thangata: social bondage and big tobacco in Malawi, Africa

Thangata (verb) A chinyanja term that means to help; to assist

Thangata (noun) A system of forced labor in tobacco and other cash crops imposed by British colonialists in Malawi

Thangata (today) A system of debt slavery in Malawi and other tobacco growing countries that produces profits for Philip Morris (a.k.a. Altria) and other cigarette manufacturers

Thangata (15 mins, 2002) a video about tobacco farm workers in Malawi and US-based cigarette manufacturers and leaf buying companies. Marty Otañez and Michelle Otañez, producers

Check out the Thangata artwork and dvd cover.

Malawi’s draft 2005 Tobacco Tenancy Labor Bill needs to be enacted to increase and protect the rights of tobacco farm workers. Created in 1994, the Tenancy Labor Bill, revised in 2005, would clarify the rights and obligations of landlords and tenants with a view to avoid exploitative situations. In fall 2005, the United Nations International Labor Organization and government bodies in Malawi including the Ministry of Justice discussed the Bill and made suggestions for revision. As of April 2007, the Bill is with the Ministry of Justice to prepare a draft that could be sent to the Office of the President and Cabinet for further analysis. The passage of the Bill appears to have been delayed indefinitely because several members of Malawi’s Parliament and other government officials are tobacco farm landlords. Little or no legislation protecting the rights of tobacco farm workers exists in Malawi.

Additional Resources:

Allegation of corruption and connivance among tobacco buyers, Auction Holdings Limited and other stakeholders in the tobacco industry, Anti-Corruption Bureau, Malawi 2006

Review of working and living conditions of tobacco tenants and other workers on tobacco estates, Hastings Kafundu, Center for Social Concern, Kanengo, Malawi 2005

Tobacco tenants in Malawi’s economy, Jos Kuppens, The Lamp [Malawi] November/December 2005

Preliminary note on tobacco sales in Malawi, Clive Stanbrook, Belgium 2005. Report documents allegations of a cartel of Lilmbe Leaf and Alliance One, US-based leaf buying companies in Malawi, and companies’ price-fixing at tobacco auctions in Malawi.

The world smoking business: tobacco tenants in Malawi, Liv Torres, FAFO [Norway] 2000

Labour agreement between the Tobacco Association of Malawi, the Malawi Congress of Trade Unions, and the Tobacco Tenants and Allied Workers Union of Malawi, Lilongwe, Malawi 1999. The Tobacco Association of Malawi has failed to honor the agreement to begin collective bargaining with the Tobacco Tenants and Allied Workers Union of Malawi as of April 2007.

Tobacco Tenants- Justice and Peace, Fr. James Greene 1997

Thangata Study Guide is below

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