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  • Christine Chumbler
    Cautious Optimism As Donors Re-Open Aid Taps for Malawi African Church Information Service November 24, 2003 Posted to the web November 24, 2003 Hamilton
    Message 1 of 1046 , Nov 25 6:16 AM
      Cautious Optimism As Donors Re-Open Aid Taps for Malawi

      African Church Information Service

      November 24, 2003
      Posted to the web November 24, 2003

      Hamilton Vokhiwa
      Blantyre

      Major Western donors have announced the re-opening of budgetary support
      taps for Malawi, but warned that the support was coming with strict
      conditions.

      The donors, who comprise Britain, Norway, Sweden and the European
      Union, announced the resumption of the budgetary support under the
      Common Approach to Budget Support (CABS).

      This follows a decision by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to
      release part of a US$ 47 billion budgetary support, which it suspended
      in 2001 after accusing the government of having an appetite to
      overspend.

      Accordingly, the four donors have said that the new pledge will require
      a strong and sustainable political commitment to fiscal discipline on
      the part of the Malawi government.

      This comes barely seven months before general elections, which are
      scheduled for May next year.

      Meanwhile, top officials of the Ministry of Finance have stressed that
      the resumption of financial aid by the IMF did not mean extra budget
      allocations to ministries, and cautioned Malawians not to get excited
      that their purchasing power will suddenly rise.

      Briefing the press at the Central Office of Information (COI) in
      Blantyre, finance minister, Friday Jumbe, said the resumption of the IMF
      economic programme to the country simply means enough resources for
      specific sectors.

      Jumbe said he had been receiving reports from other stakeholders in the
      country that the IMF programme meant extra money to spend on certain
      ministries.

      He pointed out that this would be a crucial time for the country to
      maintain fiscal discipline and not to borrow more money on the domestic
      market, to insure that the IMF does not withdraw the economic
      programme.

      The resumption of the IMF's budgetary support comes after agricultural
      experts in the country warned that the country was likely to have low
      yields of tobacco next year. Tobacco is the country's major foreign
      exchange earner.

      Already, the crop has been reeling under the impact of international
      anti-smoking campaigns.

      *****

      Police Give Up Hope of Finding Missing Woman Alive

      African Church Information Service

      November 24, 2003
      Posted to the web November 24, 2003

      Hamilton Vokhiwa
      Blantyre

      Malawi Police has declared that Linda Plonk, a Dutch woman who went
      mysteriously missing on Mount Mulanje's Sapitwa Peak in October this
      year, is dead.

      Plonk had climbed the mountain in the company of at least nine friends
      when she insisted on inching ahead to reach the forbidden Sapitwa Peak.

      She never returned after that.

      Police public relations office said Plonk has been declared dead after
      efforts of finding her proved futile.

      The Dutch government sent out a search team that comprised expert
      mountain climbers, to join the police, forestry officials and the army,
      in the search for Plonk but in vain.

      However, according to the Director of Public Prosecution, Fahad Assan,
      Plonk could only be declared dead after seven years of her
      disappearance.

      *****

      Zimbabwean Clergy Hold Talks With Muluzi Over Crisis

      African Church Information Service

      November 24, 2003
      Posted to the web November 24, 2003

      Hobbs Gama
      Lilongwe

      A delegation of Zimbabwean Bishops last week met Malawi's President,
      Bakili Muluzi, to pursue efforts aimed at bringing President Robert
      Mugabe of Zimbabwe and the main opposition party, Movement for
      Democratic Change (MDC), to a roundtable discussion.

      Muluzi is among three African Heads of State entrusted by the regional
      Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) to close the widening rift
      between MDC's leader, Morgan Tsvangirayi, and Mugabe.

      Tsvangirai is contesting Mugabe's re-election in March 2002, claiming
      the vote was rigged and plagued with irregularities. He has refused to
      recognise Mugabe as president of Zimbabwe.

      Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria and Thabo Mbeki of South Africa
      are the other mediators in the Zimbabwe affair.

