- Malawi to launch first Aids policy
09 February 2004 12:50
Malawi's President Bakili Muluzi will on Tuesday launch the country's first-ever policy on HIV/Aids amid claims by health officials that the alarming infection rates in the Southern African nation have stabilised over the years.
Biswick Mwale, head of Malawi's national Aids commission, said the policy, on which work started in 2000, will try to provide a legal and administrative framework to combat the epidemic, which infects 14,4% of the country's 11-million people.
"The estimated HIV prevalence among adults of 15 to 49 years in Malawi in 2003 is 14,4%, which [is] 0,6% lower than the 2001 rate of 15%," said Mwale.
Mwale said "statistically this does not represent a decrease in prevalence but rather it indicates that the epidemic has stabilised over the years".
However, in September, a World Bank report warned that up to half of Malawi's professional workforce could die of HIV/Aids by 2005.
Professionals in the education and health sectors are particulary affected in the impoverished nation, as are members of the army and the police, the study said.
HIV/Aids has cut Malawi's life expectancy to just 36, according to the United Nations Development Programme.
Mwale said about 760 000 adults Malawians are infected with HIV of whom 56% are women. About 70 000 adults die of the disease every year, he added.
"The implications of the state of the epidemic in the country are quite serious and call for more concerted efforts by all sectors to prevent new infections," Mwale said.
Malawi, where HIV/Aids and sexual topics are taboo, has had no Aids policy for the past 21 years.
"We have operating without any guiding principle ... we want to ensure the observation of human rights, including gender and cultural sensitivity in the national response to the disease," Mwale said.
Some Malawians continue to practise traditions such as "death cleansing", which forces a widow to have sex with her brother-in-law before her husband is buried in order to "cleanse" his spirit.
With donor support, Malawi in 1999 launched a $110-million, five-year plan to break the silence about Aids. -- Sapa-AFP
UDF/Aford Coalition Split: Chihana Threatens to Pull Out If Demands Are Not Met
The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)
February 9, 2004
Posted to the web February 9, 2004
Wezie Nyirongo & Pilirani Phiri
AFORD leader Chakufwa Chihana has given the UDF an ultimatum to surrender the running mate position to him or risk an AFORD pull out on the alliance, The Chronicle has been informed.
The ongoing controversy between the UDF/AFORD alliance on the running mate position is causing great strain between the two parties and threatening the alliance they have formed. Information reaching The Chronicle suggests that President Bakili Muluzi and Second Vice President Chihana with a strong delegation from the two parties met last week on Tuesday and again on Wednesday night at the Lilongwe Mtunthama State House to discuss the thorny issue of the running mate position which AFORD is demanding as part of the coalition agreement between the two parties.
Chihana is said to have insisted that his demands to hold the position of running mate be guaranteed and even threatened to pull out of the alliance if the UDF did not meet his demand.
The Chronicle source who was present at the meeting said Chihana banged tables and told Muluzi point blank that he and his party would not hesitate to pull out of the coalition if his demands, which he believes are 'reasonable' are not met.
Rumphi East MP Gowa Dindi Nyasulu, who is a loyalist of the AFORD czar and a member of the task force in the negotiations between the two side is reported to have been among the people present at the meeting.
When The Chronicle visited his office for an interview, he denied there being any difficulties between the parties and dismissed the reports of the meeting saying he has not been involved in any negotiation talks within the week.
Nyasulu said during the days in question, Chihana was in the North addressing rallies and there is no truth in the report that he was in Lilongwe involved in talks with the delegation from UDF, including Muluzi.
'I was not involved in any talks recently in regard to the running mate issue with the UDF. I am a member of the task force and I would have known and been involved if there were such talks. The one who was telling you is not honest with the truth, he lied to you,' said Nyasulu.
He insisted that Chihana would not threaten to pull out of the coalition because all the negotiations so far had been in good faith.
When contacted to comment on the issue, a very angry Chihana blasted The Chronicle saying he should be left alone.
'The Chronicle? Don't phone me! Please don't put me into something... If you have no news please leave me alone!' charged an irate Chihana before abruptly terminating the telephone conversation Responding to the same issue, UDF Secretary General (SG) Kennedy Makwangwala said it was true that the two sides met on Tuesday in their ongoing negotiations with AFORD.
