- Malawi: Bumper Tobacco Crop Could Boost Forex Earnings
UN Integrated Regional Information Networks
February 25, 2004
Posted to the web February 25, 2004
Malawi looks set to increase valuable foreign exchange earnings from its tobacco crops this year, according to the latest production estimates.
The Ministry of Agriculture told IRIN on Wednesday that production of various types of tobacco - burley, flue-cured and western - was likely to rise significantly above last year's output.
"The estimated burley production is 115 million kilograms (115,000 mt), flue-cured is 19.4 million kilograms (19,400 mt) and western tobacco from [the north-central region] about 6.4 million (6,400 mt)," a ministry official told IRIN.
The Tobacco Association of Malawi predicted a further 900 mt of tobacco from the southern highlands, bringing the total estimated tobacco crop to around 141,700 mt.
"It is a significant increase," the official said. "In burley it's an increase of 11 to 12 percent, on flue-cured it's about a 41 percent increase, and on the western tobacco the increase is 71 percent."
The president of the Tobacco Association of Malawi, Albert Kamulaga, said growers were "quite optimistic" about this year's tobacco prospects, and noted that Malawi exports "about 99 percent of our crops". These exports "account for about 70 percent of [Malawi's] forex" earnings, and "will boost foreign exchange earnings this year".
EXPECTING REASONABLE PRICES
"We had a test [auction] of flue [tobacco] yesterday and ... the prices were quite reasonable - we expect good prices out of burley as well," Kamulaga added. Malawi was "about third now, in terms of [world] exports ... [and] we've been leading the burley market for a number of years".
The country is in need of foreign currency, as the Kwacha continues to hover at weak levels of between Kwacha 108 and Kwacha 110 to the US dollar.
"Our growers suffer shortages of inputs, mainly fertiliser ... if that was readily available we could boost production by 50 percent more than what we are doing now", Kamulaga said.
Fertiliser is largely imported into Malawi, and a weak Kwacha is prohibitive, he explained. High interest rates charged by commercial banks were another factor affecting the ability of the country to boost its forex earnings through tobacco.
"We do not have farming credit loans in Malawi, [commercial bank] interest rates are very high - 42 percent at the moment - which does not give any margin for a farmer to make any money. If a farmer is to make use of such a loan they will be out of business very quickly," Kamulaga said.
According to figures from the US Department of Agriculture, Malawi exported about 122,000 mt of tobacco last year.
Malawi Takes Public Policy Measures Against HIV/Aids
United Nations Development Programme (New York)
February 24, 2004
Posted to the web February 25, 2004
Malawi is building measures into all facets of public policy against HIV/AIDS in an effort to stem the spread of the virus and improve treatment and care for the 14 per cent of its population living with the disease.
A national policy President Bakili Muluzi launched earlier this month in Blantyre would require legislative changes to promote prevention and better protect those living with HIV/AIDS, including invalidating infection as grounds for job dismissal and offering tax incentives for employers who provide comprehensive HIV/AIDS programmes.
President Muluzi urged Malawians to go for voluntary HIV testing and counselling as he had, noting that so far only 3 per cent have done so.
He also called for openness, including disclosing AIDS as a cause of death, to reduce the social stigma.
"Let us come out in the open. My young brother Dickson, who died two years ago, died of HIV/AIDS," he said. "We can only tackle the problem if we are open. It is a serious problem. Why hide it?" UNAIDS and UNDP provided technical and financial support for the National AIDS Commission for preparation of the policy.
UNAIDS Executive Director Dr. Peter Piot said that his organization is fully committed to ensuring that access to effective HIV treatment becomes a worldwide reality. UNAIDS, working with the World Health Organization (WHO), is campaigning to put at least three million HIV positive people in developing countries on anti-retroviral treatment by 2005.
Dr. Piot noted that HIV prevention is bearing fruit among young people, with HIV infection rates falling. "These efforts need to be redoubled to ensure that our children remain HIV-free," he said, urging everyone to "stick to ABC - abstinence, be faithful and use a condom." He commended President Muluzi for leading the response to the epidemic, making it the country's number one challenge.
