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  • Christine Chumbler
    UDF Not Ready for More Women MPs The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe) March 8, 2004 Posted to the web March 8, 2004 Wezie Nyirongo Lilongwe Despite the stated
    Message 1 of 102 , Mar 9, 2004
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      UDF Not Ready for More Women MPs

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      March 8, 2004
      Posted to the web March 8, 2004

      Wezie Nyirongo

      Despite the stated premise from the SADC Protocol for a 30 percentage women representation in Parliaments, a decision agreed upon by African heads of state as a basic minimum requirement for political participation and emancipation of women, the United Democratic Front (UDF) is reluctant to have its party Constitution adjusted to reach that target.

      During the recent primaries held throughout the country the UDF, as a party failed to create opportunities that supported a greater number of women to contest for parliamentary seats. In some cases where a woman aspiring candidate won the primaries there was a rerun to give a second chance for a male parliamentarian to win.

      UDF Secretary General, Kennedy Makwangwala earlier told The Chronicle that the party will in no way give opportunity for women aspirants in constituencies where they would compete with a male aspirant.

      He said those women who want to have parliamentary seat through the UDF should ask for special seats from the president.

      'I am not shaken in any way that there is a woman aspiring candidate in my constituency and there is no way she is going to win the primaries. If these women want to have seats they should just asks the president for special seats because there is no way we can give them a chance,'said Makwangwala referring to Marjorie Ngaunje, a UDF aspirant who, after winning initially then lost to him after a rerun in Ntcheu Bwanje south constituency.

      Makwangwala made his stand when The Chronicle tried to find out what the party was intending to do to give greater support for women parliamentary aspirants in promoting them so that the party is seen to be more gender balance in parliament.

      In most constituencies the electorates have accused some UDF officials of frustrating women aspirants instead of promoting them. In Phalombe North constituency, Blantyre deputy Mayor Anna Kachikho won the primaries against the sitting MP Justin Mokowa but later the UDF declared a rerun which found Mokowa a winner.

      In Lilongwe City West constituency Elizabeth Lamba who is the incumbent member of parliament lost to Chiuta Salima after failing to hold primaries twice because of prevailing violence at the scene.

      Lamba openly accused the UDF of frustrating her efforts to represent the party in Lilongwe City West for the May 18 polls. She complained after she saying: 'Don't talk about women in the UDF. Where are we? I am one of the few women trying to stand but some people (men) are not happy with this.' The frustrations felt by the women aspirants has created a new cadre of 'independent' contestants who are confident that they would win a parliamentary seat. One such person is Jean Kadzakumanja who lost in the primaries in Lilongwe North West.

      In 1999 several aspirants who failed at the UDF primaries were convinced by their constituents to run as independents. Many of them beat the imposed UDF candidate and were later reinstated into the party.

      UDF Central Region governor Uladi Mussa is also quoted as saying that women should not complain because they are supposed to compete on an equal basis with her male counterparts.

      Civil Liberties Committee(CILIC) Executive Director Emmie Chanika told The Chronicle that UDF could have done much better by introducing a policy of affirmative action if they were willing to have more women in parliament than having only a few women in the race.

      'I wouldn't say they have done much because, to some extent they have failed to support more women. If they were to have a 30 percent representation they should have had a 40 percent representation of women running if they wanted to reach that target,' said Chanika.

      She also queried why the party frustrated Kachikho who earlier won the primaries before a rerun. 'Why did they opt for a rerun? Was she not qualified enough to win the seat?' Some of the UDF sitting women MPs who have managed to win primaries are: Lilongwe City Central - Mary Kaphwereza Banda who won amidst controversies with her opponent Shabir Gaffar, Foreign Affairs Minister Lillian Patel whose constituents are reported to be against her, deputy Education Minister Lyan Tambala, Ebbie Mathanda for Mulanje Pasani and Annie Fletcher for Zomba Changalume.


      UDF Still Demands Certificates From Registrants

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      March 8, 2004
      Posted to the web March 8, 2004

      Wezie Nyirongo

      Despite condemnation from the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) and the civil society organisations over the behaviour of some UDF officials who demand registration certificates from the electorate, the practice is rampant in Likoma Island, The Chronicle has established.

