- Community of Blind People Press for Their
African Church Information Service
September 4, 2000
The community of blind people in Malawi are pressing the
Electoral Commission to put in place requisite facilities that will
allow visually impaired persons to participate in the forthcoming
elections scheduled for September this year.
Members of the Malawi Union of the Blind have undertaken that
they will not relent until the electoral authorities make special
consideration during the polling to enable them exercise their
Leader of the Union, Ezekiel Kumwenda, has made public their
grievances. In a recent interview, he regretted that the blind
community in Malawi had in the past been denied their voting
rights because the current voting system did not provide for their
"The problem with our voting system is that a vote is cast by
(marking) or tearing a picture of a candidate or party symbol which
makes it difficult for us who are visually impaired to choose
candidates of our preference," he said.
Kumwenda says although the current electoral rules stipulate that
the visually impaired be assisted in the voting process by a
relative, a friend or polling officer, there are high chances of them
being misled and voting for a candidate not of their preference.
"While we appreciate the role played by the sighted people in
assisting us cast our votes, we still think much has to be done. We
want to exercise our right to privacy and secrecy," he says.
Elaborating on the current crusade, the union leader says that
what they want is to have names of contesting candidates printed
in Braille. According to Kumwenda, the current voting process
encourages voting apathy among the visually impaired persons.
Commenting on the requirements of the blind people, Electoral
Commission spokesperson Fergus Lipenga says the commission
welcomes proposals which individuals or groups of people bring
forward. He says such proposals are reviewed from time to time
and adopted when necessary.
A large community of blind people in Malawi are found in the
country's southern province district of Nsanje, which is the home of
the president of the main Opposition of Malawi Congress Party
Malawi Union of the Blind is a non-governmental organisation
which Advocates for the civil and political rights of the visually
Non-Violent Offenders May Escape Custodial
African Church Information Service
September 4, 2000
Malawi, which for the past two years has been seeking ways of
improving its prison services, has finally amended the law to
provide for community service, a penal sanction administered by
the courts on non-violent offenders as an alternative to custodian
Malawi's Chief Justice Richard Banda, commenting on the new
programme, says the country is ready to launch the scheme in the
three cities of Blantyre, Lilongwe and Mzuzu and the municipality
Community service, says Banda, is cheaper than imprisonment
where large amounts of public funds is spent on maintaining
thousands of prisoners. He notes that the new plan will ensure that
the work done by the prisoner provides compensation to the
community, thereby making good the damage done by the
Prison Reform Institute chairman Ahmed Othmani observes that
the programme could succeed if communities are involved. The
institute is a universal prisoner watchdog which is assisting Malawi
in its efforts to improve conditions in prisons.
Othmani said that Malawi passed a number of resolutions last
November on prison reform and they are being implemented. Now
prisoners grow their own food, and are allowed to raise funds to
improve their conditions.
Juveniles are being moved from prisons to rehabilitation centres.
Othmani has been working with UNICEF to build special schools
for juveniles to ensure that the young offenders maintain links with
the civil society, so that they can easily be integrated after their
Othmani says no meaningful rehabilitation can be achieved if
juveniles are mixed with hard core inmates. He emphasises that
individual offenders must be treated individually by identifying their
The PRI chairman also notes that prisons should not serve as
"schools" where offenders can be turned into hard cores. He
praises the strides taken towards prison reform as a model for
other countries which fail to separate female offenders from male
A survey of the country's maximum security prisons at Chichiri in
Blantyre, Maula in Lilongwe and Zomba, shows that 13 percent of
the juveniles were jailed for serious offences such as murder. The
youngest inmate, the survey reveals, was ten years old.
PRI, however, says the community service sentence can only
apply where the offender is willing and ready to serve the
sentence. It cannot work on compulsory terms where prison
authorities grab the offender by the collar and drag him into the
institution where he is assigned.
During a review of the community service programme in the capital
Lilongwe, Zimbabwe High Court Judge Garwe, commended the
programme as helping to improve prison conditions.
