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  • Christine Chumbler
    No Money to Asses Hunger Daily Times (Blantyre) March 7, 2002 Posted to the web March 7, 2002 Penelope Paliani Blantyre Hunger-stricken Malawians will have to
    Message 1 of 1046 , Mar 8, 2002
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      No Money to Asses Hunger

      Daily Times (Blantyre)
      March 7, 2002
      Posted to the web March 7, 2002
      Penelope Paliani
      Blantyre
      Hunger-stricken Malawians will have to wait well after harvest to get relief food since Department of Relief and Disaster Preparedness does not have money to assess the magnitude of the crisis.
      Donors cannot give handouts without assessment of the food crisis which has rocked the country.
      Deputy Commissioner Willie Gidala yesterday said there need to assess the hunger situation in the country before donors are approached for aid as President Bakili Muluzi said in his declaration of a disaster last week.
      "The donors need figures and facts to enable them to release the funds or relief food for the victims. And so the assessment will only be conducted after harvest [possibly in April].
      "There is need for the assessment because not all households are affected and we need to find out how many are affected after harvest," he said.
      He said as a way of soliciting funds, the commission is advertising in the media requesting donors and well-wishers to come forward.
      Commissioner for Disaster Preparedness Lucius Chikuni told a press conference last month that he had asked Secretary for Health to give him statistics and confirmation of people dying of hunger.
      However, local libertarians have said the assessment after harvest will be too late arguing a lot of people will have died of hunger.
      They say there is need for government to act fast if they are to save many souls from dying of hunger.
      Last month Vice-President Justin Malawezi sent an SOS to the international community and local companies to help avert the food crisis which he confirmed had reached a critical stage resulting in deaths.
      Reports of massive looting of the national reserves by some senior citizens, floods and slow inflow of maize have played a major role to the hunger disaster.

      *****

      Government Sends Maize Samples to WHO

      Daily Times (Blantyre)
      March 7, 2002
      Posted to the web March 7, 2002
      Gabriel Kamlomo
      Lilongwe
      THE Malawi Bureau of Standards (MBS) has questioned the safety of maize imported into the country by the National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA), forcing theMinistry of Agriculture to send samples to the World Health Organisation (WHO), Switzerland for further tests.
      MBS claims the maize is hazardous to health and not fit for human consumption, but NFRA insists it is safe and has gone ahead to supply and distribute the disputed consignment.

      Secretary for Agriculture Andrina Mchiela confirmed the development in an interview on Tuesday but expressed worry that MBS's caution could be "oversensitising people".
      She said local hospital staff consulted so far appear to share a different view.
      "We convened a meeting, discussed the issue and we cautioned each other. We agreed we would have to have scientific proof.
      We actually involved hospital personnel and agreed to send samples of the maize to WHO in Switzerland for further tests," she said.
      "To us, wherever the maize is coming from, Admarc are the main culprit. MBS could also be oversensitive.
      With the crisis we are in and we oversensitise the people, it could be bad.
      The allegations are not proven yet. We are still observing the situation but the issue has not resurfaced," Mchiela said.
      NFRA, which all along was not consulted, has hit back at MBS accusing it of playing hide-and-seek and deliberately ignoring the fact that it is indirectly involved in the inspection and testing of all food imports into the country.
      NFRA General Manager Henry Gaga said in an interview that, as a member of the Grain and Feed Trade Association (Gafta), his office uses the services of the three "internationally recognised" and known surveyors and inspectors of grain; Society Generale de Surveillance (SGS), Socotech and Intertek Testing Services (ITS) who, separately, tested the imported maize and found nothing wrong with it.
      "So far, we have received laboratory results sent to us by SGS, ITS and Socotech carried out by laboratories within and outside Malawi which have indicated that the imported maize is fit for human consumption.
      There is no nation which can export 'poisoned' maize as the maize has to undergo rigorous quality and quantity tests," Gaga said.
      Gaga said he was surprised his office was not informed about the MBS findings, but on the basis of the clean certificates from the three international inspectors, NFRA will continue supplying and distributing the maize in its custody.
      "If anything goes wrong, the inspectors are reliable and can be prosecuted under Gafta rules and regulations," he said, claiming that MBS is indirectly involved in importing maize because the inspectors take samples to the bureau for analysis.
      "No one laboratory can give accurate results such that there is need to compare laboratory results to avoid human error being incorporated," Gaga said.
      However, in his memo to Mchiela, MBS Director General Austin Khulumula said maize that can be traced back to NFRA has been discovered to contain foreign, dark, wild seeds and other extraneous matter, which he described as the cause of the poisoning.
      "Tests have also confirmed the presence of Ketone compounds in these black, foreign seeds that are deemed not fit for human consumption and dangerous to health," he said.
      Khulumula recommended in his memo for the Ministry of Agriculture to direct, among other things, that all maize already in storage in the country now be inspected and certified for fitness for human consumption and compliance to MBS grain specifications.

