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  • Christine Chumbler
    Vice President Under Fire in Malawi Malawi Standard (Blantyre) January 28, 2004 Posted to the web January 28, 2004 Brian Ligomeka Blantyre, Malawi If President
    Message 1 of 1046 , Jan 28, 2004
      Vice President Under Fire in Malawi

      Malawi Standard (Blantyre)

      January 28, 2004
      Posted to the web January 28, 2004

      Brian Ligomeka
      Blantyre, Malawi

      If President Bakili Muluzi drops dead today, who takes over as President? Is it Justin Malewezi, Chakufwa Chihana or a three-member Presidential Council?

      As nobody seems to have a ready answer to this question, political scientists, analysts, lawyers and religious leaders in an interview with The Malawi Standard have asked the country's Vice President Justin Malewezi who quit the ruling UDF, which sponsored him to power to resign from his position.

      But Attorney General Peter Fachi has gone an inch further by threatening that government would take Malewezi to court if he continues clinging on to vice presidency.

      Fachi says Malewezi's refusal to voluntarily resign from the post of Vice President after resigning from the ruling party was creating a Constitutional crisis.

      He says the office of the Vice President is very important and sensitive since the Vice President stands next in line of succession in case of inability of the president to perform his duties.

      For instance, Fachi cited, if President Muluzi had been incapacitated during the recent accident the Presidential convoy was involved in government could have been in a dilemma.

      "If the President was injured seriously, we could have been in a dilemma since there could have been no-one to perform the presidential duties," he observed.

      In his resignation letter, Malewezi said he was resigning from the UDF but was merely going on leave for the Vice Presidency pending retirement after handing over to whoever will be elected after the 18 May general elections.

      But Attorney General Fachi says the Vice President's move has created problems for government since he has not only resigned from the UDF but also joined an opposition party, the People's Progressive Movement where he was elected First Vice President at its convention.

      Fachi however admits that although Malawi laws are silent on the present situation government will ask the courts to interpret the situation.

      "Although laws are silent on the situation, we feel by taking such a long holiday, technically, Mr Malewezi has resigned," he says.

      But media reports have quoted Malewezi as saying he does not see any problem with his decision to take leave, which he said he deserves. He said that if important matters of state arise he could break his holiday and resume his duties.

      "I can go back to the office if need be," he said. "I have accumulated my leave days so much that if I don't take a holiday now, when will I go on leave since I will be retiring in May?" he said.

      Other observers however feel that Malewezi's resignation is in a way a betrayal of the members of the electorate who chose him.

      Reverend Sunday Makuleya , a church minister of Blantyre Synod CCAP told The Malawi Standard that although we say the office of Vice President is above party politics, it should however be remembered that Malewezi was elected as a Vice President because he stood on a UDF party ticket.

      "Members of the UDF who voted for Malewezi as Muluzi's running mate have every reason to call for the resignation of Malewezi because they voted him because he was running on the ticket of UDF. Should we claim that Malewezi is serving the president efficiently while he has defected from the ruling UDF and joined the opposition PPM?" wonders Rev. Makuleya.

      Anglican Bishop James Tengatenga echoed Reverend Makuleya's concerns and blamed the country's legislators who repealed the Recall Act. Tengatenga says that if the Recall Act was in place, the electorate would have simply recalled him.

      "In my view we have always had a problem, it's only that Malawians never noticed it in some ways. From Day One in 1994, the First Amendment of the proposed Constitution was the removal of the right of the people of Malawi to recall a Parliamentarian, if they felt that he was not serving their interests. Unfortunately we let the people defect from their parties and declared themselves independent and their independence was upheld," says Tengatenga.

      "If the Recall Act was in place, it would have been easy to use it to recall the Vice President," says Tengatenga.

      PETRA's president, Kamuzu Chibambo speaking as an independent lawyer says it will be suicidal for Malawians to rush at declaring the situation as a constitutional crisis but would rather call it party crisis.

      He however, advised that the only way of breaking the impulse is to seek the interpretation of the courts to try removing the lacunar that is in the Republican Constitution.

      He said the other way could be by simply impeaching the first vice president " but the problem is that impeachment has to be on solid grounds."

      "You see the courts can only interpret the constitution but unfortunately they can not legislate," he said.

      But the ruling UDF wants Malewezi to resign as Vice President because Article 44 of the Party Constitution stipulates that any member who voluntarily resigns should lose all the public positions he was holding because of being a UDF member.

