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Malawi news pt 1

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  • Christine Chumbler
    Women Flop in Primary Elections Malawi Standard (Blantyre) February 19, 2004 Posted to the web February 19, 2004 Dickson Kashoti Blantyre Malawian Gender
    Message 1 of 2 , Feb 19, 2004
      Women Flop in Primary Elections

      Malawi Standard (Blantyre)

      February 19, 2004
      Posted to the web February 19, 2004

      Dickson Kashoti

      Malawian Gender activists have bemoaned that most aspiring women members of parliament have flopped in their respective constituencies during party primary elections, possibly signalling that the country is far from reaching the 30 per cent women representation in the legislature and decision making bodies.

      Executive Director of the Association of Progressive Women Reen Kachere, said recently in Blantyre that most women, who wanted to stand as Members of Parliament on party ticket have flopped, the scenario she said, shows that most people still favour men.

      "But we will still make sure that we support the women. If they want to stand as independent, we will support them in any way so that they make it into parliament," she promised.

      She said Mulanje had many women in parliament but this year's party primary elections clearly show that there would be lesser women.

      Emmie Chanika, Executive Director of the Civil Liberties Committee said women would continue to fight for the 30 percent women in decision-making bodies despite the loss of the women in primary elections.

      She said that women play a vital role in the development programmes of the country, therefore it was a mistake to sideline them in the decision-making organisations like Parliament.

      She therefore urged political parties in the country to consider women as well when fielding their candidates, saying most women are hard working than their male counterparts.

      Ruling United Democratic Front (UDF) Secretary General Kennedy Makwangwala said his party supports the idea of having women in decision-making organisations.

      He said his party has never turned down any woman aspirant for the positions of member of parliament.

      MCP spokesman Nicholas Dausi also said his party promotes women and would encourage all those wishing to stand as members of parliament in their respective areas.

      National Democratic Alliance (NDA) director of information Salule Masangwi also said his party encourages women to stand as members of parliament.


      Malawi's Vice President in Political Quagmire

      Malawi Standard (Blantyre)

      February 19, 2004
      Posted to the web February 19, 2004

      Brian Ligomeka

      Embattled Vice President Justin Malewezi, who boycotted the election process of the leader of Mgwirizano Coalition, is reported to be finalising his plans of contesting as an Independent Presidential Candidate in the forthcoming May 18 general elections.

      A senior national executive member of People's Progressive Movement (PPM) speaking on strict condition of anonymity told The Malawi Standard that Malewezi has already earmarked PPM second vice president Jimmy Koreia Mpatsa as his running mate.

      "Malewezi has already set aside K10 million, while Mpatsa has pledged to cough K5 million to bankroll their campaign for the presidency as the May 18 general elections is drawing near," said our PPM source, who claimed to be behind the Malewezi faction in PPM. The PPM national executive member also revealed that Malewezi's faction is strongly opposed to Aleke's participation in Mgwirizano Coalition, as running mate to Gwanda Chakuamba, leader of the Republican Party.

      He revealed that it was the Malewezi camp, which insisted that PPM should pull out of the coalition, when it was clear that the party would not present Malewezi as its Presidential Candidate during the selection process of the leaders of Mgwirizano Coalition.

      Commenting on his intentions if he wants to stand as a Presidential Candidate, Malewezi said in an interview: " I am not yet decided on the issue of standing as a Presidential Candidate.

      All I would say is let's wait and see how political events unfold in the next few weeks. As you know politics is dynamic, let's just see what happens next," he said in a telephone interview.

      In a separate interview PPM second vice president Jimmy Koreia Mpatsa admitted that members of the party's national executive committee were divided over the issue of participating in Mgwirizano Coalition.

      "Within PPM, there are two schools of thought over Mgwirizano Coalition with some members supporting it, while others opposed it. Some strongly feel that we should not join the coalition; but those who support the participation are in majority and in a democracy the majority carry the day," said Mpatsa.

      Asked if he has accepted to be Malewezi's running mate, Mpatsa said he is a member of PPM and has no immediate intention to quit the party he assisted in founding by standing as an independent Presidential Candidate. "I am one of the founders of PPM. Why should I turn around and leave the party I helped founding? If I decide to stand as an independent candidate or a running mate of an independent candidate, I will come in the open and make my views known," said Mpatsa.

      He said that he is loyal to the leadership of PPM; and described those who are spreading reports that he is planning to quit the party as mere propagandists.

      On his part, PPM President Aleke Banda told The Malawi Standard that all is well in his party.

      "It is not true that the PPM is divided. PPM is strong and there is unity among the members of the national executive committee. But it is normal for other people to have their own ambitions," said Banda.

      He also hinted that his participation in the Mgwirizano Coalition has the blessings of the party's politiburo but failed to explain why his two deputies Malewezi and Mpatsa shunned attending the selection process of the coalition's leadership.

      PPM Secretary General Knox Valera says because of the different views that the PPM NEC members had over the coalition, at one of their meetings the members were forced to cast votes on the matter. He pointed out that after voting over the issue it transpired that many people were in support of the Mgwirizano Coalition.

      "It is not true that the decision to participate in the selection of a Presidential Candidate and running mate of the Mgwirizano Coalition was unilateral. On Friday morning, NEC decided to proceed with the coalition after we had cast votes on the issue," said Valera.

      He explained that it was PPM NEC, which mandated Banda to participate in the elections.

      Most senior members of PPM who have spoken on condition of anonymity explained that they are very uncomfortable with the Mgwirizano Coalition leadership because it works against their initial objective of the Party where a clean leadership was advocated.

      "Joining Gwanda Chakuamba is the worst thing some of us had looked forward to doing . how can we go out to support Gwanda Chakuamba with all the skeletons in his cupboard? What would we be telling people now? Is this not a demonstration of just being power hungry? Have we not associated ourselves with the 31 years of MCP? Is this what we all were subscribing to?" questioned one senior executive.

