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  • Christine Chumbler
    Malawi s political church leaders By Raphael Tenthani BBC Africa Live! The relationship between church and state is one that arouses controversy in many
    Message 1 of 1046 , Jul 23, 2003
      Malawi's political church leaders

      By Raphael Tenthani
      BBC Africa Live!

      The relationship between church and state is one that arouses
      controversy in many countries around the world - and few more so than
      Malawi.

      Religious leaders in the southern African country are divided over
      whether or not President Muluzi should have his term in office extended.


      The split is between both the government and the leaders and between
      the leaders themselves.

      While Muslims, who make up less than 20% of Malawi's population of 11
      million people, wanted Mr Muluzi - a Muslim - to remain in power,
      Christian leaders insist that he should step down, as stipulated by the
      country's constitution.

      "We can't just stand on the pulpit and preach about Jesus," Catholic
      Church head Monsignor Boniface Tamani of Malawi's Public Affairs
      Committee (PAC) told BBC World Service's Africa Live! programme.

      "We are the soul of the nation - we have to comment on everyday lives
      of the people, their social well-being, and politics happens to be one
      of the major players in the nation's everyday lives."

      Jibes

      In turn the PAC - primarily a grouping of Christian leaders - has come
      under attack from Mr Muluzi.

      "These people should leave politics to us," he said.

      "The problem here is everyone wants to be a politician. Can I go to
      Kaswaya's church and preach?"

      It is not the first time conflict between the church and the head of
      state has flared up in the country.

      What role for Africa's church?
      In 1992, eight Catholic bishops faced the death penalty after producing
      the Pastoral Letter "Living Our Faith" - a rare frank critique of
      Malawi's atavistic dictator Hastings Kamuzu Banda.

      The bishops were rounded up and a special convention of Banda's then
      ruling Malawi Congress Party (MCP) resolved they should be put to death.


      The Holy See, the Catholic church's ruling council at the Vatican, and
      the international community had to step in to save them.

      But the letter had sparked a political revolution, with exiles like
      Chakufwa Chihana coming out in the open, drumming up international
      support against the Banda regime.

      Mr Muluzi, himself a former Banda protege who was leading a quite life
      as a businessman, stirred back to life politically.

      Donors quickly stopped aid to Malawi, forcing Mr Banda - hitherto a
      darling of the West during the Cold War era - to institute political
      change.

      A referendum was held, paving the way for the 1994 general elections
      that saw Mr Muluzi and the UDF uproot Mr Banda and the MCP's 30-year
      uninterrupted stranglehold on power.

      "Now that the heat is on them, they are saying it's not right for
      religious leaders to comment on politics - what hypocrisy," Mr Tamani
      said.

      Demonstrations

      Civil rights activist Emmie Chanika, who heads the Blantyre-based Civil
      Liberties Committee (CILIC), said she agreed with Mr Tamani, arguing
      that Malawi is currently enjoying peace because the church is prepared
      to speak out.

      "Religious leaders in Zimbabwe recently apologised for being quiet for
      a long time leading to the current chaos," she said.

      "In fact the Bill of Rights in several constitutions is derived from
      the Bible."

      But UDF deputy publicist Ken Lipenga told Africa Live! that while the
      ruling party accepted criticism, some religious leaders were being used
      by political groups.

      Mr Lipenga argued that the torching of UDF offices in Blantyre by
      university students during an anti-third term demonstration went
      uncriticised by the church, while beatings issued by the UDF's Young
      Democrats were routinely condemned.

      "I am not condoning acts of terror by our youth wing but it seems
      whenever the UDF is a victim nobody cares, but whenever we are in the
      wrong it's big news," he said.

      Mr Lipenga's claims were disputed by Mosses Mkandawire, coordinator of
      the Church and Society - a civil rights wing of the Church of Central
      Africa Presbyterians.

      "The problem could be it is the ruling party that tramples upon other
      people's rights so often, that's why they seem to be under constant
      attack," he said.