He said a similar programme in Zimbabwe had improved the
criminal justice system considerably since it started eight years
ago. In Zimbabwe it is done on a voluntary basis, he noted, adding
that a similar approach for Malawi could make the programme cost
The review which was conducted in Lilongwe on June 14 pooled
together community leaders, the judiciary and the police. Malawi,
with a population of 10 million people, has 7,647 inmates in the
country's prisons, 92 of which are women and 471 juveniles.
Chief Commissioner of Prisons Winston Manyela says there are
11 prisoners on the death row, while 41 prisoners previously
sentenced to death had their sentences substituted by life
imprisonment by President Bakili Muluzi.
The fate of the 11 prisoners is not yet known as the Malawi leader
has never signed any death warrant for condemned prisoners
since he came to power in the multi-party democracy in 1994.
Manyela said holding of accused people awaiting trial was also
causing problems with the prison authorities. He recommended
that many of them should be granted bail, adding that juveniles
were especially ignorant of their rights as many of them were
"It's all up to the court system. The problem is that most of the
juveniles are illiterate and do not know their ages, or sometimes
they deliberately change their ages," Manyela said.
Six Asian Firms Probed in Canned Food Scam
Panafrican News Agency
September 3, 2000
Six Malawi-based traders of Asian origin
are being probed over the importation of suspected sub- standard
and in some cases expired and rotten canned food, particularly
According to the Malawi Bureau of Standards deputy director,
Charles Malata-Chirwa, his office has discovered that some of the
Asian traders had printed at least 60,000 fake food labels with a
A source at the printing house said the labels featured foreign
food details, complete with misleading expiry dates.
Malata-Chirwa said that his bureau discovered that that the
unscrupulous businessmen had imported truckloads of expired
canned products, including fish and pet food.
They wanted to paste the new labels on the tins so as to mislead
consumers that they were still good.
"According to our investigations, these wrappers (the 60,000
labels) were a second order. The first was already delivered," he
Malata Chirwa said he suspected that thousands, possibly millions,
of Malawians had already been exposed to this food which is unfit
for human consumption and may pose a serious health risk.
He said the bureau has intensified its probe and the suspects
would be taken to court by next month.
An accountant at one of the firms under probe, confirmed that
truckloads of canned products are imported from Far Eastern
countries every month.
Once in Malawi, new labels with fake expiry dates are printed and
pasted on the tins. "This has gone on for a long time," he said.
The executive director of the Consumer Association of Malawi,
John Kapito, has urged consumers to boycott buying food from the
shops under probe.
"We are going into the shops anytime to confiscate the suspicious
tins," he said.
Kapito said the scam represents a serious crime as it might lead to
a silent genocide as the expired food may turn toxic and kill a lot of
He called on the government to revoke business licences of all
merchants involved and make sure they do not flee the country
before court proceedings are over.
Rift in Malawi Opposition MCP Party Deepens
Panafrican News Agency
September 2, 2000
The secretary-general of the main
opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP), Kate Kainja, says she
has no problem with preparations for the 21 November local
government elections, after the president of the party, Gwanda
Chakuamba, called for a boycott of the polls.
MCP publicity secretary, James Chimera, told PANA the MCP is
calling for a boycott, alleging that the Electoral Commission has
connived with the ruling United Democratic Front (UDF) of
President Bakili Muluzi to rig the polls.
Chimera said the opposition was only given 48 hours to arrange
for officials of the party to monitor more than 5,000 registration
centres for the polls.
He described the task as impossible and called for a boycott of the
registration exercise, which started on Monday.
Chimera also said there is no way democratic polls can be held
this year. He said the local polls should be held next year,
tentatively in April.
But Kainja, who belongs to the Tembo camp of the MCP, Saturday
described Chimera's call as undemocratic.
She said as far as she was concerned the MCP has no problems
with the election arrangements since the opposition has been
calling for it for a long time.
"Genuine MCP supporters are registering in readiness to vote in
the polls to elect local authorities come November 21," she said.
Meanwhile, controversy has ensued over a cheque of 1.5 million
Malawi kwacha (about 25,000 US dollars), which parliament issued
as quarterly allocation to the MCP.