      "Any member may resign from the party or from any position he holds in the party by notifying the Secretary General in writing.

      Upon such a member resigning, he or she shall be deemed to have resigned from all position held by the virtue of his or her membership of the party, with effect from the date of his or her resignation," reads Article 44 of the UDF Constitution.

      UDF deputy spokesperson Mary Kaphwereza Banda argues that Malewezi became Vice President because he was fielded as a running mate to Dr Bakili Muluzi on the UDF ticket.

      "Malewezi could not have been Vice President if the UDF did not sponsor him as a running mate. Even the Constitution of Malawi says the running mate in an election obviously becomes Vice President when the party that sponsors him wins an election," says Kaphwereza Banda.

      An independent political commentator describes Malewezi as an opportunist, a confusionist, a finished politician, a political chameleon, who is draining tax payers money by clinging on to the position of Vice President, when he is supposed to resign.

      "If Malewezi is a real politician who has confidence in himself, why can't he just resign outright so that he can be replaced? Why should he play politics of a confusionist by taking a controversial six months French leave?" he wonders.

      A Blantyre based John Phiri, a businessman has no kind words. Describing Malewezi as a liar, he cautions Malawians to be careful with politicians like Malewezi.

      "When he just resigned from the UDF he told the nation that he wanted to concentrate on his educational studies, but just a few days later we saw him addressing political rallies organised by PPM? Is he trying to tell the nation that he is going to get his so called PhD by addressing rallies? What has he achieved by joining PPM, a briefcase party which does not even have any representation in Parliament?" Phiri says.

      Another observer simply quizzes: "How would Malewezi in good conscience receive his hefty salary when he is just slumbering at his house without discharging government duties?"

      Like Bishop Tengatenga, the political observer says its high time the Constitutional lawyers in the country battled it in courts on what action ought to be done to a Vice President who absconds duties in the name of a six months French leave.

      "Let the courts decide what the government should do to this defector who is still chewing government money while serving the opposition," he says.ar "In my view we have alway


      Opposition Alliance a Tall Order

      Malawi Standard (Blantyre)

      January 28, 2004
      Posted to the web January 28, 2004

      Wisdom Chimgwede
      Blantyre, Malawi

      The much touted Mgwirizano Coalition, a grouping of all opposition parties in the country aimed at ousting the United Democratic Front (UDF) from power at the ballot box, has proved to be a tall order as disagreements over the choice of a presidential candidate have erupted even before the issue has been tabled.

      Bishop James Tengatenga, chairing the church led coalition talks, conceded a power struggle might tear the talks apart as some parties are saying they are bigger than the others therefore they cannot have equal representation when choosing a presidential candidate.

      "The most contentious issue is what is the parties' representation in the process of electing the president to the coalition. This is a very, very contentious issue which has sparked some controversies," said Tengatenga.

      Explained Tengatenga: "In all our discussions we've had equal representation (four representatives from each party), but there are some people who think they are bigger than others. It is these people "who are bigger than others" who want a bigger representation, but doing that is creating a loop-sided situation.

      "That is a point of contention but being contentious doesn't necessarily mean that the rest of the process you have gone through is pointless."

      The electoral criteria is a thorny issue that has now culminated into three key parties - the National Democratic alliance (NDA), Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and Movement for Genuine Democracy (Mgode) - pending their endorsement of the nine party Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU), two weeks before the opposition elect their presidential candidate.

      Tengatenga says the parties themselves made these rules but MCP claims that it was not party to the formation of the rules, arguing that some people formulated the rules and imposed on other parties.

      "We, as church people, never participated in the formulation of these conditions," Tengatenga said.

      But whether other parties are key or not, Tengatenga said in an exclusive interview, the principle is that they are all equal and the fact that the three parties could not sign the much touted document "is unfortunate and certainly disappointing."

      MCP and NDA wrote letters to the Coalition chair, stating reasons why they could not sign the Memorandum of understanding while Mgode had two contradicting letters which surprised the other politicians in the opposition camp.

      Tengatenga read the letters to the delegates at the signing ceremony.

      NDA's read in part: "We are suspicious of political undercurrents in the coalition discussions, particularly in the emerging proposals and procedures for electing a presidential candidate and running mate.

