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  • Christine Chumbler
    Crisis-hit Malawians survive on grass By Rajesh Mirchandani BBC Radio Five Live correspondent in Malawi The food crisis in Malawi is now so severe that some
    Message 1 of 1046 , Feb 10, 2003
      Crisis-hit Malawians
      'survive on grass'

      By Rajesh Mirchandani
      BBC Radio Five Live correspondent in Malawi

      The food crisis in Malawi is now so severe that
      some of the worst-hit people are reduced to
      eating grass.

      Aid agencies fear that nearly a third of the
      population - about 3.3 million people - face
      starvation in the coming months if relief funds
      dwindle and erratic weather does not bring
      much-needed rain in time for the harvest.

      Modesta says her
      family have nothing to
      eat except grass, like
      the kind she holds up
      in her hand.

      Demonstrating as she
      speaks, she says: "We
      take it from the
      ground, rub it to take
      away the husks, then
      grind the seeds to
      make flour to cook
      with."

      She says it is the same for everyone in her
      village and the next one - up to 1,000 people
      in all. And that is just the people she knows
      about.

      "It tastes sour, and everyone is constipated,"
      she says.

      "It is not good for the children to eat.
      Sometimes if we have a little maize we give it
      to the children. When we have nothing we all
      eat grass."

      Survival priority

      Modesta's village is in Malawi's southernmost
      Nsanje district, near the border with
      Mozambique.

      It is rainy season right now but that does not
      mean very much. Every river we crossed for 50
      kilometres (30 miles) was completely dry. It
      means the maize cannot grow.

      Here, as in other, greener, parts of Malawi, the
      aim of the aid agencies is to help people to
      help themselves - by giving them fertiliser for
      their maize crops or chickens, whose eggs add
      a little protein to their diets.

      But now in arid Nsanje the priority is survival.

      At Tengani 1,000
      people wait for up to
      six hours to collect
      rations that will keep
      their family alive for a
      month.

      Drawn from eight
      villages in the area,
      they have all walked
      for hours to get here -
      mothers with babies,
      the elderly, even one
      man on crutches.

      They will have to walk back. It is the same
      across this district - thousands queue, while
      thousands more wait at home.

      The system targets the most needy. You have
      to be registered to receive - no form, no food.

      'Never enough'

      Invariably people slip through the net, a fact
      acknowledged by the relief organisations.

      Abby King from Tearfund, one of Britain's
      largest aid agencies, said: "We manage to
      reach some of the most vulnerable people but
      it's impossible to reach absolutely everyone.

      "Our local partner
      organisations are
      working flat out but
      the need is
      overwhelming and the
      supplies are never
      enough."

      There is precious little
      to go round: 30
      kilograms of maize
      flour and five kilograms
      of pigeon peas for a
      family of five for a
      month.

      One grandmother says there are nine in her
      family.

      She sets off alone on the 5km walk to her
      village, balancing three 10kg bags of maize
      flour on her head. We ask: is it enough? "God
      willing," she says.

      *****

      HIV/Aids, Late Rains, Floods Threaten Harvest - UN
      Special Envoy Morris

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)
      February 10, 2003
      Posted to the web February 10, 2003

      Wezie Nyirongo
      Lilongwe

      UN Secretary General's special envoy for Humanitarian Needs in
      Southern
      Africa, James Morris says despite gains made in Malawi the
      humanitarian
      crisis still persists and people remain at risk from lack of food,
      HIV/AIDS
      and floods.

      Morris, accompanied by Stephen Lewis, UN Secretary General's Special
      Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa recently toured several areas in Southern
      Africa to re-assess the humanitarian situation in the region.

      A visit to Salima, one of the worst flood
      affected districts Morris warned that the rapid
      response from international donors has helped
      stave off a catastrophe in Malawi but millions
      of people remain at risk from the humanitarian
      crisis.

      'The crisis is far from over and while we've
      made great strides in getting assistance to the
      worst affected areas, the situation remains so fragile that gains
      could
      easily be eroded,' said Morris.

      'A combination of HIV/AIDS, late rains - now floods, are threatening
      this
      year's upcoming harvest.' A statement released from the WFP says the
      double blow of HIV/AIDS and alarming erratic weather patterns
      converging
      across southern Africa has prompted the two UN envoys to a second
      mission to the sub region.

