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  • Christine Chumbler
    Malawi president s cheap insult By Raphael Tenthani BBC, Blantyre Two young men have been fined 50 Malawi kwacha ($0.55) each for chanting anti-third term
    Message 1 of 1046 , Mar 3, 2003
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      Malawi president's cheap insult
      By Raphael Tenthani
      BBC, Blantyre


      Two young men have been fined 50 Malawi kwacha
      ($0.55)
      each for chanting anti-third term slogans and hurling
      insults at
      President Bakili Muluzi.

      A Magistrates Court in the capital,
      Lilongwe, found Emmanuel Mdoka
      and Justin Kamanga guilty of
      insulting the person and the office of
      the president of the Republic of
      Malawi.

      The court heard that the young men, heading home from
      a drinking
      spree in the small hours of 18 February, started
      chanting that President
      Muluzi should not be allowed to contest next year's
      general elections
      because, according to them, he was a thief.

      This did not go down well with militant youths of the
      ruling United
      Democratic Front known as Young Democrats.

      Citizens' arrest

      The Young Democrats performed a citizens' arrest on
      the drunk young
      men and handed them over to police.

      The two young men had to spend 10 days in police
      custody before being
      found guilty.

      The Young Democrats testified in
      court that they were so angered by
      the insults that they arrested the
      young men.

      Mr Mdoka and Mr Kamanga denied
      insulting the president or his office,
      saying they made their confession to
      police because they were tortured.

      Mr Mdoka said he was tortured so
      much that he developed epileptic
      fits.

      The magistrate told the young men that insulting the
      head of state was a
      serious offence. "You are young and disrespectful," he
      told them, but he
      added that they were lucky that parliament had decided
      to classify their
      crime as a misdemeanour.

      The UDF is pushing for a constitutional amendment to
      allow President
      Muluzi, whose second term of five years ends in 2004,
      to contest the
      presidency for a third term.

      The issue continues to breed controversy.

      Several people, including MPs and religious leaders,
      have been roughed
      up for expressing anti-third term sentiments.

      *****

      Aid Projects Not Affected By Donor Caution

      UN Integrated Regional Information
      Networks
      February 27, 2003
      Posted to the web February 27, 2003

      Johannesburg

      Aid programmes would not be affected by the decision of a group of
      donors to continue withholding budget support from the Malawi
      government, a spokesman for one of the donors told IRIN on Thursday.

      After discussions with the Malawi government, this week the Common
      Approach to Budget Support (CABS) donor group of the United Kingdom,
      Norway, Sweden and the European Commission decided to keep to its
      decision to withhold budget support until it was satisfied with the
      government's financial performance.

      In a statement CABS said: "The group
      recognises recent improvements in areas
      such as keeping total government
      spending under control and bringing down
      inflation. There are still some areas of
      concern, including implementation of
      sound financial management systems.
      We hope too that the share of expenditure devoted to items like
      medicines
      and teaching materials will be back on target by the end of the fiscal
      year."

      It said the future of the economy depended largely on the government
      restraining expenditure to bring down interest rates and creating
      conditions
      for growth.

      "This is critical to successful implementation of Malawi's Poverty
      Reduction Strategy (MPRS) which budget support is intended to
      underpin.
      We look forward to the annual review of the MPRS."

      Spokesman for the United Kingdom, Michael Nevin, told IRIN that the
      suspension by his country did not affect aid programmes which were
      still
      going ahead.

      He described the latest meeting with the Department of Finance as
      positive but said the donor group was waiting for the International
      Monetary
      Fund's (IMF) report on the government's budget and spending
      adjustments, which was expected to be released soon, before deciding
      to
      lift the suspension.

      Last year the IMF said it would withhold the US $47 million earmarked
      for
      Malawi under its Poverty Reduction Growth Facility due to government
      overspending beyond targets set by the Fund.

      Nevin added that although the funds were suspended, about US $15
      million had been released since 2001 to assist during the country's
      food
      crisis.

