- Globetrotting Muluzi defends his trips abroad
14 October 2003 10:20
Malawi President Bakili Muluzi on Monday defended his numerous overseas
trips, saying they benefit the impoverished southern African country.
Muluzi, who has just returned from a three-week trip to Asia, told a
press conference that his critics were "ignorant" and that he needed to
travel in order to "engage people", especially donors.
"You have to engage people. If you don't travel how do you engage
them?" Muluzi asked.
Muluzi held the press conference after receiving stiff criticism in the
press and from opposition leaders in Malawi, which is facing its worst
economic crisis in years.
Western donors suspended financial support two years ago citing bad
governance and fiscal indiscipline, among other reasons.
Malawi's major donors, which include the International Monetary Fund
(IMF), the World Bank, European Union and Britain, have been withholding
around $100-million in budgetary support.
But last month the IMF board said it had concluded its review of
Malawi's economic performance and would resume releasing funds around
On Monday, Muluzi said he had managed to clinch pledges of aid during
his recent trips to Japan and Taiwan, including one-million US dollars
from Taiwan to support Malawian farmers.
The southern African leader usually travels with a large entourage of
government ministers, journalists, lawmakers and ruling party officials.
Charged Political Climate Worries Civil Society
African Church Information Service
October 13, 2003
Posted to the web October 14, 2003
Officials of the Public Affairs Committee (PAC) in Malawi have
expressed concern over what they call an unfavourable political
situation being experienced in the country.
The PAC is an umbrella body of political, civic and religious
organisations that plays a watchdog role on the country's political
direction, and on other matters of national interest.
The officials made the remarks during a national elections roundtable
conference here, saying political parties have not embraced democratic
principles, almost 10 years after the onset of multi-party politics in
The two-day conference attracted all registered political parties,
civil society groups and the media.
PAC chairperson, Boniface Tamani, who is a Catholic priest, lamented
the lack of inter-party dialogue in the country, which he said has
resulted into divisive politics becoming the order of the day.
He appealed to politicians in the country to ensure transparency and
accountability during the general elections in May next year, without
which there was a danger that the elections results could be rejected.
The conference, however, resolved to use all resources available to
ensure free and fair general elections.
One of the resolutions called on the electoral commission and the
police to act on concerns from different stakeholders involved in the
electoral process, such as disruption of rallies addressed by opposition
PAC, which produced a four-paged communiqué after the meeting,
highlighted a number of problems that needed to be tackled by the
electoral commission and the civil society, to ensure smooth running of
the 2004 elections.
In the communiqué participants observed that there was need to review
the whole electoral calendar to ensure that it was practical.
It was noted that according to the current calendar, nomination of
candidates would start before dissolving parliament, a situation that
many said could raise confusion among the electorate.
In the meantime, representatives of religious organisations together
with diplomats from major western governments have been meeting with
politicians to determine how they could diffuse intolerance that is
threatening to mar the scheduled general elections.
With just eight months to go to the polls, there have been widespread
reports and debates on the climate of intolerance between religious and
Confirming the meetings, a western diplomat, who asked not to be
identified, said she could not give details because of the sensitivity
of the discussions.
Clerics Gang Up to Impeach Electoral Commission Boss
African Church Information Service
October 13, 2003
Posted to the web October 14, 2003
Malawi's senior clerics have instituted a probe into the activities of
the chairman of the Electoral Commission (EC), whom they claim to be
aligned to the ruling party and therefore incompetent to lead the
country to a free and fair elections next year.
The Public Affairs Committee (PAC) and the Forum for the Defence of
Democracy (FDD) have reported that they have started investigating James
Kalaile for "partisan conduct frustrating expectations for free
presidential, parliamentary and local government elections" scheduled
for May 18, 2004.
Kalaile is one of the judges at the Common Market for Eastern and
Southern Africa, by virtue of which he is an advisor to President Bakili
Monsignor Boniface Tamani of the Roman Catholic Church, who is PAC
chairperson, said church leaders were under pressure to act. "We will
have to carry out investigations to establish if there are people with
questionable elements in the commission, for the sake of free and fair
elections next year," he stated.