The Tembo camp reportedly got the cheque and quickly cashed it
without consulting the MCP.
But party treasurer Heatherwick Ntaba, who belongs to the
Chakuamba camp, said he, as treasurer-general, Chakuamba, as
party president, and Tembo, as vice-president, were the only
signatories to the cheque.
"The absence of Chakuamba's and my signatures makes it
impossible to cash the cheque," he said.
Ntaba said since he and Chakuamba did not append their
signatures to the cheque, whichever bank cashed it for Tembo
infringed both MCP rules and Malawi's laws.
But Tembo said the Chakuamba camp has no legitimacy, Adding
that he cashed the cheque for party business.
The case to determine which camp of the MCP is the legitimate
one is still pending in court.
ADB firm on Karonga-Chitipa road contract
by Zainah Liwanda, 22 May 2006 - 06:09:17
The African Development Bank (ADB) has again rejected a proposal by government to look for another contractor instead of China Hunan Construction to construct of the long awaited Karonga/Chitipa road.
China Hunan from Mainland China won the bid which was approved by the ADB but government later wanted to award the contract to a Portuguese firm, Mota Engil, the second lowest bidder, claiming China Hunan's bid was unrealistically low and that the company had very little experience in Africa.
Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe confirmed on Sunday the ADB rejected the proposal at a meeting held between the bank and Malawi government in Tunisia last week.
The Malawi government wanted the Tunisia meeting to authorise it to get another contractor for the road, said Gondwe.
"They did not allow us to look for another contractor because of their regulations. But we are about to get another alternative for Karonga/Chitipa and I would be surprised if it does not start before end June," said Gondwe.
The minister explained that the bank insisted that regardless of the unrealistic cost estimates, China Hunan should be allowed to go ahead with the construction.
But Gondwe could not give further details about the alternatives, arguing there are still a few loose ends to tighten up before disclosing it.
The problem with China Hunan, according to Gondwe, is that it would require more money to meet the total cost of the project.
This paper reported last week that government met Taiwanese representatives where they offered to fund the road if the ADB continued to reject its favoured contractor, Mota Engil.
Gondwe could neither confirm nor deny the reports on the Taiwanese offer, saying government was looking at a number of ways to handle the issue.
According to Gondwe, the China Hunan's bid was 24 percent lower than the consulting engineers' estimates of K7.9 billion and 34 percent below the second lowest bidder.
President Bingu wa Mutharika laid a foundation stone for the construction of the road this year ahead of a crucial byelection in Chitipa in December last year.
The President's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) won the Chitipa Wenya constituency by-election that fell vacant following the collapse and subsequent death of Speaker of Parliament Rodwell Munyenyembe who belonged to the UDF.
Last week, police and the District Commissioner (DC) for Chitipa stopped a rally that was aimed at soliciting people's views about development projects in the district.
The meeting, which was reportedly organised by Concerned Citizens of Chitipa, was among other things also supposed to tackle the controversial Karonga/Chitipa road.
The project failed to start off in 2000 when a contract for an initial loan of US$17 million and US$15 million from the Taiwanese government was signed, with some quarters claiming the Bakili Muluzi administration diverted the money to another road.
Chihana operated on
by Edwin Nyirongo, 22 May 2006 - 06:32:31
Alliance for Democracy (Aford) president Chakufwa Chihana, who is in South Africa receiving treatment, had a brain operation on Friday at Garden City Clinic, family and party officials confirmed on Sunday.
Aford national chairman Chipimpha Mughogho said he was told by the family members that Chihana had a successful operation on Friday and was put in an intensive care unit.
Mughogho said Chihana, who initially complained of headache, was found with a brain tumour which South African doctors removed.
Mzimba West MP Loveness Gondwe said Aford boss condition was stable.
"Hon. Chihana had a major operation and after that he was put in the intensive care unit but his condition is stable. I do not know where he was operated on but it had something to do with the skull," she said.
Deputy Information Minister John Bande referred the matter to the Health Minister Hetherwick Ntaba who was reported to be in Geneva, Switzerland.
