- Bridging Govt And Civil Society Divide
UN Integrated Regional Information Networks
October 21, 2003
Posted to the web October 21, 2003
Moves are underway to enhance interaction between Malawi's parliament
and civil society to increase the flow of information to the
The Blantyre-based Institute for Policy Interaction (IPI) embarked on a
series of regional workshops with MPs, NGOs and the media, culminating
in a national workshop held from 15 to 17 October.
"The purpose of the national workshop was to deliberate on the feedback
emanating from the regional workshops, and translate it into a feasible
action plan that would be implemented by elected teams, with fixed
deadlines to achieve their objectives, which were all aimed towards
enhancing links and accessibility between parliament and civil society,"
the IPI said in a statement.
Teams are now being formed to translate "into concrete action" the
concept of building bridges between government, civil society and the
Areas to be immediately addressed include capacity building for MPs, to
enable them to understand subjects that are highly technical, thus
enhancing their ability to contribute more constructively in
parliamentary debates. Civil society's comprehension of parliamentary
procedures was also identified as an area that needed improvement.
The teams would also work on improving "channels of communication, for
better flow of information from parliament to the electorate, i.e.,
better distribution of Hansard [parliamentary records] and fact sheets
at grassroots levels".
A permanent civil society office is to be established in the parliament
buildings in Lilongwe. "The office would be manned by a parliament
liaison or publicity officer," the IPI added.
Crucial to the success of the initiative was revitalising the formal
relationship with the media, through the media committee in parliament,
so that they would be encouraged to participate in the committee.
The introduction of legislation in areas of specific interest through
private member's bills also needed to be encouraged, the national
Malawians will go to the polls in May next year to choose a new
president and parliament.
IMF admits it is failing Africa
By Martin Plaut
BBC Africa analyst
Countries cannot raise enough revenue for spending
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has admitted that one of its key
African initiatives is in trouble.
In a working paper published in Washington, two of the IMF's
researchers show that its programme to relieve some of Africa's poorest
countries of their debt burden may not produce a sustainable economic
The IMF's initiative for Heavily Indebted Poor Countries was launched
Its aim was simple: to cut the mountain of debts that countries had run
up, reducing them to more manageable levels.
At the same time, the programme encouraged states to increase their
spending on the poor - on badly needed policies aimed at building
schools and paying teachers.
This study looks at the performance of 12 African countries - all of
which were heavily indebted before the programme got under way.
These include Mozambique, Tanzania, Ghana and Cameroon - countries
chosen to represent a variety of economic conditions.
IMF and World Bank
The problem highlighted by the study is that half the countries sampled
are estimated to be unable to raise enough revenue to pay for the
spending programmes the IMF is calling for.
"As countries made progress in macroeconomic stabilisation they are now
'allowed' to increase their expenditure to address poverty reduction
needs," says the report by Annalisa Fedelino and Alina Kudina.
It gives Tanzania as an example. The country is projected to increase
its expenditure level by more than 4% of GDP, to above 22% of Gross
Domestic Product (GDP), in 2002/3 relative to the previous fiscal year.
"However, based on our framework, this may result in the country's
swinging back into unsustainable debt levels," the report continues.
"Unless HIPCs improve their primary fiscal positions or grant financing
is sustained at current, or possibly higher, levels, debt sustainability
in HIPCs may prove elusive in the long term," it says.
The authors warn that the countries concerned are likely to move back
into unsustainable levels of debt.
Only raising taxes or getting more foreign aid will allow Africa's
poorest nations to escape this fate.
Retrenched Farm Workers Sink to Destitution
Zimbabwe Standard (Harare)
October 20, 2003
Posted to the web October 20, 2003
SEVEN kilometres south of Kadoma town, a small farmhouse stands
surrounded by a fence topped with razor wire. Signs on the fence warn
against trespassing. The fields around the house have not been ploughed
in over a year and there is no sign of any preparations for the coming
Some distance south of the farmhouse, few cement buildings are
clustered around several thatched huts. Children in torn and dirty
clothes play in the red dust, oblivious of the insects and parasites
that have infected their scalps and faces. Many of the children have
distended stomachs, symptons of their malnutrition.
A group of women watches the children from the door of a cement hut
that was built years ago to house them. A large '12' is painted on the
door to identify it from the other worn down buildings.