      *****

      Food Crisis in Malawi Almost Over

      Malawi Standard (Blantyre)
      February 28, 2003
      Posted to the web February 28, 2003

      By Brian Ligomeka
      Blantyre, Malawi

      The food shortage crisis that threatened the lives of 3.6 million
      Malawians
      is finally over, after successful implementation of agricultural
      schemes and
      programmes, which President Bakili Muluzi and his administration
      encouraged people to follow.

      Secretary for Agriculture Andrina Mchiela told The Malawi Standard in
      an
      interview that the country has now attained the much needed food
      self-sufficiency.

      She noted that it is pleasing that this season Malawi has managed to
      produce surplus food. Faced with an unexpected surplus, government has
      decided to sell 50,000 metric tonnes of its maize stock.

      Mchiela said the sale of the surplus maize is done with the blessing
      of
      donors who also comprise the food crisis technical committee.

      "Government is looking for traders to buy 50 000 metric tonnes out of
      255
      000 metric tonnes stored in reserve because the critical hunger period
      is
      over," said Mchiela.

      She said the government was afraid that if it does not sell the maize,
      it
      would have be overwhelmed with a huge surplus when the current crop
      would be harvested in three months' time.

      Officials of the Famine Early Warning Sytems Network (FEWS NET)
      maintain that there is no problem with Malawi selling some of its
      surplus
      maize.

      "This will not come from the strategic grain reserves (SGR), but from
      government imports," says FEWS NET Country Director, Sam Chimwaza.

      Chimwaza explained that the government recently held a meeting with
      NGOs and donors to discuss what to do with 250,000 metric tonnes of
      maize bought with a World Bank loan to avert another year of critical
      food
      shortage, which put about 3.6 million people in need of food aid.

      Chimwaza said that due to timely government imports and a
      government-imposed price freeze which had reduced maize prices by up
      to 60 percent, market speculators had not been able to repeat the
      previous
      year's tactic of withholding stocks and then selling them at a large
      profit.

      In addition, cautious after two years of food shortage, households in
      Malawi
      had been extremely careful with their supplies, rationing them to make
      their
      supplies last longer.

      Now that it has become evident that the outlook of this year's harvest
      is
      positive, in spite of heavy rains in some parts of the country, and due
      to the
      fact that the Strategic Grain Reserve contains the required 60,000
      metric
      tonnes, the government decided to discuss the possibility of selling
      one
      fifth of the maize to raise cash for other projects.

      The move would also benefit farmers in the sense that the market would
      not be flooded by a lot of maize, which could depress prices when
      selling
      their maize to ADMARC and private traders.

      Donors, including the European Union (EU), have agreed to government's
      proposal to sale 50, 000 metric tonnes of maize.

      European Union food security official, Paul Giniies, said: "It is
      important
      that this sale takes place before the harvest season to ensure the
      market
      is not flooded with maize and prices remain as high as possible."

      The World Food Programme (WFP), which is targeting most of those
      identified for food aid, and which launched a massive regional appeal
      last
      year, said it had "no problem" with the sale.

      "It was discussed and we don't have a problem with it because
      government reserves are on the high side and they are worried about
      the
      food rotting," WFP spokesman Abdelgadi Musallam said.

      "The food security situation here has stabilised, malnutrition rates
      have
      stabilised, food prices are low and the whole situation is quite
      different to
      last year," he said.

      According to Mchiela, this year the country is expected to harvest up
      to 2.3
      million metric tonnes of maize. This is enough food to feed the nation
      for
      the whole year and remain with some surplus. The country's food
      requirement does not exceed 2 million metric tonnes.

      The bumper yields are the good fruits of agricultural schemes initiated
      by
      the government. These included the Starter Pack Scheme, Winter
      Cropping and the Civil Servants Farm Input Scheme.

      While agriculture experts and donors say Malawi has conquered the
      hunger crisis, others are disputing this fact.

      Chairman of the Malawi Economic Justice Network, Francis Ng'ambi, says
      that he is not convinced that the food crisis in the country is over,
      without
      long-term solutions.

