- HIV/Aids Makes Food Crisis Worse
UN Integrated Regional Information Networks
June 5, 2002
Posted to the web June 5, 2002
[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]
Malnutrition and hunger in Malawi is more than not having a plate of food to eat. It's a volatile mix of social, health and economic factors - and HIV/AIDS has added a dangerous dimension to the country's food crisis.
This is borne out in a recent Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) report which said that HIV/AIDS is hitting the Southern African farm sector hard, with stricken families struggling to produce enough food to survive.
"The disease is no longer a health problem alone, but is having a measurable impact on food production, household food security and rural people's ability to make a living," the report said.
Jennie Mueller is leader of the Hope project funded by Development Aid from People to People (DAPP), which helps communities implement programmes to cope with the disease. She explained: "Communities rely on agriculture and [the income of] agricultural labour. If one person goes down then they all go down. If they have one sick person it's one less person being productive.
Skilled workers are dying. Eight teachers died at one school last year and they can't be replaced. Recently the police recruited 200 people. They have lost 186 people to HIV/AIDS recently and 86 of those people were in the group of new recruits. Thirty-eight percent of Malawians who have HIV/AIDS are in the productive age group," Mueller said.
"The problem is so big and so many people don't know if they're infected because there is a maximum of six testing centres for 10 million people," she said.
"Female-headed households are the most vulnerable. Women who have their own children would have the added burden of looking after the children of dead relatives and friends. On a low income or with very little resources, she would be responsible for upwards of five children. Most people never have more than six months' of food saved up and after six months the whole household would have a food deficit," added Mueller.
"Child-headed families and orphans have no access to land and some don't even have houses. They have no shelter and so have to beg for food and they end up in a bad nutritional state. You start seeing the signs after two months - many of Blantyre's street children are in that position," she said.
Mueller said there were between 600,000 and 700,000 children orphaned by the disease in Malawi and there were "simply not enough resources" to help them.
"Women are either affected directly or they are infected themselves. If they get sick they lose the little income they have. When they're sick they stop eating normal food and start fasting because they can't swallow [because of] oral thrush. They lose weight and get infections because of their poor nutrition," said Mueller.
She noted that though Malawi had one of the highest infection rates in Southern Africa, its HIV/AIDS initiatives were ahead of many other countries.
One was the promotion of a minimum of six months' exclusive breast feeding for mothers who don't know their status. Mothers usually "mix feed" by alternating with other foods but this increases the chance of a slight tear in the baby's intestine and the risk of the virus entering the baby's blood. Until the baby is completely weaned, mothers are encouraged to only give the baby very soft foods.
Another was the country's home-based care system in which village committees organise volunteers to help families care for people laid low with the disease.
"Hospitals can't deal with the overwhelming number of sick people and home based care minimises the number of times a person would have to go to hospital," she said. "It helps families understand the illness and people can die with dignity at home. It provides hope and a way to cope and it helps the grieving process because the community would already be reaching out to that family over the period of illness."
Mueller explained that once established, each village committee - known as a Village Aids Coordinating Committee (VACC) - would have four technical sub-committees focusing on youth, home based care, orphan support and high risk behaviour. One member from each VACC sits on a regional community committee.
Mueller's organisation steps in to help with capacity building, training and information dissemination. They also help with income generating projects which help families replace lost income.
One such project is the introduction of mushroom farms which are now supplying the local hotels and a large supermarket group. People also sell the mushrooms in their communities and make soothing mushroom soup for people too sick to eat. They're trying to diversify into other vegetables that ill people can eat and which will help build their strength.
They help train the home based carers and the trained carers help reduce the risk of the family contracting the virus. One of the difficulties they face is a shortage of male volunteers which presents cultural problems as some men consider it inappropriate for any woman other than their wife or a sister to care for them.
"Home based care makes [treatment of HIV/AIDS] a little easier, she said, "but the illness causes economic problems which become nutritional problems."
