Malawi: Controversial Election Register Revised UN Integrated Regional Information Networks May 7, 2004 Posted to the web May 7, 2004 Lilongwe The MalawiMessage 1 of 1046 , May 10, 2004View SourceMalawi: Controversial Election Register Revised
UN Integrated Regional Information Networks
May 7, 2004
Posted to the web May 7, 2004
The Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) announced on Thursday that it had revised the voters' roll and shed close to a million people from the register.
MEC's chief elections officer, Roosevelt Gondwe, told a press conference in the southern city of Blantyre that the number of registered voters now stood at 5.7 million and not the 6.6 million the MEC had earlier reported.
Opposition parties cried foul over the MEC's original tally, pointing out that it did not correspond with the National Statistical Office's census figures, which estimated Malawi's population at 12 million.
The revision of the register was conducted by a South African computer firm over a five-day period with the aim of weeding out "double registrants", Gondwe said.
"What we are having now is very close to answering that query that may be we are not at 6.6 million but we may be at 5.7 million," he was quoted as saying.
He blamed incorrect information given to MEC officials by people registering as responsible for the inflated voters' roll, while analysts pointed to the failure of the commission to properly manage the process.
The ruling United Democratic Front (UDF) said it welcomed the revision of the register, and denied opposition allegations that it had intended to use the swollen voters' roll to rig the 18 May general election.
"In the Malawi Electoral Commission there are three parties being represented. There is the UDF, Aford [Alliance for Democracy] and MCP [Malawi Congress Party]. There is no reason why the opposition should be accusing the UDF of rigging," said UDF deputy publicity secretary, Mary Kaphwereza-Banda.
However, the opposition National Democratic Alliance (NDA) said there were questions the MEC still had to answer.
"How can this huge number of voters drop all of a sudden? This is a sign of weakness on the part of the MEC," NDA spokesperson Salule Masangwi was quoted as saying.
He also accused the commission of creating bogus polling stations, an issue that urgently "needs to be looked at".
A Western diplomat told IRIN that the MEC's performance had been "a complete and utter shambles, but we think it's more cock-up than conspiracy".
Whether it would impact on the election, Malawi's third multi-party poll since 1994, could depend on how well the MEC was seen to perform in securing the voting and counting process, he said.
Zimbabwe ejects UN crop survey team
10 May 2004 07:23
The Zimbabwean government ordered a United Nations crop assessment team to leave the country over the weekend, days after it went into the fields to begin to calculate the annual food harvest.
The order effectively blocks UN and EU preparations to provide food aid reckoned to be needed for more than 5 million people later in the year.
The cancellation is believed to have been ordered because President Robert Mugabe's government did not want the UN team to gather figures showing that harvests would fall far short of the country's food requirements.
The agriculture minister Joseph Made said the UN team was in the country without his approval. But The Guardian has seen a letter dated March 30 from Made's ministry inviting UN World Food Programme officials to estimate the country's food aid needs.
Independent agricultural experts warn that another year of serious food shortages looms as a result of the precipitous drop in production caused by the government's land seizures.
An impending "famine" is how Zimbabwe's food situation is described by the German-based Friedrich Ebert foundation, which conducted an extensive crop survey in March.
The government, however, estimates Zimbabwe will produce a bumper harvest of 1,7-million tons of maize this year. UN officials dismiss the government's estimate as "impossible" and "a fantasy".
"The government does not want to admit that its land grab has been a disaster and that Zimbabwe can no longer produce enough food to feed itself," said political scientist John Makumbe, the chairperson of the Zimbabwe branch of Transparency International.
Opposition politicians charge that the government intends to use the food shortages to its political advantage in the parliamentary elections scheduled for next March. They say that the government plans to buy votes with food and will starve areas where there is strong opposition.
The elections will take place at the height of Zimbabwe's "lean season" when the rural population is between harvests and short of food.
Agricultural experts in Zimbabwe confirm that despite good rains this year the maize crop will not be nearly enough to feed the country's 12-million people.