      The release further says an estimated 70 percent of hospital deaths
      are
      now reported to be AIDS related and more than 300,000 children have
      been left orphaned by the disease. The adult prevalence rate is lower
      than
      in many other countries in the region but is still estimated to be at
      least 16
      percent amongst adults.

      'At the root of the crisis in Malawi along with tough policy issues,
      erratic
      weather and chronic poverty, is the HIV/AIDS Pandemic which threatens
      every advance made.'


      *****

      MCP MPs Go Into Hiding

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)
      February 10, 2003
      Posted to the web February 10, 2003

      Wezi Nyirongo
      Lilongwe

      The majority of the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) MPs who are alleged to
      have been abducted and detained at a lodge in Area 43 prior to the
      recent
      emergency sitting of parliament have made it clear that they stand
      firm
      despite threats and would vote against the third term bill when it was
      again
      tabled in parliament. Others, from a list of 25 MPs that The Chronicle
      has
      managed to secure are not so brave and who are still undecided have
      gone into hiding following threats from the UDF camp.

      Several MPs interviewed by The Chronicle responded unambiguously to
      the question of their *NO' stand on the third term and what their
      constituents say about letting President Bakili Muluzi stand for the
      third
      successive time. But only one of them who confided in The Chronicle
      said
      he is still in hiding and couldn't shed light on the matter saying the
      question
      was very complicated and relates to the situating he was in at the time
      he
      was talking to the reporter.

      'I don't want to be covered in papers. If my
      name is published it could lead to more
      complications, but the issue is in the hands of
      the Home Affairs minister, Monjeza Maluza,'
      the Member of Parliament declared.

      Asked further as to why he thinks he is being
      targeted, the MP only said the story is related
      to the third term issue. He could not elaborate
      further, sating it could jeopardise the investigations.

      Another MP who was also reported to be in hiding, Kasungu Central MP
      Carrington Jimu said he is now confidently free as the situation has
      cleared somewhat and he believed he was out of danger. He revealed
      that
      he called the individuals whom he believed are Young Democrats and
      others who took advantage of his situation and asked them why he was
      targeted. He said they had resolved the matter and the situation is
      back to
      normal.

      'We were crying for democracy but now the same democracy is driving us
      into trouble. At the moment it seems we are no longer a threat as the
      matter has been resolved. I came out of hiding on Wednesday last
      week,'
      said Jimu who, jointly with Kasungu West MP Gulule petitioned the
      Speaker of Parliament, Sam Mpasu on the issue of Dr. Hetherwick Ntaba
      being the Leader of the Opposition in the house.

      He however refuted allegations that he was among the MCP MPs who
      were abducted at City Lodge by UDF officials claiming that he had just
      heard that some of the MPs were detained while he was on his way to
      parliament from Kasungu.

      'I was not there. I was on my way to Parliament from Kasungu when
      someone called me, saying that I was wanted in the House after the
      Speaker read our the petition on the Leader of the Opposition. And that
      is
      when I learned that some of the MCP MPs were detained at a certain
      lodge
      by the UDF officials.

      Responding to the question as to why he was targeted out of all the
      MCP
      MPs, he said the reason is because of his stand on the bill. He had
      made it
      quite clear that he would not support it because his constituents do
      not
      want Muluzi to stand again for a third term.

      'I made it clear that my vote is *NO' to the third term, that is why I
      was
      targeted. I couldn't support the bill because my constituents are
      against
      Muluzi standing for a third term. The message is loud and clear,' he
      said
      emphatically.

      Another MCP MP who acknowledged that he was one of those detained
      refused to give his name to be published said he was in favour of the
      bill,
      especially after he received a khaki envelope from the UDF. He was able
      to
      confirm some of the names mentioned to be in favour of the bill from
      the
      MCP after they too received some monies.

      He then said: 'I was one of them in favour of voting for the bill but
      now I
      have reversed my decision due to the intimidation and beatings which
      have
      remained a threat to most opposition MPs. However the UDF should know
      that intimidation is what is strengthening the opposition now and
      whatever
      the case, the bill will never pass in parliament, *Dzanja lalemba -
      'No
      Third Term',' he said.

