- Africa leaders still shy about Aids
By Grant Ferrett
Campaigners against Aids have applauded Malawi's President Bakili Muluzi for publicly acknowledging that he has had an HIV test.
Announcing that the result was "good news" Mr Muluzi also revealed that his brother had died as a result of Aids.
The UNAids agency said it would like to see more African leaders display such openness.
UNAids wants African leaders to speak publicly about the disease
Mr Muluzi has joined a highly select group of African leaders who have openly declared that members of their family have died as a result of Aids.
Former South African President Nelson Mandela has talked broadly of having lost relatives to the disease, but you have to go back to 1986 to find an African head of state naming a member of his family who had died.
Then it was Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda who held a news conference to announce that his son had been killed by what was then a recently-identified illness.
The reaction from other African leaders to the latest announcement has been muted.
At a news conference in Nairobi, Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni declined to answer whether he too would take an HIV test.
His Kenyan counterpart Mwai Kibaki seemed taken aback by the suggestion.
President Muluzi is breaking the mould
"Well these peculiar questions... we have no problem at all. We can undergo any tests for anything any time. None of us is afraid of any of those things," he said.
The uncomfortable laughter of officials accompanying the two presidents speaks volumes.
In sub-Saharan Africa, the centre of the worldwide Aids crisis, HIV is still rarely referred to in personal terms.
Death notices in newspaper columns are packed with euphemistic references to people who died "as a result of a long illness".
The agency UNAids described the announcement by the Malawian leader as an excellent example which should be followed by others.
A spokesman for the agency said he hoped it would encourage people to recognise that HIV can affect anyone, at any level of society, and was not something to be covered up.
Zimbabwe: The dream is dead
Wilson Johwa | Bulawayo
13 February 2004 13:16
It was once celebrated as a rare African success story -- an example of what committed leadership can do. Education for all was the policy Zimbabwean authorities pursued diligently for much of the first decade since independence from Britain in 1980. The goal was to extend education to the previously disadvantaged black majority.
As a result, scores of schools were built and the training of thousands of teachers speeded up.
The investment did not take long to bear fruit -- by 2000 Zimbabwe had achieved an adult literacy rate, according to the UN Children's Fund (Unicef), of 93%, the highest in sub-Saharan Africa.
Sadly, those classroom gains are currently in jeopardy, threatened by triple digit inflation and political impenitence. One urban primary school says at least half of its more than 1 000 pupils cannot afford fees, while a government directive says learners must not be sent home.
The very poor, including Aids orphans, can apply for government help. But such dues are always too little, too late.
As a result, the school is permanently entangled in a never-ending cash crisis. Four classes have to share an average of 20 text books. There is no money to replace even the 100 Zimbabwean dollars worth of exercise books stolen during last week's burglary.
Parents cannot come to the school's rescue either. Four years of economic contraction and increasing inflation have left many unemployed and impoverished. They struggle to buy basic foodstuffs, let alone pay school fees.
"If you talk of raising levies, parents will tell you the government has directed there should be no increase," says the exasperated school head.
Unwilling to endure the frustration of running a school with no resources to even cover its water bill, she has decided to quit.
"This just gives you grey hairs," she shrugs.
The situation is equally dire in most urban schools, and often worse in rural areas. Here, not only are parents too poor to finance non-salary recurrent costs of education, but teachers have the additional burden of being targeted by President Robert Mugabe's marauding youth militia and war veterans.
Witness Ncube, a teacher at Matshetsheni Primary School in Nkayi, Matabeleland North province, says he fled after three encounters with war veterans, who accused him of preaching opposition politics to students.
Like multitudes of other teachers, who have turned their backs on low salaries and poor conditions, he is planning to go to Britain. Meanwhile, three months after his departure, the school still has not found a replacement.
Ncube's problem is not uncommon. Teachers, considered key informants and community leaders in rural areas, have been targeted on a regular basis.
Brian Raftopolous, an associate professor at the Zimbabwe Institute of Development Studies, says in "its attempt to deal with this growing economic disaster and the severe loss of political legitimacy", the ruling Zanu-PF party has attacked its own state structures, including those in the educational sphere.
