- Malawian Blind Fight for Better Place in Society
African Church Information Service
November 6, 2001
Posted to the web November 6, 2001
WHO said blind people are even blind to a meaningful living enjoyed by the sighted who have often sidelined them? The yearning for good living is the same as has become evident among the visually impaired in Malawi.
The Malawi Union for the Blind (MUB) has now raised its voice to fight for equality after a long time of demeaning attitude from society that has seen them being discriminated against in schools, working places, communities, homes and all other social places.
"We are not crying for special rights, but there are many modern facilities which we can ably use but are not provided for us," says David Njaidi, a MUB executive and a graduate of the University of Malawi.
It was only in recent years that the Malawi government realised the need to involve the disabled in all social activities.
There are now many associations for the disabled people under the mother body - the Malawi Council for the Handicapped (Macoha). A year ago, the government also set up a ministry to look into the affairs of people with disabilities.
On October 15, the blind people of Malawi commemorated the White Cane Day organised by Sight Savers International, a Royal Commonwealth Society for the Blind body.
The disabled had a big walk supported by a cane, which is regarded as a symbol of hope, self-confidence and independence.
Apart from such facilities as computers, tapes, calculators, the braille and white canes, the visually-impaired asked their ministry and Sight Savers to provide them with loans to launch small business enterprises.
However, they were not only demanding the goodies of life. Representatives decried rampant abuse of the disabled like blind street children, who are sexually abused and constantly receive derogatory language from members of the general public.
Susan Chitimbe, Minister for the Disabled who is herself a disabled person, bemoaned the increasing cases of sexual abuse. "My Ministry is very worried about the abuse of women, who are even impregnated by the able-bodied. This way, they could contract HIV/Aids," she said.
For this group of people, there is a ray of hope as MUB banks on the disability policy being formulated to empower them in line with stipulations of the Constitution that defends the rights of the disabled people.
Country representative for Sight Savers, Abigail Dzimadzi, says the organisation will continue helping MUB in its efforts to uplift the lives of the visually impaired persons.
City authorities have been another frequent ulcer in the bowels of the disabled, especially blind beggars who line the streets all day. It has at times forced them out of the streets.
Two Claim Zambia Nomination
The Associated Press
Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2001; 11:20 a.m. EST
LUSAKA, Zambia ** The son of Zambia's former dictator and a party
rival have both claimed the presidential nomination of their opposition
Tilyengi Kaunda, the son of former President Kenneth Kaunda who ruled
Zambia for 27 years, declared Monday he was the presidential candidate
of the United National Independence Party in the upcoming election. The
younger Kaunda is leader of the party that his father once led.
But Francis Nkhoma, another party leader, also claimed to be the
legitimate nominee during Monday's briefing by Zambia's electoral
Commission officials told Kaunda and Nkhoma to figure out who their
party's official candidate was before elections are called, saying they both
risked being left off the ballot.
No official date has been given for the elections, although they are
expected to be held before the end of the year.
Showdown Looms between EU and
Zimbabwe's foreign affairs minister, Stan Mudenge, has described as
"thoughtless and futile" a demand by the European Union to be allowed to
send its election monitors for the elections.
"That is how exactly we feel when people ... come to us, even before we ourselves
know the date of our elections to urge, insist and demand that they should be
allowed to come by such and such a date and start assessing and observing," he
"It breeds suspicions and tempts others to ascribe sinister motives," said Mudenge,
warning that Zimbabwe is a sovereign and independent state that can never take
orders from any country.
Zimbabwean political analysts, however, beg to differ with Mudenge. "Yes, Zimbabwe
is a sovereign state, but does it want free and fair elections. No. If they are genuine
about holding free and fair elections, they should allow monitors from all over the
world. They have something to hide it's clear," says Moses Tekere, a University of
"Although it's not possible to hold free and fair elections now, the government runs
the risk of no one recognising it even if it were to win freely and fairly," notes Tekere.
John Makumbe, a political analyst,
agreed. "It's a frivolous excuse," he says.
"If the Zimbabwean government has
nothing to hide, they should allow
international observers to come in. Their
refusal to let in the international
community is already evident of their
intention to steal the election."
The European Union claims that
President Robert Mugabe's government is
failing to uphold the rule of law,
threatening to impose sanctions on
Zimbabwe over worsening human rights
conditions in the country.
Zimbabwe's presidential elections, which
is expected to be the most fiercely
contested since independence in 1980, will take place early next year.
For the first time, political analysts give incumbent president Mugabe little chance of
winning the vote. In last year's parliamentary elections, analysts claim the ruling
party only won through violence and the beating up of opposition supporters.
At least 32 opposition supporters were killed in the run-up to last year's elections.
President Mugabe is facing his strongest challenge ever from the opposition's
"There is a lot more than meets the eye. They are very scared. They (government)
don't want the glare of the international community and it's obvious that it's going to
be a violent election," says Makumbe.
Last year Zimbabwe signed the Cotonou Agreement in which it agreed to the key
essential elements of rule of law, good governance and the observance of
A new report released recently by Amnesty International blamed the Zimbabwean
government "for sponsoring the killings of dozens of opposition supporters" in the
In the report, the London-based Human Rights group warned that state-sponsored
killings were on the rise. The group also said that the murders would continue to
increase in the run-up to next year's presidential elections.
According to the rights group, since January, more than 50 people have been killed
and the figure is rising. Amnesty International claimed that supporters of the ruling
party beat up political opponents sometimes with the active support of the police.
These claims have, however, been denied by police spokesperson, Wayne
Bvudzijena. The police, he said, had "not stooped so low as to kill people". He
challenged Amnesty International to provide evidence to back up their allegations.
Amnesty International predicts that violence will worsen and appeals for international
election observers to be sent to Zimbabwe as soon as possible ahead of presidential
elections next year.
"Pressure should continue to be exerted on the Zimbabwe government to allow
independent election to stop them from stealing the election," says Makumbe. - IPS
In other developments,
Zimbabwe's former chief justice, who was forced by Harare to
retire in March, has attacked President Robert Mugabe for
undermining human rights and the rule of law and condemned his
disrespect for the judiciary, London newspapers reported this
In the annual John Foster Human Rights Trust lecture delivered in
London late on Monday, Anthony Gubbay said Mugabe had
shown a "blatant and contemptuous disrespect" for the judiciary
over his treatment, according to The Times.
Gubbay was forced by Harare to retire in March after he opposed
verdicts favouring forcible seizures of white-owned land for
redistribution to marginalized blacks.
His speech on Monday marked the first time he had spoken in
public since he was forced to step down, The Times and Daily
"Judges should not be made to feel apprehensive of their personal
safety. They should not be subjected to government intimidation
in the hope that they would become more compliant and rule in
favour of the executive," he said.
Gubbay added that such "unjustifiable and unreasonable attacks
(on the judiciary) ... damaged it as an institution".
He said he was saddened not to be allowed to serve until April
2002, when he had been due to retire, the papers reported.
The Telegraph quoted Gubbay as saying Mugabe had set out to
undermine human rights and the rule of law in Zimbabwe ever
since he came to power more than 20 years ago.
"With hindsight I do not believe this can be dismissed as the
teething troubles of a new government flexing its muscles after an
inordinate period of white minority rule."
The Times said some 300 of Britain's most senior judges,
including the Chief Justice, gathered to hear Gubbay. - AFP
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