- Eligible Voters Without Certificates Can Vote
The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)
May 10, 2004
Posted to the web May 10, 2004
Joseph Ganthu, EC Stringer, Mchinji
Public Affairs Committee [PAC] has advised its monitors for the forthcoming general elections that those who registered either in 1999, 2000 or earlier this year but who have lost their voter certificates will be allowed to vote on May 18.
PAC Programme Manager George Dambula gave the advice recently in Mchinji at a day long training for monitors around the district.
He dismissed fears that those who have lost their certificates will not be able to cast their votes. He said so long as their names are traced on the voters' roll they are eligible voters.
He urged the monitors to preach this message in their respective areas to ensure maximum turnout at polling centres so that the results of the polls reflect the wishes of the majority.
In his observation, the senior PAC District Coordinator Pontino Moyo pointed out that the provisions for those without certificates will also apply to those who might have sold their certificates.
He however asked the monitors to educate the electorate that selling or buying certificates is an electoral offense punishable by a term of imprisonment.
Moyo advised the monitors to carefully seal any loopholes that might lead to a possibility of rigging on the actual voting day. He asked them to record any anomalies noticed at the centres.
Regional Civic Education Officer, Charles Makata appealed to the monitors to report at the voting centres by 5:00 pm the day before and make sure that all the necessary materials and arrangements are in order before the actual polling starts.
He also pointed out that a monitor must know the total number of eligible voters at the centre. He asked the monitors not to sign the results sheet if the number of those who had voted exceeds the total number of registered voters in the centres where they will be observing.
Makata also advised the monitors to be non partisan throughout the electoral process to win public trust. He urged them to conduct civic education professionally.
Muluzi Abuses Aids Funding Mk5 Million Drawn From NAC for BMAF
The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)
May 10, 2004
Posted to the web May 10, 2004
President Bakili Muluzi on 6th May launched his personal 'Bakili Muluzi AIDS Foundation' (BMAF) saying, at the launch: 'I want to make a small contribution towards the global fight against HIV/AIDS', yet information leaked to The Chronicle suggests that the funds used by the president to launch 'his' initiative have been taken from the National AIDS Commission (NAC).
According to an impeccable source, the NAC who are tasked with addressing the AIDS pandemic and who are the custodians of all moneys received from the Global Fund and other bilateral donors intended for use in the fight against the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Malawi have made a contribution in excess of MK5 million to the BMAF without following laid down procedures for disburs-ement of such funds.
'The proposal which was submitted to NAC did not go through the standard procedure required for approval of any grant and we are wondering why the NAC has not followed the guidelines that they themselves set for other organisations who need funding to carry out their projects to assist NAC in fighting AIDS,' said the source.
Enquiries made to verify the approval of the grant solicited a response from Dave Runganaikaloo who manages the grants facilities at NAC. He said he was not aware of the particular proposal as Financial Management Agencies (FMA), which he heads had only just taken over the grants facility management of NAC. ' I can not find the proposal in my system. This could be because we have only been in operation to manage grants facilities since 1st April, 2004 and it could have been passed by NAC as they were handling the procedure before us' The initial proposal submitted had demanded MK10 million but the figure was reduced to MK5 million after it was discovered that the amount was too high for NAC to reasonably justify. Some specific components within the proposal were removed in order to reduce the overall amount given to the BMAF.
Additionally, NAC staff have been used to help facilitate the establishment of the Foundation in Blantyre, with many having to work long hours to make the launch date. The situation has infuriated several of them which has resulted in many refusing to have anything to do with the proposal and its implementation.
'Some very senior staff members have even refused to go to Blantyre. Why do you not go to NAC and find out who they are,' our source said. He added: 'We are all asking why it is that Muluzi has to get a grant to start a personal foundation. If it was his own money that he was using, we would not question it. In fact, we would more than appreciate the fact that he wants to start something substantive to contribute to the AIDS agenda before he leaves office.' Referring to the Director of NAC, Dr. Bizwick Mwale, he said: 'The director himself has now become a politician. Why is he taking such instructions? AIDS is now becoming a political ploy and a means to gain political mileage.