      "How are we going to reconcile the values and virtues of PPM with those of Chakuamba? What about the court cases? What would be our fate if the courts turned their backs on Chakuamba after the nomination day?" further queried another executive member in Central Region.

      Most political commentators asked at random felt that the Mgwirizano Coalition would have had a lot of meaning if someone else was elected a leader with most favouring Aleke Banda. The commentators felt Chakuamba would be difficult to sell and he had let down a larger following in 1999. And some have predicted a short shelf life of the Mgwirizano Coalition because it is a club of convenience and not founded on solid principles.


      MYP Commanders Head Malawi's Opposition Coalition

      Malawi Standard (Blantyre)

      February 19, 2004
      Posted to the web February 19, 2004

      Wisdom Chimgwede

      The church steered opposition Mgwirizano Coalition has proved to be a long meandering river with a very unclear ending that has eventually created so many in and outlets all resulting from thirst for power. As Wisdom Chimgwede reports, problems ranging from unpredictable minds within its ranks down to mistrust among the participants, have broken the opposition united front into a bunch of parallel branches apart from angering His Lordship Bishop James Tengatenga, the man at the helm of the coalition talks since last August.

      "My brother here and I will have no problems working together. We once worked together as joint commanders of the Malawi Young Pioneers," were Gwanda Chakuamba's sentiments after being voted Mgwirizano Coalition leader last week.

      Although the grouping finally managed to elect Republican Party President Gwanda Chakuamba as its presidential candidate and PPM's Aleke Banda as his running mate, Movement for Genuine Democracy (Mgode) claimed the elections were staged.

      "We cannot be party to decisions that clearly want to undermine and undercut the north. We can't support a presidential candidate who doesn't have structures on the ground," said Mzuzu City MP Rodger Nkhwazi in support of his National Chairman Green Mwamondwe's announcement as they pulled out of the electoral process at the eleventh hour.

      The outspoken MP alleged the elections were already conducted behind curtains where his party's concerns were not taken into consideration.

      "There is no way you can have all the presidential candidates just based in Blantyre. We know other people there come from the north but they hardly stay there. We can't support that," charged Nkhwazi, adding that they would be making their next stand known as soon as possible.

      But already reports indicate the Aford splinter has already reached an advanced stage negotiating a bilateral alliance with NDA.

      Mwamondwe charged that the church leaders chairing the meeting could not give a convincing explanation as to why NDA and MCP the two opposition parties who have not signed the MOU, were not brought on board.

      And true to Mgode's fears that the elections were pre-arranged, a source who has always been part of the talks indicated a day before the election day (February 13) that Chakuamba had successfully lobbied his party members, Mafunde, MDP, NUP, and Mgode itself to support him to the highest position.

      Asked if this was true, Mafunde President George Nnesa who bowed down to give chance to his first Vice Collins Kajawa for reasons of regional balance said in an interview: "There is no problem with one lobbying. In fact every party president has been lobbying." He could not however, confirm or deny the pre-arrangement allegations saying nothing had been concluded yet.

      Perhaps to confirm the allegations, Chakuamba produced a well phrased prepared speech when he was asked to make his maiden talk.

      According to our sources, Mgode had accepted to support Chakuamba as presidential candidate but were not ready to have Aleke Banda as a running mate because that thwarted their president, Sam Kandodo's wishes to have the second vice president position.

      Kandodo Banda and Aleke Banda all come from the northern region, the same district Nkhata Bay and worse still, from the same Nkhata Bay South Constituency. Kandodo has twice defeated Banda in parliamentary elections on the Aford ticket when Banda was still ruling UDF first vice president. Sam Kandodo has vowed to remain an MP of Nkhatabay South as long as Aleke Banda aspires to contest in that constituency following a long time feud.

      The Memorandum of Understanding the seven parties signed on January 23, puts emphasis on regional balance the requirement that also crippled Mnesa's hands to contest for the presidency which was already reserved for Chakuamba, the 1999 losing candidate. Both Nnesa and Chakuamba come from the south and Mafunde opted for vice president Collins Kajawa to contest for Mgwirizano coalition's second vice presidency. Kajawa who comes from Lilongwe scooped the position.

      "The thing is that Nnesa is not power hungry that's why he voluntarily bowed down," said Radson Mnulo, Mafunde spokesperson.

      However, the source added, Mgode had already been assured the second veep the scenario that earlier angered Aleke Banda prompting him to threaten boycott if the elections went ahead on February 9, as initially scheduled.

      According to sources, Mgode's chances of booking themselves a seat upstairs were finally closed on February 12, when Tengatenga called for a sudden meeting with Chakuamba, Aleke Banda and Mafunde delegates after yet another meeting comprising all the seven parties.

      It is reported that when Kandodo learnt of the meeting, he gate-crushed and fumed at Aleke Banda telling him that it was time he stopped arm-twisting.

      Aleke had earlier smelt the rat and quickly announced that PPM would not be part of the process claiming that they needed NDA and MCP to be taken on board.

      But, according to our sources, PPM is said to have changed statements in a closed door meeting later the same day as they panicked to explain their withdraw to a charged Bishop Tengatenga.

      Kholiwe Mkandawire, the coalition spokesperson confirmed in an interview that PPM's decision angered the bishop but was quick to say that the anger was rather generalised than personalised.

      "It is true the bishop was angry of course with everyone because he did not understand why the document that was worked on by all the parties had suddenly become a bitter pill to swallow to some parties," she said.

      "First was MCP and NDA who changed their positions at the eleventh hour now PPM and next will be all of you. You people must be serious this is not an individual job," Tengatenga is reported to have said.

      However, when contacted for a comment, the bishop was rather diplomatic in his answering.

      He said: "No, no, no. Why should I be disappointed? That's what negotiations are all about."

      But speaking at the venue of the election, Tengatenga conceded that the road to the day has not been easy adding that it would have been good if NDA and MCP were convinced to come back into the boardroom.

      But he charged: "It's sad that they have considered their concerns more important than this. Anyway, it is noble for people to stand for what they believe in."

