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  • Christine Chumbler
    Apr 21, 2006
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      Chitipa MPs anger Mutharika
      by Edwin Nyirongo, 21 April 2006 - 07:17:40
      President Bingu wa Mutharika on Tuesday got angry with Chitipa MPs during a Democratic People's Party (DPP) caucus, accusing them of not doing enough to explain government's position on the controversial Karonga-Chitipa Road, inside sources and government have confirmed.
      According to an MP from Chitipa, it all started when newly-elected Member of Parliament for Chitipa Wenya Francis Mkwala told the President that they (the MPs) were receiving a lot of calls from the district over the road.
      "He told the President that much as the MPs do trust him (the President), they were getting calls from the district over the road and that the people wanted an explanation on it," said the MP who attended the caucus.
      He said the President angrily told the MPs that they should be the first to understand the situation regarding the road and explain issues to the people accordingly, according to the source.
      Mutharika reportedly also accused the people of Chitipa of not being patient when many places in the country do not have good roads.
      Bingu is reported to have said that there are so many roads that have not been started like the Thyolo-Bangula Road, the Tsangano-Neno Road, the Jali-Chitakale Road, the Jenda and Embangweni Road, but government is not receiving pressure like the one coming from Chitipa.
      Another MP said Bingu then told the caucus he would not be moved by threats or pressure to construct the road, saying he has already planned that construction of the road would start in July.
      Our source also said Bingu commented on Tuesday's story in The Nation where people of Chitipa wanted their MPs to dump the DPP over the issue.
      The MP said the President Mutharika said anyone who wants to leave the party is free to do so.
      "The policy of the DPP is that anyone who wants to join can join and those who want to leave can do so. But that will not stop me from constructing
      roads anywhere in the country," he reportedly said.
      In an interview, Mkwala admitted he raised the matter, saying he wanted assurance from the President after getting calls from Chitipa.
      "But that does not mean that I don't have trust in the President," said Mkwala.
      He also said he wanted the Minister of Transport and Public Works Henry Mussa to ensure that the road gets the attention it deserves, saying he hopes contractual difficulties will be resolved as soon possible to avoid unnecessary tension in the district.
      Information Minister Patricia Kaliati confirmed that the caucus took place and that the matter was raised.
      "The President said he was going to build the road based on his programme and not political pressure," she said.
      But Kaliati accused the opposition of deliberately misrepresenting facts on the road.
      She said the President did not say that once the ground-breaking ceremony was done then the road would start the same time.
      Asked how the road could be built in July when the ADB has not yet decided on government's decision to change a contractor, Kaliati said the construction would still start during that month regardless of the issue.

      *****

      Kachimbwinda briefly arrested
      by George Ntonya, 21 April 2006 - 08:09:01
      UDF National Organising Secretary Maurice Kachimbwinda and two regional party leaders on Thursday spent about two hours at the Central Region Police headquarters for questioning because some people reported that they were inciting vendors not to vacate the streets.
      In an interview soon after his release, Kachimbwinda said that he, UDF Central Region Governor John Banda and District Governor William Ching'amba were ordered to surrender themselves to Police following a political meeting they jointly addressed at Tsabango Community Secondary School ground on April 16, 2006.
      "Some people reported that we told the rally that vendors should object to government decision for them to leave the streets," said Kachimbwinda, known at the height of the UDF rule as Ninja. "We never said this."
      He said that they obliged with a letter from the Commissioner of Police in the region to surrender themselves because "we knew we had done nothing wrong."
      The three were released around 11am after the police recorded their statements.
      Between Tuesday, when the government enforced its order to have all vendors out of the streets and the time of Kachimbwinda's release, Lilongwe police arrested a total of 18 vendors in the city.
      Central Region police spokesperson Moyenda Chitimbe said that of the 18, eight were charged with unlawful assembly while six faced a charge of conduct likely to cause breach of peace.
      "Four of them have been charged with inciting violence by blocking roads. Some of them have already appeared in court," said Chitimbe, adding that police officers were on a round-the-clock patrol to ensure that disgruntled vendors do not take the law into their hands.
      Reports indicate that over 40 vendors have been arrested countrywide since Tuesday.
      Local Government Minister George Chaponda said in an earlier interview that the government will not be lenient with any vendor who disregards the order to move to flea markets and other designated areas.