      Ntchisi North MP Gadama said it was not true that he had been detained
      at
      City Lodge as it was reported, saying he went to parliament around
      10am
      after MCP president Gwanda Chakuamba called him to say he should
      delay his trip a bit because the way through to parliament was blocked
      by
      hordes of UDF Young Democrats.

      'I was not among those MPs who were abducted. That is a big lie. On
      Monday I was in Parliament, only that I was delayed a bit after the
      president
      (Gwanda) phoned me, warning me and giving me instructions that I
      should
      delay my arrival and come late since the road through to parliament
      was
      full of UDF Young Democrats who could have attacked me.' said Gadama.

      Gadama also emphasised that people shouldn't be confused that the next
      time round he would support the third term bill just because he
      supported
      the open term bill. At that time John Tembo had instructed them all to
      support it.

      'I said YES to an Open Term Bill since our president (Tembo) told us to
      do
      so. But this time people shouldn't think I am going to support it
      again. To
      strengthen my point during an NEC meeting we agreed the party's stand
      should be a big *NO'.' Dowa East MP Walli Kala said he is undecided on
      his stand on the third term. He declared that he might vote YES or NO
      depending on what the majority vote will be from the MCP camp.

      'I would first like to say that I was not among the other MPs who were
      at
      Area 43. And my point on the third term will particularly depend on
      the
      majority of Malawians. So if they say YES I will eventually also
      support the
      bill. My intentions are balanced to say NO or YES,' said Kara who is on
      bail
      for allegedly killing his wife, a friend to his wife and his driver
      whom, it is
      alleged helped him to get rid of the bodies.


      He however said recently the Vice president Justin Malewezi held a
      rally at
      his constituency and the people responded that they would support
      Muluzi
      to stand for a third term.

      'I vividly remember the veep went to my constituency and T/A Chiwere
      said
      people told him to come out clean that they are supporting the third
      term.

      ' As I said before, it will depend on the votes but if my people still
      maintain
      saying YES then my views will be the same.' He then said however he
      doesn't want to be the victim of harassment and he might even abstain
      during voting.

      *****

      Women Respond Positively to HIV/Aids Workplace
      Programme - Labour Commissioner Kambuto

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)
      February 10, 2003
      Posted to the web February 10, 2003

      Mallick Mnela
      Lilongwe

      Research conducted by the Centre for Social Research (CSC), University
      of Malawi suggests that 81.5% in the ministry of Labour and Vocational
      Training were found to be willing to go for voluntary councilling and
      testing
      (VCT).

      The ministry, in partnership with Project Hope, is carrying out an
      HIV/AIDS
      Workplace Programme which was initiated in September 1999 with
      funding from United States Department of Labour.

      Other partners in the implementing partners in
      the programme include Shire Bus Lines,
      representing the private sector, the Employers
      Consultative Association of Malawi (ECAM)
      and two trade union federations, the Congress
      of Trade Unions and the Malawi Trade Unions.

      The ministry has commended women within
      the ministry for taking a leading role in the fight
      against HIV/AIDS in their on-going HIV/AIDS Workplace Programme.

      Labour Commissioner in the ministry, Zebron Kambuto, told The
      Chronicle
      that since the beginning of the programme, women employees in the
      ministry took the initiative and were able to go for VCT, to use
      preventative
      strategies for HIV and to reduce discrimination and stigmatization.

      'The programme has enabled women to prove they are not laggards in
      terms of arresting the HIV/AIDS epidemic. For instance, women have
      proved to be responding positively to certain preventative strategies
      that
      have for long been regarded as taboos, like condom use,' explained
      Kambuto.

      He further revealed that it was most encouraging to note that women
      were
      taking advantage of the Labour ministry condom distribution outlets in
      larger numbers.

      Says Kambuto : 'Since the programme started some three years ago,
      women in the ministry have gained a lot of knowledge from the
      programme. The consumption rate of condoms in female distribution has
      trebled, giving us encouragement that the programme has begun to
      register success.' He said relationships have been strengthened in the
      workplace despite one's sero-status and that condom use has increased
      impressively as evidenced by the recent increase in the number of
      condoms taken from distributing outlets.