      To the delegates after the election of Chakuamba to the presidency, the bishop said: "We hope we are all bound today and that we shall all support the person chosen."

      In the elections, Chakuamba beat Aleke Banda and Petra President Kamuzu Chibambo. Aleke then contested for the running mate position against NUP president Harry Chiume and Mafunde's vice president Collins Kajawa, World Vision Malawi financial Controller.

      Asked if he would be resigning from World Vision, the Financial Accountant said it was too early to decide.

      In another interview, Chibambo said he was not bitter that he failed to get one of the three top seats.

      "We are all part of the process and we shall support the leadership," he said.

      Grace Kathingo NUP vice president also assured the leadership of the party's continued support.

      In a separate interview, NDA Director of Information Salule Masangwi still maintained his party could not be part of the process that lacked accountability, justice and democratic principles.


      Veteran Opposition Leader Hunts for Running Mate

      Malawi Standard (Blantyre)

      February 19, 2004
      Posted to the web February 19, 2004

      Wisdom Chimgwede

      The country's oldest political grouping the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) has embarked on a serious recruitment drive to beef-up its prospects of getting back into power ahead of the May 18 elections, the contest that is already promising no sweets without sweat.

      And, it seems Dr. Kamuzu Banda's party is already making a headway as sources indicate that George Nnesa, president of the Malawi Forum for Unity and Democracy (Mafunde), is a likely running mate to John Tembo.

      Although Nnesa said he was not aware of the development, he admitted receiving messages to that effect, in a telephone interview.

      "But our stand currently is that we are still part of the Mgwirizano Coalition and we fully endorse it, so to say that I am contesting as somebody's running mate is currently out of question," he said.

      Mafunde has its vice president Collins Kajawa as second vice president on the Mgwirizano coalition. Mnesa failed to qualify for the contest because Mgwirizano wanted to achieve equal regional representation.

      In a separate interview, MCP Publicist Nicholas Dausi admitted his party has been in touch with Mnesa apart from many other "possible partners who share our visions."

      "There is a lot happening. Politics is not what you see on the platform but what happens behind curtains," he said without elaborating.

      Dausi said his party is still open to partner anybody who has the vision that MCP has. He added that to them, there is still time for consultation with many other political players saying: "in politics every time is like a new year." In their search for partners, MCP is also reported to have tabled two names that of Mnesa, Koreia Mpatsa and Brown Mpinganjira, according to sources.

      The anonymous source indicated that the party felt it would not be able for them to go into the elections with the National Democratic Alliance because the Mpinganjira led party is hell bent at getting the top most position which MCP is not prepared to give away.

      "The problem is that MCP is not so sure of Mpinganjira's position because he may be going back to court in his corruption allegations because government appealed against the ruling," indicated the source.

      MCP and NDA tried in vain to form one block to dislodge the ruling UDF because, according to reports both Tembo and Mpinganjira were not ready to give up leadership on a silver platter.

      But Dausi said the MCP is trying all it can to find a partner because, according to him, the party values unity but was quick to indicate that it is unfortunate that the kind of unity they consider useful is not present in the Mgwirizano Coalition.

      Both NDA and MCP maintain that they would never be party to the coalition whatever the case may be because of its undemocratic principles.

      "MCP has a lot of corporate experience and we know the goodness of togetherness. We shall still find a partner very soon," he added.

      Both the NDA and the MCP refused to sign the Mgwirizano Coalition memorandum of understanding on January 23.


      Malawi: Us$ 25 Million From World Bank Next Month

      UN Integrated Regional Information Networks

      February 18, 2004
      Posted to the web February 18, 2004


      Malawi can expect the first half of a US $50 million structural adjustment credit from the World Bank next month, a bank official told IRIN on Wednesday.

      The second tranche of the credit will be given to Malawi in October, subject to certain conditions, which include commercialisation of the Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (ADMARC), said the Bank's country economist, Maxwell Nkwezalamba.

      Restructuring ADMARC would entail closing down its "unprofitable markets", including ones which cater to the rural communities in Malawi. The government was currently examining several models, such as "hiving off" unprofitable markets to a state body, or calling for tenders from the private sector.

      Expressing confidence in the Malawian government's handling of expenditure, Nkwezalamba pointed out that the British government was expected to pump at least $19 million into the country in the coming months, while a further $19 million was expected from the European Union in the next few weeks, with $5 million more from Norway.

      After a review of the government's economic performance, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) broke a three-year aid freeze on Malawi late last year and released a $9.2 million tranche from a $64.5 million concessional Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility originally approved in 2000.

      The IMF is conducting its second quarterly review in March and is expected to announce the next disbursement shortly.

      Aid was frozen by the IMF and major Western donors in a response to government overspending and lack of transparency. Up to 80 percent of Malawi's development budget is funded by donors.


      Gwanda, Tembo Remain Irreconcilable

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      February 16, 2004
      Posted to the web February 16, 2004

      Pilirani Phiri

      * Gwanda would have pulled out of coalition if MCP joined

      * Tembo still unwilling to join coalition because of Gwanda

      It has been reported that Republican Party (RP) President Gwanda Chakuamba would have pulled out of the opposition coalition if Malawi Congress Party (MCP) become party to the coalition. This revelation was made because it is alleged that Chakuamba would have difficulty working together again with his long time political adversary MCP's President John Tembo.

      Information sourced by The Chronicle indicates that Chakuamba was willing to pull out of the seven party Mgwirizano Coalition if the MCP become party to the coalition arrangement which John Tembo refused to sign saying the selection process of the Leader of the Coalition 'was undemocratic'.