When NAC offices were contacted for an official comment on the allegations, The Chronicle was informed that the only one who could make any comment on the issue was the director himself. Efforts to contacted Mwale at the NAC office by phone several times on Tuesday morning on 4th May proved unsuccessful as he was reported to be in a meeting with the Minister of HIV/AIDS, Mary Kaphwereza Banda at her offices.
A visit to the office later revealed that Mwale was still in meetings and could not be disturbed. A formal request with an explanation of the issue and that he calls The Chronicle when he was able to went unheeded.
A further call to his office on Wednesday revealed that he had left for Blantyre for the launch of the BMAF.
On Friday morning contact was eventually made which got a respond from him saying that he had been very busy and was unable to call The Chronicle. 'You have caught me at a very busy time, but I would have liked to explain to you how things are done,' he had said explaining that he was currently in a meeting and would call back at 10 am. At the time of going to press on Saturday, The Chronicle was still waiting for Mwale to call.
A call to Kaphwereza Banda, the HIV/AIDS minister on Friday was promptly disconnected by her when the subject was announced. The number could not be reached thereafter.
Individuals from the donor community who were contacted for comment on the BMAF receiving a grant from NAC said it was very difficult to make any comment as they were not in control of the fund at NAC: 'What happens is that all the money from donors is given into a basket. NAC is in control of the money and we believe they have a system and standard procedures that look into project proposals. If the proposal meets the required criteria, the project is funded. They are in control of the money and we have no reason to interfere,' said one donor.
Other funding recipients, especially from Youth NGOs involved in AIDS civic education have cried foul. Some have suggested that NAC often deliberately makes it difficult for them to source the funding, making them re-write their proposals over and over again with some proposals getting lost in the NAC offices.
'We have to believe that something is wrong here. The lack of procedure and the timing gives a lot of doubt. It is all political - for the election campaign,' said one youth leader.trwoosley@...>, "Arscott-Mills" <sarscott@...>, "Sala Ba" <sba@...>, "Sumit Chowdhary" <schowdhary@...>
A political analyst who wished anonymity concurred with this sentiment, saying that the President should have used his own money, rather than taking money for a personal initiative from such a needy area. 'When you look at foundations established by Bill Gates and Bill Clinton as well as Nelson Mandela on AIDS, you will find that they raise their own funds, from their own personal financial empires and friends, not take it away from the suffering people who desperately need it,' said the academic adding, 'some real explanation is needed here, both from President Muluzi as well as Bizwick Mwale and the NAC. It is such behaviour that gives Malawi a bad name!'
Attempt to Revive MCP/NDA Alliance
The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)
May 10, 2004
Posted to the web May 10, 2004
The recent last ditch attempts by the Mgwirizano coalition to bring aboard Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and National Democratic Alliance (NDA) collapsed because the presidents of the two parties John Tembo and Brown Mpinganjira respectively insisted that the coalition holds fresh elections declaring that they wanted nothing short of the presidency in the coalition.
The two are said to have separately told the Mgwirizano coalition point black that they could only join the coalition on the condition that the coalition held fresh elections on the presidency while insisting that the two could not work under Chakuamba.
Speaking in an interview, the coalition's spokeswoman Dr. Kholiwe Mkandawire confirmed the development that the two demanded the holding of fresh elections, a move which, she said, was not proper considering that there is only a week before polling day. "We told them that we could not dissolve the coalition to have fresh elections because time is against us. So, because we could not accede to their demands we respected their wish to contest as individual parties," said Mkandawire adding: "But we agreed on a common front to fight the Electoral Commission and check on the rigging plots that the ruling party is attempting to hatch to swing the elections their way".
Mkandawire further stressed that despite the failure by the NDA and MCP to join the coalition, Mgwirizano has so far gained momentum and voter's trust.
She insisted that come May 18, many discerning Malawians will vote for members of the grouping and Chakuamba as president.
MCP vice president Nicholas Dausi, apparently speaking on behalf of his president, John Tembo was recently quoted in the local press as saying his party finds it difficult to work with Chakuamba because he lost to Tembo at an MCP convention before Chakuamba resigned from the party.
