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  • Christine Chumbler
    Dissolution of Cabinet Could Weaken Ruling UDF UN Integrated Regional Information Networks April 3, 2003 Posted to the web April 3, 2003 [This report does not
    Message 1 of 1046 , Apr 4, 2003
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      Dissolution of Cabinet Could Weaken Ruling UDF

      UN Integrated Regional Information
      Networks
      April 3, 2003
      Posted to the web April 3, 2003

      [This report does not necessarily reflect the
      views of the United Nations]

      Johannesburg - The dissolution of Malawi's cabinet this week could
      weaken unity within the ruling United Democratic Front (UDF) ahead of
      elections next year, analysts told IRIN.

      Just two days after President Bakili Muluzi announced he was giving up
      his
      bid to seek a third term in office, he sacked his entire cabinet and
      named
      Bingu wa Mutharika - a political newcomer - as his successor.

      Observers alleged Muluzi's decision could serve to outmanoeuvre senior
      members in the UDF politburo who were opposed to the succession
      process. In a brief statement from the Office of the President on
      Wednesday, Muluzi failed to give any reason for the surprise move.

      "Some members in the UDF top structures have been very critical of the
      succession process even before it was announced that Mr wa Mutharika
      would stand as the party candidate in the next elections. Some people
      believe Muluzi has imposed his will on the party and have threatened
      to
      quit the party altogether," director of the Centre for Human Rights
      and
      Rehabilitation, Ollen Mwalubunju, told IRIN.

      Local newspaper The Chronicle last week reported that senior UDF
      ministers, including Harry Thomson, Aleke Banda, Justin Malewezi and
      Sam Mpasu, had written to Muluzi outlining their rejection of his
      chosen
      successor.

      Mwalubunju alleged that by firing all his ministers, Muluzi had created
      the
      opportunity to reconstitute a cabinet more to his liking.

      "By getting rid of the entire cabinet, Muluzi hopes to circumvent
      accusations that he has targeted individuals who are opposed to the
      succession process. It is also a way of keeping the political
      aspirations of
      other senior cabinet ministers in check. A new cabinet is likely to
      exclude
      dissidents," Mwalubunju said.

      Muluzi's alleged ambition to stay in power beyond two terms was
      thwarted
      after a bill proposing the constitutional amendment failed to garner
      the
      required two-thirds majority when it was first introduced in July
      2002.

      Another bid to push through the amendment failed again in January this
      year amid widespread protest from churches, NGOs and the donor
      community.

      Analysts have suggested that 69-year-old wa Mutharika, Muluzi's
      surprise
      choice as the UDF's candidate for the 2004 elections, is the
      president's
      final attempt to influence the future of Malawian politics.

      "The game has not been played out as yet. While Mr wa Mutharika has
      been endorsed by the party, his nomination still needs to be ratified
      by the
      delegates at the party convention in May," director of the Institute
      for Policy
      Interaction, Rafiq Hajat, said.

      He commented that by dissolving the cabinet, Muluzi was probably
      giving
      wa Mutharika the opportunity to choose a team he would be comfortable
      with in the run up to the elections.

      Some observers fear that by firing the UDF top brass and insisting on
      wa
      Mutharika's candidacy, Muluzi may have inadvertently triggered the
      first
      major split in the party that won power and established democracy in
      1994.

      "Any kind of split in the UDF would be significant for the future of
      democracy in Malawi. Senior UDF members who are dissatisfied with
      Muluzi may decide to leave the party and form a new opposition. On the
      other hand, some may leave and join existing opposition groups,"
      chairman of the NGO, the Civil Liberties Committee, Ralph Kasambara,
      told IRIN.

      "This will in the long term encourage healthy debate and produce a
      vibrant
      opposition. Presently, the UDF has a stranglehold on politics in Malawi
      and
      by watering down some of that power, we will eventually escape the
      quagmire of a state dominated by just one party," he added.

