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  • Christine Chumbler
    Jul 29, 2004
      Development-Malawi: Rapid Urbanisation Looks Irreversible

      Inter Press Service (Johannesburg)

      July 27, 2004
      Posted to the web July 27, 2004

      Frank Phiri
      Blantyre

      Every morning, residents of Malawi's sprawling commercial hub, Blantyre
      wake up to deafening noises as hundreds of thousands of people pour into
      the city to try to make a living.

      During peak hours, roads from townships leading to the city's main
      streets become clogged with traffic that range from minibuses, trucks,
      bicycles and a sea of pedestrians.

      Road accidents are common and vary from five to ten a day in the city,
      according to the police.

      Back in the 1980s, peak hours in Blantyre hardly resulted in traffic
      jams unless, of course, if the convoy of the late dictator Hastings
      Kamuzu Banda was passing-by and roads had to be cordoned off by order.

      Now Blantyre's landscapes are changing. The latest United Nations
      Centre for Human Settlement (UNCHS) study on urbanisation shows that the
      city of Blantyre and other trading centres in the northern and central
      regions of Malawi are becoming noisier, thanks to rapid urbanisation.

      The study, which was released this month, says Malawi, a tiny,
      landlocked and impoverished southern African nation of about 13 million
      has emerged as the fastest urbanising country in the world with an urban
      population growth of 6.3 percent, compared to 0.5 percent in rural
      areas.

      According to the study, three million people now live in urban areas
      compared to 260,000 in 1966, something which represents a 25-percent
      growth.

      The study, which has tipped Malawi to score highly in urbanisation in
      the next 15 years, concurs with an earlier study by the UK Department
      for International Development (DFID) that 44 percent, or more than 5
      million people would live in towns by 2015.

      It says three-quarters of Malawi's population lives in the main urban
      centres of Blantyre, Lilongwe, Mzuzu and Zomba.

      The findings of the two studies prompted Malawian authorities and civil
      society Tuesday to convene a meeting in the administrative capital,
      Lilongwe to debate how to meet the challenges of urbanisation in the
      next 15 years.

      The stakeholders, meeting under the theme "Malawi is World Champion in
      Urban Population Growth", admitted that urbanisation was the main
      contributing factor to land and housing shortages, congestion, squatter
      settlements, crime, HIV/AIDS infection and unemployment.

      Malawi's economy depends on agriculture and shortages of land have in
      recent years contributed to perennial food shortages, which refuse to
      ease. In 2002, the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation
      (FAO) and other aid agencies estimated that more than three million
      Malawians needed emergency food. This year, the agencies have projected
      that more than one million people will starve if food aid is not
      provided.

      Economists fear that the need to import the staple maize this year
      could cause depreciation of kwacha as the country's foreign exchange
      cover is low. Donors are withholding aid, citing fiscal indiscipline by
      Lilongwe.

      Apart from food insecurity, HIV/AIDS infection has emerged as the most
      appalling crisis to hit the urban areas. Malawi's HIV infection
      prevalence hovers at 14.7 percent, according to the latest UN Joint
      Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) report.

      Of the one million people infected, the Malawi National AIDs Commission
      (NAC) estimates that 25 percent, or 250,000, are in urban areas compared
      to 13 percent in the rural areas.

      The commission estimates that AIDS has created about 600,000 orphans.
      As a result, orphanages are now overwhelmed.

      "Most of the orphans end up on the streets as beggars and grow up into
      thugs," says Bertha Bonongwe of Chisomo Care Group, an orphanage at
      Ndala Village in the outskirts of Blantyre.

      City officials say urbanisation is also leading to squatter
      settlements, which cause congestion and sanitation breakdowns. According
      to UNCHS, 71 percent of residents in Blantyre live in squalid and
      unplanned settlements.

      City officials blame utility companies for providing installations in
      areas that are not fully developed.

      "Installations such as water and electricity in underdeveloped places
      attract people to go and settle in such areas," says Sophie Kalimba, the
      chief executive of Blantyre City Assembly.

      Masauko Ngwaluko, spokesperson for the Lilongwe Water Board, says
      vandalism of plastic water pipes has been on a steady increase in recent
      years. The pipes are used for making teapots and other domestic
      appliances, which are on high demand in the city.

      "We're losing about K650,000 (6,000 United States dollars) every month
      to repair vandalised installations," he says, adding that such
      disruptions were leading to failure by the board to provide
      uninterrupted services to residents.

      The country's sole power utility, the Electricity Supply Corporation of
      Malawi (Escom), is also feeling the pinch of urbanization. Its
      installations, such as transformers, are targeted by residents who
      extract the oil for unknown use, it says.

      Critics say Malawi has become poorer in the past 10 years of
      re-introducing multiparty democracy. Before 1994, Malawi had been a
      one-party state for more than 30 years under Banda. Over 65 percent of
      the population now lives below the poverty line of one dollar a day,
      according to the World Bank.

      In April, a study by Khwima Nthara, an economist with Deloitte and
      Touche firm revealed that Malawi's Gross National Income - that is
      earned by individuals in a country - has fallen from 220 dollars in 1997
      to 160 dollars now.

