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    Anti-smoking lobby enrages Malawi s farmers Frank Phiri | Blantyre 20 December 2003 09:04 Mawali bidFarewell to the Golden Leaf The global campaign against
    Message 1 of 1046 , Dec 24, 2003
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      Anti-smoking lobby enrages Malawi's farmers

      Frank Phiri | Blantyre

      20 December 2003 09:04


      Mawali bidFarewell to the "Golden Leaf"

      The global campaign against smoking has served as a wake up call for Malawi, which has an economy that is heavily dependent on the tobacco industry. The poverty-stricken southern African country is now seeking substitutes for tobacco -- as yet, without much success.

      Milton Kutengule, an official in the Ministry of Economic Planning and Development, says Malawi's draft economic growth strategy proposes a diversified agricultural sector, where tobacco will be replaced by crops like cotton and cassava.

      Greater emphasis on mining, tourism and manufacturing is also planned -- although this has been met with scepticism from certain business representatives.

      Kantilal Desai, spokesperson for the Malawi Confederation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry, says high interest rates discourage business people from borrowing the money needed for investment in the manufacturing sector. At present, the rate tops 45%.

      "In that case, you don't expect diversification to take us anywhere, do you?" he asks.

      Kutengule concedes that a greater urgency is required in the bid to make Malawi's economy more balanced. "Our initial efforts were more of trial and error... we gambled that tobacco was going to be around longer," he said.

      "But what we have come up with (now) is a ... basket of commodities in which we want to create growth by adding value."

      A 2002 study by the Norwegian Agency for Development shows that tobacco accounts for 70% of Malawi's export revenues -- more than in any other country. This makes the tobacco industry Malawi's second-largest employer after government. Agriculture, which is dominated by tobacco, is responsible for 38% of the country's gross domestic product.

      The anti-smoking lobby has enraged farmers, who argue that both government and donors have failed to show them realistic alternatives for crop production.

      "It's unfortunate that there are some radical groups around who (are) demonising tobacco, when they know that our economic survival is hinged on the same crop," said Albert Kamulaga, President of the Tobacco Association of Malawi, which promotes the interests of growers and processors.

      He says that in the absence of proper alternatives to tobacco, his organisation will continue encouraging farmers to grow more of the leaf.

      For their part, lobbyists have criticised the government for delaying ratification of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), a binding treaty what was negotiated by the World Health Organisation's 192 member states.

      The final version of the convention, which was reached in May this year, makes provision for several measures to control the ill-effects of tobacco. These include a ban on tobacco advertising and sponsorship.

      The activists argue that if Malawi ratified the treaty, if could start applying for funds from the European Union and other donors to support economic diversification.

      John Kapito, Executive Director of the Consumer Association of Malawi (Cama) -- says it is wrong to construe the FCTC as an assault on agriculture, and that anti-smoking lobbyists are simply concerned about the health hazards associated with smoking.

      Cama is a member of the Framework Convention Alliance, a group of non-governmental organisations (NGO's) that helped draft the treaty.

      To date, 80 countries have signed the FCTC. According to the alliance, tobacco kills almost five million people each year -- a number which it predicts could rise to 10 million by 2020, with 70% of those deaths occurring in developing countries.

      Debra Efroymasson of Path Canada, an international NGO monitoring adherence to the FCTC, says Malawi's tendency to grow tobacco at the expense of food crops is also problematic in other respects.

      "Vast hectares of land are dedicated to a crop which is bringing... misery to the economy, as its future remains uncertain. If the same amount of land and resources were dedicated to growing food crops, it could solve hunger here," she claims. - IPS

      *****

      Failed Anti-Corruption Bill Angers Malawi's Major Donors

      African Church Information Service

      December 22, 2003
      Posted to the web December 22, 2003

      Hobbs Gama
      Blantyre

      The failure by Malawi's parliament to pass a Bill into an Act in order to deter graft, has angered the country's donors, who have warned the government that it risks losing the just resumed aid.

      The British government, the country's chief financier and a former colonial master that funded the review exercise of the current corruption law, has warned that it would influence the donor community to rethink their stand, if Malawi fails to enact the Corrupt Practices Amendment Bill, which stalled in the November-December sitting of parliament.


      Among the several recommendations the Malawi Law Commission (MLC) made, include removal of a section that requires the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) to seek consent from the Director of Public Prosection (DPP), so that the anti-corruption body is granted powers and independence to deal with corruption cases involving senior government officials, including cabinet ministers.

      Civil society organisations, churches and opposition politicians, have always accused the ACB of being a toothless bulldog.

      The International Monetory Fund (IMF) froze funding of Malawi's Poverty Reduction Growth Facility (PGRF) in December 2000, citing fiscal indiscipline and careless spending by the government.

      Last month, however, the IMF and the World Bank changed heart after noting some financial strictness, and re-opened the aid tap, an act which is expected to be emulated by other bilateral and multilateral donors, such as the United States, European Union (EU), Norway, Sewden and Britain.

