- 'Economic engineer' tipped to win Malawi poll
Felix Mponda | Blantyre
18 May 2004 12:57
A former economy minister hand-picked by President Bakili Muluzi is
tipped to win the presidential election on Thursday in Malawi, one of
the world's poorest countries.
Muluzi is touting Bingu wa Mutharika as an "economic engineer" and has
been energetically campaigning on his behalf, at times even hogging the
limelight from his political protege.
Mutharika (61) is widely seen as lacking charisma and has remained shy
about stamping his authority, but he has boasted of having a "clean
record" free from scandal or corruption.
"My number one enemy is one thing: poverty," said Mutharika in a recent
interview. "People are wallowing in poverty.
"I know where the problems are. We need to resuscitate the economy and
bring development to rural areas."
"I want to continue where Muluzi left. It's like a relay race," said
Mutharika has pledged to bring economic stability to develop Malawi,
one of the poorest countries on Earth, with an annual per capita income
of $210. Malawi ranks 163 out of 173 on the development scale of the
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
The candidate is banking on the popularity of the retiring Muluzi, and
a wide split in the opposition with four political heavyweights on the
ballot, to win the vote when some 5,7-million Malawians cast their votes
in the country's third multi-party elections since 1994.
"Mutharika is an eminent economist and the most qualified among all
presidential candidates to turn around the economy," Muluzi said at a
"Malawi now needs an economic engineer unlike in 1994 when the country
needed a political engineer like me," Muluzi adds.
The elections in Malawi were initially scheduled for Tuesday but
election officials agreed to postpone the vote until Thursday in line
with a court ruling that ordered an inspection of voter registration
Questions surfaced over the voter rolls when a review of the initial
lists saw the number of registered voters drop by nearly one million --
from 6,6-million voters to 5,7-million.
Muluzi has been criss-crossing the poor southern African nation, urging
Malawians to support Mutharika, who only stepped into Muluzi's shoes
last year when the bid by the retiring president to amend the
constitution to allow him to stand for a third term was rejected by
Muluzi concedes that he has failed to turn around the economy,
dependent on agriculture and battered over the years by inflation, huge
local and foreign debts, high government borrowing and interest rates.
More than 60% of the 11-million people still live below the poverty
line a decade after Muluzi swept to power in the country's first
multi-party elections, defeating self-proclaimed president-for-life
Born in the southern district of Thyolo, Mutharika was one of the
founding members of the governing United Democratic Front (UDF) in 1993,
then an underground movement pressing for human rights and democratic
reforms after three decades of dictatorial rule by Banda.
Mutharika joined mainstream politics in 1999 when he formed his small
Unity Party to contest the presidential race against Muluzi whose
government he harshly criticised for "lacking vision and a clear
When he lost the elections to Muluzi, he dissolved his party and forced
all his supporters to join the UDF.
Muluzi named Mutharika deputy governor of the central bank and last
year he was appointed minister for economic planning and development.
In an upopular move, Muluzi handpicked Mutharika as the party's
presidential candidate, leading several key figures in the party to
resign in protest.
An avid golfer, Mutharika is married to Ethel and has four children who
all live in the United States. - Sapa-AFP
Caring for Aids orphans in Malawi, with nothing
18 May 2004 11:19
With very little money, no drugs and facing a daily struggle to find
food, Zex Thambo takes care of Aids orphans in a township of Malawi, one
of the world's poorest countries and among the hardest hit by the
Five years ago Thambo, (57) along with other members of his community,
opened up a small centre in the Ndirande township not far from the
economic capital of Blantyre, where every day they feed 300 children
whose parents have died from Aids.
About 85 000 people die of Aids-related illnesses a year in this
southern African country of 11-million.
Among the 300 orphans who come every day to the Tithandize centre,
about a dozen have fallen ill but the centre cannot afford the
anti-retroviral drugs needed to treat them.
"Our priorities are food and ARVs," says Thambo who has lived all his
life in the township, Malawi's biggest.
Many of Ndirande's Aids orphans remain in their homes with a relative
following the death of their parents but others find themselves in the
street with nothing.
Zeka, Ester, Agatha, Maria and George, aged between two and 12, are
among the dozen children who live in a building set up behind a school
at the Aids orphans centre.