      *****

      Floods hit Mozambique port city
      By Jose Tembe
      BBC, Maputo

      Some 15,000 destitute Mozambicans are living in the
      open and
      in need of food aid, medicine and blankets, after
      being hit by
      last week's torrential rains in the central port city
      of Beira.

      The Beira authorities say poor
      drainage has meant their flooded
      homes are still under water but say
      they are seeking safe places to
      accommodate them.

      At least three people died in the
      storms which submerged or washed
      away more than 3,000 houses,
      according to Beira Mayor Chivavisse
      Muchangage.

      In some places, such as schools and
      shop verandas, where many people
      took shelter, there is a lack of drinking water and
      adequate sanitation
      conditions, which could cause outbreaks of disease.

      However, Health Minister Francisco Songane, says the
      health authorities
      are ready for this and called on the local communities
      to help by
      draining pools of rain water and ensuring minimum
      hygiene conditions
      are observed.

      He advised people in flood-prone areas of Beira city
      to move
      permanently to safer grounds outside the city.

      Some flood victims told Mozambican television that
      they had lost all
      their belongings, including blankets and food.

      In addition, they have no water to drink and they
      claim nobody has, so
      far, come to help them.

      But Beira's mayor says some tents for victims as well
      as school
      materials for children had already been gathered.

      *****

      Zimbabwe launches charm offensive
      Harare

      04 April
      2003 13:57

      Zimbabwe's foreign minister said Friday that the
      government had invited a
      special regional task force to the country to
      counter what it calls negative
      propaganda.

      Stan Mudenge told a press conference that a task
      force of the Southern
      African Development Community (SADC) was due to
      visit Zimbabwe, but
      said it was not as a result of a meeting of
      regional foreign ministers held in
      the capital, Harare on Thursday.

      Mozambique Foreign Minister Leornado Simao, who
      chairs the SADC organ
      on politics, defence and security that met on
      Thursday, had said the task
      force would come to the country next week to look
      into issues in Zimbabwe,
      including claims of human rights abuses against the
      opposition.

      But Mudenge told reporters the task force was
      coming at his invitation.

      "All is my initiative and my strategy," Mudenge
      said.

      The minister said this was "to ensure that my
      colleagues in SADC, who are
      subjected to so much propaganda, a lot of it
      untrue, do come and get a
      better view, and a better impression of the
      situation in Zimbabwe."

      The opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)
      has been issuing
      daily reports of alleged human rights abuses
      against its supporters, mainly
      in the politically tense, low income suburbs of
      Harare.

      The MDC recently retained two Harare suburban seats
      after hard-fought
      by-elections that President Robert Mugabe's
      Zimbabwean African National
      Union -- Patriotic Front (Zanu-PF) had vowed to
      take back.

      On Thursday the MDC issued a statement urging the
      SADC ministers
      gathered in Harare to condemn the alleged human
      rights abuses against its
      members.

      Mudenge told reporters that Thursday's meeting also
      resolved to get SADC
      to make representation to the European Union (EU)
      to lift targetted
      sanctions against the Zimbabwe government for its
      alleged abuse of
      democracy and human rights.

      The sanctions include a ban on Mugabe and 71 of his
      associates from
      entering EU territory. Mudenge said SADC would
      "engage the European
      Union, with the objective of peruading the EU to
      remove its so-called smart
      sanctions against Zimbabwe." - Sapa-AFP
    • 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 8:06 AM
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        ADB firm on Karonga-Chitipa road contract

        by Zainah Liwanda, 22 May 2006 - 06:09:17

        The African Development Bank (ADB) has again rejected a proposal by government to look for another contractor instead of China Hunan Construction to construct of the long awaited Karonga/Chitipa road.

        China Hunan from Mainland China won the bid which was approved by the ADB but government later wanted to award the contract to a Portuguese firm, Mota Engil, the second lowest bidder, claiming China Hunan's bid was unrealistically low and that the company had very little experience in Africa.

        Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe confirmed on Sunday the ADB rejected the proposal at a meeting held between the bank and Malawi government in Tunisia last week.

        The Malawi government wanted the Tunisia meeting to authorise it to get another contractor for the road, said Gondwe.

        "They did not allow us to look for another contractor because of their regulations. But we are about to get another alternative for Karonga/Chitipa and I would be surprised if it does not start before end June," said Gondwe.

        The minister explained that the bank insisted that regardless of the unrealistic cost estimates, China Hunan should be allowed to go ahead with the construction.

        But Gondwe could not give further details about the alternatives, arguing there are still a few loose ends to tighten up before disclosing it.

        The problem with China Hunan, according to Gondwe, is that it would require more money to meet the total cost of the project.

        This paper reported last week that government met Taiwanese representatives where they offered to fund the road if the ADB continued to reject its favoured contractor, Mota Engil.

        Gondwe could neither confirm nor deny the reports on the Taiwanese offer, saying government was looking at a number of ways to handle the issue.

        According to Gondwe, the China Hunan's bid was 24 percent lower than the consulting engineers' estimates of K7.9 billion and 34 percent below the second lowest bidder.

        President Bingu wa Mutharika laid a foundation stone for the construction of the road this year ahead of a crucial byelection in Chitipa in December last year.

        The President's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) won the Chitipa Wenya constituency by-election that fell vacant following the collapse and subsequent death of Speaker of Parliament Rodwell Munyenyembe who belonged to the UDF.

        Last week, police and the District Commissioner (DC) for Chitipa stopped a rally that was aimed at soliciting people's views about development projects in the district.

        The meeting, which was reportedly organised by Concerned Citizens of Chitipa, was among other things also supposed to tackle the controversial Karonga/Chitipa road.

        The project failed to start off in 2000 when a contract for an initial loan of US$17 million and US$15 million from the Taiwanese government was signed, with some quarters claiming the Bakili Muluzi administration diverted the money to another road.

        *****

        Chihana operated on

        by Edwin Nyirongo, 22 May 2006 - 06:32:31

        Alliance for Democracy (Aford) president Chakufwa Chihana, who is in South Africa receiving treatment, had a brain operation on Friday at Garden City Clinic, family and party officials confirmed on Sunday.

        Aford national chairman Chipimpha Mughogho said he was told by the family members that Chihana had a successful operation on Friday and was put in an intensive care unit.

        Mughogho said Chihana, who initially complained of headache, was found with a brain tumour which South African doctors removed.

        Mzimba West MP Loveness Gondwe said Aford boss condition was stable.

        "Hon. Chihana had a major operation and after that he was put in the intensive care unit but his condition is stable. I do not know where he was operated on but it had something to do with the skull," she said.

        Deputy Information Minister John Bande referred the matter to the Health Minister Hetherwick Ntaba who was reported to be in Geneva, Switzerland.

        Aford publicity secretary Norman Nyirenda said when Chihana's situation got worse, the family alerted the Office of the President and Cabinet who took him to Mwaiwathu Private Hospital.

        "The doctors at Mwaiwathu advised that he should be sent to South Africa and they even identified the doctor for him," he said.

        He said the costs are being met by the Malawi government, contradicting his earlier statement that his boss covered the cost.

        Mughogho is now in charge of the party.

        Gondwe will be a busy person when Parliament starts meeting on June 6 as she is the only Aford MP remaining.

        *****

        Pillane proposes presidential age limit

        by Emmanuel Muwamba , 22 May 2006 - 06:34:13

        A member of the DPP National Governing Council Abdul Pillane on Saturday urged members of political parties and the civil society to put an upper age limit in the Constitution for presidential candidates.

        Pillane was addressing members of political parties and civil society in Liwonde during a two-day follow up workshop to the National Conference on the Review of Constitution held in March in Lilongwe.

