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  • Christine Chumbler
    By Standard Reporter Blantyre, Malawi Blantyre Synod of the CCAP, through the Forum for the Defence of the Constitution (FDC) is pushing the fragmented
    Message 1 of 1046 , Mar 17, 2003
      By Standard Reporter
      Blantyre, Malawi

      Blantyre Synod of the CCAP, through the Forum for the Defence of the
      Constitution (FDC) is pushing the fragmented opposition parties to
      field one
      candidate during the presidential race in 2004. This move has divided
      the
      opposition further and it is the beginning of power struggle.

      A source at Blantyre Projects Office of the CCAP said in an interview
      recently that Reverend Daniel Gunya, the Secretary General of the
      CCAP,
      has instructed the Projects Office's Church and Society Programme
      Director
      to solicit funds for FDC in readiness for the 2004 presidential
      election.

      The source that opted for anonymity could, however, not say how much is
      to
      be raised by the Church and Society for the political campaign, saying
      the
      Projects Office Director, a Mckinock was away in Zomba.

      "What I know for sure is that they want to have something like Kenya's
      Rainbow Coalition. Unless that has happened, the UDF stands to win,
      that is
      probably what the CCAP Church fears" the source said.

      The source said funds for FDC are being raised from individuals and
      organisations in European Union countries, especially Britain. Some
      individuals and agencies in the United States of America are also
      understandably supporting FDC.

      Ousted Alliance for Democracy (Aford) executive member, Green
      Mwamondwe, who is now an FDC member, has confirmed that the opposition
      is trying to gang up as a desperate move to seize power from UDF in
      the
      2004 General Elections.

      Asked who the presidential candidate for the opposition could be,
      Mwamondwe said it was too early to discuss presidential hopefuls,
      saying the
      ruling party might "use other tactics' to thwart the strategy." "But
      definitly we
      need somebody with an outstanding record in the society. We need a
      presidential candidate with good morals," he said.

      But sources say that at a closed-door meeting which was held in
      Blantyre
      early this month on the issue, the opposition parties excluding
      National
      Democratic Alliance pressure group rejected Brown Mpinganjira's bid to
      stand as a presidential candidate for the opposition.

      Reports say that the opposition was uneasy with Mpinganjira's moral
      standing in the society, citing corruption allegations against him and
      his sex
      scandals one of which he used his position as senior cabinet minister
      and
      took away Lizzie from her former husband, Mr. Michael Lossa.

      Sources say that FDC wants to field Jimmy Korea-Mpatsa, a chief
      executive
      of Spactus, a tyre selling company in the country.

      National Democratic Alliance Vice President, Viva Nyimba, has said the
      opposition parties were set to field one candidate but refused to
      divulge
      more information.

      "We will do so probably two to three months before the elections," he
      said.

      He disputed that the opposition have refused to endorse Mpinganjira as
      their
      presidential candidate.

      *****

      By Paul Kang'ombe
      Blantyre, Malawi

      Malawi Democratic Party (MDP) president Kamlepo Kalua and National
      Democratic Alliance (NDA) leader Brown Mpinganjira have said that there
      is
      no spirit of unity among opposition political parties in the country,
      and
      because of that chances are very remote that the opposition parties
      can
      form a political working alliance as they march towards the 2004
      general
      elections.

      The two opposition leaders have warned that no opposition party could
      win
      next year's general elections single-handedly because the UDF is a
      very
      popular party.

      He noted that the opposition parties in the country have a number of
      weaknesses that must be ironed out before 2004.

      Kalua observed some negative elements within opposition leaders that
      suggest that they were not ready to engage in dialogue to form a
      common
      front ahead of next year's elections.

      "Some opposition leaders are big-headed because they think that they
      lead
      big parties.

      They mistakenly think that they can defeat the UDF on their own.

      It is impossible at the moment for any opposition party to defeat the
      ruling
      UDF single-handedly," he said adding that if small parties are not
      united,
      opposition parties should not dream of victory in the 2004 general
      elections.