      Meanwhile Mr Tamani said that ultimately, religious leaders have a duty
      to comment on anything, be it politics, HIV/Aids, or poverty.

      "We can't all be politicians," he said.

      "But we can't let politicians get away with it simply because we are
      not politicians."

      *****

      Deepening Poverty Threatens Households

      UN Integrated Regional Information Networks

      July 22, 2003
      Posted to the web July 22, 2003


      A household-level recovery from the past year's food security crisis in
      Malawi is being complicated by deepening levels of poverty, observers
      say.

      In a recent interview with IRIN in the capital Lilongwe, World Food
      Programme (WFP) country representative, Gerard van Dijk, said "poverty,
      combined with HIV/AIDS" had worsened household vulnerability.

      "You have to see the situation of crop failures against the background
      of structural problems. Economic growth is sometimes negative, around 0
      percent and 1 percent. This means poverty is only increasing," Van Dijk
      added.

      This was evident by the "striking lack of an informal sector ... People
      can't afford these items. You go to villages and inside the homes
      there's nothing. It is an example of a population living on the most
      minimal basics", he said.

      "The number of people living below the poverty line is still increasing
      - some people say it might go up to more than 70 percent in the coming
      years," Van Dijk commented.

      In a recent report on the economic situation in the country, Rafiq
      Hajat of the Blantyre-based Institute for Policy Interaction (IPI) noted
      that with a "nominal per capita income of US $160, Malawi is on of the
      poorest countries in the world, with dire poverty that is pervasive and
      deeply rooted".

      The report points out that "30 percent of the population earn incomes
      that are inadequate to assure basic calorie needs" and life expectancy
      is at an average of 44 years.

      "This daunting scenario is further compounded by one of the highest
      prevalences of HIV/AIDS; in urban areas, the prevalence rate among women
      visiting prenatal clinics is estimated at over 30 percent. Water and
      sanitation and rural infrastructure are severely inadequate: over
      two-thirds of households use pit latrines, and potable water is
      available to only half the population," the report said.

      Malawi is a landlocked country that lacks mineral resources, and is
      among the most densely populated in sub-Saharan Africa. With a mainly
      agrarian economy - which employs 85 percent of the labour force and
      accounts for 40 percent of GDP - three droughts in four years have had a
      terrible effect on household coping mechanisms.

      Malawi has, however, staged a remarkable recovery from the widespread
      food shortages of the 2002/03 agricultural season. At the height of the
      crisis about 3 million Malawians needed food aid to survive.
      Humanitarian agencies now estimate the need for relief aid will peak at
      about 400,000 people in January 2004.

      Nevertheless, "making the recovery sustainable will be very difficult",
      said Van Dijk. WFP was focusing more on food-for-work initiatives to
      help build community infrastructure, but would continue to provide
      direct assistance to the most vulnerable sectors of the population,
      including the 800,000 children aged under 18 who have lost one or both
      parents to HIV/AIDS.

      "Our thinking has evolved over the last 12 months - we are thinking of
      how we can be of help in addressing the problems of the country.
      Sixty-five percent of people live below the poverty line, so it is
      extremely difficult to identify the most vulnerable. Targeting amongst
      the extreme poor is not easy," Van Dijk noted.

      "Basically, the most vulnerable are hidden in the population. Crop
      failures can be localised, flooding gives you a clearly defined area
      [where aid is needed] but targeting [the vulnerable] in poverty is very
      difficult, it is not easy," he added.

      Given the widespread poverty and consequent vulnerability to shocks,
      another serious crop failure could spell disaster for ordinary
      Malawians.

      "There's a high risk of large numbers of people dying, either directly
      from hunger, or indirectly through cholera, HIV/AIDS etc. So,
      absolutely, the country is still fragile," Van Dijk concluded.

      Like Van Dijk, the IPI believes addressing poverty would go a long way
      towards lessening people's vulnerability to shocks.

      However, the IPI report warned that "prospects for any material dent in
      the depth and breadth of poverty are limited as long as [the] population
      continues to grow at the high rate of 2.7 percent a year, whilst
      economic growth declines year upon year".