      British High Commissioner to Malawi, Norman Ling, cautioned that if the government did not pass the proposed corruption legislation, which was among the conditions for resumption of aid, external support programmes for the country would be derailed.

      "We will consider it a breach of promise if they do not pass the Bill, and the government of Malawi will have to explain," said Ling in Blantyre, the country's commercial hub.

      He said Britain and the IMF, together with other donors, are to review Malawi's progress on financial prudence between January and February next year, when the issue of corruption will be high on the agenda.

      "Britain is keen on the ACB to have more powers it needs to stamp out corruption because that is crucial for the development of accountability," stressed the envoy.

      Currently, there is a backlog of outstanding high-profile cases at the ACB, most of them concerning leading state figures.

      *****

      'Aid' Leads to Bankruptcy in Malawi, Mozambique & Kenya

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      December 22, 2003
      Posted to the web December 22, 2003

      Lilongwe

      Used clothes, donated by European and American consumers for "a good cause", are turning into a dubious industry that is believed to have cost more than 40,000 jobs in Africa's emerging textile industry. In Malawi, the country's leading textile company had to close down, and similar trends are seen in Mozambique and Kenya.

      Around the Western world, Western consumers put used clothes into "charity" drop-in boxes, believing these will aid the poor. One of this drop-in box operators is the controversial Danish organisation Tvind, which runs lucrative commercial operations under its cover name Development Aid from People to People (DAPP).


      Among Scandinavian trade unions, the operations of Tvind are increasingly criticised as more of its practises are uncovered. Recently, Norway's main trade union (LO) advised against donating used clothes to Tvind (locally known as UFF) because these clothes from Europe were "breaking the back of the textile and ready-made clothing industry in Africa's poor countries." According to the Norwegian union, "the biggest textile company in Malawi had to close down because it could not compete with the used clothes from Scandinavia." Bankruptcies had also been observed in Mozambique and Uganda and in Zambia, textile workers have organised strikes to meet the threat.

      In the Mozambican capital, Maputo, large quantities of used clothes from Europe are sold at very low prices in the middle of the town quarter where small and medium sized companies are running clothing workrooms, trying to establish a local textile industry. Competition is uneven. Tvind (locally known as ADPP) is reckoned to control more than half the used clothes business in the country.

      Only in Kenya, used clothes of a total value of 60 euro million are imported each year, which, according to LO, makes it the country's seventh largest import category. Kenya's emerging textile industry subsequently faces serious backlashes.

      Totally, the Scandinavian unions claim that more than 40,000 workers in Africa have lost their jobs due to the under-priced imports of clothes from the North. Only recently, seven big textile and ready-made clothing companies have had to close in the region, leading to the loss of 15,000 jobs.

      NorWatch, a group mapping Norwegian business practices in low cost countries, expressed strong concern over Tvind's (locally known as DAPP) operations in Malawi. NorWatch observers, visiting the country, had observed how Scandinavian used clothes companies "totally have monopolised the textile market" in Malawi.

      Business margins for Tvind/DAPP in Malawi are favourable, NorWatch found.

      DAPP allegedly had managed to convince Malawian authorities their operations had to be classified as development aid. Thus, the Danes had achieved a special treatment from customs authorities, paying less than half the import taxes paid by other textile importers.

      Tvind however categorically rejects these critiques. The 30-year old Briton Ann Thompson, running DAPP's used clothes operations in Malawi, says that her organisation's aim is "to improve people's living conditions by giving them the possibility to buy used clothes and shoes at affordable prices." - This strikes you as a strange motivation in Malawi, NorWatch researcher David Stenerud says. "People have clothes," he adds. "Indian businessmen have run used clothes sales for decades and UFF [DAPP] clothes aren't even cheaper." The group also criticised the quality and hygiene of clothes exported to Malawi.

      Also Jesper Pedersen, heading UFF's Norway offices, claims all these alleged problems are only constructed by journalists. "Mass produced cheap clothes from China and Turkey are a bigger threat" to jobs in Africa's textile industry, Mr Pedersen claims.

      Although operating with large revenues, Tvind is still registered as a charity organisation in Norway. "We are constructing child care organisations and schools for this money," says Mr Pedersen. Tvind operates schools and child care centres in several continents.

      However, these schools and centres are also the target of massive critiques.

      In Europe and North America, Tvind often has been characterised as "a secular cult", allegedly brainwashing children and youths to become willing disciples of the money-making organisation.

      Even in Africa and Latin America, DAPP's schools and centres allegedly produce neat revenues for the Tvind executive. In Malawi, government is now probing activities of DAPP Malawi, following a call for help by students of its Mikolongwe Vocational School.

      The Malawian students accuse DAPP of "forcing them to work like slaves with little time for learning," Bright Sonani from 'Malawi News' recently reported. Further, scholarships and other funds meant for Malawian students allegedly have been channelled to Denmark - something authorities are looking into.