      The team of clergymen, who met Muluzi on November 17 during a one day
      visit in Lilongwe, the country's capital, comprised Bishop Sebastian
      Bakare of the Anglican Church, Patrick Mutume of the Roman Catholic
      Church, and Bishop Trevor Mahnanga of the Evangelical Church of
      Zimbabwe.

      "We thank African leaders for participating in peace talks to bring
      lasting peace to Zimbabwe, but we feel it is important that they speed
      up resumption of negotiations so that tension is eased," said Bakare.

      The Zimbabwean clergy said their mission was to brief Muluzi on the
      ongoing political and economic hardships in Zimbabwe, with the prime aim
      of restarting dialogue between the government and the opposition.

      The latest move follows an earlier campaign by churches in Zimbabwe to
      combat what they termed as excesses of the Mugabe regime.

      In September, about 109 pastors and laity from 59 Christian
      denominations, supported by representatives of the ecumenical fraternity
      in Southern Africa, issued a communiqué condemning persistent harassment
      of the media, intimidation of political opponents, and gross
      infringement on the rights of the citizens.

      "While we acknowledge the historical imbalances in land distribution,
      we disapprove of the irresponsible, inhuman, violent, partisan, and
      non-transparent methods the government is using to re-distribute the
      land," stated part of the hard-hitting statement.


      *****

      Arrests over anti-Mugabe e-mails

      Fourteen people have been arrested in Zimbabwe for circulating an
      e-mail calling for protests to oust President Robert Mugabe, state media
      reports.
      The government-controlled Herald newspaper says the e-mail urged people
      to take part in marches on Monday.

      It is not clear how the police found the e-mail but the state security
      services have been trying to acquire high-tech snooping devices.

      The 14 have all been released on bail, the paper reports.

      The e-mail allegedly called on people to take part in "violent
      demonstrations and strikes to push Robert Mugabe out of office".

      It complained, among other issues, of hyper-inflation, high income tax,
      unemployment, shortages of goods and services, and "propaganda on the
      radio, TV and newspapers".

      Cyber censorship

      Since the closure of the only non-state-owned daily newspaper in
      September, it has been difficult for opposition groups to spread their
      message as the government controls all radio and television stations.

      Among those Zimbabweans rich enough to have access to computers, this
      has left e-mails as one way to carry on political activity.


      The government has closed the only non-state daily newspaper
      A senior official from a Zimbabwean internet service provider (ISP)
      told BBC News Online that he did not believe the security services had
      obtained the cyber-monitoring equipment they have been seeking.

      He said the e-mail had probably been forwarded to someone who had sent
      it to the authorities.

      But he also said that it would be easy for an ISP to monitor any
      e-mails it sent and state-owned companies might be coming under pressure
      to help the government track down opposition activity in cyberspace.

      Some 90 people were arrested on Tuesday for taking part in a
      union-organised march against the worsening economic situation and
      alleged state harassment.




      Reprieve for trade unionists

      A strike called to protest at the arrests failed to take hold on
      Thursday and Friday and unions said one reason was the "news blackout".

      As the economic and political situations have worsened, the government
      has passed a series of tough laws to clamp down on protests.

      President Robert Mugabe's opponents accuse him of economic
      mismanagement, and blame the country's woes partly on the seizures of
      white-owned farms.

      Mr Mugabe says his land reforms are designed to redress an injustice of
      British colonial rule, and accuses opponents at home and abroad of
      sabotaging the economy.

      *****

      Commonwealth summit shuns Mugabe


      Mr Mugabe's attendance would see boycotts by other nations
      Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has not been invited to the
      Commonwealth summit meeting, to be held in Nigeria.
      "He will not have an invitation," said Nigerian President Olusegun
      Obasanjo, who hosts the summit next month.

      Zimbabwe was suspended from the group of 52 mainly former British
      colonies after charges that Mr Mugabe rigged his re-election last year.


      Britain and Australia said Mr Mugabe should not be invited, but the
      hosts had the final say.


      Mr Mugabe had said he expected to attend, raising the threat of a
      boycott by Britain's Queen Elizabeth and by prime ministers of Britain,
      Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Pacific nations.

      "If there is no invitation they [Zimbabwe] will not come," Mr Obasanjo
      told journalists at a briefing at his residence near Lagos.

