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    Parliamentary Committee Raises Concern About Political Interference in Public Appointments The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe) December 8, 2003 Posted to the
    Message 1 of 1046 , Dec 9, 2003
      Parliamentary Committee Raises Concern About Political Interference in
      Public Appointments

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      December 8, 2003
      Posted to the web December 8, 2003

      Wezie Nyirongo
      Lilongwe

      The government has once again been taken to book by the Parliamentary
      Public Accounts Committee (PAC) following consistent anomalies in
      government departments and ministries where, the committee observed huge
      amounts of overheads and unauthorised expenditures attributed to the
      recruitment of untrained and incompetent accounting personnel who fail
      to allocate and post expenditures to appropriate authorities when making
      payments.

      It has been noted by PAC that there is a lot of political manipulations
      in the appointment of senior civil servants, especially principal
      secretaries which results in unqualified persons being promoted.
      According to the Public Accounts Committee report presented in
      parliament recently, most cases of such unqualified persons show that
      the sectors have not performed well, as a result.

      PAC chair, Peter Chiwona said it is very sad that a great amount of
      monies are misappropriated and misallocated due to the people, who are
      put into positions have little or inappropriate qualifications.

      The concern comes at a time when government has lost over K16 million
      in the ministries and departments and the controlling officers are
      failing to account for the money.

      The report indicates that, after a meeting between members of the
      committee and senior government officials from different ministries,
      including the Secretary to the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC)
      Alfred Upindi, the members observed that there is also low levels of
      discipline and committment to government work by public servants.

      On appointments, the report says: 'The Secretary to the Office of the
      President and Cabinet (SPC) informed the committee that quite often such
      persons who are underqualified have not performed their duties well and
      in a number of cases, their services have had to be terminated
      prematurely.' The committee further noted with concern the general
      decline in discipline and hardworking spirit by public servants and
      observed that there is 'generally low morale, inefficiency, lack of
      supervision and laxity by a majority of the public servants' in carrying
      out their duties resulting in low productivity in government.

      Public servants report for duties and knock off early and even some
      public servants report for duties while drunk. An example was given by
      the SPC of a senior civil servant who had failed to escort a foreign
      dignitary for an audience with the president due to drunkenness.

      It is also mentioned that there is abuse of government property like
      vehicles and telephones because the civil servants have the mentality
      of; 'it doesn't matter because it is government property'. One of the
      factors noted to have contributed to this poor state of affairs has been
      that the civil servants feel liberated under the new dispensation,
      unlike under the one party state during which they worked under strict
      guidelines.

      Another serious matter raised in the report is that in most cases
      junior staff have threatened to report matters to politicians if they
      are disciplined and threaten their immediate bosses by labelling them
      supporters of a certain opposition party and 'saboteurs of government's
      development efforts'.

      The politics of patronage existing under the UDF has left a competent
      and effective public service that existed in 1994 largely inefficient
      and bereft of any meaningful national agenda of sustainable development
      for the country.

      *****

      Wrangle Over Seats Rages On

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      December 8, 2003
      Posted to the web December 8, 2003

      Wezie Nyirongo
      Lilongwe

      The long time wrangle in the United Democratic Front (UDF) between
      incumbent parliamentarians and aspiring candidates over parliamentary
      seats still rages on and The Chronicle has established an increased rate
      of conflict in most constituencies where the sitting Member of
      Parliament is not delivering to the peoples' satisfaction. Disaffection
      has generally emerged giving aspirant MPs ample opportunity to contest
      on the same UDF ticket.

      Despite the call made by the party's secretary general, Kennedy
      Makwangwala recently that aspiring MPs should not even campaign because
      the party only recognises and would like to maintain the incumbent
      members of parliament, the campaigning and the more heated conflicts
      refuse to fade out. The aspiring MPs have consequently accused the
      secretary general of issuing threats when he declared that they risk
      being beaten up, saying the move is undemocratic considering that most
      MPs in several areas have not delivered and people are opting for new
      faces and for change.

