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  • Christine Chumbler
    Apr 28, 2006
      Malawi: Country Chosen for Malaria Clinical Trials

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      April 27, 2006
      Posted to the web April 27, 2006

      Gregory Gondwe

      Malawi has been chosen as one of nine African countries to benefit from the $17 Million Gates Foundation Grant for Malaria Clinical Trials, The Chronicle has learnt.

      Malaria attacks between one and two million people annually worldwide and 2,000 African children every day.

      This means Malawi will now enjoy provisions of training and technical assistance through a research centre that will be established.

      The international INDEPTH Network, the body carrying out the programme in all nine countries announced the establishment of the new initiative, the Malaria Clinical Trials Alliance (MCTA), which will help conduct clinical trials of new drugs and vaccines to fight malaria.

      The research would enable Malawi institutions together with the other African institutions and scholars to participate fully in the development of new tools for addressing malaria and in conducting interventions against malaria, and will create a long-term partnership between African and Northern institutions.

      In a statement released today INDEPTH Network said the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Grant will help to leverage the capabilities of the network to strengthen global research and development activities targeting malaria. "New malaria drugs and a vaccine are urgently needed in Africa, where malaria has grown resistant to the cheapest and most widely-used treatments. As several promising new drugs and vaccines move through the research pipeline, there is a need to build African capacity to conduct large-scale clinical trials of these drugs and vaccines over the next decade," the statement said.

      Malawi along side other countries like Mozambique, Tanzania, Gabon, Nigeria, Ghana, The Gambia, Kenya and Senegal falls in sub-Saharan Africa region where the world's 75-90% of malaria cases are found.

      The statement said the research could explore on better approach to the disease as it is rampant in these countries due its climactic conditions change observing that the warming and flooding occurring in the region are favorable to the spread of the main tropical mosquito species that principally transmits malaria.

      MCTA will help ensure the Malawi site and other that African trial sites are properly managed besides ensuring that they are able to hire and train staff; and have database, communications and good financial accounting systems in place.

      It will also facilitate collaboration among trial sites, including sharing of data, expertise and best practices.

      Professor Fred Binka, Executive Director of the INDEPTH Network, disclosed that important progress is being made in developing new malaria drugs and vaccines, but there are not enough research sites in Africa to conduct the trials that are needed. "The funding that we have received from the Gates Foundation, which is one of the most significant grants to an Africa-based organization involved in the fight against malaria, will help accelerate research that could save millions of lives," he said He said MCTA's initial focus would be to work with the Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV) and the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative to prepare sites for large-scale clinical trials of malaria drug and vaccine candidates.

      He said In the future, this alliance would seek to partner with other organizations that have candidate products that require clinical testing.


      Malawi: Union Demands Constitutional Favours for HIV Aids Workers

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      April 27, 2006
      Posted to the web April 27, 2006

      Gregory Gondwe

      The Malawi Congress of Trade Unions (MCTU) has recommended that the country's Constitution currently under review be amended in sections that deal with labour laws to include labour conditions and practices that would be favourable to people infected and affected with HIV and AIDS. "There are a number of omissions in the constitutional provisions significant in terms of international labour standards," says the Trade Unions umbrella body in its written submissions to the Malawi Law Commission.

      It observed that although Section 20 of the Malawi Constitution prohibits discrimination of persons in any form including race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, nationality, ethnic or social origin, disability, property, birth or other status, it leaves out those faced with the calamity of the HIV and AIDS pandemic. "Although the principles of the national policy identify key areas from which rights could be drawn, some obvious rights have not been secured in the 'Bills of Rights. Most notable is the principle of affirmative action, important in terms of gender equality and disabled persons," read the MCTU submissions in part.

      It said the provision in Section 31 subsection 3 of the Constitution which provide for 'equal pay for work of equal value' should give an exemption on HIVAIDS status and since this section deals with fair labour practices and equal remuneration for work of equal value it then must be amended to spare people with HIV/AIDS. "This is so to remove the facts that may surround the productivity aspects of an HIV and AIDS infected and affected person(s) in the world of work," it says.