      The source who is a high ranking official in RP told The Chronicle that Tembo and Chakuamba's long time political duel is refusing to cool, saying Chakuamba is still smarting from past hurts inflicted on him by Tembo and is not ready to work with him. "If Malawians thought Gwanda Chakuamba's unexpected resignation from MCP to form his own party, the Republican Party (RP) was the genesis of the end of the two leader's long time political duel then they are going to be proved wrong. The two will cross each other's paths if MCP becomes party to the coalition," said the source adding, "but now that Chakuamba is President of the Coalition nobody expects Tembo to join. He is too much of an egotist." When contacted to comment on the issue Chakuamba said the rumours were just pure lies saying he has already indicated that he is prepared to work with everyone and anyone in a strong coalition. "The rumours that say I will pull out of the coalition are just pure fiction because I have already made it clear that I will work with anyone in the coalition," said Chakuamba.

      In a similar development, The Chronicle has stumbled on information alleging that the major reason for MCP reluctance to join the coalition is because, ironically, Tembo also does not want to work again with Chakuamba.

      However, when asked to confirm if this allegation was true that the major reason that prevented MCP from signing the coalition was because he doesn't want to work with Chakuamba in the coalition, Tembo said it was not true. "It is not correct," Tembo was heard saying on a poor and fading line that eventually died off.

      The long time Tembo/Chakuamba's political feud, which consequently saw Chakuamba resign from MCP, dates back to 1994 when late Dr. H. Kamuzu Banda by-passed Tembo and preferred to work with Chakuamba - fresh from a 13 year jail sentence allegedly masterminded by Tembo - as his running mate in that year's general elections.

      In the 1999 general elections the two created political drama with Chakuamba, sticking strictly to the terms of an alliance agreement sanctioned by Tembo himself by-passed Tembo to pick AFORD's Chakufwa Chihana as his running mate in the MCP/AFORD alliance.

      Apparently annoyed with Chakuamba's move Tembo befriended Muluzi to the extent that the UDF president said at his political rallies throughout that the MCP followers must work with Tembo rather than Chakuamba: "If it was for me I would rather follow Tembo - who is Chakuamba, what can he offer you?" Muluzi was heard to say with some regularity.

      Tembo too told his campaign rallies that MCP supporters should vote for MCP MPs in their constituency but told them, quite openly: "But you know which president you must vote for!" It is largely acknowledged that the last presidential elections of 1999 were lost to the MCP because of these and other de-campigning tactics that Tembo used.

      In 2002 Tembo was expelled from Parliament after he was convicted of Contempt of Court when he disregarded a court injunction to stop him from holding the meeting. He held a parallel MCP convention despite there being another being held by Chakuamba.

      Tembo appealed on the judgment to the Supreme Court and was in December last year acquitted and reinstated as an MP alongside MCP's secretary general Kate Kainja.

      As Tembo was still celebrating his acquittal and consequently demanding that the position of President and running mate in the coalition should go to MCP, Chakuamba unexpectedly announced his resignation from MCP to form his own party, the Republican Party.

      With Chakuamba now the Grand Coalition president there is little hope that Tembo will bring his party into the grouping.


      Electoral Commission Quashes CHRR, PAC Reports

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      February 16, 2004
      Posted to the web February 16, 2004

      Wezie Nyirongo

      The Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) has quashed the registration report issued by the Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) which attributed the shortage of materials in most registration centres, inadequate security and lack of knowledge in processing transfers among registration supervisors to the poor performance of the Election's body.

      CHHR attributed shortage of materials to the failure by the Commission to supervise the registration process in all the centres.

      But MEC chair, James Kalaile when he briefed the press on the interim report of the Commission said the CHRR report is not wholly correct because the Commission has done a tremendous job to visit all the centres. District Elections Support Team (DEST) members and Information Technology (IT) clerks were deployed to all assemblies in all the 3891 centres.

      Kalaile also said the report does not specify exactly where the shortages occurred and what kind of materials were in short supply.

      'Reports like this are not adequate in assisting the Commission to follow up matters existing on the ground,' said Kalaile adding that where reports were specific, the Commission supplied the shortfalls immediately after being alerted.

      The report further accused the Commission of contributing to the failure of some supervisors to process transfers because the organisation gave different procedures of handling the transfers. On security the report noted that security officers were usually not present at some centres while others could come only during their free time.

      In his response to the concerns raised on security and the processing of transfers Kalaile could not respond positively.

      'On transfer procession, the report is not correct because there was only one procedure of handling transfers which is clearly spelt out in the registration procedures manual,' he said adding that in the report on security the CHRR did not specify which areas were affected saying general reports do not assist the Commission in any way to address anomalies where they exist.

      Surprisingly, Kalaile could not react to the donors statement from Local Embassy Missions on the registration process. The donor community also noted that there was widespread shortage of materials such as registration forms and inadequate quality films.

      Low turn out attributed to poor advance publicity, lack of materials and being the planting season were also observed by donors (see page 11).

      MEC's chair also described the Public Affairs Committee (PAC) report as judgmental in nature and undermines a possibility of impartial observation saying the conduct is contrary to the conditions laid down for observations to be made by stakeholders.

      However, the Commission highly commended the report by the SADC Parliamentary Forum for what they said was objective reporting and promised to implement the concerns raised.

      Human Rights Consultative Committee (HRCC) Executive Director Rodgers Newa condemned the Commission for setting aside the PAC and CHRR reports claiming they were lacking substantive evidence. 'We view this as being exclusive to its own accredited institutions. The areas pointed out in the two reports should have been critically analysed before dismissing them outright,' said Newa.

      In a related development, Newa also condemned the acts of violence which is still prevalent in most areas as elections draw near. He said violence is not good news, especially as those in positions are sponsoring them. He insisted that empirical evidence suggests that UDF is leading the violence.

      'There is clear manifestation that the president has failed to discipline these undemocratic individuals,' he said adding: 'This has affected the integrity of the party because any political party engaged in violence including those in opposition have no space in the democratic environment.' He further said Malawians should not be intimidated as they make their choices adding that the move of holding primaries is inevitable and essential in a democracy so that aspirants can get a fresh mandate from the people they hope to serve.
    • Christine Chumbler
      [Back after a 3 week vacation hiatus. South Africa is fabulous! I so want to live there. John, any job search advice for Americans?] Malawi: Govt Clampdown
      Message 2 of 2 , Aug 27, 2004
        [Back after a 3 week vacation hiatus. South Africa is fabulous! I so want to live there. John, any job search advice for Americans?]

