Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.
 

news

Expand Messages
  • Christine Chumbler
    Back from 2 weeks in Canada, so now catching up on the news... Depreciating Currency Threatens Food Security UN Integrated Regional Information Networks August
    Message 1 of 1046 , Aug 26, 2003
      Back from 2 weeks in Canada, so now catching up on the news...


      Depreciating Currency Threatens Food Security

      UN Integrated Regional Information Networks

      August 25, 2003
      Posted to the web August 25, 2003

      Johannesburg

      The deteriorating macroeconomic situation in Malawi will have a
      negative impact on household food security, the latest Famine Early
      Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) report has warned.

      The report noted that the local currency, the kwacha, depreciated at a
      faster rate in August than in previous months - by around 15 percent
      from July's levels.

      "The Malawi kwacha was trading at an average of about K105 per US $1
      by
      the third week of August," the report said. "This depreciation may
      result in a hike in the price of inputs, which are already difficult
      for
      farmers to afford, thereby affecting food production next season."

      The resulting inflationary knock-on effect would have serious
      consequences for households wanting to source food on the local
      markets.

      "There is a lot of speculation on the domestic market, as the local
      currency depreciates further almost daily. Fuel prices have not gone
      up
      yet, but if they do, this development will have wide repercussions on
      commodity prices, including those of food. A rise in food prices will
      increase the risk of food shortage for a majority of the poor urban
      and
      rural market-dependent households," the report said.

      It added that "most rural poor households begin to run out of food
      from
      their own production around September/October in normal years, and
      depend on food purchases from the market for the rest of the season".

      "These households mainly depend on casual labour to earn money to buy
      food. The earnings from this activity tend to be low, making it
      difficult for the households to earn enough cash to buy adequate food,
      and any rise in food prices would just worsen their situation," FEWS
      NET
      cautioned.

      For most of July 2003, the Malawi kwacha fluctuated between K89 per US
      $1 and K93 US $1, "but since the beginning of August it started to
      lose
      value, reaching K105 per US $1 by the third week of August".

      This was contrary to expectations, as the local currency normally
      appreciates at this time, "coinciding with tobacco sales, the
      country's
      main foreign exchange earner".

      However, the depreciation of the kwacha was attributed to a "donors'
      squeeze" on foreign aid, resulting in a shortage of foreign exchange
      in
      the country.

      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, in response to government overspending, while Western
      governments have also demanded greater transparency.

      *****

      Chilumpha Gets His Way! .... 60% of NEC Members Loyal to Him

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      August 18, 2003
      Posted to the web August 18, 2003

      Christopher Jimu
      Lilongwe

      The just ended UDF convention shattered outgoing president Bakili
      Muluzi's dreams of controlling the National Executive Committee (NEC)
      members after 60% of the those he wanted to be in the NEC were not
      elected.

      Muluzi, who had already earmarked all positions for his blue eyed,
      hand-picked men and women got the shock of his life when Bingu Wa
      Mutharika's running mate Cassim Chilumpha openly challenged him,
      saying
      that he would contest the post of 1st Vice Chairman if his loyalists
      were to be barred from contesting. It had already been determined that
      he would be the presidential running mate.

      According to a senior party official who attended the last NEC meeting
      at Sanjika Palace the day before the highly charged convention,
      Chilumpha declared that he would contest for the seat of 1st Vice
      Chairman if his people were barred from contesting.

      'Chilumpha surprised not only ourselves, but President Muluzi as well.
      He openly challenged Muluzi saying that he already has his people
      ready
      to contest in all positions and as such they should not be blocked by
      anybody.

      When Muluzi refused Chilumpha's request the former UDF spokesperson
      declared that he would challenge Malewezi on the seat of Ist Vice
      Chairman,' said the source.

      The source said, sensing danger, Muluzi reluctantly accepted
      Chilumpha's request on condition that he did not contest against
      Malewezi. As a result all Chilumpha's loyalists that he had campaigned
      for vie for positions in the NEC.