      Kalua said time has come for all opposition party leaders to come
      together to
      look for political solutions rather than acting as individual parties

      "It is worrisome that opposition leaders are paying a deaf ear to calls
      for
      unity," said Kalua, whose party does not even have structures such as
      regional committees.

      In agreement with Kalua is Mpinganjira, whose pressure group is failing
      to
      register as a political party until now since its inception early
      2001.

      "It is indeed true that each opposition group is working on its own,"
      he said
      explaining that this is out of design and not confusion or
      selfishness.

      He however said besides concentrating on opposition unity just for the
      sake
      of defeating the UDF, opposition parties should form a coalition with
      the aim
      of finding solutions to the country's problems.

      "Even given the prospects that one opposition party can defeat the UDF,
      an
      opposition alliance is still necessary because it is difficult to
      defeat poverty
      single-handedly.

      Truthfully speaking the outbursts of Kalua and Mpinganjira are directed
      at
      the Malawi Congress Party (MCP), which is the main opposition party in
      the
      country.

      This criticism comes in the wake that the MCP leader, Gwanda Chakuamba
      has emphatically said that it has no time to discuss issues of
      alliance
      because it is busy cleaning the mess that is in its house.

      The party president Gwanda Chakuamba told a rally in Ndirande that the
      party split in the run-up to 1999 general elections after it had formed
      an
      alliance with the Alliance for Democracy (Aford).

      "My first priority now is to get the MCP united. I know it was split in
      1999
      because of our alliance with AFORD.

      We don't want to make the same mistake as we prepare for the 2004
      general elections," said Chakuamba.

      In his speech at the same rally, MCP vice president, John Tembo,
      revealed
      that he broke ranks with Chakuamba because of the alliance the latter
      entered with AFORD.

      He cautioned the party to be very careful when handling issues of
      alliance.

      The alliance was the source of political feuds that dogged the party
      for a
      long time.

      MCP stalwarts say that they would not allow small political groups like
      the
      unregistered National Democratic Alliance or Kamlepo's MDP to cause
      splits
      in the party through the formation of alliances.

      "Even if anyone takes over the reigns of power from Gwanda Chakuamba,
      the guiding principle remains: "No to alliance!" said a Blantyre based
      MCP
      supporter.

      AFORD Spokesman Norman Nyirenda told The Malawi Standard that his
      party does not intend to go into an alliance with political leaders
      whose
      democratic credentials are questionable.

      "When we are talking of political alliances, we should also take
      consideration
      of the fact that Malawi is a democratic state and it needs leaders with
      very
      good democratic credentials.

      Not all opposition leaders are democrats.

      Some of them have their hands stained with blood," cautioned Nyirenda.

      He also explained that forming anoountry have a number alliance is not
      an automatic passport to
      opposition victory in an election.

      He pointed out that for example his party formed an electoral alliance
      with
      MCP but lost the elections.

      *****

      By Standard Reporter
      Blantyre, Malawi

      A number of key employees of INDEBANK are crying foul over what they
      have alleged as a systematic discrimination, oppression and elimination
      of
      employees believed to be members and sympathizers of one given party,
      the
      United Democratic Front, and especially those that hail from the
      Southern
      Region.

      Five of the employees speaking on condition of anonymity in fear of
      reprisals
      told The Malawi Standard that the unfortunate part of the story is that
      the
      systematic discrimination and demonization of the Southerners is the
      fruits of
      tribalism and regionalism unleashed by the General Manager of the bank,
      a
      Mrs Agnes Varela (nee Shawa), who hails from the Northern Region but
      married to a Mr Varela of Central Region.

      "A number of people have already fallen victim to tribalism and
      regionalism
      practised by INDEBANK's top manager," alleged employees of the bank.

