- Malawi probes grain sales Malawi s President Bakili Muluzi has appointed a commission to investigate the sale of the country s emergency grain reserve justMessage 1 of 1046 , Jan 2, 2003View SourceMalawi probes grain
Malawi's President Bakili Muluzi has appointed a
commission to investigate the sale of the
country's emergency grain reserve just months
before food shortages started to occur.
The government in Malawi blames the IMF and
the World Bank for forcing it to sell grain to
But the money has not been accounted for,
and the IMF says it gave no such advice.
The commission, chaired by a lawyer, will also
look into allegations of mismanagement in the
state-run grain company.
The depletion of the maize reserves, most of
which were exported to Kenya, is largely
blamed for causing Malawi's acute food
According to government and aid agencies,
more than 3.2 million people need urgent food
Our reporter in Malawi says the inquiry will also
examine whether Finance Minister Friday
Jumbe, who was then head of a grain
marketing company, the Agriculture
Development and Marketing Corporation, used
money from the sale for the construction of
the Superior Hotel in Blantyre, which he owns.
Mr Jumbe has denied
saying he welcomes
the inquiry and has
nothing to fear.
Last week, the World
Food Programme said
lessons must be learnt
from the way that
dealt with the hunger
crisis in Malawi.
Malawi is one of the seven countries in
Southern Africa facing critical food shortages.
Zambian debt burden
Zambia may have find an extra $100m to
service its foreign debt this year, putting an
"intolerable" burden on the country's economy,
according to the country's president.
"The debt is what is
going to undermine our
the debt burden is
Mwanawasa warned in
his New Year's
African country, one
of the poorest in the
world, is saddled with
$6bn of external debt.
The warning comes after the International
Monetary Fund said Zambia will not receive
about $1bn in debt relief under the Highly
Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative if it
does not follow an agreed privatisation
"Something has to be done"
Most of Zambia's 11 million people live on less
than $1 a day, and about a quarter face
famine because of a regional food shortage.
"Each year we have to find an excess of
$200m just to service the debt. This year the
figure may exceed $300m, something has to be
done," Mr Mwanawasa said.
He has warned that Zambia might suspend
privatisation programmes, saying they cause
hefty job losses while bringing few benefits to
Under HIPC, the sell-off of the state Zambia
National Commercial Bank (Zanaco), along with
power utility Zesco and telecoms firm Zamtel,
are key to qualifying for the debt relief.
Anti-poverty campaigners have suggested that
HIPC countries suspend all debt servicing and
payments, and use the money instead to feed
their populations and provide health care.
Zimbabwe paper back on
Zimbabwe's leading independent daily
newspaper, the Daily News, is back on sale
after a 10-day strike.
The award winning editor-in-chief, Geoff
Nyarota, left on Monday saying he had
But Tuesday's issue led with a story saying he
had been relieved of his duties "with immediate
The Daily News has been a strong critic of
President Robert Mugabe's government, and is
the best selling newspaper in the country.
Zimbabwe, or Mr
explained the reasons
for his departure.
Mr Nyarota has been
arrested by police
several times and has
won numerous awards
for journalism and
press freedom. He
helped found the newspaper in 1999.
"It was not an easy decision. It breaks my
heart," he said on Monday.
A strike by journalists over pay began before
Christmas. The Daily News web site has not
been updated since 19 December.
His departure comes at a precarious position
for independent journalists in Zimbabwe.
They await a decision
by the government's
media commission on
who will be allowed to
work in the country.
New draconian press
introduced at the start
of the year which
holds that journalists
or undermining the
credibility of President
Mugabe can be heavily
fined or liable to a
two-year prison sentence.
Media and Information Commission chairman
Tafataona Mahoso told the state-run Herald on
Tuesday that it would start issuing new press
accreditations in the first week of January.
Already a number of foreign media
organisations, including the BBC, have been
prevented from entering the country on
The arrest and intimidation of independent
journalists has become commonplace.
In Hungry Zimbabwe, Food Used as Political Weapon
By Michael Grunwald
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 1, 2003; Page A01
MAKONDE, Zimbabwe -- "This is not about politics. This is just about
Goodwill Murinwe was making a fiery speech, and hundreds of villagers
were listening to every word.