      Notable constituencies where such conflicts occur are Lilongwe City
      Centre constituency where the incumbent MP is the Minister responsible
      for HIV and AIDS, Mary Kaphwereza Banda whose position is being
      threatened by a prominent businessman, Shabir Gaffar. Gaffar is also
      standing on the UDF ticket and has, as a show of his resolve to better
      the area in dispute - renovated the Dzenza Secondary School and
      undertaken several development projects in the area. This has led to
      quarrels between the two and recently, when Muluzi, addressing a rally
      in the constituency lashed out at Gaffar for campaigning against the
      lady MP intimating that his (Muluzi's) agenda is to promote women and
      not discourage them from playing an active role in politics.

      Lilongwe City South constituency MP Iqbal Omar is also facing a Mr.
      Hamdani who is also vying for the parliamentary seat on a UDF ticket.
      Additionally, Justin Mokowa MP for Phalombe North is competing with the
      Blantyre City deputy mayor Anna Kachikho.

      Others are Chikwawa west MP Moses Dossi who is also at loggerheads with
      former Football Association of Malawi (FAM) president John Zingale over
      his parliamentary seat. Lands and Valuation minister Thengo Maloya is
      also reported to be facing President Muluzi's son Atupele Muluzi for
      Machinga North East constituency.

      UDF's director of Agriculture Ben Dzowela is also aspiring to stand in
      Ntchisi South where another aspirant Sylvester Gadi also wants to stand
      on the UDF ticket. In Balaka, the well known musician Lucius Banda has
      also expressed interest to stand on a UDF ticket for Balaka South
      constituency, the incumbent member of parliament is Thomas Mnesa.

      Former Education deputy minister Sam Kaphuka will be competing with
      Bertha Masiku, both on a UDF ticket. A Lilongwe based businessman, Jones
      Chingola is also the UDF aspiring candidate for Ntcheu central, the seat
      currently held by Former Speaker of Parliament, now Commerce and
      Industry Minister, Sam Mpasu.

      And another Lilongwe based prominent businessman, Charles Daudi,
      husband to a Lilongwe Assembly Councillor was also reported to be vying
      for a parliamentary seat against the deputy minister of Commerce and
      Industry Tarsizio Yetala for Dowa South East constituency. In 1999 he
      was sidelined by the party who asked him to step aside for Yetala. He is
      said to be willing to challenge the imposition of a candidate by party
      leaders.

      In a matter where brothers are challenging each other in a head to head
      contest, the Speaker of Parliament Davis Katsonga is under threat from
      his elder brother, Mark Katsonga who is standing on the Peoples'
      Progressive Movement (PPM) ticket.

      However it is reported that in some constituencies some Ministers are
      using their powers to de-campaign incumbent MPs in a move to put forward
      their own choice of candidate.

      UDF Secretary General Kennedy Makwangwala told The Chronicle that at
      the moment the party would not give protection to any UDF aspirant who
      wishes to stand where there is already a UDF MP. He said they are
      welcome to hold underground campaigns but not to the extent of holding
      public rallies because they are not yet entitled to do so. "We are not
      giving barriers to them to contest but they should give room to those
      who are already in the position until parliament is dissolved and
      primaries are conducted," said Makwangwala adding that unless they are
      elected during primaries they would not be supported by the party.

      He further said the party will only support them after the dissolution
      of parliament and only after the primaries are held.

      He however refuted allegations that some of the aspiring candidates are
      supported by president Muluzi saying: "How can the president support and
      sponsor an aspiring MP".

      These reports came amidst allegations from some aspiring candidates who
      claim that they are fully supported by Muluzi, the current party
      president and chairperson to oust the existing MP and follows the
      practice of the President continually imposing his own candidates on the
      party. Bingu wa Mutharika was personally chosen by Muluzi to replace him
      as president. This irked several high ranking UDF faithfuls who
      considered themselves potential aspirants including Aleke Banda and
      Harry Thomson who resigned as a result.