      They cited the imminent dismissal of a Mr Soka as a good example of an
      employee who is due to be dismissed based on tribalistic tendencies.
      Another well-placed source at INDEBANK confirmed that Mrs Varela has
      been waging a relentless vendetta against a Mr Soka for quite some
      time
      now.

      "At one time she recommended that Soka should be dismissed from his
      position, but the board of directors of the Bank preferred to give
      Soka
      another chance" said the source.

      It is said that the refusal of the board of directors to have Soka
      dismissed did
      not deter Mrs Varela from further plotting Soka's downfall. Our source
      says
      she continues to clandestinely fight against Soka till he is
      dismissed.

      Through our investigations The Malawi Standard has established that
      Soka
      has been with the bank for a long time and remains the most skilled
      and
      experienced in the pension fund business. As a matter of fact Soka
      joined
      the bank earlier than Mrs Varela.

      The employees also alleged that the witch-hunting of Southerners at
      the
      bank remains rife because of the political affiliation of the bank's
      Chief
      Executive Officer (Mrs Varela).

      "The problem is that Mrs Varela seems to be a sympathiser of the one of
      the
      smaller political parties, and detests those holding other political
      opinions
      particularly in favour of the ruling party. I believe this because a
      number of
      her close relatives belong to opposition parties," claimed the
      employee.

      The rumour mill has it that her alleged tribalistic tendencies are
      overflowing
      to the other investment wing of the bank INDEFUND where the General
      Manager is a Mr Sosola. Sources at the Bank allege that after the
      dismissal
      of Mr Soka, the next casualty lined up is Mr Sosola.

      Our reliable source claimed that once the plot to dismiss Mr. Soka is
      accomplished, he would be replaced by one senior executive member of
      staff who happens to be Mrs Varela's home-mate.

      The source said chances are high that Mrs Varela would be successful
      in
      her plot, because of the two senior positions she is currently holding
      gives
      her a lot of power. She is the Chief Executive of the INDEBANK and at
      the
      same time the Chairperson of INDETRUST. This is despite the fact the
      two
      positions raise a serious good governance question.

      "This raises the issue of good governace because of the inherent
      conflict of
      interest. This does not speak very well of INDEBANK which has just gone
      into
      new business; with some new major shareholders coming in", said the
      source. The new shareholders who have invested in INDEBANK are Century
      Holdings of Zimboountry have a numberabwe who we failed to get a
      comment from.

      Another senior manager observed that it is sad to note that the people
      who
      are being witch-hunted are very experienced and competent persons.

      "These people are very competent. Their problem is only one...they
      come
      from the wrong region and they belong to the wrong political grouping,"
      said
      the source.

      The Editor of The Malawi Standard went to INDEBANK on Monday to
      interview Mrs Varela on the issues raised. She told her secretary to
      excuse
      herself saying that she could not see the editor because she was busy
      as
      she was supposed to chair a very important meeting. She however
      advised
      the editor of The Malawi Standard to leave a questionnaire with her
      secretary, so that she could answer the questions after consultation
      with her
      colleagues.

      On Tuesday, The Editor of The Malawi Standard telephoned INDEBANK to
      seek the opportunity of meeting with the Chief Executive. The Secretary
      to
      the Chief Executive (Mrs Varela) answered the phone and said that her
      boss
      has not yet answered the questionnaire. "She has not answered the
      questions?" said the secretary.

      "When can I come to collect the answers?" the Editor asked.

      "Just hold on, let me consult her first," she said.

      (PAUSE 5 MINUTES)

      "Sorry..she says she is not going to answer your questions," said the
      secretary. "Can I book an appointment so that I can have a chat with
      her
      over this issue before we publish what others are saying about her and
      the
      bank?" the Editor asked.

      "Hold on again, I want to ask her," she said.

      "Okay, no problem," the Editor said.

      ( 3 MINUTES)

      "Sir, she says she doesn't want to meet you. She also says she doesn't
      want
      to talk about this," explained the secretary.

      "This matter is in the public interest. After all INDEBANK is a public
      company,
      and members of the public have the right to know what is going on
      there,"
      retorted the Editor.

