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  • Christine Chumbler
    Malawi plotters sue government By Raphael Tenthani Blantyre reporter Sudi Adak Sulaimana, who was cleared of treason charges in March, is suing the Malawi
    Message 1 of 1046 , May 2, 2002
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      Malawi 'plotters' sue
      government

      By Raphael Tenthani
      Blantyre reporter

      Sudi Adak Sulaimana, who was cleared of
      treason charges in March, is suing the Malawi
      Government for wrongful detention.

      Mr Sulaimana and three
      other suspects were
      arrested last year for
      allegedly plotting to
      overthrow the
      government of President
      Bakili Muluzi.

      But Malawi's top state
      prosecutor, Director of
      Prosecutions Fahad Assani, dropped the
      charges against the alleged coup leaders
      saying they were not serious but only wanted
      to make an impression.

      However, Mr Sulaimana is not taking it lying
      down.

      Damages

      Lawyer Fabiano Mzumara told BBC News Online
      that Mr Sulaimana was suing for false
      imprisonment, malicious prosecution,
      defamation and loss of earnings.

      He was also asking for
      $80,000 in damages.

      The second accused,
      former security guard
      Colvin Kaumira, is also
      suing for about
      $53,000 for similar
      reasons.

      "The trial and the
      publicity surrounding
      the case made my
      clients look like
      dangerous criminals in
      the eyes of the public," Mr Mzumara said.

      Mr Mzumara also said that prior to his arrest Mr
      Sulaimana was earning the equivalent of $450
      a week in the United Kingdom, where he was
      studying political economics.

      Forced retirement

      While the ordeal of Mr Sulaimana and Mr
      Kaumira may have a happy ending, their
      military co-accused are unlikely to get any
      compensation.

      According to Malawi army spokesman Clement
      Namangale, the two soldiers were forced to
      retire from service following their year-long
      trial.

      "When a member of the rank-and-file has been
      tried for a dangerous offence like treason, they
      are supposed to be retired despite their being
      cleared," he told BBC News Online.

      Col. Namangale said the soldiers - Moses
      Bwanali and Nelson Phyontha - have left the
      army and returned to their villages.

      *****

      Zimbabwe court frees
      journalists

      Three journalists charged with violating
      Zimbabwe's new media law by reporting false
      information have been released by a court in
      Harare.

      The court ordered police to free Lloyd Mudiwa
      and Collin Chiwanza - both reporters with the
      independent Daily News - and Andrew
      Meldrum, a US national writing for Britain's
      Guardian newspaper.

      The three were
      accused of breaching
      the law by reporting
      last week that a
      woman had been
      beheaded - allegedly
      by supporters of the
      ruling Zanu-PF party.

      The hearing was the
      first court challenge to
      the new media law,
      which has been
      condemned as an
      effort to stifle criticism
      of President Robert Mugabe.

      'Falsehood'

      Mr Mudiwa and Mr Chiwanza were arrested on
      Tuesday, and Mr Meldrum on Wednesday.

      They were charged in connection with an
      article published by The Daily News on 23 April.

      The paper's lead story
      said that a
      53-year-old woman
      had been hacked to
      death and decapitated
      in front of her two
      children in the north of
      the country.

      The Daily News has
      since retracted its
      story after being
      unable to find the
      grave of the victim.

      State prosecutor Thabani Mpofu opposed Mr
      Meldrum's application for unconditional release,
      saying there were sufficient grounds to
      suspect he committed an offence.

      Mr Mpofu asked the judge to release him on
      bail so he would be forced to reappear to face
      charges of "abuse of journalistic privilege by
      publishing falsehoods."

      "The story he wrote is false and that is now an
      offence," Mr Mpofu said.

      'Intimidation'

      Mr Mugabe signed into the new curbs on
      journalists shortly after his controversial
      re-election in March.

      Criticism of the president is now an offence, as
      is publishing "unauthorised" reports of cabinet
      meetings.

      All journalists must
      register with a
      state-appointed
      commission, which has
      not yet been set up,
      and foreign
      correspondents will
      only be accredited for
      one-off events.

      The Vienna-based
      International Press
      Institute had
      condemned the latest
      arrests and called for
      the journalists'
      release.

      "IPI believes that it is yet another attempt by
      Robert Mugabe's government to restrict the
      free flow of information through the
      intimidation and suppression of the media," said
      IPI head Johann P Fritz.

      The editor of the Daily News, Zimbabwe's only
      privately-owned newspaper, Geoff Nyarota has
      been arrested several times since the Daily
      News was launched in 1999.

      The paper's printing press and main office were
      both bombed last year.

      *****

      Zimbabwe's famished
      fields

      By Energy Bara
      Masvingo, southern Zimbabwe

      Hunger has tightened its grip in Zimbabwe, as
      thousands abandon their homes in search of
      food.

      The shortages have
      reached critical levels in
      Masvingo province
      where over 2 million
      people urgently need
      food aid.

      The government has failed to provide food to
      starving villagers and in Masvingo, thousands
      have left their homes in search of edible wild
      fruits and roots.

      Others are pinning their hopes on striking gold.
      About 5,000 villagers have settled along the
      banks of the Vogondo river, about 40 km (25
      miles) south-east of Masvingo town, where
      they are looking for nuggets.

      One of the gold-diggers, Raphael Muchori,
      says: "If we go back home, we will starve to
      death."

      Hungry mouths

      In the worst affected areas of Masvingo
      province, floods have destroyed nearly all
      crops and livestock.

      Miriam Banda, a
      mother of eight, said
      her family was now
      surviving by the grace
      of God since wild fruits
      have become standard
      fare.

      "We just eat anything
      that is edible," she
      says. "My three
      children have since
      dropped out of school
      because of hunger".

      In urban areas long queues of people searching
      for mealie-meal, the country's staple food, are
      ubiquitous.

      Shortfall

      The Grain Marketing Board has run out of maize
      and the situation shows no sign of improving.

      The country has so far imported only 100,000
      tons of maize from South Africa which is far
      below the country's monthly needs.

      Zimbabwe needs about
      150,000 tons a month
      to feed its population.

      And where food is
      available, it is
      distributed along
      political lines.

      The opposition
      Movement for
      Democratic Change
      (MDC) says its
      members are left out from the food relief
      programmes.

      The MDC's vice-chairman in Masvingo, Shaky
      Matake, said supporters "are not being given
      food by the government . They are sometimes
      even denied the right to buy the food if it is
      available".

      Cold comfort

      In a last-ditch effort to produce food, the
      government has planted maize near the town
      in Chiredzi, about 280km (160 miles) south
      east of Masvingo town.

      But Mike Clarke of the Commercial Farmers
      Union says that will not help, given the
      possibility of frost there.

      "Farmers have tried on
      several occasions to
      grow the crop in the
      area to no avail," Mr
      Clarke said. "The
      programme is
      extremely expensive
      and will not succeed."

      Officials from the
      meteorological
      department say it will
      be impossible to grow
      maize in the winter
      (June-August)
      because of the low temperatures.

      Zimbabwe has also started importing yellow
      maize meant for animals to feed starving
      villagers.
    • 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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