      They have both since joined the PPM and NDA respectively.

      In 1999 many sideline aspirants stood against the UDF candidate and won
      overwhelmingly after being prompted and urged by disgruntled
      constituents.

      The UDF finally absorbed them by offering them positions and
      enticements they could not refuse.

      *****

      Teenagers in HIV/Aids Times

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      December 8, 2003
      Posted to the web December 8, 2003

      Pushpa Jamieson
      Lilongwe

      "Sometimes I wonder if I am ever going to have enough courage to take
      the step to marry when I hear about AIDS and how many young people are
      becoming infected. How can I be sure that the person I want to live with
      forever is not infected already?" This is the reality that nineteen year
      old Treasa (not her real name) is faced with in the HIV/AIDS pandemic
      that Malawi is facing.

      She is a teenager who is at the age where, becoming involved with the
      opposite sex is natural and fulfilling but she is faced with choices she
      has to make that are in fact a matter of life and death for her.

      Treasa became involved with Alan who is twenty two years old (not his
      real name) early this year. Their relationship has become very serious
      and now she finds herself spending a lot of time with him. He often
      collects her from work, takes her to his house where they have a meal
      and spend the evening together. He then drops her off at her home after
      9 o'clock and sometimes even later.

      As they spend so much time together, Treasa admits that it is becoming
      more and more difficult to risist the temptation to have sex. "It is
      only the thought that I could become infected with HIV that stops me
      from having a sexual relationship with Alan," she says. 'I am not
      worried about becoming pregnant, I can take a contraceptive, but if I
      get HIV, I know that my life is finished," Treasa adds.

      Asked why she and Alan do not go for Voluntary Counselling and Testing
      (VCT) in order to find out their status, she answers: "I have wanted to
      ask Alan to go with me but I just do not want for him to think that I am
      forward. It will give him a bad impression of me".

      Alan says he has wanted to have a talk with Treasa about VCT but was
      concerned that it would make her believe that all he wants from her was
      sex. "I love her and I do not want her to think that it is all about sex
      only and if I suggested to her to go for testing it may just result in
      her thinking that all I am only interested in sex" he added: "It is
      getting more and more difficult to make sure that we abstain and I hope
      that we don't make a mistake one day".

      Treasa in response to the statement made by Alan says if she had been
      aware of how he was thinking, she would have gone for VCT a long time
      ago. "I never thought that Alan was thinking like that. It takes a lot
      of pressure away from me and the relationship, and I feel that I can
      trust him and his intentions." Having spoken openly about their
      situation, Treasa and Alan agree that they will be seeking VCT the
      following day.

      The situation that Alan and Treasa find themselves in is in no way
      different from many relationships between teenagers. Although they may
      at first think that it is possible to abstain from having sex, the
      reality is that it is not possible to abstain indefinitely.

      In order for the youth to protect themselves from becoming infected
      with HIV/AIDS, it is important that they are aware of their own sero
      status as well as that of their partner.

      The youth in Malawi have to accept that they are faced with an epidemic
      that affects them most. A UNFPA report states that the majority of
      people contracting HIV are young people between the ages of 15 to 24
      years. In the year 2001, 42 % of all new infections recorded during that
      years were in that age group.

      Infections among females ages 15 - 24 are approximately five times
      higher than those in males of the same age.

      The results and the impact of HIV/AIDS on the youth are devastating yet
      the window of hope in arresting the spread of the pandemic rests with
      the youth in the country themselves.

      Amidst the spread of the pandemic, the youth are faced with the
      responsibility of changing their sexual behaviour in order to remain
      uninfected with HIV/AIDS.

