- Straw warns Zimbabwe over
Harare, London | Sunday
IN Zimbabwe this weekend: police detained a manager of a
mobile phone company after he refused to hand over data on
opposition party subscribers and a government spokesman
fingered British and South African reporters for 'aiding terrorism'.
The private Daily News said Jimmy Shindi, customer service
manager with the Econet Wireless company, was picked up on
Friday for allegedly failing to release information on calls made by
Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) officials.
Shindi was released without charge.
Meanwhile British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw Saturday
threatened diplomatic action against Zimbabwe after Harare
accused journalists, including four working for British newspapers,
of aiding terrorists.
The British High Commission in Zimbabwe has lodged an official
protest over the threat to journalists who reported the beatings of
whites, Straw said.
And he said he would be consulting European Union and
Commonwealth colleagues about further action against President
Robert Mugabe's government.
"I am profoundly concerned by the reports of comments made by
the Zimbabwe government spokesman in which he implied that
foreign and local journalists were assisting terrorism," he said in a
A government representative said on Friday that Zimbabwe
correspondents for Britain's Daily Telegraph, The Times, The
Guardian, and The Independent newspapers distorted truth and
assisted terrorists through their reports.
He added in the state-run Herald newspaper that South Africa's
Star, The Zimbabwe Independentand The Associated Press (AP)
were also guilty.
"It is now an open secret that these reporters are not only
distorting the facts but are assisting terrorists who stand accused
in our courts of law of abduction, torture and murder," said the
Straw said this is in clear breach of the Abuja agreement which
specifically referred to Zimbabwe's commitment to the freedom of
expression and goes against the principles set out in the Harare
Mugabe's government has been widely criticised for its attacks on
the independent press.
In recent months, Zimbabwe authorities have arrested local
journalists, expelled foreign correspondents and tacitly accused
the press of supporting the opposition Movement for Democratic
The government also recently accused opposition members of
being terrorists, and blamed the MDC for the murder of a war
veteran leader, Cain Nkala, who was abducted from his home in
Bulawayo city, in the south of Zimbabwe, two weeks ago.
The government representative comments on Friday were in
response to a letter reportedly sent by the United States
embassy to Harare, protesting against the recent beating of
civilians in Bulawayo, allegedly by ruling party supporters.
The beatings were reported by independent and foreign media as
retaliatory attacks against whites and the MDC, both blamed for
The US embassy letter would be likely to spark a diplomatic row,
the paper said.
Meanwhile, British newspapers on Saturday slammed as
"outrageous" and "absurd" the accusations that foreign and local
journalists were aiding terrorist activities.
Simon Kelner, the editor-in-chief of the Independent daily, urged
Straw to monitor the threat "and protect those who are
endangering their lives to provide fair and balanced reports in the
British media on the worsening political climate in Zimbabwe." -
Delay looms for Harare
Next month's local elections in the capital,
Harare, which could have given the opposition
a major boost ahead of presidential polls next
year, have been thrown into doubt.
Zimbabwe's Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku
convened a special hearing on Sunday to hear
arguments from government officials saying
they do not have enough time to organise the
vote because of preparations for next year's
Lawyers for the opposition Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC) say Justice
Chidyausiku - who was recently appointed by
President Robert Mugabe - may have already
decided in favour of the government.
Critics say the government has deliberately
held up polls in Harare and other urban areas
where the opposition MDC made a strong
showing during last year's parliamentary
Meanwhile, a white farmer is reported to be in
critical condition after being been shot by
assailants on his farm in the Macheke area,
about 80 km southeast of Harare on Sunday
A spokeswoman for the
Union (CFU) said Alan
Bradley had been
ambushed and then
transferred to a
hospital in Harare.
She did not say
war veterans were to
Many farm workers and
white farmers have
been injured, and some killed in an often
violent campaign of invasions of white-owned
farms in the past 18 months.
Zimbabwe could be moving closer towards
some form of sanctions following a warning
from the the British Foreign Office not to
harass foreign correspondents based in
spokesman was quoted
in the government
newspaper as calling
"terrorists" after they
reported on last week's
political violence in
Also on Saturday, The
Mugabe as rejecting
calls from a visiting European Union delegation
to monitor next year's presidential elections.
The EU has threatened to impose sanctions
against Harare if it is not allowed to monitor
next year's elections, in which Mr Mugabe will
face his strongest-ever challenge from the
MDC's Morgan Tsvangirai.
EU officials earlier said that relations were
Voter apathy in rural
By Penny Dale in Mporokoso, northern
Mporokoso in Zambia's Northern Province is
home to about 5,000 people, and is one of the
country's many remote communities.
Days after outgoing
announced an election
date of 27 December -
right in the middle of
the Christmas holiday
and the rainy season,
people are beginning to
hear the news.
Here, even tuning into a
radio station is a
hit-and-miss affair so news inevitably trickles
Mporokoso is 200 km from the nearest large
town, Kasama, where daily newspapers are
sold - albeit a day after publication - and
people can listen to radio and television
But the road is in terrible condition, and most
locals, market traders and subsistence farmers,
have little reason to travel.
They remain cut off
from the political
goings-on in the
capital, Lusaka, and
many do not seem to
Mporokoso has been
without a MP since
June, when the local
one bailed out of the
ruling party Movement
Democracy into the opposition Forum for
Development and Democracy.
He is not missed much.
Dorothy Nandu, who sells fish, rice and
tomatoes at Mporosoko's market, had not
heard the election date had been made public,
but did not care anyway.
She cannot vote because she was travelling
during the registration period. Besides her faith
is in God not politicians.
She told BBC News Online: "There's no one I
can trust. It's up to me, and God, to change
my life. It's not the politicians who make the
difference. They just pretend that they'll do
things, but they don't."
Joseph Chindo, a
50-year-old teacher, is
equally sceptical of
politicians. "I've seen
many summers and
winters - and in that
time, all the politicians
have done is bulged
out their tummies."
He is not even sure
he'll vote. "I may wake
up and vote, I may
Voter apathy is turning out to be a major issue
in the forthcoming elections in this area.
Only 55% of the eligible population is
registered to vote, despite the Electoral
Commission of Zambia extending the
registration by five weeks earlier in the year.
Foundation for the Democratic Process, a local
NGO which will monitor the 27 December polls
and is providing voter education in the run-up,
says that many people in the rural areas are
looking for a change.
But many think their
vote would not make
On the other hand,
Jacqueline Mukuka, a
farmer in nearby
is determined to use
her vote for change.
"It's time to change
the government, to
eliminate suffering. We
want better schooling,
clinics and fertiliser. Life would be better with
She will be voting for the Zambia Republic
Party, the only opposition party, she says, to
have visited her village.
Her and her friend Florence Chileshe are
wearing the chitenge material given to them by
the party's campaigners - something which all
the Zambian parties do, and which many
villagers now demand.
Often, villagers will not listen to what the
politicians have to say without getting some
sort of incentive - beer or a bag of maize -
and women often end up with the entire range
of political chitenge.
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