When this reporter approached Mpinganjira recently at Parliament during the presidential candidate's prayer breakfast whose theme was: "Peace and Unity : A precondition to free, accessible and fair general elections" to confirm if he really first demanded the dissolation of the coalition, he refused to grant this reporter an interview charging that The Chronicle is biased towards Chakuamba, president of the coalition. This follows an opinionated piece, 'Eye on Democracy' suggesting that the opposition should all rally together under the Mgwirizano banner if they hope to beat the ruling party. "Go and interview that person, your number one (pointing to Chakuamba). You are biased towards him," said Mpinganjira flanked by his vice President Mary Makungwa who also made a similar comment.
Meanwhile political commentators have described Tembo and Mpinganjira stand as being 'power hungry' and as people who have little welfare for the masses but are just gunning for the presidency of the nation knowing that they cannot singularly beat Bakili Muluzi's chosen successor, Bingu wa Mutharika.
Early this year before the Mgwirizano coalition held presidential candidate elections, Tembo had insisted that both the presidential candidate and the running mate position in what was to have been a 'Grand Coalition' should come from his party, the MCP. This demand was rejected by the other parties in the coalition who described the demand as dictatorial.
The NDA on its part refused to be party to the coalition on the grounds that it did not agree with several issues and policies of the grouping including the criteria for the selection of the leadership of the Mgwirizano coalition.
Despite the failure of an 'all opposition party' coalition including the breakaway PPM independent candidate and his running mate Justine Malewezi and Jimmy Koreia Mpatsa respectively the idea of forming an all inclusive opposition coalition received wide blessings of Malawians who saw it as the only possibility of removing the UDF from power come May 18.
Meanwhile, reports indicate that, with only a week remaining to the polls MCP and NDA are currently engaged in secret talks in an attempt to work out a new alliance between the two parties.
An NDA inside source told The Chronicle that Tembo and Mpinganjira have been holding these discussions since last week, saying there was a possibility that Mpinganjira would lead the two party alliance.
However, MCP vice president Nicholas Dausi said it was news to him that there were attempts being made at an alliance between his party and NDA but was quick to say, that he would come back to The Chronicle after checking with his party.
The presidential ballot papers will have to be altered, in that event with returning officers at polling stations having to cross out or place a sticker over the names and images of some presidential candidates.
Dr. Hetherwick Ntaba of the NCD is the first presidents who will have to to be stuck off after he joined the UDF/AFORD alliance and accepted Bingu wa Mutharika as his party's joint presidential candidate.
Assembly, Muslims Disagree Over Land
The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)
May 10, 2004
Posted to the web May 10, 2004
A dispute has arisen between Blantyre City Assembly and the Muslim community over a tract of prime land that lies opposite Universal Industries, diagonally across from KIA motors at Ginnery Corner where the Islamic Relief Agency want to build one of the grandest mosques in the country while the Assembly says the land is reserved for an extension of Masauko Chipembere Highway.
Sources told The Chronicle that the Muslim community is pressurising the Assembly to give them the spacious land adjacent to the Greek Orthodox Church located opposite Universal Industries for the construction of a grand mosque.
Sources who sought anonymity said for quite some time, the Planning Committee of Blantyre City Assembly which is tasked with determining the suitability or otherwise of land allocation has resisted pressure from many quarters because the land was essential for the construction of a four lane Highway that will extend from the round about at Chichiri Stadium to the Clock Tower in down town Blantyre where the MCP office are.
'The Assembly is also of the view that it is risky to construct a sizeable mosque at that busy junction because it means on Fridays the place will be full of worshippers and normal business activity will be brought to a halt,' said the source adding that the city already experiences congestion in parts of Limbe close to the highway and in Blantyre on the side road to Shire Bridge near Victoria Hotel. 'Being so close to one of the busiest roads in Blantyre there is the additional risk of road accidents being very high," said the sources.
Despite all the technical difficulties, the sources said orders from above have now made it difficult for the Blantyre City Assembly to maintain their stand. The authority has now been forced to give the Muslim community the 'go ahead' to submit plans to construct the intended mosque.
Allegations have been made that the Islam Relief Agencies insistence on that particular location for the mosque is because it would be strategic placed in full the view of the public.
There was no immediate response from Blantyre City Assembly as both the Chief Executive and Mayor were constantly reported out of the office.
However Principal Secretary at the Ministry of Local Government Willie Samute said he could not comment on the issue because allocation of land is one of the decentralised issues which are handled at assembly level.