He was able to confirm that they had discussed a number of issues but said there was nothing serious that led to some disagreements.
'Yes we met on Tuesday and discussed a number of issues pertaining to our ongoing talks with AFORD. But there was nothing serious that could have led to disagreements,' he said Makwangwala told The Chronicle that among the delegation who met was a technical team which drafted a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) which the two parties will sign on 20th February.
Controversy still surrounds the UDF/AFORD alliance as the two parties have failed to reach an agreement on who should be the running mate to Bingu wa Mutharika, Muluzi's hand-picked successor to the UDF presidency.
AFORD, under the leadership of Chihana first went into an alliance with UDF in 1994 but the party pulled out of the agreement and accused the Muluzi regime of gross corruption.
In 1999, AFORD joined the MCP and pulled out again after failing to make it into government in the run up to the 1999 general elections. At that time Chihana was the running mate to the MCP president Gwanda Chakuamba.
The UDF/AFORD alliance is the third in the history of the Alliance of Democracy party since it's inception in 1992. This, consequently saw AFORD lose it's credibility and was described as unstable with its leadership branded as political prostitutes and being power hungry.
It is yet to be seen who the running mate to Bingu Wa Mutharika will be following the agreement between AFORD and UDF to go into an electoral alliance. The UDF running mate remains Cassim Chilumpha but this position is not secured.
In 1999 Gwanda Chakuamba sidelined his Vice John Tembo in order to accommodate AFORD when the two parties formed an Alliance. Chihana expects to enjoy the same status with the UDF as he did with the MCP.
UDF Primaries in Trouble
The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)
February 9, 2004
Posted to the web February 9, 2004
Supporters of industrialist and business-man Brian Bowler who is the aspiring UDF Member of Parliament for Lilongwe City South East constituency have threatened to march to State House to petition the party President if their preferred candidate is barred from standing during the UDF primary elections.
The irate supporters made the remarks at Chipasula Secondary School last Friday after the UDF had canceled the elections which were supposed to take place that day.
The angry supporters told The Chronicle that they do not know where their party is heading if some senior party officials can just postpone elections at the eleventh hour without notification or reason.
'We know that some party gurus want to field a person of their own choice, other than Bowler, but if they are going to do that then we will march to State House,' chairlady of Chiuzila ward, Ellen Nikalasi told The Chronicle.
Nikalasi, who was flanked by the Secretary of the Constituency Sakina Mdoka, Director of Campaign Lotina Sawasawa, Executive member Laureen Kamwendo said accused some unnamed top UDF officials of practicing dictatorship.
'Why do they want to handpick Chikadza and impose him on us. We never enjoyed any benefits from him when he was MP and that is why we want Bowler.
He has been with us for the past three years and has demonstrated that he is a good leader who has the heart of his constituents at heart,' Lotina said.
As the three women were giving an interview to The Chronicle, Bowler was busy trying to stop his supporters from leaving Chipasula to march to Mtunthama State Lodge.
The supporters who included women, men, girls, boys pestered Bowler to the extent that he nearly conceded that they could march. But with the assistance of his campaign committee he managed to convince them that everything will be sorted out amicably, in time.
'I know you are very cross with what has happened but I am very sad as well.
I will write a letter to the president and then we will pick it up from there,' Bowler assured them.
But some of the supporters answered back, 'We want the answer from the president now otherwise we will march on our own.' In Lilongwe City Central Constituency Shabir Gaffar who was enjoying a lot of support from the constituents, withdrew his candidature at the eleventh hour after threats from Mary Kaphwereza Banda's supporters.
Mai Mwinjiro, who is councilor for the area and one of the people conducting the elections had the shock of her life when Kaphwereza Banda's husband snatched a voter register from her because she was frustrating his wife.
'I am very disturbed with what happened. You can quote me and I am even ready to stand in a court of law to tell you the truth. Kaphwereza should not lie that she won the elections, she rigged it,' she reiterated adding: 'For your information I was the one who was counting people to enter into the hall but Kaphwereza Banda's husband snatched a register from me because I had barred someone who failed to identify himself,' Mwinjiro said.
