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  • Christine Chumbler
    This is gonna be a long one since I m including all the news from last week when I was on vacation. (Great to see you again, Sean!) Sacked Minister Accused Of
    Message 1 of 1046 , Jan 8, 2001
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      This is gonna be a long one since I'm including all the news from last week when I was on vacation. (Great to see you again, Sean!)

      Sacked Minister Accused Of Plans To Burn
      Mosques

      Panafrican News Agency
      December 30, 2000

      Blantyre, Malawi

      Police in the southern district of Mulanje Saturday interrogated
      sacked former minister Brown Mpinganjira's on allegations that he
      was mobilising supporters to burn down mosques in the country.

      Southern Region police commissioner Milward Chikwamba
      confirmed that police questioned Mpinganjira, an MP of the ruling
      United Democratic Front (UDF), following a tip-off.

      Chikwamba denied that politics played a part in the probe.

      "There is no crime in police acting on a tip because it is our duty to
      ensure that law and order is maintained," he told PANA.

      However, Mpinganjira told PANA in a telephone interview that
      although the officers who interviewed him were polite, he was
      angry because the police were hounding him for nothing.

      He described the new investigations as baseless because if he
      wants to rule Malawi he would rule Muslims as well.

      "These people are desperate to find any other charge that can
      have me locked up quickly so that I cannot reveal to the nation the
      rot that is going on among the ruling class," he said.

      Mpinganjira has warned he will reveal corrupt officials, including
      what he termed as Malawi biggest thief, next month, during his trial
      on corruption charges.

      Meanwhile, political fall-out from the Mpinganjira affair started
      Saturday with the UDF politburo dissolving all party committees in
      the southern region that are sympathetic to Mpinganjira.

      But Winston Sakwata, who was sacked as UDF southern region
      treasurer and an avowed Mpinganjira loyalist, said he wilfully
      resigned following Mpinganjira's sacking from the cabinet.

      Mpinganjira has not been sacked as National Organising
      Secretary for the UDF but his parliamentary constituency
      committee and those MPs supporting him have all since been
      dissolved.

      *****

      Poverty On The Increase In Rural Malawi

      Panafrican News Agency
      January 2, 2001

      Raphael Tenthani
      Blantyre

      Poverty is increasingly becoming more abject in rural Malawi, the
      department of rural development at the Bunda College of
      Agriculture within the University of Malawi indicates in a fresh
      survey.

      The study says rural Malawi, host to 85 percent of the nation's 10
      million population live, is where the most vulnerable are
      concentrated. The rural areas are least accessible to development
      and other social services.

      Samuel Bota, of the department, presented the study to local
      government officials in Blantyre Monday, saying the figures are
      coming about despite numerous development projects
      government and NGOs have tried to implement in the rural areas.

      He said the study, which was carried out in all the 27 districts of
      Malawi, reveals that most such development projects fail because
      authorities impose them on communities.

      He described such strategies as top-bottom approaches, which
      mostly bypass priorities in a given area.

      "Relief culture remains the biggest challenge. Most vulnerable
      Malawians shun away from meetings and development activities
      became all they need are handouts that solve their immediate
      basic needs such as food," he said.

      Bota said the other problem aggravating rural poverty is the
      concentration of development activities in certain areas while
      skipping others that are in dire need of services.

      Secretary for Ministry of Local Government and District
      Administration, James Kalilangwe agreed with Bota, calling on the
      government and NGOs to spread out development programmes
      for the benefit of a greater number of people.

      "It is important that the beneficiaries of development programmes
      who are the rural communities in the targeted areas should be
      involved in identifying, planning and implementation of
      development programmes in their areas," he emphasised.

      Kalilongwe said government adopted a 10-year decentralisation
      policy to enhance the role of communities, civil society and others
      in the planning and management of development.

      He said the overall objective of the policy is to ensure that
      development projects, especially in rural areas contribute to
      reduction of poverty through broad based labour intensive growth
      that ensure food security at the household and national levels.

      The report says that there are much fewer school schools per
      given area than in urban areas. And schools in the rural areas
      have far fewer teachers.

      Newly-published national census results show that up to 25
      percent of Malawi's population, most of whom resident in the rural
      areas, fetch water for daily use from unprotected wells and rivers,
      while up to 22 percent of have no access sanitary toilets.

      *****

      Sacked Minister Returns Home With Low Profile

      Panafrican News Agency
      January 2, 2001

      By Raphael Tenthani
      Blantyre, Malawi

      Malawi's former finance minister, Cassim Chilumpha, who left the
      country soon after his dismissal from President Bakili Muluzi's
      cabinet, returned home Tuesday to face possible fraud and
      corrupt charges in court.