The President pointed out the need to revise or repeal a number of laws to implement the policy and protect the rights of people living with HIV/AIDS. He has asked the Minister of Justice and the Law Commission to review to criminal, labour, public health, customary marriage and divorce, and taxation laws.
He noted, for example, that the policy calls for amending the Employment Act to include HIV status among the reasons that do not constitute valid grounds for dismissal.
Janet Kayuni, chairperson for the Youth Council and a law student at the University of Malawi, said that existing legislation to protect children and young people against abuse, harassment and exploitation needs to be strengthened and enforced to ensure that the policy is effective. Many girls, especially orphans, are sexually abused by their guardians and even teachers, she asserted.
Ms. Kayuni said that very few young people have access to sexual and reproductive health information, education and services appropriate for their age and needs. She added that young people have been denied the right to "full participation on matters affecting them," and urged that the new policy involve them fully.
In the past three years, the HIV infection rate among those 15 to 24 has stabilized at about 14 per cent. Only 2 per cent of children ages 5 to 14 are HIV positive, a prevalence Ms. Kayuni described as a "window of hope" for an HIV-free country in the future.
Printing Company Comes Under Attack
Media Institute of Southern Africa (Windhoek)
February 25, 2004
Posted to the web February 25, 2004
On January 29 2004, two journalists turned politicians, Thom Chiumia and Chikumbutso Mtumodzi, stopped printing of the privately owned The Dispatch Newspaper and seized the printed copy and plates.
Chiumia is president of the New Dawn for Africa (NDA) political party while Mtumodzi is his secretary general. NDA supports the ruling United Democratic Front (UDF) and is widely believed to be funded by UDF die-hards.
According to Lusungu Mhango production manager of Karora printing and publishing company the two went to his press to print their own newspaper, The Informer. On arrival they became enraged when they discovered that The Dispatch newspaper was being printed.
"They wielded a knife and threatened everyone around. Some of my staff members sustained injuries," Mhango said.
He said his company lost over K70 000 (approximately US$642) in the fracas.
Chiumia, while denying his involvement in the incident, said he wanted to teach the printers a lesson to respect the government of the day.
"I believe in media freedom. I cannot fight The Dispatch. But I will fight printers who have hidden agendas and want to embarrass the government," he said.
He claimed that the printers sidelined his paper despite advance payment and went ahead to print The Dispatch which he said writes ill about the government.
Martines Namingha, managing director of The Dispatch, said he was not surprised (by their actions) and that the two always tried to frustrate his operations.
"A few days ago they wrote in their paper that I am funded by National Democratic Alliance president Brown Mpinganjira. They even quoted Republican President Gwanda Chakuamba as saying that I am funded by Mpinganjira. I talked to Chakuamba and he denied having talked to them," Namingha said.
Chiumia and Mtumodzi have run several papers which have changed names following to defamation charges.
In 2003 they beat Mpinganjira to registration when they registered their party as National Democratic Alliance (NDA), a name that belonged to Mpinganjira's pressure group, and copied all its symbols. The courts stopped them from using the name but they remained with the acronym NDA.
Their paper vilifies everyone deemed opposing the UDF stand. In March 2002, the two allegedly assaulted a Burundian football coach, who worked in Malawi, for what analyst deemed as political reasons.
Elections No Excuse for Political Violence
The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)
February 24, 2004
Posted to the web February 24, 2004
For Malawi to have a peaceful and democratic election process there is need for politicians to remember that in democracy election rallies and other campaigning activities are not an area where those who intimidate and damage their rivals are the winners.
The wake up call follows continued reports of violence and harassment occurring during UDF party primaries where some people have lost their lives while others survive with different degrees of injuries.
Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR), one of the civil society organisations has been on the forefront, condemning acts of violence during the next elections period.
'We wish to reiterate to all political players the need for those intending to stand in the coming national elections to abide by the spirit of democratic competition and conduct themselves in a peaceful, tolerant and respectful manner,' says CHRR in a statement released recently.