An old man sits in a chair a few buildings away, lost in his own world.
He offers a toothless smile and shakes hands before returning to
wherever it is he goes. A young man sits near him, his face in his
hands. There are 20 families living here, consisting of just over 100
people, including 50 children.
As one aid worker explains, these are the silent voices of Zimbabwe;
while the farm owners fled with what little they could carry as war
veterans and "Green Bombers" seized their properties, the farm workers
were forced to stay behind and watch it all fall apart.
The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) released a report in July in which
it estimated as many as 240 000 farm workers had lost their jobs, 100
000 people had been forced from their homes and more than one million
people - including the workers' families - had been directly affected by
the land reform process.
This particular farm was one of the 2 900 designated on August 10 last
year. According to Senzeni Sibanda, before the resettlement, life was
good for the farm workers.
"We were living quite peacefully," she explains. "We were happy, we had
Children were attending school, the people were well fed and were even
making money to spend on themselves. As Sibanda talks, the children
gather around and rip a loaf of bread apart, eating it ravenously. The
women stand and watch; they probably won't eat today.
The farm workers only learned of the resettlement when the former farm
owner called them to the farmhouse and asked them to pack his
belongings. That was the last they saw of him but they didn't have to
wait long for the new settler.
"Just soon after the farm was taken over we were told we were
unemployed," Sibanda says.
With their only source of income lost, the people were forced to fend
With the help of the Zimbabwe Community Development Trust (ZCDT), the
community has managed to start a small garden where they grow various
vegetables to sell at the market down the road. But even that hasn't
"We cannot get anything," Sibanda says. "We can't even pay school fees,
medication, or anything. We are like people in a coma; we can't see our
According to a report from the Farm Community Trust of Zimbabwe (FCTZ),
only about 100 000 commercial farm workers were still employed at the
end of last year on the 20 per cent of farms that were still
operational. The rest have had to fend for themselves. To make ends
meet, some have turned to doing odd jobs at nearby farms, panning for
gold under railway tracks and prostitution.
In Sibanda's community, 12 people have died from disease - the
prevalence of HIV/AIDS is presumed to be high - malnutrition and
dehydration over the past seven months and that number is expected to
rise as the situation continues to deteriorate.
"We just need food and medication," says Sharai Bava, whose husband was
a farm worker. She indicates the head of one of her daughters, which is
covered in scabs and flies.
Bava says there have been rumours the new settler will chase the former
farm workers off his farm.
"We are just like animals; we are rejected, we can't eat good food, we
can't have anything."
North of the farmhouse is another group of huts and cement buildings.
Where the southern compound was brown and white from the buildings, red
from the dust and green from the vegetable garden, the northern compound
is just brown and red.
Last year the compound's electric water pump broke down and the former
farm owner took it to get a replacement but didn't have a chance to
replace it before being evicted.
Now the people in the northern compound are forced to walk across the
nearby highway to fetch water.
There is no garden to make money, no water to bathe or wash. There are
only a few scrawny chickens and many mouths to feed.
"We only survive because you are giving us something," 81-year-old
Stone Banda says to one ZCDT aid worker.
The organisation delivers care packages of food and soap to the
compound every month. Banda, who moved to the farm to work in 1978, says
the lack of water is killing the community.
"We have no future unless we get water. We are like refugees because we
don't have anything," Banda says.
While life has been hard for these ex-farm workers, they have not been
spared from the political violence. At the height of the land reforms,
war veterans and the youth militia accused many farm workers of
supporting the white farm owners and the opposition Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC).
The United Nations estimated at the end of last year that more than 100
000 former farm workers had been chased from their homes.
In addition, dozens of ex-farm workers have been killed and thousands
others forced to move due to the violence.
Ex-farm workers have been the centre of the many humanitarian efforts
in the country as dozens of non-government organisations have scrambled
to provide emergency food aid while others have offered training in
alternative ways to generate income.
But thousands of former farm workers are in places that NGOs are banned
or find difficult to reach so they must try to survive on their own.
"There are quite a number of challenges," says Didimas Munhenzva,
acting director of ZCDT, citing fuel and resource shortages as well as
ongoing political violence as some of the reasons the NGO hasn't been
able to do more.
"People are just waiting for tomorrow and are trying to make it through
today," says Munhenzva.
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