- Malawi cops open fire on opposition rally
23 February 2004 10:44
Two people were wounded when Malawi riot police fired live rounds at a crowd to stop a rally by opposition parties in Blantyre on Sunday, an opposition spokesperson said.
Kholiwe Mkandawire of the "Mgwirizano" coalition (which means "unity" in the local Chichewa language), an alliance of six small parties, said scores of heavily armed riot police "resorted to firing live bullets" at the crowd of 5 000 which had refused to disperse from a public park in the township Mjamba.
"The two were hit in the melee and were rushed to hospital," said Mkandawire late on Sunday.
A police officer who did not want to be named said: "They were acting on instructions of the mayor of the city of Blantyre".
Mayor John Chikakwiya, a loyalist of the ruling United Democratic Front (UDF) of President Bakili Muluzi, had banned the rally because Muluzi was addressing his own in another township, about six kilometres away.
Mayors in Malawi have powers to ban rallies if they fear a security breakdown. The riot police, who often use live rounds, destroyed a podium erected for the leaders of the opposition.
But the opposition had obtained a High Court order permitting the rally to go ahead, and after showing it to the police, the rally continued and its leaders, including Gwanda Chakuamba, endorsed as the presidential candidate of the coalition, addressed their supporters.
A spokesperson at the Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital said the two injured people were treated for gunshot wounds and were in a stable condition.
Malawi will hold general elections on May 18 when the president is to retire after serving two terms. Muluzi's bid to amend the constitution to allow him to stand for a third term was rejected by parliament. - Sapa-AFP
Bakili Muluzi dissolves cabinet
23 February 2004 14:56
Malawian President Bakili Muluzi abruptly dissolved his 45-member cabinet on Monday without explanation.
Muluzi's Office of the President and Cabinet released a brief statement from the administrative capital Lilongwe saying that all official duties by the ministers and their deputies would be handled by the president's office from Monday.
"The president has dissolved the cabinet with effect from today (Monday)," the statement said without elaborating.
The surprise move comes a month before Muluzi was expected to dissolve both the cabinet and 193-member parliament on March 20, ahead of general elections on May 18.
"There was no immediate indication that the president is going to appoint a new cabinet although he needs one before the general elections in May," said an official from Sanjika Palace, the president's home in the commercial capital Blantyre.
The current cabinet was appointed last year and included five ministers and deputies from the opposition Alliance for Democracy (Aford) under a loose government of national unity.
Under the alliance, Aford's leader Chakufwa Chihana was appointed second vice-president.
Muluzi's United Democratic Front (UDF) and Aford were set to sign an electoral pact later on Monday, and observers speculated that he might have dissolved the cabinet to include more Aford members in a new cabinet before the elections. - Sapa-AFP
'The situation is not dire, but it is bleak'
20 February 2004 10:46
The Mafeteng region was once surrounded by some of Lesotho's most productive agricultural land ― now it is on the front line of the region's drought. (Photograph: AP/Themba Hadebe)
While the figures for drought and famine in Southern Africa are less apocalyptic than they were a year ago, the scale of human misery is unacceptably high and an appeal to the international community for special help looks inevitable.
This year food will have to be bought from South America. The drought in South Africa will make food either too scarce or too expensive to source here.
Last year the World Food Programme (WFP) made a special international appeal for $311-million and got $208-million. It was this that prevented people from dying of hunger, says Richard Lee, the WFP representative in South Africa.
Lee very much regrets that he will still have a job here for the foreseeable future.
"The situation is not completely dire, but it still looks pretty bleak. In numerical terms things are not as bad as they were at the beginning of 2003 when 15-million people in Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe needed emergency food aid," he says.
"In February last year alone the WFP reached 10-million people. Last December we reached five million people and we estimate that between nine and 10-million currently need emergency feeding.
"Although the number is lower, these people will have had two years without proper feeding. Our provisions can do no more than keep them alive and give them enough energy to continue farming.
"So they will have had another year of selling off meagre assets to survive. In some ways this year will be harder for the hungry, even though there may be fewer of them."
The picture will become much clearer when harvesting starts in about six weeks' time.
Many people have already started going hungry and are desperately waiting on the harvest. Early indications are that this year's crops will be as bad as last year's.
Lesotho, where there has been virtually no rain, has already declared a state of emergency. Between 600 000 and 700 000 people ― a third of the kingdom's population ― will need emergency food aid.
Not only will Lesotho not get a maize crop in April, but its winter harvest last year also failed.