Meanwhile, three clergymen from the country's major Christian
denominations have declared interest in overseeing coalition talks
between opposition parties.
Anglican Bishop, James Tengatenga, who recently received death threats
for his biting criticism of government's mismanagement of public
resources, is the chairman of the team, while his deputy is Livingstonia
CCAP synod general secretary, Reverend Howard Matiya Nkhoma.
"Opposition parties asked for assistance and as church leaders, we have
the responsibility to bring them to a roundtable," said Tengatenga,
brushing aside president Muluzi's outbursts that the Church was meddling
Where Human Beings Vanish Into the Unknown
African Church Information Service
October 13, 2003
Posted to the web October 14, 2003
To the naked eye, Mount Mulanje in Southern Malawi would simply pass as
another spectacular geographical attraction. But mention Sapitwa, a peak
found at its top, and the locals would shudder. Frightening occurrences
have been witnessed on this peak, including the recent sudden
disappearance of a Dutch woman.
About 290 kilometres to the south-east of Lilongwe, Malawi's capital,
lies Mulanje town at the south-eastern corner of the country, not far
from its border with Mozambique.
It is here that the famous Mount Mulanje stands. With its protruding
peaks often encircled by cloudy mist, it presents an impressive
Up the 9840ft (about 3,000 metres) high mountain, lies a rocky peak
known as Sapitwa, which translates to "no go area", in the local
Chichewa or Chinyanja language.
It was at Sapitwa where on Saturday, September 13, a 29-year old Dutch
woman disappeared after climbing the mountain.
She had tried to scale Sapitwa peak, which even accomplished
mountaineers describe as formidable.
Linda Plonk, a laboratory technician at Mulanje Mission hospital run by
the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian (CCAP) Synod of Blantyre,
climbed the mountain with a party of 10 people.
According to police, she hiked up the peak, while nine of her group
members gave up along the way. She did not report back to the rest of
the group that was waiting for her.
Police and officials from Mulanje forestry department, as well as the
department of parks and wildlife, joined by the army, scoured the peak
using a helicopter, but could not find clues as to what could have
happened to Linda Plonk.
The Royal Dutch Embassy in Harare, Zimbabwe, also sent a helicopter,
together with a rescue team of ten climbers with six snifter dogs, to
help in the search, but to no avail.
Mulanje mountain is the highest in central Africa, and it is one of the
major tourist attractions in the country, besides Lake Malawi.
But strange events have occurred here, just like the recent
disappearance of Linda Plonk.
According to local communities, legend has it that the mountain is home
to ghosts. They say that in the early days, supernatural beings
inhabited forests around it.
But those beings, who natives believed sometimes took the form of
dwarfs or Abathwa, as they were locally known, were considered to be
Others believe that they probably migrated to the Congo forests, where
Abathwa or Tikitiki are found
It is said that if one ventured into the realm of the ghosts or
spirits, the chances of survival were unpredictable. One could go
missing forever or could return by chance to the mortal world.
Stories abound of people disappearing at the mountain at different
times in the past, some being recovered miraculously.
One such incident happened 38 years ago, when an employee of the
Department of Forestry went missing from a party of workers who were
descending from one of the peaks known as Chambe.
The party was ferrying timber down the peak when one of the forestry
workers, Patrick Fewa, a local villager in his twenties then,
disappeared and could not immediately be traced.
It took more than a week of frantic beating about the bush for the
search team to come across Patrick, perched on a rock and clad in the
clothing he was last seen in.
He was unscathed, except that he was not able to speak for another
When he came around, he narrated how he found himself leaving the rest
of the party, and followed a figure clad in white robes. Since then he
could not tell day from night, he said.
He told the searchers, including relatives, that he was, however, able
to see them, but could not utter a word or cry in the presence of that
According to him, the strange being first appeared as a crow that flew
over his head, but later turned into a tall human-like figure, which
apparently bound him under a spell.
It was only after the bizarre being turned into a whirlwind that he was
able to communicate with his searchers and joined them down the slope on
the last day of the ordeal in the environment of the "ghost".
