- Jun 15, 2007It's been quite a while between news bulletins, but this is a fairly big development. Meanwhile, the news from Zim gets worse and worse.Court blow for Malawi president
Malawi's Supreme Court has ruled that the speaker of parliament can expel MPs who switch parties - a ruling which could bring down the government.
Most members of President Bingu wa Mutharika's party were elected on the ticket of the former ruling party.
Mr Mutharika also won elections for the United Democratic Front (UDF), before leaving to set up the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
More than 70 of the 193 MPs could be affected by the ruling.
About half of them are from the DPP, which has formed a minority government.
'Victory for democracy'
UDF supporters burst into song and dance at the packed courthouse as Chief Justice Leonard Unyolo made his ruling.
He said Section 65 of the constitution gave the speaker the power to expel MPs who switch parties.
The DPP had challenged this view.
"It's [a] victory for democracy," said lawyer Kalekeni Kaphale, who represented opposition political parties in the landmark case.
"This will help bring political sanity in the country as it will stop those in power from abusing their authority in poaching almost everyone they want to their side."
DPP Secretary-General Heatherwick Ntaba said he was confident that his party's MPs would be re-elected in by-elections.
Parliament is due to resume on 29 June to debate the budget.
However political analyst Rafiq Hajat told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme that it would take six months to organise so many by-elections, if the speaker does expel the MPs.
He said that in the meantime, the government would struggle to get the budget passed and so some interim measure such as a government of national unity would be needed.
Mr Mutharika left the UDF, accusing party officials of blocking his anti-corruption drive.
*****Zimbabwe 'collapse in six months'
Zimbabwe will collapse within six months, possibly leading to a state of emergency, says a leaked briefing report for aid workers in the country.
Rampant inflation will mean shops and services can no longer function and people would resort to barter, it said.
"The memorandum is talking about a situation where there is no functioning government or a total breakdown," an unnamed aid worker told the UK Times.
Zimbabwe's inflation is already 3,714% - the highest rate in the world.
Business quotes were now valid for just one day or even one hour, said the report written by consultants and sent to workers at the United Nations and other aid agencies.
Several organisations contacted by the BBC News website denied commissioning the report.
Some firms were already partly paying their workers in food, rather than money, it said.
Shops were doubling their prices twice a month, so they could purchase replacement goods.
If this continues, "doubling the current inflation for each of the seven remaining months of 2007 gives 512,000% thus the economic collapse is expected before the end of 2007," said the report, according to the AP news agency.
The security forces who have remained loyal to President Robert Mugabe were also feeling the effects.
The report said an ordinary police officer earned less than aid workers paid their domestic staff.
It said power and water suppliers were already near collapse. Electricity was last month rationed to just four hours a day to save power for farmers.
Just one adult in five is believed to have a regular job.
Some 4m Zimbabweans - a third of the population - will need food aid this year, according to the UN World Food Programme.
Mr Mugabe denies responsibility for Zimbabwe's economic problems, blaming a western plot to bring down his government because of his policy of seizing white-owned land.
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