Asked why he withdrew his candidature, Gaffar said that Kaphwereza alleged that he had already declared that he will be an independent candidate and that he does not stay in Lilongwe City Central. Kaphwereza also insisted that Gaffar did not present a letter to the UDF expressing his interest to stand to the constituency chairman.
'It is strange to find that these people are only barring me to stand on the pretext that I come from Area 3. When Muluzi won the polls as MP for Machinga was he staying in Kapoloma, what about people like Cassim Chilumpha and Clement Stambuli, do they stay in Nkhota kota? This is segregative,' Gaffar said.
In Lilongwe City West the incumbent MP Elizabeth Lamba saw off the challenge of two men, Ken Ng'oma and Salim Chiuta.
Lamba told The Chronicle that some of her supporters were beaten by supporters of her rivals but no one was arrested.
Iqbal Omar won the votes in Lilongwe South West after seeing off the challenge of Dennis Mwechumu and Jusab Hamdani. Omar got 470 votes while Mwechumu and Hamdani got 80 and 40 votes respectively.
In Salima South UDF Regional Governor Uladi Mussa came out of the contest unopposed after his strong challenger, Matthews Masoapyola who campaigned vigorously withdrew his candidature at the eleventh hour.
In Nkhota kota Clement Stambuli the incumbent went through unopposed after his main challenger Fixon Kwalenga withdrew his candidature because of allegged massive rigging.
The UDF primaries have been characterised by quarrels and violence with candidates who are not favoured by the ruling party deliberately being frustrated by those who are in incumbency and wish to continue in their positions. This is being fueled by remarks from the ruling elite to the effect that in some areas of choice they would prefer not to hold primaries, suggesting that sitting MPs were doing a good job and should not be removed.
Malewezi Remains On UN Task Force Despite Confusion
The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)
February 9, 2004
Posted to the web February 9, 2004
.... I will continue to work with whoever will listen - Malewezi
.... We would love to see the VP remain engaged - Claude Allen
.... I am the one on the UN Task Force - Kaphwereza Banda
Although there seems to be some confusion on the status of membership of a special Task Force set up by the United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan on Women, Girls and HIV/AIDS, Claude Allen who is Deputy Secretary for the Department of Health and Human Services in the Bush Administration on his recent visit to Malawi says he will continue to work with the 1st Vice President, Justin Malewezi.
Allen confirmed that if Malewezi chooses to remain a member, the US would be happy to work with him. 'As the United States, we would love to see the Vice President remain engaged regardless of what he does in terms of his political future.' Speaking in an exclusive interview with The Chronicle Allen said, as someone who is passionate, committed and knowledgeable about HIV/AIDS it is important for Malawi that Malewezi continues to be involved in the struggle against the epidemic.
Minister responsible for HIV/AIDS Mary Kaphwereza Banda had said she had taken over the position from Malewezi throwing the whole question of Malewezi's involvement in the fight against the pandemic in doubt. 'I am the one on the task force now' Banda insisted adding: 'We realised our mistake in suggesting the VP as a member of the Task Force because we saw that all other members from the region were from a lower office' Banda went on to say the change was made even before Malewezi resigned from the party.
'Dr Vera Chirwa, Dr Naomi Ngwira and myself are now members of the United Nations Task Force and not Malewezi' Banda confirmed.
However Allen said he was prepared to work with anyone who would step into the position should Malewezi cease to be a member of the UN Task Force on HIV/AIDS. 'In terms of our relationship, we will work with whomever is to step into that position or step into leadership in terms of addressing HIV/AIDS in Malawi' Allen clarified.
Commenting on his position as a respected member of the UN Task Force Malewezi said he, along with Dr, Vera Chirwa and Dr. Naomi Ngwira were appointed to the Task Force in their personal capacities. 'I will continue to work with whoever is willing to listen or to assist in the fight against HIV/AIDS from whatever position I am now or in the future,' he said adding: 'I think we are going to have this disease for quite some time and it needs people who are willing to offer their services from every walk of life.' He went on to say he was prepared to continue doing the work of the Task Force. 'I am happy to hear that they can work with us and I will always be at the disposal of Malawi'.
