MOZAMBIQUE: On-going mill strike turns violent

Published: 08/11/2017, 4:31:42 PM

The on-going strike at Maragra sugar mill, in the southern Mozambican district of Manhiça, about 80 kilometres north of Maputo, is already reaching alarming proportions, with four people injured during confrontations with the police this Wednesday, according to Mozamique's AIM news service.

The wounded are two civilians and two members of the riot police who have been called to stop violence, acts of vandalism perpetrated by some workers and restore order.

The workers, who had reached a consensus with the employers after a week-long strike, are demanding payment for those days which were deducted from their salaries.

However, the sugar mill management flatly rejects that demand since the Labour Law in force in Mozambique does not provide for payment of wages for striking workers.

To express their anger the workers of the sugarcane plantations assaulted their colleagues from the administrative and security departments, trying to prevent them for working, reports the daily paper "Noticias".

That's when the Rapid Intervention Unit (UIR) was called to the scene to contain the wave of violence, which ended with two vehicles vandalized, being one from the police.

Speaking to Radio Mozambique, the administrator of Manhiça district, Cristina Mafumo, urged both employers and workers to exercise restraint and embark on dialogue as a means to reach consensus.

"We would like to ask the management of Maragra sugar mill and the union to find a way for mutual understanding. What we had last week was a legal strike. But as with any strike it always brings along some bad points", she said.

Mafumo explained that strikes are bad for the image of government, local economy at district level and, above all, for the whole Mozambican economy.

Even worse, warned Mafumo, strikes tend to scare investors away.

"The strike resumed yesterday (Tuesday). We thought we would reach consensus by the end of yesterday, but we failed. We are surprised because yesterday the strike was peaceful, but from 06h00 am today it turned violent, and we are already counting some wounded", she said.

Mafumo stressed that the district government will continue to call for dialogue.

The strike began about two weeks ago when Mozambican employees started demanding salary increase and reinstatement of subsidies which have been withdrawn by the management.

They were also demanding equal wages as those paid to other expatriate workers, most of them South Africans.

According to the Chairperson of the National Union of Sugar Industry Workers (SINTIA), Alexandre Munguambe, there is a discrepancy between salaries paid to foreign workers and Mozambican nationals.

The workers were also claiming a salary increase of 21 per cent.

Maragra is one of the four functioning sugar mills in Mozambique, along with Xinavane, in Maputo province, and Marromeu and Mafambisse, both in the central province of Sofala. It operates as a subsidiary of the South African company Illovo Sugar Ltd.