        Malawi: Govt Clampdown On Illegal Cross-Border Maize Trade

        UN Integrated Regional Information Networks

        August 24, 2004
        Posted to the web August 24, 2004


        An estimated one in eight Malawians are facing food shortages this year, causing the government to suspend maize exports to neighbouring countries, a senior official confirmed on Tuesday.

        The principal secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs, Charles Msosa, told IRIN the main concern was that "tonnes of maize" were being illegally transported across the country's borders.

        "We cannot have truckloads of maize leaving Malawi when the country is experiencing a deficit and would have to import stocks," Msosa said.

        He said the authorities had already put in place stiffer control measures to monitor traffic heading into Tanzania, Zambia and Mozambique.

        "Should the custom officials discover maize leaving the country they will impound the maize and arrest the individuals on site. We suspect that the bulk is leaving from the north of country [into Tanzania]," he added.

        It remained unclear just how much maize was leaving Malawi illegally, but authorities said cross-border trade had "worsened" the current food shortages, which are expected to affect 1.4 million Malawians.

        "One of the reasons why maize sellers try to reach markets across the border is because of proximity - some maize producing areas are a lot closer to border towns than to local markets. Roads leading to our own markets are poor, which encourages these farmers to sell to neighbouring countries," Msosa explained.

        He downplayed suggestions that farmers were pursuing better prices in markets across the border. "If farmers were mainly seeking better prices they would spend more time getting to our local markets because there are shortages within the country. These shortages, like anywhere else, have led to an increase in maize prices," he told IRIN.

        Malawi requires 2.2 million mt of the staple maize annually, but crop assessments by the National Statistics Office have put the anticipated harvest at 1.73 million mt - 13 percent less than last year's 1.98 million mt. In parts of southern Malawi, where there has been a sharp drop in crop production is being sold at twice its normal price.

        Preliminary findings from a newly instituted system monitoring informal cross-border trading, which became effective at the beginning of this month, showed that the country has been informally importing about 1,500 mt to 2,500 mt of maize every week, mostly from Mozambique, but this would not be enough to make up the shortfall.

        "Even though we do have maize coming in informally we still are experiencing a deficit. But there are opportunists among the maize producers who will take maize across borders only to [import] the same maize to Malawi at a higher price during November [lean season]," Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture Andrew Daudi said.


        Former Regime Destroyed Malawi's Economy

        The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

        August 23, 2004
        Posted to the web August 23, 2004


        Economists in the country have said the Muluzi administration was so wasteful and arrogant in the way it spent public funds in the 10 years it was in office, it left the Malawi economy in deep crisis.

        Meeting at an economic seminar organised by the Department for International Development (DFID) in Lilongwe last week, the economic captains observed that the Muluzi administration was very arrogant and would not heed advice and concerns from donors or corporate captains on issues of over expenditure and good governance, a situation which forced the donors to freeze aid in 2001.

        DFID Economic Adviser Alan Whitworth said the aid freeze by donors forced government to borrow extensively from commercial banks resulting in a domestic debt of K54 billion which the Mutharika government has to struggle to pay back as one way of reorganising the economy.

        Whitworth, who likened the Muluzi administration to a man who spends beyond his means and ends up bankrupt, said domestic debt alone jumped from K9.5 billion in June 2001 representing 8.5% of the GDP to K54 billion in June 2004 which represents 30% of the GDP because of lavish spending.

        'What happens to a man who spends more than he earns year after year? He will go bankrupt and may end up in jail. While family and friends may help out for a while, if they see that he is making no effort to live within his means, sooner or later they will stop. The previous Malawi government was rather like this man," he said.

        Whitworth said for the past ten years government expenditure exceeded approved Budget and the fiscal deficit constantly exceeded IMF targets.

        While saying that it was not the right time for the Mutharika administration to ask for aid resumption, Whitworth said donors will not punish the new administration for sins committed by Muluzi.

        Former Finance Minister, Matthews Chikaonda, who was fired for his insistence on remaining within the spending confines of the budget likened the Muluzi administration to a man who goes into a shop and fills his basket with goods worth K2,000 and expects to pay for it with the K200 he posses in his pocket. He then proceeds to go out of the shop to ask bystanders and anyone who would listen to contribute to his basket of goods.

        'The previous government was like a man who goes in a shop with only K200 in his pocket but deliberately picks items amounting to K2000. Leaving the items at the till, he goes outside the shop asking for money from friends to settle the amount," said Chikaonda.

        Chikaonda, who is now Press Corporation supremo, said the real reasons why donors closed aid taps was because, among others the maize scandal, moves to remove three High Court Judges and the activity of Young Democrats who went scot free after hacking people with pangas simply because they were against UDF policies.

        He urged the donors to consider resuming aid now saying waiting for too long would only end up hurting the common man.

        Speaking at the same function, Naomi Ngwira, Executive Director for Institute for Policy Research and Dialogue said what Malawi now needs is international trade rather than a good international reputation.

        She said the Mutharika administration must move Malawi from being a consuming country to a producing one.

        In his inaugural speech Mutharika said he was aware that Malawi has a domestic debt that is clearly unsustainable and is eating through the country's resources thereby inhibiting growth.

        His main agenda is to tackle the economic losses that Malawi has suffered under former President Bakili Muluzi.

        A recent UNDP report indicates that Malawi, in the last 10 years has become much poorer with many more people living well below the poverty datum line than during the Kamuzu Banda era.


        African Nations Challenge IMF

        The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

        August 23, 2004
        Posted to the web August 23, 2004

        Wezie Nyirongo

        Malawi President Bingu wa Mutharika, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and Mwai Kibaki of Kenya have challenged the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to involve African countries in the design of economic programs to enhance country ownership of the economic reform programs.