This is one of the many reasons the country's education system, long trumpeted as President Mugabe's enduring achievement, is on its knees. To appease a restless population the government has put a freeze on school fee increases, despite inflation of 600%.
In the last two weeks the Ministry of Education, Sport and Culture suspended 50 school heads and dissolved a similar number of parents' school development associations for "raising fees and levies without government approval".
According to a government-controlled daily, the schools -- most of which are privately run -- will be charged under the Education Act, "which means that if they fail to comply with the Ministry's directive they risk being closed down".
Unable to balance their books but still expected to provide a service, it remains to be seen how schools will avoid insolvency.
Yet Mugabe's educational achievements had extended to tertiary education, where tens of thousands of college and university graduates were poised to run what was once one of Africa's most viable economies.
Ironically, that same education has also equipped its beneficiaries with the skills many are selling in neighbouring countries, and overseas.
Compared to one university at independence, Zimbabwe now has six state universities, with another being planned. The quantity of institutions has increased, but hardly the same can be said for quality.
Despite being only 12-years old, the National University of Science and Technology (Nust) had acquired a reputation for producing well-rounded, much-sought-after graduates. It too has been unable to prevent experienced lecturers leaving for positions, often better-paid, with universities elsewhere.
The education crisis has reached beyond class size and staff, pulling at the university's very foundation. The Nust campus consists of a few impressive concrete structures interspersed with bush. There is no sound of concrete mixers or workmen's chatter. University spokesperson Felix Moyo says due to inflation "money runs out earlier than projected".
There is little funding for capital projects. Mugabe himself captured the essence of the money problem last November, after getting an honorary degree from a new state university in Gweru, central Zimbabwe. He remarked that it was the first time he had received a degree "from the bush".
Mugabe was capped by a university with no buildings of its own. Three years after the foundation stone was laid, very little work had been done. There simply is not enough money.
Since independence, education ministries were often allocated the biggest share of the national budget. But economic consultant John Robertson says there has been a shift, more recently, as "it would seem they weren't given the money allocated to them."
He says it appears that when the government overspends in one area, it makes up for the shortfall by taking from the education and even the health ministry allocation, hoping donor funding would plug the hole. Furthermore, says Robertson, the money allocated "is not adjusted for inflation".
The mix-up of O and A level results early last year caused public concern, amid reports of corruption within the Zimbabwe Schools Examination Council.
Previously run by Cambridge University in Britain, O and A level examinations were localised in 2001 mainly to save on foreign currency.
At the oldest university, the University of Zimbabwe, under-paid lecturers withheld examination results, resulting in thousands of students being unable to graduate. The students, meanwhile, exhaust their inflation hit government grants in days, leaving them to their own devices the rest of the year.
Education has clearly been a major casualty of the Zimbabwe crisis. Interestingly, the number of students from neighbouring Botswana has increased, says Hugh Henstridge, campus director of Speciss College, a favourite among the Tswanas.
"There's a big gap in tertiary education in Botswana," he says, attributing increased enrollment to the college's solid reputation in Botswana. The weak Zimbabwe dollar has also made it cheaper for predominantly middle class parents to send their children to Zimbabwe and not South Africa.
However, as they make their way into Zimbabwe, Tswana parents cross paths with the growing number of wealthy Zimbabweans searching for quality education for their children outside the country.
Raftopoulos says while this quantitative growth of education has been impressive, several problems confront the future of educational development in Zimbabwe.
These, he says, include the absence of a comprehensive policy framework as well as gender equity, finance and access. About 15% of children remain out of school, Raftopoulos says.
The other challenges include the relevance of the curriculum which, currently, is considered unresponsive to the labour market and the high dropout rate.
For Robertson, however, the issue is that Mugabe prefers no growth to growth he cannot control. - IPS
Zimbabwe health system lies in shambles
Chris Anold Msipa | Harare, Zimbabwe
12 February 2004 17:07
Zimbabwe's rural health delivery system, once regarded as one of the best in Africa, is now in a state of distress.
"Diseases are now part of life for most people in rural areas. Families have resorted to traditional herbalists, known as 'vana tsika mutanda'," researcher Bright Mombeshora said after a tour of Kasiyo in northern Zimbabwe.