      *****

      Malawi to Amend Act to Cut Civil Service Funeral Costs

      African Church Information Service

      December 8, 2003
      Posted to the web December 8, 2003

      Hobbs Gama
      Blantyre

      Malawi's labour authorities are planning to review the country's
      Employment Act of 2000, in order to accommodate sections that would
      limit the amount of time spent in burial arrangements by workers, as the
      civil service continues to face rising deaths due to AIDS.

      Zebron Kambuto, Commissioner for the Ministry of Labour and Vocational
      Training, said here recently that frequent absenteeism, time spent by
      workers attending funerals of their deceased colleagues, and the money
      spent by various departments on burial, were costing the state heavily,
      hence the need to amend the Act.

      "We have been discussing this issue for the past few years. Now we
      think of lobbying parliament to change the Act and minimise funeral
      expenditure," said Kambuto.

      The proposed amendment will provide for the burying of deceased workers
      and any members of their families, in the localities where they work,
      instead of ferrying bodies to homes of origin, as has been the case.

      Traditionally, Malawians take it a sacred norm to lay the dead "close
      to the spirits of their ancestors", a factor that has been emphasised by
      opponents of the proposed review of the Employment Act.

      "Others suggested that employers establish cooling storage facilities
      for dead bodies so that funerals can be conducted during weekends and
      save time to maintain the tradition. This we do not think can work in
      the present economic situation," Kambuto explained.

      The Ministry of Education, with 60,000 members of staff out of the
      total 120,000 civil service workforce, is the hardest hit with
      AIDS-related deaths, incurring a burden on the already strained national
      coffers.

      Education minister, George Ntafu, revealed that almost 2,000 teachers
      were dying each month due to AIDS, a situation he described as
      "disastrous".

      "It is sad that this is happening at a time when the government is
      implementing the free primary education programme that needs increased
      number of teachers to reduce the pupil-teacher ratio," Ntafu said.
      e a
      Meanwhile, major faith groups in the country have resolved that they
      will continue to encourage abstinence among unmarried youth, and urge
      couples to remain faithful to one another, as the prime options to check
      the spread of the disease.

      Secretary General of the Episcopal Conference of Malawi (ECM), Fr
      Robert Mwaungulu, has said that they will continue to preach against
      condom use because they look at sexuality "against the moral values and
      teachings of the Church".

      Fr Mwaungulu made the remarks on November 28, at the close of a
      five-day churches' conference on HIV/AIDS, attended by the Malawi
      Council of Churches (MCC), Evangelical Association of Malawi (EAM), and
      ECM.

      Another Catholic priest, Fr Phillip Mbeta, asked the government,
      non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and donors to provide funding for
      the purchase of anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs), and distribute them free
      to the affected poor masses.

      "We have now reached a crisis stage where government, NGOs, employers
      and donors must act urgently to distribute anti-retrovirals to the
      majority poor, who cannot afford their high costs," said Fr Mbeta, who
      spoke in his capacity as chairman of the conference organising
      committee.

      The conference, bearing the theme, Breaking Silence with Love and
      Compassion, was tailored to promote development and advocacy skills
      among religious communities; to inspire people to create rights-based
      and gender-sensitive strategies and action on HIV/AIDS; and to raise
      awareness and knowledge on the pandemic.

      *****

      Mk1 Million Grant for Banja La Mtsogolo As Norway Continues to Support
      Youth Programmes

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      December 8, 2003
      Posted to the web December 8, 2003

      Pushpa Jamieson
      Lilongwe

      The Royal Norwegian Embassy has signed an agreement with United Nations
      Population Fund (UNFPA) for a grant of approximately MK1million
      (Norwegian Kroner 6,600) which will be used to continue support to Banja
      la Mtsogolo (BLM) in its programme of Sexual and Reproductive Health
      (SRH) for young people between the ages of 10 - 24 years.

      The agreement was signed by the Norwegian Ambassador to Malawi Asbjorm
      Eidhammer and Dr. Sylvie Cohen of UNFPA on the 4th December, and the
      amount is expected to fund the programme for a period of two years.