      Among the people Chilumpha is alleged to have campaigned for are
      newcomers Joyce Banda who won the post of Director of Women's Affairs,
      Ralph Mhone who took the post of second vice chairman, Kennedy
      Makwangwala who won the seat of secretary general, Khumbo Kachale who
      took the post of Treasurer General, amongst others.

      It is also alleged that people like Salim Bagus and Henry Maluwa
      openly
      de-campaigned Ralph Mhone because he was new in the party and
      relatively
      unknown.

      'Bagus kept telling the delegates not to vote for Mhone because he was
      new in the party and that he will have difficulties in advancing the
      ideologies of the party. But the delegates did otherwise,' the source
      alleged.

      Munyenyembe, who was beaten by Mhone told The Chronicle that he was
      not
      concerned with Mhone's victory because he is a true democrat and in
      this
      dispensation anything can happen during a convention.

      'I am not surprised that Mhone beat me. That is what happens in every
      game.

      I have been in this game for quite a long time and I believe that it
      is
      high time that the older generation should be stepping aside to pave
      the
      way for the younger ones,' Munyenyembe explained.

      Some senior officials in the United Democratic Front feel that the
      ascendency of Ralph Mhone to the post of second vice president is
      unprecedented and awkward.

      'This is shocking. If you follow UDF politics carefully, there is
      nothing that Ralph Mhone has done in the party. He is just new, and to
      make matters worse he has not been associated with the UDF for a long
      time,' a senior UDF official told The Chronicle.

      The just ended UDF convention has claimed casualties in the party with
      many senior officials failing to win back their positions despite
      vigorous campaign.

      Two months ago President Muluzi is alleged to have stopped Cassim
      Chilumpha from campaigning for the seat of Presidency because
      according
      to him, no Muslim can be voted into power again in Malawi.

      It has been mentioned that Chilumpha, a practising and devout Muslim
      has emerged as the most powerful member of the UDF after the departure
      of Brown Mpinganjira.

      The 10 years that Muluzi, a relatively nominal Muslim has been
      president of Malawi has made it difficult for Chilumpha to aspire for
      the highest office in the land in a predominantly Christian nation.

      *****

      Ex-Minister Aleke Banda Loses K25 Million Property

      Malawi Standard (Blantyre)

      August 18, 2003
      Posted to the web August 18, 2003

      Blantyre

      The New Building Society has put up on sale 100 hectares of land
      belonging to former Agriculture and Irrigation Minister Aleke Banda,
      who
      reportedly owes the mortgage institution K25 million in debt.

      But Aleke Banda, in an interview recently, denied that the New
      Building
      Society has seized the land. Instead, he said, he sold the land,
      commonly known as Chapima Heights in Blantyre to the New Building
      Society.

      He, however, refused to divulge details on why the sale, referring the
      reporter to the management of the New Building Society.

      "Why are you interested in this? Who told you this? This is a personal
      transaction. This is personal business," Aleke Banda said.
      nat of 1st Vice Chairman if h
      New Building Society director of finance, Mr. M. Ndenya, confirmed
      that
      Chapima Heights is now the property of the bank.

      "Indeed Chapima Heights is our land. Although at first, the land
      belonged to Honourable Aleke Banda, I would not say we seized or
      confiscated it from him. We took the land following procedures that
      were
      in our agreement with him," said Ndenya.

      He was however quick to add: "Usually we are uncomfortable to discuss
      our clients' issues with third parties and the media. One of the
      principles, we in the banking industry strictly adhere to is that of
      privacy and secrecy."

      Ndenya said that the New Building Society was not happy when President
      Bakili Muluzi told a rally in Nkhata Bay that Chapima Heights has been
      taken away from Aleke.

      "The issue is actually between Honourable Aleke Banda and the New
      Building Society. And as far as we are concerned there is no wrangle
      with him. He is our client, so we cannot discuss him or his
      transactions
      with the media," Ndenya said.

      He refused to discuss sums of money involved in the deal.