'In ensuring that Malawi has peaceful and truly democratic elections, all those participating should remember that in a democracy, election rallies and other campaigning activities are not an arena where those able to intimidate the most or cause most physical hurt and damage to their rivals are the winners,' reads the statement.
It further says that democratic elections constitute a forum where aspirants to leadership positions sell their ideas to the electorate so that people can choose individuals whose ideas convince the majority of having leadership responsibilities.
Since most parties have not yet concluded their primaries CHRR says all intending contestants from all political parties should know that democratic elections are supposed to be conducted as a friendly rivalry, not as if there is a war going on.
'Tolerance and respect for differences of opinion and diversity of ideas is the essential ingredient for creating better understanding,' says the statement adding that democratic competition is where winners accept victory with humility and the losers accept defeat with dignity.
CHRR further urged aspiring candidates and those responsible for the organisation and management of respective election campaigns, especially the police and others charged with responsibility of ensuring conducive environment for the holding peaceful electoral activities exists.
It adds that political campaigning should be the forum for a peaceful exchange of ideas, not an arena for the exchange of physical blows and abuse.
Since the start of the UDF primaries a fortnight ago there have been reports of violence involving party officials and supporters of the same party. In Ntchisi, a child is reported to have died in the fracas which erupted in the course of the primary election for the party's Director of Agriculture Ben Dzowela who contested against Sylvester Gadi.
Supporters of three UDF aspiring candidates for Lilongwe City West also marched against the sitting MP Elizabeth Lamba who was declared a winner after the elections were nullified.
Another clash occurred in Kasungu where three lady officials for UDF, NDA, and AFORD went to collect electoral information materials at NICE offices.
The violence believed to have been influenced by the ruling party's UDF Young Democrats.
More Mass Defections in UDF Expected
The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)
February 24, 2004
Posted to the web February 24, 2004
A group of UDF supporters, including the aspiring parliamentary candidate for Nkhotakota North East Makwinja Charles Chipala have resigned from the party and joined the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).
Makwinja, who claimed to be one of the UDF founding members in the area told The Chronicle in an exclusive interview that he is totally frustrated with the way UDF officials, including the party's running mate - Cassim Chilumpha is handling its supporters in the area.
He said he decided to resign and join the NDA after consultations with his supporters including the area branch supporters who have also followed him to NDA.
'Your excellency, Sir, I loved the UDF, I loved Chilumpha. I loved you. But I am so badly wounded that we can no longer stay under one roof. I am still weeping, it is a bitter decision but I am going, and gone for ever,' reads part of the resignation letter which he said will be sent to president Muluzi soon.
Makwinja said he was, for sometime a staunch supporter of Chilumpha and used to campaign for him because he knew that the presidential choice of Bingu was not right at all and expected Chilumpha to take over. But he was disappointed because he alleges that Chilumpha turned against him and started decampaigning him when he announced his interest in contesting as an MP for Nkhotakota north east.
'It is not surprising that my choice for presidential candidate was Chilumpha. I must confess that it took me long to accept Bingu's nomination as presidential candidate. But I have understood the reason, I think Muluzi had an effective intelligence network,' said Makwinja.
Adding: 'I opted for Chilumpha because I knew Bingu would only serve one term and later Chilumpha would take over but I am now very disappointed.' He alleged Chilumpha decampaigned him in favour of a lady known as Martha Mulanje Mhango who won with 522 votes against his 439 votes during the primaries held few weeks ago.
With his resignation from UDF, Makwinja told The Chronicle that he will be standing as the NDA parliamentary candidate for Nkhotakota north east.
NDA deputy publicity secretary Maxwell Njala said it was expected that most UDF aspirants who are disappointed after their party's primary elections would be joining NDA.
'This is expected and by the final day of their primaries which is the 25th of this month the UDF will be finished. However the door is open and everyone is welcome to join us,'said Njala.
'Makwinja is very welcome to the party and we expect more to join us. That is why our party is national so that everyone willing to join us can do so.