Malewezi, together with Dr. Vera Chirwa, the Executive Director of Malawi CARER and Dr. Naomi Ngwira, Executive Director of the Institute of Policy Research and Analysis are members of a Task Force of Women, Girls and HIV/ AIDS commissioned by the United Nations (UN) secretary General Kofi Annan.
Vice President Justin Malewezi has always been a champion in the fight against the HIV/AIDS pandemic and his position and influence was greatly diminished when it was decided that the Office of the President would head the fight.
Malawi Hosts The Heads of UNAIDS and DFID
The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)
February 9, 2004
Posted to the web February 9, 2004
As part of the global commitment to fight the AIDS pandemic, the Executive Director of UNAIDS, Dr. Peter Piot and the Permanent Secretary of the Department for International Development (DFID) in the United Kingdom, Mr., Suma Chakrabarti, will undertake a joint visit to Malawi from 8 to 11 February 2004.
This visit comes at a time when there is growing consensus to halt and reverse the spread of the AIDS epidemic and harness the combined resources of the International Community behind national leadership from government partners and other stakeholders in a programme of joint planning and action and pooled funds.
The main objective of the visit is to strengthen national coordination and donor harmonization in HIV/AIDS interventions in Malawi. The visit will explore ways of overcoming the obstacles to effective prevention strategies and accessible HIV/AIDS treatment. This visit will also bring decision makers together to identify additional opportunities and strategies to reverse the spread of the epidemic in the country in order to ameliorate the devastating effect of AIDS and its stigma.
Activities planned for the visit include discussions with government, people living with HIV/AIDS, donors and civil society; site visits to Lilongwe Central Hospital, the Lighthouse and a community programme in Chiradzulu, as well as the launch of the National HIV/AIDS Policy.
Udf YDs Attend Prayer Breakfast
The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)
February 9, 2004
Posted to the web February 9, 2004
Despite last Tuesday's Church organised presidential breakfast not being a United Democratic Front (UDF) party function, the party's Young Democrats (YDs) flooded the function creating an atmosphere of fear and insecurity to both the church and opposition dignitaries who attended the prayers.
The YDs, with most of them sporting shaven heads and dark sun glasses, were seen loitering around New State House where the function was held. They were frequently seen talking to UDF's Central Region Youth Director Shabani Kadango as the prayers progressed in the Banana Room of Parliament building.
National Democratic Alliance spokesperson Salule Masangwi, whose President Brown Mpinganjira refused to grace the prayers, told the local media that his party failed to attend the prayers because they were afraid of the YDs who are known for their violence. "We did not want to put our lives at risk. Our security is not guaranteed even in the presence of Muluzi himself or even the police," said Masangwi.
Defending the presence of the YDs at the function, UDF deputy publicity secretary Mary Kaphwereza Banda said in a telephone interview that there was nothing unusual for the YDs to attend the prayers saying they also went there to pray. "Who told you that the YDs were barred from going to the prayers? I thought the prayers were open to all parties including the UDF? Therefore, they also went there to pray," insisted Kaphwereza.
But, in spite of the YDs' presence at the prayers, no violent incident was recorded during and after the prayers which were meant to pray for peace and unity as the country braces up for the May 18 general elections.
Meanwhile, the UDF says it is still waiting for a Police report to decide on the fate of it's Machinga Likwenu MP who is accused of hiring YDs to disrupt a church service at Chinkwenzule CCAP in Machinga last year.
Zim's 'pitiless oppression' brings more sanctions
Pierre Glachant | Brussels, Belgium
10 February 2004 15:35
The European Union is set to agree this month to roll over for a third year sanctions imposed against Zimbabwe, notably extending a list of officials banned from the EU, diplomats say.
The sanctions were first slapped on the regime of President Robert Mugabe in 2002 for rights abuses and electoral fraud after he retained his grip on power in a controversial ballot victory.
The deadline to renew the sanctions is due on February 20. But diplomats say that a meeting of EU ambassadors next week will approve the decision, which will be formally adopted on February 19, at a meeting of EU interior ministers.