      Secondly, the draft MOU is not clear whether we're entering into a merger or an electoral alliance. We feel the process will not take Malawi's political realities into account and, as a result, we may lose a God-given opportunity to win the general election."

      The NDA feels the arrangement of having one flag, common slogan and one symbol is itself a merger a thin Tengatenga denies.

      MCP said in their letter: "A number of us do not believe that majorities at this type of effort is the basis of moving forward. We prefer consensus which takes into account circumstances of the players on the ground and the natural responses of the supporters we all represent."

      But sad still, Mgode had two letters one from the party interim Chair Du Mhango saying they will sign at a latter stage because the vehicle he was traveling in had developed a problem but the other one from Greenwell Mwamondwe clearly stating that AFORD break-away will not sign.

      However the Anglican Bishop says: "The good thing is that there is still hope that they may come back," he said, looking down trodden and disappointed.

      However, a source very close to the talks told Malawi Standard, chances of the three returning to talks are very minimal.

      Said an MCP source: "Unfortunately we are already midway negotiating a parallel coalition and we are assured of taking over government in May. We don't want someone to ride on our backs for free and when he hasn't got the numbers."

      The NDA Vice President Viva Nyimba also shares the stance. He told the press earlier before the signing ceremony that his party was "convinced that the small parties who do not even have structures on the ground are merely using the coalition to ride on the backs of the established parties to get into power."

      And all the three parties indicated in their respective letters that they were not convinced with the criteria of choosing the presidential candidate and his running mate but maintained they regard the clergy's efforts as superior and that they were willing to come back.

      Salule Masangwi, another NDA official said in a separate interview: "What we are concerned with are logistical problems. The smaller parties are rushing at thinking of a presidential candidate and running mate forgetting the electoral process."

      He denied the allegations of NDA, MCP and Mgode trying to form a parallel grouping but said efforts have reached an advanced stage for NDA and Mgode to sign a bilateral arrangement.

      He also revealed that NDA as a party are not in favour of fielding one parliamentary candidate in some constituencies saying "as a party we want to establish a power base."

      "We are of the view that every party should compete in every constituency because that's what determines your strength come parliament time," he said.

      MCP's letter also indicated that they need more time to consult and take the document for discussion at the party's National Executive Committee (NEC).

      Asked if the clergy has achieved all that they anticipated in the wake of the latest confusion, Tengatenga said: "Our purpose was to make the parties to be able to talk to each other for a common good and having six parties signing, to us that's good enough."

      However, sources also indicated that cracks are still inevitable even among the six parties who have signed the MOU.

      Masangwi indicated that the three parties are disappointed "because instead of thinking about how we can monitor the registration process to avoid rigging the small parties are rushing at sharing positions."

      "Right now I'm spending a lot of money paying monitors in my constituency and yet these people have done nothing but looking at how we shall elect a presidential candidate. That's out of question," he charged.

      Sources say that a segment of the six with support from Tengatenga are for the PPM First Vice President Justin Malewezi to run as presidential candidate which runs contrary to the agreed criterion that proposes party presidential candidates to fight for the high office.

      But the Bishop denied the allegations.

      Nonetheless, the source said that the pro-Malewezi group has assured him of their support even as an independent presidential candidate.

      But what do the six parties who signed the Memorandum say of their colleagues pulling out and calling them small.

      Kamuzu Chibambo, president of the People's Transformation Party (Petra) said the failure itself is disappointing but conceded that the three have a right to choose what they want.

      "But the greatest hope is that we shall reach a compromise because these are key parties and they have and they still are useful players in this process," he accepts.

      Harry Chiume, President of the United Party told a gathering of opposition supporters outside Mount Soche hotel in Blantyre, venue of the signing ceremony, that he doesn't care whether the three will come back or not.

      "Refusing to sign is refusing to honour your supporters. We cannot do that. We are not hungry for power," he said.

      While Malawi Democratic Party (MDP) President Kamulepo Kalua indicated that the six parties would continue with the fight with or without MCP, NDA and Mgode charging that the three will be given an ultimatum.

      He says by refusing to sign the document and referring to his party as small, just shows how greedy and power hungry other parties are.

      Republican Party president Gwanda Chakuamba argues that his party has structures across the country and cannot be described as small.

      But how small is small and how big is big?