That's because they were hungry, and Murinwe was explaining how the
World Food Program would
select 89,000 of them for emergency maize handouts in this district of
dusty fields and mud huts.
"This food is only for the most vulnerable people!" shouted Murinwe, a
program manager for Catholic
Relief Services here. "We don't care which party you support. Politics
has nothing to do with this!"
But in today's Zimbabwe, politics has something to do with just about
everything -- especially food. With
more than half the nation's 12 million citizens at risk of starvation,
there is strong evidence that President
Robert Mugabe's ruling party has used food as an instrument of power --
to reward allies, punish
opponents and attract new supporters.
The group Physicians for Human Rights concluded in a recent report that
"the political abuse of food is the
most serious and widespread human rights violation in Zimbabwe at this
time." Officials in Mugabe's party
-- the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) --
have been spotted distributing
maize at party rallies, in party offices and sometimes out of their own
back doors. And while most of the
problems have involved food controlled by Mugabe's government -- which
holds a strict monopoly on
grain imports here -- at times politics has interfered with
international food aid as well.
In Insiza, the World Food Program had to suspend food aid for two
months after ZANU-PF activists
seized three tons of its maize. In Binga, ZANU-PF officials barred the
Catholic Church and the nonprofit
Save the Children (UK) from distributing food to the poor after the
area voted en masse for the opposition
Movement for Democratic Change. Here in Makonde, where World Food
Program officials recently
invited reporters in an effort to show that international food aid is
nonpartisan, local activists offered
several examples of intimidation and politicization surrounding
government food aid.
U.S. diplomats have accused Mugabe of using food as a political weapon,
and one even threatened that
the problem "may bring us face-to-face with Zimbabwe's sovereignty."
The European Union's president
accused Mugabe of using aid "as a tool in the domestic fight against
the opposition." Even Mugabe, who
routinely blames whites and opposition activists for his nation's
crises, has publicly acknowledged serious
corruption in his government's food distribution network.
"I am told some senior officials use their influence to get maize and
resell it at the expense of our people,"
Mugabe, 78, said at a recent ceremony to commemorate National Planting
Day. "Those who are doing
that should stop it forthwith."
Mugabe has ruled Zimbabwe since its independence in 1980. After he
almost lost power in March,
narrowly defeating the MDC's Morgan Tsvangirai in a highly disputed
election marred by widespread
violence, he vowed to rein in dissenters. "We'll make them run. We
won't pander to them any longer,"
Mugabe said at a post-election ZANU-PF celebration recorded on
videotape. "We're in a new phase, a
new chapter, and there will be firm government. Very firm."
The result was new laws cracking down on journalists, outlawing the
most prominent Zimbabwean humanave
rights group and requiring police permission for all public assemblies.
MDC officials say they are
constantly harassed, assaulted and arrested. Didymus Mutasa, ZANU-PF's
notoriously proclaimed at an August rally that "we would be better off
with only 6 million people, with our
own people who support the liberation struggle. We don't want all these
Still, suggestions by human rights groups, MDC activists and foreign
diplomats that Mugabe has launched
a genocidal attempt to starve his opposition seem stronger than the
evidence supporting them. In
Zimbabwe, as in much of southern Africa, rural villagers are
increasingly malnourished after two straight
years of drought, but they do not look like skeletons, and they are not
dying in droves. Foreign donors
have managed to get some food into Zimbabwe without passing it through
the government's hands.
Still, it is clear that Mugabe's land redistribution program -- which
has ousted most of the nation's white
commercial farmers, often in favor of ZANU-PF loyalists with no
agricultural experience -- has been a
major cause of the nation's food crisis.