      Economists and UN agencies believe poverty is the main driving force
      behind the rural-urban migration in Malawi. "The influx of people from
      rural areas is directly linked to increasingly harsh conditions many
      families are facing in outlying areas of Malawi," says the UNCHS study.

      To address the problems faced by the urban poor, the Secondary Centres
      Development Project (SCDP) - a German funded project - is servicing
      unplanned housing sites with access to clean water, drainages, roads and
      processing land ownership certificates.

      Charles Mkula, the projects' communication officer, says SCDP has
      processed 8,900 title deeds for the poorest households in urban areas.

      "Due to urbanisation, poverty is increasing in urban households with
      homeless migrants living in slums not fit for human habitation," Mkula
      told IPS.

      Like it or hate it, rapid urbanisation looks irreversible in Malawi.

      "Evidence shows urbanisation cannot be stopped whether by law, policy
      or development projects targeting the poor. The best thing to do would
      be to let public investment follow the people," argues Mtafu Zeleza
      Manda of the Malawi Institute of Physical Planners (MIPP), which pools
      the country's engineers, architects, and planners.

      *****

      Malawi clerics caught canoodling

      By Raphael Tenthani
      BBC correspondent in Blantyre

      A Catholic priest and nun have been arrested in Malawi for making love
      in an airport car park.
      The 43-year-old priest and 26-year-old nun were caught "in the act" in
      a tinted saloon car parked at Lilongwe International Airport.

      "It was a bizarre spectacle, the public alerted airport police after
      noticing the car shaking in a funny way," police spokesman Kelvin Maigwa
      told the BBC.

      The pair is due before a magistrate in the capital, Lilongwe, on
      Thursday.

      Abandoning pastoral duties

      When the police arrived, catching them in the act, the two were
      promptly arrested and charged with indecent behaviour in a public place,
      Mr Maigwa said.

      They were detained overnight at a police station near the airport.

      The charge is a misdemeanour and, if convicted, the pair may get away
      with a small fine.

      The two were first noticed by eye-witnesses as they parked the car and
      wound up the tinted windows.

      "We thought they could be rushing for a plane that was about to take
      off but we were surprised that they never got out of the car," said a
      taxi driver.

      After being arrested, the nun was allowed to put on her habit, Mr
      Maigwa said.

      The priest was dressed in civilian clothes, he said.


      *****

      Zambia cracks down on hackers

      Dickson Jere | Lusaka, Zambia

      29 July 2004 13:58


      Zambia's government is to present a tough Bill on cyber crime to
      Parliament on Friday that will see convicted hackers and other offenders
      face harsh sentences ranging from 15 to 25 years in jail.

      The Computer Misuse and Crimes Bill enjoys strong backing from bankers
      and the Computer Society of Zambia, a group of professionals promoting
      computer use, who say hacking into dormant accounts has become a problem
      in this poor Southern African country.

      "We feel this law will help to deal with the increasing number of
      electronic frauds and hacking especially in the financial sector," said
      Milner Makuni, president of the Computer Society of Zambia.

      The most famous cyber offence in Zambia was committed by a young
      computer wizard who hacked the State House website and replaced the
      picture of then president Frederick Chiluba with a cartoon.

      He was arrested and charged with defaming the head of state but the
      case failed to succeed because there was no law in Zambia that deals
      with cyber crimes.

      "The Bill, once passed, will help to deal with high-tech cyber crimes
      that our current legal system cannot address," said Bob Samakai, a
      Ministry of Communication permanent secretary.

      But some cyber experts worry that the measure is likely to be abused by
      the authorities to curb access to the internet.

      "It is difficult to regulate the use of computers and internet because
      we are dealing with a world wide web," said Brenda Zulu, a renowned
      cyber journalist who specialises in online reporting.

      She said the country should first develop a policy on information
      communication technology (ICT) before rushing to enact legislation on
      computers.

      Currently, the Zambian government is seeking public input in its draft
      ICT policy, which is yet to be adopted.

      "This law is very vague and not necessary for Zambia at the moment,"
      said Lloyd Himambo, an editor of Zambia's online newspaper The
      Watchdog.

      He said regulating the use of computers will be a difficult undertaking
      and wondered how such a law will be enforced in Zambia, a country where
      computers are a preserve of the rich.

      About one in 1 000 Zambians owns a computer, according to unofficial
      estimates.

      The Computer Society of Zambia agrees that enforcing such a law will be
      difficult, but pledged to help train police officers to understand cyber
      crimes.

      "I think what people should be fighting for is to upgrade their
      security features on their websites to deal with hacking but not to
      criminalise it," said Zulu, adding that hacking a site can be done
      outside Zambia, making it difficult to track the offenders.

      A senior Zambian lawyer who has studied the Bill said it is an "import
      of the British Act" and lacks local input.

      "I think this law is very advanced for the Zambian society and
      government should not rush it through Parliament before reaching
      consensus," he said, on condition of anonymity. -- Sapa-AFP
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