News that came out of Lilongwe Thursday night that the Government Negotiating Team (GNT) and the Civil Servants Trade Union (CSTU) had reached an agreement on the union’s grievances over salaries and other working conditions is by any measure, very good indeed. It is good for the civil servants and good for the private sector too. Actually, it is good for many other sectors which ground to a halt in the last few days.
The victim was obviously the ordinary man and woman asking for medical attention, the school child expecting fulfilment of his/her right to education and the rest.
However, we need to understand a few basics before we lose track here. The Malawi government is the single largest employer in the country. It is also the biggest buyer of goods and services in the country. This points to one fact - when civil servants down their tools, the nation catches flue.
We will not go into specifics but in the last two weeks the country suffered and bled. When the losses are counted and the cost summed up, we as a nation must decide how we want to move ourselves forward – together, with one vision and one goal.
Reading between the lines and looking at what appeared to be a CSTU strike quickly spinning out of control, the sober minds of the nation feared for this great country and its resilient people.
So when news filtered in that a deal had been reached, it became not only a genuine cause for celebration but also a huge sigh of relief for all those affected due to the withholding of service by the largest employer and buyer in the last two weeks.
Here at Manaonline, we join all right-thinking Malawians in commending Her Excellency the President for showing leadership and steering the ship in her first real trial by fire since her ascendancy to the highest office in the land. She for us passes with a straight A hands down.
We also commend the GNT for waiting at the negotiating table for two weeks even when during some days there was no one to talk to.
We also commend the CSTU for finally calling off the strike and signing the agreement aware that we have one country and that country is Malawi.
We all agree that times are tough not just for Malawi, but the world over. In France, Spain, Greece, the US, South Africa and other well-to-do nations, it’s all tough going and getting tougher. In this context, a government that becomes as responsiveness as Dr Joyce Banda’s deserves more accolades than others are willing to give it.
On another note, it must be said that the spirit exhibited by both sides in signing a Memorandum of Understanding and committing to continue talking on the other issues deserves congratulations from all Malawians.
It is the duty of our fellow civil servants to show the world that Malawians are able to differ, discuss and agree to move forward as one nation. It is time to dust off and once more pick up the pieces and lost times and revenue and deliver government services to the best of our abilities and capabilities.
It should be possible to look back several years down the line and say, “This was Malawi’s finest hour.”
Is it not said that a stitch in time saves nine?