Before the land grabs, Zimbabwe had been a key exporter of grain; the
World Food Program had a
procurement office here, but no distribution office. Now, farm
production is down by more than 50
percent, and the country is desperately short of maize and other
It is also clear that some ZANU-PF officials have taken advantage of
those shortages to steer food in
politically advantageous directions -- and, at times, to enrich
themselves. In the Nkayi district, for
example, Physicians for Human Rights collected 1,437 allegations of MDC
supporters being denied
access to food, and unearthed a local ZANU-PF official's memo declaring
that government food
programs and land distributions should be restricted to ruling party
members. MDC officials, the official
wrote, "have clearly demonstrated that they don't want land. They
should go stay with their whites and
Here in Makonde, MDC officials say that a local ZANU-PF leader sold an
illicit shipment of maize at the
Godzi Primary School on March 27, slashing prices for ZANU-PF members.
Lecks Machiridze, a deputy
chief in the district, says that a top party official warned him that
his constituents would be denied food
unless he started attending ZANU-PF meetings and that government food
would be reserved for its
"They control the food, and they make sure it goes where they want it
to go," said Tonderai Ndira, 26, an
MDC activist who is Machiridze's son. "Just look at who's in charge of
There are two official processes for distributing maize in Zimbabwe:
The government sells it cheaply
through its Grain Marketing Board, the nation's only legal grain
importer, and the World Food Program
gives it away through government-approved nonprofit groups. Originally,
Mugabe's government tried to
insist that WFP officials distribute grain through its party-controlled
marketing board as well, but they
refused. The haggling delayed WFP operations by more than three months,
and ZANU-PF officials
continue to block some grain shipments at the border. Tony Hall, the
U.S. ambassador to the food
program, recently asked one of Mugabe's top aides: "Why do I get the
impression that I have to beg you
to feed your people?"
Overall, though, WFP officials point out that they have distributed
100,000 metric tons of food and have
lost only the three tons in Insiza; they say they are keeping their own
distributions as apolitical as possible.
They rely on local politicians and chiefs to tell them who needs food
most, but they conduct independent
reviews to make sure they're not misled.
"I'm not saying there haven't been efforts to interfere, but we're
reaching the people we want to reach,"
said Kevin Farrell, the WFP's top official in Zimbabwe.
In Makonde, for example, a ZANU-PF politician, Dan Zvobgo, is chairman
of the local distribution
committee, but Catholic Relief Services workers kept close watch as
residents registered for their food.
Zvobgo and the local ZANU-PF chairman, Fannie Chikomba, brought two
police officers with them to
the registration, but they did not make any public speeches.
"You heard them say very clearly that there is no politics with food,"
Chikomba said in an interview. "The
opposition may come up with a storm in a teacup, but I tell you this
food is distributed fairly."
But the Grain Marketing Board has distributed three times as much food
as the WFP. And almost
everyone outside the ruling party hierarchy agrees that the control of
that process by ZANU-PF board
members, officials and party-approved millers and shopkeepers is almost
In recent weeks, the most intense politics around food has swirled in
Kuwadzana, a district in the capital,
Harare, that will soon hold a special election to replace a deceased
member of parliament.
All maize in Kuwadzana is milled by David Mutasa, a ZANU-PF politician
who is a nephew of the party
secretary and may run for the open seat. MDC officials say some of the
maize is then distributed to
selected shops -- one controlled by a ZANU-PF ward chairman, one by a
party militant -- where it is
sold at the low official prices to anyone with a ZANU-PF card. They say
the rest is repackaged and sold
on the black market at inflated prices by local party officials.
"It's good business, and it's good politics," said Basil Nyabadza, a
Kuwadzana exporter who owns the
warehouse where the Mutasa family operates its mill. "People are
hungry. Maybe they'll vote for the man
who gets them food. But who knows? Maybe they'll buy his maize and vote
In interviews around Kuwadzana, dozens of MDC supporters said they were
turned away from bread
lines at ZANU-PF-controlled shopping centers. Several said they had
purchased ZANU-PF cards in
order to eat. Emilia Mukusha, a 68-year-old former street cleaner who
is blind in one eye, said she joined
the party she despises to stave off starvation.
"I hated to get the card, but I'll die without it," said Mukusha, a
widow with eight unemployed children. "It
doesn't matter. I'm still MDC all the way."
But Zvobgo, the ZANU-PF food official in Makonde, said the MDC's
complaints are just sour grapes.