"The current sanctions will be maintained ... The situation in our view is not improving," said an EU source, adding: "These measures are aimed at named individuals and not the people of Zimbabwe."
The original ban imposed travel restrictions on top government and ruling party officials, as well as freezing their assets.
Initially in 2002, 19 people were listed. According to EU sources, that list will include up to 90 names this year.
As well as renewing the sanctions, EU foreign ministers are also expected to agree a statement on the situation in Zimbabwe at a meeting in Brussels on February 23, officials say. The EU has also imposed an embargo on supplies of arms and military equipment to Harare.
Ireland, which currently holds the rotating EU presidency, has dropped heavy hints in recent weeks about the way the sanctions review was going.
"There are very serious concerns about the deteriorating situation in Zimbabwe," said Irish Foreign Minister Brian Cowen last month, while declining to forecast what the decision would be.
The EU measures against Zimbabwe were eased slightly last year when the bloc agreed to suspend the travel ban for officials travelling to meetings organised by the United Nations or by international bodies based in an EU country.
But tensions between the EU and Harare were reflected only last week when European diplomats were temporarily denied entry to some polling stations in Zimbabwe during a parliamentary by-election.
Zimbabwe's international isolation grew last year when it was suspended from the Commonwealth after observers said presidential polls that returned Mugabe to power were marred by violence, intimidation and electoral flaws.
In reviewing the sanctions, the EU has been seeking progress in five key areas: an end to all political motivated violence; commitment to free and fair elections; protection of the freedom of mass media; independence of the judiciary; and an end to illegal occupation of properties.
"We have not been able to record progress in any of them," said an EU diplomat. "That is why we must maintain the sanctions."
Meanwhile, the EU, the world's biggest provider of development aid, has sought to target assistance to the Zimbabwean people in the form of medical supplies, food and agricultural aid, EU officials say.
But budgetary aid to the Mugabe government to carry out reforms remains suspended.
"We are going to cut off aid channelled through the government and focus on restricted aid targeted directly at the population," said one source.
The European Parliament issued a stinging resolution on Zimbabwe only last month, saying that Mugabe's regime has "become a worrying example of pitiless oppression of an impoverished and famished population". -- Sapa-AFP
Mugabe moves against corruption
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has announced he has created a new ministry to deal with corruption.
The anti-corruption ministry will be headed by Didymus Mutasa, a close ally from Mr Mugabe's Zanu-PF party.
President Mugabe has vowed to act against rising corruption at a time of economic crisis in the country.
Political analysts say the move may be an attempt to boost the popularity of his ruling Zanu-PF party, ahead of parliamentary elections next year.
Two senior Zanu-PF officials have recently been arrested on corruption charges.
The ministry will also be in charge of an anti-monopoly programme.
Mr Mugabe also appointed Zanu-PF governors to the provinces of Harare and Bulawayo, both opposition strongholds.
When this was announced last year, the opposition MDC said it was an attempt to take power away from its local councillors and MPs.
In other changes:
John Nkomo takes responsibility for land reform from Joseph Made, who remains agriculture minister;
Finance Minister Herbert Murewa is replaced by his deputy Chris Kuruneri;
Retired air force chief air marshal Josiah Tungamirai, who won a by-election last week, becomes minister of indigenisation and empowerment.
This is the first reshuffle since August 2002, following President Mugabe's re-election in disputed polls.
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe's media commission says it will not allow journalists employed by the only privately-owned daily newspaper, the Daily News, to work until their paper has been registered.
Journalists working for the paper had applied for accreditation, but the media commission has ruled that their paper must be registered before their applications can be credited.
The closure of the Daily News was criticised by Southern African and international human rights groups.
Air Zimbabwe set to pay debt
Air Zimbabwe has secured funds to pay its debt to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), an official has said.
The airline's chief executive, Rambanai Chingwena, said arrangements are under way for the remission of the money due to IATA.
The national carrier was suspended from the association over a debt of $1.3m for tickets booked with other airlines.
IATA, acts as a clearing house between players in the aviation industry.
Mr Chingwena said the airline's membership of IATA remains intact.
Last year, foreign airports threatened to impound Air Zimbabwe's equipment if it did not pay outstanding fees.
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
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
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.
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