      Muluzi fired Chilumpha, along with Labour Minister Peter Chupa
      and Transport Minister Brown Mpinganjira in December following
      intense public pressure after an official report fingered the
      ministers in a multi-million kwacha fraud of public funds.

      Mpinganjira appeared in court last week to answer charges of
      corruption by an official. Chupa has not been charged yet.

      Chilumpha jetted into the country as quietly as he had left,
      reportedly to Saudi Arabia to perform a pilgrimage.

      But contrary to the expectations of many, no policeman was
      waiting to arrest him at Lilongwe International Airport. A police
      officer on duty at the airport told PANA in a telephone interview
      that police knew of the former minister's arrival Tuesday.

      Nobody in government or police was ready to comment on
      Chilumpha's arrival. Police spokesman Oliver Soko said that the
      police was not ready to comment on Chilumpha because there
      was no docket on him yet.

      "We don't have anything on Dr. Chilumpha yet," he said.

      Director of Public Prosecutions Fahard Assani said it was not his
      duty to arrest anybody wanted on anything. He said when
      investigating authorities like the police and the Anti-Corruption
      Bureau finish investigations they hand over to him information to
      prepare a docket.

      "The report (by the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee on
      high fraud and corruption in government) is not enough to warrant
      prosecution of anybody. Investigating authorities have to
      investigate the allegations made before pressing a charge," he
      added.

      Chilumpha's name featured highly in the landmark fraud and
      corruption report officially presented in Parliament a fortnight ago.

      Peter Chiwona, an opposition MP and a member of the Public
      Accounts Committee, fingered Chilumpha as having allegedly
      facilitated the pilfering of over 125 million kwacha (two million US
      dollars) of government funds by ghost contractors of schools.

      He added that Chilumpha was either colluding with the fraudsters
      or he was grossly incompetent to authorise the release of the
      millions without checking where the money was going.

      "But a man of his calibre, Dr. Chilumpha should know something,"
      he said.

      Since his sacking, Chilumpha has been lying low.

      Environment minister Harry Thomson, who is the ruling United
      Democratic Front Leader in Parliament, said Chilumpha, who he
      succeeded as Leader of the House, never officially took leave of
      him.

      The local press speculated he was on the run until his return
      Tuesday.

      Perhaps journalists who waited for him at the airport were the most
      disappointed.

      After disembarking from the Kenyan Airways flight, the former
      minister - dressed casually and looking calm - briefly rested in the
      airport's VIP lounge before he drove away without saying anything
      to the press.

      *****

      Government Reaches Agreement With Striking
      Nurses

      Panafrican News Agency
      January 3, 2001

      Blantyre

      Malawi government Wednesday said it would allocate houses to
      nurses and set up a task-force to address their grievances
      following a nation-wide strike over the Christmas holiday.

      Speaking to the nurses in Blantyre after a closed-door meeting
      with President Bakili Muluzi, Health Minister Aleke Banda
      expressed the President's dissatisfaction over the strike.

      Banda said the President was particularly angered by the strike
      which brought suffering to the people.

      The nurses, however, argued that they staged the strike over the
      festive season to press their case.

      They have since resumed work with assurances from their
      National Association and government that no one is to be
      punished for the strike, which the authorities called illegal.

      Nurses in government hospitals launched the action demanding
      general improvement in their working conditions.

      They were also apparently angered by government's decision to
      suspend allocation of houses to civil servants, except those on
      essential services like security forces and doctors.

      The Nurses Association President Gorgina Chinula, insisted that
      doctors and nurses work hand-in-hand.

      "Without nurses doctors are handicapped," she said.

      The strike paralysed hospital services leading to a number of
      preventable deaths, especially in the maternity wards.

      *****

      Sacked Malawi Minister Forms Pressure Group

      Panafrican News Agency
      January 3, 2001

      Blantyre

      Malawi's dismissed senior minister Brown Mpinganjira has
      announced the formation of a pressure group, named National
      Democratic Alliance (NDA).

      At least 3,000 people braved an unusually cold foggy weather and
      drizzles to hear Mpinganjira announce the launch of NDA
      Wednesday in his home town of Mulanje, some 100 km from
      Blantyre.

      He said the pressure group's main aim was to bring back good
      governance in Malawi which he said was being threatened by
      personal ambitions of leaders of the ruling United Democratic
      Front (UDF).