        "My view is that (an upper) age limit should be at 75. We have to give a chance to younger people to lead because in circumstance, when you age you become forgetful especially when sickly," said Pillane. "Overall, chances should be given to young people."

        But UDF secretary general Kennedy Makwangwala, whose party members agitated for the age limit during presentations, played the issue down.

        "I feel there is no logic to have an upper age limit for presidential candidates. If someone is 90 or 80 I don't know how that can influence the electorate not to vote for someone who is younger, I don't see any logic behind that," said Makwangwala.

        MCP participants at the workshop also vehemently objected to the proposal.

        MCP vice president Nicholas Dausi in an interview said: "There is no constitution in Africa which stipulates an upper age limit. So it would be strange in Malawi to have an upper age limit for presidential candidates."

        MDP President Kamlepo Kalua also opposed the need to have an upper age limit.

        "If we have personalities in mind that we want to discriminate against then it is unfortunate. The constitution we want to build is a guiding document for future generations and it should not bar certain individuals on the basis of grudges," he said.

        The Malawi Law Constitution Issues Paper of March 2006 says several submissions that were received put an upper presidential age limit in the Constitution.

        "It is argued that it is common sense that mental knowledge faculties tend to fail with age. As regards what the actual age limit should be the submissions are far from being agreed. The range is from 60 years to 80 years," read submissions in the Issues Paper.

        On whether MPs should double as ministers, Kalua said this should be the case.

        Makwangwala also said it is not right for MPs to serve as ministers because the Legislature, another arm of government, is reduced while the Executive branch is beefed up from another arm of government.

        "There is no separation of powers when MPs double as ministers," said Makwangwala.

        But Pillane said there is no problem for MPs to work as ministers as well, saying MPs are elected by the President.

        "One can serve both posts. There have been no problems before for people to double," said Pillane.

        The Centre for Multiparty Democracy funded the workshop through the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy.

        The objective was to come up with a collective position on the Issues Paper which will be presented to the Special Law Commission that will be constituted soon.

        *****

        Mussa hails new driving licence

        by Zainah Liwanda, 22 May 2006 - 06:58:52

        Transport and Public Works Minister Henry Mussa last week said the design of the Malawi-Sadc driving licence would guard against forgery and ensure that only skilled and legitimate drivers of particular vehicles are licensed.

        Mussa was speaking at the official launch of the licences in Lilongwe where he announced that traffic police would from July enforce speed limits and sober driving using Breathalysers which his ministry is in the process of procuring.

        The minister said financial constraints are the reason for the delay in procuring the equipment but assured that by July they would be available.

        "With the new equipment, the days of those who believe in the thrill of drink and driving are numbered," warned Mussa.

        Mussa added that with the new licence, government is optimistic that the country's roads would be safe.

        Acting Director of Road Traffic James Chirwa said the features that distinguish the new from the old licences are the Malawi national flag and a ghost image of the driver's photograph, among others.

        Those with old licences, according to Chirwa, are expected to get the new ones after the expiry of the former.

        *****

        UDF demands investigation on Kasambara

        by Rabecca Theu, 22 May 2006 - 06:30:46

        The United Democratic Front (UDF) has asked government to investigate Ralph Kasambara on allegations of abuse of office while he was attorney general.

        UDF publicity secretary Sam Mpasu told the press Sunday that the party is neither amused or saddened by the removal of the former AG but asked government to institute investigations on Kasambara.

        "Beyond the removal of the Attorney General, we now urge President Mutharika to institute investigation against Mr Kasambara into allegations that have made rounds in the public domain during the recent past. These include: Mrs Helen Singh and SS Rent-a-Car; SGS and ITS saga; ...........the use of Malawi Police Service in the arrest of three Chronicle journalists and the handling of Mrs Rubina Kawonga," said Mpasu.

        Mpasu also accused Kasambara of awarding government contracts to Lawson and Company where he was a senior partner.