"There is such a decreased productivity level that communities can't cope. In child-headed families the eldest child drops out of school to find food for brothers and sisters. That's where food distribution programmes come in handy - it gets the children through school and without it they would need [help] for life."
Mueller said sometimes spouses or children of people who die are kicked out of their homes. "Perhaps the wife was not close to the relatives or the relatives are simply not interested in looking after the children. Some street kids just get kicked out," she said.
She advocates a "living will" which would prevent this from happening. This could be done by a family member who can write and it can be notarised by a district commissioner. However, "it's a little bit new and not widely implemented but that way the resources remain in the home."
Mueller said the World Food Programme's (WFP) HIV/AIDS nutrition support programme recognised the link between the disease and malnutrition. It was now not only giving assistance to people living with HIV/AIDS, but to the whole household. The previous "care package" would have been shared by the household but wasn't enough.
Nutritionist Charlotte Walford, who heads a European Community nutrition rehabilitation unit which assists health centres in southern Malawi said: "Over the last few years we have seen an increase in moderately malnourished children due to HIV/AIDS. They are admitted to hospital because they are too sick to eat because of an infection like oral thrush."
She said that with diseases like HIV/AIDS and malaria, which affects more children than adults, people need special food when they are convalescing but they don't get it because they're poor.
"They lose weight and don't recover properly and when they get sick again they continue to lose weight. When they're getting better they need to boost their red blood cells, but if they get diarrhea they fall into a downward spiral and HIV/AIDS exacerbates that downward spiral.
"So it's not always food insecurity - malnutrition and infection is a vicious circle."
But as word of the country's needs filter out, more people are travelling to Malawi not just to sunbathe next to the country's famous lake, but to volunteer at under-resourced facilities like orphanages.
One of those is Blantyre's Open Arms orphanage which is currently looking after 37 babies and toddlers. Run by a retired British couple Neville and Rosemary Bevis, and a staff of about five Malawian "nanny mums", the centre has a policy never to turn away people who arrive at the centre. "We sometimes have to do it if we're phoned but if people come in person we won't turn them away," said Neville Bevis.
Most of the children either have HIV/AIDS and their families could no longer care for them. Or their parents have died and a sibling or relative has travelled to Blantyre and asked for the orphanage to take the child in, who is often malnourished and ill.
As Open Arms is only a transition centre, when the children reach two-years-old and are healthy enough, they are reunited with their families and monitored. If this is not possible - or if they feel the child will be at risk of malnutrition - in consultation with Malawi's social services, they are either sent to a nearby orphanage called Yamikani House or placed in foster care.
Neville Bevis said they have no Malawi government funding and rely on donations to cover their running costs, and the costs of hospital care, when the babies become ill.
The "nanny mums" are helped by a core of volunteers from around the world who feed and play with the children.
The orphanage also grows vegetables which it sells to nearby hotels and this season was paid by the government to grow an experimental crop of paprika.
Food Aid Fails to Rescue the Starving Malawians
African Church Information Service
June 3, 2002
Posted to the web June 5, 2002
While many donors have pledged to offer aid to three million hunger stricken Malawians, old people, pregnant women, children and other needy communities are starving, Our Blantyre-based correspondent Brian Ligomeka, reveals the barriers obstructing the delivery of food aid to needy communities.
A 60-year old Marko Dakosita from Ndamera Village southern Malawi's border district last weekend died after eating a snake.
A traditional chief in the area says his villager did not eat the snake out of fun or for magical purposes but out of desperation.
"He spent a number of days without food. We have been waiting for food aid to come but weeks have elapsed without receiving it," says Chief Ndamera.
He charges that while Nsanje district has been worst hit by hunger, he is surprised that the government is busy distributing maize to some districts especially those which are stronghold of ruling parties.
"Sometimes I think that we suffer quite a lot in this area because our district is regarded as an opposition stronghold," laments Chief Ndamera.
Nsanje district, which lies on the border between Malawi and Mozambique, is the home of the leader of the country's biggest opposition group, Malawi Congress Party (MCP).
