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  • Christine Chumbler
    Cabinet Approves Land Policy Daily Times (Blantyre) February 6, 2002 Posted to the web February 6, 2002 Sarah Makoza Blantyre Government has started
    Message 1 of 1046 , Feb 8, 2002
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      Cabinet Approves Land Policy

      Daily Times (Blantyre)
      February 6, 2002
      Posted to the web February 6, 2002
      Sarah Makoza
      Blantyre
      Government has started implementing its Land Reform Policy despite an outcry from the Church and NGOs that consultations on the policy were inappropriate and inadequate.
      Secretary of Lands, Surveys, Housing and Physical Planning Joseph Matope said the implementation of the policy began with cabinet approval and the training of 25 people in land administration.
      "Cabinet has already approved the policy and we have now drawn a curriculum to be used by personnel who will be trained in land administration," Matope said.
      But Robert Mwaungulu of the National Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace said the general feeling of the Church and NGOs is that there was haste in the matter.
      "The implementation of the policy has been hashed. It could have been fair enough if the policy started with the grass-roots since they own most of the land in the country," he said.
      Mwaungulu said the church community would like broader consultations and participation on the land reform programme if it is to be fully accepted by civil society.
      He observed that there was need, for instance, to translate the policy into the vernacular, to enable the rural masses to understand its contents and give informed input.
      But Matope insisted that despite a few disagreements with some stakeholders, it is high time they implemented the policy since all interested parties were consulted in time.
      "We have heard the concerns raised by some NGOs, but we cannot keep it on hold for so long because all the stakeholders were invited to come to the meetings to participate and some did not," he said.
      The draft policy last December irked some NGOs who observed that it prohibits foreign ownership.
      Rafiq Hajat, director of Policy Interaction, an NGO formed soon after the policy was released, was critical of the policy, observing that in some aspects the draft policy contradicts some sections of the Constitution on the right to acquire property.


      *****

      Police Searching for Missing Hospital Workers

      Daily Times (Blantyre)
      February 6, 2002
      Posted to the web February 6, 2002
      Tamanda Matebule
      Blantyre
      POLICE are searching for the bodies of two hospital workers who were swept away by running water on Nkuzi River in Nsanje Sunday as they were travelling to Ntcheu.
      Mag Jere, a nurse at Trinity Hospital at Muona in Nsanje, and Wilson Fulani, a clinical officer at Ntcheu, are reported to have been travelling to Ntcheu District Hospital in the company of three others when they met their fate at a river drift.
      Southern Region Police confirmed the incident yesterday saying the two, presumed dead, were among five passengers who were travelling in the twin-cab pick-up which was transferring another nurse to Ntcheu District Hospital.
      Police Commissioner for Southern Region Often Thyolani said the bodies were still missing and police were still searching.
      "We are still looking for the bodies but our efforts are not yielding anything. Up to now we haven't found either of the bodies," Thyolani said.
      As we went to press, Jere's relatives in Chilomoni, Blantyre were still awaiting the body.
      Downpours have lately swept away hundreds of acres of crops and left scores of people homeless.
      About 11 districts are reported to have been hit by waves of floods following the heavy rains.


      *****

      Britain Pledges K200m for Food

      Daily Times (Blantyre)
      February 6, 2002
      Posted to the web February 6, 2002
      Mabvuto Banda
      Blantyre
      THE BRITISH government yesterday pledged an immediate K200 million to Malawi to relieve the worsening food situation in the country, Sanjika Palace has said.
      Presidentail Press Officer Chinduti Chirwa said British Secretary of State for International Development Claire Short pledged her government would give Malawi an equivalent of K200 million for food relief.
      Short made the pledge after talks she had with President Bakili Muluzi last week.
      "The British say they are in the process of finalising an existing food relief programme in Malawi in which the Department of International Development is working in partnership with Save the Children Fund Malawi aimed at delivering food supplies to the critically-affected areas," he said.
      Chirwa said the President, who is currently on a private visit to the U.S., thanked the UK for the assistance.
      The British aid comes after the World Food Programme introduced a special ration for under-5 children in hospitals to avert serious hunger across the country.