      Up to 80 percent of Malawi's development budget is funded by donors.
      The International Monetary Fund is withholding US $47 million in budget
      support assistance in response to government overspending, and Western
      governments have also demanded greater transparency.

      *****

      Zimbabwe, Malawi Excluded From Regional AIDS Project

      The Daily News (Harare)

      July 22, 2003
      Posted to the web July 22, 2003


      Zimbabwe has been left out of a project that is aimed at reducing the
      spread of HIV/Aids among long distance truck drivers operating along the
      Beira Development Corridor.

      Malawi is also said to have been omitted out of the project that is
      being run by the Southern African Transport Communications Commission
      (SATCC), which is a grouping of transport ministries in the Southern
      African Development Community.

      A Ministry of Transport official, Abbey Mpamhanga, yesterday said
      Zimbabwe had not been consulted before decisions were taken on how best
      HIV/AIDS prevalence along the busy route could be reduced.

      Mpamhanga, who is a director of legislation in the Transport Ministry
      said: "Zimbabwe and Malawi were left out in the consultation work and we
      hear the programme is nearing conclusion before it has been started."

      Mpamhanga was reacting to comments by SATCC project officer Frederico
      Sarguene that the HIV/AIDS pilot project would be completed before
      year-end.

      The SATCC project involves the running of HIV/AIDS awareness campaigns
      among transport and sex workers with roadside health information units
      being set along the Beira Corridor route.

      Sarguene had told a meeting here that: "The programme should be running
      by November and we hope by then we would be able to bring down the
      infection rate among the drivers."

      The SATCC project officer said reports by consultants indicated a high
      HIV/Aids prevalence rate among the truck drivers in the region of about
      56 percent.

      Mpamhanga said it would be difficult for Zimbabwe to adopt the
      consultant's report as it had nothing on Zimbabwe.

      Sarguene admitted there were anomalies in the omission of Zimbabwe and
      Malawi from active participation of the consultation work.

      "At least we have a starting point which would be extended to Zimbabwe
      and Malawi in future."

      SATCC was formed in 1980 to cater for infrastructural development of
      the transport sector in the region.

      It also sought to rehabilitate infrastructure in the various regional
      countries that was destroyed in wars that until a few years ago ravaged
      some parts of southern Africa.

      It has over the years spread its interests to include the harmonisation
      of customs exercise procedures to ensure smooth movement of goods and
      people between SADC member states.

      *****

      Aids 'threatens economic catastrophe'

      The economic impact of HIV/Aids may be far worse than previously
      thought and some African countries may face complete collapse, a report
      has warned.
      The study*, jointly authored by economists from Heidelberg University
      and the World Bank, models the impact of the virus in various scenarios.


      In South Africa, one of the countries worst affected by HIV/Aids, a
      failure to fight the disease will cause incomes at least to halve over
      the next three generations, the study predicts.

      By 2080, full-time child labour will be ubiquitous, with an inescapable
      descent into economic "backwardness" a generation later.

      "This is a Darwinian event," says Professor Alan Whiteside, director of
      the Health Economics and HIV/AIDS Research Division of the University of
      Natal, South Africa.

      "Societies will be very different as a result of this epidemic."

      Ups and downs

      The new report is not the first attempt to model the economic impact of
      HIV/Aids, but it is by far the bleakest.

      Most previous economists have seen the disease having only a limited
      effect; the World Bank, for example, assumes it will shave just 0.3-1.5
      percentage points off South African growth in years to come.

      The traditional reasoning is not the result of downplaying the spread
      of the disease.

      Rather, it reflects the theory that a shrinking labour force will enjoy
      progressively higher wages, and people in overpopulated regions will
      benefit from greater access to land and other fixed assets.

      This effect, often observed in the wake of epidemics, should go some
      way to replacing the costs of treatment, welfare and lost production.

      Capital losses

      The Heidelberg-World Bank report differs from its predecessors in its
      focus on so-called "human capital", the stock of experience, skills and
      education which contribute to an economy's potential for growth.