Mombeshora, who is also a social commentator, said: "The nurses we found in one clinic didn't seem to be working at all. If all the health centres in the country's rural areas are like that, then we have a time bomb on our hands.
"We found the nurses enjoying the sunshine. We asked them, without meaning any offence, if they were still on strike. They said they had no work to do. And it looked like they meant it," he said.
Mombeshora said the biggest job he saw the nurses doing was distribution of condoms to mostly young clients.
Poor drug supplies, staff shortages and transport problems have rendered the clinic a sham, he said. The workers said most rural clinics were in the same state.
Mombeshora said he spoke to "a lot of people who claimed they no longer go to clinics, but have resorted to the services of traditional healers. At one time, I saw a family paying a traditional healer two goats and another giving away five cattle."
Lower Guruve district, in which Kasiyo is situated, is infested with malaria and malnutrition, two of the most deadly diseases that are claiming millions of young lives in Africa.
Mombeshora said aid agencies are now feeding children under the age of five in a scheme aimed to fight malnutrition. They also cater for adults who have not been spared by hunger.
The United Nations World Food Programme says more Zimbabweans now require food aid than the 5,5-million people -- 50% of the population -- initially forecast by a UN study last year. Aid agencies have appealed for $197-million.
Mombeshora said heavy rains have created an atmosphere conducive for mosquito breeding. He said the aid agencies, apart from the feeding schemes they were carrying out, also distributed drugs to prevent and treat malaria.
Health officials say malaria, which is transmitted by the female mosquito known as the anopheles, is an added strain on the health delivery systems in rural Zimbabwe, where HIV/Aids is also on the increase.
About 2 500 people die of Aids-related diseases in Zimbabwe every week, according to official statistics.
In Shurugwi district, central Zimbabwe, the health delivery problem seems to be confined to the urban area.
Christopher Mapfuti, a municipal police officer in Shurugwi, home to former prime minister Ian Smith, said: "All the places and houses that used to be the best in the town have been turned into gold mining sites. You won't like it if you had been to Shurugwi before."
Mapfuti said mounds of ore are found at most of the homes in the town. The water, used to extract the yellow metal, comes from the town supply. Then the waste from the final work is pumped into the main drainage and sewer systems, which are now continuously blocked, he said.
Mapfuti said the town council and the ruling Zanu-PF officials spend most of their time quarrelling among themselves. While the town council would want to get rid of illegal gold panning, party stalwarts want to maintain support and would not like to hear of a stoppage to the panning activities.
"The two sides are working against each other, although the council is made up of Zanu-PF councillors, who should be working together with the party," Mapfuti explained.
He warns that an outbreak of disease looms in the town. The sewerage water, he said, flows freely in front of houses where children play and through the streets, which themselves are on the verge of collapsing due to neglect.
Peter Mataruse, a former mayor of Chinhoyi, a town close to the Zambia border, said the economic problems, caused mainly by Zimbabwe's controversial land-reform programme and sanctions, have paralysed the country's health delivery system.
"The structures that were built during the good times are collapsing. Medicine supplies were better before Zimbabwe fell out with the Western powers and the donor community," he said.
The United States and the European Union slammed sanctions on Zimbabwe for allegedly refusing to uphold the rule of law. Zimbabwe began descending into chaos in 2000 after the government of President Robert Mugabe ordered the seizure of lands from 4 500 white commercial farmers for resettling landless black peasants. Critics say the land-reform programme has destroyed Zimbabwe agriculture, which was the backbone of the economy.
Mataruse, who now runs a private clinic, said the World Health Organisation and other NGOS were helping in malaria control and feeding schemes in his area.
He said it would not be possible for Zimbabwe to stand on its own if the international community was to pull out from supporting the country's health system.
The biggest problem facing the rural health system is the shortage of doctors and nurses, who mostly prefer to work in towns where facilities are better.
Chivhu General hospital in Mashonaland East Province, for example, has no doctor. Cuban doctors, who had been deployed to the town, went home on leave. And the lone Zimbabwean doctor in charge of the health facility joined the private sector as most of them are now doing. Some have gone to Britain, South Africa, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.
The staff at Chivhu hospital referred all questions to the provincial medical director, who was also not available, for comment.
