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  • Christine Chumbler
    Voter Apathy Expected During Local Government Elections The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe) January 5, 2004 Posted to the web January 5, 2004 Wezie Nyirongo
    Message 1 of 1046 , Jan 6, 2004
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      Voter Apathy Expected During Local Government Elections

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      January 5, 2004
      Posted to the web January 5, 2004

      Wezie Nyirongo
      Lilongwe

      The failure to hold triparite elections in the coming elections slatted for next year will affect the Local Government Elections considerably in 2005. A vox pop carried out by The Chronicle has established that the majority of Malawians will more than likely shun the local government elections. One of the reasons givben for this apathy is that it is percieved that the duties of the councillors are not clearly explained to them.

      The ignorance on the separation of powers between members of parliament and councilors will also influence the voter apathy syndrome in the local government elections. Others claimed that they don't see the importance of local government elections since the councilors have been largely ineffective in developmental activities in their areas. "I personally do not see why we should go ahead with the local government elections after the proposal to hold tripartite elections has flopped. These councilors have done absolutely nothing in their respective areas apart from enjoying external trips which have never benefitted the poor Malawians in rural areas," said Mathemba Kajani, a local villager from Mzimba district. "We have had councilors for a period of time but they are not active and developmental conscious. In most cases MPs are the ones who are seen to be responsible for developmental activities," said Kajani.

      Another villager, Abel Kumwenda also told The Chronicle that as long as the duties of the councilors are not clearly enumerated to them, it would be difficult for voters to participate fully in local government elections.

      Kumwenda said there is always difficulties in understanding the separation of powers between MPs and councilors and it is the MPs who are mostly accused of having little initiative to developing their areas.

      He also wondered if MPs and councilors work hand in hand in developmental programmes saying: "If these two groups work together then they are all to blame for not developing their areas." "Even the criteria for choosing councilors by respective parties should be scrutinised. It should be done on merit and should be based on effective performance. Councilors must have a wider knowledge of developmental work if voters are to put any trust in them," said Kumwenda adding that the majority have lost trust in councilors and would rather support their MPs.

      Alfred Rajabu, a street vendor in the city of Lilongwe emphatically said he would not vote in the local governmental elections, "It is better to only have an MP rather than a councilor who at the end of the day doesn't know why he or she was voted into that particular position for. Let MPs continue developing areas rather than people wasting their time voting for councilors who can not perform at all." However, most of the people who talked to The Chronicle welcomed the idea that siting councilors can indeed contest for parliamentary seats, but only if they resign from their councilor position. "The idea to let sitting councilors vie for parliamentary seats is really welcome if change is to happen in our respective areas.

      'Indeed if an MP is not performing the councilors should really come in for there to be a change," said Mai Zainabu, a Kawale resident. She however noted that they (councilors) should not just be excited with the idea but should really have the right spirit to bring meaningful change.

      Meanwhile, all the three parties, namely the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) United Democratic Front (UDF), the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) have welcomed the idea of allowing councilors to contest for parliamentary seats after they resign in their current positions.

      *****

      VP Malewezi for MAFUNDE

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      January 5, 2004
      Posted to the web January 5, 2004

      Wezie Nyirongo
      Lilongwe

      The political drama continues to unfold in Malawi's political system as more defections are likely to occur within parties . The first vice president Justin Malewezi who has just resigned from the UDF has been tipped to join the Malawi Forum for Democracy (MAFUNDE) and is earmarked to fill the highest position of the presidency for the party, The Chronicle has established.

      Information reaching The Chronicle indicates that members from MAFUNDE had been influencing Malewezi to resign and join the party and have offered the presidential position in readiness to the 2004 elections to him. Reports say the party had been postponing its convention awaiting a response from Malewezi. The party will now hold its convention on 17th January.


      In his resignation letter, Malewezi only indicated that his resignation is based on personal reasons but would be issuing a statement on his political future after a week or two.