      "She says it is not a must for her to speak to the press," said
      secretary who
      refused to disclose her identify.

      The Malawi Standard questionnaire is still with Mrs Varela.

      Mrs Varela's successful career dates back to 24 years ago when she
      joined
      the Reserve Bank of Malawi where she worked for six months only.

      After working for six months she left Malawi for the United States of
      America
      where she pursued a Masters Degree in Banking and Money Management
      at Adelphi University.

      Upon her return she joined the Commercial Bank of Malawi where she
      only
      worked for two days before joining INDEBANK. It is during her 24 years
      of
      service at the INDEBANK that she has risen through various ranks up to
      the
      time she was appointed Chief Executive Officer.

      Agnes, is a married woman to Mr Varela who is a soil scientist and
      natural
      resources consultant. She was brought up in Zimbabwe with her Malawian
      father who was a schoolteacher. She returned to Malawi in 1966 after
      Malawi
      became a republic.

      Agnes is a sister to Mr. Shawa, former assistant general manager of
      ADMARC currently working as an administrator for Malawi CARER. The
      Shawa's hail from Ekwendeni in Mzimba district.

      The Malawi Standard hopes that in the next issue she will avail herself
      to
      give the Malawi society her side of the story.

      *****

      America: World's Real Hope, Says Malawi President

      Malawi Standard (Blantyre)
      August 15, 2003
      Posted to the web March 15, 2003

      By Brian Ligomeka
      Blantyre, Malawi

      It is an undisputable fact that most Malawians and Africans cherish
      the
      dream of migrating to the United States of America to work and live
      there
      permanently. The United States is surely a country in whoountry have a
      numberich each individual
      is guaranteed the opportunity of achieving his or her dreams. America
      is
      also described with many adjectives such as the world's First
      Democracy,
      the world leader, the world police and many others.

      While many young women and men believe that the United States of
      America
      is the earthly paradise, which they should belong to, some
      intelligent,
      hardworking and selfless youthful Americans believe that developing
      countries like our own Malawi can become a paradise on earth too.

      As young Malawians seek visas to travel to the US, the young Americans
      hunt for opportunities that can enable them fly to the Warm Heart of
      Africa to
      join hands with forces of development in the fight against illiteracy,
      poverty
      and HIV/AIDS.

      Thanks to President John F. Kennedy's administration for establishing
      the
      Peace Corps in 1963 through which young Americans would volunteer to
      help developing countries with development problems. As a result of
      the
      nation-building policy, young Americans are able to come to Malawi as
      Peace Corps.

      The contributions of Peace Corps in the fields of health, education,
      agriculture and the environment are very commendable. This is why
      President Bakili Muluzi invited them to his residence in Blantyre as
      they
      celebrated the Peace Corps' 40th Anniversary celebrations on March 8,
      this
      year.

      Without mincing his words, President Muluzi thanked the Peace Corps
      Volunteers for their positive contribution in the social and economic
      development of Malawi.

      "I want you to know that we are also greatly indebted to the United
      States
      Government and the Peace Corps Agency for making sustainable
      contributions in the areas of education, health and HIV/AIDS and the
      economic development of our country," said Muluzi.

      He told the Peace Corps that he believes that education is the key to
      any
      meaningful development and thanked them for helping the government in
      the improvement of the quality of education in the country.

      " It is for this belief and conviction that my government introduced
      free
      primary education to give opportunity to even very poor children. The
      outcome has been miraculous in that the primary school pupil enrolment
      has
      almost tripled. In 1994 the primary school pupil enrolment was 1.9
      million and
      it is now at almost 4 million. As a result, we need about 10, 000
      teachers,"
      said Muluzi.

      And he continued, "We have also increased access to secondary schools
      through construction of more secondary schools. These initiatives have
      however brought the need for more teachers as well as teaching and
      learning materials," observed Muluzi.