      *****

      Tobacco Industry Accused of Engaging Children

      African Church Information Service
      March 11, 2002
      Posted to the web March 7, 2002
      Hamilton Vokhiwa
      Nairobi
      The Malawi tobacco industry has come under renewed pressure to stop using child labour and to make way for other more economic crops in the country. Tobacco accounts for a significant proportion of the country's foreign exchange earnings. But non-governmental organisations and even the government are wary of the continuing recruitment of children and are seeking to protect this most exploited grouping in the labour market.
      Tobacco accounts for about 70 percent of the country's foreign exchange earnings. But the industry is facing a decline following the worldwide anti-smoking lobby.
      Non-governmental organisations are urging estate owners to stop employing children who are under 14 years as labourers on the farms.
      An official of the Tobacco Association of Malawi, TAMA, Sigman Chirambo, reacted strongly, saying it was unfair for the tobacco industry to be singled out when other industries were also flouting the law.
      He did not elaborate. But his remarks were construed to refer to the tea industry which also engages extensive labour in clearing the fields and in some cases plucking tea. But the tobacco industry has been widely accused of "abusing" workers especially those known as tenants.
      The industry thrives on a tenant system. Under this system workers are recruited from two populous districts of Thyolo and Mulanje in the country's Southern Region.
      Incidentally, these two districts are the major growers of tea in Malawi which is also labour intensive. Child labour is also rampant in the tea industry.
      Critics consider the recruitment procedure of the labour force as near slavery. The tobacco farmers drive in lorries hundreds of kilometres away from their estates in the central and northern regions to Mulanje and Thyolo in the southern region in search of prospective tenants.
      The majority of the recruits are able-bodied young men lured by "free" transport and promises of bounties on the tobacco farms. The married recruits leave their spouses behind, expecting them to follow later.
      When seven-ton lorries pass through villages or shopping centres, word quickly spreads that a tobacco estate owner from Kasungu in the Centre or Rumphi in the northern region has come to collect labourers who wanted to go and work on farms there. This is an annual phenomenon in recent years.
      When seven-ton lorries pass through villages or shopping centres, word quickly spreads that a tobacco estate owner from Kasungu in the Centre or Rumphi in the northern region has come to collect labourers who wanted to go and work on farms there. This is an annual phenomenon in recent years.
      Tobacco was introduced was in Malawi in the 1880s by European settlers.
      Today local Malawian growers have joined the chorus in large scale tobacco growing, hitherto described as the country's "green gold".
      Every year, in the months between October and December, labourers would be recruited in this way. In some cases, those who miss the free transport go by bus on their own on borrowed money which they promise to repay later.
      Such category of recruits are temped to bring along their wives and children to help top up the family income while labouring on the tobacco farms. This is how the many more children become part and parcel of the labour force on tobacco farms.
      On arrival at the farm, the tobacco farmer picks the required number of recruits for his farm and disposes the rest to nearby estate. The overall total charge is ostensibly described as his operational costs, meaning the transportation of the tenants from their home district to the farms.
      Seemingly satisfied that they were employed, little do the tenants realize that for the new employer or bwana (master) as he is called, this is only item number one on the list of deductions to be effected on whatever money the tenant will make in the seasons ahead.
      Inevitably, arriving with nothing except the clothes they stood in on that late October evening, the tenants are forced to procure on hire-purchase terms items ranging from cooking utensils, spoons to maize flour, beans, salt, sugar, sleeping mats, blankets, kerosene lamps, hoes and axes to mention but a few introductory necessities.
      Those who make the mistake of bringing their families along would need three or four times the amount of necessities to be loaned. Suffering most from this scenario are children who are made to work hard alongside their parents to clear the debts and to try to make ends meet.
      Concerned about harsh life for children on the tobacco farms where they are robbed their right to education, the government authorities are conducting a survey on child labour to establish the gravity of the problem and seek remedial action.
      The survey being carried out by the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training, was initiated two months ago following representations by concerned groups and non-governmental organisations to stop child labour in the country.
      The pilot phase covers the most affected districts of Mzimba in the north, Lilongwe in the centre and Mulanje in the southern region. The second part would be undertaken in April.
      Says Labour Minister Alice Sumani: "We know it is poverty which forces many young children to ask for employment. But let's look at how much they are paid. The payment is minimal and not adequate to eliminate their poverty."
      Says Labour Minister Alice Sumani: "We know it is poverty which forces many young children to ask for employment. But let's look at how much they are paid. The payment is minimal and not adequate to eliminate their poverty."
      She cites tobacco and tea estates as well as households in the country as the specific areas where child labour is common.
      Martin Mononga, principal secretary for Labour and Vocational Training, says the Ministry has no policy on child labour but was developing a work plan that would guard against child labour.
      He stressed that tobacco and tea estates as well as household were some of the specific areas where child labour was common despite the provisions of the Employment Act which forbids employment of children in hazardous conditions and industries.
      The World Bank estimates that 250 million children worldwide are involved in child labour. In Malawi the number of children engaged in labour, according to official government statistics, was slightly over 100,000, about three to four percent of the economically active population.