      MCTU advocates that the Constitution must specifically highlight HIV/AIDS as an issue in employment, and provide for more emphatic prohibition of discrimination against employees living with HIV/AIDS and that this should be included in section 20 (1) where it prohibits the non-discrimination on the basis of special grounds.


      Malawi: Survey Reveals MPs Incompetence

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      April 27, 2006
      Posted to the web April 27, 2006

      Kondwani Magombo

      The baseline survey conducted by the Episcopal Conference of Malawi (ECM) in nine constituencies in six districts across the country to assess the levels of interaction between the legislatures and their constituents has revealed that most MPs neither consult their constituents nor give them feed back on Parliamentary proceedings.

      The targeted constituents included, Zomba Central, Zomba Chingale, Zomba Malosa, Thyolo Central, Thyolo Central, Blantyre South East, Rumphi Central, Mzimba Solola and Nkhatabay Lukalazi.

      The survey report presented to the concerned parliamentarians last Wednesday in Lilongwe, indicated over 80% and over 82% respondents from the targeted constituents indicated no consultation and no feedback from their Members of parliament. "These are findings from nine constituencies selected for the survey, however, it could be possible to imagine that some findings are cutting across most of the constituencies in Malawi," said Chris Chisoni of Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) through which ECM conducted the survey.

      Commenting on the report, Zomba Central constituency MP Yunus Mussa said he would take the report seriously and do some thing about it. "As a matter of fact I consult my constituents and give them feedback every time I go to Parliament. However, since the remarks are coming from the people who elected me I will take it seriously and start from there," said Mussa.

      The ECM Baseline report also indicated that there is little or no mechanism put in place through which the peoples' issues can be presented in Parliament because their MPs do not live in their constituencies.

      On how the constituents get information on Parliament proceedings, the report indicated that 96% of the respondents in the targeted constituencies chose for radio as the best medium, an observation that made the Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Esther Mcheka Chilenje stand in support of live coverage of the august House's proceedings as requested by Zodiak Radio. "With such contents of the report I now see the need for live coverage of the deliberations in the house. It is my hope that the concerned committee approves of the idea not only for radio coverage but even Malawi Television," she said.

      In his remarks ECM Secretary General, Fr. Joseph Mpinganjira said the church's interest is not the acquisition and control of political power but he said their interest is on prevalence of political love.

      Mpinganjira, therefore, urged the legislatures to recognise and accept the church's interventions. "When the church intervened in the early nineties politicians dubbed us "comrades" .


      Malawi: K200m Lost in in Terminated Contracts

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      April 27, 2006
      Posted to the web April 27, 2006


      The Bingu wa Mutharika administration has reportedly lost close to K200 million in less than 2 years due to presidential directives to prematurely terminate contracts of many top government officials, The Chronicle has learnt.

      Sources said that the 18 principal secretaries, the former chief of staff for state residences who was also President Bingu wa Mutharika's former right-hand man and confidante Ken Zikhale Ng'oma, the former commander of the Armed Forces Joseph Chimbayo and the former Inspector General of Police Joseph Aironi are some of the top government officials who have been paid monies ranging from K5m to K8m each because their contracts were terminated prematurely. "When the contract of Ken Zikhale Ng'oma who was the Chief of Staff for State Residences was prematurely terminated, he took home a cool K8 million," said the source.

      When contacted, Zikhale switched off his cell phone when the reporter introduced himself as a Chronicle journalist. Last year he vowed not to talk to any reporter from this newspaper, alleging that it misquoted him and has an agenda of destroying him politically, an assertion dismissed by the paper's Editor-in-Chief Robert Jamieson as untrue.