      Of the nine parties participating in the talks, only MCP is recognized as opposition in parliament currently with 48 MPs. NDA has seven Mps six of them from UDF and Kingsley Ng'ambi from Aford. Mgode has 20 all of them defectees from the Alliance for Democracy. However both Mgode and NDA have party vote in house.

      Aleke Banda's PPM has one member of parliament, Jaan Sonke of Blantyre Kabula Constituency.

      Republican Party has about 10 of the former MCP MPs to its credit with most of the lower Shire in support of Chakuamba. While the rest of the oppostion parties are yet to establish themselves from the constituency down to branch level.

      Again, it is only MCP which has offices throughout the country, NDA has most of its offices in the south up to district level plus a regional office at the centre and in the north while Mgode claims to have taken over AFORD structures in the northern region.

      The rest still operate from their houses and company offices.

      Apart from that, only NDA and MCP have managed to field monitors in all the registration centres of the country's 193 constituencies.

      Mgode has some monitors in most of the districts in the north while PPM has a handful monitors in Aleke Banda's Nkhata Bay district.


      Chilis Prompt Elephants to Cool Their Heels

      Charles Mkoka

      BLANTYRE, Jan 16 (IPS) - Elephants and humans have long found themselves at loggerheads in Africa, and Malawi is no exception to this trend.

      Communities in the southern Machinga and Balaka districts near Liwonde National Park have seen their crops destroyed by elephants, while some people have been trampled to death. This led to the construction of a perimeter fence around the 538 square kilometre park in the early 1990's.

      However, a number of people complained that the fence prevented them from gathering wood and water in Liwonde, as they had previously done. Poachers who were trapping game and fish in the reserve also took exception to the new barrier, and the fence was vandalised. Ironically, the fence wire was used to make snares for catching animals.

      A few years later, the stance of communities surrounding the park appears to have softened, and they have joined forces with government to build a new solar-powered fence. But, villagers are also exploring a more innovative way of keeping the elephants at bay: the planting of chili pepper plants.

      Speaking from Liwonde National Park, Mathias Elisa - a Parks and Wildlife Department official who is responsible for education û said, - Observations conducted during chili production revealed that elephants keep diverting from areas where the...production is being done."

      ôElephants hate the smell of chili, especially when the stems have been burnt. It appears they...distance themselves from where the chili is growing," he added.

      The Partnership in Sustainable Natural Resource Management in Malawi, a U.S-funded group based in the commercial capital of Blantyre, has selected a number of communities to train in chili production. This follows similar ventures in South Africa and Zimbabwe, where chilis have proved effective in reducing conflict between humans and wildlife.

      The National Smallholder Farmers of Malawi organisation has also provided assistance to villagers by showing them how to space, transplant and harvest chili plants. In addition, the growers have been given information about grading, storage and marketing.

      Once harvested and graded, the chilis are sold to European countries û particularly Holland, Spain and Italy û where they are combined with paprika to make the powder used in pepper sprays.

      Records kept by Liwonde National Park show that chili sales for 2002- 2003 resulted in a profit of 1,500 dollars for adjacent communities, or about 28 dollars per household. According to the United Nations Human Development Report for 2003, almost 42 percent of Malawi's population lives below the poverty line of a dollar a day.

      Other communities near the reserve are now queuing up to join the programme. ôThe response has been overwhelming. Right now 13 new (chili growing) clubs have been established in...Machinga district," says Elisa, who coordinates chili project activities for the wildlife department.

      Njahito club, on the eastern side of Liwonde, was the star performer in chili production last year. Ten women and 19 men from this community have started growing chilis.

      Club Chairman Godfrey Mkwate says, ôWe are happy with the chili production project. Apart from reaping benefits economically through sales, the problems of elephants destroying our crops and property has also been minimised."

      Park officials hope that the chili project, in addition to smoothing human-elephant relations, will lessen the demands which locals continue to place on Liwonde's plant and animal resources. As a result of the demand for wood and other items, the reserve has already been reduced in size by 10 square kilometres to meet the needs of surrounding communities. (END/2004)


      Consultant called for Mugabe's 'removal'


      28 January 2004 07:18

      Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai told a court hearing his trial on Tuesday that a Canada-based political consultant had tried to convince him of the need to assassinate Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe, but denied he had in any way agreed to such a plot.

      Tsvangirai, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change, is charged with plotting to assassinate Mugabe in a case that carries the death penalty if he is convicted.