      In an effort to address the issues of adolescent reproductive health,
      UNFPA and BLM are involved in a programme which aims to provide for the
      reproductive health requirements of the adolescents.

      Young people between the ages of 15 - 24 years make up almost 60% of
      the population in Malawi. These young people face multiple challenges in
      the current changing political, economic, social and cultural
      environment.

      Among these challenges is; unplanned pregnancies, abortions, sexually
      transmitted infections including HIV/AIDS and poor access to adequate
      sexual and reproductive health information and services.

      BLM is a leading non governmental organisation (NGO) providing SRH
      reproductive information and services. The organisation has specifically
      youth-serving SRH programmes and it is expected that the finding from
      the Norwegian government will contribute to the ongoing provision of
      outreach and clinic based services. The fund will also be used to
      establish referral services with special emphasis on training in youth
      friendly services, youth clubs and youth leader supervisors.

      One of UNFPA's main area of work is to help ensure access to
      reproductive health for the young people. It is expected that with the
      funds sourced from the Norwegian government and in partnership with BLM
      UNFPA will achieve the goal to provide more and better RHS for the youth
      in Malawi.

      According to reports, 46% of primary school and 66% of secondary school
      youths are sexually active. Amongst those who are sexually active, most
      initiated sexual activity between the ages of 10 and 14 years.

      Studies have also revealed that over 75% of the young people today are
      sexually active and that although they have some knowledge about
      contraceptives, a very high percentage of them do not use any protection
      during their sexual encounters.

      *****

      Friction Ongoing in the MCP

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      December 8, 2003
      Posted to the web December 8, 2003

      Rex Chalenga
      Lilongwe

      A man had to be rushed to the hospital on Saturday the 29th of November
      after he sustained injuries in a fight that erupted among Malawi
      Congress Party (MCP) supporters at the party's headquarters in City
      Centre, Lilongwe.

      The fight has been blamed on the ongoing difficulties experienced by
      the party over it's former Publicity Secretary, Hetherwick Ntaba who,
      for all intents has been fired from the party.


      When asked to comment on the incident, the Acting Publicity Secretary
      for MCP, Steve Ching'ang'a said that he was waiting for an official
      report. 'I cannot make any comments right now because I don't have an
      official report - but perhaps you should speak to Kanjere', he said
      adding: 'Call me next week, maybe I will have the full report by then'.

      When contacted, Jodder Kanjere, who is the National Director of
      Elections, dismissed the allegations of strife within the party
      questioning the reasons why members of MCP would fight amongst
      themselves.

      'Why would MCP fight amongst ourselves? If it is true that the MCP is
      divided, then the elections would not have proceeded," said Kanjere
      adding that such allegations and incidents are made to effectively
      divide the MCP. "I am aware that some people who masquerade as members
      of the MCP are brought to MCP gatherings to perpetuate violence. A
      similar incident happened in Salima. This goes to prove that there are
      people who are bent on dividing the party. But MCP will not be divided
      and we are not a violent party," Kanjere declared adding, "so such
      allegations are not true and I can assure you, there is no tension in
      the MCP," he said.

      This reporter reminded the Director of Elections that with the recent
      stories on Ntaba and his relationship with the party, how can one
      declare that there is no tension in the MCP. When asked about it,
      Kanjere said Ntaba was only suspended as Speaker of the party and thus
      cannot be involved in any National Executive meetings that take place.
      "There is no tension between the MCP and Ntaba. He was suspended as
      Speaker for the party because of his close relationship with the ruling
      UDF party and this was done for good reasons. "It is Ntaba's choice what
      happens to him because he knows the serious issues that are discussed at
      National Executive meetings, and because of his close relationship with
      the ruling party he cannot be involved in the important internal
      discussions of the party", said Kanjere.

      When asked to respond on the comments made by Kanjere Ntaba only
      wondered if he had chosen to be sidelined.