The Tithandizde centre has a budget of 6 000 kwachas ($52, about R350)
a month, mostly from local donations. It also grows several hectares of
maize which provides the bulk of the children's meals.
Last year, the centre bought a house for 40 000 kwachas ($348, about R2
300) to help out more Aids orphans but Thambo said he has yet to come up
with the funds to renovate it.
Thambo complains bitterly that local politicians fund Aids centres with
handouts and that the government should have a more structured approach
to allocating support.
Meanwhile, community leaders are trying to stop the ranks of Aids
orphans from growing by holding information meetings on the disease,
many of which are attended by traditional chiefs to underscore the
importance of the issue.
But in a country where Aids remains a taboo subject, prevention and
Aids awareness remain an uphill task, with many notions about the
disease still finding believers.
"Some think they have been bewitched. Others believe condoms can be a
source of Aids. Others believe Aids comes from women who catch it when
to go to hospitals," says Thambo.
Aids has cut life expectancy to 36 in Malawi, which last week launched
its first programme to provide free anti-retroviral drugs, hoping to
reach tens of thousands of HIV sufferers in the next five years.
President Bakili Muluzi, who is to step down from office this year
after serving two terms, sought to erase the stigma attached to Aids by
publicly admitting in February that his brother had died of the
"The fight against the killer disease could only succeed if we break
[the] barriers of silence, stigma and discrimination," he said, adding
that he himself had undergone an HIV test, the result of which had been
On Thursday Malawi holds its third multi-party elections since the end
of autocratic rule ten years ago.
The economy and food security -- after the worst famine in 50 years hit
the country in 2000 -- have dominated the run-up to the elections. -
Gwanda is Winner! ... As CCJP Poll Indicates a 31% Individual Win
The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)
May 15, 2004
Posted to the web May 17, 2004
Pilirani Phiri And Levison Mwase
Gwanda Chakuamba, the seven party Mgwirizano coalition presidential
candidate will win the presidential race by taking 31% of the national
vote to beat his nearest contender Bingu wa Mutharika by 2 percentage
This gap, analysts say with time, will grow to cement his win after the
polls have been postponed by the Courts.
The Catholic Commission of Justice and Peace (CCJP), an arm of the
Catholic church carried out the national opinion poll two weeks ago on
30th April 2004 in all districts of the country which projects that
Mgwirizano coalition presidential candidate Steven Gwandangulube
Chakuamba will get not less than 2,035,900 votes, with UDF/AFORD/NCD
Presidential candidate Bingu wa Mutharika coming second with 1,888,620
votes. The poll further indicates that MCP Presidential candidate John
Zenus Ungapake Tembo gets the third highest vote projected at 1,335,860
while NDA Presidential candidate Brown James Mpinganjira comes fourth
with nearly a million votes at 999,995.
Independent candidate Justin Chimera Malewezi is projected to get
296,000 votes nationwide.
Explanatory notes on the poll by the CCJP in part state: 'The
Presidential votes are the most tricky. The electorate will however vote
for a leader who has withstood the test of time. Out of the five
candidates, even those electorates who will have voted for the MP on the
party line will vote differently when it comes to the Presidency. Random
sampling tips the balance in favour of Gwanda Chakuamba." The CCJP
report comes on the heels of another nation-wide opinion poll carried
out by The Chronicle newspaper which also showed greater favour to
Chakuamba by the voting citizens.
In The Chronicle poll 38% of the respondents said they would vote for
Chakuamba, 19% Bingu Wa Mutharika, 16% Brown Mpinganjira, 14 % John
Tembo and 13% Justin Malewezi.
According to the CCJP poll, in the Northern Region Gwanda Chakuamba
obtained the highest support with 837,900 votes, John Tembo with 55,860
votes, Bingu Wa Mutharika 18,620 votes, Brown Mpinganjira projected to
get 13,965 votes and Justin Malewezi 4,655 votes.
In the Central Region the CCJP report projects John Tembo getting the
highest at 1,040,000 votes, Gwanda Chakuamba 598,000 votes, Bingu Wa
Mutharika 520,000 votes, Justin Malewezi 286,000 votes with Mpinganjira
in the rear with 156,000 votes.
In the Southern Region Bingu wa Mutharika will garner the greatest
support with 1,350,000 votes, Mpinganjira is projected to get 750,000
votes, Gwanda Chakuamba 600,000 votes, John Tembo 240,000 votes and
Justin Malewezi 6,000 votes.