      He expressed his gratitude to the volunteers who are fully supporting
      government's initiative through their participation and involvement in
      secondary schools, especially in rural areas. He said that government
      still
      depends on Peace Corps Volunteers to assist it in achieving quality
      education through skills transfer and improving teaching and learning
      resources.

      Muluzi also appreciated the role the Peace Corps Volunteers are playing
      in
      the fight against the HIV/AIDS pandemic. He said that he is encouraged
      that
      the Peace Corps Volunteers are making some remarkable strides in
      influencing behavioural change among the youth, through the life
      skills
      programme, that they are implementing.

      " It is my desire that all Malawians should change their behaviour as a
      means
      of arresting the further spread of HIV/AIDS because the disease is
      also
      creating numerous orphans. I have no doubt that with the various
      support
      activities you are undertaking in our rural communities the problem of
      orphans will be alleviated," Muluzi said.

      He observed " the phrase, 'America, the hopeoountry have a number of
      the world' will be truly very
      meaningful to the orphans as they become self reliant and independent
      through your valuable support.

      I believe that democracy in itself is meaningless unless people have
      good
      health, among other things. The great majority of our people need to
      be
      reached and taught how to prevent themselves from contacting
      HIV/AIDS."

      Muluzi expressed satisfaction with the spirit of self-help, discipline,
      concern
      and hardwork that propel the Peace Corps volunteers to work with rural
      communities even in the remotest parts of the country such as Chitipa
      in the
      Northern Region.

      "I congratulate you because it is always the young people with the
      spirit of
      self-help and discipline, concern for others and their aspiration who
      pioneer
      to a new era.

      It is the young people who are the engine for reform, whether it is
      Nicole
      Nelson teaching at Chikangawa Community Day Secondary School in
      Mzimba or Emily Petersen working at Tulonkhondo Health Centre in
      Mwanza.
      I cannot therefore underestimate the remarkable contributions Peace
      Corps
      Volunteers have made in Malawi during the past 40 years.

      He hinted that the extraordinary achievements of Peace Corps
      Volunteers
      are reflected in the fact that they have touched the lives of many
      Malawians
      even at grassroots level. Muluzi said that he is aware that as Peace
      Corps,
      they live under difficult conditions in the rural areas and that their
      wages are
      small. He therefore thanked them for all the sacrifice and efforts of
      working
      together with Malawians by placing their individual skills and talents
      to shape
      a better Malawi. He also encouraged them to make Malawi their second
      home and that he would like the good relations between Malawi and the
      United States of America to continue so that Malawians should also
      freely
      travel to the US.

      Speaking at the same ceremony, Peace Corps Country Director Annamaria
      Watrin said that she was pleased to celebrate the 40th anniversary of
      the
      Peace Corps in Malawi in the company of President Dr. Bakili Muluzi.
      She
      said that she was happy that the government continues to support them.

      "Over the years, the support and recognition we've received from the
      Government of Malawi has been strong and today's auspicious ceremony
      at
      Sanjika Palace is a further indication of that support. For this, we
      thank you,"
      she said.

      She also acknowledged the strong relationships they have with various
      government ministries, which offer them guidance.

      Speaking of their achievements Watrin said over 250, 000 students have
      benefited from classroom teaching offered by over 1200 US Peace Corps
      teachers since 1963.

      This meshes well with President George W. Bush's call a year ago of
      Peace
      Corps to grow significantly around the world. As a result of this
      global
      initiative, it may be possible for Peace Corps to grow in Malawi as
      well. This
      growth could occur both within our current projects and in new
      programme
      areas.

      Currently, the Peace Corps are undertaking grassroot development work
      mainly focusing their energies in the following areas:

      *Education-through secondary school teaching in Community Day
      Secondary Shools where they support the Government of Malawi's
      emphasis
      on "education for all".

      *Health-through placements at rural health centres, the Peace Corps
      support the government's decentralization efforts and activities in
      the
      important areas of HIV/AIDS behaviour change, orphan care, home-based
      care, youth development; nutrition education; and child survival.