They say much of the land seized from white commercial farmers over the past four years is lying fallow. A further problem has been the government's failure to provide adequate seed and fertiliser to small-scale black farmers. As a result Zimbabwe will need to import as much as 900 000 tons of grain, and an estimated five million people will need food aid. - Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2004
Zim schools back down after Mugabe's threats
08 May 2004 16:36
President Robert Mugabe's government has allowed most of the 46 private schools closed down this week to reopen on Monday after they agreed to slash their fees to official levels to avoid being seized by the government, according to official statements Saturday.
The government-controlled daily Herald published a list of 36 schools which had been been "cleared" by the education ministry and said pupils could go back to school next week.
Education Minister Aeneas Chigwedere had denounced the schools as "racist" organisations charging high fees to keep out blacks, and gave them until Friday to cut their fees to prescribed levels or be "nationalised" by the government.
Officials of the Association of Trust Schools (ATS) which represents the country's about 65 private schools, said heads of all the affected schools had rushed to the education ministry on Friday to meet the deadline, but several had failed, because ministry officials refused to stay at work beyond the 4.30pm office hours.
Police, many with automatic rifles, manned the gates of the private schools from Monday, barring pupils, staff and parents entry. At least 12 heads and school board governors were arrested, some of them forced to spend the night in police cells.
In an interview on state television on Thursday night, Chigwedere declared that private schools were "factories to produce white Rhodesians," and were owned by foreign organisations.
"The ownership is British," he said. "It is the very war we are fighting against these schools," he said.
Chigwedere also told a group of anxious parents who met him earlier that "we are doing to the private schools what we did to the white farms," a reference to the regime's illegal seizure since 2 000 of nearly all of the country's 11-million hectares of productive white-owned land.
Private school authorities have rebutted the allegations, and say all but one of their schools is black-dominated, some by 95%, as are their boards of governors. They also say they are completely locally-owned, and point out that the fee increases at all schools were overwhelmingly approved by the parents.
A circular to private schools issued Friday night by ATS urged all schools to sign "acceptance certificates" with the ministry agreeing to prescribed fees as "the fastest way to reopen the schools and avoid them being nationalised by the government."
It said that the agreement was "only a short term solution as it leaves many schools technically insolvent" and all schools will now have to look at ways to cut costs.
Education experts say that the state school system is collapsing under an almost total lack of government support, with teachers demoralised, overworked and poorly paid, and classrooms dilapidated. - Sapa-DPA
Zimbabwe official 'silenced' in Mozambique
The Zimbabwean information minister has been forced to abandon a speech to journalists in Mozambique after they staged a noisy protest over harsh media laws in Zimbabwe.
Witnesses said the group of protesters, carrying banners saying "once a snake, always a snake", refused to end their demonstration until Jonathan Moyo left the meeting in Maputo at the headquarters of Mozambican journalists' trade union.
Union Secretary General Hilario Matusse said an opportunity had been missed to question Mr Moyo about media freedom in Zimbabwe.
The government of President Robert Mugabe has closed down Zimbabwe's leading independent newspaper and deported many foreign journalists.
It says the media laws are necessary to restore professional standards in journalism.
'Poor paying for war on terror'
Some of the world's poorest people are suffering as a result of the war on terror, a leading UK charity has said.
Christian Aid says the UK Government must halt a "dangerous drift" towards linking aid to fighting terror.
The report cites Iraq, Afghanistan and Uganda as places where funds have been "wrongly diverted".
The international development department said promises had been kept and funds earmarked for humanitarian aid had been spent as intended.
'With us or against us'
The report's lead author, John Davison, told BBC News Online: "Some of the world's poorest people are already paying for the war on terror as the giving of aid by the world's richest countries is ruled by the rhetoric of 'with us or against us'.
"This must not be allowed to continue.
"The blurring of the line between humanitarian and development activity and military and security activity by donors' governments is dangerous."
He said that in October 2003, the government diverted aid to fund reconstruction in Iraq - a three-year commitment totalling £544m - resulting in less money for "middle-income countries".
However, the term is a misnomer, Mr Davison said, as 140 million of the world's poorest people live in "middle-income countries".
Britain is unique in having legislation that states all aid must be targeted at poverty alleviation.
Christian Aid has not accused the government of acting illegally but wants it to try to halt and reverse the "dangerous international drift towards linking aid to the war on terror".
It said Afghanistan's $2.2bn in aid for 2004, for instance, is being diverted to military projects and emergency relief rather than long-term redevelopment.