      "There is no guarantee that in 2004 there will not be another hunger
      crisis,"
      says Ng'ambi.

      He says Malawi has always had droughts and floods, but a host of other
      factors are also to blame for the recent crisis.

      He says these other factors need to be addressed to prevent the crisis
      from continuing and repeating themselves. Ng'ambi calls for the
      cancellation of the country's US$2.6 billion debt.

      He says 40 percent of its annual budget goes into servicing that debt.
      This
      money could rather be used to boost the agricultural sector.

      "To continue asking Malawi to service its debt in this hunger crisis is
      not
      just at all... There is no way Malawi could repay its debt," he
      observes.

      He also suggests that policies imposed on Malawi by the International
      Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank should be scrapped. Ng'ambi
      says these policies include the removal of subsidies on farm inputs
      and
      price controls.

      He points out that when the Bretton Woods institutions dictated Malawi
      to
      remove subsidies, input costs soared by 43 percent, while seed supply
      dropped by 56 percent, putting many subsistence farmers on a
      disadvantage.

      Ng'ambi said at the peak of the 2002 hunger, the price of maize
      increased
      four-fold because there were no control mechanisms, a factor which
      unscrupulous traders exploited.

      "The IMF/WB policies are not helping the poor people in Malawi because
      they are disempowering them even from that which they were once able
      to
      produce through government assistance."

      Ng'ambi suggests that time is ripe now that the government should come
      up with a practical agricultural policy to ensure sustainable food
      production.

      He suggests that such a policy should take into account factors like
      rural
      poverty and HIV/Aids.

      *****

      Mcp Veep Snubs His President Over Cosmetic Unity

      Malawi Standard (Blantyre)
      February 28, 2003
      Posted to the web February 28, 2003

      By Standard Reporter
      Blantyre, Malawi

      Malawi Congress Party (MCP) Vice President John Tembo made a
      stunning revelation recently in the presence of his boss Gwanda
      Chakuamba that he was dragged into reuniting with the party president
      before many outstanding differences were resolved.

      Co-addressing a rally with Chakuamba in Ndirande, Blantyre, last
      weekend
      after years of hatred with Chakuamba, Tembo said he is still bitter
      over his
      President's move to petition the High Court to convict him and other
      two
      MCP officials on contempt of court charges.

      Tembo and MCP Secretary General, Kate
      Kainja, were found guilty of holding an
      MCP convention when the High Court had
      granted Chakuamba an injunction
      restraining them to go ahead with the
      convention.

      They were eventually convicted and fined K200, 000 each, admitting
      that
      they were guilty.

      Tembo and Kainja subsequently lost their parliamentary seats, as their
      conviction concerned a case of moral turpitude. They are, therefore
      not
      eligible to hold a public office until after seven years from the date
      of their
      conviction.

      What it means, Tembo said, is that although he has reconciled with
      Chakuamba, the truth remains that the MCP President is responsible for
      his expulsion because he is the one who petitioned the courts over the
      convention issue.

      The MCP Vice President told the unsuspecting crowd that he always
      suspected Chakuamba of plotting his downfall from the political scene.

      He cited Chakuamba's plot to finish him off after he went to Sanjika
      Palace
      in Blantyre and asked President Bakili Muluzi to keep him (Tembo) in
      detention when the State tried him and others in the infamous Mwanza
      Murders Trial.

      "I have also not been in favour of Chakuamba's insistence to work with
      the
      Alliance for Democracy (Aford) and its President Chakufwa Chihana,"
      Tembo said. He continued that the MCP/Aford alliance forged during the
      1999 general elections meant, in essence, Tembo was sidelined.

      Giving a brief background to the two leaders' reunification, Tembo,
      who
      took to the podium before Chakuamba, revealed that it is Chakuamba who
      had been desperate for the reunion.

      He said Chakuamba wrote him, after several verbal attempts, pleading
      for
      a meeting to resolve their differences. Tembo, who showed the letter to
      the
      crowd, said Chakuamba pleaded with him to join hands "in order to win
      the
      coming general elections in 2004."

