- Sabre Rattling Ahead of Election
UN Integrated Regional Information Networks
October 16, 2003
Posted to the web October 16, 2003
The stage is set for a hotly contested presidential election next year,
and Malawi's senior clerics have signalled their intention to closely
monitor the conduct of the presidential and legislative polls in May
The African Church Information Service (ACIS) quoted Monsignor Boniface
Tamani of the Roman Catholic Church as saying "we will have to carry out
investigations to establish if there are ... questionable elements in
the [Electoral] Commission, for the sake of free and fair elections next
Two NGOs, one of which is headed by Tamani, reported that they would
investigate members of the Electoral Commission "for partisan conduct
frustrating expectations for free presidential, parliamentary and local
government elections", ACIS reported.
Rafiq Hajat, of the Blantyre-based Institute for Policy Interaction
(IPI), told IRIN on Thursday there was "a lot of sabre rattling going
on", which was "basically meant to ensure that next year's elections are
free and fair".
He added that, following the controversy around the aborted attempt to
secure a third term for President Bakili Muluzi, "everybody is looking
forward to these elections".
"It's occupying the spotlight on the national stage and is very much in
the nation's consciousness, as it is a crucial one," Hajat said.
A key issue in the upcoming elections will be the humanitarian crisis,
from which Malawi has largely recovered, although there are remaining
pockets of need in rural parts of the country.
At the height of the crisis millions of Malawians were dependent on
food aid to stave off hunger.
"People are saying that the crisis would not have occurred if there had
been good management in the first place," Hajat noted. The government
was heavily criticised for selling off the country's strategic grain
reserves at a time of food shortages.
The state of the economy was also expected to be a central theme in
campaigning. "Our local currency, the Kwacha, has depreciated so badly
in recent days - [to the point] where you pay US $1 for about K110. The
currency has depreciated by 20 percent in the last quarter, and this has
had a knock-on effect on the price of all basic commodities, including
the price of fuel," Hajat added.
The fuel price "went up again just yesterday [Wednesday], and all of
these increases lead to extreme hardship in the rural areas, where
people live hand to mouth".
"When fuel goes up by 10 bucks, you and I will complain but still fill
up and have a gin and tonic in the evening. But for the rural poor, it's
the difference between life and death," Hajat explained. At least 70
percent of Malawians live in rural areas.
"This state of affairs - the hardship of life - is going to be a major
talking point during the election," he added.
In April, Muluzi announced that the ruling United Democratic Front
(UDF) had selected Bingu wa Mutharika as his successor, effectively
ending attempts to allow Muluzi a third five-year term of office.
A president is allowed two consecutive terms by the Malawi
constitution. The bid to have Muluzi serve a third term, and the
proposed constitutional amendment to allow it, heightened political
tensions in Malawi. The move was opposed by human rights groups, the
diplomatic community, the clergy and opposition parties.
The five main opposition parties have formed an alliance to contest the
election, but they have yet to put forward their presidential
"They're searching around for a very credible, neutral person," Hajat
SA companies pull out of Zambia
Zarina Geloo | Lusaka
16 October 2003 14:20
More than 2 000 Zambian workers have been left in the lurch as the
South African franchise shop Supreme Furnishers was liquidated by a
Lusaka High Court this week.
The court order scuttles the government's opposition for Supreme
Furnishers, with its subsidiary companies Barnetts and Hifi Electrical,
to cease operations in Zambia. Lawyer for the workers Mark Haimbe has
asked the court to make an order for all employees to be paid their
terminal benefits in full.
The courts have now blocked the company from moving or transferring any
assets or cash to South Africa, in an attempt to force it to pay workers
their terminal benefits.
Durite Chella, a shop attendant, believes workers are being treated
this way because the majority of them are unskilled.
"Would they have treated us this way if we had [college or university]
degrees? It is because the majority of us are attendants and do not have
formal qualifications, that's why they throw us in the streets," she
Supreme Furnishers and its subsidiaries have more than 10 outlets in
Labour Minister Patrick Kafumukache expressed shock at the investor's
decision to pull out of Zambia at such short notice and without paying
workers their full benefits. His Deputy Minister, Chile Ng'uni,
described the liquidation as "fallacious" and "contemptuous".
Ng'uni said workers had exhibited the most decent behaviour for the
seven months the company was in limbo, sacrificing in the face of doom,
banking the company's takings, kept property and used the due process of
law to resolve the matter, only to receive a kick in the face.
"Workers should not despair because government is not going to allow
Zambians to be abused."
Assuring words, but they have only earned the ire of workers.