As we went to press, Chilumpha could not be drawn for comment despite efforts to talk to him through his secretary at Blantyre Print and Publishing who demanded the reporters phone number to call back until the Chronicle went to bed.
Apart from being one of the founding members of the UDF in Nkhotakota, Makwinja was elected district governor in 1992 to 1994 and elected UDF member of parliament for Nkhotakota north east from 1994 to 1999.
Later through a recommendation from Muluzi he was offered a job as a Commissioner with the Teaching Service Commission. His resignation from the UDF is seen as the much anticipated catalyst that would see the increase in defections from the party as predicted by the NDA President Brown Mpinganjira last December.
Parties, Civil Society Differ On MPs English Test
The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)
February 24, 2004
Posted to the web February 24, 2004
Political parties represented in parliament and civil society organs have differed on the idea mooted by the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) that all sitting Members of Parliament should not undertake an English Proficiency Test in readiness for the May 18 polls.
Parliament on Friday announced that the elections monitoring body will not conduct an English test for all sitting MPs, however civil society says there was still need for them to undergo the examination because most MPs are not sufficiently qualified and cannot fully express themselves in English which is a constitutional requirement.
Second deputy speaker of parliament Loveness Gondwe said it was good news that all sitting members of parliament will no longer do an English test.
'Honourable members there is good news, and the good news is coming from the Electoral Commission that all sitting MPS are not going to undergo an English test,' said Gondwe attracting loud applause from members in the house.
The Malawi Congress Party (MCP) Publicity Secretary Nicholas Dausi welcomed the idea saying there was no need for sitting MPs to go for an English test because they already did one when they were nominated to represent the party in 1994 and 1999 respectively.
'The idea is welcome because our party is very strict on who will represent us in parliament and all our siting MPs are qualified enough and there is no need to do the test again. All of them passed the test already in 1994 and 1999,' said the outspoken Dausi.
'We however encourage our MPs to cultivate a reading culture for them to improve their English and their knowledge. They must do this so that they can contribute effectively in parliament,' said Dausi. But he denied the fact that MPs fail to contribute in the house because the contributions are made in English.
He said the party encourages intellectuals to join and, according to their survey most MCP parliamentarians have been contributing effectively to debates in parliament.
United Democratic Front (UDF) deputy spokesperson Mary Kaphwereza Banda also shared the MCP view saying all UDF MPs are already well educated and it was not necessary for them to do another English proficiency test.
'That is quite fine, after all UDF has well educated MPs and all of them contribute effectively in parliament. However, we cannot judge from contributions if an individual is well conversant with English because some of them are well educated but decide to remain quiet in the house,' said Kaphwereza Banda.
However, Livingstonia Synod of the CCAP, Church and Society director Moses Mkandawire told The Chronicle that the announcement should be observed in two ways saying although parties are welcoming the idea a lot remains to be desired in the character of most MPs.
He said it is unfortunate and embarrassing for the MPs to celebrate and regard the suspension of an English test as good news to them because it just shows how low their level of education is.
'The announcement has on the other hand been fair for the sitting MPs because it could be an embarrassment if one fails the test after being in the house for five or more years. But it has not been realistic because we need active, qualified and competent MPs,'said Mkandawire.
'We really need to change our chamber because most of the MPs only contribute when voting for bills. To be frank we need to have understanding and qualified MPs who are quite conversant with bills and laws which are passed in parliament,' he said adding, 'because they are not well educated they end up voting for unwanted bills.' 'They even don't know when to say yes or no to the bills they pass in parliament. In fact, we do not need to have a lot of MPs who do not have any qualification and not educated, it is better to have a few who are educated and will help the nation,' said Mkandawire.
MEC have been conducting English proficiency tests for aspiring members of parliament who do not have Malawi School Certificate of Education (MSCE) from Monday to Wednesday last week.
The Malawi Constitution under section 51 subsection 1(b) on qualifications of members of parliament stipulates that an MP should be one who is able to speak and read the English language.