      Tembo revealed that he initially refused to go to Chakuamba's house
      for
      the intended discussions, and advised Chakuamba to go to his house
      instead. However, the two leaders settled for a neutral venue, an
      Asian
      businessman's house, where they kick-started negotiations.

      Tembo said he agreed to work with Chakuamba on conditions that
      Chakuamba withdraws all cases against him and members of his faction
      from the High Court.

      The Vice President also demanded that all members of his factions
      appointed to some executive posts, should remain as such. He also
      demanded that never again should the MCP work with Aford, as he
      personally does not like Aford's leader, Chihana.

      Tembo threatened to break ranks again with Chakuamba if the conditions
      were breached. Surprisingly, when Chakuamba's turn arrived to address
      the rally, he said it is the late Dr. Kamuzu Banda who told him in a
      dream
      to approach Tembo and ask him to work together ahead of the 2004
      general elections.

      Chakuamba did not comment on Tembo's allegations, but instead invited
      Tembo and Majoni onto the platform to display their newfound solidarity
      for
      each other.

      People's Transformation Party (PETRA) president Kamuzu Chibambo has
      described the political marriage between Malawi Congress Party (MCP)
      president Gwanda Chakuamba and his vice John Tembo as a waste of
      time and a very unfortunate political development.

      Chibambo told The Malawi Standard that there is nothing that the
      cosmetic
      unity between the two can bring on Malawi's political landscape. Their
      followers and members of the general public have already lost
      confidence
      in both of them.

      He pointed out that the two MCP leaders have already brought confusion
      in
      their party during the time they were wasting their energies on their
      personal differences and were wrestling for power.

      "It is unfortunate that the re-union of Chakuamba and Tembo is coming
      now when MCP supporters have been waiting for it sometime back. The
      two leaders chose to waste their time on personal differences for a
      long
      time thereby bringing confusion and rifts in their party, which they
      cannot
      solve now, especially at grassroots level," he explained.

      He explained that today Chakuamba cannot address any political rally
      in
      Dedza without Tembo. The Dedza MCP supporters would reject him
      forthright Tembo has already told them bad stories about Chakuamba.
      Likewise Tembo can hardly address a political rally in Nsanje without
      being
      with Chakuamba. He is a total reject in Chakuamba's home.

      Chibambo also echoed similar sentiments last Monday on MIJ 90.3 Fm
      radio. He told listeners to the community radio station that the
      unification of
      the two leaders is not in any way a true reflection of the situation on
      the
      ground at the grassroots because MCP supporters are still divided.

      MCP administrative secretary, Jodder Kanjere snubbed Chibambo's
      statement saying that he should leave the MCP to deal with its own
      affairs.
      Kanjere wondered: "Who is Mr. Chibambo to comment on MCP affairs?"
      He said he would however accept Chibambo's statement with a pinch of
      salt since everyone is entitled to expressing one's opinion in a
      democracy.

      "I would take Chibambo's comment as a personal opinion," he said.

      Meanwhile the United Democratic Front (UDF) regional governor for the
      South, Davis Kapito, said the unification of the two leaders is not a
      threat to
      UDF.

      "Malawians lost confidence and trust in MCP leadership and their
      reunion
      is not a threat to UDF," he noted.

      He said that the political working relationship between Chakuamba and
      Tembo is very cosmetic and full of hidden agendas.

      No one can therefore take them seriously. "They have deceived their
      supporters and other people far too many," said Kapito.

      Kapito said that the two are taking each other for a ride. One of the
      two is a
      trickster duping the other and before the 2004 general elections the
      world
      will know the real dupe. And the real losers will be their supporters
      for they
      shall be left in the cold.

      Chibambo's sentiments have sent a big chill to proponents of an
      opposition alliance in the 2004 general elections to unseat the ruling
      United
      Democratic Front (UDF).

      Asked if his statement will not frustrate the proposed opposition
      alliance,
      Chibambo, said he has to confer with his party members and other
      parties
      before PETRA can make any commitment.

