- Malawi hopes for higher
This year's tobacco auctions have begun in
Malawi, one of Africa's main producers of
tobacco leaf, with producers hoping for a
Amid rising global prices, and with supply tight
on the Malawian market, tobacco producers
want to see an improvement on last year's
average of $1.09 per kilogramme.
The southern African country is currently
threatened by famine, and farmers have
previously rioted over the poor prices their
tobacco has fetched at auction.
But now there are hopes that instability in
Zimbabwe, Africa's main tobacco producer,
could allow Malawi to grab a larger share of
the global market.
Small, but important
On paper, Malawi is only a modest-sized
producer, accounting for some 140,000 tonnes
of the world's 5.7 million tonnes in annual
But it has carved out a powerful role in the
export market, and counts almost all the
world's main tobacco traders and cigarette
manufacturers as customers.
Tobacco earns Malawi some $165m a year,
accounting for more than two-thirds of its
annual foreign exchange takings.
This year, the Malawian tobacco industry
predicts production of some 141,000 tonnes,
compared with potential demand of 170,000
tonnes - something that should lead to higher
Not all plain sailing
But the industry has significant problems.
It has become the focus of persistent criticism
for its record on employing child labour - an
abuse that producers say has now largely been
Foreign lenders and donors have also been
wary of committing aid to the industry,
because of tobacco's dubious ethical
reputation in Western countries.
Lack of serious investment has left the bulk of
production in the hands of small farmers, and
the country's only world-class cigarette
factory closed down two years ago.
Concerns over the quality of much Malawian
leaf - resulting from reduced use of chemical
pesticides - have led big tobacco buyers to
scale back the prices they will pay on the
No help from Harare
Now, Malawian producers hope that
Zimbabwe's turmoil will act in their favour.
Zimbabwe produces roughly 200,000 tonnes a
year, and is expected to become less
important as an exporter if unrest continues.
But according to Peter Burr, senior analyst at
the US Department of Agriculture, "there
hasn't been a noticeable drop in output yet,
despite what everyone says."
In any case, Mr Burr points out, Zimbabwe
produces flue-cured tobacco, while Malawi
produces burley, the other main variety.
Any Zimbabwean collapse would benefit
flue-cured producers such as Brazil and the US
more than Malawi, Mr Burr says.
Drought Increases Food Insecurity
UN Integrated Regional Information Networks
April 3, 2002
Posted to the web April 3, 2002
The dry spell afflicting Southern Africa will have long term consequences for food security in the region.
The Famine Early Warning System Network (FEWS NET) said in its latest update that the food security outlook for Southern Africa remains poor.
Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique, and particularly Zimbabwe, have all experienced well-below normal rainfall this season.
FEWS NET's Country Food Security Updates for Southern Africa, covering the period from mid-January to mid-February, is due to be released on their website www.fews.net shortly.
FEWS NET warned that for Malawi, while the projected maize production level may be enough to feed the country, the crop is threatened by premature harvesting as a result of current food insecurity.
It said only 62,000 mt out of the 150,000 mt of maize imported from South Africa had arrived in Malawi by the second week of February. "The slow inflow has been attributed to a number of factors, including congestion in the transport routes."
The Southern Africa Development Community's Regional Early Warning Unit (REWU) highlighted the slow delivery of food aid due to logistical and other constraints in its quarterly regional update released on Tuesday.
The REWU bulletin said: "Low import delivery, in which only 36 percent of planned regional imports have been received, has exacerbated the already dwindling food supplies in landlocked countries of Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe, and has failed to bring relief to households going through one of the most severe lean seasons in recent years. Urgent food aid supply is vital in order to avoid mass starvation in these countries."
FEWS NET said: "The food security situation at the moment is approaching critical. Reports from the field indicate that in some of the [government's maize marketing body] ADMARC markets, maize only lasts one to two days after delivery due to high demand for the commodity."
Added to this, the continued depreciation of the Malawi Kwacha against the US dollar (it dropped from about MK68 to US$1 in January to MK73 to US$1 in February) would "be detrimental to food security as it may lead to increases in prices of commodities, especially those that are imported", FEWS NET warned.
Mozambique has been experiencing rainfall below normal so far this year. "This has adversely affected maize yields in southern Mozambique and rice, sorghum and maize in central Mozambique."
A team comprising experts from the National Institute for Natural Disaster Management, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, the UN's World Food Programme (WFP) and Food and Agriculture Organisation and the International Research Institute of Crops in Semi-Arid Tropics, visited Gaza province in February to analyse the effects of drought on production, food availability, and modalities of food aid assistance for populations in need.