      The summit runs from 5-8 December in Abuja, Nigeria's capital.
    • Christine Chumbler
      ADB firm on Karonga-Chitipa road contract by Zainah Liwanda, 22 May 2006 - 06:09:17 The African Development Bank (ADB) has again rejected a proposal by
      Message 1046 of 1046 , May 22, 2006

        ADB firm on Karonga-Chitipa road contract

        by Zainah Liwanda, 22 May 2006 - 06:09:17

        The African Development Bank (ADB) has again rejected a proposal by government to look for another contractor instead of China Hunan Construction to construct of the long awaited Karonga/Chitipa road.

        China Hunan from Mainland China won the bid which was approved by the ADB but government later wanted to award the contract to a Portuguese firm, Mota Engil, the second lowest bidder, claiming China Hunan's bid was unrealistically low and that the company had very little experience in Africa.

        Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe confirmed on Sunday the ADB rejected the proposal at a meeting held between the bank and Malawi government in Tunisia last week.

        The Malawi government wanted the Tunisia meeting to authorise it to get another contractor for the road, said Gondwe.

        "They did not allow us to look for another contractor because of their regulations. But we are about to get another alternative for Karonga/Chitipa and I would be surprised if it does not start before end June," said Gondwe.

        The minister explained that the bank insisted that regardless of the unrealistic cost estimates, China Hunan should be allowed to go ahead with the construction.

        But Gondwe could not give further details about the alternatives, arguing there are still a few loose ends to tighten up before disclosing it.

        The problem with China Hunan, according to Gondwe, is that it would require more money to meet the total cost of the project.

        This paper reported last week that government met Taiwanese representatives where they offered to fund the road if the ADB continued to reject its favoured contractor, Mota Engil.

        Gondwe could neither confirm nor deny the reports on the Taiwanese offer, saying government was looking at a number of ways to handle the issue.

        According to Gondwe, the China Hunan's bid was 24 percent lower than the consulting engineers' estimates of K7.9 billion and 34 percent below the second lowest bidder.

        President Bingu wa Mutharika laid a foundation stone for the construction of the road this year ahead of a crucial byelection in Chitipa in December last year.

        The President's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) won the Chitipa Wenya constituency by-election that fell vacant following the collapse and subsequent death of Speaker of Parliament Rodwell Munyenyembe who belonged to the UDF.

        Last week, police and the District Commissioner (DC) for Chitipa stopped a rally that was aimed at soliciting people's views about development projects in the district.

        The meeting, which was reportedly organised by Concerned Citizens of Chitipa, was among other things also supposed to tackle the controversial Karonga/Chitipa road.

        The project failed to start off in 2000 when a contract for an initial loan of US$17 million and US$15 million from the Taiwanese government was signed, with some quarters claiming the Bakili Muluzi administration diverted the money to another road.

        *****

        Chihana operated on

        by Edwin Nyirongo, 22 May 2006 - 06:32:31

        Alliance for Democracy (Aford) president Chakufwa Chihana, who is in South Africa receiving treatment, had a brain operation on Friday at Garden City Clinic, family and party officials confirmed on Sunday.

        Aford national chairman Chipimpha Mughogho said he was told by the family members that Chihana had a successful operation on Friday and was put in an intensive care unit.

        Mughogho said Chihana, who initially complained of headache, was found with a brain tumour which South African doctors removed.

        Mzimba West MP Loveness Gondwe said Aford boss condition was stable.

        "Hon. Chihana had a major operation and after that he was put in the intensive care unit but his condition is stable. I do not know where he was operated on but it had something to do with the skull," she said.

        Deputy Information Minister John Bande referred the matter to the Health Minister Hetherwick Ntaba who was reported to be in Geneva, Switzerland.

        Aford publicity secretary Norman Nyirenda said when Chihana's situation got worse, the family alerted the Office of the President and Cabinet who took him to Mwaiwathu Private Hospital.

        "The doctors at Mwaiwathu advised that he should be sent to South Africa and they even identified the doctor for him," he said.