      Sources from Likoma told The Chronicle that some UDF officials are still demanding certificates in exchange for relief maize distributed to the needy in the area.

      It is said that only those who surrender their certificates to these officials are able to receive the relief maize after the said officials copy details from their certificates.

      'We are very surprised here in Likoma about the relief maize which is distributed because some UDF officials are demanding our registration certificates for us to have access to the maize,' said a source from Likoma adding that when the UDF get the certificates they copy all the details without giving any reason for doing so.

      'This behaviour is very worrisome as we are only three months away from the elections. Where are the names going and what's the purpose of getting them?' questioned the source who only introduced himself as a member of National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

      It has been noted that since Likoma Island is not easily accessible some people take advantage of the situation and try to manipulate the electorate through unlawful practices.

      'If this is happening now, how are we going to be assured that we are going to have free and fair elections? Even those responsible for overseeing the electoral process are doing nothing to assist us,' he said.

      Members from the People's Progressive Movement (PPM) and the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) in Likoma have observed and condemned the act and have called upon the MEC to intervene before the situation gets worse.

      The MEC has since warned parties against snatching voter certificates from voters and threatened that they face prosecution and a heavy penalty.

      Chief Elections officer George Chimwaza, commenting in a local daily said the practice is an offense under section 24 of the Parliamentary and Presidential Elections Act which stipulates that every person who was issued with a certificate shall be personally responsible at all times for its safe keeping.

      Chimwaza said those found guilty of the offense face a fine of up to K500 and imprisonment for seven years.

      Reports on the UDF demanding registration certificates has been overwhelming and most Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) have condemned the act which could jeopardize the free and fairness of the poll in May.

      Catholic Commission for Peace and Justice (CCJP) and Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) have been in the forefront in condemning the act through press releases.


      UDF/AFORD Form Youth Forum

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      March 8, 2004
      Posted to the web March 8, 2004

      Pilirani Phiri

      As the May 18 general elections campaign period nears, the UDF/AFORD alliance is reportedly mobilising young people nation-wide to join the alliance's National Youth Forum (NYF) meant to solicit votes from the youth in the country.

      UDF inside sources confiding in The Chronicle say the party has set aside special funds meant to run the forum which will use young people to convince fellow youths to vote for the UDF/AFORD alliance in the May 18 general elections.

      However, other sources in the party gave a different version of the story saying the UDF/AFORD alliance is not involved in the formation of the forum but that it was the pro-UDF youths themselves who approached the two political parties to form the forum. "Pro - UDF young people from colleges and secondary schools approached the party to consider the formation of the forum in order to mobilise fellow young people in the country to vote for the UDF/AFORD alliance in the elections," said the sources.

      Sources said the UDF heavy weight Gerald Johnston is one of the UDF gurus who were approached by pro - UDF young people to allow them to form a youth forum that will work hand in hand with the UDF/AFORD alliance.

      When contacted, Johnston confirmed the development but declined to shed more light on the issue saying it was too early, promising that he would call The Chronicle to give more details on the forum. "It is true that young people in the country are in the process of forming the UDF/AFORD alliance youth forum but the parties are not involved in the formation, but I am sure the party will acknowledge the step that these staunch UDF/AFORD alliance youth have taken," said Johnston.

      Information reaching The Chronicle indicate that one of the young people who is pioneering the formation of the forum is Febbie Chimbalanga, one of the young people who instrumental in forming the Mass Movement for Young People, a political pressure group that came to the limelight prior to the 1999 general elections.

      Meanwhile, Youth Employment Network, which is part of the global Youth Employment Campaign Network, has stressed that it will lobby the youth in the country to support a political party that will create job opportunities for them.

      According to a statement made available to The Chronicle signed by the Youth Network's Country Director Bell Munthali, although non-partisan and non-political the Network will issue an endorsement for the majority of the youth to vote for a party that will put youth employment a priority of their next government. "We will encourage all young people in Malawi to evaluate manifestos and sentiments of all political parties, and at the same time shun politicians who personalise politics and support politicians who will address challenges, issues and expectations of the youth," reads the statement.