        The three heads of State noted that when programs fail or have not worked out as expected, the IMF blames the respective countries without realising that the Breton Woods institutions also make mistakes.

        'We raised the issue of African countries participating more in the design of economic reform programs that are supported by the IMF. This will enhance country ownership of the economic reform programs. We also noted that when programs fail or do not work out as expected, countries have been taking all the blame,' say the leaders in a communiqué released after the Summit in Uganda recently with IMF managing director Rodrigo de Rato which was also attended by ministers of Rwanda and Burundi.

        'The IMF of course also makes mistakes. We welcome moves to greater openness about such mistakes including in the latest report on the IMF Poverty Reduction Strategy. Recognition that neither side is infallible will help us to design stronger programs,' the communiqué states.

        On the relationship between Africa and the IMF, leaders urged for a reduction in the inflexibility of the IMF in dealing with Africa and requested the relationship between the IMF and Africa be re-examined in ensuring that the two sides are true partners in the development process.

        The leaders urged for greater transparency in the decision making process in the IMF and review the allocation of quotas to give Africa more representation and a voice in the IMF. They also called for an African deputy Managing Director as well as giving more African senior positions of responsibility in the IMF.

        Taking into account that the HIPC framework addressed the external debt problem and some of the countries are sinking under a heavy debt burden, the leaders pointed out the need for the IMF to review its debt sustainability analysis to take into account alternative measures of debt sustainability and develop a framework that can look at the domestic debt burden of countries.

        'On growth and structural transformation, we raised the issue of the need to finance infrastructure requirements for the region, particularly railways to reduce the cost of production and allow access to markets,' says the communiqué adding that the leaders also called for a provision of fiscal incentives in order to attract foreign direct investment noting that the IMF's economic instruments are short-term in nature and focus mainly on the Balance of Payment crisis.

        They also urged IMF to develop medium to long term instruments to address the structural problems faced by African countries and for IMF to support regional cooperation arrangements in the cases of customs unions.

        In his statement IMF Managing director Rodrigo de Rato said he was quite impressed by the commitment of the leaders of the region to step up the efforts on the ground to increase economic growth and fight poverty.

        'The strengthening global recovery will also benefit Africa and we anticipate economic growth in Sub-saharan Africa reaching close to 5 percent this year and somewhat higher in 2005. Fully seizing the opportunities of world economic growth requires persevering with efforts to integrate Africa further with the global economy,' said Rato whose visit to Uganda was his first trip to Africa as Managing Director of IMF.

        Rato said there is also need to ensure adequate financing of development in Africa, notably in the context of efforts to reach the Millennium Development Goals but also in connection with the fight against HIV/AIDS and malaria, the 'Education for All' initiative and for infrastructure development.

        The IMF head also said his organisation would continue to remind the advanced economies of their responsibilities to improve opportunities for African export and better co-ordinate official development assistance in the form of grants.


        WHO to Establish VCT Centres Nationwide

        The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

        August 23, 2004
        Posted to the web August 23, 2004

        Pilirani Phiri

        The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said it will establish Voluntary Counselling and Testing (VCT) centres in the country as one way of encouraging people to undergo HIV/AIDS testing.

        Outgoing WHO resident representative William Aldis said recently in an interview immediately after taking leave of the State President Dr. Bingu wa Mutharika in Lilongwe that WHO has embarked on plans to open up 55 VCT centres next year in the country's strategic districts.

        "WHO feels Malawi is doing a lot in her efforts to combat the further spread of HIV/AIDS in as far as her limited resources are concerned. To complement this effort, WHO will next year open up 55 VCT centres so that more people should undergo VCT, which is the genesis of behaviour change," said Aldis.

        Aldis said in any HIV/AIDS mitigation campaign, knowing your sero status is a stepping stone for the world, especially the third world countries - to combat the pandemic's further spread.

        He, however, noted that more attention in the country has been diverted to HIV/AIDS sidelining other diseases such as malaria which, he said, is also killing many people.

        HIV/AIDS statistics from National AIDS Commission (NAC) indicate that the pandemic's prevalence rate (percentage of the population infected with HIV/AIDS) has stabilised from 14.6 per cent in 2001 to 14.4 per cent last year.

        Currently there are about 776,000 HIV/AIDS positive adults (14 - 49) years, of which 58 per cent are women.

        It is estimated that only 10 per cent of people from the 12 countries of the sub saharan Africa, Malawi inclusive, know their sero status either because they shun VCT or they do not have access to VCT.

        Currently government is advocating adequate, high quality, cost effective, totally confidential, and accessible VCT services country-wide.


        Muluzi Behind 'Fast Track' Initiative

        The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

        August 23, 2004
        Posted to the web August 23, 2004

        Pilirani Phiri

        it is a strategy to discredit the State President and make him toe the UDF party line

        UDF National Chairman Bakili Muluzi is to use the UDF 'Fast Track' movement and he is strategically using Dumbo Lemani to fight the new Mutharika government for its continued disinterest in party affairs, The Chronicle has learnt

        A high placed UDF source has disclosed that the party has created a plan to strategically use Lemani, a close friend and constant companion of the former leader to 'throw spanners in the works' of President BIngu wa Mutharika's attempts at maintain a distinct separating of party from government as promised in his inauguration speech in May. Mutharika has also promised a crackdown on alleged corrupt public officials, a fact that sends jitters on the party.

        "The Fast Track is now Muluzi's political strategy aimed at fighting the Mutharika government because of its lack of interest in party affairs. They want to try to make Bingu toe the UDF party line and not alienate himself from the party. Its a two man political strategy," said the source.

        The source further said Muluzi's recent ordering of Lemani to slow down and stop fighting the new government was just a smokescreen, saying there was no way Lemani could defy Muluzi in newspapers in the way he did. "Examine Muluzi and Lemani's relationship over the years. Do you really believe that Lemani can defy Muluzi when the former leader called on him to stop fighting Mutharika. It was purely a political ploy and strategy to make people believe Muluzi is against the Fast Track when in fact he is controlling it, though remotely. That is part of the strategy these long time comrades are playing at," said the source.