        He said the costs are being met by the Malawi government, contradicting his earlier statement that his boss covered the cost.

        Mughogho is now in charge of the party.

        Gondwe will be a busy person when Parliament starts meeting on June 6 as she is the only Aford MP remaining.

        *****

        Pillane proposes presidential age limit

        by Emmanuel Muwamba , 22 May 2006 - 06:34:13

        A member of the DPP National Governing Council Abdul Pillane on Saturday urged members of political parties and the civil society to put an upper age limit in the Constitution for presidential candidates.

        Pillane was addressing members of political parties and civil society in Liwonde during a two-day follow up workshop to the National Conference on the Review of Constitution held in March in Lilongwe.

        "My view is that (an upper) age limit should be at 75. We have to give a chance to younger people to lead because in circumstance, when you age you become forgetful especially when sickly," said Pillane. "Overall, chances should be given to young people."

        But UDF secretary general Kennedy Makwangwala, whose party members agitated for the age limit during presentations, played the issue down.

        "I feel there is no logic to have an upper age limit for presidential candidates. If someone is 90 or 80 I don't know how that can influence the electorate not to vote for someone who is younger, I don't see any logic behind that," said Makwangwala.

        MCP participants at the workshop also vehemently objected to the proposal.

        MCP vice president Nicholas Dausi in an interview said: "There is no constitution in Africa which stipulates an upper age limit. So it would be strange in Malawi to have an upper age limit for presidential candidates."

        MDP President Kamlepo Kalua also opposed the need to have an upper age limit.

        "If we have personalities in mind that we want to discriminate against then it is unfortunate. The constitution we want to build is a guiding document for future generations and it should not bar certain individuals on the basis of grudges," he said.

        The Malawi Law Constitution Issues Paper of March 2006 says several submissions that were received put an upper presidential age limit in the Constitution.

        "It is argued that it is common sense that mental knowledge faculties tend to fail with age. As regards what the actual age limit should be the submissions are far from being agreed. The range is from 60 years to 80 years," read submissions in the Issues Paper.

        On whether MPs should double as ministers, Kalua said this should be the case.

        Makwangwala also said it is not right for MPs to serve as ministers because the Legislature, another arm of government, is reduced while the Executive branch is beefed up from another arm of government.

        "There is no separation of powers when MPs double as ministers," said Makwangwala.

        But Pillane said there is no problem for MPs to work as ministers as well, saying MPs are elected by the President.

        "One can serve both posts. There have been no problems before for people to double," said Pillane.

        The Centre for Multiparty Democracy funded the workshop through the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy.

        The objective was to come up with a collective position on the Issues Paper which will be presented to the Special Law Commission that will be constituted soon.

        *****

        Mussa hails new driving licence

        by Zainah Liwanda, 22 May 2006 - 06:58:52

        Transport and Public Works Minister Henry Mussa last week said the design of the Malawi-Sadc driving licence would guard against forgery and ensure that only skilled and legitimate drivers of particular vehicles are licensed.

        Mussa was speaking at the official launch of the licences in Lilongwe where he announced that traffic police would from July enforce speed limits and sober driving using Breathalysers which his ministry is in the process of procuring.

        The minister said financial constraints are the reason for the delay in procuring the equipment but assured that by July they would be available.

        "With the new equipment, the days of those who believe in the thrill of drink and driving are numbered," warned Mussa.

        Mussa added that with the new licence, government is optimistic that the country's roads would be safe.

        Acting Director of Road Traffic James Chirwa said the features that distinguish the new from the old licences are the Malawi national flag and a ghost image of the driver's photograph, among others.

        Those with old licences, according to Chirwa, are expected to get the new ones after the expiry of the former.

        *****

        UDF demands investigation on Kasambara

        by Rabecca Theu, 22 May 2006 - 06:30:46

        The United Democratic Front (UDF) has asked government to investigate Ralph Kasambara on allegations of abuse of office while he was attorney general.

        UDF publicity secretary Sam Mpasu told the press Sunday that the party is neither amused or saddened by the removal of the former AG but asked government to institute investigations on Kasambara.