Residents interviewed said the hospital mortuary, which caters for 36 clinics and hospitals, was built to hold eight bodies at one time. It now holds as many as 32 corpses. Aids, cholera and malaria are reported to be the main cause of death.
Immediately after independence from Britain in 1980 Zimbabwe launched a programme to build clinics and hospitals throughout the country. These structures are now either falling apart due to lack of maintenance or are without beds and equipment as a result of poor and erratic funding.
Recently doctors went on strike demanding an 8 000% pay rise. They said the increment was necessary in a country that is reeling under a galloping inflation, now estimated at 600%. -- IPS
'Coward' Zambian expats scoff at president's remarks
Zarina Geloo | Lusaka, Zambia
13 February 2004 12:34
Low wages and unemployment, coupled with high taxes, have forced thousands of qualified Zambians to flee the country in search of greener pastures -- but President Levy Mwanawasa is calling them "coward failures".
Mwanawasa told the nation recently that Zambians working abroad were fond of criticising his administration and giving the country a bad name when they did not know the situation on the ground.
"Let them come back here and prove their effectiveness. They failed to make the grade here and have gone to exhibit their inefficiencies outside," he said.
The address, which was posted on the internet, brought on an avalanche of responses -- mainly from Zambians working abroad.
John Malumo, an electrical engineer, who works in Johannesburg, South Africa, says the government does not appreciate its own professionals and prefers to engage expensive and often poorly qualified expatriates.
"I was retrenched from the ZCCM [Zambia Consolidated Copper Mines] despite my qualifications and profession, which were needed on the mines. A person who was less qualified, but was given more perks and a higher salary, replaced me. Since I could not find a job, I trekked to South Africa where within days I was given a very good paying job with a mining company," he said.
Malumo says contrary to Mwanawasa's assertions that they are failures, people who work abroad compete on an open international market for their positions. He said they are constantly upgrading their skills to keep up with international standards.
"The last thing we are is failures. It is those who fail to secure jobs outside that are failures," he said.
Malumo recalls that Mwanawasa himself poached two of his ministers from their international posts to run the Central Bank and the Ministry of Finance.
"Why? Because he knew they had been highly trained abroad to the extent that foreign organisations vied to employ them."
While Malumo left because he could not find a job, Doreen Malambo, a university lecturer, complains of remuneration. She had a job at the University of Zambia but could not afford to look after her family of five even though she was a top management official.
"Our salaries were a pittance. We could not afford to send our children to proper schools. We lived hand to mouth. Here I am appreciated and remunerated appropriately. I have even bought a house in Zambia, which I would never have been able to do had I remained in the country," she said.
According to World Bank statistics, 80% of Zambians live on less than $1 a day. The Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection puts the cost of a food basket for a family of six at more than $200. With more companies being privatised, unemployment is certain to exceed its current 1,5-million (out of a potential workforce of about two million).
Even the 400 000 employed in the formal sector, 70% earned less than $100 a month.
Minister of Health Brian Chituwo acknowledged that poor remuneration had "chased away" medical staff. He said more than 2 500 Zambian nurses were working in British hospitals alone and about 3 400 doctors spread across Britain, Botswana and South Africa. And yet, he said, there was a serious shortage of health staff in Zambia.
Nurse Gina Siwale says there is no future in Zambia's medical industry. She urged Mwanawasa to work on enticing Zampats (Zambian
expatriates) instead of condemning them.
"When I was in Zambia, there were no drugs in the hospitals. We hardly got paid and when we did, it was peanuts and there was no room for further training. Here I have gone for further training. I would love to go back home and contribute but not under the present climate where I will hardly be able to look after myself, let alone contribute to my family's income," Siwale said.
She sends home more than $1 000 dollars a month -- something she would not have been able to do had she remained in Zambia where she earned less than $50 as a midwife.
The Lusaka branch of Western Union, an international money-remitting agency, says it receives about $30 000 dollars a day sent by people working abroad for their families.
"We get more money towards Christmas and other days like New Year," said Charles Mushingo, who works for a Western Union outlet in Lusaka.
Siwale says many people would like to go back to contribute to Zambia's development because working abroad has exposed them to higher skills and experiences.