      Meanwhile the New Building Society has placed advertisements in the
      Daily Times asking interested persons or companies to buy Chapima
      Heights at the price of over K25 million.

      An advertisement placed in the Daily Times of Monday, August 11, 2003
      entitled "100 Hectares of Land For Sale," the bank requested as
      follows:
      "The New Building Society are pleased to offer for sale, 100 hectares
      of
      prime development land situated at Chapima Heights situated only 6
      minutes drive from the centre of Blantyre."

      The advert reads further: "This offer will be attractive to either
      Private Developers interested in a fantastic opportunity to create a
      housing estate within 6 minutes driving distance from Blantyre City
      Centre or a Statutory Housing Corporation or a Government Department,
      Donor collaboration interested in bringing affordable housing to
      Malawians or a consortium of Civil and Building Contractors."

      On the price of the land, the advertisement hinted: "Offers in excess
      of K25, 000, 000 should be received by 30th August 2003." It further
      advises interested persons to contact the General Manager of the bank
      and those wishing to visit the site are asked to arrange such visits
      through Mr. T. Chanza at New Building Society Blantyre Branch.

      According to our well-placed sources at the New Building Society in
      Blantyre, Aleke secured a loan of about K15 million from the bank some
      few years ago, which he promised to repay in installments.

      "For quite sometime Aleke Banda has been flouting the repayment of the
      loan until we said enough is enough and we seized his land, which was
      part of the surety for the loan," said the banker, who declined to be
      drawn into mentioning names because banking ethics forbid them from
      exposing the debts of their clients.

      "The truth of the matter is that Aleke has failed to repay his loan
      and
      we have seized his 100 hectares of land at what is popularly known as
      Chapima Heights," said the banker.

      According to our source Aleke borrowed the money to bankroll his
      personal projects.

      The K15 million loan is reportedly to have risen to K25 million with
      interests due to erratic servicing of the loan.

      One senior manager of New Building Society in Blantyre told The Malawi
      Standard that the bank had problems in recovering the loan from Aleke
      Banda because of his ministerial and political powers.

      "After he resigned from his powerful party position in the ruling
      clique, we decided to mount pressure on him to repay the loan but he
      failed. We then had no option but to confiscate 100 acres of his land
      at
      Chapima Heights.

      Certainly this land is more than the amount owing to the bank. If he
      had sold it personally he would earn more money, but that opportunity
      is
      now gone," said the senior banker.

      He explained that Aleke having failed to redeem the seized land within
      a specified time, the bank is now selling the land to recover the loan
      plus interest.

      Meanwhile President Bakili Muluzi has warned Malawians of being
      cheated
      by some opposition politicians, who want power for personal gains.

      Speaking recently at Nkhata Bay during one of his rallies President
      Bakili Muluzi said Aleke should not cheat them that he has the welfare
      of the people at heart.

      "Aleke should not come here and cheat you that he can look after you.
      As a matter of fact the New Building Society has seized his land and
      property (Chapima Heights), because of failing to repay a loan," said
      Muluzi.

      He said that people should not be surprised when they see and hear
      opposition leaders criticizing his charity, as they are stingy with
      their financial resources and most of them are in financial distress.
      Aleke is one of few politicians in the country, whose viable political
      career suddenly took a slump after he resigned from the ruling UDF
      after
      failing nomination for the position of party's Presidential candidate.

      As many analysts predicted, the resignation of Aleke was a political
      suicide as history clearly shows that he had always made it into
      politics through nominations, while he miserably fail to tick in any
      elections.

      Just during the multiparty era, Aleke has failed twice to win
      Parliamentary elections in his own home area Tukombo preferring less
      fancied Kandodo Banda who has no known financial fortunes compared to
      those of Aleke Banda. Many analysts say that people of Tukombo know
      better why they continually reject him at polls.

      *****

      Court Lifts Big Brother Ban

      The Monitor (Kampala)

      August 18, 2003
      Posted to the web August 18, 2003

      Moses Serugo
      Kampala

      The High Court in Malawi on Friday quashed a government ban on the
      reality television show, Big Brother Africa.