        "Beyond the removal of the Attorney General, we now urge President Mutharika to institute investigation against Mr Kasambara into allegations that have made rounds in the public domain during the recent past. These include: Mrs Helen Singh and SS Rent-a-Car; SGS and ITS saga; ...........the use of Malawi Police Service in the arrest of three Chronicle journalists and the handling of Mrs Rubina Kawonga," said Mpasu.

        Mpasu also accused Kasambara of awarding government contracts to Lawson and Company where he was a senior partner.

        "We urge government to thoroughly investigate the former AG. We also ask government to cautiously select the new AG ," said Mpasu, who was accompanied by the party's Secretary General Kennedy Makwangwala, leader of the party in Parliament George Mtafu, chief whip Leonard Mangulama and a member of the executive Hophmally Makande.

        But Minister of Information Patricia Kaliati said UDF should give offer its advice to the Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB).

        "They should advise bodies like the Anti-Corruption Bureau to conduct the investigations and why are they saying this now? Is it because Kasambara has been fired? This is not a personal issue. If they have other pressing issues they should just say so. These arguments should have come up earlier on when the said cases were happening," she said.

        Kasambara asked UDF to proceed with the mission of urging government to investigate him.

        "They can do their job. Everyone has a right to lobby for anything they want in the country. UDF has a right to do that, let them go ahead," he said.

        Kasambara was relieved of his duties as AG by the President last week. Government has not given reasons behind the removal.

        *****

        Zambia: Malawians Grab Zambian Land

        The Times of Zambia (Ndola)

        May 18, 2006

        Posted to the web May 19, 2006

        Andrew Lungu

         

        MALAWIANS who have encroached on both the 'no-man's' and part of the Zambian land at the Mwami border in Eastern Province have plucked out some beacons that were used in the demarcation of the border.

        The Malawians are now using the beacons as stools in their newly-established villages on Zambian land.

        Eastern Province Minister, Boniface Nkhata, said in Chipata yesterday that if the situation was not controlled urgently, Zambia would lose huge tracts of land to Malawians migrating into Zambian in large numbers.

        A check at the Zambia-Malawi border showed a number of beacons had been vandalised and new structures constructed on the 'no man's' land and a large portion of Zambian land.

        Mr Nkhata said the trend extended to many parts of the province bordering the two countries.

        "A large portion of Zambian land has been taken up by the Malawians starting from the Chama boundary up to the Mwami border.

        "The weighbridge at the Mwami border was initially in Zambia from the time both countries gained independence from Britain, but now the bridge is on Malawian soil," Mr Nkhata said.

        The minister, who is former Chama District Commissioner, said there was similar encroachment in Lundazi and Chama districts where Zambia shares a boundary with Malawi.

        He said a Malawian farmer identified as Mr Mfune had cultivated 71.5 hectares on Zambian land and employed about 265 Malawian workers.

        "Khombe Farm in Chama district in Kanyerere's area, along the Muyombe road which leads to Northern Province where this Malawian farmer has cultivated a vast land is on the Zambian territory," he said.

        Workers on the farm admitted that they were farming on Zambian soil but could not go back to Malawi because the land in that country was inadequate for cultivation.

        Mr Nkhata appealed to the ministry of Lands to urgently release money for the demarcation of the Zambia-Malawi border to avoid further land disputes between the two countries.

        Meanwhile, the Immigration Department in Livingstone has arrested a couple and another man, all Zimbabweans, for working in Zambia without permits.

        They were arrested at Gwembe village yesterday where they worked for Into Africa, a tour operating company that provides bush dinners and breakfast.

        According to the Immigration Department in Livingstone, the trio entered Zambia through the Victoria Falls border as visitors but decided to work for the company illegally.

        Last week, immigration officers arrested 10 Zimbabwean traders and six Ethiopians for entering and staying in Zambia illegally.

        The Zimbabwean traders were warned and cautioned and later released.

        The Ethiopians were arrested at Konje Guest House when they ran out of money to proceed to Botswana.

         

        *****

        Zim unions, MDC still plan anti-govt protests

        Harare, Zimbabwe

        22 May 2006 11:51

        Zimbabwe's biggest labour federation on Saturday threatened to call massive demonstrations against the government over poor salaries and worsening living conditions for workers in the country.