      This was quite a disappointment for many people who thought BJ,
      as he is fondly referred to among his supporters, would announce
      the formation of a break-away political party from the UDF.

      Although Mpinganjira insisted he was still a member of the UDF,
      everything about the Mulanje rally resembled a completely new
      political party.

      For instance, the official yellow colour of the UDF was
      conspicuously absent. So was the clasping together of hands
      which is a symbol of the party.

      The UDF slogan was also hapharzadly replaced by a personalised
      chant of "BJ!! POWER!!! BJ POWER!!!

      Mpinganjira told his supporters the primary aim of his pressure
      group was to force the government to form a government of
      national unity.

      "For Malawi to develop, the government need to include all
      political parties represented in government, the civil society and
      representatives of all interest groups like businessmen because all
      these people have good ideas," he said.

      He added that his arrest last week was as a result of his urge to
      President Bikili Muluzi to consider including other players in the
      running of the government and that he should not consider
      running for a third term.

      He explained that for six years after the UDF took over power, the
      government has been blaming its failures on the Malawi Congress
      Party (MCP), its predecessor. It was now time to include even the
      vilified MCP because the UDF has failed.

      "Until when are we going to keep blaming the MCP?" he said.

      Mpinganjira, however, disappointed his supporters and a horde of
      journalists and other observers who followed him to Mulanje with
      the hope that he would let out his big revelation about official
      corruption in government and who he has been terming as the
      biggest thief in Malawi.

      He said his lawyer has advised him against that because he wants
      to use that as part of his defence when his case commences in the
      Blantyre Magistrate's Court Thursday.

      The rally was attended by a cross-section of UDF leaders,
      including MPs, who vowed to fight against Muluzi's bid to run for a
      third term. Representatives of the MCP, churches and chiefs were
      also on hand.

      Meanwhile, at the preliminary hearing in Blantyre Wednesday,
      Director of Public Prosecution Fahard Assani applied to Blantyre
      principal magistrate Sylvester Kalembera to contract Mpinganjira's
      charges to three counts of official corruption by public servant
      instead of the original four counts.

      *****

      University Lecturers On Strike Over Pay

      Panafrican News Agency
      January 4, 2001

      Raphael Tenthani
      Blantyre

      Lecturers at the Malawi University's Polytechnic have gone on
      strike to press their demand for better pay.

      James Khomba, chairman of the Polytechnic Academic Staff
      Committee on Welfare (PASCOW) told PANA Thursday the
      lecturers would neither resume lecturers nor administer any
      examinations until the issue of their salaries is resolved.

      "The economic situation in this country is in such a way that the
      salaries we are getting cannot suffice. We are barely getting by,"
      he said.

      In a petition to the Vice-Chancellor and the University Council,
      PASCOW demanded that entry salary for staff associate should
      not be less than 20, 000 Malawi Kwacha (about 256 US dollars),
      while substantive lecturers should be paid according to
      qualification and experience based on the prevailing market value.

      Students of the Polytechnic started arriving Tuesday for
      registration ahead of the first 2001 semester, which was to have
      started Wednesday. They were scheduled to go straight into
      examinations.

      But the lecturers' strike has disrupted the programme.

      "We already warned the administration here (at the Polytechnic)
      that students should not be recalled to campus until this issue is
      resolved," said Khomba of PASCOW.

      The University Vice-Chancellor David Rubadiri and Registrar
      Geoffrey Chipungu, late Wednesday met PASCOW members and
      all the staff at the college for negotiations.

      Rubadiri, a former diplomat at the United Nations and a former
      lecturer at Makerere University in Uganda, reportedly told the
      lecturers the Council appreciated their concerns but asked them
      to go back to classes while their matter was being sorted out.

      But that appeal has been rejected.

      "Anything short of our demand is not acceptable," said Khomba.

      He claimed that salaries in the University of Malawi are still
      colonial, and out of tune with the trend of inflation, especially the
      depreciation of the local currency, Kwacha.

      Meanwhile, the Polytechnic student union has expressed solidarity
      with their lecturers.

      *****

      Drama In Malawi Court As State Witness Rebels

      Panafrican News Agency
      January 4, 2001

      Blantyre

      The case in which former Malawi senior minister Brown
      Mpinganjira is being accused of pocketing about 57,000 Malawi
      Kwacha (about 731 US dollars) in bribes to favour a contractor
      opened in dramatic fashion in Blantyre Thursday, after a state
      witness turned against the government.