      Also in Mozambique, where Tvind's ADPP is running five teacher training colleges (Escola de Professores do Futuro), there are allegations of messing up teaching and works for Tvind. The "future teachers" are also set to do construction works, agricultural works and other work associated with Tvind's operations.

      As Tvind's operations have become more known during the last years, it has been met with increased resistance. In Sweden, its charitable status has been withdrawn. In France, Tvind is officially classified as a cult and was pursued by the French tax authorities for tax evasion. In Britain, Tvind (here known as Humana) was closed following a fraud investigation.

      Tvind founder and alleged leader Amdi Petersen in 2001 was found to be living in a multi-million dollar luxury apartment in Miami after having been on the run from Danish police for over two decades. He is now charged with fraud and tax evasion by Danish prosecution on account of euro 25 million involving Tvind's Humanitarian Fund. A sentence is expected to be handed down late 2005. afrol news

      *****

      New Group of Peace Corps Sworn in

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      December 22, 2003
      Posted to the web December 22, 2003

      Rex Chalenga
      Lilongwe

      On Thursday, December 18th 2003, twenty new Peace Corps Volunteers in the secondary education field were sworn in after a 10 week training program.

      The oath, under which they were sworn in, was directed by the US Ambassador to Malawi, His Excellency Steven Browning. The ceremony took place at the US ambassador's residence. Giving a speech at the ceremony, Peace Corps Country Director, Annamaria Watrin said that the evolving response from Peace Corps shows and promotes understanding between the two nations of Malawi and the US.


      'The great understanding between the Malawian nation and the US can clearly be seen here. Peace Corps evolved in response to the changing policies in Malawi and recognises the need for qualified teachers,' said Watrin and as if to provide proof to these words, three newly sworn in peace corps volunteers namely, Daniel Tennant, Harlan Young and Merilee Valentino gave speeches in Tumbuka, Chichewa, and English respectively.

      The twenty newly sworn in peace corps volunteers will be appointed where secondary teachers are mostly needed. To receive these trainees was the Director of Secondary Education, Stanley Chamdimba who, in his speech encouraged the volunteers and praised them for the high goals they set.

      Perhaps no one at this ceremony could have appreciated these volunteers more, because, as it turned out, Chamdimba himself was taught by the first volunteers to Malawi in 1963.

      'I encourage and urge you to do the best and strive to pass on your skills,' said Chamdimba who also praised the great late President of America, John F. Kennedy, for birthing this brainchild.

      Last to speak on the occasion and who directed the peace corps oath, was the Ambassador of US to Malawi, Browning Steven who was quick to point out to the newly sworn in volunteers the unique role they are playing in Malawi.

      'As peace corps volunteers, you play a unique role in development and international understanding,' said Browning who also pointed out what a rare and enriching experience this would be for the new volunteers.

      'You have the chance to truly learn the culture in which you live in and to take back to your families and fellow Americans a deeper understanding of, not only the broader realities of the world, but also a wisdom that will add to the reservoir of compassion and insight,' he said.

      Education and Health walk in hand and this was the case at the ceremony when Browning pointed out to the volunteers the reality of AIDS and the critically need of addressing this problem because it is no longer just a health issue.

      'As role models in your communities you can do much to dispel misconceptions about HIV. You should take an active role in working with all those around you to confront the reality of the issue,' said Browning who wished these new volunteers good fortune after commending them for taking up such a big task.

      'As peace corps volunteers, you are serving goals larger than yourselves: tolerance, understanding, empowerment, capacity building, self-sacrifice and compassion', said Browning.

      *****

      Domestic Violence Spreading Incidences of HIV/Aids - SAW

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      December 22, 2003
      Posted to the web December 22, 2003

      Pilirani Phiri
      Lilongwe

      Violence from spouses which is encountered by a significant number of married women in their homes and includes forced sex leading to marriage breakdowns heavily contributes to the high HIV/AIDS infection rate in women, Society for the Advancement of Women (SAW) has said.

      SAW Executive Director Catherine Munthali said this recently at Malili Village in Lilongwe during a Norwegian Church Aid funded Sixteen Days of Activism workshop - from November 25 to December 10, during the period for the world to remember all women who continue to suffer and those who have since died as a result of male violence and dominance.


      Munthali said her organisation receives numerous complaints from married women who are beaten up when they dare to question their husbands about their infidelity which could lead to both of them becoming infected with the AIDS virus.

      She further said some women are told to leave home after they have attempted to request that their husbands consider using condoms. This happens when it has been discovered that the husband has been having an extra-marital affair. "There are so many negative consequences of domestic male violence. For instance, women are made pregnant without their consent; they become psychologically ill and have scars all over their beautiful faces after being beaten up. However, the major unfortunate consequence is that it has led to many married women contracting the HIV/AIDS," said Munthali.

      She went on to say: "Because these women have no say in urging their husbands to consider using condoms they end up being infected with the virus. In other instances these women are told to leave the marital home.