On the Parliamentary elections the CCJP report shows that in the
Northern region MGODE, a break away grouping from AFORD is projected to
get more Parliamentary seats than any other party while in the Central
Region MCP is expected to maintain its grip. In the Southern Region the
UDF is projected to scoop more votes than any other party.
In the Northern Region MGODE is expected to get 11 of the 33 seats,
AFORD 8, Mgwirizano 6, NDA 1, MCP 3, UDF 1 and 3 independents will win
In the Central Region the CCJP report indicates that MCP will get 59
seats, UDF 9, Mgwirizano 1, NDA 1 and 2 independent candidates will get
In the Southern Region Mgwirizano is projected to get 8 seats NDA 13,
UDF 64 and 2 independents will win.
The CCJP poll reveals that, in terms of the number of seats in
parliament that the UDF/AFORD/NCD Alliance musters will not exceed 80, 1
in the north (Nkhata Bay East - Likoma), 9 in the centre and 64 in the
south. The current opposition of all parties in the contest will secure
at least 110 parliamentary seats.
In a related poll on Capital FM102.5 radio last week using both
phone-ins and reporters visiting the rural areas to get a sampling of
the feelings of voters, again Gwanda Chakuamba the Republican Party
president was shown to be the more favourable preference for State
President of Malawi.
The polling day has since been shifted from tomorrow, 18 May to next
week, a day to be determined on or before Tuesday the 25 May. The change
has come after the Republican Party, acting for the Mgwirizano coalition
sued the Malawi Electoral Commission, the UDF and the Attorney General
for the shortened period for the verification of the voter's roll, the
abuse of public resources by the ruling UDF and the extra ballot papers
printed in excess of requirement by the MEC.
The courts ruled that the UDF should dissist from abusing their
incumbent position by utilising public resources, that the MEC deliver
to the courts all 2 million extra ballot papers printed and a
postponement of the poll up to the 25th May to allow greater inspection
of the voter's roll.
Analysts have said that the postponement will clear the situation and
allow all the necessary provisions to be complied with. Lawyers though,
are of the opinion that many law suits will be flooding the courts as
political players anticipate that there will be a lack of compliance
with the rulings.
Politicians will be seeking 'contempt of court' charges to be imposed
on the perpetrators.
MANET to Fight Stigma And Discrimination
The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)
May 15, 2004
Posted to the web May 17, 2004
The chairperson of Malawi Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS
(MANET+) Justice Anastasia Msosa appealed to all the people in the
country not to remove or abuse the basic rights of people living with
HIV/AIDS, saying, they too are entitled to their rights and should not
be stigmatised and discriminated against.
She was speaking on last Monday during the official opening of National
Empowerment Workshop for People living HIV/AIDS held at Lingadzi Inn in
'People living with HIV/AIDS need to enjoy their rights like everybody
else. People should not rob them of their rights. People should not
stigmatise and discriminate against people living with HIV/AIDS in this
country. You are aware ladies and gentlemen, that our constitution
clearly states that discrimination in any form is illegal' reminded
Msosa, former Malawi Elections Commission chairperson and the only lady
Supreme Court of Appeal judge in Malawi.
Msosa also appealed to people living with HIV/AIDS that they should
work hard through advocacy to make sure that human rights such as the
right to education, the right to housing, the right to health and other
basic rights are also available to people living with HIV/AIDS like any
The workshop is meant to empower participants with advocacy and
leadership skills required to successfully implement their plans. The
objectives of the workshop is to increase participant's appreciation of
advocacy skills required in the lobby process, to build on participant's
ability in developing presentations and public speaking, to build
participant's appreciation creating and maintaining
coalitions/partnerships, to enhance participants leadership skills,
build consensus on the expectations, roles and responsibilities of
partners in implementing the advocacy plans and develop a short-term
Msosa added that the Regional Co-ordinating Committees isolated
advocacy as an issues of need after a study on stigma and discrimination
which included low quality of counselling services, HIV positive persons
being denied proper health care and people living with HIV/AIDS being
Referring to some of the issues that people living with AIDS experience
Msosa said: 'As you can see, all these issues have a bearing on
disrespect for human rights. MANET+, therefore, saw the great need to
advocate for change in the poor attitudes by health personnel and
community at large to reduce stigma and discrimination that leads to
such negative attitudes and behaviors'.