      ******
      Report Condemns Deplorable Conditions for Blantyre Workers

      International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (Brussels)
      PRESS RELEASE
      February 6, 2002
      Posted to the web February 6, 2002
      Brussels
      A new report released by the ICFTU has condemned the deplorable situation faced by working people in Malawi and challenged the government to meet its obligations to protect its citizens.
      Despite having ratified all of the eight ILO conventions on core labour standards, the situation for the hundreds of thousands of child labourers, women and for the majority of workers in general, remains as miserable as ever. As the report states, "in view of restrictions on the trade union rights of plantation workers and workers in EPZ's, and problems with anti-union discrimination and child labour, determined measures are needed to comply with the commitments Malawi has accepted."
      The ICFTU evaluation report was written to coincide with the WTO trade policy review of Malawi being conducted in Geneva on 6 and 8 February, and is the latest in a series of such reports issued by the ICFTU. The Malawi Congress of Trade Unions (MCTU) is the ICFTU's affiliated organisation in Malawi.
      Plantations of export crops, including tobacco, tea and sugar, account for approximately three quarters of all exports earnings in Malawi. The tobacco plantations are the single biggest plank in Malawi's trade strategy, and yet according to the ICFTU report, "its workers face severe poverty and poor working conditions." An agreement has been signed between the Tobacco Tenants and Allied Workers' Union, the MCTU and the Tobacco Association of Malawi (TAMA) to recognise the unions, to encourage collective bargaining and to eliminate child labour.
      Yet child labour in these areas continues unabated. The report states that, "more than twenty per cent of the workforce on commercial plantations, especially tobacco plantations, are children. Much child labour on these commercial plantations is hidden because the tenant farming system encourages the whole family to work. Many children are kept from school in order to contribute to the family growing effort, and smaller children are often kept from school in order to perform the domestic tasks that the parents and older siblings are not available to perform. The ILO estimates that over 440,000 children between the ages of 10 and 14 are economically active in Malawi, which constitutes over thirty per cent of this age group."
      Bonded labour, although in breach of the Malawi Constitution and ILO core conventions, still persists, and is especially prevalent on tobacco plantations. Tobacco tenants have exclusive arrangements, often non-written, with the estate owners to sell their crop and to buy inputs such as fertiliser, seed and often food.
      With regard to the ILO core labour standards of freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining, despite the fact that Malawi has signed both conventions, "little over ten percent of the workforce operate under formal conditions and have recourse to the various instruments of labour legislation."
      "Poverty is rife in Malawi, " said ICFTU Secretary General Guy Ryder, "and the situation for the majority of workers is dire. Without concerted efforts on behalf of the Malawi government to respect the core labour standards to which they have repeatedly agreed, improvement for the beleaguered population looks distinctly far off."


      *****

      Varsity Axes 16 Students

      Daily Times (Blantyre)
      February 7, 2002
      Posted to the web February 7, 2002
      Penelope Paliani-Kamanga
      Blantyre
      University Council of Malawi has said it will not register 16 students who were arrested by police last month during a demonstration in Zomba, but denied it was expelling them 11 days before Chancellor College and the Polytechnic re-open.
      The colleges, closed abruptly after riots which left one student dead and a passer-by seriously wounded, will re-open on February 18.
      Chairman of a Commission of Inquiry instituted to investigate the incident, Humphreys Mvula, said yesterday in Blantyre the Council had decided to disallow the students because they have a case to answer.
      "This move has been taken by council to underscore that the social decay which has come with extreme indiscipline in the University of Malawi will not be tolerated anymore as it has done more harm than good," he said.
      Mvula said the 16 students, who face charges of conduct likely to cause a breach of peace and causing malicious damage, were identified to have taken part in the violence against college rules.
      Vice Chancellor David Rubadiri said the students broke the law of the land and democracy rallies around the rule of law.
      "When one breaks the law of the land he is in for trouble. We just hope the magistrate will understand that these were high-spirited students and, if they are forgiven, we may take them back after college procedures have been followed," he said.
      Meanwhile, the Council said it decided to open the colleges on February 18 after exhaustive consultations with parents in the three regions and plans to train the students on how to demonstrate.
      Mvula admitted that the Council was under pressure from parents, students and various stakeholders to open the university and the students will have to take a courses in nonviolent demonstration.
      Mvula, however, said the Council cannot condemn the police for using a live bullet on Fanikizo Phiri because they are not mandated to do so.
      He said members of the inquiry will conduct more talks with the police to reach a consensus.
      President of the University of Malawi Students Union (Umsu) Themba Kalua said he could not commet much on the matter as he was awaiting a report from the Chancellor College Students Union president on the barring of the students.
      He said depending on the report, the union might seek legal aids to challenge the Council's ruling.
      "I feel the students are innocent until proven guilty. Being picked by the police does not mean they are guilty," he said.