      "The real economic threat of Aids is its potential to kill young
      adults," says Professor Hans Gersbach, one of the authors.

      "By doing that, it prevents the transfer of human capital from one
      generation to another."

      As young adults die off, more and more children will be taken out of
      education and pushed into the workforce.

      Dying parents will have fewer resources to educate their children, and
      infected children will have less incentive to acquire an education.

      Going backwards

      The overall effect, the authors say, will be rapidly to erode a
      nation's intellectual capacity, and to produce an economy wholly
      dependent on child labour.

      And the usual post-epidemic effect of higher wages will not emerge.

      By pushing economies back towards primitivism - making subsistence
      farmers out of the children of engineers, for example - the disease will
      actually reduce the individual earning potential of the survivors.

      According to anecdotal evidence, there are signs of this happening
      already: in some sub-Saharan African countries, the phone system is
      deteriorating owing to an Aids-related shortage of qualified
      technicians.

      'Top priority'

      Aid agencies and campaigners have broadly welcomed the report.

      "This is not just a private health matter," says Simon Wright, HIV/Aids
      campaigners for ActionAid.

      "This goes to the heart of the development of economies."

      "Aids has to be recognised as being an absolutely top priority," says
      George Gelber, head of public policy at charity Cafod.

      But he points out that the gloomiest scenarios assume complete inaction
      on the part of governments and the international community.

      In fact, there are some positive signs: in Uganda, arguably the worst
      affected country, infection rates are starting to fall after a concerted
      education campaign.

      --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
      * The Long-run Economic Costs of AIDS: Theory and an Application to
      South Africa. Clive Bell and Hans Gersbach, Heidelberg University;
      Shantayanan Devarajan, World Bank.

      *****
      [an interesting direction...]

      There's a kinship between Malawians and Zambians

      The Post (Lusaka)

      EDITORIAL
      July 22, 2003
      Posted to the web July 22, 2003

      CO-OPERATION between Malawi and Zambia is not only an economic
      expedience but it is a moral necessity.

      As Malawi High Commissioner to Zambia justice Friday Makuta explained
      yesterday, the people of these two countries are the "same" - for
      instance, the Chewas of Zambia's Eastern Province and the Chewas of
      Malawi have a common paramount chief, Kalonga Gawa Undi of Katete.

      An unbreakable umbilical cord connects Malawians and Zambians, for we
      are together children of the same clans, tribes and region. There's a
      kinship between the two peoples.

      We are linked by nature, but we are proud of each other and seek
      co-operation among our people by choice. And our co-operation will
      become a great weapon for eradicating ignorance and promoting democracy.
      And we highly welcome the efforts of our governments on this score.

      And we look forward to a day when there will be no border that requires
      a passport to move from Chipata to Mchinji, when we will for all intents
      and purposes live in one territory, seeking joint solutions in the
      elimination of ignorance and poverty, joint solutions in the fight
      against the HIV/AIDS scourge and other diseases.

      This co-operation and integration is not only critical but imperative
      to the development of Malawi and Zambia. And we should not falter on
      co-operation and integration but continue to pursue it to the best of
      our ability in order to advance the realisation of the full potential of
      our peoples.

      Our two countries, and indeed our region and entire continent, have no
      worthy, honourable, independent alternative to co-operation and
      integration. If we don't achieve meaningful integration, we will have no
      place in the world of the future. With meaningful co-operation and
      integration our two countries and our region could also become an
      important economic unity.

      And we don't think anybody is justified in calling himself or herself a
      politician - in any sense of the word - if he or she doesn't have a
      clear understanding of the need for this co-operation and integration,
      if he or she doesn't take this reality into account, and if he or she
      isn't aware that this reality must inevitably be faced.

      But our integration and unity are conceivable only with independence,
      within the framework of our own interests, and not integration based on
      the neo-colonial, neoliberal globalisation. The current world economic
      order doesn't seem to aid any of the efforts, policies and strategies we
      are banking on to reduce poverty and develop our countries.