      'How can one choose to be sidelined? I could never deliberately or
      intentionally choose to lose my position as Speaker of the party. I have
      been told I cannot attend or address any meetings and I've even tried,
      on more than one occasion to attend meetings but Honourable Tembo, the
      party president has so far stopped me. They want me out, so I did not
      choose to be sidelined, I was told to stay away', stated Ntaba. "Ntaba
      is a good friend and if he has any issues to discuss he should come to
      us instead of going to the press - because it seems like we are
      communicating through the press", that is the reply that Kanjere gave,
      adding: "The reasons for Ntaba's close relationship with the ruling
      party were explained by saying that he was only practicing his
      profession as a doctor'.

      Kanjere had this to offer as an olive branch to the errant former MCP
      Publicity Secretary: "Every patient has a treatment plan and period and
      when Ntaba specifies that his treatment period is over, he can decide to
      come back and we will discuss the issues." said Kanjere.

      Still waiting for a clear direction Ntaba is said to be already
      contemplating his various options: 'I have three options if I am to
      leave MCP. I can either stay independent, join another opposition party
      or start a party. But I will not join the ruling party.' declared Ntaba
      with some conviction.

      *****

      NICE Sensitize Chiefs On Elections

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      December 8, 2003
      Posted to the web December 8, 2003

      Pilirani Phiri
      Lilongwe

      As government, stakeholders, and the international community continue
      to leave no stone unturned to ensure that next year's tripartite
      elections are free and fair, the National Initiative for Civic Education
      (NICE) Thursday drilled Chiefs from T/A Tsabango on electoral issues.

      Realising that the traditional leaders have a vital role to play in
      sensitizing their subordinates to issues pertaining to elections, NICE
      held a workshop for the chiefs at Chisamba Primary school in Kawale 2
      which drew over 15 chiefs from areas sorrounding Kawale 1 and 2.

      NICE's Assistant District Civic Education Officer - Lilongwe Urban,
      Gift Phiri urged the chiefs to sensitize the masses on the need to
      register their names so that they take part in the voting process next
      year as one way of consolidating democracy.

      'Bearing in mind that voter registration starts on January 5 to 18 you
      should therefore, as leaders in your communities urge your people to
      register and vote in next year's tripartite elections," said Phiri.

      Speaking at the same function Lilongwe District Elections clerk, Julius
      Kambanzeru alerted the chiefs to ensure that foreigners living in their
      areas should not participate in the voting process.

      However, Kambanzeru told the chiefs that the only foreigners allowed to
      vote, according to the laws of Malawi, are those who have stayed in the
      country for the past preceding seven years.

      Despite the fact that next year's tripartite elections are just around
      the corner, most of the chiefs who attended the workshop confessed that
      they knew little on issues so far as the tripartite elections are
      concerned.

      Meanwhile, government has tabled an Electoral Commission Bill which
      seeks to empower the Electoral Commission to summon any person and
      demand any documents that the Commission deems necessary and appropriate
      to any of it's enquiry.

      Unlike in the years 1994, and 1999 Malawi intends, next year to hold
      the Presidential, Parliamentary, and Local Government elections
      simultaneously in what has been dubbed Tripartite Elections.

      NICE is one of the Civil Society Organisations who received
      approximately K4 million from the Malawi Germany Programme for Democracy
      and Decentralisation (MGPDD) to carry out voter civic education.


      *****

      Escom Workers Blame UDF, Saying the Party is Responsible for Them Not
      Receiving Their Pay in Time

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      December 8, 2003
      Posted to the web December 8, 2003

      Christopher Jimu
      Lilongwe

      Workers at the Electricity Supply Commission of Malawi (ESCOM) have put
      the blame on the ruling United Democratic Front (UDF) accusing them of
      misusing the corporations funds after the employees did not receive
      their salaries for the month of November in time.