Aford publicity secretary Norman Nyirenda said when Chihana's situation got worse, the family alerted the Office of the President and Cabinet who took him to Mwaiwathu Private Hospital.
"The doctors at Mwaiwathu advised that he should be sent to South Africa and they even identified the doctor for him," he said.
He said the costs are being met by the Malawi government, contradicting his earlier statement that his boss covered the cost.
Mughogho is now in charge of the party.
Gondwe will be a busy person when Parliament starts meeting on June 6 as she is the only Aford MP remaining.
Pillane proposes presidential age limit
by Emmanuel Muwamba , 22 May 2006 - 06:34:13
A member of the DPP National Governing Council Abdul Pillane on Saturday urged members of political parties and the civil society to put an upper age limit in the Constitution for presidential candidates.
Pillane was addressing members of political parties and civil society in Liwonde during a two-day follow up workshop to the National Conference on the Review of Constitution held in March in Lilongwe.
"My view is that (an upper) age limit should be at 75. We have to give a chance to younger people to lead because in circumstance, when you age you become forgetful especially when sickly," said Pillane. "Overall, chances should be given to young people."
But UDF secretary general Kennedy Makwangwala, whose party members agitated for the age limit during presentations, played the issue down.
"I feel there is no logic to have an upper age limit for presidential candidates. If someone is 90 or 80 I don't know how that can influence the electorate not to vote for someone who is younger, I don't see any logic behind that," said Makwangwala.
MCP participants at the workshop also vehemently objected to the proposal.
MCP vice president Nicholas Dausi in an interview said: "There is no constitution in Africa which stipulates an upper age limit. So it would be strange in Malawi to have an upper age limit for presidential candidates."
MDP President Kamlepo Kalua also opposed the need to have an upper age limit.
"If we have personalities in mind that we want to discriminate against then it is unfortunate. The constitution we want to build is a guiding document for future generations and it should not bar certain individuals on the basis of grudges," he said.
The Malawi Law Constitution Issues Paper of March 2006 says several submissions that were received put an upper presidential age limit in the Constitution.
"It is argued that it is common sense that mental knowledge faculties tend to fail with age. As regards what the actual age limit should be the submissions are far from being agreed. The range is from 60 years to 80 years," read submissions in the Issues Paper.
On whether MPs should double as ministers, Kalua said this should be the case.
Makwangwala also said it is not right for MPs to serve as ministers because the Legislature, another arm of government, is reduced while the Executive branch is beefed up from another arm of government.
"There is no separation of powers when MPs double as ministers," said Makwangwala.
But Pillane said there is no problem for MPs to work as ministers as well, saying MPs are elected by the President.
"One can serve both posts. There have been no problems before for people to double," said Pillane.
The Centre for Multiparty Democracy funded the workshop through the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy.
The objective was to come up with a collective position on the Issues Paper which will be presented to the Special Law Commission that will be constituted soon.
Mussa hails new driving licence
by Zainah Liwanda, 22 May 2006 - 06:58:52
Transport and Public Works Minister Henry Mussa last week said the design of the Malawi-Sadc driving licence would guard against forgery and ensure that only skilled and legitimate drivers of particular vehicles are licensed.
Mussa was speaking at the official launch of the licences in Lilongwe where he announced that traffic police would from July enforce speed limits and sober driving using Breathalysers which his ministry is in the process of procuring.
The minister said financial constraints are the reason for the delay in procuring the equipment but assured that by July they would be available.
"With the new equipment, the days of those who believe in the thrill of drink and driving are numbered," warned Mussa.
Mussa added that with the new licence, government is optimistic that the country's roads would be safe.
Acting Director of Road Traffic James Chirwa said the features that distinguish the new from the old licences are the Malawi national flag and a ghost image of the driver's photograph, among others.
Those with old licences, according to Chirwa, are expected to get the new ones after the expiry of the former.
UDF demands investigation on Kasambara
by Rabecca Theu, 22 May 2006 - 06:30:46
The United Democratic Front (UDF) has asked government to investigate Ralph Kasambara on allegations of abuse of office while he was attorney general.