      Unconfirmed reports from sources say the Commerce and Industry Minister Sam Mpasu and former minister for the ministry Peter Kaleso are also joining MAFUNDE and would be followed by Harry Thomson who recently resigned from UDF and joined the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) after being fired from President Muluzi's cabinet last year.

      It is said the party will announce and welcome the new members for the party soon, just before the convection slated for this month.

      One of the new members who has just joined the party, Dan Msowoya commenting on Malewezi's resignation said he welcomes the stand the Vice President has taken and described it as 'timely'.

      Msowoya told The Chronicle that he wished that Malewezi would join MAFUNDE saying he could be a very happy man working with the former UDF leader in the party. "Malewezi is very good and I wish he could join MAFUNDE. I would be a very happy man working with him in the party," said Msowoya who is also tipped to vie for the presidential position at the coming convention. "MAFUNDE needs people of his calibre to join the party. Politicians that are experienced and free to take the struggle and drive the party to the 2004 elections successfully," added Msowoya who is the former AFORD publicity secretary.

      Malewezi's personal assistant Madalitso Kuyera told The Chronicle that he is not aware of any move that the veep will be joining MAFUNDE. "I am not aware of this because the veep has said nothing to me at the moment about it, but and I am still waiting for his statement which is to be issued as he stated in his resignation letter," said Kuyera.

      MAFUNDE publicity secretary Harold Williams told The Chronicle that he was not aware of the newcomers in the party saying: "I wouldn't know about such developments at the moment because I have been in Blantyre and I am not aware of what my colleagues have been discussing." Other sources say the move for Malewezi to join MAFUNDE will be a way through to the coalition process where discussions are proving to be difficult. Indications are that there is difficulty n determining who will lead the coalition as all the players are said to be demanding that they are chosen as the presidential candidate.Malawezi's resignation offers a ray of hope because he is seen as someone that could lead the coalition as the presidential candidate with the NDA leader, Brown Mpinganjira as his running mate.

      MCP leader John Tembo is earmarked to fill the position of the Finance minister in the coalition talks. However the idea is not in accordance with the aspirations of Tembo who had declared, on more than one occasion that he wishes to be the presidential candidate and that the MCP can 'go it alone' and win the next elections.

      According to reports, he would like to be the presidential candidate and has insisted that his running mate would have to come from the MCP also.

      *****

      MCP's Future Uncertain - Ntaba

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      January 5, 2004
      Posted to the web January 5, 2004

      Pilirani Phiri
      Lilongwe

      Former Malawi Congress Party (MCP) Publicity Secretary Hetherwick Ntaba, who recently announced the formation of his new party, the New Congress for Democracy (NCD) has said MCP has no political future because it still has an unresolved leadership crisis which publicly appears to have been reconciled but it is "privately irreconcilable".

      Speaking Monday in a face to face interview with The Chronicle Ntaba said the future of his former party is uncertain charging that there is still troubled brewing and there are irreconcilable differences in the leadership in MCP between the party's President John Tembo and it's vice, Gwanda Chakuamba which he said was one reason that forced him to leave the party and form his own party. "MCP, in my opinion has no prospect of a bright future as a party. The party still has a troubled leadership which publicly appears to have been resolved but privately Tembo and Chakuamba are still irreconcilable. It is the same leadership that caused my expulsion from Parliament three times, frustrated my chances to becoming Speaker of Parliament in 1999, and just recently Tembo was plotting to bar me from contesting in my constituency by refusing to sign my nomination papers if I had remained in MCP," said Ntaba.

      Ntaba who is now NCD's interim President further said MCP's political future really hangs in limbo due to the party's leadership of intimidation that is practised in the party.

      When The Chronicle contacted Chakuamba to comment on Ntaba's allegations that his much touted reunion with his MCP President is merely a cosmetic one and that the two will never reconcile, Chakuamba, before answering the question asked The Chronicle if it had asked Tembo a similar question. "Have you asked Tembo the same question? However, on my part I think I have demonstrated that there is a spirit of reconciliation in the party,"said the former Leader of Opposition without further elaborating.