      The Mutharika government has so far terminated the contracts of the Director of Public Prosecution Fahad Assani who was later assigned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and some top government officials deemed to be loyal to former president Bakili Muluzi and his United Democratic Front (UDF).

      Unconfirmed reports indicate that jobs for State House Press Officer Chikumbutso Mtumodzi, Press Secretary in the Office of the President and Cabinet Mike Kamwendo and Chief of Staff for State Residences Charles Namondwe are on the line. Namondwe is expected to replace Ben Sande in the United States of America.

      Should government go ahead in terminating the services of the two and relocating Namondwe, taxpayers will be expected to dig deep into their pockets to pay for the termination of contracts of the officials, this at a time when the quality of social services in the country continues to decline.

      When contacted, Treasury feigned ignorance on the issue, saying the Human Resource Management and Development in the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) was well placed to give out the information.

      Secretary to Treasury Radson Mwadiwa said: "Loss of money through termination of contracts depends on what the terms in that particular contract states and Principal Secretary of Human Resource and Development is well placed to tell you how these things operate." He cited an example of the firing of former Inspector General of Police Mary Nangwale as Presidential Advisor on Security, clarifying that her contract had expired and therefore government is under no obligation to pay her terminal benefits.

      Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe said it is not true that government is losing millions through the often unexplained, early termination of contracts.

      When asked, he indicated that the former Chief Secretary for the Civil Service Charles Matabwa's contract is still intact because what the government did was to transfer him from one department to another.

      On Zikhale, Gondwe insisted that government has not paid him any money, saying the former vocal and powerful chief of staff was working on a month-to-month basis.

      Gondwe also dismissed as untrue that the government paid money to the 18 principal secretaries and other top government officials when their contracts were terminated prematurely only saying the money used to pay the officials was sourced from donors.

      When contacted, Human Resource Management and Development principal secretary Sam Madula said his office does not deal with contracts of people and referred the reporter to the Chief Secretary Bright Msaka or the Accountant General.

      Msaka could not be reached for comment but officials in the accountant general's office said it was difficult to calculate at once how much the government lost and is losing due to the frequent premature cancellation of contracts.

      Opposition politicians have meanwhile asked government to take extreme care when terminating contracts, saying the large sums of money used punitive payments to premature termination of contracts could have been better used in a social sector that is becoming more and more debilitated.

      They challenged government's continuedbad decisions on awarding contracts and promise to take the Mutharika government head on in parliament over the issue.


      Malawi: Malawi Forms NGO to Control Firearms

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      April 27, 2006
      Posted to the web April 27, 2006

      Gregory Gondwe

      Progress towards full establishment of a body will control the proliferation of illicit trafficking of small arms and light weapons, the Malawi National Focal Point (MNFP), has been intensified following a meeting between government and civil society officials recently in Lilongwe.

      Acting Inspector General of Malawi Police Service Often Thyolani said at the meeting the establishment of the MNFP is coming at the right time when countries in Eastern and Southern Africa are gravely affected by the problem.

      He said although Malawi is not seriously affected by small arms compared to their countries in the region, problems in Malawi appear to be increasing and Malawi cannot afford to sit by and watch as the problem escalates.

      He observed that there are a growing number of armed robberies, car hijackings and other incidents of crimes which can undermine the safety and security of this country. "The availability and spread of these weapons is one of the main factors undermining development and fuelling conflict, crime and human rights abuses," he said.

      He said this is why the Government of Malawi has played a central role in supporting and developing international and regional instruments or agreements on small arms and that these include the UN Programme of Action, the UN Firearm Protocol, the Bamako Declaration and the SADC Protocol, which was signed in Malawi Blantyre in August 2001. "Malawi's roles in developing these agreements that have been ratified are to see that they are effectively implemented," he said.

      He said since 2001, national efforts to control small arms in the region have focused on effectively implementing these agreements, including the establishment of NFPs. "You may further agree that Malawi has not been spared from the impacts of the serious global security problems of the 21st Century with majority emanating from small arms trafficking," he said. "This is why there is need for collective action to strengthen and revitalise all dimensions of collective security," he added.