Speaking at the same workshop the Executive Director of MANET+, Anock
Kapira said advocacy is about numbers and explained that MANET+ could
not go it alone. 'We need the effort that lies in unity for the
implementation of HIV policy,' he said 'People living with HIV/AIDS
should be respected and not to be abused - they should access their
rights without any type of discrimination, because they have the rights
which are due them' he added.
In her presentation the facilitator, Rita Chirongozi appealed to
government to ask all the ministries to donate 2% of their budget
allocation to assist in the fight on HIV/AIDS problems and provide
active, accurate information on treatment options available.
She warned that there is need for proper monitoring of anti-retroviral
drugs in order for the drugs to continue being effective. 'Government
should make sure that drugs are not abused and take control of the ARV
drugs, because others are sharing these drugs with children and other
friends,' observed Chirongozi The workshop was organised by MANET+ and
was funded by the United States Agency for International Development,
Vote for Women Candidates, Civil Society Makes Urgent Appeal
The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)
May 15, 2004
Posted to the web May 17, 2004
Civil Society bodies in the country have asked Malawians who will be
casting their votes in the general elections to seriously consider
voting for aspiring female parliamentarians.
Society for the Advancement of Women (SAW) Executive Director Catherine
Munthali, concurring with Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation
(CHRR) Executive Director Ollen Mwalubunju speaking Wednesday at a news
briefing in Lilongwe said Malawians should take women seriously and
consider voting for them if, they said, the country is to achieve
meaningful change. "If the country needs meaningful change then people
should consider voting for women. We trusted men for the last ten years
but we have ended up seeing mediocre leadership. It is high time that,
as a nation we tried to vote for women so that they can get into
influential positions and help make decisions for the nation", said
The two also stressed that women have potential leadership skills and
can make good leaders just like their male counterparts.
Also speaking at the same function, Human Rights Consultative Committee
(HRCC) chairman Rodgers Newa warned people to be careful when they vote
for their candidates, saying some of the contenders are corrupt,
criminals, selfish and others came through the back door.
Reverend MacDonald Sembereka who is Executive Director of Maphunziro
Foundation also asked Malawians to cast their votes wisely, warning that
their vote will determine the destination of the country.
Meanwhile, the Gender Network - a grouping of 30 Non Governmental
Organisation (NGOs) is fighting for a 30 percent representation of women
in the National Assembly.
Focus On HIV/Aids
The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)
May 15, 2004
Posted to the web May 17, 2004
Three weeks ago Irene* was in bed because she had thrush, a fungal
infection that affected her genital area and made it very difficult for
her to walk. She is now in bed again with a bout of malaria. This is the
quality of life that she has.
The period between the time when Irene is well and able to go about her
work and when she is unable to do so is getting shorter and shorter. Her
son, who is almost 4 years old and just started nursery school, is often
absent because she is unable to prepare him for school. This is an added
concern for her, apart from the financial difficulties that she is
Irene's husband John* died from meningitis when their son was just over
six months old. She married at the young age of 18, fell pregnant almost
immediately had the added responsibility of taking care of her husband
who began to fall ill regularly, soon after they got married.
According to Irene's mother Pretty, the family became concerned about
John's health when he continued to get sick. 'I became worried when John
was sick so often. In fact, on their wedding day, he had malaria and we
had to take him home soon after the reception started. He was not even
able to stay and enjoy the party with his wife,' she explained.
Pretty knows that Irene now has to go for HIV tests. She agrees that
this could be the only way to make sure that Irene gets proper treatment
if she is HIV positive but there is one problem. Pretty says she is not
able to talk to her daughter to suggest that she goes for testing.
'How can I talk to her about my fears. It will be like I am condemning
her. Also, the worst part is, how do I face all our friends if she is
positive?' It is obvious that it is important to Pretty that the family
is not embarrassed by Irene's status if she is indeed positive. This
fear of stigma is in fact going to be the reason that Irene does not
receive treatment which could give her a better quality of life.
