Civil servants, police clash at Capital Hill

Close to 100 armed police officers on Monday clashed with striking civil servants at Capital Hill in Lilongwe after the angry workers blocked the main entrance to Malawi government headquarters.

Several police officers fired tear gas to disperse the striking workers and move them back to their “freedom park” within Capital Hill.

The strike entered the sixth day and Capital Hill continued to be on shutdown, paralysing operations of government ministries and departments as public servants protest against poor conditions of service worsened by the rising cost of living.

Civil Service Trade Union (CSTU) president Eliah Kamphinda Banda bemoaned police’s firing of tear gas at the aggrieved workers, saying the civil servants were not violent.

He said: “This shows our police is still a force and not a service. After going around Capital Hill, the people were at the gate dancing. Some police officer [was overheard to have] said he supports President Joyce Banda and could not allow the strike at the gate.”

Kamphinda Banda said CSTU has since organised a march to the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) this Wednesday to deliver a petition aimed at intensifying their cry for better conditions of service.

“We are still ready for dialogue, but we don’t want Dr. [MacPhail] Magwira in the Government Negotiating Team (GNT). He should step down as chairperson of GNT,” he said.

Magwira on Monday said his team is considering a report which the task force on the ongoing dialogue with CSTU has submitted.

Lilongwe Police Station spokesperson Ramsey Mushani on Monday said he needed to consult on the police’s use of tear gas and guns to disperse the unarmed striking workers.

Among others, civil servants are demanding harmonisation of conditions of service between those working in the mainstream civil service and parastatals.

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