Jailing the Voiceless: Ex-Migrant Workers and Population Struggles in Malawi

During the period of transition from one-party to multiparty rule in Malawi between 1992 and 1994, the driving motor of the political process was the socioeconomic underclasses with specific interests. Notable in this respect were the urban poor, the rural peasants, and the repatriated ex-miners, who had been deprived of a stable source of income. The present article deals with the last group. It examines the political effects of the ex-miners’ repatriation, arguing that the ‘TEBA issue’, as it is often referred to, (TEBA being the official recruiting organ of the South African Chamber of Mines), has shaped, and will continue to shape, political discourse in Malawi. The case of the ex-miners demonstrates the interest bases of the popular forces in Malawian politics, their struggle for political space in the democratization process, how powerful political actors manipulate them and the opposition takes advantage of them for the furtherance of its own interests. Data are drawn from oral interviews with 195 ex-miners in Nkhata Bay, Nkhota kota, and Mulanje, conducted in three separate studies between 1989 and 1990, in 1993, and in 1997, and thus present the views and interests of the informants at and after the time of the loss of their jobs in South Africa. Bibliogr., notes.

Title: Jailing the Voiceless: Ex-Migrant Workers and Population Struggles in Malawi
Author: Chirwa, Wiseman C.
Year: 1999
Periodical: Nordic Journal of African Studies
Volume: 8
Issue: 1
Pages: 1-21
Language: English
Geographic term: Malawi
External link: http://www.njas.helsinki.fi/pdf-files/vol8num1/chirwa.pdf
Abstract: During the period of transition from one-party to multiparty rule in Malawi between 1992 and 1994, the driving motor of the political process was the socioeconomic underclasses with specific interests. Notable in this respect were the urban poor, the rural peasants, and the repatriated ex-miners, who had been deprived of a stable source of income. The present article deals with the last group. It examines the political effects of the ex-miners’ repatriation, arguing that the ‘TEBA issue’, as it is often referred to, (TEBA being the official recruiting organ of the South African Chamber of Mines), has shaped, and will continue to shape, political discourse in Malawi. The case of the ex-miners demonstrates the interest bases of the popular forces in Malawian politics, their struggle for political space in the democratization process, how powerful political actors manipulate them and the opposition takes advantage of them for the furtherance of its own interests. Data are drawn from oral interviews with 195 ex-miners in Nkhata Bay, Nkhota kota, and Mulanje, conducted in three separate studies between 1989 and 1990, in 1993, and in 1997, and thus present the views and interests of the informants at and after the time of the loss of their jobs in South Africa. Bibliogr., notes.