- Jul 3, 2000Note: 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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