      According to BBC reports, the court argued that Parliament acted
      outside its powers when it banned the show on August 5.

      "The constitutional duty of Parliament is to pass laws, not to make
      orders," Mr Noel Chalamanda, a lawyer said.

      He said by banning the show, the country's legislature had denied
      Malawians their right to free information and participation in
      cultural
      issues of their choice.

      The show was banned on TV Malawi, the national broadcaster, after
      parliament condemned it as "immoral" following complaints from parents
      about the boozing and sexual content on the series.

      Mr Taylor Nothale, the chairman of the parliamentary committee on the
      media, had said the show subjected viewers "to horrible pictures which
      are corrupting the morals of our children".

      Most of the southern African country's 10.6 million people are deeply
      conservative Christians. It also has a Muslim minority.

      TV Malawi's director general said they would hold a board meeting to
      decide whether to put the show back on air.

      *****

      Life in Malawi's 'Feverish Village'

      Mail & Guardian (Johannesburg)

      August 14, 2003
      Posted to the web August 14, 2003

      Brian Mcdonald


      It is the sheer volume of children one notices first in Changwe
      Village, a small collection of thatched roof huts scattered along an
      empty sun-baked highway in central Malawi.

      Dressed in threadbare school uniforms or cast-off shirts and pants,
      they are everywhere underfoot, running around the dusty yards, playing
      with crude toys, laughing and teasing each other. No one seems to be
      looking after them, unless you count the few old women sitting huddled
      together under balconies taking shelter from the scorching heat.

      What those children and their ancient guardians represent paints a
      grim
      picture of how and why the HIV/Aids pandemic has spread in sub-Saharan
      Africa, now infecting 26-million people in the region and 15% of the
      Malawian population.

      "Twenty years ago we were a healthy people," Evelyn Makisoni (54), a
      mother of five, says sadly. "Then, because some men in our village
      were
      making money smuggling petroleum products [diesel fuel, paraffin and
      petrol] bought from tanker trucks travelling through here from South
      Africa, Botswana and Zambia, everything changed."

      From 1984 10 to 12 tankers started arriving at the village to sell
      their cargo every week. The drivers had money -more money than most of
      the people at Changwe Village had ever seen.

      "Our women wanted that money. They needed it to buy basic commodities
      because they were very poor and they sold themselves to get it,"
      Makisoni remembers. "Suddenly everything was turned upside down."

      "People went crazy," Andsen Jojo (63) agrees. "The drivers would offer
      a woman a goat and even take her into Lilongwe [the nearby city] for a
      week. Within a few months even the married ones started to sleep with
      the drivers. They would challenge their husbands, saying 'Who are you?
      You don't have any cash resources', and they would go off because they
      needed to feed their children."

      For a few years after the long-haul trucks started arriving things
      remained as they were. Although traditional mores had been overturned,
      people had money and food. New businesses started up and a few people
      even bought cars.

      Then life in Changwe started to go horribly wrong. A few of the young
      people got sick and didn't get better. Then a few more. Drugs and
      traditional medicines did not help and there was talk of witchcraft.
      But
      it wasn't that.

      Although they did not know it yet, the drivers had brought the HI
      virus
      with them and it spread with lightning speed through a village where
      no
      one even knew it existed.

      "The wives were spreading the virus to their husbands, the unmarried
      women were infecting the young men, the young men making money from
      smuggling were going into Lilongwe and having sex there," Jojo says.
      "People were behaving very freely and they had no idea that anything
      bad
      could happen to them."

      By 1996, 12 years after the trucks first started arriving, the death
      rate in the village peaked at four a week. In fact, so many people
      were
      dying that residents of neighboring towns nicknamed Changwe nakongwa,
      literally meaning "The Feverish Village" and a common question
      sarcastically asked was, "Dare you marry someone from Nakongwa
      Village?"

      "Our neighbours from other villages would not come to help people who
      were sick or help at a funeral because of fear of contracting the
      disease," Jojo says. "We became completely isolated because people
      thought that whatever was killing people could be contracted in any
      way,
      even through the air."