UDF publicity secretary Sam Mpasu told the press Sunday that the party is neither amused or saddened by the removal of the former AG but asked government to institute investigations on Kasambara.
"Beyond the removal of the Attorney General, we now urge President Mutharika to institute investigation against Mr Kasambara into allegations that have made rounds in the public domain during the recent past. These include: Mrs Helen Singh and SS Rent-a-Car; SGS and ITS saga; ...........the use of Malawi Police Service in the arrest of three Chronicle journalists and the handling of Mrs Rubina Kawonga," said Mpasu.
Mpasu also accused Kasambara of awarding government contracts to Lawson and Company where he was a senior partner.
"We urge government to thoroughly investigate the former AG. We also ask government to cautiously select the new AG ," said Mpasu, who was accompanied by the party's Secretary General Kennedy Makwangwala, leader of the party in Parliament George Mtafu, chief whip Leonard Mangulama and a member of the executive Hophmally Makande.
But Minister of Information Patricia Kaliati said UDF should give offer its advice to the Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB).
"They should advise bodies like the Anti-Corruption Bureau to conduct the investigations and why are they saying this now? Is it because Kasambara has been fired? This is not a personal issue. If they have other pressing issues they should just say so. These arguments should have come up earlier on when the said cases were happening," she said.
Kasambara asked UDF to proceed with the mission of urging government to investigate him.
"They can do their job. Everyone has a right to lobby for anything they want in the country. UDF has a right to do that, let them go ahead," he said.
Kasambara was relieved of his duties as AG by the President last week. Government has not given reasons behind the removal.
Zambia: Malawians Grab Zambian Land
The Times of Zambia (Ndola)
May 18, 2006
Posted to the web May 19, 2006
MALAWIANS who have encroached on both the 'no-man's' and part of the Zambian land at the Mwami border in Eastern Province have plucked out some beacons that were used in the demarcation of the border.
The Malawians are now using the beacons as stools in their newly-established villages on Zambian land.
Eastern Province Minister, Boniface Nkhata, said in Chipata yesterday that if the situation was not controlled urgently, Zambia would lose huge tracts of land to Malawians migrating into Zambian in large numbers.
A check at the Zambia-Malawi border showed a number of beacons had been vandalised and new structures constructed on the 'no man's' land and a large portion of Zambian land.
Mr Nkhata said the trend extended to many parts of the province bordering the two countries.
"A large portion of Zambian land has been taken up by the Malawians starting from the Chama boundary up to the Mwami border.
"The weighbridge at the Mwami border was initially in Zambia from the time both countries gained independence from Britain, but now the bridge is on Malawian soil," Mr Nkhata said.
The minister, who is former Chama District Commissioner, said there was similar encroachment in Lundazi and Chama districts where Zambia shares a boundary with Malawi.
He said a Malawian farmer identified as Mr Mfune had cultivated 71.5 hectares on Zambian land and employed about 265 Malawian workers.
"Khombe Farm in Chama district in Kanyerere's area, along the Muyombe road which leads to Northern Province where this Malawian farmer has cultivated a vast land is on the Zambian territory," he said.
Workers on the farm admitted that they were farming on Zambian soil but could not go back to Malawi because the land in that country was inadequate for cultivation.
Mr Nkhata appealed to the ministry of Lands to urgently release money for the demarcation of the Zambia-Malawi border to avoid further land disputes between the two countries.
Meanwhile, the Immigration Department in Livingstone has arrested a couple and another man, all Zimbabweans, for working in Zambia without permits.
They were arrested at Gwembe village yesterday where they worked for Into Africa, a tour operating company that provides bush dinners and breakfast.
According to the Immigration Department in Livingstone, the trio entered Zambia through the Victoria Falls border as visitors but decided to work for the company illegally.
Last week, immigration officers arrested 10 Zimbabwean traders and six Ethiopians for entering and staying in Zambia illegally.
The Zimbabwean traders were warned and cautioned and later released.
The Ethiopians were arrested at Konje Guest House when they ran out of money to proceed to Botswana.