It has been recommended that an emergency response plan be implemented, which would include the distribution of cassava and sweet potatoes and the supply of maize and bean seeds to those in need.
In Zambia, meanwhile, many households were unable to afford maize because of the "exceptionally high prices".
WFP's food aid distribution was being hampered by the "slow rate of relief food being brought into the country". FEWS NET said out of the estimated 42,000 mt requirement, only 12,000 mt of food aid had been purchased in South Africa for distribution to Zambia.
It said also that the "response from donors has been slow".
In Zimbabwe "the maize harvest prospects in the 2001/02 season are expected to be between 750,000 to 1.3 million mt, or between 44 and 78 percent of the 1990s' average, respectively".
Zimbabwe needed to start planning the importation of a substantial amount of maize (as much as 500,000 to 1.2 million mt) to meet the potential food deficit in the 2002/03 marketing season.
FEWS NET said: "This is in addition to the expected 200,000 mt of maize imports currently planned to meet immediate consumption requirements before the end of the 2001/02 marketing season which ends in March 2002.
"Food security at the household level has reached a critical state ... long queues are common at the retail outlets and the Grain Marketing Board depots as consumers in both urban and rural areas scramble for maize grain or maize meal, which have become scarce despite government's effort to import maize from South Africa."
The cost of the expenditure basket has substantially risen as a result of the increase in the price of certain basic, but scarce, commodities, FEWS NET said. The price of cooking oil had increased 355 percent since May 2001 and the price of maize grain had increased by 220 percent.
By Barnaby Phillips
BBC southern Africa correspondent
Mediators from South Africa and Nigeria are
reported to have flown to Zimbabwe in an
attempt to broker negotiations between the
Zanu-PF government and the opposition
Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
The MDC says President Robert Mugabe stole
victory in last month's elections through
South Africa and
Nigeria have been at
the forefront of efforts
to resolve Zimbabwe's
A South African
told the BBC that a
senior official in the
ruling ANC, Kgalema
Motlanthe, flew to
Harare on Wednesday
There he was
expected to team up
with a Nigerian envoy, Adebayo Adedeji. The
two men have an unenviable task.
A South African source said they would be
concentrating on finding agreement between
Zanu-PF and the MDC on ending violence and
reviving the economy, as well as on land
reform and looking at proposals for
But the atmosphere is not conducive to
Neither the MDC nor the Zimbabwean
Government is willing to give details of any
possible talks, although one MDC official said
they would be taking place in Vumba, in
In public, the MDC has not retreated from its
insistence that President Mugabe stand down,
and that the elections be re-run.
The opposition says government-sponsored
violence has increased since the elections.
President Mugabe, meanwhile, said at the
weekend that anyone who does not accept his
victory and who causes chaos will be dealt
with very firmly.
ADB firm on Karonga-Chitipa road contract
by Zainah Liwanda, 22 May 2006 - 06:09:17
The African Development Bank (ADB) has again rejected a proposal by government to look for another contractor instead of China Hunan Construction to construct of the long awaited Karonga/Chitipa road.
China Hunan from Mainland China won the bid which was approved by the ADB but government later wanted to award the contract to a Portuguese firm, Mota Engil, the second lowest bidder, claiming China Hunan's bid was unrealistically low and that the company had very little experience in Africa.
Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe confirmed on Sunday the ADB rejected the proposal at a meeting held between the bank and Malawi government in Tunisia last week.
The Malawi government wanted the Tunisia meeting to authorise it to get another contractor for the road, said Gondwe.
"They did not allow us to look for another contractor because of their regulations. But we are about to get another alternative for Karonga/Chitipa and I would be surprised if it does not start before end June," said Gondwe.
The minister explained that the bank insisted that regardless of the unrealistic cost estimates, China Hunan should be allowed to go ahead with the construction.
But Gondwe could not give further details about the alternatives, arguing there are still a few loose ends to tighten up before disclosing it.
The problem with China Hunan, according to Gondwe, is that it would require more money to meet the total cost of the project.
This paper reported last week that government met Taiwanese representatives where they offered to fund the road if the ADB continued to reject its favoured contractor, Mota Engil.
Gondwe could neither confirm nor deny the reports on the Taiwanese offer, saying government was looking at a number of ways to handle the issue.
According to Gondwe, the China Hunan's bid was 24 percent lower than the consulting engineers' estimates of K7.9 billion and 34 percent below the second lowest bidder.
President Bingu wa Mutharika laid a foundation stone for the construction of the road this year ahead of a crucial byelection in Chitipa in December last year.