      He added that the Government of Malawi recognises that it has committed to the establishment of NFP through the regional and international agreements that it has signed, and that is the first concrete step towards dealing with small arms.

      Oliver Chilemba, Board Member of the Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR), a civil society organisation which organised the meeting in collaboration with the Malawi Police and Safeworld said the meeting was a follow up to a similar workshop the three partners organised in November 2005.

      He said meeting which finally endorsed the functioning of an inter-departmental committee included members from the civil society, known as the National Focal Point, to co-ordinate actions on small arms.


      Malawi: Family Planning Body Targets Sex Workers

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      April 27, 2006
      Posted to the web April 27, 2006

      Happy Saka

      The Family Planning Association of Malawi (FPAM) has jostled non-governmental organisations in the country, more especially those that tackle issues of HIV/AIDS awareness to provide special programmes for commercial sex workers.

      Family Planning Association of Malawi (FPAM) programmes coordinator, Mathias Chatuluka said in an interview recently that NGO's should avoid sidelining the commercial sex workers on issues of HIVA/AIDS because, he said, they are part of the society.

      He said people should not take commercial sex workers as the lost group in the society. "Most of non-governmental organisations have no interest to introduce new programmes that would assist commercials sex workers to have access to information in different issues, including issues of HIV/AIDS. "Commercial sex workers are part of the society. It's high time we included them in our activities so that they should be well informed on issues of HIV/AIDS and protect them selves when they are having sex," he said.

      He said it would be proper for NGOs to provide information on HIV/AIDS to the commercial sex workers in the country as a way of reducing the spread of sexually transmitted infections and HIV/AIDS. "The major problem is that most of nasty things like unprotected sex always occur in some drinking joints. It is therefore good to sensitise commercial sex workers on HIV/AIDS issues because most of the prostitutes are also found in this drinking joints. "If these commercial sex workers are well equipped on the dangers of unprotected sex, they will be able to tell their clients to use condoms whenever they are having sex. In so doing, we can reduce the spread of sexually transmitted diseases including HIV/AIDS and serve lives of many people," he said.

      He said his organisation has already started a programme that is only targeting commercial sex workers.

      He said his organisation has so far trained DJs from different night entertainment centres in Lilongwe to take part in disseminating information on HIV/AIDS awareness. "We have trained DJs from Chez Ntemba, casino and many others; more especially famous pubs that always attract more people, on how they can disseminate HIV/AIDS information through music. "We also gave the DJs HIV/AIDS jingles so that whenever they are playing the music, they should remember to play the jingles and we have been also distributing condoms to prostitutes during our disco shows and the response has been good," he said.

      Family planning association of Malawi is a non-profitable organisation which receives its funding from International Planned Parental hood Association (IPPF) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

      One of its main objectives of the organisation is to provide sexual and reproductive health information to young people and treating sexually transmitted infections, (STI'S).


      Malawi: Private Sector Accuse Govt's Criteria On Subsidy Programme

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      April 27, 2006
      Posted to the web April 27, 2006

      Kondwani Magombo

      The private sector has accused government's criteria on the distribution of the subsidized farm inputs saying dictating to farmers on where to purchase the subsidised farm inputs promotes corruption and sidelines other private suppliers offering similar items thereby killing business for them.

      Country Director for Citizen Network Foreign Affairs (CNFA), Richard Chapweteka, made these remarks during a debate held recently at Cresta Hotel, Lilongwe, where the participants deliberated on the Position Paper of the Private Sector Agricultural Input Supply Systems, copied to the Ministry of agriculture.

      Agriculture Minister, Uladi Mussa, however, said in a separate interview that he was not aware of any such paper claimed to have been copied to his ministry. "I don't know anything about the said paper so how can I comment on something I don't know about? If I saw the paper then I could be in a position to comment, otherwise I know nothing," Mussa said.