      They are prone to resorting to being a commercial sex worker in order to support themselves. They also risk becoming infected with HIV/AIDS".

      Munthali said AIDS in the country should not only bear a woman's face but called on all men to get involved when it comes to caring for the sick in hospitals or domestic AIDS patients. "It is interesting to see that when a husband falls sick as a result of AIDS, the wife lovingly looks after him but when the wife is sick, men are not involved in providing care. As a result, a female relative is called to look after the wife. This is bad, men and women all need to be both involved in the fight against the pandemic and in looking after the sick," she said.

      During the workshop two women who, according to SAW, are themselves victims of male domestic violence sent the workshop into cathedral silence when they narrated their personal experiences with male violence.

      One of the women, Monica Mkandawire told the participants that she was severely beaten and expelled from the house when she found her husband, red handed, making love to his biological daughter. "Before I married him, my husband already had a daughter with another woman. He complained to me that his daughter was living a miserable life in the village and there was need to bring her to live with the family". Monica says "When the daughter, who is an adolescent arrived, I started to become suspicious because my husband used to buy the daughter some necessities without my knowledge until one day I caught them making love," The case is currently before the courts, a service offered by SAW's lawyers.

      Monica said she was beaten when she threatened to reveal to members of the family what her husband was doing with his daughter.

      She further alleged that her husband had once beaten her unconscious when she was five months pregnant. She was also under pressure from her husband to have an abortion claiming that the family was not yet prepared for a baby.


      Munthali believes that the fight against the malpractice is advancing and is optimistic that, with donor funding and goodwill - the violence will be stopped. "Unlike in the past, when women did not talk about the violence, more women are coming to SAW and other women's organisations to report the cruelty that they are encountering from their husbands in their homes," she said.

      According to a 2002 Global Report on HIV/AIDS about 850,000 people in Malawi aged between 15 and 49 were living with AIDS in the country. The figures stand at 440,000 with more than 50% of them being women.

      *****

      Brandishing Yellow Materials Concerns NGOs On Elections

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      December 22, 2003
      Posted to the web December 22, 2003

      Wezie Nyirongo
      Lilongwe

      The Malawi Electoral Support Network (MESN) have expressed concern over the UDF's distribution of yellow chairs and the presence of President Muluzi's portrait in most government schools which will be used as polling stations in the next year's general elections.

      MESN executive member Robson Chitengo said in Blantyre recently that the existence of the yellow chairs, which are the UDF's party colour could influence voters and affect free and fair elections. "It is clear that party colours are not allowed in polling stations. We are therefore concerned with the yellow chairs the UDF are distributing in schools where registration and voting would be conducted," said Chitengo who is also the programme manager for Blantyre Synod Church and Society.


      The network has since resolved to petition the Malawi Electoral Commission for the removal of the yellow chairs and Muluzi's portraits. "We are now going to write to the Electoral Commission for the removal of the yellow materials in the schools which totally represent the UDF party," said Chitengo. He further wondered why the UDF is only targeting schools which would be used as polling stations in May 2004 with the yellow chairs.

      On the churches' involvement in politics, Chitengo said the churches are not partisan and are not favouring the opposition apart from giving them direction where necessary.

      He said the churches are only partisan in relation to the poor and have a prophetic role to play and will contribute to the efforts of any grouping which shares similar concerns as themselves: "And if the opposition are interested in doing similar things that we, as churches want, we will collaborate with them. It does not mean we are giving them directions, after all, we share similar concerns," he said.

      However he said: "The Bible is political in nature and Jesus Christ was a politician," without giving further explanation.

      The MESN executive member also noted that the proposals made by the Electoral Commission to provide mobile polling stations is not welcome. "The process would only encourage rigging as there would not be enough monitors to scrutinise the process," he said adding that the network would strive to see to it that any attempts to rig the process is stopped.

      MESN is a coalition of non-governmental organisations formed to coordinate activities pertaining to elections. The network enhances the elections process in Malawi in order to promote democracy and good governance and the process begins with free and fair elections.

      *****

      Mpatsa Rejects UDF Offer As the Search for Mutharika's Replacement Hots Up

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      December 22, 2003
      Posted to the web December 22, 2003

      Christopher Jimu
      Lilongwe

      Jimmy Koreia Mpatsa, one of the founding members of the People's Progressive Movement (PPM) and current interim co-chairperson of the political grouping has been approached to consider running for the UDF Presidency. It has been alleged that Deputy Minister of Transport and Public Works, James Chikwenga with other high ranking officials of the inner circle in the UDF recently approached Mpatsa to consider replacing the current presidential candidate Bingu wa Mutharika.

      Highly placed sources within the UDF told The Chronicle that this high powered delegation of influential ministers and party officials visited Mpatsa in Blantyre recently where they told him that President Muluzi has realised that Mutharika will have difficulties to win the forthcoming elections and as such there was need to replace him with a more acceptable and influential candidate.