Ironically, Irene is aware that she should go for testing, but she is
fearful about going for Voluntary Counselling and Testing (VCT) because
she is afraid of what her mother would say. 'How can I go for the test,'
she asks. 'What do I tell my parents if I am positive. It will bring
such shame to our family. I just live like I am positive,' she says
ruefully adding 'I know that it is best to go for testing before I take
any medication but I have no guts to go for testing. It will kill me if
I find out that I am positive. At least I do not have to face it if I do
not know my status.' The situation that Pretty and Irene find themselves
in is not at all unusual. Many people who can afford the anti-retroviral
drugs used by people with HIV do not access the medication because of
the fear that they have of being stigmatised by friends and family. The
fear of stigma is actually the reason that many HIV positive people die
In Malawi, records show that only a small number of people are taking
anti-retroviral drugs. In the year 2003, reports indicated that 170,00
were in need of anti-retroviral therapy. The reason for not going on the
regime has been mainly because of financial constraints.
Another reason is that people do not access the drugs because they do
not know their HIV status. The drugs are given only to those who have
tested HIV positive and are ready to begin treatment.
This means that many people who can afford the drugs do not go onto
them because they are not tested for the virus. The fear of stigma
within the society is so strong that although people are aware that
there are drugs that can prolong their lives, they will not take the
step that allows them to know their sero-status. Even when they know
their status, they will not disclose it to anyone because of the fear of
discrimination. This makes it difficult for people to seek proper care,
support services or proper treatment.
Monitors Essential to Free And Fair Elections
The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)
May 15, 2004
Posted to the web May 17, 2004
The Malawi Human Rights Commission [MHRC] has said that election
monitors play a crucial role in the holding of free and fair elections
as their presence at polling centres deters those who would wish to
manipulate or rig the results.
MHRC Acting Chairperson Dorothy Kalaya said this on Saturday in Mponela
during a two day election monitors training of trainers workshop.
MHRC will deploy election monitors to all districts of the country as
one way of legitimising results of the poll.
Kalaya urged election monitors from political parties and civil society
and church organisations to investigate all complaints concerning
deliberate as well as accidental anomalies in the electoral process.
She also said it is important that monitors report without delays any
problems or irregularities observed with the local representatives of
the electoral commission or any other stakeholder involved in the
'The work of monitors is enormous and demands diligence, commitment,
honesty and impartiality among others. I would like to take this
opportunity to appeal to all of you to endeavour to uphold the said
virtues in your work,' she said.
During the training participants honed their knowledge on the role of
an election monitor and carefully studied the code of conduct for
This year's election has attracted a larger than ever number of
Parliamentary candidates, five presidential candidates including one
that is independent.
There are 1,268 candidates in the Parliamentary race compared to 654
during the 1999 elections. 300 of these Parliamentary candidates are
contesting as independents, a phenomenon that comes from many who felt
undermined by the leadership when primaries were held by the main
parties. This years elections have seen 15 political parties taking part
compared with only 6 in 1999.
A record number of international monitors are also in the country to
help legitimise the process and ensure it is free and fair. Apart from a
large contingent from the Commonwealth Observer Mission there is an EU
observer group as well as African observers. Both SADC and the African
Union, as well as the Electoral Institute of Southern Africa (EISA) have
These elections in Malawi are seen as a watershed in the entrenching of
democracy in Malawi and in the region, after the failure in attempts by
the ruling party to extent the term of office of President Muluzi and
the UDF by amending the constitutional provision which limits terms of
office to 2 five year terms.
The election is also seen as being of great importance to Malawi after
Muluzi imposed his own successor on the ruling UDF party.
The outgoing President Bakili Muluzi has attacked foreign observers
whom he said were campaigning for the opposition ahead of the 18 May
poll. He has threatened to expel international observers from Malawi
found to be partisan.
The EU mission, whom he was attacking have denied the allegations.
Zimbabwe's ruling party wins by-election
18 May 2004 08:17
President Robert Mugabe's ruling party won a key by-election in an
opposition stronghold in western Zimbabwe, an electoral official said on
The Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (Zanu-PF) won the
hotly-contested weekend poll in Lupane, in Matabeleland North, with just
883 more votes than the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
"Zanu-PF is [the winner with] 10 069 votes. MDC is 9 186," Thomas
Bvuma, spokesperson for the official Electoral Supervisory Commission
said in Lupane.