The Christian churches in 2002 issued a joint statement warning that under the UDF government Christian values were being undermined and eroded and that the Muslim community were getting undue benefit because of the purchasing power that the community has in Malawi. This, the churches say has been seen by the mushrooming of mosques throughout the country, some of which are deliberately placed across from already established Christian centres in a manner that creates antagonism.
Some opposition and church leaders have been making claims during rallies that President Bakili Muluzi wanted to extend his tenure of office in order to be better placed to Islamise the country, a statement that has been denied by the state president.
Speaking at a rally in Lilongwe recently Muluzi refuted the claims saying they were only meant to discredit his government and divide the country along religious lines.
The Chronicle was yet to obtain documentary evidence of the correspondence entered into between the ministry and the local assembly on the matter that forced the Blantyre City Assembly to concede to the demands. Our investigations are on-going.
Public Drug Distribution in Malawi: a Post-Mortem On Futility - Part 4
The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)
May 10, 2004
Posted to the web May 10, 2004
Mr Mushyani, a new member of staff at the Dedza Hospital explains that there are some problems that emanate from the hospital budgeting system saying that the budget is not made by the but from the Ministry of Health Headquarters. Additionally, he says there is no monetary value attached to the orders written by the pharmacist.
'In other words, we in districts don't know the market value of a particular drug we are requesting. And when the drugs are delivered to us by CMS, there isn't any monetary value attached either. This makes it impossible for the accounts office to follow drug expenditures in real terms'.
2003 Budget 'The latest example I can give you,' the accountant continues, 'surrounds the 2003 budget. In May 2003, practically one month before June, when that year's financial year ended we received the 2002 - 2003 Drug Consumption Return from the Central Medical Stores (CMS). The return indicated that we still had nearly MK10 million unspent (actual balance) on the just ending 2003 annual budget. And do you know how much this represented? One third of our total 2003 budget (MK 32,349,872)!
'What was sad is that in that year the hospital lacked many essential medical supplies including life-saving machines some of which had been down for some time. Had we known about the unspent MK10 million we should have used it to buy pieces of equipment or repaired those that were not functional. Many lives should have been saved, you know,' he lamented.
When asked to respond to this complaint Godfrey Kadewere the current Controller of CMS was quick to refute this. He said that it was totally wrong to say that accountants cannot follow the value of drugs at district hospital level since each hospital has a catalogue which indicates the dollar price of each authorized drug. The Controller of CMS argued that it was every hospital accountant's responsibility to look at the dollar value of the particular drug and convert it into kwacha.
He said that this process was called committing. 'This process,' Kadewere informed, 'should enable the Dedza District Hospital Accountant to do his accounting work properly. But I know that most of our people are lazy.
They don't do this. The feeling of ownership is not there at the grassroots.' When we checked with Mr. Chilambadzuka, the pharmacist at Dedza District Hospital on whether the hospital had a copy of the said catalogue, he replied: 'Yes, it is true that we have one, an old one though. It was published in 1995. But should we assume that the value of the drugs is still the same in dollar terms today? I doubt it, because eight years is a long time.
'Besides, we have no idea when our order is going to be debited from our budget. We may calculate the price of the drugs in kwacha today when we are ordering using this catalogue. But with the unpredictable fluctuation of the kwacha we can't tell the price of the drug when we will be billed by the supplier. I still think we have a problem here.' This sad reality is not only confined to the Dedza District Hospital.
Information was obtained to the effect that many other hospitals throughout Malawi were sharing this unfortunate situation. For example: one month before the 2002-2003 fiscal year ended Salima DHO had spent only 62 % of its total budget, Likoma DHO had spent 47.4%, Chiradzulu DHO had spent 46.5 %, Mzuzu Central Hospital had spent 49% and, the worst of all, Zomba Mental Hospital had only spent 14.9%.
This under spending becomes more difficult to understand considering that other hospitals such as Mangochi (93.5%), Blantyre (89.7%), Queen Elizabeth (90.2%), Machinga (82.7%) had almost fully used their budget allocation.
Surprisingly, Lilongwe DHO had spent 105.6 % of his annual allocation.