      Efforts by The Chronicle to get hold of Tembo for his comment on the same issue proved futile as his mobile phone was switched to voice mail.

      Meanwhile, MCP vice President Gwanda Chakuamba has since resigned his position of Leader of Opposition following the reinstatement of the party's President John Tembo to Parliament by the Supreme Court of Appeal recently.

      Chakuamba's willingness to readily step down voluntarily has shown again how he is willing to conform to the rule of law and the spirit of democracy and decency, something his president has had difficulty with in the past.

      *****

      Big Brother Housemates Join the Fight Against HIV/Aids

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      INTERVIEW
      January 5, 2004
      Posted to the web January 5, 2004

      Pushpa Jamieson
      Lilongwe

      Since the end of the Big Brother House (BBH) competition on 7th September 2003, the housemates have been busy promoting themselves, commodities and also fund raising for different needs.

      Recently the housemates were involved in the serious business of promoting HIV/AIDS awareness within the region. Several housemates visited Uganda in order to play their part in making the youth more aware of the effects of the epidemic in Africa, and to participate in workshops.

      The workshops provided them with information which they will put to use in their campaign to increase HIV/AIDS awareness amongst the youth.

      Malawi's BBH representative, Zein Dudha was one of the housemates who visited Uganda. Responding to question put to him, Zein was able to shed more light on the reason for the visit and what the BBH housemates learnt in order for them to play their part in the fight to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS.

      We understand that you have been to Uganda on some AIDS tour. Can you tell us what it is that you did, who you visited and what you plan to do with the insight you had to help with the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Have you been to any other African country on a similar tour?

      The Uganda trip was the first trip that any of the housemates went to solely for the purpose of increasing AIDS awareness amongst the youth. We had workshops with peer co-ordinators of HIV NGOs from throughout Uganda, as well as from select countries in Africa (including Malawi), where we learnt about the specific challenges that they face due to their unique geographic and demographics differences. We also spent time with them creating messages for radio and TV in order to try and stop the stigma and discrimination faced by people living with HIV.

      Apart from the workshop we did interviews on TV and with newspapers, participated in a music concert, and were very fortunate to be invited to the World Aids Day official function where we met with President Yoweri Museveni who endorsed the positive work that we were doing for the youth of Uganda.

      What was the most interesting point of you visit?

      Learning from the peer co-ordinators was not only interesting but very informative as AIDS issues vary greatly in the different regions of Uganda.

      In the regions where there is conflict the main concern is with young girls getting abducted and raped by the rebels. The arid areas where the population are mostly nomadic cattle herders, there is a problem of them catching and spreading the disease in the different towns or settlements that they visit. In the other rural areas. There is the more common problem of circumcision using equipment that is not sterile and in the towns, the main problems were prostitution and promiscuity.

      What do you think about the way the country of Uganda is fighting HIV/AIDS?

      Uganda started fighting HIV very early, and adopted a very open and honest approach in the way they disseminate information to the population.

      As a result they managed to reduce the HIV prevalence rate from around 30% to 6.5% which is quite a significant achievement.

      Do you feel that there is something that Malawi can learn from Uganda's experience with HIV/AIDS?

      Uganda's achievement can be attributed mainly to the high level of political commitment in the fight against HIV/AIDS, openness about the epidemic, involvement of all sections of society and the government policy of decentralization. Malawi can learn a lot in all these areas.

      Which other members of BBH have been involved in making sure that HIV/AIDS is given high visibility in Africa and in what way?

      All the housemates are very serious about working with the youth on this issue, and we will be working closely with the relevant organizations in our countries to try and get similar workshops and awareness events done there.

      How were members of the youth and adolescents involved in the fight against HIV/AIDS in Uganda?

      The youth in Uganda understand that for their fellow peers to learn and listen to messages about HIV/AIDS. It has to come from people of the same age group. By getting actively involved in the many NGOs they are getting involved and this is why Uganda is seen as the success story of Africa.