      Despite more than ten to fifteen years of economic reforms,
      liberalisation and privatisation to attract foreign investments we are
      still not benefiting significantly from global capital flows because
      much of this is flowing to only a handful of developing countries.

      This is despite the enormous global capital flows from the private
      sector. According to the United Nations Industrial Development
      Organisation (UNIDO), Africa was being by-passed by these flows despite
      being the region in most need of financial support, particularly from
      the private sector.

      It does not surprise us that as a result, unprecedented global
      prosperity has gone hand-in-hand with unprecedented poverty levels of
      over 80 per cent in countries like Malawi and Zambia and growing general
      global inequality.

      It's also not a surprise to us that currently, wealth and income seem
      to be concentrated in a few hands and that global capitalism was
      apparently disconnected from the concerns of those whose lives it
      affects.

      Since when has global capitalism been concerned about equality,
      fairness and genuine justice or the lives of those it affected? From the
      days of mercantile capitalism and its slave trade, through classical
      colonialism with its crude extraction of raw materials from our
      countries, to today's neo-liberal colonialism the situation of our
      people is basically or fundamentally the same - marginalised, exploited,
      ignorant, diseased, hungry and generally poor. Of course, we are not
      saying there are no improvements in the world - some relatively good
      things have happened in the world.

      But our situation is still relatively the same - backward, poor and
      desperate. We are permanently at the bottom of things in the world.
      Therefore to try to solve the problems of the future with tools of the
      past will not be sufficient for us.

      We cannot escape and hide away from today's highly globalised world but
      we have to find the most beneficial ways of engaging in, or with, it. We
      can't keep on relying on methods and formulas - colonial and
      neo-colonial ones - which have throughout the ages or times failed us
      and left us permanently weaker and desperate.

      It may hurt to do things our way but we must be intelligent and invent
      new approaches to our problems in order to survive in these conditions
      without ever ceasing to be part of the so called globalised world. We
      have to struggle, work hard, research and stretch our intellectual
      abilities and sense of humanity to the utmost if we have to harbour any
      hope for survival in what appears to be a very difficult world for us.

      We should not accept the dogmas - the International Monetary Fund and
      World Bank neoliberal doctrines - which we are being manipulated to
      accept as our own programmes or development strategies and to which we
      are daily being told there are no sensible alternatives. These are
      unusual, difficult times. No country is isolated from the rest of the
      world today. No country lives or could live in a glass house.

      What one nation - no matter how small - does, can have repercussions on
      other nations. We have a pressing need as Africans to unite. We think
      the correct strategy is to unite; take the initiative and demand the
      establishment of a more fairer international economic order.

      Our political leaders who fail to see this will have to answer to
      history for it. We hope they will accept their responsibility,
      understand the problem, state it in correct terms, and struggle for the
      implementation of a new international economic order. We must choose
      concrete, realistic, and definitive solutions - not take the path of
      agony.

      We must choose a clear, intelligent, effective solution - not head
      toward Calvary. We think we have been struggling uphill for long enough.
      We have suffered not only the torment of Calvary but also that of
      Sisyphus, who had to keep pushing a boulder up a hill and every time he
      was about to reach the top, it would roll back down and he would have to
      start all over again.

      Our situation is worse than Calvary because Calvary was climbed
      quickly; we have been climbing our hill for a long time, and we keep on
      having to start over. Calvary is preferable to Sisyphus' torment, and if
      we have had our Calvary, we should also have a resurrection.

      What we want is to find a real solution for the problem, but what will
      happen is that imperialism and the industrialised capitalist countries
      will try to prevent the implementation of these solutions and divide the
      people; they will give a little aid here and there so that each will
      remain with his own Calvary - and not even a Calvary, but with the
      agonising torture of pushing the boulder up a never-ending hill. But one
      day the peoples are going to demand, "How much longer do we have to put
      up with these conditions?"

      And then they will find solutions - they may shed blood in internal
      strife when - as almost all of us have foreseen - the people, tired of
      waiting, tired of being fooled once again take weapons to destroy to its
      very foundations a whole social and economic order designed to exploit
      them.