The President's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) won the Chitipa Wenya constituency by-election that fell vacant following the collapse and subsequent death of Speaker of Parliament Rodwell Munyenyembe who belonged to the UDF.
Last week, police and the District Commissioner (DC) for Chitipa stopped a rally that was aimed at soliciting people's views about development projects in the district.
The meeting, which was reportedly organised by Concerned Citizens of Chitipa, was among other things also supposed to tackle the controversial Karonga/Chitipa road.
The project failed to start off in 2000 when a contract for an initial loan of US$17 million and US$15 million from the Taiwanese government was signed, with some quarters claiming the Bakili Muluzi administration diverted the money to another road.
Chihana operated on
by Edwin Nyirongo, 22 May 2006 - 06:32:31
Alliance for Democracy (Aford) president Chakufwa Chihana, who is in South Africa receiving treatment, had a brain operation on Friday at Garden City Clinic, family and party officials confirmed on Sunday.
Aford national chairman Chipimpha Mughogho said he was told by the family members that Chihana had a successful operation on Friday and was put in an intensive care unit.
Mughogho said Chihana, who initially complained of headache, was found with a brain tumour which South African doctors removed.
Mzimba West MP Loveness Gondwe said Aford boss condition was stable.
"Hon. Chihana had a major operation and after that he was put in the intensive care unit but his condition is stable. I do not know where he was operated on but it had something to do with the skull," she said.
Deputy Information Minister John Bande referred the matter to the Health Minister Hetherwick Ntaba who was reported to be in Geneva, Switzerland.
Aford publicity secretary Norman Nyirenda said when Chihana's situation got worse, the family alerted the Office of the President and Cabinet who took him to Mwaiwathu Private Hospital.
"The doctors at Mwaiwathu advised that he should be sent to South Africa and they even identified the doctor for him," he said.
He said the costs are being met by the Malawi government, contradicting his earlier statement that his boss covered the cost.
Mughogho is now in charge of the party.
Gondwe will be a busy person when Parliament starts meeting on June 6 as she is the only Aford MP remaining.
Pillane proposes presidential age limit
by Emmanuel Muwamba , 22 May 2006 - 06:34:13
A member of the DPP National Governing Council Abdul Pillane on Saturday urged members of political parties and the civil society to put an upper age limit in the Constitution for presidential candidates.
Pillane was addressing members of political parties and civil society in Liwonde during a two-day follow up workshop to the National Conference on the Review of Constitution held in March in Lilongwe.
"My view is that (an upper) age limit should be at 75. We have to give a chance to younger people to lead because in circumstance, when you age you become forgetful especially when sickly," said Pillane. "Overall, chances should be given to young people."
But UDF secretary general Kennedy Makwangwala, whose party members agitated for the age limit during presentations, played the issue down.
"I feel there is no logic to have an upper age limit for presidential candidates. If someone is 90 or 80 I don't know how that can influence the electorate not to vote for someone who is younger, I don't see any logic behind that," said Makwangwala.
MCP participants at the workshop also vehemently objected to the proposal.
MCP vice president Nicholas Dausi in an interview said: "There is no constitution in Africa which stipulates an upper age limit. So it would be strange in Malawi to have an upper age limit for presidential candidates."
MDP President Kamlepo Kalua also opposed the need to have an upper age limit.
"If we have personalities in mind that we want to discriminate against then it is unfortunate. The constitution we want to build is a guiding document for future generations and it should not bar certain individuals on the basis of grudges," he said.
The Malawi Law Constitution Issues Paper of March 2006 says several submissions that were received put an upper presidential age limit in the Constitution.
"It is argued that it is common sense that mental knowledge faculties tend to fail with age. As regards what the actual age limit should be the submissions are far from being agreed. The range is from 60 years to 80 years," read submissions in the Issues Paper.
On whether MPs should double as ministers, Kalua said this should be the case.
Makwangwala also said it is not right for MPs to serve as ministers because the Legislature, another arm of government, is reduced while the Executive branch is beefed up from another arm of government.
"There is no separation of powers when MPs double as ministers," said Makwangwala.
But Pillane said there is no problem for MPs to work as ministers as well, saying MPs are elected by the President.
"One can serve both posts. There have been no problems before for people to double," said Pillane.
The Centre for Multiparty Democracy funded the workshop through the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy.
The objective was to come up with a collective position on the Issues Paper which will be presented to the Special Law Commission that will be constituted soon.
Mussa hails new driving licence
by Zainah Liwanda, 22 May 2006 - 06:58:52
Transport and Public Works Minister Henry Mussa last week said the design of the Malawi-Sadc driving licence would guard against forgery and ensure that only skilled and legitimate drivers of particular vehicles are licensed.