      Yusuf Ahmed Bobat, the businessman who allegedly gave the
      sacked former senior minister the money to win the lucrative
      contracts in the Ministry of Education, stunned the jam-packed
      court-room when he vehemently denied having giving the alleged
      bribe.

      Bobat, answering questions in cross-examination from the Director
      of Public Prosecutions, Farhard Assani, said it was true he gave
      Mpinganjira some money towards the building of his house in
      Blantyre.

      He also admitted he gave Mpinganjira's wife, Lizzie, some more
      money.

      Bobat, however, said all the money was a loan which the
      Mpinganjiras have since repaid in full.

      "In fact the Mpinganjiras are family friends and my family has time
      and again received financial help from them," he said.

      Bobat, who looked sickly due to a diabetic condition, told the DPP
      he has never received favours from Mpinganjira.

      He won all tenders to supply education materials to the education
      ministry through an open tender.

      Bobat also told the court he gave Mpinganjira the first loan when
      he had already secured a contract from the Ministry of Education.

      He said he gave out the next loan when President Bakili Muluzu
      had dissolved his cabinet and the last loan when Mpinganjira had
      moved from the Ministry of Education to Foreign Affairs.

      "I am not a criminal; it's not a crime to be friends with the
      Honourable Minister; I am friendly to lots of people," he said.

      Assani at one point asked for an adjustment to let the witness
      consult his lawyer but Presiding Magistrate Silvester Kalembera
      overruled him after protestations from Mpinganjira's lawyer, Ralph
      Kasambara, who argued the DPP might try to influence the
      witness.

      The case turned emotional when Mpinganjira's lawyer,
      Kasambara, revealed that Bobat made allegations of having
      bribed Mpinganjira to fiscal police investigators after meeting
      President Muluzi at State House in Blantyre on 17 December 2000
      in the company of presidential affairs minister Dumbo Lemani.

      While admitting that he met Muluzi, Bobat refused to be drawn in
      admitting that the whole case was a political vendetta orchestrated
      by Muluzi and Lemani.

      "I am not going to answer that question, learned counsel, because
      I don't want to be a political witness," he said.

      At the beginning of the trial, Principal Resident Magistrate
      Kalembera warned all politicians including President Muluzi, his
      ministers and ruling party officials and opposition newspapers
      against commenting on the trial.

      This comes in the wake statements from officials of the ruling party
      who have been vilifying Mpinganjira on state radio and television
      and an opposition newspaper that implied that the magistrate was
      seeking instructions from government on how to conduct the trial.

      "Tell the president and his officials not to comment on this case
      otherwise anyone commenting on the case will be in contempt of
      court," warned Kalembera.

      As it was the case during his arrest on Boxing Day, thousands of
      Mpinganjira's supporters camped outside the courtroom premises
      chanting songs in his praise.

      However, a contingent of heavily armed police officers drew a
      human cordon, barring them from going hear the court.

      All roads leading to the court were sealed off and anybody
      entering the court premises was subjected to rigorous questioning
      and body search.

      More witnesses are expected to testify Friday when the case
      resumes.

      *****

      Floods Destroy Crops in Southern Malawi

      African Eye News Service (South
      Africa)
      January 4, 2001

      Brian Ligomeka
      Blantyre

      Over 500 peasant farmers in Malawi lost all their crops this week
      when the Shire River broke its banks and flooded almost 200
      hectares of maize fields, African Eye News Service (South Africa)
      reports.

      Malawi commissioner for disaster preparedness, Lucious Chikuni,
      confirmed the flooding on Thursday but said relief operations had
      been hampered by funding constraints.

      "We need at least 5,000 metric tonnes of maize seed for farmers
      to replant their crops. We need to move as quickly as possible to
      prevent hunger in the future, but haven't yet received our budget
      from government and are therefore hamstrung," said Chikuni.

      No one was reported killed in the flooding, but scores of houses,
      bridges and other infrastructure was destroyed, he added. At least
      570 subsistence farmers were affected in the disaster in Malawi's
      southern Chikwawa district on the country's border with
      Mozambique.

      The Shire River, one of Malawi's largest, is a tributary of the
      Zambezi and floods following heavy rains in its Blantyre and
      Mwanza catchment areas.

      Chikuni said Malawi's finance ministry was supposed to transfer
      roughly R2 million to the disaster preparedness commission every
      year but had failed to do so in 2000 and 2001 due to financial
      constraints.

      "We now only get money when disasters strike. This is very
      unfortunate, because it leaves us ill prepared for disasters and
      make it impossible to respond immediately after tragedy strikes,"
      he said.