      The charges hinge on a grainy and barely audible four-and-a-half-hour video, secretly recorded in 2001 at consultant Ari Ben Menashe's Montreal offices, in which Tsvangirai is accused of calling for Mugabe's "elimination."

      Under cross examination in his long running trial, Tsvangirai said Ben Menashe spoke of the elimination of Mugabe by "sinister" means that could cause the leader harm.

      "I was really upset. The meeting was getting so tense. Mr Ben Menashe was pushing this agenda. It was my feeling that there was a sinister meaning," Tsvangirai told Judge Paddington Garwe.

      The early part of the meeting on December 4 in 2001 focused on Mugabe's exclusion from presidential elections in 2002 through a retirement deal or his possible defeat at the polls, Tsvangirai said.

      Ben Menashe had promised to lobby for international support for a new government.

      Tsvangirai said Ben Menashe then changed track, calling for the physical removal of Mugabe, and demanded his response.

      Cross examined by state attorney Bharat Patel, Tsvangirai said it was clear Ben Menashe was proposing the violent removal of Mugabe.

      Patel asked: "The sinister removal of President Mugabe was on the table. Did you think about it?"

      "Yes," replied Tsvangirai.

      But he said he did not think Mugabe's murder was an option to remove him from office. "I discussed the principle of Mugabe going, not the method," Tsvangirai said.

      Tsvangirai was charged two weeks before he ran against Mugabe in 2002 presidential elections. Mugabe narrowly won re-election in the vote, which independent observers said was swayed by intimidation and vote rigging.

      Defence attorneys argue Tsvangirai, who is free on bail, was entrapped by Ben Menashe who already was working as a consultant for the Zimbabwe government when the secret video was recorded.

      Ben Menashe, who claims to be a former Israeli intelligence agent, was acquitted by a US federal jury in 1990 of illegally arranging a $36-million deal to sell US-made military cargo planes to Iran in exchange for the release of four American hostages.

      Israel denies he did intelligence work for the country but says he served briefly as a junior clerk in its civil service.

      Ben Menashe visited Zimbabwe last week to offer to sell the government oil from Azerbaijan, government officials confirmed.

      Zimbabwe is suffering acute fuel shortages. - Sapa-AP


      UK satirist awaits fate in Zambia

      A British writer has challenged his deportation from Zambia for allegedly insulting the president.
      Roy Clarke had compared President Levy Mwanawasa to a "foolish elephant" in a satirical newspaper column.

      While his appeal was being heard, supporters of Mr Clarke clashed with ruling party activists outside the High Court.

      The BBC's Penny Dale in Lusaka says some 300 of Mr Clarke's supporters arrived at court wearing white T-shirts, on which the controversial article in The Post newspaper had been reprinted.

      But then a minibus arrived with ruling party militants, shouting: "We're here because of that stupid writer from Britain, that Roy Clarke, he insulted our president."

      They ripped up some of the T-shirts before police fired teargas to disperse them.

      Not vindictive

      Judge Philip Musonda said he would deliver his judgement in about 40 days.

      Earlier this month the High Court ordered the authorities not to deport Mr Clarke until his case has been decided by the courts.

      Mr Clarke is married to a Zambian women's rights activist and has permanent residency.

      Zambian Home Affairs Minister Ronnie Shikapwasha had originally given Mr Clarke 24 hours to leave the country.

      He said they were not seeking to deport Mr Clarke vindictively but because it was wrong for him to insult the people of Zambia by referring to the president and government ministers as animals.
    • Christine Chumbler
      ADB firm on Karonga-Chitipa road contract by Zainah Liwanda, 22 May 2006 - 06:09:17 The African Development Bank (ADB) has again rejected a proposal by
      Message 1046 of 1046 , May 22, 2006

        ADB firm on Karonga-Chitipa road contract

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


        Chihana operated on

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

        Mughogho is now in charge of the party.

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


        Pillane proposes presidential age limit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


        Mussa hails new driving licence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


        UDF demands investigation on Kasambara

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


        Zambia: Malawians Grab Zambian Land

        The Times of Zambia (Ndola)

        May 18, 2006

        Posted to the web May 19, 2006

        Andrew Lungu


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

        The Zimbabwean traders were warned and cautioned and later released.

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



        Zim unions, MDC still plan anti-govt protests

        Harare, Zimbabwe

        22 May 2006 11:51

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

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

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

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

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

        Opposition protests

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


        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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