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1492Malawi news

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  • Christine Chumbler
    Jul 3, 2000
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      Note: Since the elections have ended peacefully, I'll stop posting Zim bulletins. If things explode again, or if enough people ask, I'm willing to do them again. I just didn't want to clog people's in boxes.

      Taxes, Job Cuts in MALAWI'S Millenium Budget

      Lilongwe, Malawi (PANA) (Panafrican News Agency, June 30, 2000) -
      Malawi government Friday announced its budget for 2000-2001 introducing
      new taxes and promising a review of the civil service and state-run corporations
      to ensure economic growth.

      Presenting the budget proposals before parliament, finance and economic
      planning minister Mathews Chikaonda said it was high time Malawians
      contributed to the national budget.

      "We have introduced cost-sharing measures to reduce heavy government
      borrowing and overdependency on donors," he said.

      The former professor and central bank governor lashed out at policies that made
      government subsidise everything from education, health to passports.

      Government spent a lot of money in educating a secondary school and university
      student whose only contribution was less than a dollar in a year, he said.

      Effective from the new fiscal year, Chikaonda said, the Ministry of Education
      and the University Council should work out a realistic fee regime that would see
      students contributing significantly to their education.

      "We know education is a human right, but if students don't contribute, we will
      end up in poor dieting, poor learning environment and, therefore, poor academic
      perfomance in our schools and universities," he said.

      The minister, however, pointed out that with Malawi's endemic poverty several
      students would not afford to pay the new fees. He said government would set up
      bursaries for secondary school students and a loan scheme for tertiary

      On taxes, Chikaonda said surtax and duty on selected vehicles has been
      increased to between 25 and 50 percent. Surtax on cigarettes and alcohol too
      has been raised.

      "We are basically taxing luxury," he said jokingly.

      Meanwhile, the government has done away with the drought levy on fuel which
      consumer rights groups said led to increases in fuel prices. It has also increased
      the scale to which low-salaried employees will not be required to pay tax.

      Chikaonda lashed out at parastatals for poor performance. He singled out Air
      Malawi, Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi and Malawi
      Telecommunication Limited as state-run corporations which had bloated staff
      and lacked prudent management.

      "For instance, penetration of telephone services to customers is 0.4 percent, the
      lowest in the SADC region. In Malawi one can wait for 10 years before getting
      a telephone line," he said.

      As a cost-cutting measure, the minister said the public sector would be reviewed
      to streamline its services and lay off excess employees.

      The government fleet of vehicles will be cut by 25 percent and no ministry will be
      allowed to borrow money from the central bank without proper reason, he


      Voluntary 'Prisoners' Take Over A Deserted Jail

      Panafrican News Agency
      July 2, 2000
      by Raphael Tenthani

      BLANTYRE, Malawi (PANA) - At least 150 families have invaded a prison in the
      southernmost boarder district of Nsanje and turned it into a small village.

      Samuel Rogers, one of the new 'inmates', told journalists who visited the prison
      recently that the families encroached on the prison land due to an acute shortage
      of housing that has hit the district.

      "I have been staying here for two years now," he said.

      As one of his human rights reform strategies, soon after his United Democratic
      Front (UDF) took over power in 1994, President Bakili Muluzi ordered all prisons
      deemed unfit for human habitation by human rights organisations closed down.

      Nsanje Prison was one of the notorious torture chambers during the three decades
      of dictatorship under the late Hastings Kamuzu Banda and the former ruling Malawi
      Congress Party (MCP).

      Documented human rights violation reports say opponents of Banda and his
      cronies were sent to the gulag in hand and leg chains and tortured there.

      Some of them, according to the reports, were off- loaded into the nearby Shire
      River as "meat for crocodiles".

      Rogers said the 150 families that have occupied the now-desolate Nsanje Prison
      come from villages surrounding the prison. Among the voluntary 'inmates', he said,
      are civil servants.

      "Unfortunately, I came here late and found all the good houses for warders
      occupied. Since I was so desperate for a house, I just occupied a prison cell," he

      But there is a technical side of the occupation that may haunt the voluntary
      prisoners. Despite the executive decree closing down the prison, it is still
      technically under the Department of Prisons. It therefore falls under the protected
      areas section of the laws of Malawi.

      According to the laws, if one encroaches on protected land, he or she is liable to a
      fine of 1,000 pounds sterling (about 85,000 Malawi kwacha), a figure that over 85
      percent of Malawians can only dream about.

      Just as nobody is eager to evoke such a law, no official seems to know what to do
      with the former prison.

      According to Nsanje district assembly chief executive Charles Makanga, who
      admitted knowledge of the voluntary inmates, no instructions were issued about
      what to do with the institution after its closure.

      "The place was just closed and no other instructions were communicated to the
      assembly," he said.

      Even the prisons department is not sure whether the former jail is still under its

      Commissioner of Prisons Winston Manyela, said although records show the prison
      land is still under his department, he recalls verbal instructions to hand over the
      prison land to Nsanje district assembly.

      "It's up to government to decide what to do with the premises since it is
      government which closed the prison," he added.
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