      The debate, attended by Seed Traders Association of Malawi (STAM) Crop Life Malawi and the Fertilizer Industry, was aimed at critiquing the effectiveness of the previous subsidy programme and suggest future implementations of the programme. "It is wrong to dictate to the farmer on where to get his or her farm inputs," Chapweteka said adding, If the government involves the other private suppliers this would check congestion at the outlets and it would also check corrupt practices alleged to have been taking place." In his remarks, Dr. Jeffrey Luhanga, of the ministry of Agriculture, however, said the private sector needs to organise itself in its policies first if it is to be considered for participation. Luhanga, however, said the previous years subsidy programme was in its pilot phase and he hoped for a lot of adjustments in this year.

      Chapweteka said by importing farm inputs such as fertilizer for the subsidy programme, and by dictating that SFFRFM and ADMARC be the only outlets of the inputs, the government is not only killing the private sector but stifling competition as well. "The quantity of fertilizer subsidised (147, 000mt) is 92% of the normal annual smallholder demand," said Chapweteka, adding, "Commercial fertilizer sales in cash or on credit have slumped by 60-70% in the first year. This is likely to reach the 90% level as smallholders who had bought fertilizer this year on the commercial market as insurance, wait for government supplies next year. " It is unlikely that private sector can survive under the current system for another year without major restructuring which could result in some companies reducing or cutting operations in Malawi," warned the CNFA Country Director.

      Among the companies proposed to be included in the distribution of the subsidy programme are Chemicals and Marketing Company, Farmer's World Limited, Yara Malawi, Rab Processors, Nyiombo Investiments, Optichem 2000, Farmers Organisations, Pannar Seed and Mosanto.


      Malawi: Lilongwe Area 3 Market Vendors Cry Foul

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      April 27, 2006
      Posted to the web April 27, 2006

      Bykondwani Magombo

      Groceries and produce vendors at the Lilongwe Area 3 Market cried foul last week Friday when they woke up and went to the market for a routine day of business only to find their business structures demolished to the ground by the Lilongwe City Assembly, following the city clean-up campaign government has embarked on.

      The disgruntled vendors has accused the Assembly of misleading them by telling them to remain calm as they said the exercise would have nothing to do with the Area 3 Market, when in actual sense there was an impending doom.

      According to the Market Committee 'Chief', Isaac Chikuse, the Assembly put the vendors into error by contradicting itself in its communication on the matter. "On 8th April 2006 the LCA personnel, Chipeta, Mphoola, and Chirambo came and told us to renovate our structures and improve the look of the place, adding that we would be paying ground rent. "People borrowed money from different sources and bought iron sheets, block boards and renovated their structures, only to be told again by Chirambo and Mphoola on 15 April that the government had decided that we should move out," explained Chikuse.

      Chikuse said the market committee made a follow-up to Chidzanja House but he said Chipeta told them that he would answer them on 17 April 2006 because he couldn't handle it anymore but would rather refer it to someone else.

      But the Assembly's Administration officer, Paul Malunga, said in a telephone interview that the Area 3 vendors had been warned on several occasions that they should reallocate to the Flea marked or risk being removed by force. "They had been warned for several times and I was there myself yesterday and I told them we were going to demolish their structures if they don't do it themselves," explained Malunga, adding, "Some even started pulling down their structures, taking care of their iron sheets, block boards etc." Malunga said the Assembly was against the illegal structures surrounding the market building and that was why all such structures had been removed.

      Meanwhile, the despondent vendors have crammed themselves in the Assembly's only authorised structure, which is too small to accommodate all of them.

      Among the demolished structures are restaurants, telephone bureaux, hawkers and many more.

      Government embarked on the clean-up exercise early last week in all the three cities of Mzuzu, Lilongwe and Blantyre and in all other commercial towns in the country. The exercise has seen vendors drag themselves to the designated areas despite their strong resistance at first.