Transforming Information Into Behaviour Change
The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)
February 24, 2004
Posted to the web February 24, 2004
As Youth Are Given Life Skills to Help Them Avoid Becoming Infected
Action for Behaviour Change (ABC) is a project that aims to encourage the youth to transform the information that they have on HIV/AIDS into meaningful behaviour change.
The project, which is carried out in seven schools around Lilongwe is aimed at providing the youth with skills which will help them to make positive choices for safer behaviour so as to help them realise their rights and educate the youth on the benefits of Voluntary Counselling and Testing (VCT).
According to training officer, Steve Chibophe, the ABC project has trained fifty peer educators, twenty three form four school leavers and twenty seven students from the African Bible College. 'These peer educators accompany training officers to the schools with programmes which help create an environment where they can come and freely discuss issues of HIV/AIDS'. said Chibophe.
He added that the youth have information on HIV/AIDS, but that the information needed to be transformed into a change in the way that they conducted their sexual lives. The peer educators also receive training in Life Skills which they in turn impart to their own colleagues. The youth need to know life skills in order to translate the information into behaviour change and be able to withstand peer pressure. 'The girls need to know that they can say NO to sex,' Chibophe explained.
Chifundo, who has received training as a peer educator says the training has given her the confidence and knowledge on how to help other youth of her own age to change their behaviour in order to avoid becoming infected with HIV.
'We have been trained on how to facilitate a club, how to talk to the youth and how we as peer educators and role models can present a good picture of ourselves,' she said adding: 'The life skills that we impart to the youth with help them in avoiding being infected with HIV/AIDS.
Doreen, who is also part of the team says she has been able to talk to the youth about resisting peer pressure, the ability to make the right choices and the dangers of early pregnancies and marriages. 'We as peer educators become role models ourselves, and the youth that we target can see that we have achieved and they have the desire to be like us,' she said.
According to the peer educators, the schools and youth have been very receptive. 'Some teachers have given us encouragement to continue with this work' said Mike, a member of the team. They all agree that sex is a natural desire of an adolescent, but realise that it must be used in the right context, and with someone whom one loves and who is faithful to one partner.
Working together with Partners in HOPE, the ABC project is headed by Caroline Maclean who is the director. The project receives support from both international and local well wishers.
The seven schools that are participating in the ACB HIV prevention programme are Chigoneka Primary School, Mkomachi Primary School, Lingadzi Secondary School, Mtsiriza FP School, Chigoneka CDSS, Lilongwe Girls and Polly Private School.
TEVETA Geared to Train More Youth Girls Take Up the Challenge in Technical Skills
The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)
February 24, 2004
Posted to the web February 24, 2004
Youths, especially girls are now taking a leading role in development projects through technical training offered by the Technical, Entrepreneurial and Vocational Education and Training Authority (TEVETA).
According to TEVETA officials, most girls are now interested in technical work which poses a challenge to boys who are also in the same field.
Carpentry, plumbing and bricklaying are some areas that girls want to be involved in and are training in the disciplines with the institution.
TEVETA Curriculum Development Specialist, Frank Banda told The Chronicle that the girls and boys who are trained by the institution are those who have just finished school and are unable to do further training due to financial problems. He said after the recruitment exercise the students are posted to different areas where they are involved in 'on-the-job' training.
One of the areas is Liwonde in Machinga District where TEVETA is constructing a market site. The project named Chidzanja Market Site started in August last year and 30 students were recruited and are being trained in construction skills. Out of 30 students, 10 are girls.
TEVETA was approached by the community surrounding the Chidzanja market area to train school leavers through the project. 'Since we have the mandate for training and looking after development projects in the country we welcomed the request,' said Banda adding that after the training the students are going to be awarded certificates.
'I can work anywhere now since I am well equipped with the training. We have been doing construction work from foundation stage to this time,' said 20 year old Flossy Phiri who has been undergoing brick laying course.
'I am now confident that my future is bright and have hopes that at the end of this training I will have no problem securing a job in one of the big companies in the country,' she added.