Officials of the forestry department confirmed the story, which was
carried in local newspapers of that time.
But in the case of Linda Plonk, the authorities are puzzled as to why
she insisted on climbing onto the forbidden Sapitwa peak.
Official guidelines state that no tourist should climb the mountain
without local guides, who lead the paths to the top. The climb takes
slightly more than five hours to a camping site, where boarding
facilities are provided.
Authorities strongly recommend against tourists attempting to reach
Sapitwa, owing to the strange occurrences there.
It is against this background that sympathisers and the government
officials have been hoping against hope of finding Linda Plonk alive.
Meltdown of liberty in Zimbabwe
Wilson Johwa | Harare
14 October 2003 09:15
"Demonstrations here never last more than 10 minutes before the police
move in," photojournalist Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi remarks casually.
It is another misleadingly tranquil day in Zimbabwe's capital city,
Harare, where Mukwazhi and two colleagues are keeping tabs on a group
advocating for a new constitution, the National Constitutional Assembly
(NCA). Members of the organisation are due to march to parliament with
placards, agitating for a new constitution as the starting point to
resolving the political gridlock in the country.
However, Mukwazhi's comments turns out to be an understatement. Even
before the demonstration begins, it is quashed. Plainclothes police
officers sneak up on anyone wearing an NCA shirt and throw them into
Mukwazhi and the two other freelance photojournalists are bungled
together with the NCA demonstrators within seconds of snapping pictures
of NCA chairman Lovemore Madhuku who, with a small group of activists,
tries to unfurl a banner.
Altogether, 102 NCA activists are arrested. Together with the three
photojournalists they spend 24 hours in custody charged with "engaging
in conduct likely to breach the peace". This is an offence under an
all-encompassing law from the country's colonial past, the Miscellaneous
Freedom only comes when they pay admission of guilt fines, even though
they all know they have committed no crime. "We paid in protest, not
paying the fine would have meant staying in prison," their lawyer, Alec
Once released Mukwazhi seeks legal action to have the admission of
guilt stuck down. Having three such admissions could cost any journalist
his hard-to-get official accreditation card as it is tantamount to
having a criminal record.
While the government of President Robert Mugabe digs it's heels in, the
right to peaceful demonstration is one less freedom Zimbabweans have.
Engaging in a public protest is like waiving a red flag in front of the
police who have a reservoir of laws to justify a clampdown. The main law
against gatherings is the Public Order and Security Act (Posa), which
replaced another draconian colonial legislation, the Law and Order
Since its enactment in January 2002, Posa has been used to target
opposition supporters, independent media and human rights activities. It
restricts their right to criticise the government, engage in or organise
acts of peaceful civil disobedience.
On October 9, a demonstration by the country's powerful labour
organisation, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), was also
foiled before it began. Fifty-five ZCTU members who had planned to speak
out against high taxation and the cost of living were arrested. Three of
them were seriously assaulted by the police.
Members of the group were cautioned and released. But charges might be
pressed later if the police decide to do so. However, the ZCTU remains
unintimidated. It has planned more demonstrations against high taxation
and inflation until Zimbabwe's budget is presented next month.
It's president, Lovemore Matombo, was among those detained. He says the
most distasteful irony was finding himself in the same cell that he
occupied for 35 days in 1975 for resisting colonial injustice. "You
really feel quite depressed purely because we are an independent country
and are supposed to be democratic enough to allow the basic freedoms to
flow in the normal way," he says.
The union leader says what disturbed him further was that they were
hassled merely for protesting against the well-known issue of taxation.
For years Zimbabweans, who are among some of the most heavily taxed
people in the world, have unsuccessfully sought tax relief from the
Three days after the ZCTU protest, a newly-formed anti-globalisation
coalition, the Zimbabwe Social Forum which is affiliated to the World
Social Forum, was denied permission for a peaceful march.
"Because of the legislation and the political environment in Zimbabwe,
it had to be a peace rally instead," said one of the organizers, Thomas
Deve. Matombo says the government's intolerance for civil disobedience
is purely a matter of clinging to power despite all odds.