      The awareness campaigns, said Kambuto, have also instilled a sense of
      responsibility in everyone, regardless of sex, making them consider
      themselves being at risk.

      The programme, said Kambuto, also involves the ministry of Health and
      Population and the National AIDS Commission (NAC) as stakeholders.

      *****

      Govt. Needs Discipline - VP ..... As Lack of Fiscal
      Discipline And Spending On Non Priorities
      Continues

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)
      February 10, 2003
      Posted to the web February 10, 2003

      Joseph Ganthu
      Lilongwe

      Echoing the persistent accusations by the International Monetary Fund
      (IMF), the World Bank and Malawi's other international development
      partners who have withheld funding to the country, the Vice President
      of
      the Republic of Malawi, Justin Malewezi said Malawians are living in
      abject
      poverty now because the government has lost sight of the real
      priorities.

      The vice president, who is the Minister Responsible for Privatisation
      made
      his remarks during a tour of Dairibord Malawi Limited (DML), a company
      which he said was a shining example of the privatised companies that
      are
      doing well despite the country's poor economic performance. Dairibord
      took over the failing Malawi Dairy Industries (MDI) in 1998 and have
      turned
      it around.

      He said Malawi must create a strong
      macro-economic environment which must
      support the private sector. The veep however
      pointed out that this can only be possible if the
      government itself establishes good fiscal
      discipline in terms of expenditure and
      priorities.

      'This means fiscal discipline on the part of the
      government which should go beyond lip service, and public expenditure
      needs to be brought under control,' said the vice president. He said
      Malawi,
      as a poor country must admit that she cannot do everything at the same
      time.

      The veep said while Malawi is busy privatising companies to boost the
      country's economy, it should take note that the benefits of
      privatisation can
      quickly be lost if the rest of the economy is ' under stress from high
      interest rates, huge local and foreign debt and absence of balance of
      payment support'.

      Commenting on the loss running David Whitehead & Sons and Grain &
      Milling companies, he said government subvented one billion kwacha to
      salvage the companies. He admitted that the injection of funds was to
      no
      avail.

      'The question becomes one of priorities because we would have built
      social amenities such as schools, roads and hospitals, irrigating the
      fertile
      soils of Lower Shire so that famine becomes a thing of the past to
      improve
      the living standards of our people' rather than spending on loss
      making
      companies.

      He recalled that in an effort to develop the country's economy, the
      former
      regime established several enterprises which were effectively managed.
      He revealed that at that time the revenue matched the population and
      the
      companies were relatively viable.

      Malewezi said the country's poor economy has not only affected the
      individual Malawians who at the moment cannot afford to buy their
      basic
      needs, but has also badly affected companies which are now being
      closed
      down since their services are not fully sought.

      He said there is no way a company can run if people who are the buyers
      of
      its products have no money. He pointed out that when this is the
      situation
      the companies either cut down on their staff and retrench or close
      down
      completely.

      'When the disposable income in the pockets of people is low, it means
      that
      the people cannot afford to buy the goods or services. This translates
      into
      lower sales for the company,' said the vice president adding that the
      country's economic woes have forced some companies to completely
      close down.

      In his remarks the managing Director of Dairibord Malawi Limited,
      Phillip
      Msindo said the company's goals are not only to supply products to
      Malawi
      only but also to export them to Tanzania, Zambia and Mozambique.

      He expressed concern over a low supply of fresh milk from farmers
      saying
      the DML, which has a capacity of 11 million litres of milk per year
      receives
      only three million. He therefore appealed to interested Malawians to
      embark on dairy farming as a market for the produce is readily
      available.

      The Privatisation process began 6 years ago with more than 42
      parastatals have been privatised. There are in excess of 30 more
      companies to go under the hammer of the Privatisation Commission.
      Since the inception of the programme MK1.67 billion has bee realised.
      MK818 million relates to the sale of shares held by the Malawi
      Development Corporation and ADMARC Investment Holding Company.