      *****

      Civil Servants Warned Against Casual Attitude

      Daily Times (Blantyre)
      March 7, 2002
      Posted to the web March 7, 2002
      Anthony Kasunda
      Blantyre
      Government has warned the civil servants against casual attitude towards work saying if they do not change, appropriate action will be taken against them.
      A statement from the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) in Lilongwe says it has been observed that members of the public service have developed a casual attitude towards work.

      "Government has noted, with regret, that whereas the majority of public servants report for work early and work long hours, there are some who report for work late and leave early," reads the statement.
      Civil servants have been urged in the statement to observe contractual working hours or risk being disciplined.
      Government has directed the warning to individuals working in government ministries and departments, statutory corporations and other government funded public institutions.
      It further say it was commendable that some civil servants work with devotion and dedication.

      *****

      Police Gun Down Notorious Criminal

      Daily Times (Blantyre)
      March 7, 2002
      Posted to the web March 7, 2002
      Frank Namangale
      Blantyre
      Police in Blantyre yesterday morning shot to death a gang leader of notorious criminals after an exchange of fire in Ndirande township and arrested another in connection to murderers and recent spate of armed robberies in various companies in Blantyre, Police confirmed.
      Police Southern Region Commissioner Often Thyolani, speaking through Regional Criminal Investigations Officer Bob Mtekama, said in an interview that police gunned down Gift Namacha Mbobo and arrested Joe Fabiano Kalonga.

      "The two are behind the killing of a police officer at Ginnery Conner PTC and a banker in Lunzu who was also robbed of his vehicle last year.
      "They are also answerable to many other armed robberies that occured last year like that of Toyota Malawi, Nation Newspapers, Dairyboard Malawi, Cold Storage, Filling Stations and PTC shops," explained Mtekama.
      Mtekama said police rounded the two in a house in Ndirande after and exchange of fire.
      He said others suspects in the same group, Walace Mwale and Joseph Kasache, who were arrested earlier have appeared before Blantyre Magistrate Court to answer to other charges.
      "Kalonga who was arrested last year when there was an outbreak of armed robberies escaped in company of other three criminals from Chichiri Prison last January," Mtekama said.
      He said police did not recover any properties from the Mbobo and Kalonga as the group was targetting cash. He said they only recovered K10,000 from them believed to have been stolen from a Filling Station.
      Mbobo is suspected to have killed a police officer at Ginnery Corner last year during a raid in a PTC.
      In a related development, an unidentified robber Tuesday night entered into Zingwangwa PTC through a roof and packed different items into bags. Mtekama said police was alreted, and after a chase, he abandoned the bags and escaped.


      *****

      Mozambique's judges
      'corrupt'

      By the BBC's Jose Tembe in Maputo

      Mozambique's attorney general has admitted
      the entire legal system in the country is
      plagued by corruption.

      Mr Joaquim Madeira told parliament in the
      capital, Maputo, that all arms of the legal
      system, including the judiciary, have been
      tainted with sleaze.

      Presenting his annual report to members of
      parliament on Thursday, Mr Madeira sited
      incompetence, corruption and abuse of power
      at all levels of the administration of justice -
      police, attorneys, judges, lawyers and prisons.

      He criticised the work done by the Criminal
      Investigation Police (PIC), saying that it is
      often of such poor quality, that the public
      prosecutor's office has to carry out
      supplementary inquiries of its own before it can
      draw up a proper charge sheet against
      suspects.

      As a result, cases concerned with theft from
      the state, banks and other private bodies are
      stifled by either destroying or hiding the cases'
      documents, Mr Madeira explained.

      Corrupt judges

      Attorneys were also blamed for failing to press
      charges against suspects, when there was
      more than enough evidence to indict them.

