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  • Christine Chumbler
    Government Limits Price of Maize Malawi Insider (Blantyre) December 18, 2002 Posted to the web December 18, 2002 By a Correspondent Blantyre, Malawi In an
    Message 1 of 1046 , Dec 19, 2002
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      Government Limits Price of Maize

      Malawi Insider (Blantyre)
      December 18, 2002
      Posted to the web December 18, 2002

      By a Correspondent
      Blantyre, Malawi

      In an effort to reach millions of people who need food, Malawi
      government has limited the price of maize to K17 per kilogramme.
      Some international analysts who usually oppose the policy of subsidy
      say the strategy is too expensive for the government's meager budget.

      The government's plan to subsidize maize imports in order to cut the
      market price by nearly 50 percent has brought criticism from some aid
      donors.

      The critics say only about one third of all Malawi consumers need the
      subsidies. The rest, they say, can either afford market prices or are
      already receiving free food from non-governmental groups.

      Roger Yochelson is the USAID Mission Director for Malawi. "There
      are three categories of consumers: at the low end are the poorest of
      poor, with no money to buy maize," he said.

      He explained that these are subsistence farmers with very little money
      from last year's poor harvest.

      He pointed out: "These farmers have sold their chickens, goats, and
      bicycles and they do not have a lot of resources with which to barter
      to
      buy maize.

      Those are the people we are targeting with humanitarian assistance.
      That category I am not worried about - none of that maize will go to
      anyone who does not need it. Then there is the middle third those who
      have some money, some resources, and they are the ones who should
      benefit from a subsidized scheme."

      The most prominent critics of the cuts are five members of Britain's
      International Development Committee in the House of Commons. The
      critics made a parachute visit to Malawi recently.

      Being people who are not fully aware of the harsh reality of the
      hunger
      situation on the ground, they say the World Bank should not have
      provided an aid package to the Malawi government to help it
      subsidize maize imports.

      Contrary to their anti-patritiotic attitude and stance, the World Bank
      has seen the need to provide aid and credit to Malawi to help it fight
      food shortage.

      Under the plan, the World Bank is providing a $50 million credit, part
      of which will go toward buying the subsidized maize.

      The British lawmakers say the government could have paid for a
      limited subsidy from its own resources.

      They say the subsidy for all Malawi consumers will cost $50 million
      and add $29 million to Malawi's debt.

      World Bank director for Malawi Dunstan Wai says the Bank does not
      usually support subsidies, but an exception was made because
      people were dying of hunger.

      Other donors, including USAID's Roger Yochelson, are concerned that
      some traders will buy the lower priced grain and sell it at higher
      prices
      when maize again becomes scarce. "What happened last year is folks
      with money filled up trucks with people who got off the truck half a
      kilometer from the depot," said Roger Yochelson. "They stood in line,
      picked up their one bag of maize, and collected it back to the truck.
      The owner of the truck went back and sold it.

      The second thing that was happening was that people of influence
      would roll into the facility and say, 'I want 10,000 metric tonnes of
      maize'. Some poor little fellow working in a rural area in a depot is
      in
      no position physically or politically to object and they empty the
      depot
      at preferred rates.

      The maize gets into the country, but it is not being targeted at the
      people who cannot afford the high prices. There is no way to avoid
      that
      under the current scheme this year.

      The World Bank and IMF have acceded to that and the government is
      moving ahead with that."

      Yochelson says the targeted subsidy would have been easy to
      implement.

      But Malawi's Minister of Agriculture, Aleke Banda, disagrees. "The
      reason why we are for the generalized subsidy is that the vouchers
      sound very good on paper, but they are very difficult to implement,"
      he
      said. "60 percent of our people are very poor, how do we decide who
      gets the voucher and who pays the commercial price? In one village,
      one area, that is the recipe for social tension. That is the major
      reason
      why we said no, this will not work. "

      He also denies that there are currently any people hoarding maize, or
      that there were any attempts at stealing maize last year.

      "Last year, we brought in 150,000 metric tonnes of maize from South
      Africa and we sold it at a subsidized rate of 17 Kwacha per
      kilogramme," said Banda.