      The three paged statement titled - What Hope And Future Does A Malawi Youth Have In Our Socio- Political And Economic Development - warns that the current level of youth unemployment is worrisome and devastating, saying failure to address the problem is a prescription for a national disaster.

      The statement from the youth highlights the lack of policy that political parties have and political analysts have indicated often that this lack of strategic thought on the party of aspiring politicians gives little room for choice between parties. Party manifestos, if they exist lack depth and seriousness observers of the process are saying.

      This leaves the whole process of choice limited to personalities and individuals and is a certain recipe for the continuation of the haphazard development and lack of progress that Malawi has experienced in the past 10 years under the UDF.


      Mhone Behind UDF's Mass Resignations in Nkhatabay

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      March 8, 2004
      Posted to the web March 8, 2004

      Wezie Nyirongo

      the Party leadership rigged the votes because he was just imposed on them

      About 1,000 UDF supporters who have since resigned in Nkhatabay central constituency have accused the Statutory Corporations Minister Ralph Mhone of rigging votes during the UDF primaries held in the area on 21st February.

      Information reaching The Chronicle indicates that almost the whole district committee in Nkhatabay central have resigned from the party as a result of the primary elections which saw Mhone, who is also the UDF deputy chairperson emerge winner over Symon Kaunda.

      A list of names obtained by The Chronicle and signed by 17 committee members says they have resigned from the ruling party because they are against the results of the primary elections held in their constituency. 'We write to advise the General Public that as a result of the Primary Elections on 21 February 2004, we the undersigned has (sic) resigned from the UDF party here in Nkhatabay,' reads the letter which lists names of those who have resigned.

      Deputy District Governor Saidi Phiri who spoke to The Chronicle in a phone interview from Nkhatabay expressed concern over the behaviour of UDF officials who were controlling the elections, saying they deliberately confused voters in favour of Mhone.

      Phiri said when they noticed that Kaunda had more supporters at the venue of the primary elections they started chasing away Kaunda's supporters and barred them from participating in the elections.

      'Mhone would not have won the elections if it was not for the district governor and two UDF officials who rigged the votes. They deliberately barred us from voting because they knew that we supported Kaunda,' said Phiri adding that their resignation should serve as a clear warning for the UDF.

      He said the UDF should know that people will never support leaders who are just imposed on them, giving the example of Mhone whom, he said, will face a tough time in winning because all those who have resigned will rally behind Kaunda who is now standing as an independent candidate.

      Others who have resigned are, District treasurer Mwandanja Kamanga, Organising secretary Daniel Phiri, Constituency Secretary Roma Kaunda, Organising secretary Bishop Nkhata and Campaign director, a Mrs Kunthani.

      Others are Leya Mkorongo a chair lady, district committee member Mangeri Chirwa, deputy secretary Chipumbwa Mhone, constituency vice organisation secretary Samba Banda, Area Chairman for Chitundu area Liwage Milanzi, Wilson Kamanga, and some constituency members Isaac Banda, Chihomo Singini, Getrude Mnyenyembe and Leon Chirwa.

      In separate resignation letters sourced by The Chronicle, Secretary for the Young Democrats Mussa Kamwendo said: 'I too have resigned from the UDF because the primary elections were rigged and this means that the winning candidate was not to our expectations hence no need for supporting such a person who is not in the mouth of the people (sic).' District organising secretary Daniel Phiri said: 'There was grand corruption by prominent UDF members and the rigging of votes during the primary elections. I cannot support a candidate who has no support and uses force to gain support in a democratic system.' A number of 24 area committees have also been disbanded and were chased away during the primary elections for supporting one of the aspiring candidates Symon Kaunda.

      'We the following areas were also chased away during primary elections and we did not vote because they knew we would vote for Symon Kaunda, and we have also disbanded,' says the letter from areas which are disbanded. Some branches have completely left the UDF party 'in disgust'.

      About 13 areas have disbanded with 42 people from each area resigning from UDF. The areas are, Kandoli, Mkoloka, Mukwiya, Nkhala, Boma, Mfolozi, Nyote, Kachulu, Boma, Bulawayo, Maganga, Nthembwe, Japi 2 and Katamba areas.