      The Mozambican attorney pointed out that his
      office is aware of a case where a judge
      condemned a criminal to 12 months in jail, but
      the sentence was reduced to two months
      after a relative of the criminal consulted the
      judge.

      The attorney general's report fell short of
      naming the corrupt culprits.

      However MPs, especially from the opposition
      want him to name and shame the elements
      involved in the sleaze.

      The government of President Joachim Chissano
      had announced the introduction of a special
      anti-corruption unit amid mounting murder and
      other violent crimes.

      *****

      Mugabe hands election to the army

      CHRIS MCGREAL

      Almost every aspect of the vote, including the handling of ballot boxes, is now
      in the hands of a retired army colonel, Sobusa Gula-Ndebele. Mugabe quietly
      appointed him head of the Electoral Supervisory Commission a few days after
      the military high command made its coup threat.

      Gula-Ndebele has appointed Brigadier Douglas Nyikayaramba chief elections officer,
      the second most important post. The government says Nyikayaramba retired from
      the army a few weeks ago, but sources close to the commission say he is on leave.

      In recent weeks soldiers have been appointed to all levels of the election process,
      including many as monitors who are supposed to act independently to ensure ballot
      boxes are not tampered with and to verify the count.

      The electoral commission has also recruited "war veterans", who have led the often
      violent invasions of farms and been instrumental in the campaign of terror against
      Mugabe's opponents, and members of the feared Central Intelligence Organisation,
      to work alongside the soldiers.

      The government refuses to reveal the names of the six members of the commission's
      secretariat but they are known to include at least two other army officers.

      "We're very concerned about it," said
      Reginald Matchaba-Hove, the chairperson
      of the Zimbabwe election support
      network, an independent organisation
      that used to work closely with the
      government's electoral commission but is
      now excluded. "It's totally unprecedented
      for the military to run and monitor an
      election."

      The military's infiltration of the electoral
      process means that soldiers, war
      veterans and ruling party officials
      responsible for a two-year government campaign of violence will be inside almost
      every polling station. In some cases they will be "helping" voters to mark their
      ballots.

      In addition to well-documented decisions such as banning potentially critical foreign
      election observers, Mugabe's war of attrition against the vote has taken on several
      other forms:

      The government has cut the number of polling stations in urban areas that
      firmly support the opposition, in the hope that long queues will discourage
      people from voting. It has increased balloting places in the countryside where
      Mugabe is more popular and rigging is easier.
      Independent monitors and party election agents will no longer be able to travel
      in the same vehicles as ballot boxes transported to and from the polls, raising
      concerns that the boxes could easily be switched.
      Hundreds of thousands of people have disappeared from the voters' roll,
      including many young people and most of the white population.

      Tawanda Hondora, a human rights lawyer, says there is no doubt that the myriad
      attacks on the vote is coordinated toward one end ― getting Mugabe re-elected,
      however illegitimately. "Look at the high incidence of violence, look at the creation of
      the Zanu-PF youth militia and that the war veterans have not been arrested for
      violence. Look at the number of people who have been tortured, disappeared or
      whose homes have been destroyed. What else can you conclude?"

      Yet Matchaba-Hove says the election is far from lost for the opposition. "We are
      starting off with a playing field that is uneven ― legally, logistically, politically and
      otherwise. But we are still telling people to vote, that the vote is secret and that it is
      important to go to the polls."

      *****

      Zimbabwe on a razor's-edge

      MAIL & GUARDIAN REPORTERS

      Tension rose as opinion surveys showed majority support for Tsvangirai, leader
      of the Movement for Democratic Change, and Mugabe's government tinkered
      with poll arrangements in ways the opposition charged were clearly designed
      to boost his chances.

      Reports of political violence in the major cities, Harare and Bulawayo, and in outlying
      areas continued to reach Zimbabwean human rights groups. Early this week 40
      homes in a Bulawayo township thought to belong to MDC supporters were razed by
      fire.

      Zimbabwean-based journalist Peta Thornycroft, who reports for the British Daily
      Telegraph and the Mail & Guardian, described the situation as being "like a powder
      keg".

      The fear is that MDC supporters will feel robbed if Mugabe wins, while Mugabe,
      Zanu-PF and some security force chiefs will not accept an MDC victory - making a
      major clash inevitable.

      By Thursday the Mugabe government had caused 79 rallies planned by Tsvangirai to
      be cancelled, either because of police disruption or under orders in terms of the
      Public Order and Security Act - which replaced repressive legislation used by the
      white supremacist regime of Ian Smith between 1965 and 1980.

      At least seven MDC MPs are awaiting trial or face charges laid by the police.
      Between 500 and 1 000 MDC members are on bail on public violence and related
      charges, as opposed to about 50 Zanu-PF members.