The government admits that over three million Malawians could face a critical food shortage in the next few months if the international community fails to provide urgent food aid to the southern African country. Government officials say some people especially the aged, orphans, are already suffering from hunger.
Lucius Chikuni, Malawi's commissioner for disaster preparedness, relief and rehabilitation, says that 209,000 tonnes of maize are required to save vulnerable Malawians from starvation. According to official statistics, 501 people starved to death in Malawi between December 2001 and March this year.
"Our survey found out that most farming families did not harvest much this year because those who had a good crop ate most of it in the field while in other areas, the crop failed because of floods or prolonged dry spells before the maize crop matured," says Chikuni.
Statistics from Malawi's Ministry of Agriculture indicated Malawi recorded a deficit of 600,000 tonnes of maize during the last crop season. The Malawian government urgently needs at least US$21.6 million to offset the shortage.
The spectre of famine is already in many rural areas, especially in the central and southern regions. Residents in the central lakeshore district of Nkhota Kota have started eating maize husks, wild fruits and tubers to remain alive. Others are even eating banana stems.
According to Kerren Hedlund of the United Nations - World Food Programme, many peasant families had a poor harvest due to bad rains, floods and rampaging wild animals like hippos and elephants.
Meanwhile, Malawi's Minister of Agriculture Aleke Banda said that although some food is already coming, the amount is far short of what Malawi requires. He says the food aid, which has already trickled in Malawi is not enough to be distributed in all needy communities.
"We have so far received only 200,000 tons in pledges but we are facing a maize short-fall of 600,000 tonnes," Banda said. He however dismissed allegations that the government is discriminating other areas due to political reasons.
The European Union announced in the Malawian administrative capital, Lilongwe, that its headquarters in Brussels had set aside US$26.75 million for the immediate purchase of 95,000 tonnes of maize. The EU will also buy 40,000 tonnes to restock empty maize silos in Lilongwe.
The U.S. government is reportedly shipping in at least 110,000 tonnes, while Britain has released US$5.84million in food aid.
While the present harvest period had eased Malawi's food crisis, more than three million people are still in need of urgent food aid.
In February, the government said that seven million people out of a population of 10 million had no food. Floods, drought and a government decision to sell off its grain reserves - arguing that they were old - contributed to the food crisis.
A World Food Programme official statement noted: "There were seven million people in need then, at that time, there was a crisis because maize had not been harvested. Now maize has been harvested. But presently the assessment is that about 600,000 households, which should be about 3.1 million people, are currently needing assistance."
The statement added: "People were eating the unripened green maize [in the early months of 2002] because there was no food. This consumption of green maize will cause a shortage as the months go on. The next planting season is in October, so they need food aid to keep them going in the days and months ahead. The food they have [from this seasons' harvest] may last up to about June, so they need aid to take them through to the next harvest season in April 2003."
The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) has warned that the unfolding food crisis in Southern Africa threatened to become a major humanitarian catastrophe if an immediate and adequate response was not mounted.
"In a region already bearing the full brunt of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, the food crisis presents a new and ominous threat to the survival of the most vulnerable - the children and women," says UNICEF's Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa, Urban Jonsson.
"A rapid assessment of nutritional status undertaken by UNICEF in Malawi last month showed that some 45,000 children are facing severe malnutrition, with the situation likely to worsen in the 2002-2003 lean season."
"The Malawi assessment conducted at clinics for under-five shows that the number of children with moderate malnutrition in the last six months has trebled. The trend is the same with pregnant and lactating women. Even more alarming, the assessment shows that some of the moderately malnourished children are deteriorating to severe malnutrition," the agency said.
UNICEF said it had provided supplementary and therapeutic feeding to children and fortified maize meal to pregnant and breast-feeding women at various feeding centres in Malawi.
Chikuni said a national Relief and Rehabilitation task force was working on immediate and long term plans to deal with the current food crisis and avoid a repeat in the future.
Among medium term interventions, a winter cropping initiative that was expected to yield 75,000 of maize tonnes by October 2002, was already underway. Chikuni said a key intervention would be proper management of strategic grain reserves.