      How do you plan to continue making sure that HIV/AIDS is given and maintains a high profile in Malawi?

      I am speaking with UNICEF in Malawi about different ways in which we can work together. Hopefully early next year we will do a couple of projects together which I am very excited about.

      Peer pressure is one of the biggest reasons youth get involved in risky behaviour. Can you tell us of ways in which you as a BBH participant has been able to deal with peer pressure?

      Education, knowledge, self respect and an ambition to see a better future are all ways in which we arm ourselves to lead better and safer lives. If we are able to see the bigger picture of our lives it is easier to deal with peer pressure.

      Do you think the responsibility that the nation is placing on the youth in the fight against HIV/AIDS can be achieved by them?

      Definitely!!! As Stephen Lewis the UN Special Envoy on AIDS in Africa said, "If AIDS is to be defeated in Africa, the youth will defeat it." We must never underestimate the power of the youth. They are our future, and through them Africa will eventually come out of the epidemic.

      What message do you have for the nation of Malawi during the festive season and what in particular do you have to say to the youth.

      I hope that everyone enjoyed themselves during the holiday season. Being young and having fun are the best times of ones life! However if you are planning on doing anything sexual in the future please Stop, Think and Be Safe!

      What has been the highlight of your life since the end of BBH AFRICA ZD; Meeting all the many supporters of the show in the different countries has made me realize that BBA was more than just a regular TV reality show.

      It actually has brought Africa closer together, and I am honoured to have been a part of this.

      *****

      Elections Reporting Gets Boost .... As Stringers Receive Recorders

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      January 5, 2004
      Posted to the web January 5, 2004

      Rex Chalenga
      Lilongwe

      66 journalists who were recruited and trained by the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) as stringers to be dispersed throughout Malawi received recording equipment worth MK588,586 to assist in their reporting and coverage of the 2004 elections. The 66 tape recorders and an equal number of audio tapes and initial batteries were provided by the National Editors' Forum of Malawi (NEFORM) with financial assistance from the Canada International Development Agency (CIDA) in response to the Commission's request for assistance in equipping their stringers.

      The MEC recruited stringers were deployed as a reaction to criticism levelled against the Commission for failing to fully cover contesting parties and candidates in the 1994 general elections.

      Present and speaking at the presentation and signing ceremony was the interim Chairperson of the NEFORM and also Editor In Chief of The Chronicle, Rob Jamieson who in his speech stated that the recorders will help ensure that the stringers have proper equipment and thus it will help in giving the public adequate information.

      'As editors in Malawi, our job is to ensure that people get adequate and accurate voter information. If the media is to give substance to the electoral process, they must have proper equipment to assist in the delivery of voter information,' stated Jamieson.

      Also speaking at the meeting was the Director of CIDA, Grant Hawes, who, in his speech said CIDA's effort in helping government hold free and fair elections was modest. 'The purpose of this event is to make a very modest contribution by the Canadian government to the holding of free and fair elections. The lack of this equipment had in previous years been one factor in the poor coverage of political events', stated Hawes.

      'I strongly believe that no society can develop unless government can be held accountable for it's actions by the citizens. Without strong mechanisms of accountability, governments quickly move from a focus on the public good to an obsession with serving their own interests,' stated Hawes who went on to add: 'Wherever we look in the world, we see that when countries do not have instruments of accountability - societies suffer and fail to develop', said Hawes.

      Last to speak was the Chairperson of Media and Public Relations Committee, Commissioner Lilian Kapanda Phiri who, in her speech ensured that the reporters receiving this equipment will provide full coverage of events regardless of which political party is addressing them.

      'These reporters will concentrate all their efforts on rallies and meetings regardless of which political party is addressing them. It was felt by the Commission that putting the journalists under its direct control would greatly improve the chances of achieving balance,' stated Phiri. After showing gratitude, Phiri asked of CIDA to assist further in providing support towards the conduct of political debates.