      All UDF members from Jalawe, Chidika, Mchoma Kadozi, Chimbota, Maganga, Karamba, and Makhali area committees have also resigned.

      Home Affairs minister Monjeza Maluza and Deputy Education minister Lyan Tambala are said to be those who were responsible for conducting the primary elections in the area.

      UDF secretary general Kennedy Makwangwala could not be drawn for comment and the Publicity Secretary Ken Lipenga's phone just kept on ringing despite many attempts to talk to him.

      The resignations follows predictions from the opposition parties that the UDF will lose most of it's members in the districts and with some top officials also defecting after the primaries.


      Chiefs Reject Chitanje, Saying All Imposed Candidates Will Not Win

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      March 8, 2004
      Posted to the web March 8, 2004


      Over 33 Chiefs and traditional leaders in Lilongwe West Constituency have rejetected the candidature of member of parliament for the area Isaac Chitanje because he was imposed on them by the ruling party.

      Highly placed sources told The Chronicle that the chiefs who were planning to petition President Muluzi were stopped by senior party officials who rushed to the area and convinced them that their concerns would be addressed immediately they are able to get instruction from Muluzi who was in Libya at the time. "The situation is very tense in Khongoni's area. Chiefs are refusing to accept Chitanje as their prospective UDF member of parliament because he was imposed on them. The chiefs are demanding that Chitanje be replaced by a person who is a genuine UDF member not someone who has defected from an opposition party looking for money and position," a senior official from UDF who asked for anonymity told The Chronicle.

      The official explained that despite President Muluzi declaring time and again that his party is democratic, the opposite in fact is the truth. "How is he just handpicking people and imposing them without consultation. We know the UDF is his personal party and that he has a lot of money to buy opposition members of parliament but he should not impose people who are not wanted by the electorate because UDF will lose the elections," the official explained.

      One of the chiefs who is in the forefront in denying Chitanje's candidature told The Chronicle that there is nothing that Chitanje has done as an MCP parliamentarian to develop the area and that he always boasted that he won the elections in 1999 because of the money his mother had spent on him. "He will not develop the area and on top of that he is boastful and looks down on his constituents. This is the reason we will not vote for him," said the chief adamantly.

      Another source told The Chronicle that Deputy Regional governor for the centre John Banda visited the chiefs two weeks ago to try and sort out the issue but the chiefs refused to listen to his arguments and were not convinced. "They told Banda straight in his face that Chitanje is not a genuine UDF member but joined the party to get money from Muluzi," said the source, a current sitting UDF member of parliament.

      When contacted for comment Banda told The Chronicle that it might be true that there are some squabbles in Chitanje's constituency but he never visited the chiefs to sort out the problems. "Those who are saying this are mad people. Two weeks ago I was in the Southern Region conducting primaries - so to say that I was in Khongoni talking to chiefs over the Chitanje issue is a blatant lie," Banda said.

      UDF Deputy Publicity Secretary Mary Kaphwereza Banda confirmed to The Chronicle that there are squabbles in Chitanje's constituency because chiefs do not want him. "But I am wondering why the chiefs are saying that they do not want Chitanje now yet they were the ones who made him win in the 1999 elections. He is their son and they should sort out this problem once and for all," Kaphwereza said.

      In another development the UDF has handpicked Ken Ng'oma to stand as member of parliament for Lilongwe Machenga after the prospective candidate in the area a Nzunga had failed an English proficiency test.

      N'goma, who was the Secretary General of the UDF Presidential candidate's former party the UP, was stopped from contesting in Lilongwe City East constituency previously held by Elizabeth Lamba who has since been dropped from cabinet. She has also failed in her bid to run for parliament and is considering running as an independent.

      The UDF has also picked Clara Chidzanja Nkhoma to stand as it's MP for Lilongwe Mpenu after District Governor for the party a Kambalame had also failed an English proficiency test.

      The UDF primaries have brought many divisions in the party with those losing declaring that they would still contest as independent MPs.