The provision of humanitarian aid had become confused with the security operation - leading to aid workers getting killed, it said.
In Uganda, the report says almost a quarter of the social services budget in 2002 was used to fund military operations for the government's civil war against the Lord's Resistance Army.
Hopes for a settlement in the 18-year war dealt a severe blow by proscription of rebels as a terrorist organisation, according to the report.
It perceived a drift "back to the days of the Cold War", when aid was used to serve the political and security needs of donor countries rather than the real needs of poor people.
Former Foreign Secretary Robin Cook called the report "compelling" and said it should be a "wake-up call" to the government.
"I find it particularly depressing that any of our aid effort should be diverted to fund the occupation of Iraq," he said.
"Regardless of what any of us may think about the invasion of Iraq, we surely can all agree that the poor around the world should not pay for the consequences."
A spokeswoman for the Department for International Development told BBC News Online the government had kept its promises on aid.
But she said that security and aid were inextricably linked in cases such as Afghanistan.
"Security is fundamental to achieve development," the spokeswoman said.
"We are there for the long term - we will continue to help to build a better country."
ADB firm on Karonga-Chitipa road contract by Zainah Liwanda, 22 May 2006 - 06:09:17 The African Development Bank (ADB) has again rejected a proposal byMessage 1046 of 1046 , May 22, 2006View Source
ADB firm on Karonga-Chitipa road contract
by Zainah Liwanda, 22 May 2006 - 06:09:17
The African Development Bank (ADB) has again rejected a proposal by government to look for another contractor instead of China Hunan Construction to construct of the long awaited Karonga/Chitipa road.
China Hunan from Mainland China won the bid which was approved by the ADB but government later wanted to award the contract to a Portuguese firm, Mota Engil, the second lowest bidder, claiming China Hunan's bid was unrealistically low and that the company had very little experience in Africa.
Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe confirmed on Sunday the ADB rejected the proposal at a meeting held between the bank and Malawi government in Tunisia last week.
The Malawi government wanted the Tunisia meeting to authorise it to get another contractor for the road, said Gondwe.
"They did not allow us to look for another contractor because of their regulations. But we are about to get another alternative for Karonga/Chitipa and I would be surprised if it does not start before end June," said Gondwe.
The minister explained that the bank insisted that regardless of the unrealistic cost estimates, China Hunan should be allowed to go ahead with the construction.
But Gondwe could not give further details about the alternatives, arguing there are still a few loose ends to tighten up before disclosing it.
The problem with China Hunan, according to Gondwe, is that it would require more money to meet the total cost of the project.
This paper reported last week that government met Taiwanese representatives where they offered to fund the road if the ADB continued to reject its favoured contractor, Mota Engil.
Gondwe could neither confirm nor deny the reports on the Taiwanese offer, saying government was looking at a number of ways to handle the issue.
According to Gondwe, the China Hunan's bid was 24 percent lower than the consulting engineers' estimates of K7.9 billion and 34 percent below the second lowest bidder.
President Bingu wa Mutharika laid a foundation stone for the construction of the road this year ahead of a crucial byelection in Chitipa in December last year.
The President's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) won the Chitipa Wenya constituency by-election that fell vacant following the collapse and subsequent death of Speaker of Parliament Rodwell Munyenyembe who belonged to the UDF.
Last week, police and the District Commissioner (DC) for Chitipa stopped a rally that was aimed at soliciting people's views about development projects in the district.
The meeting, which was reportedly organised by Concerned Citizens of Chitipa, was among other things also supposed to tackle the controversial Karonga/Chitipa road.
The project failed to start off in 2000 when a contract for an initial loan of US$17 million and US$15 million from the Taiwanese government was signed, with some quarters claiming the Bakili Muluzi administration diverted the money to another road.
Chihana operated on
by Edwin Nyirongo, 22 May 2006 - 06:32:31
Alliance for Democracy (Aford) president Chakufwa Chihana, who is in South Africa receiving treatment, had a brain operation on Friday at Garden City Clinic, family and party officials confirmed on Sunday.
Aford national chairman Chipimpha Mughogho said he was told by the family members that Chihana had a successful operation on Friday and was put in an intensive care unit.