      The balance of MK852 million relates to the sale of public enterprises
      directly held by the Malawi government. MK67.3 million was spent on
      restructuring public enterprises in order to prepare them for
      privatisation.

      MK6.5 was set up for the benefit of Malawians during public offerings.

      The Commission has deposited MK468.8 million in the Privatisation
      Revenue Account which is under the authority of the Minister of
      Finance
      who determines the manner in which the funds are utilised. These funds
      are at the disposal of treasury.

      Malewezi's statements send a warning to public servants on the
      appropriate use of monies, especially those garnered for use in trust
      from
      the sale of public entities.

      *****
















      Chikakwiya Eyes Kapito's Post

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)
      February 10, 2003
      Posted to the web February 10, 2003

      Christopher Jimu
      Lilongwe

      Blantyre City Assembly Mayor John Chikakwiya has intensified his
      underground campaign to unseat current UDF Southern Regional
      Governor Davis Kapito from his position, The Chronicle has
      established.

      According to a Councillor who did not want to be named the Blantyre
      Mayor, who was convicted for a *Contempt of Court' charge fears that
      he
      may be barred from contesting in the 2004 Local Government Elections
      because of his conviction.

      Chikakwiya was convicted alongside three
      senior police officers on February 6, 2001 after
      Peter Chupa brought charges against him for
      stopping a political rally scheduled to be
      addressed by the National Democratic
      Alliance on January 15, 2001 in Ndirande. This
      took place after the court had granted an
      injunction restraining the Mayor from barring
      the meeting from taking place.

      'The mayor is uncertain about his future as a councillor. He has
      already
      laid the foundation to unseat Davis Kapito as the UDF's Southern
      Region
      Governor. As I am talking to you now, top UDF officials seem to favour
      Chikakwiya to Kapito,' the councillor said.

      Another councillor who also refused to be named told The Chronicle
      that
      Chikakwiya has been harbouring ambitions to take over from Davis
      Kapito
      even before he was elected to the post of Mayor.

      'He has been harbouring ambitions of holding a senior party post since
      he
      launched his political career. Since he may not be able to contest as
      a
      councillor next year he has set his sights at taking over the post of
      Regional Governor from Kapito,' hinted the source.

      According to the Local Government Elections Act, a candidate must not,
      within the past seven years have been convicted by a competent court
      of
      law of a crime involving dishonesty or moral turpitude.

      High Court Judge Edward Twea committed Chikakwiya and the Police
      officers to prison for 14 days, suspended for 18 months on condition
      that
      they do not in person or their official capacity infringe on any
      citizen's right
      to freedom of assembly and/or association.

      Chikakwiya refused to comment on the issue on more than three
      occasions saying that he was busy, constantly telling this scribe to
      phone
      him later.

      While expressing surprise on the issue the outspoken Southern Region
      Governor Davis Kapito told The Chronicle that he does not fear anybody
      and that if Chikakwiya was aspiring for his seat there was no problem.

      Surprisingly, rather than challenge the allegation in his normal
      inimical
      manner Kapito declared: 'That is democracy at work. If Chikakwiya
      wants
      to run for the seat of Regional Governor let him do so. That is the
      price of
      democracy, anybody is free to contest for any party post,' said Kapito
      asking, 'Do you want to stop democracy in this country?' A senior UDF
      official in the Centre observed that Chikakwiya can easily take over
      the
      seat of Regional Governor because he is articulate and the experience
      he
      has gained as a mayor will be of great assistance to him.

      'If you compare Chikakwiya to Kapito, you will find that the Mayor
      possesses better qualities for the post of Regional Governor. He can
      articulate issues and may have very few problems to adapt to the hot
      seat," said the official.

      Chikakwiya was elected City Assembly Mayor on December 7, 2000,
      beating Altaf Gani in the controversial elections which were nearly
      marred
      when it became clear that Davis Kapito and Dumbo Lemani were openly
      campaigning for Chikakwiya.

      *****

      Bizos rips into 'cagey' witness
      Harare

      10
      February 2003 13:29

      Defence lawyers in the treason trial of Zimbabwe
      opposition leader Morgan
      Tsvangirai on Monday accused the government of
      breaching the constitution
      by not releasing details of a deal it made with the
      main state witness.

