ESCOM). She was arrested in May 1992 for possession of multi-party literature which the state deemed seditious.
She died in February 1993 as a result of injuries sustained while in prison.
In the same month of May and for the same charges as levelled against Flora Kapito, the Police also arrested another woman who was also an employee at ESCOM. Her name was Gloria Gadama. She was taken to Chichiri prison with her small baby.
Another female worker (undisclosed name) was also arrested in this month of May 1992. The Police had found in her possession copies of the bishops’ pastoral letter issued on 8th March 1992 and a speech critical of the one party state by a veteran trade union leader called Chakufwa Chihana.
In September 1992, she told a visiting delegation of British lawyers about her treatment at the hands of police in Blantyre:
“They said `You are in the hands of the government. We can do anything we like with your life.’ Then they ripped the clothes off me. They left me naked. They made me lie down. One pulled my legs. One man had pliers. they forced my knees and my legs apart. They started putting the pliers into my anus. I was crying at the top of my voice.”
She was eventually charged of sedition which was the same charge upon which Chakufwa Chihana was convicted later the same year.
Source: Report by the Amnesty International of 18 May 1993.