      The source indicated that the delegation told Mpatsa that Muluzi wanted to have a private meeting with him urgently where Mpatsa would be fully informed of the strategy to be applied in order for him (Mpatsa) to take over from Mutharika. "The meeting started very well, but difficulties started to emerge when one of the delegates insisted that Mpatsa assure them that he would protect the incumbent president and not allow any intended prosecution to take place once Muluzi gets out of office next year," said our source.

      The source explained that after Mpatsa listened quietly to the proposal he told them that, if he accepted the position and was elected President of Malawi he would have no mandate over the operations of Police, the Courts, the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) or the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) because these are independent bodies and as such, it will be difficult to dictate to them so as to protect Muluzi. "This is the reason why the meeting ended prematurely - because it was becoming difficult to convince Mpatsa that, as President he would have authority to give instructions to these organs," our source explained, adding that this is the reason why the meeting that had already been arranged for Mpatsa with Muluzi did not take place.

      When contacted for comment on the visit by Chikwenga and his group, one of the members of the UDF inner circle, Dumbo Lemani said he had no knowledge of the meeting between some members of the UDF and Mpatsa: "Maybe ask Chikwenga, but certainly not me. Ask Mpatsa himself, he will tell you the truth." Chikwenga on his part accepted having met Jimmy Koreia Mpatsa but said that the meeting was not held recently.

      Chikwenga on his part said: "It is true that I have met with Koreia, but that was last year or early this year where I put it to him that it was not good for him to form a new party when he has the opportunity to help the UDF since he played a big role in dislodging the MCP from power." "I know Mpatsa was a UDF man and I told him that if I was him, I could just use that opportunity to strengthen the party other than looking for individual positions in new parties," Chikwenga said.

      Chikwenga also said that he has no ill feelings against Bingu Wa Mutharika because Bingu has a strong CV which could help the UDF easily win the forthcoming elections. "I have got total confidence in Bingu and unflinching loyalty to President Muluzi so, for someone to suggest that I approached Mpatsa recently to take over the leadership of the UDF is a total lie. Maybe Dumbo Lemani in his personal capacity but certainly not me. As I have already said I met Mpatsa a long time ago," Chikwenga summed up.

      When contacted for comment Mpatsa said,"I meet a lot of people from different sectors of our society and I do not believe it is appropriate for me to go public with details of all our discussions that are held in private without the sanction of the other party.' He went on to say that he had a good relationship with Chikwenga which dated back to the time when he (Mpatsa) was MCCCI President and Chikwenga was deputy minister of Commerce, and the last time they met was 'some time ago.'

      *****

      Development Work Halted On Zambia, Malawi Border

      The Times of Zambia (Ndola)

      December 22, 2003
      Posted to the web December 22, 2003


      A REPORT of the just-ended fourth meeting between Zambia and Malawi has recommended that no development should take place on the demarcated 200-kilometre stretch of land until the whole exercise is completed.

      The recommendation was arrived after exhaustive four-day deliberations over the Zambia/Malawi international border held in Chipata at Luangwa Lodge.


      "The two Governments should see to it that there are no further and new developments along the newly-demarcated border until the demarcation of the entire boundary is complete," the report recommended.

      It also stated that in order to speed up the exercise, the two governments should further source funds from local and external sources, including Britain for the completion of the project.

      The report further recommended to the two governments that all illegal settlers in the national parks should vacate the places as soon as possible.

      It stressed the need for the two governments to prioritise the border demarcation exercise, as well as carry out a vigorous sensitisation programme among the affected people.

      The report was complied by Lands Permanent Secretary George Kawatu and his Malawian counterpart Andrina Mchiela with the assistance of experts from the survey departments of the two countries.

      *****

      PTC - Trying Harder

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      December 22, 2003
      Posted to the web December 22, 2003

      Christopher Jimu
      Lilongwe

      Peoples Trading Center popularly known as PTC have intensified their campaign to be at par with new retail giants Shoprite Checkers by renovating their old shops to meet the demands of their customers.

      One of the workers at the PTC hyperstore which has since been changed to Peoples Super Market told The Chronicle that his organisation decided to renovate the shops in order to attract customers who seemed to be flocking to Shoprite. "This is one of the strategies we want to incorporate to fend off the competition we are facing from our rivals like Shoprite and Seven Eleven.


      We have to admit that since the arrival of Shoprite in Lilongwe's Old Town things have been tough for us and we had no option but to make some adjustments," said the worker but asked for anonymity.

      He said that PTC has the potential to compete with any retail shop in Malawi provided new strategies are put in place and customers are sensitised on the importance of buying Malawian products. "The good thing is that we have shops all over the country which is a big advantage. We have other retail shops in Malawi. We will have to do a lot of civic education so that Malawians patronise our shops. As the saying goes 'Best buy Malawi'," said the worker.

      Currently, PTC is in the process of changing Hyperstores to Peoples Supermarkets.

      Blantyre has got one shop (Peoples Supermarket) in Blantyre while Lilongwe has got two, one in Old Town, the other in City Centre.