      Tsvangirai's lawyers wanted to question witness Ari
      Ben Menashe about a
      contract he signed with the government last year
      but state lawyers say this
      would be prejuducial to state security.

      The defence said Ben Menashe had "no just excuse"
      to conceal the
      contents of an agreement signed between his
      Canada-based political
      consultancy, Dickens and Madson, and the Zimbabwean
      government on
      January 10, 2002.

      That contract was signed just weeks after
      Tsvangirai was secretly videoed
      by Ben Menashe at the latter's Montreal offices,
      where the opposition leader
      allegedly requested the "elimination" of President
      Robert Mugabe.

      State lawyer Bharat Patel produced in court a
      signed certificate from
      Security Minister Nicholas Goche saying revelations
      of the details of the
      contract would undermine state security. Tsvangirai
      is standing trial
      alongside two senior officials from his Movement
      for Democratic Change
      (MDC) -- MDC secretary general Welshman Ncube and
      shadow agriculture
      minister Renson Gasela. If convicted of treason
      they face the death penalty.

      The defence lawyers said on Monday they wanted to
      establish whether the
      agreement between Ben Menashe -- a former Israeli
      intelligence officer --
      and the Harare government was "genuine" or "a
      reward for the trapping
      exercise".

      Patel argued that the certificate from the security
      minister "means that the
      contract between Dickens and Madson and the
      government, particularly the
      obligations of Dickens and Madson" should not be
      disclosed on security
      grounds.

      Tvangirai's lawyer, George Bizos, dismissed this as
      "a ridiculous claim"
      intended to "protect an uncooperative and cagey
      witness".

      He described the minister's certificate as
      "unconstitutional" and said the
      judge "has power to go behind it and ignore it".

      "Anything would be done to protect this witness
      against our
      cross-examination, to the prejudice of the
      accused," Bizos added. Monday's
      hearing adjourned for the morning after only an
      hour.

      The defense lawyers are now trying to build up a
      case to force Ben
      Menashe and the government to disclose the details
      of their contract.

      The high-profile trial is now in its sixth day and
      has aroused huge local and
      international interest. It coincides with the start
      of the cricket World Cup,
      which is being played in Zimbabwe against a
      background of criticism from
      the opposition and human rights groups.

      The case is expected to last for at least another
      two weeks. - Sapa-AFP

      *****

      Zimbabwe comes in from the cold
      Canberra

      10
      February 2003 09:31

      South Africa and Nigeria will allow Zimbabwe to be
      readmitted to the
      Commonwealth group of nations when its suspension
      expires next month,
      Australian Prime Minister John Howard said on
      Monday.

      Howard said a decision by South African President
      Thabo Mbeki and
      Nigeria's Olusegun Obasanjo to cancel a meeting
      with him next month
      would effectively see Zimbabwe readmitted to the
      54-nation grouping of
      former British colonies.

      Howard is chairman of a three-nation panel that
      includes Mbeki and
      Obasanjo that was appointed by a summit of
      Commonwealth leaders in
      February 2002 to decide how the group should
      respond to
      government-sponsored violence during Zimbabwe's
      presidential elections
      last year.

      In March last year the three leaders suspended
      Zimbabwe from the
      Commonwealth for 12 months. They were to meet again
      next month to see
      if the suspension should be extended.

      Howard, who is in Washington for talks on Iraq with
      US President George
      Bush, said Mbeki told him in a telephone
      conversation on Saturday that
      South Africa and Nigeria did not want to hold
      another meeting of the panel.

      If the panel does not meet the suspension lapses,
      Zimbabwe would
      automatically be readmitted to the Commonwealth.
      Howard said he
      disagreed with the decision and wanted the
      suspension to continue until the
      next meeting of Commonwealth leaders next year.

      "Zimbabwe has not done anything effectively to
      respond to what it was
      asked to do," Howard said in a transcript released
      on Monday in Australia
      by his office.

      "If anything, the situation appears to have
      deteriorated."

      The Australian prime minister said that as chairman
      of the panel he would
      write to Commonwealth leaders and recommend the
      suspension remain in
      place until the next Commonwealth summit. -
      Sapa-AP
    • 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

        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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