- Fueling Malawi's Environmental Challenges
by Charles Mkoka
(Blantyre, Malawi, February 2004) At 2:30 in the afternoon the Dyeratu family has just clambered down one of the highest mountains near Blantyre, the commercial capital of Malawi. Idan and Feligasi Dyeratu and their daughter, Gertrude, began the trek up the 1,400 meter-high Mount Michiru at sunrise on empty stomachs. Eight hours later and a little more than half way home, they have stopped to take a rest under a Eucalyptus tree, each burdened with a load of firewood that they carry on top their heads.
As Blantyre has grown in size and population -- almost tripling in the past decade -- the forests that blanketed the two mountains around the city have been under increasing pressure. Already the trees shrouding Ndirande Mountain have been entirely cleared for fuel wood and brick making. Families are now hiking to the forests on Michiru for their fuel.
In Malawi, 93 percent of energy comes from fuel wood. Under this pressure, deforestation is not just an ecological threat; women are negatively affected as well. Traditionally, it is women's work to gather wood for cooking. Increasingly, they have to walk long distances to gather firewood. This has consequences for the entire family: as firewood becomes scarce, the nutritional status of families often declines. Limited supply of fuel and energy forces many families to reduce the number of meals they eat and to prepare food that requires less cooking, which is often less nutritious.
Idan says his family climbs the mountain every Saturday so he can sell the wood in the densely populated township of Chirimba. They purchase loads of firewood from forestry officials that are managing a plantation on Mount Michiru. "The exotic pine plantation is benefiting us a lot," said Idan. "I make a profit of about 400 Kwacha [about US$4] per head load carried down the mountain after buying it at 15 Kwacha from forestry officials."
A recent survey conducted by the Wildlife and Environmental Society of Malawi identified poverty as both a major social problem faced by local people, and as a serious cause of pressure on the environment in Malawi. According to William Chadza, head of the organization's natural resources management program, poverty and lack of resources "lead the people to use available natural resources unsustainably."
Chadza cites charcoal production as an example. Around the country, rural communities are rapidly burning their forestlands to produce charcoal, which is in high demand in cities. To make 50 kilograms of charcoal requires 250 kilograms of wood. The disappearance of forests has resulted in massive soil erosion and siltation in low-lying areas resulting in floods during heavy rains. Increased flooding and siltation not only threatens rural communities, it has disrupted operations at the biggest hydroelectric dam in the country, resulting in power outages.
The UN's 2000 Human Development Report ranks Malawi as one of the 10 poorest countries in the world -- 163 out of 173 nations. About 65 percent of the people live below the poverty line, and 28 percent suffer from "severe poverty."
Malawi has a population of about 12 million, with most of the population living in rural areas. Nearly 85 percent of the population is dependent on agriculture, and in 2002 more than half of those people were not able to produce enough food to feed themselves the entire year.
While the country has taken measures to address poverty -- launching a poverty-monitoring system to inform and oversee poverty related issues -- the rapidly growing population continues to exert pressure on the country's natural resources. Until recently, Malawi was home to more than a million refugees from Mozambique refugees who fled armed conflict in their country a decade ago. Further, an influx of firearms from the conflict has helped poachers finish off elephants in Majete wildlife reserve and the Black Rhino in the Mwabvi Wild reserve.
Like the Dyeratu family many people now earn their living by selling fuel wood and charcoal. Idan says business of selling firewood assists his family to buy necessities like food, soap and salt and supports five of his children, who attend primary school and secondary education. However he is not sure what the future holds, when resource that he collects from Michiru Mountain is exhausted. "If the forest officials stops selling firewood from the mountain, then we have to decide as a family, what we have to do," said Idan.
photos are at http://newsroom.wri.org/wrifeatures_text.cfm?ContentID=2434
Zanu-PF scrambles to win approval
Dumisani Muleya | Harare
05 March 2004 09:16
After exhausting the land reform programme theme as a vote-catching gimmick, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has embarked on an anti-corruption crackdown as yet another ploy ahead of next year's parliamentary election.
Mugabe himself took the initiative to situate the anti-corruption campaign at the vortex of national discourse and effectively made it the centrepiece of his election drive.
He recently announced that the general election would be held next March. Mugabe said he would retire in five years but would remain in politics.
Zanu-PF officials such as Chinhoyi MP Phillip Chiyangwa and party central committee member James Makamba and a number of businessmen have been netted in the current crackdown on corruption.
New Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono, who is battling to re-organise the country's chaotic financial system and put the economy on a path to recovery, is brandished by government as the messianic corruption-buster.
Mugabe's government is already showcasing Gono's moves as evidence of reform and national rehabilitation.
Zanu-PF is desperately trying to whitewash its appalling political and economic record and repackage itself as a party.
Anachronistic tendencies and hysterical anti-Western sabre-rattling are being toned down, despite intermittent vitriolic outbursts motivated by international pressure and political grandstanding.
The language of reform has not only been embraced by Gono, currently meeting Western donors to market his economic reconstruction measures, but also by government hardliners.
This week government spokesperson and Information Minister Jonathan Moyo said Zimbabwe will repay its long-standing debts to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to avoid losing its membership.
Moyo said the move was designed to "increase our credit rating". The IMF last year threatened to expel Harare for failing to service its debts.
Although Mugabe is decidedly anti-IMF, he realises the country has no choice but to deal with the Bretton Woods institutions. Last week he said it was better to deal with the World Bank.
His "look East" policy has clearly failed as countries such as Japan and China have increasingly moved towards the West. This failure by Mugabe to adapt to global realities has been at the centre of his policy contradictions since independence from Britain in 1980.
When he came to power he tried, to no avail, to reshape Zimbabwe's politics along socialist lines by aligning himself with the Soviet bloc and Stalinist states like North Korea, while the economy was assertively capitalist and linked to Western economic systems.
The result was a damaging clash between his political vision and economic reality. Mugabe's economic technocrats and advisers would come up with market-oriented policies, only for him to dump them at funerals and rallies on the wave
of his customary populist rhetoric.
A political cost-benefit analysis of Mugabe's current election strategy shows that there is more for him to lose than to gain.
The strategy, although currently making a positive impact, could, in the long-run, yield negative returns unless properly managed, especially insofar as its impact on Mugabe's succession battle is concerned.
The succession struggle has been raging for some time now but no clear and indisputable heir apparent has managed to emerge although Speaker of Parliament Emmerson Mnangagwa has often been touted as the anointed successor.
However, Mnangagwa now seems to be damaged goods after reports that he was under investigation for corruption involving precious minerals at the Democratic Republic of Congo.
This has left his rivals rubbing their hands with glee and poised to capitalise on this chink in his armour.
Mnangagwa's rivals are seen as Special Affairs Minister John Nkomo and Defence Minister Sydney Sekeramayi. Former finance minister Simba Makoni has also been
The ongoing graft-related arrests and investigations have fuelled Zanu-PF infighting and spawned a dog-eat-dog political combat.
Personal and political scores appear set to be settled through the campaign.
However, Mugabe has always been a volatile demagogue and sometimes unpredictable, in particular in his penchant for doing the unthinkable.
Zanu-PF insiders are beginning to suspect that he could be trying to manoeuvre Gono through the backdoor as a possible successor. Gono, using delegated power, is now powerful and, some say, ambitious.
Top Zanu-PF officials who have tried to threaten him to avoid investigation have hit a brick wall and been forced to retreat.
Although Gono is an upstart in the Zanu-PF scheme of things, fears abound in the ruling party that he is being packaged by Zanu-PF royalty as Mugabe's successor.
Dumisani Muleya is the chief reporter of the Zimbabwe Independent
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