Musicians Association of Malawi (MAM) chairperson, the Reverend Chimwemwe Mhango, has accused government of â€œplaying hide-and-seekâ€ on their moves to transform the body into a trade union.
Since Mhangoâ€™s election two years ago, MAM has been repositioning itself in line with its affiliation to the International Federation of Musicians (FIM) which advocates the promotion and protection of artists through trade unions in democratic countries.
In an interview on Wednesday, the MAM leader said he is yet to receive a response to his MAM letter querying governmentâ€™s refusal to register Musician Union of Malawi (MUM). The letter is dated July 2010.
â€œAs MAM, we are worried that government seem not to appreciate the need to protect and promote musicians through trade unions because musiciansâ€™ unions are officially recognised in all democratic countries, pursuant to International Labour Office (ILO) Convention 87 of 1948,â€ said Mhango.
Later this month, he is expected to present a report of the stalemate to FIM in Nairobi, Kenya.
In another letter, dated April 7 2010, the Registrar of Trade Unions and Employersâ€™ Organisations Benson Chirwa, on behalf of the principal secretary for Labour, states that they were unable to register MAM as a trade union because â€œthe music industry has no employer-employee relationshipâ€.
But in the reply on July 9 the same year, MAM counter-argued that the fact that musicians usually opt for a self-employed status does not mean these performers are not workers.
â€œAs any other worker, they [musicians] should be eligible to collective representation as well as to the full benefit of collective agreements and other workers rights recognised by both the national legislation of Malawi and the relevant ILO conventions,â€ reads part of the letter Mhango wants answered as soon as possible.
The letter, which is signed by MAM, FIM and Council for Global Union, argues that the union is a first step towards the development of social dialogue within the sector.
When asked about the stalemate in an interview, registrar Chirwa simply said: â€œGet the information from the content of the letter.â€
In a separate interview, Principal Secretary for the Ministry of Labour, Wezzie Kayira, confirmed rejecting MAMâ€™s application because they did not satisfy the rules of registration. However, he denied not responding to their letters.
â€œThe letter they wrote after rejecting them was not an application letter. They were just making counter-arguments. What they need to do is to write a fresh application. We will invite their executive for a discussion because exchanging letters will not solve the problem,â€ said Kayira.
MAM has referred the matter to the Ministry of Tourism and Culture.Â