      *****

      3 UDF officials arrested for insulting Mutharika
      by Olivia Kumwenda, 21 April 2006 - 07:22:08
      Police in Balaka on Saturday arrested three United Democratic Front (UDF) officials for allegedly insulting President Bingu wa Mutharika.
      The three include the District Governor for Balaka Anafi Juma, District Deputy Organising Secretary Joseph Chinong'one and District Campaign Director Roy Mbewe.
      Balaka police spokesperson Chirungamo Ligomeka on Thursday said the suspects allegedly insulted Mutharika during a rally they addressed at Mdala Village in the area of Sub Chief Amidu and after the meeting as they were going home.
      "During the meeting and on their way to the village, the three [insulted] the State President...They were...in a UDF vehicle registration number BM 6060 carrying a megaphone," alleged Ligomeka.
      He said the three were taken to Eastern Region Police Headquarters in Zomba for security purposes as a group of UDF supporters gathered at the police station after the arrest, arguing that it was politically motivated.
      Eastern Region Police spokesperson Nicholas Gondwa on Thursday said the three appeared before court on Wednesday where bail was denied and they were sent on remand to Zomba Maximum Security Prison.
      Juma, 47, hails from Nunga Village, T/A Nsamala in Balaka; Chinong'one, 56, is from Sosola Village, T/A Nsamala, Balaka and Mbewe, 58, hails from Mponda Village, T/A Nsamala in Balaka.
      The three, according to Ligomeka, are likely to be charged with the offence of using insulting language which is contrary to Section 182 of the Penal Code.
      Insulting the President is also an offence in the country as it contradicts Section 4 of the Protected Flags, Names and Emblems Act.
      UDF spokesperson Sam Mpasu described the arrests as ridiculous, saying: "They are using the law to victimise UDF. Every time we speak it's treason, sedition, the UDF is in trouble, the press is in trouble, they are making a mockery of the new Constitution which guarantees freedom of expression."
      Last year former Republican Party (RP) President Gwanda Chakuamba was also arrested for allegedly insulting Mutharika during a rally in Ndirande, Blantyre, and was charged with an offence of insulting the State President contrary to Section 4 of the Protected Flags, Names and Emblems.
      The case was, however, referred to the Constitutional Court to determine the constitutionality of the charge following an application by Chakuamba's lawyer Viva Nyimba who argued the charge his client is facing is inconsistent with the Constitution of Malawi.
      Nyimba said Thursday the Constitutional Court is yet to set a date for the case.

      *****

      Opposition disrespecting Bingu*Govt
      by Juliet Chimwaga, 21 April 2006 - 07:19:54
      Government on Thursday accused some opposition Members of Parliament (MPs) of disrespecting President Bingu wa Mutharika when MP for Mangochi North Ibrahim Matola (UDF) sarcastically identified the President as 'Chitsulo cha Njanji'.
      The MP was accusing the President of failing to construct the Malindi-Makanjira Road in Mangochi and the Karonga-Chitipa Road.
      Matola asked the Minister of Transport and Public Works Henry Mussa to "explain what happened with the money that was said to have been diverted from the Karonga-Chitipa Road to the Malindi-Makanjira Road because the road was not constructed up to now".
      He added: "And yet the 'Chitsulo cha Njanji' himself said the road was completed. I would ask for a commission of inquiry to probe into the issue because the road was not constructed or if it is another road that is not in Malawi."
      But Minister of Agriculture Uladi Mussa, who stood on a point of order, cautioned Matola, saying: "I think the Head of State must be given his due respect." Mussa said it was out of order for any MP to mention the President without adding the title "His Excellency."
      Matola immediately interrupted and said: "Okay, I will say it, His Excellency Dr Bingu wa Mutharika Chitsulo cha Njanji." But this did not please the front bench either.
      Meanwhile, Mulanje Central MP Brown Mpinganjira said Matola's calling of the President Chitsulo cha Njanji was respectful.
      "And elsewhere in the world it is enough to call the president, Mr. President, and that is enough respect. Therefore, the government should not try to re-write rules," said Mpinganjira.
      On the road, the Public Works Minister said: "I also want to clarify the issue of diversion of money for the road in question; that it was done in the previous government and is not the current government. But if you want the matter to be probed you can go ahead with the issue through the ACB.