      *****

      State Witness Disappears in Corruption Case

      Panafrican News Agency
      January 5, 2001

      By Raphael Tenthani
      Blantyre, Malawi

      A legal drama ensued again Friday when Malawi's Director of
      Public Prosecutions (DPP) Farhard Assani told a packed Blantyre
      Magistrate's Court that one of his key witnesses had disappeared.

      This followed Thursday's hearing when another key State witness
      literally helped the case of sacked former senior Minister Brown
      Mpinganjira accused of accepting bribes to favour a contractor.

      Yusuf Ahmed Bobat, who is alleged to have bribed Mpinganjira
      with 731 US dollars, stunned the court when he said the money
      was actually a loan that has since been repaid.

      At Friday's session when six more witnesses testified, DPP Assani
      said contractor Charles Matsimbe, who allegedly got the money
      from Bobat and therefore another key witness, has since
      disappeared.

      "Your worship, police went to his house in Mulanje this morning but
      they were told he was in Blantyre. He wasn't found at either of his
      two houses in Blantyre," the DPP added.

      Assani said since the police have done all they could to bring
      Matsimbe to court, he wanted to submit the witness' written
      statement instead.

      But Mpinganjira's lawyer, Ralph Kasambara, protested, saying
      defence wanted to cross-examine him on some allegations he
      made in the statement.

      Presiding magistrate Silvester Kalembera ruled that the statement
      could not be admitted on its own merit, and ordered the police
      mount a hunt for Matsimbe's arrest.

      If he is brought to testify, Matsimbe would be the last witness.

      Among the 10 witnesses called by the DPP, were education
      officials and police officers.

      Mpinganjira is alleged to have accepted the bribe from Bobat to
      facilitate his clinching of lucrative contracts from the Ministry of
      Education where he was Minister.

      Mpinganjira denies the charges, arguing that his arrest is political
      and linked to his opposition to President Bakili Muluzi, who is
      seeking a third term in office.

      Malawi Constitution states that a President can only run for two
      consecutive terms.

      Judicial sources said Mpinganjira faces imprisonment of between
      five to 12 years, if convicted.

      *****

      Ruling Party Moots Third Term for Muluzi

      Panafrican News Agency
      January 5, 2001

      Raphael Tenthani
      Blantyre, Malawi

      Officials of Malawi's ruling United Democratic Front (UDF) have
      begun stepping up a campaign for President Bakili Muluzi to run
      for a third five-year term although the constitution prohibits the
      move.

      The Malawi Constitution stipulates that a president can hold office
      for only two five-year consecutive terms.

      And by 2004, Muluzi would be ending his second five-year
      consecutive constitutional term.

      But, addressing a public rally in Blantyre alongside senior party
      officials, MP Elywin Maluwa, of the UDF said party loyalists want
      Muluzi to have another go at the presidency.

      "Whether one likes it or not Muluzi is standing again in 2004
      because that is what people want," he bragged.

      Blantyre Mayor John Chikakwiya, also a ruling party member, said
      it was imperative that Muluzi stand for a third term because he was
      doing a "good job".

      He called on senior officials of the party "to start seriously
      discussing the issue".

      "We should change the Constitution to allow Muluzi to stand
      again," he suggested.

      But estranged UDF MP, Peter Chupa, who was fired for supporting
      sacked senior party official Brown Mpinganjira's opposition to the
      third term issue, said while it might be true that Muluzi was a good
      man, changing the Constitution to accommodate his wishes would
      be setting a bad precedence.

      "If we are saying Muluzi is a good man and we should therefore
      doctor the Constitution to allow him another term, what will happen
      if a bad man comes on the scene? Will we go back to change the
      Constitution again to prevent him from running a further term?" he
      queried in an interview with PANA.

      Opposition parties have also frowned on the UDF campaign to
      amend the Constitution for Muluzi.

      Dan Msowoya, publicity secretary of the Alliance for Democracy or
      AFORD, said allowing Muluzi a further term will be disastrous for
      democracy.

      "This is how dictators are made. Dr (Hastings Kamuzu) Banda
      originally never wanted to be life president until politicians pushed
      him on. And what did we have? A ruthless dictator," he pointed
      out.

      Msowoya lamented that since UDF uses the economic tactic of
      buying vulnerable opposition MPs to vote in favour of its whims,
      the third term issue may pass through Parliament.