      However, we prefer an orderly solution; internal and external unity;
      and a real, definitive solution for our problems of dependence and
      underdevelopment.

      *****

      New York Times

      July 23, 2003

      Send in the Peace Corps

      By AVI M. SPIEGEL

      Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's dreams of a leaner and meaner
      military,
      a smaller yet more modernized force, are in jeopardy. Faced with
      continued
      resistance in Iraq and peacekeeping duties in Afghanistan, Pentagon
      officials are now considering proposals to expand and restructure
      American
      forces amid fears that longer deployments will result in an
      overextended
      military.

      Their focus may be misplaced. The question of how to reorganize the
      armed
      forces should be turned on its head: instead of making the military
      better
      at humanitarian assignments (in Iraq, Afghanistan and perhaps
      Liberia),
      humanitarian groups should strive to become more comfortable in
      military
      situations.

      The Peace Corps, America's oldest overseas volunteer program, should
      equip
      itself to enter regions it now deems too dangerous. A force of trained
      and
      educated volunteers could improve its cooperation with the military
      and
      learn how to conduct itself in such settings.

      With Congress debating spending on the Peace Corps and Americorps, it
      is
      time to update the Peace Corps' mission. Even in the face of mounting
      budgetary concerns, neither the military nor the Peace Corps is likely
      to
      react well to calls for a more active, less gun-shy Peace Corps.

      Indeed, most humanitarian organizations cling to their independence
      and
      worry that any semblance of cooperation with the military might
      jeopardize
      their credibility. In postwar Iraq, on the other hand, the military was
      slow
      to allow international humanitarian workers into the country because
      of
      concerns over their protection, and volunteer organizations complained
      about
      lack of access.

      The lessons are telling: there are humanitarian workers who are capable
      of
      entering dangerous situations, and better relations with the military
      just
      might allow them better access.

      Even journalists in Iraq gave up reservations about being "embedded" in
      the
      military. No one is suggesting Peace Corps volunteers answer to the
      military. But isn't providing humanitarian assistance at least as
      important
      as reporting the news?

      Amid tales of declining troop morale or of soldiers assuming draining
      humanitarian duties, America's volunteer humanitarian force - the
      Peace
      Corps - has been notably absent in Iraq and Afghanistan. The reluctance
      to
      send volunteers into potentially dangerous situations might have been
      understandable in the past. The agency was formed in 1961, during the
      cold
      war, when the battle against Communism shaped United States foreign
      policy.
      Peace Corps volunteers were frequently withdrawn from any country in
      which
      the political situation became unstable.

      Today the war on terror guides America's foreign policy, and it is
      all-encompassing. No nation is totally immune from danger. If it only
      allowed its volunteers in safe, stable countries, the Peace Corps would
      risk
      being shut out of too much of the world. The security situations in
      these
      countries may not change, but the Peace Corps can.

      Four years ago I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Morocco. Today I
      simply
      would not have that option. The Peace Corps withdrew earlier this year
      from
      its lone outposts in the Arab world, Morocco and Jordan. (The
      organization
      announced yesterday that it would return to Jordan next year.)
      Meanwhile,ve fo
      the Pentagon is planning to expand its military presence in the
      region.

      Unfortunately, the Peace Corps removes its volunteers just when they
      are
      needed the most: when anti-Americanism is running unchecked and the
      need for
      contact with ordinary American citizens is greatest. Volunteers who
      have
      just graduated from college may not be prepared to serve in these
      challenging settings. But there are surely Americans, given the right
      amount
      of training and experience, who would relish the chance.

      From North Africa to the Persian Gulf, the sole face of America is too
      often
      the face of a soldier. American citizens deserve the chance to change
      that
      image - for their own good and for the good of their country.

      Avi M. Spiegel, a student at Harvard Divinity School and the New York
      University School of Law, was a Peace Corps volunteer in Morocco from
      1998
      to 2000.
    • 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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