      There is one mainshop in Blantyre, Kwiksaves in urban areas and Superettes in rural areas.

      Peoples Trading Centre General Manager (Retail) a Haynes refused to comment on the issue and asked The Chronicle to talk to Pius Mulipe of Press Corporation who oversees the running of PTC shops. "That is not my job please talk to Mr. Mulipe at Press Corporation in Blantyre. He is the one who is responsible for that," Haynes said.

      However Mulipa was reported to be in Mangochi attending a meeting at the time The Chronicle phoned his office.

      Peoples Trading Centre has been in existence in the country for over 30 years.

      *****

      Muluzi Blocks Ministers' Resignations

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      December 22, 2003
      Posted to the web December 22, 2003

      Pilirani Phiri And Christopher Jimu
      Lilongwe

      Two senior United Democratic Front (UDF) Cabinet Ministers who recently threatened to defect to the opposition National Democratic Alliance (NDA) are alleged to have rescinded their decisions after State President Bakili Muluzi summoned them to his BCA residence and managed to convince them not to leave the party, The Chronicle has learnt.

      A top UDF insider said two ministers - Minister of Justice, Paul Maulidi as well as Minister Responsible for Statutory Corporations Bob Khamisa would have resigned from the party if Muluzi had not got wind of their intentions to leave the UDF. Also among the group who wished to resign from the party was the fired Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Henry Phoya.


      The source said that the three base their intention to resign on the grounds that the UDF party has become intolerant, has lost vision and direction and that it now lacks transparency and accountability.

      The ministers, said the source, threatened to quit the party immediately after the just ended Parliamentary session but after President Muluzi spoke to them and managed to convince them - they all rescinded their decisions. "After delivering the news to the party announcing their intention to resign, the President summoned the Ministers, one by one to his new BCA residence where he appealed to them to rescind their decisions and remain in the party to avoid further splitting the UDF," alleged the source.

      However, several sources in the UDF indicated that the ministers were concerned that the party's presidential candidate in 2004 Bingu Wa Mutharika has no large following to help the UDF return to power next year.

      When contacted to comment on the issue of his intention to resign from the UDF, Khamisa said, "That is not true. Maybe some people are just cooking up stories. I cannot leave the UDF because we have got a greatly chance of making it back into government without difficulties. I have total respect for the party and President Muluzi." Also speaking in a face to face interview with The Chronicle recently, Maulidi said he was not aware where such rumours were coming from saying he is still a strong UDF loyalist. "To be frank with you, I have no intention of resigning from the party. I am currently with UDF and I will continue to be with the party," he said.

      Also when contacted to comment on the stories indicating that the President blocked him from resigning from the party, Phoya said," I cannot comment on that issue as I have not met with the president to discuss that issue." However, Phoya was in November this year quoted in the local press as saying if formerly approached by the NDA he would see what to do.

      Apart from losing other party heavyweights like former party first vice President Aleke Banda, Minister of Natural Resources Harry Thomson - the party recently also lost another party member Mwanza East MP Joe Manduwa who defected to opposition NDA.

      Speaking recently at a press conference announcing Manduwa quitting the UDF, NDA President Brown Mpinganjira disclosed that the NDA has several members who are currently in the UDF and who are yet to defect.

      The UDF party is currently under intense pressure from the opposition who are likely to form a common front in an attempt to wrestle power from the ruling UDF in the 2004 Presidential and Parliamentary elections.

      *****

      Expect Mass Exodus in January - BJ

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      December 22, 2003
      Posted to the web December 22, 2003

      Christopher Jimu
      Lilongwe

      The exodus of senior party officials from the ruling United Democratic Front (UDF) to the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) will begin in earnest early next year, Brown Mpinganjira, the NDA president has said.

      Mpinganjira who was addressing members of the press at Biwi Triangle recently said that he is working closely with both senior and junior ministers in the UDF who are disgruntled with the performance and activities of the ruling party and are ready to defect to his party next year. "I wish to inform you that I have a large number of people in the UDF who are ready to jump ship and join me. They are only waiting for the last sitting of parliament and you will see a mass exodus never seen anywhere before," Mpinganjira said.


      Asked if NDA is going to accept any person from UDF to join NDA, Mpinganjira said that they will have to scrutinise the personality of any individual who wants to join them for fear of losing trust from the masses. "We (NDA) will be holding press conferences for any major catch that is going to join us from the UDF but, for the small fish we will just send out press releases," Mpinganjira said.

      The NDA leader also said that his party was anxiously waiting for the results of the John Tembo case in which the MCP President is answering to a contempt of court charge because a guilty verdict will mean that he will be barred from holding any public office. "We want to see the conclusion of that case before we can see the way forward for the coalition," Mpinganjira explained.

      Speaking at the same function, former Minister of Natural Resources, Harry Thomson who defected earlier said that the UDF had been a good party when all the people who have left it were there.

