- Malawi elections postponed by two days
16 May 2004 09:13
Malawi's electoral commission on Saturday said presidential elections will be held on May 20, two days later than originally scheduled, following opposition complaints over irregularities in the Southern African country's computerised voters' roll.
A Malawi high court on Friday had already ordered the elections postponed by a maximum of seven days.
"After a thorough meeting, the nine-member commission decided to comply with the high court's ruling and agreed to shift polling day from May 18 to May 20," chief electoral officer Roosevelt Gondwe told reporters at a news conference.
Gondwe said the campaign period has also been extended and will end at 6pm local time on May 18.
"The commissioners unanimously agreed not to contest the shift in the polling date," he added.
But the commission said it will challenge a part of Friday's court order that said excess ballot papers should be surrendered to the high court.
"The commission is the only body in Malawi mandated to run elections, including the administration of ballot papers," Gondwe said.
A hearing on the case was to be held at the Blantyre High Court on Sunday.
The seven-party opposition Mgwirizano (Unity) Coalition led by presidential candidate and veteran opposition politician Gwanda Chakuamba had argued there were serious flaws in the new computerised voters' roll.
After the roll was revised eight days ago, the total number of registered voters plummeted by nearly one million to 5,7-million from 6,6-million. -- Sapa-AFP
Malawi's presidential hopefuls
As Bakili Muluzi's two terms as president of Malawi come to an end, the BBC's Raphael Tenthani profiles the five major candidates seeking to replace him in the 20 May general elections.
Bingu wa Mutharika
An early member of the ruling United Democratic Front, the party's candidate to succeed President Bakili Muluzi has nursed ambitions of ruling Malawi since the Banda dictatorship began to unravel in 1993.
However, the economist's previous bid for the nation's hot seat was thwarted after a hostile campaign by his own party.
It was only when President Muluzi's attempt to run for a third term was ruled out that he was invited back into the fold.
The out-going president has waged a high-profile campaign on behalf of the 70-year-old, who 10 years ago was labelled a failure and a fraud.
Some analyst say Mr Muluzi decision to support an outsider was a bid to guarantee his own safety after the election.
If so, he may have succeeded as Mr wa Mutharika says he would to maintain good ties the soon-to-be former president.
"I want to show the world how the relationship between the incumbent presidents and their predecessors should be."
Gwanda Chakuamba, the 69-year-old opposition front-runner, has the support of powerful religious leaders and is standing as a joint candidate for a coalition of seven opposition parties.
He has a reputation for violent outbursts and has spent most of his adult life either on the political platform or in prison.
"If I was a young man, there could have been blood in this country," he said after losing the election to President Muluzi in 1999.
He claimed he was robbed of victory after polling half a million fewer votes than his opponent.
While a senior minister in 1982, he was sentenced to 22 years in prison for trying to assassinate former leader Hastings Kamuzu Banda.
Although found with a pistol, the political gladiator has protested his innocence.
"When I went into prison, I was so bitter that if I had a gun I would have shot everyone," he said.
He was released after 12 years when Banda was under intense international pressure to improve his human rights record.
The white-haired presidential hopeful claims age and religion have mellowed him.
While enjoying strong support from his native south, Mr Chakuamba is also expected to poll well in the north.
Brown James Mpinganjira
The former British-trained journalist and current leader of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) was once President Muluzi's right-hand man.
He has since turned into the president's nemesis.
Mr Mpinganjira was sacked as a powerful senior minister in 2000, ostensibly over allegations of corruption.
But the various charges levelled against the 55-year-old have never stuck.
Mr Mpinganjira claims he left the UDF because of President Muluzi's failed bid to run for a third term, and the issue has become a focus point of his campaign.
Although the president would be at pains to deny it, BJ, as he is known, was the architect of the ruling United Democratic Front's winning formula.
And while he was demonised for creating the now-notorious militant UDF Young Democrats, it still enjoys the government's support four years after his departure.
Diminutive in size but forceful in manner, Mr Mpinganjira has managed to transform the NDA from a rag-tag pressure group into a considerable political force.
As the youngest candidate, he is the only one out of the five hopefuls who could run again in 2009.
Whether he wins or not, as a southerner he is sure to make a dent in the region's UDF stronghold.