      ACB Concerns Civil Society On the Application of Law

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      March 8, 2004
      Posted to the web March 8, 2004

      Wezie Nyirongo

      The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) has been accused of applying the law selectively on some high-ranking people suspected of being involved in corrupt transactions and their cases are deliberately being suspended indefinitely.

      Moderator of the CCAP Synod of Livingstonia Maurice Munthali said people are often concerned about the ACB on their selective application of the law on some top government officials including prominent businessmen.

      'Issues or concerns about the Anti- Corruption Bureau border on what participants call 'selective application of the law', said Munthali recently at the National stake holders conference on Human Rights and Democracy in Lilongwe.

      'People have always wondered why some high-ranking people suspected of being involved in corrupt transactions have had their cases suspended indefinitely or they have unconditionally gone scot free,' he added.

      Munthali further said many people still cite the corruption scandal in the Ministry of Education where K187 million went down the drain while only those who are regarded 'small fish' seem to have the long arm of the law go after them.

      It is for this reason that people have expressed skepticism over the issue where the ACB is legally obliged to seek consent from the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP)'s before prosecuting a case. "Without any form of malice, we share with the people's views that this arrangement is vulnerable to abuse and may be a derailment to justice. For how long shall we, as a nation, sit over it when we know that the arrangement is doing a disservice to us? he questioned.

      Responding to the accusation on delayed cases, ACB deputy director Alex Nampota said most of the time the difficulty comes in sourcing witnesses for those particular cases and also of funding for some of the witnesses who would come from outside the country. Nampota cited examples of another case when a witness from South Africa failed to come to Malawi saying he was not sure if security would be guaranteed during his visit.

      'We sometimes finish our investigations in time but the difficulty comes when some witnesses are to come from abroad and we have to settle the bills while others are usually reluctant because they fear they would not be enough security for them.' said Nampota.

      Participants also questioned the involvement of the president in appointing directors of the bureau and the lack of investigations in officials in top positions in government who have acquired wealth from questionable sources. "So how do we build trust in public officials who continually engage in business and assume that they are not involved in corruption when the constitution strictly prohibits them from doing so?'questioned one participant.

      The other factor raised about the bureau was the distinct lack of serious awareness on the ground on its existence, function and service offered at grassroots level. 'People say they do not really know the functions or services that they can get from these institutions because their existence is not often felt at grassroots level,' said a participant.

      ACB director Justice Mtegha while quoting Peter Eigen of the Transparency International source book 2000 said corruption poses a threat not only to the environment, human rights, democratic institutions and fundamental rights and freedoms but also undermines development and deepens poverty for millions the world over.

      The meeting held in Lilongwe discussed the current stalemate that exists in the ACB and the need to create an enabling environment for the institution to clamp down on corruption without political interference.

      The ACB has often been called 'toothless', and a 'white elephant', labels it has had difficulty in shaking off because of the lack of success in bringing corrupt officials to court and obtaining sufficient 'guilty' verdicts that would justify the ACB's existence.


      Mafunde Nomination Form Bears Malewezi Signature

      Malawi Standard (Blantyre)

      March 6, 2004
      Posted to the web March 8, 2004

      Wisdom Chimgwede
      Blantyre, Malawi

      While Justin Malewezi, the lone May 18 independent presidential candidate and George Mnesa Mafunde president keep on accusing each other of lying to the nation on whether the state Vice President vied for the Mafunde presidency, Malawi Standard investigations vindicate the latter.

      A Mafunde party 2003 national election nomination form sourced this week, indicates that Malewezi put pen to paper in the presence of Harold Williams and Anthony Mukumbwa, the two Mafunde senior officials who resigned immediately the Mafunde convention rejected the name.

      Williams is the one who mentioned Malewezi's name seconded by Mukumbwa at the Mafunde convention in Lilongwe for the position of president and when he lost to Mnesa, the two pushed that he becomes an automatic veep, a thing that angered the delegates to the disappointment of the duo.

      But speaking to the press at Shire Highlands Hotel when he announced he would stand as an independent presidential candidate in the forthcoming elections, Malewezi maintained that the claim that he signed the form was a cheap gimmick aimed at destroying his name.