      He mentioned the likes of James Makhumula, Brown Mpinganjira, Aleke Banda, Peter Tchupa, Jaan Jaap Sonke and Joe Manduwa as some of the people who advised President Muluzi correctly. "Now Muluzi is surrounded by people who fear him and cannot give him sound advice. That is why the UDF is sinking slowly," said Thomson.

      Thomson then welcomed Manduwa into the NDA family and asked him to work tirelessly for the betterment of the party.

      The NDA was formed by Brown Mpinganjira last year after he disagreed with President Muluzi on the infamous Open Term Bill which, after it had failed to pass was later changed to a Third Term Bill in an attempt by the ruling party to retain Muluzi for one more term.

      The Open Term Bill before it would have allowed the incumbent president to continue ruling this country for as along as he wanted.

      The UDF have failed to present the latter Bill, a fearing that it would again be defeated and effectively embarrassed the party and Muluzi himself.

      *****

      Parliament to Re-Convene

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      December 22, 2003
      Posted to the web December 22, 2003

      Christopher Jimu
      Lilongwe

      Barely a week after parliament ended it's current sitting, Members of Parliament have been summoned back to the august house for an emergency sitting to start this Tuesday, The Chronicle has learnt.

      According to members of parliament from both the ruling United Democratic Front (UDF) and the opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) the emergency sitting will take two to three days to dispose of bills which were left unattended to during the last sitting. "We are to meet on either Tuesday or Wednesday. As I am talking to you, funds have already been allocated for that programme and we are going to discuss and pass the bills that were outstanding during the last sitting of parliament," said our source, a Senior UDF official who asked for anonymity.


      Another MCP MP who also refused for his name to be quoted told The Chronicle that he had the information to the effect that parliament is to sit from Tuesday to either Thursday or Friday. "There were some outstanding bills during our last sitting and I am told these are the ones that have necessitated this emergency sitting of parliament. In fact, funding has already been found and all MPs who belong to different committees in parliament are already in Lilongwe and have been told not to return to their homes," he said.

      But Parliament Principal Financing Officer Nelson Nankhumwa told The Chronicle that he had not yet been communicated to by his bosses and he was not aware if there will be an emergency sitting of parliament.

      He said that normally he could have got letters from his seniors asking him to formulate a budget which, in this particular instance was not the case. "If indeed the MPs are sure that parliament will sit next week then this will be the first time they will be doing so without us formulating their budgetary needs," Nankhumwa said.

      Among the bills that re scheduled to be discussed at this extraordinary sitting are the ADMARC Repeal and the Corrupt Practices amendments.

      During this last sitting of parliament the house failed to pass amendments to bills relating to the Parliamentary and Presidential Elections Act and the Local Government Act which sought, among other changes to alter the dates of the three elections so as to allow the Electoral Commission to conduct a tripartite poll. Also awaiting Parliament's nod were the Press Trust Reconstruction, Corrupt Practices Act and the privatisation of commercialisation of ADMARC.

      The bill on Money Laundering and proceeds of serious crimes were not even introduced although it was on the order paper throughout.

      Last week the Economics Association of Malawi (ECAMA) said that the last sitting of parliament was a flop intimating that it was because the bills on ADMARC and the Corrupt Practices Act were not discussed. "The house should not have met for three long weeks discussing trivia when the lives of two million people should be put in danger (by government's deliberate mistakes)," Perks Ligoya of ECAMA said adding that his organisation id not surprised when Britain and the World Bank continue to be irked by Malawi's reluctance to fully discuss the Corrupt Practices Act that seeks to better empower the ACB to act effectively against corruption without reverting to the DPP for consent.

      Public Affairs Committee Chairperson, Father Boniface Tamani also wondered why parliament had difficulties in debating the Corrupt Practices Act.

      Wondered Tamani: "If this government were serving the interests of all Malawians, the recommendations from the Law Commission on the Corrupt Practices Act would not have triggered any resistance. Why is government finding it difficult to remove the DPP's consent?" During the last sitting of parliament the bills that were passed were on Money, Education and Maneb, the Defence Force, Land and Legal Education and Legal Practitioners polishing the Constitution.

      According to Finance Minister Friday Jumbe, early adjustments due to misunderstandings and lack of a quorum which characterised the last sitting of Parliament cost the taxpayer K25 million, a sum that Malawi can ill afford.

      *****

      Zimbabwe state media spews 'hate speech'

      Harare

      20 December 2003 11:34


      Zimbabwe's state-controlled media has "blood on its hands" through inciting violence against President Robert Mugabe's critics, according to a report published in Zimbabwe this week.

      The state-controlled media was using the same strategy as Rwanda's "hate radio" which incited the violence that led to the deaths of about a million people there in 1994, the report alleges.

      In the months leading up to disputed presidential elections in March 2002, the state-owned Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation's television and radio services and the government-controlled Zimbabwe Newspapers group were "active accomplices in the theft of a nation's democratic rights," said the report by the Harare-based Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe, the country's independent media watchdog.

