human rights

Zambian family kicked out of housing

What will they live on now?

In December of 2010 a man with a family of seven was illegally fired from his job at PAMA Meats where he had worked for eight years. The reason given was “growing corn in a restricted area”.

For eight years he had worked for the equivalent of $75 dollars a month in substandard  housing with his family of seven. There was not enough money to send the children on the bus to school. But at least he knew that at the end of his tenure he would get a nice benefit package which, after eight years amounted to about$3000. Then he was fired for growing corn in a “restricted” area. He protested that no one had told him of this restriction and that other workers were growing corn in the same area. He was given no thirty day warning, no fair hearing and no chance to present his side, as required by law.

This man tried to protest this unfair treatment to PAMA management and was subjected to cancelled appointments and misinformation. Even the Labor Office in Mazabuka, which is charged with helping poor and often illiterate workers receive fair treatment, upheld the PAMA Meat’s illegal firing procedure. He was never informed about his right to a trial at the Industrial Relations Court in Lusaka, or that PAMA had not followed proper procedure. In fact, he was encouraged to take his case to the local court in Mazabuka, which has no jurisdiction in labor matters. Even so, they too judged against him.

Their first house after his firing was an unfinished house with no roof. For two years the family has been surviving as best they can.

In March of 2011 the AACDP learned about the Industrial Relations Court and  tried to convince them that deceit and misinformation had been the reason this man had not brought the case to them when it occurred. But again, the court judged against him, saying he should “move on with his life ” because he will never get his terminal benefits or compensation for unfair dismissal. (Why not?) The judge further chastised him for spending his money on the case and “annoying” the court.??!!

He then went to the Legal Aid Board who advised that after all this time, evidence was lacking. Why PAMA’s provable illegal firing was not the important issue here was not explained. He was told that, should he appeal, all the legal costs of both sides would fall to him.

Is it right that a big corporation like PAMA should improperly dismiss a man after eight years, deny him what was owed, and face no penalty? Are the courts so uninterested in the poor? Why is seeking justice annoying?

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Nyimba’s Story

by Marsha Winsryg

Where will Nyimba's granddaughter live without a home?

Where will Nyimba's granddaughter live without a home?

As a tenant farmer on a large cattle plantation near the big city of Lusaka, Nyimba is beholden to the huge corporation Northern Zambezi Traders/PAMA Meats.

For years Nyimba’s monthly was about $75, barely enough to survive. His end-payments were supposed to accumulate, and after his eight years there, they should have amounted to $3000, enough to start a small business.

During these 8 years, Nyimba and his wife raised 5 children in substandard housing; a tiny metal quanset hut with three curtained-off stalls as bedrooms, no plumbing or electricity. The oldest, Ann, was born paralyzed from the neck down, so Anastasia was unable to work. I became involved with the family when Sydney requested a wheelchair for his cousin.

Because transport to the hospital was unaffordable, Ann died from Malaria in 2009.

After this tragedy Sydney asked the AACDP to help them buy supplies for a small crop of corn that would feed the family for a year. It seemed the least we could do.

In January 2010, just as his corn was ready for harvest, Nyimba was fired for growing his corn in the wrong area. Although others had used the same land, they were not fired. He was forced to leave his home within 24 hours and denied his $2000 end-payment.

I have spent a lot of time and energy researching contact info for this company to question them concerning this inhumane “policy” which I have heard is illegal but widely tolerated. We looked for agencies that should have been able to help us: the Zambian Labor Office and the International Farm Workers Union, but all avenues led to empty promises or affirmation of the company.

No one was interested in supporting a poor Zambian man against a big corporation.

When in Zambia this March I went several times to Mazabuka to speak to the farm manager at PAMA, who was clearly uncomfortable and offered no help at all,  as well as the Labour Office there. The Senior Officer there seemed to agree that none of the proper procedures for dismissal had been followed and said he would look into the matter. That was weeks ago, and so far, I have heard nothing.

I met a young lawyer who promised to find help for our dispute. The liberal paper agreed to listen to this story. Can we succeed in getting this case heard by a legitimate court, the one called the Industrial Relations Court? That’s our goal, and I’m not giving up.

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No Aids test without unwilling father

No AIDS test without absentee father

Peggy’s family lives on a huge plantation in Zambia in substandard housing, no transportation and under feudal and oppressive rules of the owners and managers. For three years she and her younger brother were unable to go to school because they could not afford the bus fare. For eight months the AACDP provided a tutor to help Peggy catch up to her grade level.

Then she became pregnant.

The father of her child, a young man living on the farm, refuses to acknowledge any responsibility, not surprisingly. But worse than this, he will not accompany her to be tested for HIV/AIDS. And the doctors will not test her without his presence. So she can’t find out her baby’s status which, if positive, can be benefit from treatment before, during and after birth.

AIDS  awareness has become widely advertised in Zambia.

Zamia Discusses HIV/AIDS, but numbers  increase

Zambia is talking about HIV/AIDS

But terrible, life-threatening stigmas are widespread and the disease continues wipe out the middle generations, leaving children in the care of their grandparents. Retrovirals are available to a small percentage on the infected, despite their global availability and lowered costs. So a young man refuses to get tested and  a young woman cannot discover her own status. Whatever the reasoning behind this system, who suffers? The mother and, ultimately, the baby.

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unfair farm rules deny food to poor tenant farmers

Illegal food?

Are basic human rights being denied on Zambian plantations?

Last March I visited a tenant farmer family in Mazabuka, Zambia, who had lost their 16 year old daughter to malaria because they couldn’t afford transport to a hospital, nor the proper medicine. The AACDP had helped the family start a small patch of corn to feed the family.

I was shocked to learn that it is customary on these giant plantations to forbid their tenant workers growing any other food for themselves except corn and pumpkins. (See post “Education Urgently Desired” 4/26/10)

Now the father of this family has been fired for growing corn “too near his house”. There is reason to believe he won’t receive his termination benefits from eight years of work. His monthly salary amounts to the equivalent of $75, barely enough to survive, but the end payments are supposed to accumulate and should be several hundred dollars. Not much, but enough to start a small business and get out from under the slave conditions of tenant farm work. After eight years of long hours and hard work, this man and his family of 5 children have been given 5 days to clear out, and every time he has approached management he is told that the man in charge from whom he would collect his severance pay is “away”.

Last spring I  became aware that farm workers weren’t allowed to grow food for their families, though they live in the countryside and there is plenty of land surrounding their substandard housing. I could not get a good explanation for this inhumane rule from anyone. I wanted to make this known then. Now that this man has been fired for growing corn, which is “allowed”, I am looking for ways to broadcast the existence of these cruel and unfair practices hoping that publicity will shame those responsible to change and the government to oversee it.

Can we write to the Zambian government to protest these inhuman conditions? Slavery benefits no one but the super rich. Is there no relief for the poor, no desire for fairness? Who cares for these people’s human rights?

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