      He added: "Our depots were given instructions not to sell large
      amounts to people, to try to ration it; secondly, the communities
      themselves do the policing. If someone turns up with a pick up or
      lorry
      to buy maize, they will not allow them.

      If someone with money would organize young people to buy bits and
      pieces of maize, the community will find out something is going on.

      There was no evidence last year of any hoarding of this maize sold at
      the subsidized price, and we think this year it will be the same."

      The World Bank's Dunston Wai says a high level taskforce that
      includes donors and Malawi's Ministry of Agriculture is monitoring the
      delivery of food. He says there have been no complaints about
      hoarding.

      *****

      Malawi-Mozambique Tobacco Dispute Over

      Malawi Insider (Blantyre)
      December 18, 2002
      Posted to the web December 18, 2002

      By Tusekele Mwanyongo
      Blantyre, Malawi

      Agriculture Minister Aleke Banda has said that there will be no
      repetition of the obstacles imposed during the last two years on the
      processing of Mozambican tobacco in Malawi.

      Banda told The Malawi Insider in an interview that the agreement he
      has signed with his Mozambican counterpart, Helder Muteia, has
      solved the problem definitively.

      "We have good relations of cooperation with Mozambique", he said. "I
      was in Maputo and we signed an agreement to regulate cross-border
      trade, not only in tobacco, but also in other goods."

      He added: "But it was certainly tobacco that created most problems."

      Banda explained that it was necessary to bear in mind that both
      Malawi and Mozambique are tobacco producing countries who do
      business with international tobacco companies that act according to
      their own rules.

      The intention of both countries, Banda stressed, was to eliminate
      problems, and this would involve the establishment of national
      organisations of tobacco producers.

      In 2001, the Malawian government banned the entry of foreign
      tobacco.

      This made it impossible for Mozambican producers to process their
      tobacco in Malawi, until President Bakili Muluzi was persuaded to
      intervene and reverse the ban.

      This year the Malawi government imposed a surcharge of 10 per cent
      on all foreign tobacco entering the country, a move which caused
      outrage on the Mozambican side of the border, and was cancelled
      after two weeks.

      Asked about the hunger situation in Malawi, Banda confirmed that at
      least 3.3 million Malawians are in need of food aid. He said that
      government is doing all it could do to provide food aid to the most
      vulnerable people.

      Key to Malawi's relief operation is the Mozambican port of Nacala,
      and the Nacala-Malawi railway.

      It is hoped that the line will move 237,000 metric tonnes of grain to
      Malawi over nine months.

      *****

      David Whitehead Resumes Production

      Malawi Insider (Blantyre)
      December 18, 2002
      Posted to the web December 18, 2002

      By Paul Kang'ombe
      Blantyre, Malawi

      David Whitehead and Sons Malawi Limited (DWS) has resumed
      production while waiting for prospective strategic technical partners
      probably from the Far East to resuscitate it into full scale
      production.

      The company's Acting Chief Executive Evelyn Mwapasa confirmed in
      an interview that DWS has temporarily re-employed about 260 of its
      former employees to continue with textile production while waiting for
      its privatization process to be completed.

      "Yes, we've temporarily employed staff around that figure to keep
      production going on," she explained.

      She however disclosed that the company is producing small quantities
      of textile for only the local market.

      DWS, which was once the largest textile manufacturing company in
      the country scaled down its production some five years ago due to
      high machinery maintenance costs and a down turn in the textile
      industries in the face of increasing pressure from cheap imports from
      the far east.

      Government through the Privatisation Commission attempted to
      privatise the company in 1996 but no successful bidder was identified.

      A report from the Privatization Commission reads in part: "DWS failed
      to attract investors because of poor machinery. Attempts to
      restructure
      the company failed due to lack of adequate financial resources."

      The company has some old machinery that was planted at the
      inception of the company and has never been replaced by new ones;
      this has frustrated the success of the privatization initiative.

      "In July 2002, the Commission resumed its efforts to find a strategic
      partner to invest in DWS. With the assistance of the consultants an
      information memorandum was produced as a prelude to marketing
      investment opportunity. The company was advertised on 19 August
      2002 in both the local and international media," the report says.