      "They were also, at the same time, accomplices to murder," says the report, entitled Media Under Siege. The report is the first to link Mugabe's propaganda war, directed by controversial Information Minister Jonathan Moyo, with the hundreds of deaths and thousands of cases of torture, assault, arson and destruction of homes in the last four years of state-driven lawlessness.

      "No longer is it adequate to say they are politically biased," the report says.

      The state broadcaster and Zimbabwe Newspapers, led by the Daily Herald in Harare, broadcast "deliberately untrue and inflammatory statements" that have "the effect of inciting people to violence."

      "When one day, the perpetrators of violence are held to account, those who incited them with 'hate speech' should not be forgotten", MMPZ says.

      Earlier this month, the United Nations' International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda sentenced two journalists from the militant Hutu radio station, Radio Television Libre des Mille Collines, known as Radio Machete," to life imprisonment for incitement to genocide. A pro-Hutu newspaper journalist got 35 years on the same charges.

      The journalists' outpourings of hate against the minority Tutsi population was held as a principal cause of one of the worst cases
      of genocide in recent history.

      "The scale of the violence (in Zimbabwe) is clearly very different, but in all other respects the parallel is a very close one," the MMPZ report says.

      "The Zimbabwe echo is so uncanny, it would hardly be surprising to find a copy of the (Radio Machete propaganda) manual on Jonathan Moyo's bookshelf."

      Zimbabwe's state media hold an almost total monopoly, with independent radio and television stations banned, and the country's sole independent newspaper, the Daily News, closed down by heavily armed paramilitary police in September.

      The state media broadcasts a constant stream of news bulletins, commentaries, talk shows and jingles that shower praise on the 79-year-old president and pour scorn and insults on the British government, the opposition Movement for Democratic Change and all other critical groups in the country.

      Media Under Siege says central to Moyo's propaganda strategy that the myth of a grand British terrorist conspiracy -- with opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai cast as "a puppet" -- to overthrow Mugabe violently and replace him with white, imperialist, neocolonial rule.

      It is "more than a historical curiosity" that at the centre of the Rwandan propaganda war were almost identical claims of conspiracy by the Belgian government, the East African state's former colonial power.

      MDC supporters, whites, journalists, priests, trade unionists "became 'sell-outs' and 'stooges,' dehumanising labels that made the MDC a legitimate target for the people's righteous violence," says the report.

      ZBC and Zimbzabwe Newspapers make "hardly any attempt to report what was actually happening," MMPZ says. Instead they became "willing propaganda organs" devoted to "mobilise a hard core of people who (around presidential elections last year) who would make sure that Robert Mugabe won the presidential election, regardless of what people wanted."

      The state media has provided a diet of "straightforward lies" alleging MDC plots to kill Mugabe, carry out bloody uprisings, spread anthrax, set up "killer houses" and sabotage the economy by hoarding banknotes, to report says.

      "If the language of violence is addressed to those who already have violent intent, then they will take it as an incitement to go ahead," it says.

      Egged on by ruling party politicians, particularly Mugabe who is already notorious for his violent rhetoric -- only last week he declared that the regime would "unleash legal violence" on the MDC -- the state media has created a climate of "fear and despondency" around the country, the MMPZ says. - Sapa

      *****

      Zimbabweans face hungry Christmas


      Zimbabwe is worst hit by the shortage of rains
      Millions of Zimbabweans will go hungry this Christmas because international donors have failed to provide enough food, the United Nations has warned.
      The World Food Programme said that more than 2.5m Zimbabweans would have their food rations halved over the festive season because of the shortfall.

      The WFP says the outlook for 2004 is even worse.

      January marks the beginning of the hungry season, when food supplies are usually at their lowest.

      If the WFP does not receive new donations soon, it will have to cut rations even further.

      It has been carrying out emergency feeding across Southern Africa since 2001; but more and more it is having to concentrate its efforts on Zimbabwe.

      The BBC's Southern Africa correspondent, Barnaby Phillips, says the crisis is complex; erratic rains, disastrous economic policies, the upheavals of the land invasions and the spread of HIV/Aids have all played a part.

      In the space of just a few years Zimbabwe has been transformed from a major food exporter to one of the most aid-dependent countries in the world.

      Drought

      Meanwhile, poor rainfall has hit the prospects for South African agriculture, with some farmers predicting the worst drought in a decade.

      The price of maize has already risen so sharply that United Nations agencies are no longer purchasing from South Africa, turning to American and Canadian imports instead.

      The WFP says South Africa currently has a two million tonne maize surplus from previous years, but that the outlook for farmers and consumers is bleak.



      Christine Chumbler
      Senior Writer/Editor
      USAID Africa Bureau Information Center
      1331 Pennsylvania Ave NW #1425
      Washington DC 20004
      Tel: (202) 661-5827
      Fax: (202) 661-5890
      http://www.usaid.gov/regions/afr/abic/
    • 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 8:06 AM
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        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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