        "We urge government to thoroughly investigate the former AG. We also ask government to cautiously select the new AG ," said Mpasu, who was accompanied by the party's Secretary General Kennedy Makwangwala, leader of the party in Parliament George Mtafu, chief whip Leonard Mangulama and a member of the executive Hophmally Makande.

        But Minister of Information Patricia Kaliati said UDF should give offer its advice to the Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB).

        "They should advise bodies like the Anti-Corruption Bureau to conduct the investigations and why are they saying this now? Is it because Kasambara has been fired? This is not a personal issue. If they have other pressing issues they should just say so. These arguments should have come up earlier on when the said cases were happening," she said.

        Kasambara asked UDF to proceed with the mission of urging government to investigate him.

        "They can do their job. Everyone has a right to lobby for anything they want in the country. UDF has a right to do that, let them go ahead," he said.

        Kasambara was relieved of his duties as AG by the President last week. Government has not given reasons behind the removal.

        *****

        Zambia: Malawians Grab Zambian Land

        The Times of Zambia (Ndola)

        May 18, 2006

        Posted to the web May 19, 2006

        Andrew Lungu

         

        MALAWIANS who have encroached on both the 'no-man's' and part of the Zambian land at the Mwami border in Eastern Province have plucked out some beacons that were used in the demarcation of the border.

        The Malawians are now using the beacons as stools in their newly-established villages on Zambian land.

        Eastern Province Minister, Boniface Nkhata, said in Chipata yesterday that if the situation was not controlled urgently, Zambia would lose huge tracts of land to Malawians migrating into Zambian in large numbers.

        A check at the Zambia-Malawi border showed a number of beacons had been vandalised and new structures constructed on the 'no man's' land and a large portion of Zambian land.

        Mr Nkhata said the trend extended to many parts of the province bordering the two countries.

        "A large portion of Zambian land has been taken up by the Malawians starting from the Chama boundary up to the Mwami border.

        "The weighbridge at the Mwami border was initially in Zambia from the time both countries gained independence from Britain, but now the bridge is on Malawian soil," Mr Nkhata said.

        The minister, who is former Chama District Commissioner, said there was similar encroachment in Lundazi and Chama districts where Zambia shares a boundary with Malawi.

        He said a Malawian farmer identified as Mr Mfune had cultivated 71.5 hectares on Zambian land and employed about 265 Malawian workers.

        "Khombe Farm in Chama district in Kanyerere's area, along the Muyombe road which leads to Northern Province where this Malawian farmer has cultivated a vast land is on the Zambian territory," he said.

        Workers on the farm admitted that they were farming on Zambian soil but could not go back to Malawi because the land in that country was inadequate for cultivation.

        Mr Nkhata appealed to the ministry of Lands to urgently release money for the demarcation of the Zambia-Malawi border to avoid further land disputes between the two countries.

        Meanwhile, the Immigration Department in Livingstone has arrested a couple and another man, all Zimbabweans, for working in Zambia without permits.

        They were arrested at Gwembe village yesterday where they worked for Into Africa, a tour operating company that provides bush dinners and breakfast.

        According to the Immigration Department in Livingstone, the trio entered Zambia through the Victoria Falls border as visitors but decided to work for the company illegally.

        Last week, immigration officers arrested 10 Zimbabwean traders and six Ethiopians for entering and staying in Zambia illegally.

        The Zimbabwean traders were warned and cautioned and later released.

        The Ethiopians were arrested at Konje Guest House when they ran out of money to proceed to Botswana.

         

        *****

        Zim unions, MDC still plan anti-govt protests

        Harare, Zimbabwe

        22 May 2006 11:51

        Zimbabwe's biggest labour federation on Saturday threatened to call massive demonstrations against the government over poor salaries and worsening living conditions for workers in the country.

        The threats are ratcheting up pressure against President Robert Mugabe's government after similar threats by the biggest opposition party in the country, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), about two months ago.