      The Commission targeted Far East textile manufacturers in its effort
      to
      find a strategic partner.

      "Since major global textile manufacturers are based in the Far East,
      the Commission made special efforts to target this region for
      marketing. There are indications that at least one or two producers
      from the Far East could submit a bid," reads privatisation newsletter.

      *****

      Lilongwe City Assembly to Demolish Illegal
      Buildings

      Malawi Insider (Blantyre)
      December 18, 2002
      Posted to the web December 18, 2002

      By Professor Donton Mkandawire
      Blantyre, Malawi

      Lilongwe City Assembly wishes to inform the general public that it has
      received reports that there are some unauthorized people and groups
      who are orchestrating Land allocation and distribution to other people
      in need of plots in various areas of the city especially Area 25, Area
      49, Area 44 and Area 50 (Chimoka, Ngomani and Mwatipha).
      Individuals undertaking this malpractice are impersonating City
      Assembly officials or agents.

      The Lilongwe City Assembly is therefore advising the general public
      that it has not delegated anyone or any committee in Area 25, Area
      49, Area 44 or Area 50 (Chimoka, Mgona, Fumbe, Ngomani and
      Mwatipha) to orchestrate land allocation to people in need of plots.
      As
      such, the general public is advised to desist from acquiring land or
      plots from the people or groups reported to be distributing land in
      the
      areas mentioned.

      The general public is further advised that Lilongwe City Assembly has
      a Plot Allocation Committee in place (based at the Civic Offices, City
      Centre) which is responsible for all plot allocation in Traditional
      Housing Areas (THAs). All considerations for a plot in Traditional
      Housing Areas (THAs) are processed through submission of
      application forms obtainable from Civic Offices.

      Lilongwe City Assembly is therefore warning that it will demolish
      without notice all structures in the mentioned areas built or being
      built
      on urban land without City Assembly's approval.

      Lilongwe City Assembly will not be held responsible for damages to
      property resulting from such demolitions.

      *****

      Alliance for Democracy President Lashes Out At
      Rebels

      Malawi Insider (Blantyre)
      December 18, 2002
      Posted to the web December 18, 2002

      By Tusekele Mwanyongo
      Blantyre, Malawi

      Alliance for Democracy (Aford) President Chakufwa Chihana has
      unreservedly dismissed what he calls a smear campaign targeted at
      damaging his image and reputation by a few of his parliamentarians
      who are opposed to his policy of supporting the government in its
      development work.

      Chihana said in an exclusive telephone interview with The Malawi
      Insider from his Area 43 residence in Lilongwe that it is unfortunate
      that a few misguided politicians, led by Karonga North-west MP
      Greenwell Mwamondwe, are intent at trivializing politics in the
      country.

      "It is unacceptable for just few selfish, short-sighted and
      disgruntled
      politicians to derail social economic development work in this
      country.
      In all civilized democratic nations, every sensible opposition works
      constructively and positively hand in hand with the government of the
      day to enhance development and consolidate democratic gains," said
      Chihana. The Aford czar said it is very unfortunate that some
      politicians just believe in heaping negative criticisms against the
      government. " This is having a negative impact on President Muluzi's
      quest to consolidate the prevailing peace and stability in Malawi,"
      the
      Aford leader said.

      Suspended Aford secretary general Dan Msowoya said recently he
      feared Chihana was contemplating entering into an electoral alliance
      with the ruling UDF ahead of the 2004 polls. Msowoya, who is also
      regarded as a 'rebel', said Chihana is doing this alone without
      consulting his colleagues in the party.

      However, Chihana has parried Msowoya's assertions, calling them
      unfortunate and lacking political maturity. He said there are no such
      intentions within the leadership of Aford.

      Chihana further explained that in a democracy there is nothing wrong
      for various political parties to make alliances. He observed that he
      had
      heard from the grapevine that some opposition groups are planning to
      form alliances ahead of 2004 elections.