Sure, he said, the opposition is hungry.
Mugabe's 'Surreal' Policies Ravage Zimbabwe Economy
Unemployment and Inflation Soar, Food Shortage Acute
By Michael Grunwald
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, December 27, 2002; Page A10
HARARE, Zimbabwe -- In President Robert Mugabe's
Zimbabwe, a 7-ounce hunk of cheddar cheese costs
than 14 ounces of the same cheddar cheese. Motorists
up for hours outside gas stations with no gas. The
government has shut down all foreign exchange
Bakers are required to sell regular bread for less
than it costs
to make it, so instead they sell raisin bread (with
raisins) or poppy bread (with a few seeds) or
(with a few twists) at five times the set price.
A recent foreign diplomatic cable summarized
budget with one word: surreal.
"It's Alice slipping through the hole. We're living
Wonderland now," said Brian Raftopolous, the
Zimbabwe in Crisis, a coalition of civic groups. "It
funny if it wasn't so sad."
Mugabe's notoriety stems mostly from his decision to
productive land from white farmers despite a looming
but land grabs are just part of the
economic regime the longtime president is trying to
on Zimbabwe. And bread isn't the only part of
"Mugabenomics" that seems twisted. As the
issues an ever-expanding list of financial dictates
notably price controls on everything from Palmolive
T-bone steaks, and currency controls fixing the
exchange rate at about 3 percent of the real
exchange rate --
Zimbabwe's once-vibrant economy is imploding.
Unemployment is near 70 percent. The stock market
crashed. Inflation is officially 144 percent but
higher, while wages are relatively stagnant in a
most people earn less than $1 a day. Zimbabwe's $500
-- worth $9 U.S. at the official rate, or about 30
cents on the
street -- is known as the Ferrari, because it goes
so fast. The
economy is shrinking 10 percent a year, even though
retail and housing sectors are booming, people with
are racing to spend it before it loses value. Mugabe
the fuel crisis is giving him "stomachaches and
The latest joke here is that Zimbabweans have the
world's highest IQs: I queue for gas, I queue for
bread, I queue for sugar.
The food shortage facing Zimbabwe is no joke. The
United Nations estimates that 6.7 million of the
country's 12 million people are at risk of
starvation. The government has a monopoly on grain imports
to Zimbabwe, but it is desperately short of foreign
currency, so it is now drastically short of food. Its
land redistribution scheme drove much of the
nation's agricultural expertise into exile and handed much
of the nation's fertile soil to Mugabe allies who
have no farming experience or poor farmers who have
no access to seeds or fertilizer. This is expected
to wipe out as much as half of next year's harvest.
Mugabe's price controls on maize and other staples
are making the problem worse; many farmers say
that even if they weren't facing a drought, they
wouldn't want to plant crops they would have to sell at a
"They went after the white people, but it's the
black people who suffer," said farmhand Abraham Phili,
who was evicted from an irrigated plantation that
lies fallow. "How will I feed my children now?"
Phili and many of his fellow villagers have begun
panning for gold in the Piriwiri River, but even that
livelihood isn't beyond reach of the long arm of the
state. Mugabe's government just announced
regulations barring the sale of gold by "alluvial
gold miners," among other scofflaws.
Mugabe was a rebel leader in the guerrilla war that
gained Zimbabwe its independence in 1980, and he
has been the nation's head of state since. For much
of his rule, Zimbabwe was seen as an African
success story, and until recently, it was considered
Mugabe tends to blame his country's current problems
on drought, Western colonialism and capitalism,
peppering speeches with attacks on greedy
entrepreneurs, ruthless markets and the forces of
globalization. For too long, he says, rich nations
have exploited poorer nations and dictated their
During a speech this month at the central committee
meeting for his ruling party, the Zimbabwe African
National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), he accused
his country's bourgeoisie of charging
"While many manufacturers and traders want to blame
it on production costs, it is clear the consumer is
being ripped off, abused and taken advantage of by
avaricious, heartless business people, several of
whom would want to politicize production processes
in sympathy with white landed interests," he said.