        Speaking at the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) conference on Saturday, the labour body's president, Lovemore Matombo, said the powerful union wants the government to award workers salaries that match the country's ever-rising inflation.

        "I can assure you we will stage massive demonstrations to force them [employers] to award workers minimum salaries that tally with the poverty datum line," said Matombo.

        Matombo did not say when exactly the ZCTU would order workers to strike.

        Opposition protests

        Meanwhile, the MDC on Sunday said it will push ahead with plans for anti-government protests, saying victory in a key by-election at the weekend was a "sign the electorate supported its policies", including democratic mass resistance.

        A spokesperson of the main faction of the splintered MDC, Nelson Chamisa, said victory over Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF and a rival MDC faction in a Saturday by-election in Harare's Budiriro constituency is a sign Zimbabweans still have confidence in party leader Morgan Tsvangirai and his policies.

        Tsvangirai, the founding leader of the MDC, heads the main rump of the opposition party whose candidate, Emmanuel Chisvuure, polled 7 949 votes to win the Budiriro House of Assembly seat.

        Gabriel Chaibva of the other faction of the MDC, led by prominent academic Arthur Mutambara, garnered 504 votes while Zanu-PF's Jeremiah Bvirindi polled 3 961 votes.

        "This election showed that the electorate still has confidence in the MDC [Tsvangirai-led] leadership and its policies," Chamisa told independent news service ZimOnline.

        He added: "We will now move to consolidate our position * we still believe in mass protests. Until we have attained our goals we see no reason why we should abandon [plans for protests]."

        Tsvangirai has threatened to call mass protests this winter against Mugabe and his government. He says the mass protests, whose date he is still to name, are meant to force Mugabe to relinquish power to a government of national unity to be tasked to write a new and democratic Constitution that would ensure free and fair elections held under international supervision.

        Mugabe and his government, who had hoped for victory in Budiriro to show they were recapturing urban support from a splintered MDC, have not taken idly the opposition's threats to call mass protests, with the veteran president warning Tsvangirai he would be "dicing with death" if he ever attempted to instigate a Ukraine-style popular revolt in Zimbabwe.

        Crackdown

        In a fresh crackdown against dissension, the police last week arrested several church and civic leaders for organising public prayers and marches to mark last year's controversial home-demolition exercise by the government.

        The police also banned the marches and prayers, fearing they could easily turn into mass protests against Mugabe and his government.

        However, the marches went ahead in the second-largest city of Bulawayo after organisers had obtained a court order barring the police from stopping the march.

        Political analysts say although Zimbabweans have largely been cowed by Mugabe's tactics of routinely deploying riot police and the military to crush street protests, worsening hunger and poverty are fanning public anger that Tsvangirai -- with proper planning and organisation -- could easily manipulate.

        Zimbabwe is in the grip of a severe six-year old economic crisis that has seen inflation breaching the 1 000% barrier. Last year, the World Bank said Zimbabwe's economic crisis was unprecedented for a country not at war.

        The MDC and major Western governments blame Mugabe for wrecking the country's economy, which was one of the strongest in Africa at independence from Britain 26 years ago.

        Mugabe denies the charge blaming the crisis on sabotage by Britain and her allies after he seized white-owned farms for redistribution to landless blacks six years ago.

        The Harare authorities recently hiked salaries for civil servants, with the lowest-paid soldier now earning about Z$27-million while the lowest-paid school teacher now takes home about Z$33-million.

        But the salaries are still way below the poverty datum line, which the government's Consumer Council of Zimbabwe says now stands at a staggering Z$42-million a month for an average family of six.

        The Zimbabwe government often accuses the ZCTU, a strong ally of the MDC, of pushing a political agenda to remove Mugabe from power.

        Meanwhile, Matombo and Lucia Matibenga retained their posts as president and first vice-president respectively during the ZCTU congress that ended on Saturday. -- ZimOnline

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