      *Environment-through work with the extension staff of the national
      parks and
      forestry departments and border communities living near protected
      areas,
      the Peace Corps support the Goveroountry have a numbernment's policy of
      community-based
      management of natural resources.

      *Crisis Response through their work in HIV/AIDS, cholera control and
      food
      security, the Peace Corps are responding to the recent crises that
      have
      affected the country and towards which President Muluzi has requested
      additional external assistance.

      In terms of possible new areas in which they might expand, discussions
      to
      date with the technical ministries have pointed them in the direction
      of
      teacher training, agriculture, and small enterprise development.

      Consultations with the ministries, district level officials, and local
      non-governmental development partners will continue as they make
      further
      decisions on future activities.

      The most remarkable achievement over the years has arguably been their
      enduring commitment to work with those in greatest need at the
      grassroots
      level. This is in line with their philosophy of development, which
      emphasizes
      meeting the basic human needs of those living in poverty; building the
      capacity and reducing the dependency of people at the grassroots
      level;
      and keeping development activities people-focused.

      And also speaking during the same anniversary celebrations, the
      American
      Ambassador to Malawi, Roger A. Meece, who was at one time a Peace
      Corps Volunteer himself, said that the Peace Corps Programme is part of
      his
      government, and an integral part of the U.S. Mission here in Malawi.

      " Indeed, I believe the Peace Corps represent some of the best value
      for
      money of any U.S. Government programme - and I speak as a Government
      employee. I am not alone in this judgement. President Bush announced
      some time ago his strong backing for a major expansion of the Peace
      Corps
      worldwide in the next few years. That commitment has been backed up by
      greatly expanded budget proposals to permit the Peace Corps to thrive,
      and
      to grow," said Meece.

      He however clarified the misconception, which some people hold about
      the
      Peace Corps. He explained that Peace Corps are not part of the
      American
      civil service.

      "But the Volunteers are not U.S. Government employees. They do not
      represent Washington, or a particular Administration. They are
      volunteers
      who have asked for the chance to devote some years of their lives
      overseas
      in service to others. They represent the American people, and they
      come
      from all parts of our country," said Meece.

      He described them as shinning examples of America's national spirit of
      volunteerism that has long characterized the United States.

      "If they are working in the Warm Heart of Africa, they also exemplify
      the warm
      heart of the American society. And along with the more than 2,000
      former
      Malawi Volunteers who have preceded them, these Volunteers establish
      every day the kind of people-to-people contacts that well serve the
      peoples
      of Malawi, the United States, and indeed all peoples of the world,"
      said
      Meece.

      And commenting on their work, one of their volunteers Julie Kratz said
      their
      work is to transform the lives of Malawi while their lives are also
      been
      transformed. She said she is happy to work here in Malawi.

      "We are grateful for our current opportunity to live learn .love and
      share,
      amongst a people who are perhaps more friendly and welcoming than
      anywhere else in the world. Zikomo kwambiri. Yewo chomene. Thank you,"
      she said.

      Full text of Maluzi's speech is at
      http://allafrica.com/stories/200303150059.html

      *****

      Rival Party Members Clash in Zimbabwe

      By ANGUS SHAW
      The Associated Press
      Sunday, March 16, 2003; 9:49 PM

      Police fired tear gas and live ammunitoountry have a
      numberion to
      disperse ruling and opposition party members
      clashing at an opposition rally Sunday, officials
      and witnesses said. Several people were injured.

      The clashes started, opposition officials said,
      when ruling party militants armed with stones
      and clubs attacked opponents of President
      Robert Mugabe where they planned to rally.

      One person was wounded seriously after being
      hit by a car speeding from the violence, said
      Welshman Ncube, a senior official with the
      opposition Movement for Democratic Change.
      An unknown number of people were arrested,
      he said.

      Police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena said he
      had no immediate information on Sunday's
      unrest.