      'We would also like to request CIDA to consider providing support towards the conduct of political debates which enable candidates to campaign on the radio', stated Phiri.


      *****

      Zambian court blocks deportation of columnist

      Lusaka
      06 January 2004 10:55

      A Zambian court has temporarily blocked the deportation of a British writer who was ordered to be deported for allegedly "insulting" President Levy Mwanawasa in his weekly column in a private newspaper, his lawyer said on Tuesday.

      Patrick Matibini said he obtained a "a stay of execution order" on Monday night from the Lusaka high court after he filed an application.

      "The judge has granted us the order pending the hearing of the main case at a date to be announced later," said Matibini.

      The Zambian government on Monday gave Roy Clarke, a newspaper columnist, one day to leave for supposedly deriding Mwanawasa in his last article in The Post newspaper.

      The article, modelled along the lines of George Orwell's Animal Farm, referred to the person in charge of the farm as "Mawelewele", or fool in the local Nyanja dialect.

      The article, published last Thursday, also referred to ministers as "long-legged giraffes, red-lipped, long-figured baboons." Clarke has lived in Zambia for many years and is married to a prominent Zambian women's rights activist.

      On Tuesday, Fred Mmembe, the editor of The Post, re-published Clarke's article in full but put his own byline.

      The Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa) watchdog meanwhile appealed to Mwanawasa in a statement to rescind the decision to deport Clarke, saying it was contrary to human rights and press freedom. - Sapa-AFP

      *****

      Land reallocation for 'committed' farmers

      06 January 2004 08:49

      About 400 of the farms recovered so far from senior government officials who ignored a presidential directive and held multiple properties will be given to farmers who are "serious and committed" to agricultural production, authorities said on Monday.

      "The land will only be reallocated to farmers who have experience and are able to prove that they intend to use the land for the sole purpose of agricultural production. Property speculators will not be considered," government spokesman Steyn Berejena told Irin.

      The government has yet to announce when reallocation will begin, but Berenjena acknowledged that there was a waiting list of people who were "very eager to move onto the land in order to begin farming".

      In July last year President Robert Mugabe ordered top officials of his ruling Zanu-PF party to give up excess farms if they had acquired more than one under the country's fast-track land redistribution programme.

      "There is now consensus that we are moving towards a fairer distribution of land, so that there isn't one group of individuals who has more land than they deserve," Berenjena added.

      In 2000 Mugabe's government appropriated white-owned commercial farms for redistribution to landless blacks. However, since the start of the controversial programme, the government has been widely criticised for allowing Zanu-PF's top hierarchy to grab some prime farms.

      Last year Mugabe appointed a committee headed by the former chief secretary to the cabinet, Charles Utete, to assess the resettlement programme.

      The "Utete Report" found that a number of top Zanu-PF officials owned multiple farms, prompting Mugabe to issue a directive to officials to hand over excess land within two weeks. It also noted that almost 40% of land made available for commercial farming had not been taken up by beneficiaries.

      The government cited a lack of farming equipment and inputs, and the difficulties resettled farmers faced in obtaining loans from banks as reasons for the slow uptake.

      Critics have argued that the land reform programme was implemented in a haphazard way, leaving many resettled farmers without the necessary support.

      However, Berenjena dismissed these claims, saying the government had embarked on a number of assistance programmes that targeted newly resettled farmers.

      "Of course there is the problem of funding but with the little that is available the government has assisted farmers with seeds and fertiliser. This has been ongoing - even those individuals who will be given the land that has been recovered will be given assistance," he said.

      Meanwhile the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) was less optimistic that the recovered land would be benefit those most in need.

      MDC's shadow minisiter of agriculture Renson Gasela told Irin: "We don't expect that this land redistribution process would be any fairer than the previous one. We suspect that the beneficieries are likley to be those who were left out the first time, namely some of the top ranking soldiers in the army."