Charlie Makani from New Zealand offers the example of India whose phenomenal software industry is from Indian returnees from the United States's Silicon Valley.
"Part of Zambia's problem is that it has never been run by a president with international exposure. All the major economic transformations we read about involve national leaders who had exposure to international best practices [like Botswana's Sir Seretse Khama and Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew]," he said.
"Government," said Makani, "appears jealous of people who live abroad and deliberately make it difficult for them to come back."
He says Mwanawasa should take a leaf from his Malian counterpart, who recently called a conference on all Malians in the diaspora because he discovered the remittances from abroad far outstripped aid inflows.
"I am encouraging all my relatives to come to New Zealand where there is a great demand for electricians and plumbers. I want them to live a good life, [get] good education and contribute to the clan's welfare by sending money to our relatives who cannot make it to New Zealand," Makani said.
It is likely that there will be a further exodus of Zambian professionals following the new taxes introduced by the government this week. People earning more than $170 will be required to pay 40% tax, says Brenda Ngulube, a human resource manager at an international bank.
In this year's Budget, the government has instituted a wage freeze on public service workers. Last year civil servants went on strike twice demanding higher wages. The government refused to give in, saying there was a Budget overrun of $100 000.
"We are all looking elsewhere not because we have failed but because the government has failed us. How can we pay so much tax? There are no jobs and there is too much corruption to engage in business. So what is to keep us here?" wondered a civil servant.
But Mwanawasa has remained adamant. Zambian expatriates, he said, should stop shouting from far and come and suffer with their kinsfolk.
The United Nations International Organisation for Migration, which used to help repatriate Zambians wanting to come back, says it has since stopped the programme in Zambia. This is because no Zambians wanted to return home.
"We are now engaged in repatriating refugees and displaced persons. That programme for returning Zambians stopped some years ago," an official who begged anonymity said.
Given the current scenario, he said it was unlikely that people would want to come back to Zambia.
"There is very little incentive," he said. -- IPS
Zambia satirist on fresh charge
A British writer who is challenging deportation orders from Zambia has been released on bail after allegedly assaulting police officers.
Roy Clarke was arrested on Thursday after he allegedly shoved police officers when he went to report the abduction of his daughter.
Mr Clarke, is expected to appear in court on Monday.
Last month the satirist compared President Levy Mwanawasa to a "foolish elephant" in a newspaper column.
The news editor of the Post newspaper, Amos Malupenga told AFP news agency that Mr Clarke's daughter was allegedly abducted in her car by three men dressed in police uniform.
Mr Malupenga said the men drove around with her for several hours, before dumping her at the roadside and driving off with her car.
Mr Clarke has lived in Zambia for more than 40 years and is married to a Zambian women's rights activist.
His article in the Post last month incensed the government, who ordered him to leave the country within 24 hours.
He obtained a court order to block the deportation and is still awaiting a ruling by the Lusaka High Court.
Organ traffickers 'threaten' nuns
Four Catholic nuns say they have received death threats after exposing an organ trafficking network allegedly operating in northern Mozambique.
The traffickers are said to target the sex organs of children, which are sold to make magic charms.
The nuns from the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate order say they have gathered evidence of the trade.
They say they have spoken to victims who managed to escape and photos of dead children with missing organs.
Ritual murders have been reported in many African countries, as some witchdoctors say using human organs in magic charms makes them more powerful.
These are believed by some to bring financial or sexual success to those who use them.
"We have received some very clear threats," order spokeswoman Sister Juliana told Portuguese radio.
"Several countries are involved in this iniquitous game and the victims are the poor, those who have no voice or defence, or the strength to defend themselves, we are convinced that Nampula is part of an international ring," said Sister Juliana.
She said there have been several attempts to abduct children from the orphanage they run in Nampula.
Mozambican, South African, Brazilian and Portuguese nationals were involved in the ring, she said.
The BBC's Jose Tembe in Mozambique says the government had sent a team of investigators to the area to probe claims of the existence of the network.
The organs are reportedly smuggled into neighbouring Zimbabwe and South Africa.
The Spanish Embassy in Mozambique is also investigating the claims after receiving reports from the nuns, who have lived in the area for 30 years.
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