      On leadership of the alliance he proposed that leader of the proposed
      alliance should be elected by an electorate at a convention.

      "Being elected by delegates at a convention and declaring oneself as a
      leader or president of a party are two different things all together,"
      he
      advised.

      Some people have said the statement is a clear testimony that
      new-formed political parties are not interested to form an alliance
      with
      MCP because the old guards are still clinging to power. They are all
      competing for Sanjika Palace.

      Another MCP senior official, speaking on condition of anonymity,
      pointed
      out that MCP would be worst split at its planned convention. He
      revealed
      that while Chakuamba and Tembo would be busy fighting for the party
      presidency, the new blood would be plotting to boot them out of the
      party.

      Despite frantic efforts by donors, non governmental organisations, and
      religious groups to persuade the opposition to form a common electoral
      alliance in readiness for the 2004 general elections, political
      commentators
      say the practical reality on the ground clearly shows that it is
      impossible for
      opposition leaders in Malawi to build a workable coalition. In most
      cases,
      while the outlook of their political concerns might seem similar they
      cannot
      work together because at deeper level their agendas are conflicting.

      Malawi Economic Justice Network senior official, Mavuto Bamusi, told
      The
      Malawi Standard in an earlier interview that while it is legally and
      politically
      acceptable for parties to form electoral groups, it is impossible for
      the
      opposition to form a coalition in 2004.

      "Imagine Tembo, Chakuamba, Mpinganjira, Mwamondwe, and Kamlepo
      teaming up, which of these people could accept to play second fiddle
      to
      the other?" asked Bamusi.

      "As a matter of fact, how does Mpinganjira who is failing to form a
      political
      party out of the pressure group be in the forefront of pushing for an
      opposition alliance? Moreover, when Greenwell Mwamondwe is said to
      represent Aford in the opposition alliance who gave him the mandate to
      do
      so, Chihana?" quizzed the commentator.

      Bamusi said that selfishness and excessive hunger for power among the
      leaders of opposition parties seem to be the main two factors that
      make
      their chances of teaming up together very remote. Whatever form of
      unity
      they are showing now is basically very cosmetic and deceitful.

      *****

      'Tortured by Mugabe's guards'
      Twenty-six activists from
      Zimbabwe's main opposition
      party have been arrested
      outside President Robert
      Mugabe's official residence.

      The Movement for Democratic
      Change (MDC) says they were
      tortured within State House after
      being stopped for wearing MDC
      regalia.

      The police, however, say they were
      "provoking" State House guards and will be charged
      with behaviour
      likely to cause a breach of the peace.

      'Brutal assault'

      The MDC activists were campaigning ahead of two Harare
      by-elections
      at the end of the month.

      They were kept in State House and tortured for fours
      hours before being
      taken to a police station, the MDC said.

      "The soldiers used logs, booted feet,
      the butts of their guns and other
      instruments to brutally assault the
      MDC activists" .

      Five received serious injuries and
      were taken to hospital, the party
      said.

      But police spokesman Wayne
      Bvudzijena told AFP news agency:
      "They were abusive and there was a
      need for them to be arrested
      because they were actually
      provoking a situation."

      The opposition also says that more than 50 of its
      activists were detained
      by the police over the weekend and told to stop
      campaigning.

      Under tough new security laws, meetings of more than
      three people
      require police clearance.

      Elections will be held in Kuwudzana and Highfield on
      29-30 March.

      These were two of the MDC's safest seats after June
      2000 parliamentary
      elections.

      The MDC says that Mr Mugabe's Zanu-PF party is
      desperate to win the
      two seats because it is four short of a two-thirds
      majority in parliament,
      which would enable it to change the constitution.

      Kuwudzana became vacant following the death of MP
      Learnmore
      Jongwe, while the MDC's Highfield MP was expelled for
      not following
      party policy.

      *****

      Zimbabwe's changed land
      By Carolyn Dempster
      in Harare


      In the third of a series of articles on Zimbabwe, BBC
      News
      Online reports on the impact of the chaotic land
      reform
      programme.