Mughogho said Chihana, who initially complained of headache, was found with a brain tumour which South African doctors removed.
Mzimba West MP Loveness Gondwe said Aford boss condition was stable.
"Hon. Chihana had a major operation and after that he was put in the intensive care unit but his condition is stable. I do not know where he was operated on but it had something to do with the skull," she said.
Deputy Information Minister John Bande referred the matter to the Health Minister Hetherwick Ntaba who was reported to be in Geneva, Switzerland.
Aford publicity secretary Norman Nyirenda said when Chihana's situation got worse, the family alerted the Office of the President and Cabinet who took him to Mwaiwathu Private Hospital.
"The doctors at Mwaiwathu advised that he should be sent to South Africa and they even identified the doctor for him," he said.
He said the costs are being met by the Malawi government, contradicting his earlier statement that his boss covered the cost.
Mughogho is now in charge of the party.
Gondwe will be a busy person when Parliament starts meeting on June 6 as she is the only Aford MP remaining.
Pillane proposes presidential age limit
by Emmanuel Muwamba , 22 May 2006 - 06:34:13
A member of the DPP National Governing Council Abdul Pillane on Saturday urged members of political parties and the civil society to put an upper age limit in the Constitution for presidential candidates.
Pillane was addressing members of political parties and civil society in Liwonde during a two-day follow up workshop to the National Conference on the Review of Constitution held in March in Lilongwe.
"My view is that (an upper) age limit should be at 75. We have to give a chance to younger people to lead because in circumstance, when you age you become forgetful especially when sickly," said Pillane. "Overall, chances should be given to young people."
But UDF secretary general Kennedy Makwangwala, whose party members agitated for the age limit during presentations, played the issue down.
"I feel there is no logic to have an upper age limit for presidential candidates. If someone is 90 or 80 I don't know how that can influence the electorate not to vote for someone who is younger, I don't see any logic behind that," said Makwangwala.
MCP participants at the workshop also vehemently objected to the proposal.
MCP vice president Nicholas Dausi in an interview said: "There is no constitution in Africa which stipulates an upper age limit. So it would be strange in Malawi to have an upper age limit for presidential candidates."
MDP President Kamlepo Kalua also opposed the need to have an upper age limit.
"If we have personalities in mind that we want to discriminate against then it is unfortunate. The constitution we want to build is a guiding document for future generations and it should not bar certain individuals on the basis of grudges," he said.
The Malawi Law Constitution Issues Paper of March 2006 says several submissions that were received put an upper presidential age limit in the Constitution.
"It is argued that it is common sense that mental knowledge faculties tend to fail with age. As regards what the actual age limit should be the submissions are far from being agreed. The range is from 60 years to 80 years," read submissions in the Issues Paper.
On whether MPs should double as ministers, Kalua said this should be the case.
Makwangwala also said it is not right for MPs to serve as ministers because the Legislature, another arm of government, is reduced while the Executive branch is beefed up from another arm of government.
"There is no separation of powers when MPs double as ministers," said Makwangwala.
But Pillane said there is no problem for MPs to work as ministers as well, saying MPs are elected by the President.
"One can serve both posts. There have been no problems before for people to double," said Pillane.
The Centre for Multiparty Democracy funded the workshop through the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy.
The objective was to come up with a collective position on the Issues Paper which will be presented to the Special Law Commission that will be constituted soon.
Mussa hails new driving licence
by Zainah Liwanda, 22 May 2006 - 06:58:52
Transport and Public Works Minister Henry Mussa last week said the design of the Malawi-Sadc driving licence would guard against forgery and ensure that only skilled and legitimate drivers of particular vehicles are licensed.
Mussa was speaking at the official launch of the licences in Lilongwe where he announced that traffic police would from July enforce speed limits and sober driving using Breathalysers which his ministry is in the process of procuring.
The minister said financial constraints are the reason for the delay in procuring the equipment but assured that by July they would be available.
"With the new equipment, the days of those who believe in the thrill of drink and driving are numbered," warned Mussa.
Mussa added that with the new licence, government is optimistic that the country's roads would be safe.
Acting Director of Road Traffic James Chirwa said the features that distinguish the new from the old licences are the Malawi national flag and a ghost image of the driver's photograph, among others.