"How can the ministers now say they are shocked when it is them that
award these licenses to these opportunists -- with no exit clause,
nothing to protect workers?" asked Leah Numutenga, one of the workers.
She said workers had been faithfully working for the company since its
inception and to be treated in this manner with no protection from the
government was similar to living in the pre-independence days when
natives were abused.
"This thing about Supreme Furnishers closing is not new. It was on the
cards as soon as we knew their five-year grace period for paying tax was
over. And we were diligently telling government to beware.
"Now that it has happened, the government has taken no action apart
from saying they should give us our terminal benefits. What happens when
those benefits finish? Where do we get jobs? We have to feed our
families," said Joseph Phiri, another worker.
Supreme Furnishers is the third South African franchise to close down
after the expiry of its tax grace period. Smart Centre, a clothing
company, turned into another company, Duns, and then closed last year.
Food chains Quick Save and Pie City also closed down two years ago. All
eyes are on Shoprite, a huge department store, whose management changed
hands, but after huge protests, the new administration was forced to
keep on all the workers.
Ng'uni said the closure of South African businesses in Zambia was a
consequence of post-privatisation challenges that needed urgent
solutions. He said the decision to privatise and open Zambia's markets
were a good idea but "perhaps we were too gullible, desperate or maybe
somebody was profiteering from the exercise, but its handling has been a
Barnetts manager Andrew Chella said the government should not start
looking for excuses because it had been folding its arms while Supreme
Furnishers began closing its shops countrywide last month.
"This company has been running without a board of directors. We have
done everything by the law but they have issued instructions from South
Africa and we are now thrown on the streets. This is arrogance," he
So incensed have the workers been that they marched to former Zambian
president Kenneth Kaunda's house and presented him with a petition in
the hope that he could intervene on their behalf as a world-famous
statesman. The workers begged Kaunda to lobby support on their behalf
with the international community.
Kaunda said it was criminal for the investor to abandon its workers in
that manner. He advised the workers to approach the Zambian government
through the minister of labour and foreign affairs because the matter
needed the intervention of the South African government.
He also advised President Levi Mwanawasa to speak with his South
African counterpart, President Thabo Mbeki, over the issue.
South African high commissioner to Zambia Reddy Mampane said his office
had formed a business association to monitor the activities of South
African-based investors in Zambia, because he too was not happy that
investors fled when their tax rebate period expired.
Supreme Furnishers lawyers Corpus Globe argue that the firm was heavily
indebted and refused to comment further.
When the Zambian government began privatising and opening up the
country for investment in 1993, it offered, as an incentive, a tax-free
grace period of five years.
Franchises such as Shoprite, Game, Woolworths and Peps and other food
chains flooded the country. After the initial grace period was over,
some of the companies either closed down completely or were sold to
other investors who were due for another five-year grace period.
Opposition parties have always warned that there was not enough in the
investment act to guarantee workers' rights or an exit clause that would
safeguard the interests of the country.
Commerce Minister Dipak Patel says the government needs to rethink its
investment policy and make it more Zambia-friendly.
"Our hands are tied because we appeared to have set ourselves up for a
fall. We have to scrutinise this policy again," said Patel. -- IPS
Used pants ban in Tanzania
The Tanzanian government has banned the importing of second-hand
An official from the Tanzanian Bureau of Standards (TSB) said they were
acting because of the possibility of users developing skin diseases.
"Standards are demand driven......there is a demand and that's why we
should come up with standards for these garments," the director of the
TSB, Daimon Mwakyembe told the BBC.
But market traders have expressed their unhappiness at the decision,
saying there is no proof that imported clothes posed any risk.
One Tanzanian trader in Dar es Salaam told the BBC that although
imported pants, bras and socks are often in a bad state when traders
receive them, they advise their customers to observe certain rules
before wearing the garments.
"The underwear would usually be in a poor state....the exporters tell
us that the garments have been disinfected but we normally advise our
customers to wash them in hot water before wearing them," said Ibrahim
Another trader said that the TBS would do better investigating
sub-standard food imports.
"Tell TBS this is not food. They should concentrate on checking upon
foodstuff imports many of which are expired or sub-standard or unfit for
human consumption," said stall holder Saidi Abdallah Umbe.
Many Tanzanians wear second hand clothes because they are relatively
One seller of second hand clothes - known as mitumba - said he believed
the decision was due to pressure from struggling textile manufacturers,
while another said the choice to wear new or used underwear depended on
one's social status.
"It is not right to ban these garments because we all belong to
different social classes... Used underwear is all that the poor people
can afford," said the trader who wished to remain anonymous.
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