Justin Chimera Malewezi
The current vice-president and candidate for the opposition People's Progressive Movement (PPM) been a part of Malawian politics since the days of President-for-Life Banda.
He quit the ruling United Democratic Front early this year after President Bakili Muluzi anointed little-known economist Bingu wa Mutharika as the party's official candidate.
A former science teacher who studied at Columbia University in the US, he entered politics in the 1970s and rose rapidly through the ranks to become Banda's cabinet secretary.
He was dismissed after suggesting Malawi embrace political reform.
After a spell as a political consultant, in the early 1990s he joined an underground group of former Banda proteges, who went on to form the ruling UDF.
Mr Malewezi has criticised the government's slow pace of reform and pledged to lead a fully independent government.
But observers believe that his young party will have a hard time convincing voters that he can beat the other heavyweight candidates.
John Zenus Ungapake Tembo
At 72, John Tembo is the oldest of the five politicians vying for the presidency.
The president of the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) commands respect and hatred in almost equal share, as his name is synonymous with the excesses of power during the Banda regime.
First elected to the legislative assembly in 1961 - three years before the country gained independence - the man known as JZU remains a somewhat mysterious figure.
Mr Tembo reached Banda's inner circle through a mix of luck and good connections.
For 30 years, he was the power behind the throne, made untouchable by the fact that his niece Cecilia Tamanda Kadzamira was Banda's mistress.
His career nearly nose-dived when his long-time rival Gwanda Chakuamba was appointed head of the MCP.
But he used his used his vast wealth and popularity in the MCP central region stronghold to wage a personal war to dislodge Mr Chakuamba, a southerner.
If Mr Tembo does not make it to Sanjike Palace - the president's official residence - he will at least control the central region.
The President's Report Card
Sunday Times (Johannesburg)
May 16, 2004
Posted to the web May 16, 2004
At the height of the campaign for the presidential and parliamentary elections in Malawi, outgoing President Bakili Muluzi found himself under so much attack from opposition parties and civil society organisations that he deemed it necessary to remind them that he was not in the running.
It was Bingu wa Mutharika's race and the other presidential candidates should "measure themselves against" the United Democratic Front's candidate and not its national chairman, Muluzi protested.
But whatever he would like others to believe, when Malawians queue up to vote in their third democratic elections to be held before May 25, the outcome will be as much a reflection on Muluzi's record as president as it will be of voters' confidence in Mutharika.
That Muluzi is a key player in the UDF's push for a third straight term in power was evident this week as he took Mutharika on a whistle-stop tour of the country's populous southern region, where he urged voters to elect the former International Monetary Fund and World Bank bureaucrat as his successor.
Judging by the cheers, most in the crowd had come to see Muluzi, not Mutharika. After all, it is Muluzi who is widely known for a controversial election strategy of "donating" cash to every poor community he visits.
On Thursday, he gave 100 000 Malawian kwacha (about R8 000) to residents of rural Chikwawa, south of the commercial capital, Blantyre, among others. A day later, one of his aides publicly gave a yellow bag full of money to two party supporters who had entertained a crowd with jokes while waiting for him to speak.
Opposition parties say this is an attempt by Muluzi to buy votes for his party, but his supporters defend him, saying the hand-outs are part of the local kufuba custom of giving to those who are less fortunate.
Muluzi made all the key speeches at the rallies, while Mutharika sat quietly beside him. When Mutharika eventually got a chance to speak, the former Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa secretary-general did not say much, other than greeting the crowd and reminding them to vote UDF on Tuesday.
Muluzi, on the other hand, told the crowd how, over the past 10 years, he had steered the country towards true democracy.
He explained how the first 10 years after dictator Kamuzu Banda's departure had needed a "strong political leader" to consolidate democracy and how the next five years needed Mutharika, an accomplished econo mist, to turn the poverty-stricken country's economic fortunes around.
Like South Africans last month, Malawians will be heading to the polls for the third time since the introduction of multiparty democracy in 1994. There are other similarities between the two countries.
A decade into democracy, both are battling massive unemployment, rising poverty and increasing numbers of people infected with HIV/Aids. The economy and the land in both countries remain largely in the hands of minorities.
While neither economy has grown fast enough to benefit the poor, real estate and informal trade in both countries are booming.