        But in a telephone interview Thursday, Lemani naturally only confirmed to have heard that people were speculating that Muluzi is behind the Fast Track but said it was not entirely true. "How do you think Muluzi, a former President can be involved in the Fast Track to be fighting Mutharika when he is the one who handpicked him (Mutharika) to run for the UDF," said Lemani.

        Asked as to what the purpose and functions of the Fast Track is, Lemani said his group is there to re-mould and rejuvenate the UDF party by bringing some former members back into the fold like Brown Mpinganjira and his National Democratic Alliance. "It was me who talked to Mpinganjira to rejoin the UDF. This is what Fast Track is there for, to keep the party alive," he said.

        However, Chancellor College political scientist Boniface Dulani said, after noticing that UDF party has suffered a lot since Mutharika took power, it could be possible for Muluzi to be behind the Fast Track, saying Muluzi wanted a successor that he could easily manipulate and fully control. "Muluzi wanted a successor whom he could fully control and manipulate but Mutharika seems to be his own man. And if what you are saying is true then it is sad for Muluzi to be interfering in the new regime," said Dulani.

        Muluzi last week during the start of his nationwide rallies said the UDF party was superior to government, and also surprisingly reminded Mutharika that Malawians were still waiting for the K500 million loan he had promised them for the vulnerable during the campaign. Analysts find Muluzi's charge as an attempt at undermining the integrity of the State President. They state that Muluzi is pointing fingers at the President when he himself failed hopelessly to deliver on promises made from the 1994 and 1999 election campaigns.

        So far, Mutharika, through his outspoken Chief of Staff Ken Ng'oma has since hit back saying Muluzi should be the last person to comment on the issue because the party chairman is aware government is struggling to settle internal debt incurred during his reign. "The new President is a careful planner and does not believe in buying people with money," the local press quoted Ng'oma as saying last week.

        At the same rally Muluzi also shrewdly referred to the arrest of his faithful aid Humphrey Mvula on allegations of corruption saying the Mutharika government is trying to draw Malawi back to the one party regime of arrests and detentions where one woke up thinking, "when am I going to be arrested." Muluzi has a history of being removed from office and being suspended from the MCP party by late Dr. Kamuzu Banda. For quite some time he lived in fear of being arrested.

        Of late, some UDF gurus have said they are ready to testify in an ongoing court case where the opposition is accusing the UDF to having rigged the elections, a move described as political blackmail by the civil society. "If they can testify, then government should arrest them all because they are confessing to have been involved in an electoral crime and have been withholding information. That is a criminal offense," said Emmie Chanika of Civil Liberties Committee (CILIC).

        Meanwhile, political pundits have said with the ongoing sour relationship between Mutharika, Muluzi and some UDF party gurus there is more to the existence of Fast Track than meets the eye and that a big political shake up is imminent in the UDF. Pundits say Muluzi's nationwide tour is, in essence an attempt to drum up grassroots support for himself against an imminent clash with President Mutharika.

        Many say Muluzi is fighting a losing battle because President Mutharika continues to enjoy favour from the larger community, and every radical, non partisan decision he makes for the nation, especially in correcting the wrongs of the past - enamour him more to the people.


        Hospitals & the Drug Supply Situation

        The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

        August 23, 2004
        Posted to the web August 23, 2004


        The issue of a continued shortage of essential drugs throughout the hospitals and medical centres in the country has highlighted a prime reason why Malawi needs to put in place 'fail-safe' mechanisms for ensuring the supply chain is not interrupted in any way.

        No reform can take place unless, and until there is a realisation that the current situation does not cater sufficiently to the needs. Additionally, investigations need to be carried out to ascertain why there was need to change the procurement system as well as to discover who benefitted from the slack procedures now in place.

        The finger points firmly to those in decision making positions, not only in cabinet, but also in the civil service who have had a willing cow to milk and therefore have resisted reform for selfish reasons.

        A key component of the reform process has to be political will, an element that has been sadly missing. Additionally, the reform process needs financial support if it is to succeed. The next installment discusses these, and other problems in an effort to draw attention to the desperate situation that exists in Malawi. Part XV continues

        Drug Procurement: Catalyst to the Crisis

        The endorsing of a major reform on the Central Medical Stores (CMS) was an idea that generally received almost unanimous support. Everybody in the system agreed that the drug supply chain was sick and needed to be drastically reformed.

        Paradoxically, not many officials were willing to speak on what they thought the system was ailing in. And the few that were willing to answer questions gave two conflicting diagnoses. Some blamed the drug shortages in the public health institutions on serious pilferage at the grassroots.

        They said that that the top levels of the drug procurement and distribution chain were relatively efficient and free of corruption. Others argued that the drug shortages in the public health system was as a direct result of massive corrupt practices in the drug procurement activities at the top.

        To date the Central Medical Stores has not been reformed despite several attempts. The failure to reform this key player may be directly related to the contradictory views at the policy level. The story of the failure in reforming the CMS has many twists and turns.

        Investigations revealed that the groundwork to reform the Central Medical Stores, which is constitutionally mandated to ensure that drugs are available in all hospitals in Malawi for 24 hours a day and 365 days a year, started being laid down in 1995 with the meeting that took place at Kalikuti Hotel in Lilongwe. During this meeting several people presented papers.

        'This is the meeting where the decision was made to review the activities of the Central Medical Stores after it became so apparent that the institution was no longer able to carry out its duties as before,' said Mr. Wynn Chalira, himself a former Controller of CMS and one of the people who presented papers during this historic workshop.

        Chalira continued: 'Change of government policy, the increase of disease conditions in the country mainly due to the advent of the HIV/AIDS crisis, a negative attitude, particularly among medical staff to drugs and other medical supplies and negative economic realities in the country necessitated new approaches in the drug distribution chain.'