      In an earlier interview with the Malawi Standard, Mnesa confirmed in strongest terms that the Ntchisi boy vied for the Mafunde presidency but said his party was not willing to have the nomination form published in the press.

      "We have enough respect for Rt. Hon. Malewezi. Our party wouldn't love to start tarnishing people's images that is why we cannot release the form but the fact is that he signed," said Mnesa adding: "after all a nomination form is a party property not for the public consumption."

      Since leaving the UDF on the new year's day, Malewezi has been the centre of controversy because of his now unpredictable political mind.

      Apart from refusing to resign as state vice president after throwing in the towel as UDF first vice National Chairman, he immediately joined the opposition PPM party on the day of the party's convention that elected him first Vice president after refusing the offer for him to go for the party's presidency.

      Since then, he has been working underground with a group of some PPM members who had pledged to support his candidature until recently when he officially announced he was standing on an independent ticket with Jimmy Mpatsa (PPM second vice president) as his running mate.

      However, he has again refused to resign as PPM vice president the development that has thrown the party's constitution into disallay, according to party president Aleke Banda.

      Malewezi and his cohorts started hunting for at least 2000 signatures to endorse his name and that of Mpatsa to contest the May 18 polls as independent presidential candidate and running mate some few weeks ago.w t

      But Aleke Banda maintained in various interviews that his party was in order apart from conceding that he knew a few people with their own ambitions.

      Asked why they had the effrontery of hunting for signatures secretly and behind their president's back Mpatsa said: "There is no problem with people preparing themselves in case the need arises for you to stand at any time."

      Mpatsa, a founding member of the one time party of intellectuals, has been reported as being at the centre of an internal splinter in PPM that was against Aleke Banda leading the party.

      Both Malewezi and Mpatsa were among many PPM senior members who were conspicuously absent during the Mgwirizano Coalition elections where Banda won the first vice presidency.

      But Mpatsa denied that his absence was connected to their present stance.

      "We sat down as PPM NEC to choose who should represent us on the electoral board in the voting process and Malewezi and I were not part of the delegation as such we felt it didn't make sense for all of us to be there." The duo also formed part of the delegation that threatened that PPM would pullout of the Mgwirizano if NDA and MCP's concerns were not adequately addressed.

      They both offered to go and meet the two major opposition parties who refused to sign the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on January 23.

      Mpatsa confirmed meeting NDA and MCP to sell what he calls a concept to try make an all-inclusive coalition as initially anticipated.

      The concept, he said, comprised of three basic requirements - that if the two accept to come back, the presidential candidate would be elected at a mini convention with all parties bringing nine delegates from all the 28 districts, that each party would be required to win two parliamentary seats to qualify for a cabinet post as opposed to the MOU suggestion of an automatic qualification and that there would be a presidential council comprising all party presidents to oversee the operations of the coalition.

      According to him, NDA bought the idea but MCP was of the suggestion that the president be elected by a consensus of the already involved members.

      Asked why they failed to bring back NDA, he said: " The problem arose when we came back to present our report to the coalition delegates because they rejected our ideas."

      According to Mpatsa, the delegates blocked the idea under the premise of financial constraints; time limit, while others felt the idea was out of question because they (the delegates) already represented the people on the ground because they were elected by their respective party conventions.

      Meanwhile a vengeful meeting has been scheduled for Friday, 5th March, 2004 to discuss action to be taken against the duo Malewezi and Mpatsa. Observers have predicted a break up of the party after this meeting because it is very difficult to reconcile the differences between the two camps that have come about due to insatiable lust for power.

      The Aleke camp is charging the Malewezi camp of indiscipline whilst the Malewezi camp thinks that Malewezi has sold the party to Republican Party without consideration of the interest of PPM as a party. Outside observers charge both Aleke and Malewezi as confusionists who both have abandoned their party for new camps leaving MPs to contest on PPM tickets without a leader. "The two leaders have technically left the party having joined two separate organizations.