Even some of the election campaign songs sound the same. In South Africa, one of the popular ANC election tunes was Thabo Mbeki, akekho ofana nawe (Thabo Mbeki, there is no one like you). In Malawi, UDF supporters sing their version in Chichewa: " Muluzi, balibe ofana nai. "
There are some sharp differences, too. While the ANC went to the elections confident of an easy victory, the UDF faces a real danger of being removed from power on Tuesday. Running against Mutharika are four contenders, at least one of whom, Gwanda Chakuamba, is seen as a real threat.
Chakuamba leads the Mgwirizano Coalition, an alliance of small parties that include his Republican Party. A veteran politician and farmer who served in Banda's regime in various ministerial positions, he narrowly lost the presidential elections to Muluzi in 1999 when he was still with Banda's old party, the Malawi Congress Party.
His supporters claim he lost only because of its historical baggage and now that he is no longer with the party that mismanaged Malawi for 30 years, he stands a real chance of winning. They point to Mutharika's lack of charisma and to perceptions that he is "a Muluzi yes-man".
The UDF's choice of Mutharika as its presidential candidate came as a shock to many within and outside the party. After all, he had proven himself to be the country's least favourite politician in 1999 when he secured just 22 000 of the potential five million votes in the presidential election. He later disbanded his United Party and joined Muluzi's government.
But his election as the UDF 's candidate has angered many, including First Vice-President Justin Malewezi, who is now standing independently.
Muluzi's critics says he is responsible for Mutharika's election. Having failed to amend the constitution to allow him to run for a third-term, Muluzi is said to have opted for a weaker successor who he can control behind the scenes. Also, a UDF change of its Constitution a year ago saw Muluzi become party chairman, effectively retaining control of the ruling party.
The purpose, proponents of this theory argue, is to ensure Muluzi is not prosecuted by the new government for alleged corruption committed during his term as president.
"If Mutharika wins, it will mean that Muluzi will be a de facto president. Mutharika will not do anything without Muluzi's blessings as he would owe his presidency to him. Mutharika cannot even campaign on his own," says Blantyre businessman Ibrahim Wilson.
Mutharika seemed to give credence to this theory a few weeks ago when he declared that he would not follow the "Zambian option", a reference to that government's decision to charge former President Frank Chiluba for alleged abuse of state resources and massive corruption.
Although no one has ever produced any credible evidence of this, it is a widely held view among opposition parties that the UDF is a corrupt party and that Muluzi had used his presidency to enrich himself.
They point to a series of businesses he has set up over the past few years, including his Trade and Investment Bank, an office park and a newly formed media company. On Friday, he officially launched his private radio station, Joy Radio, and announced plans to set up a new commercial television station to compete with the state-owned Malawi Television.
Muluzi also owns the Bakili Bullets, a soccer team that is in South Africa this weekend to play Orlando Pirates in the African Champions League. Early this year, the team spent four weeks in England, at Muluzi's expense and, on at least two occasions, he bought all the tickets at a stadium to allow his supporters to watch Bullets games free.
His forays into the media business are seen as his Plan B, that is if Mutha rika fails to win the elections. If the opposition - which has already promised an investigation into Muluzi's business interest - wins, control of the state-owned media will fall into the hands of Muluzi's political enemies.
On Friday, Muluzi defended his business empire and blamed allegations of corruption levelled against him on "the pull-him-down syndrome" that he says the country suffers from.
"We should ask ourselves how come we do not own our own businesses in this country like they do in Tanzania and elsewhere. The major problem here is jealousy. Every time one of our own opens a business we are suspicious.
"The opposition is threatening to confiscate my office park but I am clean. I have never used state money to build my businesses. I borrowed money from an international bank," he told over a thousand supporters at the launch of his radio station.
But Chakuamba's supporters say it is precisely because of Muluzi's policies that foreigners, especially Asians, continue to control the economy.
Most of about 30 state-owned companies privatised over the past decade went into foreign hands - partly because there were no Malawians who could afford them.
The United Nations Development Programme revealed last month that poverty in Malawi had worsened over the past decade, with about 42% of the country's population living below the poverty line of a dollar a day.
Malawi used to be one of the main exporters of maize in Southern Africa. Today, it imports much of its maize from South Africa.