      Then, in early 1997, the residents of Changwe first heard about
      HIV/Aids, but the message was disturbingly vague. According to Jojo,
      the
      headman was told by the Ministry of Agriculture to send out a warning
      that there is a disease called Aids, and for people to take heed - but
      villagers were not told in detail about the virus or what the means of
      transmission was.

      "It wasn't until 1999 that the Malawian Ministry of Agriculture
      stepped
      in because so many people were dying," Jojo says. "They took me to
      Lilongwe for basic training about HIV/Aids and, after the training, I
      briefed the village headman and we set up a programme to conduct
      awareness meetings on prevention, transmission and identifying the
      symptoms of the disease. People learned and their behaviour started to
      change."

      Even though people are not dying as often in Changwe Village, the
      curse
      of the HIV/Aids pandemic remains. Makisoni points to the youngsters
      surrounding her.

      "Nearly every house in this village is caring for orphaned children,"
      she says. "Because parents look after their own family first, often
      the
      orphans do not have enough to eat and there is no money for school
      supplies. It is a terrible burden for us to carry."

      *****

      HIV/Aids Cocktail Under Wraps

      Malawi Standard (Blantyre)

      August 18, 2003
      Posted to the web August 18, 2003

      Dickson Kashoti
      Blantyre

      National AIDS Commission Executive Director, Bizwick Mwale, has
      parried
      away fears that HIV/AIDS cocktail Anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs) are now
      found on the black market, saying the cocktail is under government
      control.

      Briefing the press in Blantyre soon after addressing delegates to the
      United Democratic Front (UDF) recently, Mwale said it was impossible
      to
      get ARVs for selling on the black market.

      "Some people mistake immune boosters or vitamin drugs for ARVs but
      ARVs
      are not on the black market. They are under control. We are working
      with
      the Ministry of Health to give civic education on ARVs," he said.

      Mwale said although one million people are suffering from HIV/AIDS,
      only 2,000 to 2,500 patients are on ARVs countrywide.


      *****

      Muluzi Hints At Govt of National Unity

      Financial Gazette (Harare)

      August 21, 2002
      Posted to the web August 21, 2003

      Harare

      MALAWIAN President Bakili Muluzi, a key broker in Zimbabwe's boiling
      political crisis, has hinted at the formation of a government of
      national unity between the feuding ZANU PF and the Movement for
      Democratic Change (MDC).

      Muluzi who visited Zimbabwe in May this year together with presidents
      Thabo Mbeki of South African and Olesugun Obasanjo of Nigeria told the
      London-based NewAfrican magazine that the three leaders had asked
      President Robert Mugabe about the possibility of a coalition between
      his
      party and the MDC.

      "President Mugabe was magnanimous enough to bring Joshua Nkomo (the
      late former leader of PF ZAPU) into government. And that ended the
      war.
      What we said to President Mugabe when we went there was why don't you
      do
      the same, to bring tension down? And I think it is going to happen,"
      he
      said.

      Muluzi said the donor community had stopped giving aid to Zimbabwe,
      with some countries slapping economic sanctions on the southern
      African
      nation.

      This has resulted in considerable devaluation of the Zimbabwe dollar,
      high inflation and untold suffering among the country's 13 million
      people.

      "So we said, look why don't we help our brothers in Zimbabwe, first to
      encourage internal dialogue between the government and the opposition.
      And secondly, if possible, once dialogue is achieved why don't we
      encourage a government of national unity like I did here in Malawi. I
      brought the opposition into government, including those who were very
      critical of my government."

      African Union leaders, Muluzi said, should play a more pivotal role in
      solving Zimbabwe's problems. Those from outside the union should
      consult
      members of the former Organisation of African Union before taking a
      position on Zimbabwe.

      "I can pick up this telephone here and call President Mugabe right
      now,
      and have a straight talk with him, and tell him where he is going
      wrong.