While Mugabe studied Marxism at the University of
London and is commonly referred to here as
Comrade Mugabe, most economists say his policies are
driven more by authoritarianism than
communism. Since voters rejected Mugabe's bid to
rewrite Zimbabwe's constitution in 2000 -- and
especially after he retained power in a disputed
election marred by violence this spring -- Mugabe and
ZANU-PF have moved to consolidate their control over
the country. And that is the common element
of all of Mugabe's economic policies.
Zimbabwe now requires its pension funds to deposit
nearly half their reserves with the government at
paltry interest rates, so inflation is draining away
pensions. Banks must buy government debt on the
cheap as well. And as of this month, manufacturers
must trade in half their foreign currency to the
government for Zimbabwean dollars -- at the
ludicrous official rate -- and must deposit the rest of the
currency in government banks, to be withdrawn only
with government permission. The nation's industrial
trade group says half its members might close their
doors rather than comply.
"It's tough," said Callisto Jokonya, the CEO of a
refrigerator manufacturer. "What you learn about
business in books is not practical in this
environment. The politicians have their own agendas."
Charles Zambe, a shopkeeper in Harare, got a taste
of the new economy last month when police
charged him with "profiteering." His crime: selling
a 5-kilogram bag of maize for 350 Zimbabwean
dollars. The official price was supposed to be 150,
but Zambe had bought the bag for 320. His
profiteering amounted to 2 or 3 American cents.
Still, his maize stocks were confiscated, and he was
fined 5,000 Zimbabwean dollars.
"Every day it's getting harder to survive," Zambe
said. "It's like making money is illegal."
Mugabe's latest response to Zimbabwe's underground
economy was this month's list of price controls
on yarn, window frames, building sands and a host of
other products. The price controls also tried to
address the twisted-bread problem, and the related
problem of merchants who split up price-controlled
packages and sell both halves at higher prices. It
is now illegal to "manufacture, produce or provide any
such good or service under a new name or brand, or
in units not previously offered for sale, except with
the written authority of the Ministry." The
government also announced a recruiting drive to find more
inspectors to enforce the price laws and has dropped
hints in the state-owned Herald newspaper that
some kind of freeze on salaries could be imminent.
John Robertson, an economist in Harare, warned that
this cycle of controls, evasions and more controls
cannot last long, that it's impossible and
inadvisable to try to stop entrepreneurs from providing new
goods. In mid-December, Mugabe shut down all
currency exchanges, but they have moved to back
alleys. New price ceilings on furniture and
refrigerators have simply prompted merchants to demand
cash up front.
Meanwhile, Mugabe's government is spending half its
revenue to pay interest on its debts. The more
foreign currency it tries to squeeze out of
exporters, the less incentive they have to export -- or at least
to report their exports to the government. A recent
editorial cartoon in a Harare paper portrayed the
funeral business as "the only growing industry in
"Look, there's only so long you can defy the laws of
supply and demand," Robertson said. "It's like
defying the laws of gravity. Pretty soon, you're
going to come crashing down." The deepest crisis is the
fuel shortage. Zimbabwe had a contract to import
Libyan oil, but it missed payments, and the flow has
slowed to a trickle. There is hardly any gas in
Harare, , which has not stopped drivers from lining up at
stations for hours upon hearing rumors of gas. Buses
are grounded; cars are left at home; lines snake
around entire city blocks, choking off all of Fourth
Street and half of Robert Mugabe Road.
"All we do is look for petrol," said taxi driver
Champion Mutari. "It's all anybody does around here."
Mugabe doesn't have that problem. He still rides in
an armored Mercedes limousine with tinted
windows, surrounded by two dozen motorcycles and
sport utility vehicles with their sirens blaring. The
motorcade is known as Bob Mugabe and the Wailers.
And it is now a crime in Zimbabwe to make
rude gestures or comments as it passes by.
"It's all about total power," Robertson said. "The
economy is just one more way to expand control."
In Zimbabwe, he said, everyone is hungry.
"When the cake is small for sharing, everyone complains about his
portions," Zvobgo said. "But this
government is doing its best for everyone."
- 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 byMessage 1046 of 1046 , May 22, 2006View Source
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