      *****

      Kwacha Depreciation: Experts Call for Calm

      Daily Times (Blantyre)
      February 7, 2002
      Posted to the web February 7, 2002
      Thomas Chafunya
      Blantyre
      Money market experts have called for calm after the kwacha slightly depreciated to K70 against the US dollar yesterday from K68 on Monday this week.
      Trading at K68 to the greenback for a couple of months, the kwacha depreciated two steps yesterday to K70.60 as quoted by the Commercial Bank of Malawi (CBM).
      Continental Discount House (CDH) General Manager (Operations) Joseph Mwanamvekha said yesterday the marginal depreciation of the kwacha is being experienced as the economy continues to sail through a lean forex-earning period.
      "The situation is normal, there should be no need for panic as this is a seasonal trend," he said, adding that the marginal movement may continue towards the set in of the tobacco selling season.
      He said the country still boasts foreign exchange reserves of 3.4 months of import cover, therefore the issue of panic should be out of question.
      Senior Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM) officials also indicated that the currency movement reflected a steep rise in demand for foreign exchange at the back of a slowdown in foreign currency inflow.
      National Bank of Malawi's (NBM) Economic Newsletter of February 2002 says the news about the suspension of donor aid has sent jitters on the market but suggested that the situation was already discounted in August last year when the news was widely known.
      "By any standards, the foreign exchange reserves at 3.4 months cover are still at a comfortable level," the newsletter says.
      The bank also says this month end will be crucial as the country will know whether the International Monetary Fund (IMF) will resume aid to Malawi currently under suspension.
      "If unsuccessful, shortages may be experienced in the last quarter of this year. However, significant rate adjustments are bound to occur sooner than later," it says.
      Pricing body maintains high fuel prices Thomas Chafunya PETROLEUM Pricing Committee (PPC), a multi sectoral representive body, has agreed to maintain the current high pump fuel prices saying oil market developments have failed to break a ceiling which neccessitates local fuel price changes.
      With the decision, current prices of K46.10 for each litre of petrol, K41.20 and K31.40 for a litre of diesel and paraffin, respectively, remain unchanged.
      Petroleum Control Commission (PCC) general manager Ishmael Chioko who is also the committee's secretary, said the meeting on January 17, 2002 noted that landed costs of the three products fell by 1.75 percent, 4.10 percent and 0.66 percent on petrol, diesel and paraffin respectively.
      He also said during the same period, the Free on Board (FoB) prices of the three commodities went down by 3 percent, 7 percent and 1 percent, respectively, while the kwacha remained relatively stable at K68 to a dollar.
      FoB price on petrol moved from US$174.32 to US$169.29, diesel from US$ 172.76 to US$160.70 and paraffin from US$171.10 and US$169.61 per metric tonne.
      "The committee noted that the above changes in the landed costs of petrol, diesel and paraffin could not trigger a revision of pump prices of the products as they did not go beyond the minimum requirement of 5 percent band of the Automatic Price Mechanism for revising pump prices of petroleum products in Malawi," he said.
      The industry adopted the pricing mechanism seven years ago where market developments would neccesitate price movements if they are below or above the set 5 percent.


      *****

      Electoral Commission Blamed for Confusion in Congress Party

      Daily Times (Blantyre)
      February 7, 2002
      Posted to the web February 7, 2002
      Anthony Kasunda
      Blantyre
      THE MALAWI Congress Party (MCP) has accused the Electoral Commission for fuelling more confusion in the party by failing to recognise decision made by party President Gwanda Chakuamba.
      Publicity secretary Nicholas Dausi said it was wrong for EC to address a letter about the launch of Chiradzulu West constituency by-election campaign to Kate Kainja who he said was fired as the party's Secretary General long time ago.

      "Kainja was fired as Secretary General longtime ago and we even wrote Electoral Commission about this," he charged, adding that the election mother body was advised through the same letter to attention all correspondence to Steve Ching'ang'a, the party's deputy secretary general.
      Dausi alleged that EC is interested in using Kainja, who belongs to the John Tembo faction, for the benefit of the ruling United Democratic Party (UDF).
      Nevertheless, he said the party will field a candidate in the by-election although it was not represented at the campaign launch.
      "As Headquarters of MCP, we were not represented at the launch. If any one claim that we were represented, may be they took him from the street," he said.
      Dausi recalled an incident in Phalombe during Local Government Elections when MCP had two candidates fielded by John Tembo's camp and that of Gwanda Chakuamba in one ward.
      However, EC Public Relations Officer, Fegus Lipenga refuted Dausi's allegation as baseless saying as far as Electoral Commission was concerned, Kainja is the Secretary General hence letters addressed to her.
      "If you say she is not the secretary general, then I am hearing it from you.
      Electoral Commission was not communicated to about the changes," he said.
      Lipenga said it has always been the case that letters to political parties are hand delivered to both headquarters and regional office where elections are taking place.
      He said letters to MCP were hand delivered on January 22 and was received by one Mfune and that it was represented by officials he could not immediately remember.
      He said it was then wrong to blame EC on the internal political confusion in parties saying the body act independently.


