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  • Christine Chumbler
    Malawi coup plotters cleared By Raphael Tenthani Blantyre Four opposition activists who had been in jail for a year on treason charges have been acquitted.
    Message 1 of 1046 , Mar 6, 2002
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      Malawi 'coup plotters'
      cleared

      By Raphael Tenthani
      Blantyre

      Four opposition activists who had been
      in jail for a year on treason charges
      have been acquitted.

      The four, led by 33-year-old Sudi Adak
      Sulaimana, were arrested last March,
      for allegedly plotting to overthrow
      President Bakili Muluzi.

      Justice Edward Twea said
      the director of public
      prosecution had told him
      the state was dropping the
      charges, after finding no
      evidence to substantiate
      the treason allegations.

      Security around the
      courtroom was tight. I
      counted over 200
      heavily-armed police officers, some of them
      toting automatic rifles and teargas canisters,
      pacing up and down the High Court premises.

      Most curious spectators were barred from
      entering the court premises - the few who were
      allowed in were thoroughly frisked before being
      allowed in.

      Not bitter

      The accused had stood almost expressionless,
      perhaps resigned to their fate after months of
      unsuccessfully applying for bail.

      But they became very emotional as soon as the
      judge announced the acquittals.

      The alleged coup leader, Sudi Adak Sulaimana,
      told journalists he was not bitter with his
      experience in jail.

      The four were taken back to prison, this time
      without their handcuffs, for the release
      formalities.

      One man who had been refused entry to the
      courtroom said: "The millions of Kwacha the
      government has spent on this useless case could
      have been better used to subside maize."

      'Political vendetta'

      It was the second time Mr Sulaimana had been
      accused of treason.

      He was arrested in 1993 for trying to overthrow
      the government of former dictator Hastings
      Kamuzu Banda.

      President Muluzi
      pardoned him when he
      came to power in 1994.

      Director of public
      prosecution Fahad Assani
      did not explain why he
      had decided to withdraw
      the latest charges.

      Opposition leader Brown
      Mpinganjira, who was
      drawn into the case after
      a witness said he was
      going to finance the
      alleged coup, described the ruling as a
      vindication.

      He said the coup plot charges were a political
      vendetta by government to keep him out of the
      political picture.

      *****

      Zimbabwe Election Laws Reinstated

      By Angus Shaw
      Associated Press Writer
      Tuesday, March 5, 2002; 4:19 PM

      HARARE, Zimbabwe ** Days before voters go to the polls, President Robert Mugabe unilaterally reinstated
      controversial election laws Tuesday that had been struck down by the Supreme Court.

      Opposition lawmakers had complained the laws disenfranchised many of their supporters and would make it
      easier to rig this weekend's presidential election.

      The reinstated laws give state election officers sweeping powers and restrict vote monitoring, identity requirements
      for voters, campaigning and voter education.

      Mugabe's decree also restores a ban on absentee voting by as many as half a million Zimbabweans living abroad.

      The Supreme Court ruled Feb. 27 the election laws were improperly forced through Parliament in January after
      they were initially defeated.

      In a notice in the official Government Gazette on Tuesday, Mugabe overruled the court order, saying the laws had
      been validly enacted and "shall be deemed to have been lawfully" adopted ahead of the presidential vote.

      Mugabe's decree dealt a blow to the authority of the judiciary, already the target of threats and intimidation by the
      government and by ruling party militants.

      Adrian de Bourbon, an attorney for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, said the decree was illegal
      and unconstitutional.

      "It is a total disgrace. One of the candidates has changed the rules. That is breaking the law and is clearly
      designed to help one candidate against the other," he said.

      The opposition planned to file an urgent appeal with the Supreme Court on Wednesday "but it's a moot point that
      in the time left we'll get anywhere," he said.

      The High Court, the country's second-highest court, last week deferred new citizenship rules that had disqualified
      tens of thousands of voters, including longtime laborers from neighboring countries and many among the country's
      white minority.

      The government also was scheduled to appeal that ruling Wednesday.

      The court decisions had been seen as a blow to Mugabe, 78, who is fighting for his political survival after 22 years
      in office. He has led the African country since independence from Britain in 1980.