        Subsequent to this workshop a Cabinet Paper and a draft Parliamentary Bill were written in 1996, but for reasons only known to those in power, the bill was not debated by Parliament. In the same year, Deloitte and Touche wrote a report recommending that the Central Medical Stores should be privatized.

        The Ministry of Health and Population rejected it for sounding 'too radical' and 'too aggressive.' Between 1996 and 2000 not much happened.

        'Of course there are several problems that the CMS reformation process has encountered since it began,' argued one highly placed source in the Ministry of Health and Population who spoke on condition of anonymity, 'the main problem though is that the project always falls victim to electioneering.

        In 1999, for instance, the project collapsed at the election time and the same happened in 2004. With elections taking place in May nothing could be done to arrest the malpractice in the drug procurement and distribution system in Malawi. It was much too sensitive a move for those in power.

        'High profile politicians did everything possible to ensure that our efforts failed because some of them were direct beneficiaries of the mess they created in the system.'

        After a period of stagnation that followed the 1999 presidential and parliamentary elections, the idea of reforming the CMS regained momentum in 2000 at the donor's insistence. Several reasons were given for the revival of the project including:

        1. With the worsening situation of the HIV/AIDS pandemic in the country it became very clear that Malawi needed to re-examine its public health services delivery system. Especially, if it is to cope with the demand at grassroots level where the majority of Malawians were not able to purchase drugs at retail price in private pharmacies or private hospitals.

        2. There was an apparent view that Malawi would not be able to attract funding from any source for the purchase of ARVs if it did not put its house in order.

        3. There were rampant rumours of corruption at procurement level as well as massive pilferage at grassroots level.

        In May 2000, DFID contracted a project design team which produced a paper entitled 'Strengthening the Central Medical Stores and Drug Supply Chain, Malawi - Issues Relating to the Supply of Drugs, Government of Malawi.' Its conclusion reads in part:

        'Malawi is facing major health problems and there is a need to have an efficient, cost-effective drug supply chain to deliver accessible, quality drugs for both preventive and curative use. DFID (UK) may consider a support program to facilitate the transformation of the CMS to Trust status. This will involve both supporting legislative change and capacity building.' At that time, the necessity of targeting the Central Medical Stores was apparently not disputed in the government circles. The Draft Paper for the Cabinet Committee on HIV and Health, which was leaked during investigation said: 'It is vital to the work of the Ministry of Health and Population that CMS works properly.'

        It gave the following as reasons for this initiative:

        1. CMS provides a vital link to ensure adequate supply of drugs to the majority of Malawians.

        2. All vertical health programs rely on the CMS.

        3. The outcome of government's request for support for HIV, TB and Malaria depends heavily on the existence of an efficient CMS.

        4. Reforming the CMS will enable MOHP (to) access HIPC financial allocation more easily.

        Put in more general terms it was felt, according to the same paper, that three organizational features were necessary to run an efficient CMS as a not-for-profit business namely; tight financial management, provider/client accountability and skilled human resource.

        'CMS's income must be linked to its sales and be reliable,' reads the paper in part, 'CMS must have a responsibility to ensure that it does not lose money to avoid further decapitalization... CMS should be a responsible seller... it should guaranty the quality of drugs, and also that these are being sold at the lowest reasonable price... Any large not-for-profit business requires high-level management skills - for CMS, the key skills are pharmacy, logistics and business management.'

        In 2000 a memorandum was agreed upon between DFID and the Ministry of Health and Population and letters were exchanged between MOHP and Malawi's largest bilateral donor to the health sector Britain. While many other donors, namely World Bank, European Union (which is mainly dealing with central and district level planning), USAID (mainly reproductive health) and GTZ (human resources) were engaged in the health sector in Malawi, DFID happened to be the sole donor of the project to reform the CMS.

        However, instead of committing itself to supporting a long-term five-year program as it was originally envisaged, the Department For International Development of UK preferred to stagger its support in phases. It committed itself to providing £700, 000 to support the 18 months-long project called 'Strengthening the Central Medical Stores and the drugs supply chain,' which was meant to prepare the ground for any further involvement by creating a conducive policy environment.

        An appraisal suggested that a five-year program would be 'too high risk, even with clear breakpoints. It was considered necessary to obtain concrete commitment from government to the necessary fundamental policy changes in advance of any large scale investment,' reads the Project Memorandum.

        It goes on saying that this project, considered as phase 1 of a possible larger reform program, would ensure that the essential policy framework was put in place to capitalize on follow on joint Government of Malawi/donor investment, which could result in a procurement basket or district level drug funds.

        Going by this document, it is obvious that DFID was not very confident with the future of the project. Two issues bear testimony to this conclusion.

        First, the design of the project, as shown above, indicates that DFID was avoiding any long-term commitment.

        Secondly, DFID's insistence on the fact that further support to the project will depend on a successful implementation of the first phase, reflects a relative lack of confidence in the success of the reform even before it started.

        In the letter (dated 5 September 2000) sent to the Secretary for Health and Population where DFID officially confirms its support for the projects, it is clearly stated that the 'the support proposed focuses only on the necessary preconditions for possible future phases.' In the same paragraph it is also stressed that, 'the main output of this phase will be an agreed (at high level) cash-limited and needs-based approximate allocation of resources by drug and facility. Evidence of the application of the new criteria would be necessary to the follow on phase (for DFID)'.

        Despite the fact that this was envisaged as a very important project, it appears that the rest of the donor community has taken the 'wait-and-see' attitude - abstaining from providing any financial support at that stage.

        According to the DFID Project Memorandum, it is evident that other donors were hesitant to support the first phase. 'Although other donors are interested in having a well functioning system (including World Bank),' the document reads, they were not interested in joining forces to undertake the institutional change reforms needed prior to basket type financing.

        From the account above it appears that the DFID funded CMS reform project is essentially a preliminary stage making a credible case for investing further in the CMS if the criteria for additional subvention was met fully.
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