      *****

      ADB rejects govt contractor on Karonga-Chitipa Road
      by Mabvuto Banda, 21 April 2006 - 07:19:02
      The African Development Bank (ADB), the main financier of the Karonga-Chitipa Road, has rejected Malawi Government's request to swap contractors for the project..
      The bank has since asked government to award the tender to a mainland China company*China Hunan Construction*which won the contract last December.
      But Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe on Thursday said that he has appealed against the ADB's decision.
      "It is true that they have advised us to go ahead with the cheapest bidder, but I have appealed against the unrealism of the cost estimates of that company [China Hunan] and they said they were going to come back to me," Gondwe said.
      China Hunan Construction won the tender to construct the Karonga-Chitipa Road and was endorsed by the ADB last year.
      But government decided to change to another Portuguese firm--Mota--Engil,--the second lowest bidder--and wrote a letter to the bank's President Donald Kaberuka, asking for permission.
      Government sources said on Thursday that the bank was disappointed with Malawi.
      "They [the ADB] complained that they were surprised that Malawi was behaving like western African countries that usually like changing contractors," said an impeccable source.
      But Gondwe on Thursday insisted that there are people within the bank and even a UK consultant who support the decision taken by the Malawi Government.
      "There are some people within the ADB who agree with me*You can't have an under-estimation of close to 75 percent to do the job, that's substantial," Gondwe said.
      "Why should I hide the fact that it is true that the mainland China company won the tender? What we are saying [is that] the cost is too low even the UK consultant who [is] supposed to be looking at both our interests and the ADB's agrees*There must be somebody within the ADB who is interested in Mainland China," Gondwe claimed.
      The Nation failed to talk to Mr. Lawrence Kigundu, the ADB Taskforce Manager for the Malawi project in Tunisia as his phone went unanswered
      The ADB has shareholders of 53 African nations and 24 western donor countries from around the world.
      The bank lends commercially to Africa's richest nations like South Africa and allocates loans at concessionary rates to poor ones from its African Development Fund, financed largely by Western donors.
      This decision by the Bank may increase fears that government may fail to construct the road this year as promised.
      People of Chitipa and Karonga have already been angered by the delay and have asked President Bingu wa Muthatika to probe why and how government decided to change the contractor.
      With the heavy rains, the 108 km stretch has already been rendered impassable.
      ADB initially gave government US$17 million in the year 2,000 and the Republic of China pumped in US$15 million.
      But the former government failed after it diverted the funds to another road project.

      *****

      Katsonga not happy with disaster preparedness
      by Edwin Nyirongo, 21 April 2006 - 07:24:45
      People's Progressive Party (PPM) vice president Mark Katsonga Phiri has called on the Department of Relief and Disaster Preparedness provide emergency requirements on time.
      Katsonga said this at Tukombo in Nkhata Bay South after visiting places affected by disaster in Nkhata Bay South and South West constituencies, where he donated K10,000 to the victims.
      "When disaster strikes, relief officials do not come in time. Instead, they ask for reports while people are dying of hunger. They should
      change their approach," he said.
      Katsonga said when Karonga was affected by floods that resulted from heavy rains, it took the department weeks to bring assistance. He said the same happened to his Neno Constituency where the officials took over a month before going to assess the situation.
      "Why should they wait for information from other people? They are supposed to be on the move when they hear news of a disaster and not wait for written reports which take time to reach the authorities," he said.
      The PPM veep expressed dismay over the destruction of houses and property he saw in the area and assured the people that he would report to the
      authorities for prompt action.
      But Relief and Disater Preparedness chief Dr Meria Nowa Phiri blamed delays in communication and impassable roads for late action. She however said relief is sometimes sent even before the assessment report is not complied.
      Chief Fukamapiri of Nkhata Bay said the four-day rains that fell in the area caused a lot of damage to crops such as maize, rice, cassava and cotton as well as household property.
      Fukamapiri called on government to provide the victims with food and tents for shelter. He also requested seeds for winter cropping.
      According to an interim assessment report released recently, 402.2 hectares of land, and 5,205 families have been affected in traditional authorities
      Zilakoma, Malengamzoma and Fukamapiri.
      Crops such as cassava, maize, rice, sweet potatoes and fishing nets have also been destroyed.

