The forex drought in Malawi has created delays for final payment of staff who lost their jobs at Raising Malawi Girls Academy, a project US pop star Madonna abandoned in 2010.
MadonnaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s lawyers have confirmed the jam, saying the star already paid the staff around K6 million (about $35 928), but the rest (about K20 million or $119 760) remains outstanding due to the forex shortage affecting the country.
One of MadonnaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s lawyers, Davis Njobvu, said his firm does not have a foreign currency-denominated bank account in Malawi where to transfer dollars from US for four ex-staff who, he said, have demanded their benefits in dollars.
Said Njobvu: “We have paid around K6 million to about four staff who were quoted in Malawi kwacha. The other staff were quoted in US dollars and they have appealed to us that we should pay them in dollars. We have the money in kwacha and cannot find forex for about K20 million in the banks.
“We told them that we donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have a foreign currency-denominated bank account where dollars can be transferred to pay them. The staffÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s lawyers have also said they do not have a forex-denominated account.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Njobvu was responding to a complaint by the former employees who claimed the pop star is tricking them after the matter was settled out of court. Njobvu asked the former employeesÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ lawyer, Wapona Kita, to get permission from the Reserve Bank of Malawi for his clients to be paid their dues in United Kingdom bank accounts for the job done in Malawi.
Madonna had agreed to pay the group of charity workers outside the court after they sued her at the Industrial Relations Court last April, demanding payment of their job benefits. They accused her of tricking the former employees at the abandoned project through delayed payment of about Ã‚Â£100 000 (about K26.1 million) in benefits.
Kita, lawyer for the eight staff, said in an interview on Wednesday the benefits, agreed through an out-of- court-settlement deal, were scheduled to be paid out by last December.
Said the lawyer: “The money was supposed to be paid in December last year immediately the agreement was made. Of course, we got communication from her lawyers that they are having difficulties to transfer the money from US to Malawi, but some of my clients also have bank accounts in the UK.
“We feel there would not be problems to transfer the money into their accounts in UK. We…will take action once the ongoing court strike is over.Ã¢â‚¬Â
The workers accused Madonna of unfair dismissal and failure to pay them wages after they lost their jobs when plans for her Raising Malawi Girls Academy, a 500-pupil girlsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ school in MalawiÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s capital, Lilongwe, collapsed last March. The school was designed to promote the girl-child through provision of high quality education.