      Co-existence is the name of the game on Zimbabwe's
      commercial farms
      these days.

      Black farm workers who stayed on
      after the invasions and violent
      eviction of their former white
      employers are now co-operating with
      the new settlers to eke out a living,
      using the seeds and implements
      abandoned by the white farmers.

      Close to two million farm workers
      and their families were profoundly
      affected by the land resettlement
      programme.

      The Farm Community Trust of Zimbabwe says up to 70% of
      farm
      workers lost their jobs and a means of income as a
      direct result.

      Many are now increasingly reliant on food aid from the
      Canadian
      International Development Agency (CIDA).

      Survival

      Bernard Muyara, an assistant farm manager in
      Mashonaland West and
      one farm worker who survived the land invasions, said
      there was no
      option but co existence.

      "We negotiated (with the settlers) so
      that the farm labourers could have
      something to feed their children, so
      that work could go ahead, so that
      everyone can survive."

      Mr Muyara says the drought is
      having an effect on food security,
      but that the impact of the land
      invasions and political upheaval on
      the farms has been far worse.

      He says uncertainty about every
      "next step" plagues his future.

      Out of a population of some 4,500 white commercial
      farmers, only 600
      are still actively farming their land, says the
      Commercial Farmers' Union
      (CFU).

      Of those farmers who have been hounded off their land,
      only 120 have
      been paid any compensation.

      These are the ones who did not appeal to the courts
      against the loss of
      their farms.

      Weekend farmers

      The chaotic land resettlement process has meant that
      more than 10
      million hectares of fertile land has been effectively
      seized by the state
      and turned over to settlers who range from peasant
      farmers to urban
      bureaucrats and members of Zanu-PF's political elite.


      This last clique, who travel down in
      luxury 4-wheel drive vehicles to
      inspect their newly acquired farms
      over weekends are known as the
      "weekend" farmers.

      Many of the government's critics say
      this was the primary purpose of the
      land reform programme, that land
      hunger was merely used by
      President Mugabe as a political ploy
      to buy patronage and cling to power.

      In just one province, Mashonaland
      East, only half of the vacated farms
      had been occupied by new settlers
      by October last year.

      In the vast majority of cases, the new settlers do not
      have the seeds,
      inputs or expertise to farm the land productively.

      And because they do not have tenure or title deeds,
      they cannot get
      bank loans or any capital to buy what they need.

      Poverty trap

      Economist John Robertson argues that, as a result of
      this, hundreds of
      thousands of small scale farmers have effectively been
      plunged into a
      poverty trap by the government.

      Even Joseph Made, Zimbabwe's Minister for Lands,
      Agriculture and Rural
      Resettlement was forced to admit recently that the
      land reform
      programme has been "haphazard".

      In recent weeks Mr Made has been making unsuccessful
      overtures to
      the Commercial Farmers' Union in a bid to persuade the
      union's
      members to give some material help to the new
      settlers.

      The outlook for Zimbabwe's
      once-buoyant agricultural sector is
      bleak.

      The disrupted planting last season,
      ongoing drought and late rains this
      year, mean the maize fields could
      yield at best 700,000 tonnes of
      maize this season.

      National demand stands at about 1.8
      million tonnes.

      Four years ago, Zimbabwe was a net
      exporter of maize and a key supplier to the World Food
      Programme.

      Last month the WFP distributed 42,000 tonnes of food
      aid to 49 districts
      in a bid to stop Zimbabwe from slipping closer to a
      famine.

      In terms of tobacco, the country has lost its prized
      place as the world's
      third largest exporter of prime quality tobacco and
      this year's crop is
      expected to be 70 million kg at most, down from 240
      million kg in 2000.

      The loss to the treasury is close to $280m.

      Soya bean production is also down by about two-thirds
      and the national
      cattle herd has dropped from 1.2 million to 200,000.

      The CFU claims that the minimum time it would take to
      revive
      commercial farming is five years, but sceptics believe
      it is now virtually
      impossible to turn agriculture around.
    • 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
      • 0 Attachment

        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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