      *****

      Presidential succession plan in Zim collapses

      Dumisani Muleya

      21 April 2006 11:38

      Zimbabwe ruling party Zanu-PF's plan to amend the Constitution to delay the 2008 presidential election until 2010 to facilitate Vice-President Joice Mujuru's succession to President Mugabe appears to have collapsed in acrimony after its designated architect, justice minister Patrick Chinamasa, confirmed it is no longer on the cards.

      This came amid reports yesterday that Chinamasa, who is still viewed with suspicion by those linked to the Zanu-PF faction led by retired army commander general Solomon Mujuru because of the 2004 Tsholotsho power struggle, was facing a backlash over the issue by those who think he might have torpedoed their plan.

      Sources said the strategy was to introduce a constitutional amendment delaying the 2008 presidential election to 2010 to assist Mujuru in her bid to become president. The plan would ensure President Robert Mugabe goes in 2008 and Mujuru takes over as an interim president, elected by a two-thirds majority of both houses of Parliament, between 2008 and 2010.

      Mujuru was expected to become the Zanu-PF leader when Mugabe steps down during the 2009 party congress. In 2010 she would then become the party candidate in the presidential poll.

      Sources said Chinamasa's adversaries were planning to arraign him over an unclear case of alleged interference in due process, regarding a sensitive political-violence case that was recently in the courts, as retribution for his perceived failure to manage the succession plan. Chinamasa, who was linked with a camp led by Emmerson Mnangagwa, yesterday said he was not aware of any manoeuvres to arrest or summon him to court.

      "Certainly, I don't know what is going on about that. I wish I knew," he said. Efforts to get comment from the attorney general's office failed as everyone ducked the issue.

      While the ruling party was known by insiders to be working on the plan to smooth the way for Mugabe's problematic succession plan and facilitate Mujuru's entry, Chinamasa said the item was not on the agenda.

      "The 18th amendment is about the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission and that is what is coming because it has been approved by the party and Cabinet," Chinamasa said. "I'm not aware of the other issues to do with harmonisation of elections. There was never any consideration to make that part of this amendment.

      "As you will recall, I only raised the issue for brainstorming and debate. It was never considered by the party at any time and I hope the party will come to it sometime and clarify issues."

      Although Chinamasa said Zanu-PF did not table the issue, well-placed ruling party sources insisted the plan was initially the main reason for the expected amendment, not the proposed Human Rights Commission, which is an afterthought to save the already announced amendment.

      "The election postponement, with a succession-handling mechanism, was initially part of the 18th amendment agenda but was dropped for specific reasons," a source said. "Apart from the fact that the issue had already been made public by the press before the politburo and Cabinet discussed it, it had no sufficient support inside and outside Zanu-PF."

      It is understood Zanu-PF MPs linked to the Mnangagwa camp wanted to block the plan in Parliament. Opposition parties and civil society groups, as well as the international community, also wanted to build resistance to it.

      Sources said after last year's general election, Mugabe tasked Chinamasa to look into the issue when he was working on the 17th amendment, which dealt with the Senate and land acquisition matters. However, the election issue was not supposed to be publicised. When Chinamasa, said the sources, reported on progress in his assignment to the politburo in May last year, he was told to leave the succession issue which was earmarked to be tackled in the 18th amendment.

      On May 27 last year, Chinamasa presented a memorandum to the Zanu-PF central committee that dealt with the proposed 17th amendment. In the process he said another amendment was coming.

      "Further and above the constitutional proposal referred to above, I wish to alert the central committee to the fact that during the course of the sixth Parliament of Zimbabwe I intend to bring further comprehensive constitutional proposals to address, in a holistic manner, the constitutional changes that we need to put in place to take effect from 2010," Chinamasa said.

      He also said the senate -- which was part of transitional and succession management mechanisms -- would last from 2005 to 2010. Sources said the idea was to manage Mugabe's volatile succession and Mujuru's takeover. But mounting opposition appears to have scuttled it, at least for the time being. -- Zimbabwe Independent
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