But Muluzi says he did his best: "Remember that when I took over in 1994 inflation was at about 98%; now we are talking about 9%. There has been a lot of improvement. But of course many of our people live below the poverty line as we are a very poor country. But we have done our best over the past 10 years," he says.
Whether his best is enough to convince voters to return the UDF to office will be clear when election results emerge later in the week. Already it looks like an uphill battle, especially as some of the hugely influential Christian churches are now calling on their followers not to vote UDF.
The churches, which include the Catholics, Anglicans and Presbyterians, say a vote for the UDF would lead to a further "Islamisation" of Malawi because although Mutharika is a Christian, his running mate is a "hard-line" Muslim. More than 70% of Malawians regard themselves as Christian.
Muluzi, himself a practising Muslim, and a number of Muslim organisations have criticised the churches' campaign. On Friday, Muluzi urged the broadcasting regulator to take action against church-owned radio stations that propagate this gospel.
Under Muluzi, religious freedom thrived, with all religious groups enjoying the same status. Even Jehovah's Witnesses, banned under Banda's rule, now have a strong presence in Malawi.
As in South Africa, where the outcome of last month's elections was a vote of confidence in the manner in which the ANC has ruled the country over the past decade, the election will show how Malawians feel about their first democratically elected president.
'Fraud' claims mar Zimbabwe poll
The MDC says Zanu-PF uses violence to win elections
Zimbabwe's opposition has accused President Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF party of intimidation during a by-election in an opposition stronghold.
The Movement for Democratic Change said many voters around Lupane were prevented from casting their ballots.
The poll follows the death of an MDC member of parliament, David Mpala, who suffered from poor health after he was twice abducted and beaten.
At the weekend, Mr Mugabe was quoted as saying he would retire in 2008.
Mr Mugabe, who was 80 in February, was quoted by Kenya's East African Standard newspaper as saying he was tired of politics and wanted to write after his current term expires.
Mr Mugabe was re-elected two years ago in a poll disputed as fraudulent by the opposition.
The MDC says that two of its activists were detained by police in Lupane after complaining that they had been abducted and beaten by Zanu-PF supporters.
Election officials said that some 1,000 people had been "assisted to vote" because of illiteracy or disability - out of 12,173 who had cast their ballots on Saturday.
MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai says that "assisted voting," allowed by recent changes to the electoral law, gives the authorities the power to punish or reward voters, especially over the distribution of food aid.
Another 1,189 would-be voters were turned away at polling stations.
Results are expected later on Monday.
Lupane is in the western region of Matabeleland, where the MDC won almost every seat in the 2000 parliamentary elections.
Barren fields belie Zimbabwe's 'bumper crop'
17 May 2004 07:41
If the Ndlovu family had a television, they would learn that Zimbabwe has just harvested a maize crop so bountiful that there is no longer any need for emergency food aid.
For the last week, government officials and economists have appeared nightly on the state broadcaster, ZBC, to marvel that a country recently stricken with hunger is now a breadbasket.
The Ndlovus are not celebrating. They get their information from the field beside their mud-brick house, and there the news is not good. A pile of maize bound with twine is the sum of their harvest.
"It's been pretty poor -- might last us till September," said Sichelesile Ndlovu (30) sitting among five of her six children at their home in Lundi, a village west of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe's second city. And after September? "We'll see."
The one certainty is that the family will not see international food aid, because the government has reported a harvest of 2,4-million tons, one of the highest in decades, which would allow Zimbabwe to feed itself and export a sizeable surplus.
The agriculture minister, Joseph Made, attributed the bumper yield to the land reform that transferred white-owned farms to black peasants and commercial farmers. There was no more need for the UN's World Food Programme or relief agencies, he said.
But those in other villages near Lundi said the same thing as the Ndlovus: despite decent rain, a shortage of seeds and fertiliser during the planting season had produced a poor to moderate harvest which would run out in months.
Patrick Dube (48) was one of the few farmers to have enough seed and money to rent a tractor for his three hectare, but even his family would run out by December, he said. "If we share with neighbours it won't last that long."
Human rights groups fear the discrepancy between government rhetoric and reality means President Robert Mugabe is preparing to use hunger as a political weapon.
"If independent assessments are correct, the risk is that food will be used for political ends and food supplies will go first and only to supporters of the ruling party," said Amnesty International.