        The threats are ratcheting up pressure against President Robert Mugabe's government after similar threats by the biggest opposition party in the country, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), about two months ago.

        Speaking at the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) conference on Saturday, the labour body's president, Lovemore Matombo, said the powerful union wants the government to award workers salaries that match the country's ever-rising inflation.

        "I can assure you we will stage massive demonstrations to force them [employers] to award workers minimum salaries that tally with the poverty datum line," said Matombo.

        Matombo did not say when exactly the ZCTU would order workers to strike.

        Opposition protests

        Meanwhile, the MDC on Sunday said it will push ahead with plans for anti-government protests, saying victory in a key by-election at the weekend was a "sign the electorate supported its policies", including democratic mass resistance.

        A spokesperson of the main faction of the splintered MDC, Nelson Chamisa, said victory over Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF and a rival MDC faction in a Saturday by-election in Harare's Budiriro constituency is a sign Zimbabweans still have confidence in party leader Morgan Tsvangirai and his policies.

        Tsvangirai, the founding leader of the MDC, heads the main rump of the opposition party whose candidate, Emmanuel Chisvuure, polled 7 949 votes to win the Budiriro House of Assembly seat.

        Gabriel Chaibva of the other faction of the MDC, led by prominent academic Arthur Mutambara, garnered 504 votes while Zanu-PF's Jeremiah Bvirindi polled 3 961 votes.

        "This election showed that the electorate still has confidence in the MDC [Tsvangirai-led] leadership and its policies," Chamisa told independent news service ZimOnline.

        He added: "We will now move to consolidate our position * we still believe in mass protests. Until we have attained our goals we see no reason why we should abandon [plans for protests]."

        Tsvangirai has threatened to call mass protests this winter against Mugabe and his government. He says the mass protests, whose date he is still to name, are meant to force Mugabe to relinquish power to a government of national unity to be tasked to write a new and democratic Constitution that would ensure free and fair elections held under international supervision.

        Mugabe and his government, who had hoped for victory in Budiriro to show they were recapturing urban support from a splintered MDC, have not taken idly the opposition's threats to call mass protests, with the veteran president warning Tsvangirai he would be "dicing with death" if he ever attempted to instigate a Ukraine-style popular revolt in Zimbabwe.

        Crackdown

        In a fresh crackdown against dissension, the police last week arrested several church and civic leaders for organising public prayers and marches to mark last year's controversial home-demolition exercise by the government.

        The police also banned the marches and prayers, fearing they could easily turn into mass protests against Mugabe and his government.

        However, the marches went ahead in the second-largest city of Bulawayo after organisers had obtained a court order barring the police from stopping the march.

        Political analysts say although Zimbabweans have largely been cowed by Mugabe's tactics of routinely deploying riot police and the military to crush street protests, worsening hunger and poverty are fanning public anger that Tsvangirai -- with proper planning and organisation -- could easily manipulate.

        Zimbabwe is in the grip of a severe six-year old economic crisis that has seen inflation breaching the 1 000% barrier. Last year, the World Bank said Zimbabwe's economic crisis was unprecedented for a country not at war.

        The MDC and major Western governments blame Mugabe for wrecking the country's economy, which was one of the strongest in Africa at independence from Britain 26 years ago.

        Mugabe denies the charge blaming the crisis on sabotage by Britain and her allies after he seized white-owned farms for redistribution to landless blacks six years ago.

        The Harare authorities recently hiked salaries for civil servants, with the lowest-paid soldier now earning about Z$27-million while the lowest-paid school teacher now takes home about Z$33-million.

        But the salaries are still way below the poverty datum line, which the government's Consumer Council of Zimbabwe says now stands at a staggering Z$42-million a month for an average family of six.

        The Zimbabwe government often accuses the ZCTU, a strong ally of the MDC, of pushing a political agenda to remove Mugabe from power.

        Meanwhile, Matombo and Lucia Matibenga retained their posts as president and first vice-president respectively during the ZCTU congress that ended on Saturday. -- ZimOnline

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