She indicated that at first she wanted to do journalism but could not raise enough money for the course. She then decided to do any training that was available to her because she had no choice because of the financial constraint.
'I don't regret doing this training now because it is very challenging. Most people get surprised as to why I am so interested in what they call 'men's work'. These days most girls prefer office work but I love being in the field.' Another student Lucy Laston said that the training she has received has benefited her a lot although at first people were discouraging her, even to saying that because she is a girl she was not going to manage to complete the course.
'I did not succumb to the pressure from the people who were discouraging me from doing the job and now here I am, I can challenge them and build a house by myself,' said Laston proudly.
'The training was an eye opener to me and I have learnt a lot. We started by digging the foundation and people were very interested with what we were doing considering that we are girls,'she said.
Kensington Mdeza, a brick laying trainer and Maxwell Chimseu for Carpentry section said they did not expect girls to manage so well: 'At first we thought these girls would not manage to finish the training but they were so adamant and hard working compared to some of the boys we have,' said Chimseu.
Mdeza said: 'Out of the 23 students in the bricklaying department none of the girls dropped out. Only one boy could not tackle the pressure and he dumped the training.' Tevet is also constructing another new market and a new bus depot in Balaka among the development projects in the country. The organisation has recruited about 27 students in carpentry, among them are 6 girls.
Some of the projects the institution has managed to built are a School block at Katuli in Mangochi by artisan trained under the Teveta/Masaf project.
Tevet also trains youth in Tailoring and Mechanics.
No fast judgement in Zim treason trial
26 February 2004 17:02
The treason trial of Zimbabwe opposition chief Morgan Tsvangirai over an alleged plot to assassinate President Robert Mugabe ended on Thursday but judgement was not expected for months.
The year-long trial wound up with both the defence and state counsel wrapping up their arguments.
If convicted, Tsvangirai, who is accused of plotting to kill Mugabe and stage a military coup, faces the death penalty.
"The trial in this matter commenced in February last year and since then a lot of evidence was led," said senior High Court judge Paddington Garwe.
"There will obviously be need for this court to go through all that evidence ... and carefully assess the facts against the law.
"Accordingly, judgement in this case is reserved," he said, adding that once he was ready to deliver judgement, he would announce the date he will hand it down.
The trial, in which the state relied on evidence given by a Canadian political consultant, Ari Ben Menashe, opened on February 3 2003.
Ben Menashe also supplied the state with a grainy videotape of a meeting he held with Tsvangirai and which was secretly recorded.
Tsvangirai denies state allegations that he conspired to have Mugabe murdered ahead of the March 2002 presidential elections, which he lost to the long-time leader.
The opposition and the international community said the polls were marred by widespread fraud and intimidation.
Tsvangirai, a former union leader who formed the Movement for Democratic Change in 1999 to challenge Mugabe, says the government trumped up the treason charges against him in a bid to frame and discredit him ahead of the presidential elections.
He lost the elections, which were discredited by international observers who said they were rigged and marred by political violence.
Tsvangirai said he had hired Ben Menashe's firm to help with international lobbying and fund-raising for his party, but later discovered the government had also hired it. -- Sapa-AFP
Mozambique 'human organ' nun dead
A Brazilian nun has been found dead in Mozambique after some of her colleagues said they had exposed an organ trafficking network.
She had reportedly been strangled and beaten in her home in the northern city of Nampula.
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 said they had received death threats since their report.
On Tuesday, the authorities said they had found no evidence of a trade in human organs.
But the nuns say they have spoken to victims who managed to escape the ring and have photos of dead children with missing organs.
The BBC's Jose Tembe in the capital, Maputo, says that many people believe that a ring does exist and accuse the government of not doing enough to investigate it.
One nun told our correspondent that she was extremely angry at the news of the death in Nampula.
Many Africans believe in traditional medicine
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.
"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," order spokeswoman Sister Juliana told Portuguese radio earlier this month.
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 organs were reportedly being smuggled into neighbouring Zimbabwe and South Africa.
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