      He, however, said that the issue of the presidency is too crucial
      that it does not have to be left in the hands of Parliament alone
      but should be put to a referendum.

      But leading constitutional lawyer Modecai Msisha said, to change
      the Constitution to allow for a presidential third term does not
      require a national referendum.

      "A two-thirds majority is enough to allow for a change in the
      Constitution to allow for a third term.

      Only issues concern fundamental human rights require both a
      two-thirds majority in Parliament and a referendum for a particular
      section of the Constitution to be changed," he said.

      Muluzi, who is now 57, has unofficially commented on the matter.

      But Heatherwick Ntaba, treasurer general of the main opposition
      Malawi Congress Party (MCP) said Muluzi is not unaware of what
      his officials are saying.

      "He is sending his minions to test the waters," he said.

      Muluzi became Malawi's first democratically elected president in
      1994 after taking over from the atavistic life- president Banda.

      *****

      Biogas Use In Malawi Nears Implementation

      Panafrican News Agency
      January 7, 2001

      Blantyre, Malawi

      Plans by the Malawi government to introduce biogas-generated
      electricity using human and animal waste as an alternative source
      of energy for the rural areas are at an advanced stage, the
      environment ministry says.

      It notes in a position paper that the project - whose main aim is to
      save Malawi's thinning forests - will start in a pilot phase in two
      districts chosen for their uniqueness.

      For instance, forests in the southern district of Chikwawa were
      heavily affected by thousands of refugees who fled the 16- year
      civil war in neighbouring Mozambique, and have cleared several
      hectares of forests to establish their settlements.

      Likewise, the central district of Dowa is currently hosting a group
      of refugees and asylum seekers from troubled spots in east and
      central Africa.

      Environmentalists say forests are the main casualties of the
      sudden population pressures.

      The ministry cited how the use of biogas has been proven
      effective in Ghana and Botswana, saying the pilot projects will act
      as demonstration centres which will later build technical capacity
      for a lot of Malawians to be able to mass produce biogas.

      The ministry says it hopes the successful implementation of biogas
      use might cut down fuel wood consumption by at least 49 percent
      from its current 90 percent.

      "Apart from being environmentally friendly, the project would
      considerably reduce over-dependence on trees for cooking," says
      the ministry.

      Under the pilot project, 40 households in the selected districts
      inhabited by over 2,000 people plus other social centres will be
      connected to a national grid, which will supply them with
      biogas-generated electricity.

      Mixing human and animal excreta produces biogas. The human
      wastes are collected from septic tanks or latrine and connected to
      a digester.

      Officials at the ministry of environment also say communities will
      be able to use biogas to drive machines in maize mills after the
      project successfully takes off.

      *****

      South African Investor Buys Stake in Malawi
      Radio

      Panafrican News Agency
      January 8, 2001

      Blantyre, Malawi

      One of South Africa's leading investors, United Alliance Media or
      UAM, has bought an equity in one of Malawi's two commercial
      radio stations, Capital FM.

      Capital Radio Malawi Limited chairman Alaudin Osman said UAM's
      involvement in his radio is a big boost to commercial broadcasting
      in his country.

      "It's a very good and positive development because in Malawi it is
      very difficult for a business like ours to expand due to high bank
      lending rates," he added.

      Osman, who is also a presidential spokesman, started Capital FM
      as a family business. He said UAM investment in the station will
      result in improvement in technical performance of the fledgling
      radio station and the establishment of another commercial radio
      station, Youth FM, which is already established in South Africa as
      Y FM, under UAM.

      He said that the new commercial station would target the youth
      while Capital FM will continue targeting the adult audience.

      Capital FM, which started broadcasting in March 1998, is currently
      negotiating with the Malawi Communication Regulatory Authority to
      be allowed to broadcast nationally.

      It currently only covers the urban centres of Blantyre and Lilongwe
      an their immediate environs.

      UAM chief executive Anthony Glass said in a statement UAM
      investment in Capital FM was part of UAM's expansion programme
      in radio and television broadcasts in Africa.

      UAM hold stakes in Y FM in South Africa and Yorona FM in
      Botswana. It has also secured further stakes in radio stations in
      Tanzania and Uganda.

      Osman refused to disclose financial implications of the UAM
      investment. He nonetheless said the investment will involve
      technological transfer.
    • Christine Chumbler
      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
      Message 1046 of 1046 , May 22 8:06 AM
      • 0 Attachment

        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

        Andrew Lungu

         

        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

        Harare, Zimbabwe

        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.

        Opposition protests

        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.

        Crackdown

        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

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