      *****

      SADC States Still Mum On Tourists Movement

      Daily Times (Blantyre)
      February 7, 2002
      Posted to the web February 7, 2002
      Frank Phiri
      Blantyre
      SADC member states have not yet assented to the implementation of a proposed uniform visa requirement which is hoped to clear disparities in trade and touristic movements as the region awaits entry into a Free Trade Area (FTA), Daily Times has established.
      A senior official of the Regional Tourism Organisation of Southern Africa (Retosa) disclosed this week that the delay to implement the proposal aims at giving member states ample time to put in place enabling policy mechanisms that will make the new system effective.
      Francis Mfune, Retosa marketing and promotion manager, said that member states had reached a consensus to have the uniform visa (Univisa), but were still consulting at individual level to see how each one would adopt and benefit from the new measure.
      He disclosed that under the new system, 12 tourist primary source markets will be exempted from the individual country visa requirement and be able to travel throughout Sadc using the Univisa.
      He said the new measure will require uniform computerised systems which will be installed at all border posts and airports, while existing systems will need to be revamped to check against forgery.
      "Some countries are already in the process of installing the new systems. This is a policy matter at country level," he said.
      Mfune disclosed that member states have since 2000 been conducting studies on Univisa systems, and consulting some European nations who are already using the system.
      "The new system will clear one of the pertinent impediments to tourism growth in the Sadc region," said the Retosa marketing manager.
      He said apart from visa problems, other challenges facing the tourism industry in the region include a lack of a one-stop information database and a vibrant marketing system which can clear the traditional negative perception problem many source markets have over the region.


      *****

      Government Hits Back At Denmark

      Daily Times (Blantyre)
      February 7, 2002
      Posted to the web February 7, 2002
      Times Reporter
      Blantyre
      GOVERNMENT has hit back at the Danish government for cutting aid to Malawi, describing its reasons as most tenous and not fit to warrant Danes' withdrawal.
      The Danes, who announced the aid freeze two weeks ago after their finance minister presented his budget to parliament, cited corruption, political intolerance and judicial interference as reasons for their decision.
      Reacting to the charge of political intolerance, the Ministry of Information said in a statement yesterday:
      "This accusation is most tenous. Fewer countries on earth have freer press than Malawi. ...There is not a single political prisoner in Malawi today and no one is in custody who should be there. Recent reports from Amnesty International will show that the Malawi Government record on human rights is far better than most countries."
      The government denied accusations of corruption as serious enough to warrant any aid cut saying that there are other countries that are worse than Malawi.
      "It is clear that Malawi is less corrupt than her nieghbours and yet Denmark has proceeded to discontinue aid to Malawi while continuing with aid to other countries considered corrupt," the statement reads in part.
      The government also dismissed claims of interference in the Judiciary, claiming it enjoys independence.
      Two high court judges are at the mercy of the Judicial Service Commission after President Bakili Muluzi referred a parliamentary petition to dismiss the judges for misconduct back to the Judicial Commission.
      Diplomatic relations between the two countries went sour last year when Danish Ambassador Orla Backdal was expelled after he was accused of insulting Muluzi.
      Bakdal had questioned the misuse of funds meant for the inter-party peace initiative by some top-tier ruling party members.
      The Royal Danish Government opened its doors to Malawi in 1997, and has since been supporting key areas in the economy. It has been supporting balance of payments besides financing the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) and the Ombudsman's office.


      *****

      Ancient lake's climate
      secrets

      By BBC News Online science editor Dr
      David Whitehouse

      Scientists are planning to drill into what could
      be the longest and richest archive of Earth's
      past climate. It could provide a year-by-year
      continuous record going back millions of years
      in a part of the world where it is thought
      humans first evolved.

      Using a newly developed drilling system,
      researchers will, for the first time, obtain
      sediments from the bottom of Lake Malawi.

      Situated at the southern end of the East
      African rift valley, Lake Malawi, is 750 metres
      (2,460 feet) deep and possibly seven million
      years old.

      Researchers say that the data they could
      obtain about past climatic variations might
      provide the environmental background needed
      to understand human origins and evolution.

      "Our goal is to get something on the order of a
      half-million to a million-year record on past
      climate and environment, taking advantage of
      the fact that these lake sediments are
      frequently annually layered," said Professor
      Andrew Cohen of the University of Arizona, US.

      Short and unforgiving

      From previous studies, scientists know that
      each annual layer of Lake Malawi sediment
      consists of a black zone - the sediment runoff
      from land deposited during the rainy season -
      and a light-coloured layer of single-celled algae
      that grow in abundance each dry season.