WFP Emergency Officer, Kerren Hedlund said a constant hurdle facing agencies was the lack of an adequate transportation network in Malawi.
Zambia's cabinet takes
Normally, a long convoy of cars carrying his
ministers escorts Zambia's President Levy
Mwanawasa anywhere he goes - and sees him
off or receives him at Lusaka airport.
But on Tuesday, he left his official Mercedes
Benz at home and put his entire cabinet on a
69-seater public bus to the airport before he
flew out to a world economic summit in South
Mr Mwanawasa, who
was elected in
December promising to
fight poverty and
corruption, said he
hoped to set an
example for his
He said it was part of
a new push to save
money which was
being spent on his
In the past, government officials have been
accused of widespread corruption.
Zambia's 10 million people are said to be among
the world's poorest.
Known as "Mr Integrity" by his supporters, Mr
Mwanawasa's latest gesture is perhaps not
During his first press conference to announce
his cabinet, he stressed that his ministers
would have to abide by a stringent set of
requirements - including honesty, integrity,
discipline and devotion to duty.
Friends and foes alike
acknowledge that he
is a man of modest
They say he has
resisted attempts to
change the furniture
or decor in State
House since he took
over because he does
not want to waste any
however, found it
rather difficult to let go of the trappings of
A judge had to order former President Frederick
Chiluba to stop using government-owned
facilities and personnel after he left office.
Ticket to ride
They included a Mercedes, a number of other
vehicles, the keys to a government-owned
house in a posh Lusaka suburb, his security
guards and some other domestic staff.
Departing from the old and wasteful practice of
chauffeur-driven rides in government cars,
President Mwanawasa now wants his ministers
and party officials to use public transport to
see him off at the airport when he travels out
of the country.
From now on, the ministers' trip to the airport
could turn out to be rather bumpy - and quite
And they will need a bus ticket.
'Millions face famine' in
The World Food Programme (WFP) has warned
that 12.8 million people are on the brink of
starvation in southern Africa and urgently need
It made the warning in Johannesburg, where
international aid agencies, donor governments
and humanitarian organisations are meeting to
discuss ways of alleviating the situation.
Crops have failed across
the region due to
drought, floods and
The impact of food
shortages over the next
12 months, particularly
on people with HIV/Aids, will also be discussed
by the delegates, the United Nations Food and
Agriculture Organisation said.
The BBC's Rageh Omaar in Johannesburg says
that aid officials will have to work out how to
overcome the serious logistical challenges of
delivering huge amounts of food quickly to
millions of hungry people in places with little or
Hundreds have already died in Malawi but
Zambia, Zimbabwe, Angola, Mozambique,
Swaziland and Lesotho are also badly hit.
"We see this as a crisis of enormous
dimensions. The situation worsens with each
day and clearly needs urgent attention,"
Jean-Jacques Graisse, WFP deputy executive
director, told the gathering.
The region needs 1.2
million tonnes in
emergency aid and
about 4 million tonnes
to make it through the
year, according to the
WFP and the UN's food
Mugabe's policy of
has added to the
problems - as
acknowledged by his
finance minister on
Simba Makoni said that the policy of splitting
up large white-owned farms into small units
had affected production levels in a country
which used to be southern Africa's bread
"It compounds, it exacerbates, but it is not the
primary cause of, the problem," he said.
Over two days, around 100 delegates will
examine a recent UN food and crop
assessment and will try to co-ordinate the
response that will be needed to avert what
many say could be a grave crisis by the end of
The harvesting period has just finished in the
region, and people in some of the
worst-affected countries only have a small
amount of food.
But reserves are
expected run out
within the next few
months, and people
will then depend
entirely on outside
"We'll talk about a
famine the day we see
thousands of people
dying," said Mr
"At this stage, we have a great number of
people facing malnourishment and starvation in
some areas, and if we do nothing, we will face
The European Union, the United States and
other countries have promised to help, but the
biggest obstacle will be to deliver that aid.
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