      The workers who spoke to The Chronicle on condition of anonymity
      alleged that a senior UDF Minister (name withheld) ordered management at
      the parastatal institution to release money meant for their salaries to
      the UDF to be used for campaign purposes.

      The workers said that this resulted in ESCOM bosses applying for an
      overdraft in all the banks where they hold their accounts. As a result,
      there was no money to pay the workers their salaries on time. Instead of
      the workers receiving their salaries on November 25, they ended up being
      paid on November 30 with others getting their salaries in the month of
      December. "This has never happened in the history of ESCOM. This is one
      of the companies where workers are paid on time, every time - and on top
      of that all the workers get their salaries on the same day, regardless
      of which region you are operating from. "It is now surprising that
      management could be lying to us that there was no money in our accounts
      because customers were not paying their bills. We know these are lies.

      'ESCOM makes millions of kwachas and at no point in time has the
      company had difficulties in paying it's employees. We know it is because
      of the overdraft that they took to sponsor and support UDF activities,"
      said the employee who works as an Accounts Assistant in Blantyre.

      But when contacted for comment Electricity Supply Commission of Malawi
      Public Relations Officer Edward Chitsulo told The Chronicle that he had
      also heard those stories that some workers are accusing government and
      the UDF for being responsible for worsening the companies financial
      standing, resulting in workers being paid late. "When people get their
      salaries late they are bound to complain and talk all sorts of things.
      For your information, ESCOM employs over 2,300 people which is a very
      big number of people to cater effectively for.

      ' On top of that we also employ 4,000 casual labourers and this is a
      very large family - so in such a situation it is difficult to stop
      people from speculating," Chitsulo explained.

      He said that November cheques were processed last Friday (November 28)
      and deposited into accounts where some members of staff got their money
      on Saturday through the ATM as usual, while others had to wait until
      Monday to allow for the bank to fully process their pay. "Others whose
      banks religiously observes their time limit requirement for processing
      their salaries only got their money on Tuesday," said Chitsulo.

      But by Thursday ESCOM employees who receive their money from New
      Building Society (NBS) had not yet received their salaries,
      contradicting Chitsulo's statement that all employees had received their
      money on Tuesday.

      Sources at the NBS told The Chronicle that they were informed by ESCOM
      that money meant for employees who have accounts with NBS was
      accidentally sent to Stanbic Bank. "We have been told that the money
      meant to be sent to NBS was sent to Stanbic and since NBS has a current
      account with Stanbic the money was just deposited in our account. In
      fact as I am talking to you, some people got their money yesterday while
      others have not yet received it," said the officer who asked for
      anonymity.

      The officer told The Chronicle that since he joined NBS a thing like
      this has never happened before. "In fact, some workers had completely
      given up on whether they would receive their salaries this month," he
      said.

      However Chitsulo defended the UDF led government saying that nobody can
      have access to ESCOM funds because of the many internal checks and
      balances established within ESCOM.

      He said that ESCOM only pays money in the form of dividends to its
      owners including government when it declares dividends at the end of
      every financial year. In this case the year has not yet elapsed he
      reiterated.

      In explanation Chitsulo said: "ESCOM, just like any other company has
      cash-flow problems sometimes and at the meantime ESCOM has a cash
      squeeze due to increased expenditure mainly for unplanned maintenance in
      its business units.

      'You will also notice that ESCOM has intensified it's regular
      maintenance programmes this season to ensure that when the rains
      intensify there are no interruptions." Chitsulo also disclosed that at
      the moment the Kapichira dam has been shut down to allow for main plant
      rehabilitation and civil works in the dams.

      UDF Publicity Secretary Ken Lipenga said that there is no way anybody
      can have access to ESCOM funds anyhow. "That is total speculation aimed
      at just discrediting the government," Lipenga said.

      The Electricity Supply Commission of Malawi has intensified monthly
      disconnection campaigns in order to recover K1.2 billion owed to it by
      it's clients.
    • 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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