Those with old licences, according to Chirwa, are expected to get the new ones after the expiry of the former.
UDF demands investigation on Kasambara
by Rabecca Theu, 22 May 2006 - 06:30:46
The United Democratic Front (UDF) has asked government to investigate Ralph Kasambara on allegations of abuse of office while he was attorney general.
UDF publicity secretary Sam Mpasu told the press Sunday that the party is neither amused or saddened by the removal of the former AG but asked government to institute investigations on Kasambara.
"Beyond the removal of the Attorney General, we now urge President Mutharika to institute investigation against Mr Kasambara into allegations that have made rounds in the public domain during the recent past. These include: Mrs Helen Singh and SS Rent-a-Car; SGS and ITS saga; ...........the use of Malawi Police Service in the arrest of three Chronicle journalists and the handling of Mrs Rubina Kawonga," said Mpasu.
Mpasu also accused Kasambara of awarding government contracts to Lawson and Company where he was a senior partner.
"We urge government to thoroughly investigate the former AG. We also ask government to cautiously select the new AG ," said Mpasu, who was accompanied by the party's Secretary General Kennedy Makwangwala, leader of the party in Parliament George Mtafu, chief whip Leonard Mangulama and a member of the executive Hophmally Makande.
But Minister of Information Patricia Kaliati said UDF should give offer its advice to the Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB).
"They should advise bodies like the Anti-Corruption Bureau to conduct the investigations and why are they saying this now? Is it because Kasambara has been fired? This is not a personal issue. If they have other pressing issues they should just say so. These arguments should have come up earlier on when the said cases were happening," she said.
Kasambara asked UDF to proceed with the mission of urging government to investigate him.
"They can do their job. Everyone has a right to lobby for anything they want in the country. UDF has a right to do that, let them go ahead," he said.
Kasambara was relieved of his duties as AG by the President last week. Government has not given reasons behind the removal.
Zambia: Malawians Grab Zambian Land
The Times of Zambia (Ndola)
May 18, 2006
Posted to the web May 19, 2006
MALAWIANS who have encroached on both the 'no-man's' and part of the Zambian land at the Mwami border in Eastern Province have plucked out some beacons that were used in the demarcation of the border.
The Malawians are now using the beacons as stools in their newly-established villages on Zambian land.
Eastern Province Minister, Boniface Nkhata, said in Chipata yesterday that if the situation was not controlled urgently, Zambia would lose huge tracts of land to Malawians migrating into Zambian in large numbers.
A check at the Zambia-Malawi border showed a number of beacons had been vandalised and new structures constructed on the 'no man's' land and a large portion of Zambian land.
Mr Nkhata said the trend extended to many parts of the province bordering the two countries.
"A large portion of Zambian land has been taken up by the Malawians starting from the Chama boundary up to the Mwami border.
"The weighbridge at the Mwami border was initially in Zambia from the time both countries gained independence from Britain, but now the bridge is on Malawian soil," Mr Nkhata said.
The minister, who is former Chama District Commissioner, said there was similar encroachment in Lundazi and Chama districts where Zambia shares a boundary with Malawi.
He said a Malawian farmer identified as Mr Mfune had cultivated 71.5 hectares on Zambian land and employed about 265 Malawian workers.
"Khombe Farm in Chama district in Kanyerere's area, along the Muyombe road which leads to Northern Province where this Malawian farmer has cultivated a vast land is on the Zambian territory," he said.
Workers on the farm admitted that they were farming on Zambian soil but could not go back to Malawi because the land in that country was inadequate for cultivation.
Mr Nkhata appealed to the ministry of Lands to urgently release money for the demarcation of the Zambia-Malawi border to avoid further land disputes between the two countries.
Meanwhile, the Immigration Department in Livingstone has arrested a couple and another man, all Zimbabweans, for working in Zambia without permits.
They were arrested at Gwembe village yesterday where they worked for Into Africa, a tour operating company that provides bush dinners and breakfast.
According to the Immigration Department in Livingstone, the trio entered Zambia through the Victoria Falls border as visitors but decided to work for the company illegally.
Last week, immigration officers arrested 10 Zimbabwean traders and six Ethiopians for entering and staying in Zambia illegally.
The Zimbabwean traders were warned and cautioned and later released.