Pius Ncube, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Bulawayo and a leading government critic, said the govern ment was preparing for general elections due next year.
"They will use food politically," he said.
Independent estimates suggest Zimbabwe's harvest is less than 1m tonnes. The Commercial Farmers' Union estimates 700,000 tonnes and the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, an independent German thinktank, estimates slightly more.
No one knows for sure, because two weeks ago the government kicked out the UN's crop assessment team before it could survey the country.
Outside the government, there is a consensus that Zimbabwe cannot feed itself this year. "There is no doubt that certain segments of the population will need food aid," said Robinah Mulenga, the head of the World Food Programme's sub-office in Bulawayo.
There was no evidence that the government intended to starve communities to death, as had been seen in the recent history of Afghanistan and Ethiopia, relief groups said. The plan, rather, was to use imports and an existing stockpile of 250 000 tons to attempt to gain more votes.
On Sunday the Observer reported that the government had struck a secret deal with a group of US firms to provide thousands of tons of grain in exchange for tobacco and minerals.
But even if enough food was imported, the delays and uneven distribution could put the lives of children, the elderly and the sick at risk, said one aid worker. Poor nutrition speeds the onset of full-blown Aids for those with HIV.
Eddie Cross, a senior official with the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, and who advised Mugabe on agriculture in the 1980s, said the authorities were adept at using hunger. "They can threaten people: if you want food from the government, don't vote against the government. The message is clear, it's simple," he said.
As an Ndebele area, Lundi should be an opposition stronghold, but when Mrs Ndlovu was asked if she would vote for a party which gave her family food, she nodded. That attitude is likely to extend to cities, where shops are well stocked but with goods at prices that the growing number of destitute people cannot afford.
Fari Dube, the deputy headteacher of Bulawayo's Nkwalongwalo primary school, said that before the WFP donated maize to make porridge, children used to faint in their classrooms. "In truth, some of the staff are also starving." - Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2004
Zimbabwe inflation drops by 78%
17 May 2004 13:35
Zimbabwe's inflation rate fell by 78,7% in April to 505%, an official newspaper reported on Monday, as the country presses on with efforts to bring inflation down to less than 200% by the end of the year.
The Herald attributed the drop from the previous month's figure of 583,7% to the launch of a new monetary policy in December 2003.
In launching the tighter policy, Central Bank Governor Gideon Gono said he was confident that inflation would be brought down to less than 200% by December 2004.
Inflation has created extreme hardships for ordinary Zimbabweans, who have seen wages eroded and prices in shops going up on a regular basis.
Foreign currency shortages and a flourishing black market for hard cash are blamed for fuelling inflation.
Foreign currency auctions introduced by the central bank last year have resulted in $333,5-million flowing into the official market in the first three months of this year, compared with $302-million for the whole of last year, according to the bank. -- Sapa-AFP
Report: Zimbabwe's Mugabe Plans to Retire
The Associated Press
Saturday, May 15, 2004; 8:43 AM
NAIROBI, Kenya - Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe plans to retire when his term ends in 2008 and has begun searching for a successor, a Kenyan newspaper reported Saturday. Mugabe has ruled the southern African nation since its independence from Britain in 1980.
"I want to retire from politics. I have had enough," Mugabe was quoted as saying by Kenya's East African Standard newspaper. "I have not even completed this term, I have four more years and I am not so young."
The 80-year-old Mugabe said he "would like to concentrate on writing after this term in office is over."
Zimbabwe has been wracked by political violence and economic turmoil in recent years as Mugabe's government has seized thousands of white-owned farms for redistribution to blacks. Seeking to crack down on dissent, the government has arrested opposition leaders, trade unionists and independent journalists.
However, Mugabe said problems in finding a successor have led to a power struggle in the top leadership of his ruling ZANU-PF party.
"They are fighting and some are even going to consult with witch doctors," Mugabe said.
Zimbabwe faces acute shortages of food, medicine, hard currency, gasoline and other essential goods. Unemployment is estimated at more than 70 percent.
Annual inflation is estimated at 602 percent.
U.N. agencies say about 5.3 million Zimbabweans will need food aid in the next year following the collapse of local production.
But last month, Mugabe said inflation was beginning to fall and the country was on the verge of an economic boom resulting from land reform.
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