      At least 27 feared dead as boat capsizes in Tanzania

      Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

      28 April 2006 12:21

      At least 27 people were feared drowned when a cargo boat on which they were traveling capsized during a heavy storm on Lake Victoria, Tanzanian police said on Thursday.

      The cargo vessel MV Nyamageni was carrying 27 people and 100 crates of soda and beer from the town of Bukoba to the port of Mwanza when it capsized on Saturday, said Ignas Mbinga, regional police commander for western Tanzania.

      News of the incident only became public on Thursday due to the remote area in which it occurred, he said.

      "We have only recovered 100 empty crates of beer and soda but we are yet to recover a single body," said Mbinga from Kagera, about 700km west of Tanzania's commercial capital of Dar es Salaam.

      "The weather in the lake was very bad," he said, adding that police have deployed divers to search for the missing.

      Mbinga refused to explicitly say whether those on the boat had died, but made clear it was unlikely there were any survivors.

      The accident was the fourth such incident in Tanzanian waters on Lake Victoria this year. About 36 people drowned when their boat capsized during a heavy storm earlier this month. - Sapa-AFP


      Zim opposition gangs up ahead of election

      Dumisani Muleya

      28 April 2006 11:02

      Opposition political groups and civil society movements in Zimbabwe have started consultations to form a united front to support a single candidate in the 2008 presidential election, 23 months ahead of the crucial poll.

      Information obtained this week shows there have been numerous meetings among officials of factions of the divided Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), other opposition parties and civil society groups in a bid to form a broad united front against the ruling Zanu-PF -- along the lines of Kenya's National Rainbow Coalition, which brought President Mwai Kibaki to power in 2002.

      Apart from the MDC factions, other groups involved in the plan include the South African-based Zimbabwe Diaspora Civil Society Organisations Forum, which brings together a number of formations and civic organisations.

      The forum was formed in November last year as a network of at least 20 local civic movements based in South Africa and working for a democratic dispensation in Zimbabwe.

      The United People's Movement (UPM) -- a shadowy assemblage of disgruntled Zanu-PF officials plus former information minister Jonathan Moyo and former ruling-party MP Pearson Mbalekwa -- has also been involved in efforts to form a coalition to fight the presidential election with one contender challenging a Zanu-PF candidate, possibly Vice-President Joice Mujuru, in March 2008.

      Zanu-PF has been contemplating amending the Constitution to delay the 2008 election until 2010 when Mujuru, who now seems to be destined to take over from President Robert Mugabe, would have consolidated her grip on the ruling party and government. Since she came into office in 2004, Mujuru has been holding political roadshows and rallies in a bid to build a national profile and drum up support as Mugabe's possible successor.

      Sources said meetings have been held since last July between MDC officials, UPM members and civil society leaders -- including influential church heads -- to find a common strategy to confront the current political and economic crisis, as well as prepare for the 2008 election.

      "There have been a lot of meetings between MDC officials, some now aligned to the Morgan Tsvangirai [leader of the MDC] faction and others to the Arthur Mutambara camp," a source said. "Various meetings have been held between and among opposition and civil society leaders."

      Sources said MDC officials from Tsvangirai and Mutambara's factions such as Paul Themba Nyathi, Gandi Mudzingwa, Nelson Chamisa, Renson Gasela and William Bango have had meetings with UPM members, including Moyo and Mbalekwa, over the issue. The meetings have been running since July -- before the MDC split in October last year -- and are continuing. The involved officials were not available for comment on Thursday.

      Moyo and others, sources said, were recently invited to the Tsvangirai faction's congress to give a "solidarity message", although the move was later aborted as it was seen not to be strategic. The source said there have been many SMSs and phone calls flying around among the officials trying to come up with a united front against Zanu-PF.

      Both Tsvangirai and Mutambara have been calling for the formation of a united front against Zanu-PF. -- Zimbabwe Independent
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