The Ethiopians were arrested at Konje Guest House when they ran out of money to proceed to Botswana.
Zim unions, MDC still plan anti-govt protests
22 May 2006 11:51
Zimbabwe's biggest labour federation on Saturday threatened to call massive demonstrations against the government over poor salaries and worsening living conditions for workers in the country.
The threats are ratcheting up pressure against President Robert Mugabe's government after similar threats by the biggest opposition party in the country, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), about two months ago.
Speaking at the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) conference on Saturday, the labour body's president, Lovemore Matombo, said the powerful union wants the government to award workers salaries that match the country's ever-rising inflation.
"I can assure you we will stage massive demonstrations to force them [employers] to award workers minimum salaries that tally with the poverty datum line," said Matombo.
Matombo did not say when exactly the ZCTU would order workers to strike.
Meanwhile, the MDC on Sunday said it will push ahead with plans for anti-government protests, saying victory in a key by-election at the weekend was a "sign the electorate supported its policies", including democratic mass resistance.
A spokesperson of the main faction of the splintered MDC, Nelson Chamisa, said victory over Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF and a rival MDC faction in a Saturday by-election in Harare's Budiriro constituency is a sign Zimbabweans still have confidence in party leader Morgan Tsvangirai and his policies.
Tsvangirai, the founding leader of the MDC, heads the main rump of the opposition party whose candidate, Emmanuel Chisvuure, polled 7 949 votes to win the Budiriro House of Assembly seat.
Gabriel Chaibva of the other faction of the MDC, led by prominent academic Arthur Mutambara, garnered 504 votes while Zanu-PF's Jeremiah Bvirindi polled 3 961 votes.
"This election showed that the electorate still has confidence in the MDC [Tsvangirai-led] leadership and its policies," Chamisa told independent news service ZimOnline.
He added: "We will now move to consolidate our position * we still believe in mass protests. Until we have attained our goals we see no reason why we should abandon [plans for protests]."
Tsvangirai has threatened to call mass protests this winter against Mugabe and his government. He says the mass protests, whose date he is still to name, are meant to force Mugabe to relinquish power to a government of national unity to be tasked to write a new and democratic Constitution that would ensure free and fair elections held under international supervision.
Mugabe and his government, who had hoped for victory in Budiriro to show they were recapturing urban support from a splintered MDC, have not taken idly the opposition's threats to call mass protests, with the veteran president warning Tsvangirai he would be "dicing with death" if he ever attempted to instigate a Ukraine-style popular revolt in Zimbabwe.
In a fresh crackdown against dissension, the police last week arrested several church and civic leaders for organising public prayers and marches to mark last year's controversial home-demolition exercise by the government.
The police also banned the marches and prayers, fearing they could easily turn into mass protests against Mugabe and his government.
However, the marches went ahead in the second-largest city of Bulawayo after organisers had obtained a court order barring the police from stopping the march.
Political analysts say although Zimbabweans have largely been cowed by Mugabe's tactics of routinely deploying riot police and the military to crush street protests, worsening hunger and poverty are fanning public anger that Tsvangirai -- with proper planning and organisation -- could easily manipulate.
Zimbabwe is in the grip of a severe six-year old economic crisis that has seen inflation breaching the 1 000% barrier. Last year, the World Bank said Zimbabwe's economic crisis was unprecedented for a country not at war.
The MDC and major Western governments blame Mugabe for wrecking the country's economy, which was one of the strongest in Africa at independence from Britain 26 years ago.
Mugabe denies the charge blaming the crisis on sabotage by Britain and her allies after he seized white-owned farms for redistribution to landless blacks six years ago.
The Harare authorities recently hiked salaries for civil servants, with the lowest-paid soldier now earning about Z$27-million while the lowest-paid school teacher now takes home about Z$33-million.
But the salaries are still way below the poverty datum line, which the government's Consumer Council of Zimbabwe says now stands at a staggering Z$42-million a month for an average family of six.
The Zimbabwe government often accuses the ZCTU, a strong ally of the MDC, of pushing a political agenda to remove Mugabe from power.
Meanwhile, Matombo and Lucia Matibenga retained their posts as president and first vice-president respectively during the ZCTU congress that ended on Saturday. -- ZimOnline