      "I find nothing wrong with the opposition working for a common goal
      ahead of the polls in 2004," he said, adding that such is a
      constitutional right the Muluzi administration has encouraged and is
      one that everybody should enjoy.

      "However, what is important is the fashion, the style with which to
      execute such alliances and the anticipated objectives. You do not
      cooperate with an intention to frustrate the other. That might be
      counter-productive and you begin to scorn your own bedfellow at the
      failure of your cooperation."

      "What we in Aford are doing is to engage in a constructive dialogue
      with the UDF government. We realize that through such a harmonious
      approach, we will, together, be able to lift the country's populace out
      its
      dire poverty," he said.

      Chihana said that making development a reality has been a pipe
      dream for many years in countries where the politics of confrontation
      is
      practiced. He cited countries such as the Democratic Republic of
      Congo (DRC), the Great Lakes region, Somalia and the Balkans, as
      some places where economic development has taken place at a
      snail's pace because of lack of peace and unity of all political
      parties.

      He said people's livelihood is enviable in countries like Botswana
      where politics is second to all other important social and economic
      matters. "The West has also seen horrendous times few hundred
      years ago. But they have since realized the need to work harmoniously
      without regard to their different political minds. They have thus
      ensured
      a tremendous economic transformation to an extent that they now
      almost control the whole world.

      "We have many social amenities and yet we go ahead despising each
      other on a political platform or in newspapers. I won't dare to be
      that
      cheap," he said, declaring that he will continue working with
      President
      Muluzi on matters of national importance without fear of anyone.

      Chihana said that it is important for the opposition to co-operate
      with
      the government. He pointed out that he does not regret his stance. He
      said that the country has undergone tremendous transformation in
      terms of the economy, human rights observers and other social
      aspects since President Muluzi ousted "that unpredictable Dr. Banda
      dynasty" in 1994.

      "People should not pretend as if they don't have eyes to see or ears
      to
      hear. We must learn to be responsible enough by giving credit where it
      is due. It has not been as easy, as some of us may think, to sustain
      this country into such a peaceful political transition," he said.

      Aford acting publicity secretary Norman Nyirenda concurred with his
      president in a separate interview on Aford's partnership with the
      government.

      He, however, made a clarification that his party is working with the
      UDF-led government and not UDF as a party.

      "I have noted a glaring misconception in the way Chihana and Aford's
      detractors view our partnership. We are working with the government
      and not UDF as a political party. I expected people who claim to have
      gone to school to know this difference," Nyirenda said.

      But Nyirenda reiterated an earlier declaration that if need be, Aford
      would consult its bona fide members, preferably at a convention, to
      consider working with UDF as a party at any time considered
      strategic.

      He quickly added that this would also be subject to UDF's
      endorsement of such an arrangement as well.

      "We are two different political entities and thus we have two
      different
      political ideologies. Naturally, we would have to strike a balance to
      work together. And that's no tall order I can assure you. It only
      requires
      a mutual understanding and the realization of what we want to achieve
      for this country at the end of the day," he said.

      *****

      Charges over Zambian
      reporter's death

      By Penny Dale
      BBC, Lusaka

      Three members of Zambia's leading opposition
      party have been charged with the murder
      earlier this year of a freelance journalist.

      All three say they are not guilty and are the
      victims of political persecution.

      The members of Anderson Mazoka's United
      Party for National Development (UPND) are
      accused of causing injuries during a scuffle
      which resulted in the death of the journalist
      three months later.

      One of the three men is Anderson Mazoka's top
      lieutenant, Tiens Kahenya, who holds the
      position of UPND treasurer general.

      The other two, who are ordinary party
      members are Alec Tembo and Albert Chifita.

      Injuries

      They are accused of causing the death of
      Charles Lwiindi as a result of a fight between
      them on 24 January this year.

      The incident took place at Mr Mazoka's
      Leopard's Hill home after party members
      objected to the presence of Mr Lwiindi at what
      was an internal party meeting, and assaulted
      him in the process of ejecting him from the
      house.

      Police spokesperson Brenda Muntemba told the
      BBC that Lwiindi died three months later, on 27
      April, as a result of the injuries he sustained
      during that scuffle.