The government stands accused of plunging the country into it's worst
economic crisis ever, with inflation at over 500%, unemployment at 70%
and the local currency being worth a little more than the paper on which
it is printed.
Suppressing all forms of protest is the method of choice in
perpetuating control over a very frustrated population.
At the University of Zimbabwe, previously the country's melting pot of
protest, many students' rooms still do not have doors since soldiers
knocked them down during the "final push" mass action organised by the
opposition in June to force Mugabe to the negotiating table.
Talks with the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) have
been on and off. To date no headway has been made.
Over the weekend at it's annual general meeting, the NCA warned members
who dare to speak out to expect a lot more State repression. "As we
continue in our conviction towards the established of sustainable
democracy in Zimbabwe, more arrests, torture, closure and even worse
forms of oppression, suppression and repression are certain to come our
way," Matombo said. - IPS
Zimbabwe inflation hits new high
Annual inflation in Zimbabwe has risen to 455.6% for September, a new
unwanted record for the country's troubled economy.
The rise, from 426.6% in August, has been put down to price increases
in the average price of everyday items such as meat, bread, cereals,
fruit and vegetables.
The country was once southern Africa's breadbasket, but now seven
million of Zimbabwe's 12 million people are believed to be at serious
risk of famine.
There are fears that the economic difficulties, following President
Robert Mugabe's controversial land reforms, are forcing more people out
of the country.
Commonwealth secretary general Don McKinnon has been reported as saying
that large numbers of Zimbabweans were leaving to find jobs and income
in nearby states.
He said the presidents of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, and of Mozambique,
Joaquim Chissano, had alerted him to the growing extent of the problem.
Mr McKinnon was quoted by the AFP news agency as saying: "I was talking
to President Thabo Mbeki the other day and he told me he has three
million Zimbabweans in South Africa.
"[Mozambique's President] Chissano has 400,000 while Botswana hosts up
On Tuesday the Central Statistical Office in Harare also revealed that
Zimbabwe's consumer price index rose by 24.8% in September, a rise from
17.6% in August.
Now the country's main labour movement is threatening a series of
strikes over the economic policies which it says are crippling the
Lovemore Matombo, president of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions
(ZCTU), said they were protesting against high inflation, prices, taxes
He said: "We won't ask for permission because it is our right to
As well as one of the highest inflation rates in the world, Zimbabwe is
struggling with shortages of foreign currency, and unemployment is over
Gross domestic product is down by a quarter on the late 1990s.
President Mugabe denies mismanaging the economy and has put economic
problems down to foreign opponents, and has blamed drought for food
Zim prison sex common despite HIV rate
15 October 2003 10:42
Up to 70% of male Zimbabwean prisoners have sex with other males in
jails where the HIV prevalence rate is estimated to be 60%, the
state-owned Ziana news agency said on Tuesday.
The news agency cited a doctor from a government referral hospital who
said many prisoners seeking medical attention have been involved in
same-gender sexual acts, which is illegal in the Southern African
"Out of all the prisoners that we attend to on a daily basis, about 60%
to 70% of them admit to have had sex with other males at one time or the
other," Blessing Mukumba was quoted as saying.
Sixty percent of the prisoners admitted to the hospitals are infected
with HIV, according to research done by the referral hospitals, Ziana
A prison officer said same-gender sex was widespread in the overcrowded
jails, but said it was difficult to detect despite regular patrols.
In 1993 a lawmaker and now Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Edna
Madzongwe, suggested the provision of condoms for prisoners to curb the
spread of HIV, but was rebuffed because such a move would be tantamount
to legalising homosexuality in prisons. In January the country's prisons
held 24 500 inmates, far exceeding their capacity of 16 000.
The government in July revised the HIV/Aids tally, putting the
percentage of Zimbabwean adults infected with the HIV/Aids at 24,9%,
down from 33,7% recorded in 2000 by the United Nations.
However, Zimbabwe remains one of the countries worst affected by the
pandemic in the world. An average of more than 3 000 Aids-related deaths
occur each week in Zimbabwe. - Sapa-AFP
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
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
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.
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.
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