Zim unions, MDC still plan anti-govt protests
22 May 2006 11:51
Zimbabwe's biggest labour federation on Saturday threatened to call massive demonstrations against the government over poor salaries and worsening living conditions for workers in the country.
The threats are ratcheting up pressure against President Robert Mugabe's government after similar threats by the biggest opposition party in the country, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), about two months ago.
Speaking at the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) conference on Saturday, the labour body's president, Lovemore Matombo, said the powerful union wants the government to award workers salaries that match the country's ever-rising inflation.
"I can assure you we will stage massive demonstrations to force them [employers] to award workers minimum salaries that tally with the poverty datum line," said Matombo.
Matombo did not say when exactly the ZCTU would order workers to strike.
Meanwhile, the MDC on Sunday said it will push ahead with plans for anti-government protests, saying victory in a key by-election at the weekend was a "sign the electorate supported its policies", including democratic mass resistance.
A spokesperson of the main faction of the splintered MDC, Nelson Chamisa, said victory over Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF and a rival MDC faction in a Saturday by-election in Harare's Budiriro constituency is a sign Zimbabweans still have confidence in party leader Morgan Tsvangirai and his policies.
Tsvangirai, the founding leader of the MDC, heads the main rump of the opposition party whose candidate, Emmanuel Chisvuure, polled 7 949 votes to win the Budiriro House of Assembly seat.
Gabriel Chaibva of the other faction of the MDC, led by prominent academic Arthur Mutambara, garnered 504 votes while Zanu-PF's Jeremiah Bvirindi polled 3 961 votes.
"This election showed that the electorate still has confidence in the MDC [Tsvangirai-led] leadership and its policies," Chamisa told independent news service ZimOnline.
He added: "We will now move to consolidate our position * we still believe in mass protests. Until we have attained our goals we see no reason why we should abandon [plans for protests]."
Tsvangirai has threatened to call mass protests this winter against Mugabe and his government. He says the mass protests, whose date he is still to name, are meant to force Mugabe to relinquish power to a government of national unity to be tasked to write a new and democratic Constitution that would ensure free and fair elections held under international supervision.
Mugabe and his government, who had hoped for victory in Budiriro to show they were recapturing urban support from a splintered MDC, have not taken idly the opposition's threats to call mass protests, with the veteran president warning Tsvangirai he would be "dicing with death" if he ever attempted to instigate a Ukraine-style popular revolt in Zimbabwe.
In a fresh crackdown against dissension, the police last week arrested several church and civic leaders for organising public prayers and marches to mark last year's controversial home-demolition exercise by the government.
The police also banned the marches and prayers, fearing they could easily turn into mass protests against Mugabe and his government.
However, the marches went ahead in the second-largest city of Bulawayo after organisers had obtained a court order barring the police from stopping the march.
Political analysts say although Zimbabweans have largely been cowed by Mugabe's tactics of routinely deploying riot police and the military to crush street protests, worsening hunger and poverty are fanning public anger that Tsvangirai -- with proper planning and organisation -- could easily manipulate.
Zimbabwe is in the grip of a severe six-year old economic crisis that has seen inflation breaching the 1 000% barrier. Last year, the World Bank said Zimbabwe's economic crisis was unprecedented for a country not at war.
The MDC and major Western governments blame Mugabe for wrecking the country's economy, which was one of the strongest in Africa at independence from Britain 26 years ago.
Mugabe denies the charge blaming the crisis on sabotage by Britain and her allies after he seized white-owned farms for redistribution to landless blacks six years ago.
The Harare authorities recently hiked salaries for civil servants, with the lowest-paid soldier now earning about Z$27-million while the lowest-paid school teacher now takes home about Z$33-million.
But the salaries are still way below the poverty datum line, which the government's Consumer Council of Zimbabwe says now stands at a staggering Z$42-million a month for an average family of six.
The Zimbabwe government often accuses the ZCTU, a strong ally of the MDC, of pushing a political agenda to remove Mugabe from power.
Meanwhile, Matombo and Lucia Matibenga retained their posts as president and first vice-president respectively during the ZCTU congress that ended on Saturday. -- ZimOnline