Swaziland is reportedly considering declaring a state of disaster. It has not done this since the drought of 1992, which first brought the WFP to the region.
Southern Mozambique faces its third year of drought and some areas of south-central Mozambique have seen no rain in four years.
The WPF is making an emergency assessment in southern Malawi ahead of the detailed crop assessments made by the United Nations's Food and Agriculture Organisation in May.
"Things look okay for the harvest in central Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe where there has been some rain," says Lee.
In some places even good rains would not greatly improve food security because farmers have either run out of seed and fertilizer or have failed to plant, fearing continued drought.
South Africa will not be able to step in as a donor and supplier as it did in 2000 when its gift of 100 000 tonnes of maize made it the fifth-largest donor internationally.
Late rains might make South Africa self-sufficient in maize this year. If there is any surplus it will be too expensive for the WFP to buy. Lee says South African prices have skyrocketed since December.
The continuing drought and the HIV/Aids epidemic is expected to keep the WFP in the region for years to come.
"Ideally we like to get in, provide the emergency assistance and then move on elsewhere," says Lee. "That is what we did here in 1992."
The WFP has never provided South Africa with emergency aid. It bases its regional operation in the country for logistical reasons.
"Communications are good and we usually source much of our food from here," says Lee.
"We had hoped to move away from the basic provision of food to addressing the HIV/Aids-related problems threatening long-term food security.
"But the continued drought means we have to continue providing the basic needs.
"Beating HIV/Aids is crucial to our job. HIV/Aid is the underlying cause of vulnerability in the region. It worsens the food crisis and the shortage of food in turn worsens the epidemic."
HIV/Aids erodes production and income as parents die and families headed by children or grandparents farm less and earn less. This in turn hits people living with HIV who do not get the proper nutrition.
"Providing anti-retrovirals is no good unless it is accompanied by proper nutrition. It's a vicious circle."
The WFP is now working alongside the more focused UN operations against HIV/Aids.
"Only by mounting a joint attack on this scourge will we be able to deal with it," says Lee. "If we don't work with regional and international organisations on this, we will simply continue to move from crisis to crisis."
Mugabe shrugs off 'murder' bid and health fears
23 February 2004 07:30
The president of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, recently found ground glass in his food: possibly an attempt to kill him.
He told state television during a special birthday interview that a presidential cook had been questioned about the incident.
In the past, Mugabe has accused western leaders of seeking to topple him, but he did not blame this latest incident on the west.
"I do not think it was anything to do with western imperialism. Western imperialism is much more thorough than that," he said.
"I think it was just some internal thing. Perhaps the cook was not happy."
He suggested that the cook might have been bewitched. The police declined to comment on the incident.
But the 80-year-old president's health became the subject of further speculation yesterday when state broadcasters announced that he would not attend a state funeral because of "chest pains" after visiting a tobacco farm in the Bindura area.
This is the first time the state media has admitted that he has any health problems.
Last month he made a mysterious 48-hour visit to South Africa. A government spokesperson vehemently denied that he had sought medical treatment.
Despite his health problems, Mugabe said he intended to serve his current six-year presidential term, which does not expire until 2008.
"I have not been in the habit of surrendering at all," he said. "In five years, I will be here, still boxing, writing a lot, reading quite a lot, and still in politics."
Last week Mugabe issued a decree authorising the government to hold its opponents in jail for up to a month before being take to court.
Previously anyone arrested had to be brought to court within 48 hours. The new measure was unconstitutional and amounted to "a silent declaration of a state of emergency", an opposition MP, David Coltart, said.
"These regulations are nothing less than a trojan horse which effectively usher in provisions that give the regime state of emergency powers," said Coltart, who is the Movement for Democratic Change's secretary for legal affairs.
Most of the MDC leadership was arrested last year but no one has been brought to trial except the party leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, who is standing trial for treason. He may be hanged if found guilty.
Tsvangirai denies the charges and legal experts say the case against him is so weak that it would have been thrown out by any independent court.
Out on bail, he was reported to have been attacked by government supporters yesterday while travelling outside Harare. No further details were available.
Mugabe's 80th birthday celebrations came as Zimbabwe's political and economic crisis continued to deepen. Nearly two-thirds of the 12-million people need international food aid, according to United Nations agencies.
Inflation has reached 622% and unemployment, already estimated at 70%, continues to grow. This month the state closed the most popular newspaper and jailed leading independent journalists for two days before preferring charges which legal expert dismiss as spurious. - Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2004
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