      It is hence difficult to carry out any meaningful campaign to defend PPM as a Party. Aleke is now RP and he cannot claim to be PPM but unfortunately RP can easily offload him after 18th May, 2004 unless he registers as a member of the same. At the same time, Chakuamba has no obligation to honour any aspect of the Mgwirizano when people are going to contest on his party's ticket," said Mussa Wa Kadalikanga of the Institute of Public Concerns.
    • kristen cheney
      But good info for my childhoods class which will be doing projects on child labor. Maybe having the info will spur people to change things. I still hold out
      Message 102 of 102 , Aug 24, 2009
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        But good info for my childhoods class which will be doing projects on child labor. Maybe having the info will spur people to change things. I still hold out hope...
        How's the home solar project??

        On Mon, Aug 24, 2009 at 9:26 AM, Christine Chumbler <wartpiggy@...> wrote:

        Nothing to be proud of here, I'm afraid.

        Malawi's child tobacco pickers 'poisoned by nicotine'

        Aug 24 2009 07:05

        Children in Malawi who are forced to work as tobacco pickers are exposed to nicotine poisoning equivalent to smoking 50 cigarettes a day, an investigation has found.

        Child labourers as young as five are suffering severe health problems from a daily skin absorption of up to 54mg of dissolved nicotine, according to the international children's organisation Plan.

        Malawian tobacco is found in the blend of almost every cigarette smoked in the West. The low-grade, high-nicotine tobacco is often used as a filler by manufacturers, reflecting a long-term global shift in production.

        Tobacco farms in America declined by 89% between 1954 and 2002. Three-quarters of production has migrated to developing countries, with Malawi the world's fifth biggest producer.

        Seventy percent of its export income comes from tobacco and the country is economically dependent on it.

        Plan cites research showing that Malawi has the highest incidence of child labour in Southern Africa, with 88,9% of five to 14-year-olds working in the agricultural sector. It is estimated that more than 78 000 children work on tobacco estates -- some up to 12 hours a day, many for less than 1p an hour and without protective clothing.

        Plan's researchers invited 44 children from tobacco farms in three districts to take part in a series of workshops. They revealed a catalogue of physical, sexual and emotional abuse and spoke about the need to work to support themselves and their families and pay school fees.

        The children reported common symptoms of green tobacco sickness (GTS), or nicotine poisoning, including severe headaches, abdominal pain, muscle weakness, coughing and breathlessness.

        "Sometimes it feels like you don't have enough breath, you don't have enough oxygen," one child said. "You reach a point where you cannot breathe because of the pain in your chest. Then the blood comes when you vomit. At the end, most of this dies and then you remain with a headache."

        GTS is a common hazard of workers coming into contact with tobacco leaves and absorbing nicotine through their skin, particularly when harvesting. It is made worse by humid and wet conditions, which are prevalent in Malawi, as residual moisture on the leaves helps nicotine to be absorbed quicker.

        Everyday symptoms of GTS are more severe in children than adults as they have not built up a tolerance to nicotine through smoking and because of their physical size. There is a lack of research into the long-term effects of GTS in children, but experts believe that it could seriously impair their development.

        Neal Benowitz, professor of medicine, psychiatry and biopharmaceutical sciences at California University in San Francisco, said: "Numerous animal studies have shown that administration of nicotine during infancy and adolescence produces long-lasting changes in brain structure and function, as well as behavioural changes that are not seen when nicotine is administered to adults.

        "The brain of a child or adolescent is particularly vulnerable to adverse neurobehavioural effects of nicotine exposure."

        Plan called on Malawi's government to enforce existing child labour and protection laws and on plantations to provide safer, fairer working conditions for those children forced to work. It demanded that multinational tobacco companies scrutinise their suppliers far more closely and follow their own corporate responsibility guidelines.

        Macdonald Mumba, Plan Malawi's child rights adviser, said: "This research shows that tobacco estates are exploiting and abusing children who have a right to a safe working environment.

        "Plan is calling for better enforcement of child labour laws and harsher punishment for employers who break them. These children are risking their health for 11p a day." - guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media 2009

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        "...for f*ck’s sake, the only thing that privilege is good for is to try to help other people." –Junot Diaz
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