While these figures may only be true on paper, observations are that they still contribute to the confused picture that hospital staff have over the drug ordering and accounting procedures in the system.
The pharmacy technician at Dedza District Hospital, Chilambadzuka said that the CMS is key if the situation is to improve. The pharmacy technician complained about how difficult it was to obtain very basic, but at the same time essential drugs from the CMS. He gave an example of what happened in May 2003 when he was warned about the CMS closing down the stores for two months for stock taking purposes. He decided to increase his order of aspirin to be on the safe side. But instead of the 480 tins he had requested only 200 were received.
'When I went there myself I realised that indeed aspirin was out of stock. I also found out that they didn't have antibiotics and they didn't have Fansidar. They only had penicillin.
'And you see, the problem we often face in such situations is that even if alternative drugs were available, the people in charge wouldn't be able to release these drugs just because they don't know the drugs well enough to supply alternatives. Most of them are not sufficiently trained in pharmaceuticals - they are stores clerks.' The pharmacy technician allowed us to conduct a stock inspection. Apart from checking deliveries of aspirin to Kaphuka Health Centre, our team wanted to find out whether the CMS delivers low quality drugs to health centers and district hospitals as we had gathered at the beginning of the investigation.
The technician was asked: 'Are there some drugs which you are using now that you think are of poor quality compared to what you were using before?' In reply the pharmacy technician pointed at a white box of medicine called Adricaine.
'You see, this is an anesthetic used in dental surgical interventions and clinicians are complaining that it is not effective.' Taking a closer look at the box showed that it had the CMS symbol indicating that the drug was delivered to Dedza District Hospital by this organisation. But there was no mention of either the manufacturer or the place of origin. The only indications were 'marketed by Trifarma and exported by GS International'.
He also showed a box of sutures only labelled Sutures with no further information than Suzhou hengziong (it is not clear whether it is the name of the manufacturer or just a marketing company. But it obviously is a Chinese name). The box was also marked Imp. exp. CO LTD (which obviously stands for the export company).
'Sutures are threads used to stitch up (close) wounds either inside or outside the body,' informed one inspector from Pharmacy Medicines and Poison Board (PMPB) who accompanied us during the investigations, 'A chromic suture is used to close wounds inside the body. Upon use it is left to dissolve by itself inside the body. A silk suture, on the other hand, is used to close wounds that occur on the body surface. It has to be removed after the wound is dry. So, it is medically important that sutures are coded by number and called either 'chromic' or 'silk' and not just 'sutures' as it is in this case. A clinician determines their usage by looking at these symbols. Any confusion may be quite harmful to the patient.' A year ago, when Dedza District Hospital was first visited the PMPB inspectors were asked about Adricaine. They were not kind in their response.
They bluntly told us that the drug was illegally in the pharmacy; 'this drug is not yet registered with us. And we don't think that it will ever get registered. It is a very poor quality drug. So it should neither circulate nor bear CMS or government symbols.' We also wanted to find out from PMPB whether they had found this drug in other health facilities in the country. 'Actually, we have found this drug in several private clinics so far. A case in point is our recent seizures at St Lukes Hospital in Zomba district and Mlambe in Blantyre.
'The supplier was a private trader based in Blantyre, not the CMS. How Adricaine found its way to this private outlet, from the Central Medical Stores or wherever it came from, nobody knows. However, Dedza District Hospital is the first public hospital where we have discovered stocks of this unauthorized drug supplied by the CMS.' What we found most puzzling about this issue is that the CMS could supply an ineffective drug, which had not been registered with the Pharmacy Medicines & Poison Board, a parastatal responsible for regulating pharmaceutical services and approving drugs before they go onto the market.
Mozambican police officers arrested after jailbreak
11 May 2004 11:40
Three Mozambican police officers have been arrested in connection with the escape on Sunday of the convicted murderer of investigative journalist Carlos Cardoso from a maximum security jail, the interior ministry said.
Anibal Antonio dos Santos, better known as Anibalzinho, was serving a 28-year prison sentence for the 2000 murder of Cardoso, an investigative journalist who was reporting on Mozambique's biggest bank fraud.
Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano at a function Monday night said regional police forces and Interpol had been put on alert following the escape of Dos Santos.