      "But to always criticise him, and even try to demonise him as the
      worst
      country in Africa, he will feel that you are doing so because he is
      poor, and therefore oppressed," the Malawian president was quoted
      saying.

      "So I think the approach should change. It is not helpful to use all
      this unilateralist approach."

      The Malawian leader also launched a broadside against the manner the
      Zimbabwean government had handled the land reform.

      "... In fact, all of us in the region supported the land programme
      because there is no freedom without land. And in Zimbabwe, there was
      no
      equitable distribution of wealth," he was quoted saying.

      "What was wrong in Zimbabwe was the way they did it, by violence; for
      instance, when people were killed. That we didn't support. I was the
      chairman of the SADC (Southern African Development Community) then,
      and
      I said this cannot go on.

      "The issue of land, yes, even in Malawi we are going through land
      reform programme, not necessarily to go through the same path like
      Zimbabwe, no ... ."

      The land reform, which was spearheaded by the veterans of Zimbabwe's
      liberation war, resulted in some commercial farmers and workers losing
      their lives.

      Most of the perpetrators of the violence have not been brought before
      the law, a situation that unnerved investors.


      *****

      The long and dreary wait for cash in Zimbabwe

      Harare

      26 August 2003 07:54

      Four weeks after Zimbabwe introduced a range of measures aimed at
      ending an unprecedented shortage of local bank notes, the situation
      has
      not improved, banking officials said on Monday.

      Queues at bank counters and cash machines grew even longer as workers
      tried to cash their pay cheques to pay monthly bills.

      "The cash situation is still the same, it's still in short supply,"
      said one cashier inside a banking hall crowded with restive clients.

      "We have even reduced our maximum allowance today to enable everyone
      to
      get something from the little cash we have," he said.

      Zimbabwe is in its fourth month of a local cash crunch attributed to
      hyperinflationary conditions, a growing foreign exchange parallel
      market
      and lack of confidence in the system that have led to higher demand
      for
      cash and hoarding.

      The government has imposed a series of measures in a desperate bid to
      help ease the shortage.

      On July 29 the government tried to persuade individuals and retailers
      to deposit cash with banks when it announced that it would phase out
      the
      current 500 Zimbabwean dollar note in circulation by end of September
      and replace it with a new one of similar value.

      A week later, it introduced local travellers' cheques as legal tender,
      hoping to ease the cash crisis that has gripped the southern African
      country since April.

      But the travellers' cheques faced resistance because of their
      inflexibility, according to banking officials.

      On Sunday a new law banning the holding of more than five-million
      Zimbabwean dollars (US$6 250) in local bank notes by institutions and
      individuals came into effect.

      But there has not been any marked improvement in the cash crisis.re in


      For above-average earners who can operate a chequing account, the cash
      shortages have forced them to turn to using their cards and cheques --
      which takes longer than cash transactions.

      But the lower-earning majority without chequing accounts are forced to
      rely on cash for their daily transactions. They are the majority found
      in cash queues.

      "It looks as if we are at a political rally," quipped a woman who had
      been queueing at a cash machine since 6am on Monday. By midday no cash
      had been dispensed because the bank was waiting for cash deposits to
      feed notes into the machine.

      Every street corner where there is a banking hall or a cash machine
      was
      crowded with visibly tired people.

      "I have been coming here every day since last week. My landlord wants
      his rent and he will not take anything but cash," said Anthony Phiri,
      a
      factory worker.

      Banks are restricting the amount of cash that a client can withdraw in
      a day, and by Monday some banks had again slashed the maximum limit of
      10 000 Zimbabwean dollars (US$12 50) by half.

      A loaf of bread costs about 1 000 Zimbabwe dollars (US$1,25) while a
      kilogramme of meat sells for about 5 000 Zimbabwe dollars (US$6 25). -
      Sapa-AFP

      *****

      Zimbabwe doubles budget


      The Zimbabwean government has unveiled an emergency supplementary
      budget aimed at paying state employees' wages and importing food,
      seeds
      and medicines.
      Finance Minister Herbert Murerwa asked parliament to approve a
      supplementary budget of $840m (£533m), almost doubling the country's
      existing budget.