Mussa was speaking at the official launch of the licences in Lilongwe where he announced that traffic police would from July enforce speed limits and sober driving using Breathalysers which his ministry is in the process of procuring.
The minister said financial constraints are the reason for the delay in procuring the equipment but assured that by July they would be available.
"With the new equipment, the days of those who believe in the thrill of drink and driving are numbered," warned Mussa.
Mussa added that with the new licence, government is optimistic that the country's roads would be safe.
Acting Director of Road Traffic James Chirwa said the features that distinguish the new from the old licences are the Malawi national flag and a ghost image of the driver's photograph, among others.
Those with old licences, according to Chirwa, are expected to get the new ones after the expiry of the former.
UDF demands investigation on Kasambara
by Rabecca Theu, 22 May 2006 - 06:30:46
The United Democratic Front (UDF) has asked government to investigate Ralph Kasambara on allegations of abuse of office while he was attorney general.
UDF publicity secretary Sam Mpasu told the press Sunday that the party is neither amused or saddened by the removal of the former AG but asked government to institute investigations on Kasambara.
"Beyond the removal of the Attorney General, we now urge President Mutharika to institute investigation against Mr Kasambara into allegations that have made rounds in the public domain during the recent past. These include: Mrs Helen Singh and SS Rent-a-Car; SGS and ITS saga; ...........the use of Malawi Police Service in the arrest of three Chronicle journalists and the handling of Mrs Rubina Kawonga," said Mpasu.
Mpasu also accused Kasambara of awarding government contracts to Lawson and Company where he was a senior partner.
"We urge government to thoroughly investigate the former AG. We also ask government to cautiously select the new AG ," said Mpasu, who was accompanied by the party's Secretary General Kennedy Makwangwala, leader of the party in Parliament George Mtafu, chief whip Leonard Mangulama and a member of the executive Hophmally Makande.
But Minister of Information Patricia Kaliati said UDF should give offer its advice to the Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB).
"They should advise bodies like the Anti-Corruption Bureau to conduct the investigations and why are they saying this now? Is it because Kasambara has been fired? This is not a personal issue. If they have other pressing issues they should just say so. These arguments should have come up earlier on when the said cases were happening," she said.
Kasambara asked UDF to proceed with the mission of urging government to investigate him.
"They can do their job. Everyone has a right to lobby for anything they want in the country. UDF has a right to do that, let them go ahead," he said.
Kasambara was relieved of his duties as AG by the President last week. Government has not given reasons behind the removal.
Zambia: Malawians Grab Zambian Land
The Times of Zambia (Ndola)
May 18, 2006
Posted to the web May 19, 2006
MALAWIANS who have encroached on both the 'no-man's' and part of the Zambian land at the Mwami border in Eastern Province have plucked out some beacons that were used in the demarcation of the border.
The Malawians are now using the beacons as stools in their newly-established villages on Zambian land.
Eastern Province Minister, Boniface Nkhata, said in Chipata yesterday that if the situation was not controlled urgently, Zambia would lose huge tracts of land to Malawians migrating into Zambian in large numbers.
A check at the Zambia-Malawi border showed a number of beacons had been vandalised and new structures constructed on the 'no man's' land and a large portion of Zambian land.
Mr Nkhata said the trend extended to many parts of the province bordering the two countries.
"A large portion of Zambian land has been taken up by the Malawians starting from the Chama boundary up to the Mwami border.
"The weighbridge at the Mwami border was initially in Zambia from the time both countries gained independence from Britain, but now the bridge is on Malawian soil," Mr Nkhata said.
The minister, who is former Chama District Commissioner, said there was similar encroachment in Lundazi and Chama districts where Zambia shares a boundary with Malawi.
He said a Malawian farmer identified as Mr Mfune had cultivated 71.5 hectares on Zambian land and employed about 265 Malawian workers.
"Khombe Farm in Chama district in Kanyerere's area, along the Muyombe road which leads to Northern Province where this Malawian farmer has cultivated a vast land is on the Zambian territory," he said.
Workers on the farm admitted that they were farming on Zambian soil but could not go back to Malawi because the land in that country was inadequate for cultivation.
Mr Nkhata appealed to the ministry of Lands to urgently release money for the demarcation of the Zambia-Malawi border to avoid further land disputes between the two countries.
Meanwhile, the Immigration Department in Livingstone has arrested a couple and another man, all Zimbabweans, for working in Zambia without permits.
They were arrested at Gwembe village yesterday where they worked for Into Africa, a tour operating company that provides bush dinners and breakfast.
