The misfortune of low salary in many African countries is a drawback to the potential of many workers. Many workers are unable to take care of their lives and families with insignificant salary that is inappropriate to the long and hard working conditions they undergo. As revealed by one employee, a medium class restaurant pays one hundred twenty thousand Uganda Shillings for 14 hours. As a single mother, she has to pay a monthly rent of one hundred seventy thousand Uganda Shillings. If the salary cannot even pay the rent, how can she survive with two children?
This is the fix many employees in Uganda who are not protected by the state organs find themselves in. Though Human Rights groups have been in conversation with the government to fix the minimum wage, this is theoretical to many African countries. Several groups, including government workers demonstrate for an increase in salary. However, the response is always to wait or worse, dismissal of employees because they demanded for their rights.
In Uganda, it is highlighted in this issue that, the Electoral Commission seeks Shs.263bn (almost $80 million USD) for referendum on presidential term. Though the government has not responded, the referendum results are already predictable. It would therefore be ridiculous to spend such a huge amount when the majority of the populace can barely survive on their salary.
On the other hand, newspapers and mass media often report of high class corruption followed by state investigation, whose results many times melt down. Potential figures who squander public property seem to enjoy protection while citizens live in wretched situations of injustice. As an old French proverb in the 14th century warns “little thieves are hanged, but great ones escape”. The cover story quotes words of Jesus that the labourer deserves his wage. The Church and all people who stand for Human Rights defend the category of people who are oppressed and exploited. Church Institutions have to shine as good examples on how they remunerate their dependents. The Church cannot advocate for just wages if she does not show it into practice!
To the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting, Pope Francis wrote this year in January asking them to avoid selfish lifestyles that discriminate the lower classes; “Together with this, we encounter certain rather selfish lifestyles, marked by an opulence which is no longer sustainable and frequently indifferent to the world around us and especially to the poorest of the poor.” He calls on the policy makers at world level to safeguard the dignity of the human person and to offer to all real opportunities for integral human development. The economic policies should favour the families that are disadvantaged.
All the people of good will including the victims of exploitation have to reject the culture and the mentality of indifference. The exploited members have the need to defend their rights and use legal means to achieve it. Submissiveness will only increase their sufferings and that of their families. It is time as well to end differences on racial grounds. All races are equally created by God whether they belong to the ruling class or not.
As we stand, the world has enormous potential to effect substantial change by increasing the quality of productivity, creating new jobs and respecting labour laws. Fighting against public and private corruption and promoting social justice is obligatory if we want to see a different world: A world that transpires fair and equitable sharing of profits! Indeed, a new world that embraces the poorest of the poor, as Pope Francis invites economic leaders! A new world that respects the human person who is created in the IMAGE OF GOD!
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