      As his popularity has waned, Mugabe has imposed curbs on the judiciary, the media and opposition parties and
      many of his critics have been attacked or threatened.

      The U.S. State Department released a human rights report on Zimbabwe on Monday that accused the
      government of extrajudicial killings, undermining the independence of the courts and waging a "systematic
      campaign of violence targeting supporters and potential supporters of the opposition."

      *****

      Why Mugabe's
      neighbours stay silent

      Richard Dowden
      Africa analyst

      Last year several African governments
      committed themselves to a political and
      economic plan called the New Programme for
      African Development.

      It commits African governments to governing
      well, ending wars and corruption, following free
      market policies, and trying to improve the lives
      of Africans.

      But Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has
      been governing badly, spurning the law,
      harassing the opposition and allowing farmland
      to be invaded by squatters.

      The country's economy
      will shrink by some 7%
      this year and many
      Zimbabweans will be
      dependent on food aid in
      a country that normally
      exports food.

      Zimbabwe's neighbours
      are suffering: Trade has
      diminished and refugees
      are fleeing across their borders.

      South Africa has lost millions of dollars-worth
      of foreign investment because of its
      troublesome neighbour.

      Closing ranks

      Why then have African leaders been so
      reluctant to do anything about Mr Mugabe or
      even criticise him?

      At the Commonwealth meeting the Africans
      protected Mr Mugabe while Britain, Canada,
      New Zealand and Australia demanded
      Zimbabwe's suspension.

      It looks like a racial
      split but it is only the
      African leaders who
      support Mr Mugabe.

      Many of Africa's
      professionals and
      intellectuals are as
      critical of Mr Mugabe
      as Western countries.

      They know that Mr
      Mugabe is damaging
      their interests and
      Africa's chances of
      pulling itself out of
      poverty.

      Africa's rulers are inclined to defend Mr Mugabe
      firstly because they usually close ranks when
      one of them is under pressure from outside.

      None of them have completely clean records
      on democracy and human rights, so there is a
      natural solidarity between them.

      Secondly Mr Mugabe is a very distinguished
      member of the club.

      He is one of the "Fathers of the Nation", those
      who overturned colonial rule.

      War allies

      Thirdly he is an old man and in Africa the
      elderly are respected.

      It is hard for Thabo Mbeki,
      nearly 20 years Mr
      Mugabe's junior, to
      criticise him, especially
      when he has ruled for only
      a quarter the time that Mr
      Mugabe has.

      Mr Mbeki also has
      to worry about a radical element in
      South Africa that approves of Mr
      Mugabe's land seizures, anti-white
      tirades and denunciations of western
      governments.

      In Southern Africa, Angola and
      Namibia are allies of Zimbabwe and
      they fight on the same side in the
      Democratic Republic of Congo to
      protect President Joseph Kabila.

      Only Botswana and Mozambique, the
      most vulnerable to catastrophe in
      Zimbabwe, have spoken out about
      Zimbabwe.

      The rest stay quiet to await the
      outcome of next weekend's election.

      Quiet persuasion

      An election in Africa has never been
      declared absolutely unfree and unfair
      but if this one is, African leaders
      would be forced to act.

      Their most likely sanction would be to
      refuse to recognise Mr Mugabe.

      For African rulers to unite against one
      of their number and expel him from
      the club would also be
      unprecedented.

      If the election is not declared
      illegitimate by observers, South
      Africa, Nigeria and other African
      states will accept Mr Mugabe as
      Zimbabwe's president and try to
      persuade him to moderate his
      policies or even to step down.

      Privately, the South Africans are
      talking about moderates in Zanu-PF
      toppling Mr Mugabe and establishing
      a government of national unity - but
      this may be wishful thinking.

      If Mr Mugabe was deposed by his
      party there would have to be another
      presidential election. The stakes
      would be even higher and the country
      more unstable.

      But accepting Mr Mugabe back in the
      fold would make a mockery of Africa's
      commitment to "good governance".

      It would alienate western
      governments and donors and make it
      difficult for them to persuade their
      electorates that Africa should be
      given more aid and debt relief.
    • 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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