Professional Drivers Union of Malawi (Produm) has written the Office of Secretary to the President and Cabinet, requesting to meet President Lazarus Chakwera.
But the new Minister of Transport and Public Works Jacob Hara has vowed to resolve the union’s grievances pertaining to his ministry before February 28 2021 if drivers cooperate.
The drivers yesterday made the request in a letter addressed to Secretary to President and Cabinet Zanga-Zanga Chikhosi signed by the union’s general secretary Mphatso Molleni.
The group says for the past two years it has been engaging Capital Hill through various designated ministries, including Ministry of Transport, Ministry of Energy as well as Ministry of Homeland Security with the view of securing government’s effective intervention.
However, Molleni laments that despite their efforts, no serious attempt has been made by government to address their woes.
Among others, the drivers are complaining that much of fuel haulage business is in the hands of foreign companies, employers are not adhering to the minimum wage for truck drivers, unfair and unjustified punishment of drivers for ordinary and/or normal fuel losses incurred in the course of transporting fuel.
They also worry about lack of transparency by Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (Mera) in accounting for fuel shortage recorded when offloading at Mera depots as well as various logistical challenges related to renewal of driver’s licence and passports by truck drivers who operate internationally.
“It is against this background that we now write to the President, through your good office, seeking an opportunity for a round-table audience with the State President so that our grievances are brought to his direct attention,” reads the letter The Nation has seen.
According to Molleni, the drivers’ last resort would be to wage an indefinite industrial action which he warned has the potential of injuring the already-fragile economy, a situation he said may work against the President’s efforts to resuscitate and rebuild the same economy.
In a written response yesterday, Hara defended his ministry that they have not failed to solve their problems warranting the driver’s audience with the state president.
Hara said: “I personally wasn’t aware of this issue as a new minister. I will check where their issue is in the ministry and re-engage them.
“We will amicably resolve issues to do with my ministry by February 28th this year, if we get their cooperation”.
State House press secretary Anthony Kasunda yesterday referred the issue to Chikhosi whom the letter is addressed to, but he was not available for comment.
The drivers have been holding several industrial strikes for the past two years pushing for their welfare, but authorities have been dragging their feet to implement at some of the demands