According to the Immigration Department in Livingstone, the trio entered Zambia through the Victoria Falls border as visitors but decided to work for the company illegally.
Last week, immigration officers arrested 10 Zimbabwean traders and six Ethiopians for entering and staying in Zambia illegally.
The Zimbabwean traders were warned and cautioned and later released.
The Ethiopians were arrested at Konje Guest House when they ran out of money to proceed to Botswana.
Zim unions, MDC still plan anti-govt protests
22 May 2006 11:51
Zimbabwe's biggest labour federation on Saturday threatened to call massive demonstrations against the government over poor salaries and worsening living conditions for workers in the country.
The threats are ratcheting up pressure against President Robert Mugabe's government after similar threats by the biggest opposition party in the country, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), about two months ago.
Speaking at the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) conference on Saturday, the labour body's president, Lovemore Matombo, said the powerful union wants the government to award workers salaries that match the country's ever-rising inflation.
"I can assure you we will stage massive demonstrations to force them [employers] to award workers minimum salaries that tally with the poverty datum line," said Matombo.
Matombo did not say when exactly the ZCTU would order workers to strike.
Meanwhile, the MDC on Sunday said it will push ahead with plans for anti-government protests, saying victory in a key by-election at the weekend was a "sign the electorate supported its policies", including democratic mass resistance.
A spokesperson of the main faction of the splintered MDC, Nelson Chamisa, said victory over Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF and a rival MDC faction in a Saturday by-election in Harare's Budiriro constituency is a sign Zimbabweans still have confidence in party leader Morgan Tsvangirai and his policies.
Tsvangirai, the founding leader of the MDC, heads the main rump of the opposition party whose candidate, Emmanuel Chisvuure, polled 7 949 votes to win the Budiriro House of Assembly seat.
Gabriel Chaibva of the other faction of the MDC, led by prominent academic Arthur Mutambara, garnered 504 votes while Zanu-PF's Jeremiah Bvirindi polled 3 961 votes.
"This election showed that the electorate still has confidence in the MDC [Tsvangirai-led] leadership and its policies," Chamisa told independent news service ZimOnline.
He added: "We will now move to consolidate our position * we still believe in mass protests. Until we have attained our goals we see no reason why we should abandon [plans for protests]."
Tsvangirai has threatened to call mass protests this winter against Mugabe and his government. He says the mass protests, whose date he is still to name, are meant to force Mugabe to relinquish power to a government of national unity to be tasked to write a new and democratic Constitution that would ensure free and fair elections held under international supervision.
Mugabe and his government, who had hoped for victory in Budiriro to show they were recapturing urban support from a splintered MDC, have not taken idly the opposition's threats to call mass protests, with the veteran president warning Tsvangirai he would be "dicing with death" if he ever attempted to instigate a Ukraine-style popular revolt in Zimbabwe.
In a fresh crackdown against dissension, the police last week arrested several church and civic leaders for organising public prayers and marches to mark last year's controversial home-demolition exercise by the government.
The police also banned the marches and prayers, fearing they could easily turn into mass protests against Mugabe and his government.
However, the marches went ahead in the second-largest city of Bulawayo after organisers had obtained a court order barring the police from stopping the march.
Political analysts say although Zimbabweans have largely been cowed by Mugabe's tactics of routinely deploying riot police and the military to crush street protests, worsening hunger and poverty are fanning public anger that Tsvangirai -- with proper planning and organisation -- could easily manipulate.
Zimbabwe is in the grip of a severe six-year old economic crisis that has seen inflation breaching the 1 000% barrier. Last year, the World Bank said Zimbabwe's economic crisis was unprecedented for a country not at war.
The MDC and major Western governments blame Mugabe for wrecking the country's economy, which was one of the strongest in Africa at independence from Britain 26 years ago.
Mugabe denies the charge blaming the crisis on sabotage by Britain and her allies after he seized white-owned farms for redistribution to landless blacks six years ago.
The Harare authorities recently hiked salaries for civil servants, with the lowest-paid soldier now earning about Z$27-million while the lowest-paid school teacher now takes home about Z$33-million.
But the salaries are still way below the poverty datum line, which the government's Consumer Council of Zimbabwe says now stands at a staggering Z$42-million a month for an average family of six.
The Zimbabwe government often accuses the ZCTU, a strong ally of the MDC, of pushing a political agenda to remove Mugabe from power.
Meanwhile, Matombo and Lucia Matibenga retained their posts as president and first vice-president respectively during the ZCTU congress that ended on Saturday. -- ZimOnline