"This convict must be recaptured immediately so that he serves his sentence," he said in comments quoted by Mozambican television.
Interior ministry spokesman Nataniel Macamo told reporters three senior police officers with key responsibilities at the prison were arrested because "they were negligent and were not at their positions when Anibalzinho escaped".
"Three police officers including an inspector and the man who was responsible for operating the camera had left their posts and they have been arrested for that," he said late on Monday.
The jailbreak is the second by Dos Santos, who also escaped in September 2002 and was captured over a year later in South Africa.
Seven policemen were arrested at the time, but a judge later withdrew the charges against them saying they were not the ones who plotted the escape.
Anilbalzinho's latest escape comes as a Maputo court was preparing to announce the verdict in the trial of about 20 people accused of involvement in a 1996 bank fraud of $14-million (12-million euros), which Cardoso was investigating when he was killed.
Among them are Vicente Ramaya, former manager of the branch of Banco Comercial de Mocambique (BCM) from where the fraud was orchestrated, and the Satar brothers, Ayob and Momad, known as Nini.
Ramaya, Ayob and Nini are serving sentences of between 23 and 24 years for the murder of Cardoso, who was gunned down in the Mozambican capital.
Local press reports recently said that Anibalzinho, who is in his mid-thirties, could soon make revelations about Cardoso's murder.
The press has reported that Ramaya and the Satar brothers were also plotting a jailbreak.
In addition to investigating the banking scandal, Cardoso had been vocal in denouncing illegal schemes in which Mozambican trade was used as a cover for a number of shady deals, including ones involving drugs. - Sapa-AFP
Zimbabwe halts emergency food aid
More than five million people in Zimbabwe reportedly need food aid
The government of Zimbabwe has told international donors that it does not need emergency food aid this year, because it expects a bumper harvest.
Labour Minister Paul Mangwana told the country's official news agency: "We have enough for local consumption."
But the opposition has said there is a severe food shortage, and that without international help people will starve.
The government has been accused of only giving food aid to its supporters. Elections are due early next year.
A former food exporter, Zimbabwe has relied on food aid since it began controversial land reform seizures in 2000.
Critics say much of the land taken from white commercial farmers remains unproductive.
The government has blamed the food shortages of previous years on drought.
Aid agencies estimate that 5.5m Zimbabweans - almost half in urban areas - will require emergency food aid this year.
A recent survey carried out for a German institute indicated a shortfall of around 900,000 tonnes of maize this year.
Mr Mangwana admitted that some areas in the country would have food deficits, but he said that those "would be covered through internal food distribution".
He added that donors would only be asked to assist in development programmes.
A crop assessment mission by the UN's World Food Programme has been told by the government to halt its work, so the true situation is difficult to assess.
The agriculture spokesman for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, Renson Gasela, has appealed to foreign donors to continue bringing in food - even without a government request.
BBC African analyst Martin Plaut says the government announcement that it does not need help is linked to parliamentary elections early next year.
The ruling party, Zanu-PF, has repeatedly used food aid to buy political support, he says, and with no international aid, the people of Zimbabwe will be faced with the stark choice of voting for Zanu-PF or going without food.
Satire too close to the bone for Zimbabwe government
11 May 2004 09:14
A theatre company in Zimbabwe has been banned from performing a satirical play that deals with political issues, believed to be hitting too close to home, its producer said on Monday.
The company, Rooftop Promotions, said it was due to go on a nationwide tour in June with the play, Super Patriots and Morons, which dramatises life in an unnamed African country under an iron-fisted dictator.
Although the play did not name Zimbabwe, it dealt with issues such as fuel queues and food shortages, some of the problems Zimbabweans encounter in real life.
However, Zimbabwe's Censorship Board rejected the play after reviewing the scriptt, Daves Guzha, a producer with Rooftop Promotions, told a press conference.
He said his company had been notified of the censorship board's decision on Friday, but that no explanation was given.
The play, which shows a government intent on silencing dissent, was recently staged at the country's Harare International Festival of the Arts. It was previously staged here in May 2003, but was not censored at the time.
"We see Patriots and Morons as nothing else than a comedy of errors," Guzha said. "When you have a society that has no capacity to laugh at its own follies and problems -- then you are in serious trouble." - Sapa
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