      Malaria

      Lawyer Sakwiba Sikota, who is representing
      the men and is also UPND's vice-president,
      admitted to the BBC that the assault did take
      place, but flatly denies the police's version of
      events.

      He insists that the journalist's death was due
      not to the assault, but to another, unrelated,
      illness.

      He says that medical notes show that Lwiindi
      was hospitalised about a week before his
      death with suspected malaria.

      Mr Sikota also condemned the arrests as
      political persecution and as an attempt by the
      government to discredit the UPND by painting
      a picture of it as a party of murderers.

      The men will remain in custody until they are
      brought before the courts for a remand hearing
      which, according to Zambian law, should be on
      Thursday.

      *****

      Mugabe rival rejects
      'plot'

      Zimbabwe's opposition leader has refused to
      meet President Robert Mugabe to discuss the
      political and economic crisis.

      Morgan Tsvangirai says that an "unholy
      alliance" of Britain, South Africa and Mr
      Mugabe's Zanu-PF party is trying to set up
      such a meeting.

      But Mr Tsvangirai insists
      that Mr Mugabe must
      resign as the first part
      of any solution to
      Zimbabwe's problems.

      This must be followed by the establishment of
      a transitional government to organise free and
      fair elections, he said.

      He also demanded that the authorities stop
      using food aid as a political weapon.

      Up to six million people - half of the population
      - face starvation and western countries,
      human rights groups and the opposition
      Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) say
      that MDC activists are being barred from
      receiving food aid.

      'Illegitimate'

      Former colonial power Britain and regional
      strongman South Africa are key players in the
      Zimbabwe crisis.

      Mr Mugabe accuses Britain of plotting to oust
      him, while the MDC wants South Africa to take
      stronger action against the Zimbabwe
      authorities.

      "I am reliably informed
      that Mugabe is
      prepared to meet with
      me somewhere outside
      the country to discuss
      his problems," Mr
      Tsvangirai told a
      meeting of MDC MPs in
      Harare.

      "The Anglo-South
      African plan will fail to
      take off if it remains
      predicated on the
      desire to legitimise the
      illegitimate Mugabe regime. We will never be
      used to prop up this dying regime," he said.

      A spokesman for the British Foreign Office
      neither confirmed nor denied the claims that it
      was trying to organise a meeting between the
      bitter political rivals.

      But he did tell BBC News Online that "dialogue
      is the only way of getting a lasting solution"
      and that this was what the Commonwealth
      was currently attempting to pursue.

      'Mugabe stooge'

      From Mr Tsvangirai's speech, it appears that
      the plan would involve Mr Mugabe resigning
      and being replaced by Emmerson Mnangagwa,
      the Speaker of Parliament.

      On Tuesday, Mr Mnangagwa was warmly
      received at the congress of South Africa's
      ruling African National Congress.

      "If Mugabe is to step
      down today, nothing
      will change as long as
      the fundamentals that
      brought this country
      to where it is remain
      unresolved.

      "We are ready to
      confront the Mugabe
      stooge at home and
      show him the way," Mr
      Tsvangirai said.

      Government
      spokesman George Charamba told the French
      news agency, AFP, that the comments were a
      "silly attempt to reposition the MDC".

      Mr Mugabe accuses the MDC of being a front
      for Britain and white farmers.

      A spokesman for the South African High
      Commission told AFP that he was not aware of
      any plan to organise a meeting.

      'Land revolution'

      The MDC leader says that Mr Mugabe rigged
      the March election and that opposition
      activists continue to be attacked and tortured
      for their political beliefs.

      Mr Mugabe has previously said that he will not
      leave power until he has finished his "land
      revolution" of redistributing farms from whites
      to blacks.

      Just a few hundred white farmers now remain
      on their land.

      But the disruption to agriculture has worsened
      the food shortages and contributed to the
      economic meltdown.

      Inflation is currently running at 175%, while
      unemployment is also at a record high.

      Zimbabweans are faced with a daily struggle to
      obtain basic commodities such as petrol,
      bread, sugar and the staple food, mealie meal.
    • 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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