      These aggravations occurred in a situation of 60% unemployment and 120% inflation.
      Many parts of the country have had no supplies of the staple mealie meal and
      cooking oil for six weeks; milk is seldom available and, when it is, it is rationed;
      sugar is available only periodically; and in about five weeks little beef and no chicken
      will be available.

      And Thomas Mapfumo, the revolutionary
      musician who once sang songs in praise
      of Mugabe, now sings songs against him.

      The opposition MDC brought a number of
      urgent legal actions before the courts on
      Thursday to overturn what it saw as
      fiddling of the electoral process by
      Mugabe and the ruling party.

      But the courts have come under government pressure over the past year and Mugabe
      has installed a number of loyalists in the most senior of them, the Supreme Court.

      Early this year the Mugabe government declared that only civil servants, army and
      police officers would be able to act as polling officials.

      Against this backdrop Zimbabwe's registrar general Tobaiwa Mudede caused shock
      this week when he announced his department was preparing a "supplementary
      voters' role" to include people who had registered between January and March 3. The
      fact of this additional registration period had never been publicised; it is not known
      how this supplementary role was drawn up; nor has the need for it ever been
      explained.

      The MDC was also shocked to hear from Mudede that voting for some soldiers and
      police had started. Mudede gave no details about when this exercise began, how
      many people had voted, and who was present to monitor and observe the process.

      In one affidavit before the Supreme Court on Thursday a member of the public
      reported crashing into the back of a police Land Rover two weeks ago, causing one
      ballot box to fall to the road, spewing out voter slips marked in favour of Mugabe.

      In another development a man claiming to have been trained as a member of a
      Zanu-PF militia was presented to members of the Commonwealth monitoring team.
      He gave an account of the training and instructions he had been given.

      Meanwhile, South Africa has plans in place at Messina, near the Beitbridge border
      post, to receive up to 50 000 Zimbabwean fleeing either political violence or hunger
      over the next month. A former military base in the area, Artonvilla, has been
      equipped for the purpose. The Department of Home Affairs, the United Nations High
      Commissioner for Refugees, the Red Cross, South African National Defence Force
      and Police are all involved in the operation.

      Major western diplomatic missions in Harare had all completed contingency planning
      to evacuate their citizens if serious violence spread throughout the country in the
      wake of the election, due to be held on Saturday and Sunday. Britain (with about 25
      000 citizens in the country), Australia (about 300), Canada (about 100) and New
      Zealand (300) were reportedly cooperating on a joint plan.

      A well-placed South African security source said on Thursday there was no
      indication that these countries had pre-positioned aircraft in South Africa or
      Botswana. This suggested they were "not expecting a large non-combatant
      evacuation to be necessary in Zimbabwe as it was in Sierra Leone".

      One Zimbabwean white woman interviewed by the M&G took a sceptical view of her
      embassy's evacuation plan. She suggested the British contingency plan sounded no
      more sophisticated than "drive to the border, and get given tea and buns on the other
      side".

      *****

      Zimbabwe's other
      presidential candidates

      While most attention has been focused on
      President Robert Mugabe and his principal
      challenger, Morgan Tsvangirai, three other
      candidates are also hoping to be elected
      Zimbabwe's next president.

      Wilson Kumbula

      Member of Parliament for south-eastern
      Chipinge South
      Represents Zanu
      - the party of
      the late
      Reverend
      Ndabaningi
      Sithole
      Mr Mugabe
      ousted Mr
      Sithole as leader
      of Zanu in 1975
      but a small wing
      of the party
      remained loyal to
      the former
      leader
      Chipinge was Mr
      Sithole's home
      area and has
      never voted for
      Mr Mugabe.

      Shakespeare Maya

      Represents the National Alliance for Good
      Governance (Nagg)
      Mr Maya left Zanu-PF in 2000
      Nagg emphasises the need for real land
      reform not the "cronyism and corruption"
      it says is occurring under Mr Mugabe's
      current programme
      Sees itself as "a bridge between Zanu-PF
      and the MDC" but a spokesman told BBC
      News Online he "feels like a referee in a
      boxing match".

      Paul Siwela

      Represents Zapu
      Based in Bulawayo, Zapu campaigns for a
      federal Zimbabwe
      Mr Siwela accuses the Harare-based
      government of discriminating against the
      ethnic Ndebeles of the Bulawayo region
      He stood in the June 2000 parliamentary
      elections but did not gain many votes
      The new Zapu is no relation to the old
      Zapu of the late veteran nationalist,
      Joshua Nkomo.
    • 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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