      The composition and
      variation in the layers
      can be used to infer
      climatic conditions -
      temperature,
      precipitation, etc - in
      the distant past.
      Because this
      information is not a
      direct record of climate
      behaviour, scientists
      refer to it as proxy
      data.

      Old trees, glaciers, even fossilised plankton
      shells hold clues to what the Earth's climate
      was up to millions of years ago.

      Andrew Cohen said: "A big question has always
      been whether the global climate engine has
      been driven by the advance and retreat of
      glaciers at high latitudes or by circulation
      patterns at the tropics.

      "It has long been assumed that Earth's climate
      engine was driven by the ice sheets
      themselves. But there is good reason to
      believe the tropics may be driving the global
      climate system. So, one of the first things we
      want to address is the question of whether the
      climate history of the tropics leads or lags
      behind the climate of the polar regions."

      Ultimate goal

      Preparations for Lake Malawi drilling will take
      place during the summer, with the actual
      drilling starting in December or January 2003.
      The project will take 70 days.

      "This is a risky
      scientific expedition, to
      be sure," said David
      Verardo, of the US
      National Science
      Foundation's Earth
      System History
      program. "We are
      moving a new drilling
      system into a
      technologically
      challenging
      environment."

      This is because Lake
      Malawi is deep and the
      weather window for drilling operations is short
      and unforgiving.

      Scientists say that their ultimate goal is to
      obtain sediment cores at Lake Tanganyika.

      Andrew Cohen said: "At Tanganyika, there is
      potential for getting much longer records than
      from Malawi. Lake Malawi is 750 meters deep.
      Tanganyika is around 1,500 meters deep. We
      suspect that Lake Malawi dried up sometime
      during the Pleistocene, whereas Lake
      Tanganyika held water."

      *****

      Opposition MP shot in
      Zimbabwe

      Violence is increasing as the election approaches
      An opposition member of parliament is reported
      to have been shot and wounded in Zimbabwe
      while campaigning for next month's presidential
      elections.

      The Movement for
      Democratic Change
      (MDC) said the MP,
      Abednego Bhebhe, was
      in a critical condition
      after being shot on
      Wednesday by
      unidentified attackers
      during a stop at a petrol station.

      The party said he was held overnight by police
      after the incident, along with two fellow
      opposition members of parliament and several
      other people.

      The news follows a warning by human rights
      groups of an alarming increase in
      politically-motivated violence in the run-up to
      voting.

      Political violence

      The Zimbabwe Human Rights Forum said 16
      political deaths were recorded in January 2002
      - the highest monthly total since the political
      violence began two years ago.

      The group blames
      supporters of President
      Robert Mugabe for
      most of the violence
      but says three
      activists from his
      Zanu-PF party were
      among the dead.

      In one province alone,
      35 schools have had to
      close because of the
      political violence,
      according to the
      forum's latest report.

      The MDC says that more than 100 of its
      supporters have been killed in the past two
      years.

      The report contradicts the government's claims
      that political violence is lessening ahead of
      next month's presidential elections.

      Teachers targeted

      International groups such as the European
      Union and the Commonwealth have threatened
      to impose sanctions on Zimbabwe's leaders
      unless the elections are free and fair.

      "Although spontaneous incidents of political
      violence do occur between groups of party
      supporters, it is of great concern that carefully
      orchestrated violence is still prevalent as part
      of a modus operandi to crush opposition party
      support," says the report.

      It also accuses the police of being partisan
      and only arresting opposition supporters during
      political clashes.

      In rural areas where support for Mr Mugabe
      remains strong, teachers are often seen as
      being opposition activists.

      "The attack on school teachers continued
      unabated. At times government ministers and
      officials have been at the forefront of the
      onslaught which has not only disrupted
      schooling but has also displaced numerous
      teachers," says the human rights groups.

      Of the 16 deaths, 10 were opposition
      supporters, three backed Mr Mugabe and the
      political affiliations of three more - including
      two farm guards - were not clear.

      Observers

      Zanu-PF says that six of its supporters have
      been killed in the past two months and
      accuses the MDC of starting the violence.

      The European Union has pulled back from its
      threat of imposing targeted sanctions against
      Mr Mugabe and his associates after he
      promised to invite EU election observers.

      Likewise, the Commonwealth rejected British
      calls to suspend Zimbabwe and already has
      some observers in place.

      With Zimbabwe's economy in meltdown, Mr
      Mugabe is facing his strongest political
      challenge in 22 years in the shape of the
      MDC's Morgan Tsvangirai.
    • 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, 2006
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        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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