      He said the new budget would not boost the country's deficit, as it
      would be financed by the removing price controls and increased tax
      revenues.

      The announcement was greeted with derision from opposition
      legislators,
      who urged Mr Murerwa to "just resign" in the face of the country's
      financial crisis.

      "A large proportion of the money will have to be printed, and
      therefore
      it will be inflationary," said John Robertson, a private economic
      consultant.

      "The government is not addressing the crisis, they are simply treating
      the symptoms of the problem but the problem will not got away," he
      added.

      Survival strategies

      The bulk of the new budget will be spent on pay rises for state
      workers
      who are struggling to survive in the face of soaring inflation which
      has
      made basic goods unaffordable.

      Part of it will also be set aside to buy agricultural supplies before
      the start of the next planting season.

      Zimbabwe is enduring its worst economic crisis since becoming
      independent in 1980.

      The country is struggling with widespread cash and fuel shortages,
      inflation of almost 400% and unemployment of about 70%.

      *****

      UN warns over Zimbabwe aid

      By Hilary Andersson
      BBC correspondent in Johannesburg

      The United Nations World Food Programme has said it will postpone food
      aid to any part of Zimbabwe where, in line with the new government
      directive, local chiefs take over the distribution of the aid.
      More than 3m Zimbabweans are dependent on food aid for survival.

      That number is predicted to rise to 5.5m by the end of the year.

      The World Food Programme in Zimbabwe has reiterated its standing
      policy
      that it will not tolerate any political interference in the
      distribution
      of food aid, and this comes at a very delicate moment.

      This week the Government of Zimbabwe ordered local chiefs to take over
      the distribution of food aid across the country.

      The WFP's policy is that if any village in Zimbabwe acts on the
      government's instructions and insists that local chiefs distribute the
      food aid, the aid would be suspended in that area.

      Local election factor

      So far, no local leaders have acted on the government's new directive
      and distributions are carrying on uninterrupted.

      There is a fear, though, amongst international donors that the
      government may want to use food aid for its own political purposes,
      especially with local elections coming up.

      In the past, Zimbabweans have complained that those who don't carry a
      government party card find it harder to get the food that is already
      distributed by the government.

      The food crisis in Zimbabwe is far more severe than anywhere else
      nearby and is set to get significantly worse before the end of the
      year.


      The WFP is expected to hold further discussions with Zimbabwe's
      government next week to clarify whether President Robert Mugabe
      intends
      for his own people to take over food distributions countrywide or not.


      If his government insists on doing so, the consequences could be
      devastating for the hungry people.

      *****

      Leaders blast Mugabe sanctions

      Southern African heads of state have called for sanctions against
      Zimbabwe to be lifted.
      The regional Southern African Development Community (SADC) has also
      urged President Robert Mugabe's government and the country's
      opposition
      to resume talks in order to end the country's political crisis.

      The call came after Mr Mugabe received a rapturous welcome at the SADC
      summit in the Tanzanian commercial capital, Dar es Salaam.

      The summit supported President Mugabe's controversial land reform
      policy, saying that the sanctions were unwarranted and only made life
      difficult for ordinary people.

      "Those sanctions should now be lifted," Tanzanian President Benjamin
      Mkapa said.

      "The quicker they are lifted, the quicker more influence for positive
      economic growth and social service delivery change can emerge," Mr
      Mkapa, the new SADC chairman, said.

      The US and the EU imposed travel restrictions against top Zimbabwean
      officials to protest against President Mugabe's re-election last year.


      The sanctions are also linked to President Mugabe's policy to hand
      white-owned farms to landless black Zimbabweans.

      Shortages

      But President Mkapa said that the "smart sanctions" were ineffective.

      "I find it insulting that there are powers and people who believe food
      shortages in the region can only be averted when Africans become
      servants on white people's-owned land, rather than when they work on
      their own land," President Mkapa said.
    • 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

      Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.