      More than 200 000 landless black Zimbabweans have been resettled onto about 11 million hectares of land since the start of the land reform programme. -- Irin

      *****

      Action needed to aid mentally ill in Zim

      Bulawayo, Zimbabwe

      06 January 2004 08:49


      The knot of morning commuters in Bulawayo's working class suburb of Pumula North scattered as a frail-looking woman in ragged clothes, wielding a grass broom in one hand and a stick in the other, bore down on them shouting obscenities at the top of her voice.

      As she passed by, the inevitable conversations sprang up in her wake about "those people" and what the government should be doing to protect "normal" citizens.

      However disturbing the encounter with the raging woman, what the neighbourhood commentators failed to recognise was that the mentally ill are usually the vulnerable ones.

      Apart from abandonment by their families and neglect as a result of shrinking spending on health, they also risk sexual exploitation and the increased risk of HIV infection as Aids awareness programmes have bypassed them.

      According to the World Health Organisation, most middle- and low-income countries devote less than one percent of their health expenditure to mental health, which means that policies, legislation, community care and treatment facilities are dismally short of resources.

      The public's less than sensitive attitude towards the mentally ill is a cause for concern. But Elizabeth Matare, national director of the Zimbabwe National Association for Mental Health (ZIMNAMH), believes the government can do far more to enforce the rights of those stricken with mental, neurological or behavioural problems and has shirked its responsibility.

      "Mentally ill or retarded people are always left out of national budgets, disease prevention and mitigation policies. The lack of laws and the reluctance of the government in playing its part in the implementation of the national mental health policy exposes the ill or retarded to disease, deliberate neglect, and various forms of abuse, including sexual, which gives rise to the issue of HIV/Aids," said Matatre.

      "The mentally ill people of Zimbabwe are not recognised in term of social care and support systems, so there has never been a budget for them. The National Aids Policy, which forms the guidelines for the operation of the National Aids Council [NAC] has no provision for the mentally ill, yet they are a group that suffers from Aids just as everybody does," she recently told a workshop in Zimbabwe's second city, Bulawayo.

      According to ZIMNAMH's estimates, more than half of the country's 300 000 mentally ill are living with HIV/Aids.

      "What is alarming, however, is that the despite this majority, the National Aids Council, which has been in existence for three years, has never [accepted] ZIMNAMH's [argument] for their inclusion in the national anti-Aids strategies. There is no Aids education for the mentally ill, no distribution of condoms, contraceptives or other preventives, yet these people engage in sexual activities just like everybody," said Matare.

      A spokesperson for NAC said the organisation was aware of the plight of the mentally ill and was still considering the use of ZIMNAMH proposals as guidelines for the formulation of a special programme in anti-Aids campaigns.

      He noted that NAC "now recognises this important segment of society we had left out. They might soon be considered in our quarterly budgets".

      NAC distributes funds to local anti-Aids campaigns through provincial committees, which supervise district committees all the way down to the ward level.

      At the national level, ZIMNAMH's advocacy campaign has targeted parliamentary portfolio committees on public health, labour and social welfare. Home affairs and justice committees have also been approached in relation to the treatment of the mentally ill while in police custody and inside the country's prisons.

      ZIMNAMH says Zimbabwe's Mental Health Act of 1996 has never been fully implemented, resulting in the shoddy treatment and exclusion of the mentally ill. The act has also been criticised as being too vague -- or outright insensitive -- on gender issues relating to mental illness.

      The organisation argues that despite the government being a signatory to a host of conventions on the rights of the mentally ill, mental health still does not feature as a priority in national public health policy formulation, and community-based health programmes remain on the drawing board.

      Zimbabwe has two major referral hospitals with psychiatric sections in the capital, Harare, and one hospital specialising in mental disorders in Bulawayo.

      However, the institutions have been hit by shortages ranging from food and fuel to drugs and the lack of specialised personnel due to a brain drain that has attracted some of Zimbabwe's best health professionals abroad.

      Matare has called for consensus among all the role players and the creation of a Mental Health Policy Advisory Council to formulate an alternative policy. -- Irin
    • 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
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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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