      The rally, planned for the western Harare voting
      district of Kuwadzana ahead of a parliamentary
      by-election later this month, was canceled due to
      the unrest.

      Opposition officials said their candidate, Nelson
      Chamisa, arrived for the rally with colleagues
      but found the venue taken over by ruling party
      militants loyal to Mugabe.

      Police told them ruling party supporters were being
      cleared from the venue. Opposition officials said the
      unrest began when armed ruling party militants
      refused to leave and attacked opposition supporters
      arriving for the rally.

      Ncube said the vehicle Chamisa and an opposition
      lawmaker were traveling in overturned while their
      driver tried to flee the stadium over rough ground.
      Neither was injured.

      Chamisa and several high-ranking opposition
      officials were to have addressed the rally. When the tear gas
      and live ammunition was shot in the air, the
      speakers fled.

      Zimbabwe is in the midst of its worst economic
      crisis since gaining independence from Britain in 1980,
      with massive shortages of food, fuel and essential
      imports.

      Almost half of the country's 13 million people face
      possible starvation because of a food crisis blamed on
      erratic rainfall and the government's chaotic and
      often violent seizure of white-owned commercial farms.

      The opposition accuses the government of stifling
      its activities through violence, police torture, intimidation
      and stringent security and media laws.

      In the past month at least 300 people, including
      clerics on a peace march, have been arrested for staging
      political demonstrations declared illegal under the
      security laws.

      On Sunday, the Commonwealth of Britain and its
      former colonies extended Zimbabwe's suspension from
      the group for nine months. A yearlong suspension
      imposed after Zimbabwe's general election was marred
      by violence and vote rigging was scheduled to
      expired Tuesday.

      The suspension was extended until December, when
      heads of Commonwealth governments plan to meet
      in Nigeria, said Commonwealth Secretary-General Don
      McKinnon.

      Formerly known as the British Commonwealth, the
      Commonwealth's member states include Britain, India,
      Pakistan, Canada, Australia, many Pacific and
      Caribbean Island nations and several African statesoountry have a
      number.

      *****

      Zimbabwe's suspension to remain
      London

      17 March
      2003 07:49

      Zimbabwe's suspension from the councils of the
      Commonwealth is to
      remain in place until December, Commonwealth
      secretary-general Don
      McKinnon said in London on Sunday.

      McKinnon said there had been differing views on the
      suspension of
      Zimbabwe, which was to expire on Wednesday.

      "Some member governments take the view that it is
      time to lift Zimbabwe's
      suspension from the councils of the Commonwealth
      when the one-year
      period expires on 19 March 2003," McKinnon said.

      "Some others feel that there is no justification
      for such a step and that there
      is in fact reason to impose stronger measures."

      He said the general view was that heads of
      government wished to review
      Zimbabwe's position at the Commonwealth Heads of
      Government Meeting
      (CHOGM) in Nigeria in December. It was therefore
      decided that Zimbabwe's
      current suspension would stay in place until then
      pending a discussion on
      the matter.

      "I wish to reiterate that Zimbabwe and its people
      matter to the
      Commonwealth. All the heads of government I have
      spoken to have urged
      me to persist with my efforts at engagement with
      President (Robert) Mugabe
      and his government in the context of my good
      offices role. I intend to do so."

      McKinnon said land reform was at the core of the
      situation in Zimbabwe and
      could not be separated from other issues of concern
      to the Commonwealth,
      such as the rule of law, respect for human rights,
      democracy and the
      economy.

      "The Commonwealth and the wider international
      community remain ready to
      assist the government of Zimbabwe in addressing
      this key issue."

      He called on Mugabe's government to re-engage with
      the Commonwealth
      and the United Nations Development Programme on
      land reform, as agreed
      at Abuja in September 2001.

      "The Commonwealth looks forward to Zimbabwe being
      able to regain its full
      and rightful place in the Commonwealth family." -
      Sapa
    • 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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