The ruling party's victory in Lupane less than a year ahead of general
elections due next March could mark a turn in its political fortunes in
Matabeleland, where it was roundly defeated by the MDC in the 2000
The opposition claims the by-election was marred by voter intimidation
and vote-buying. The ruling party's win means that it is just three
seats short of a two-thirds majority in parliament, which means it can
amend the country's Constitution. - Sapa-AFP
Weary Zimbabweans seek better life
18 May 2004 07:21
The bus driver from Bulawayo grins and shrugs in typically Zimbabwean
fashion as he explains the difficulties of feeding his family and
keeping his five children in school. But he insists: "I am going to see
the problems through to the end. Nothing lasts for ever."
The driver, Never, plies the busy route between Bulawayo, Zimbabwe's
second city, and Francistown, Botswana, ferrying droves of Zimbabweans
trying to find work in the neighbouring country. Amid the busy
cross-border traffic, he leans against his 12-seater van, which sits in
the no man's land straddling the border.
"I am out of fuel. Fuel is short again in Zimbabwe, can you imagine? So
these women are walking across the border with these chigubus (20-litre
plastic containers) to get diesel in Botswana and bring it back so we
can drive all the way to Francistown."
He chuckles at the absurdity of the situation. As we talk he remembers
my expulsion from Zimbabwe. "They put you in jail, put you on trial. And
when you were found innocent they threw you out of the country anyway.
Don't worry, [information minister Jonathan] Moyo and [President Robert]
Mugabe can't last for ever. We will get over our troubles and you will
be able to come back."
Two Zimbabwean border guards toting automatic rifles approach through
the tall grass and begin climbing through the rows of barbed-wire
fences. They shout at the young women carrying the fuel containers and
motion with their guns for them to come back for questioning.
"You better go now," says Never. "These guys could give you trouble.
These days they do what they like. They can be rough."
Through the field, past four barbed-wire fences, stands a much taller
fence. It is the electrified fence that the Botswana government erected
two years ago, ostensibly to keep Zimbabwean cattle from straying into
Botswana, but really to keep Zimbabweans from flooding into the
Stable and prosperous, Botswana is struggling to cope with the effects
of Zimbabwe's deepening economic and humanitarian crisis. Each month,
according to immigration authorities, its population of 1,7-million is
swollen by an estimated 127 000 Zimbabweans, most of them illegal
immigrants, seeking work, food and refuge.
In the year since I was forced to leave the country, the situation in
Zimbabwe has worsened in every respect. More people are going hungry,
with nearly two-thirds of the population reliant upon international food
aid in recent months. State brutality has become more systematic and
more widespread. Thousands of young Zimbabweans have been trained in
torture at the militia camps and are inflicting their skills on the
population, particularly anyone suspected of supporting the opposition
party, the Movement for Democratic Change.
The state repression against the independent press has increased. The
Mugabe government closed The Daily News, the country's most popular
paper, with a million readers. Other newspapers have been threatened
with closure and 75 journalists have been arrested.
"Things are bad, really, really tough," says Thabani (34) whose smile
shows two teeth missing. Speaking at the Botswana border post, he says:
"I am a bus inspector in Zimbabwe. But the money is too small. I can't
pay rent or buy food. Here the money has power. I will take any job
here, a labourer, a cleaner, a security guard, anything. Whatever money
I make will go much further."
Zimbabwe's ongoing economic meltdown is evident from the black-market
traders waving sheaves of the country's rapidly depreciating currency.
They offer 1 000 Zimbabwe dollars to one Botswana pula, which just a few
years ago traded one for one. One US dollar fetches Z$6 000. But a loaf
of bread costs nearly Z$3 000.
A Zimbabwean man drives a battered truck with a load of folding wooden
chairs which he hopes to sell in Botswana. A young woman in a straw hat
tearfully pleads with the border guards to allow her into Botswana, but
she does not have the 100 pula required to enter so is turned back.
"There are so many Zimbabweans who go from house to house looking for
any kind of work. They will work for food or for a T-shirt," says Dorcas
Bogatsu, a secretary in Francistown. "And they are well educated. Their
English is good. It is very sad. Zimbabwe used to be a rich country."
In the chilly nights, Zimbabweans with no place to sleep huddle
together around small fires at the Francistown bus station. "When I find
work I'll send money back to my family," says Prosper, who says he once
worked as a schoolteacher but was threatened by Zimbabwe's secret
Along Blue Jacket Street, Francistown's main drag, young Zimbabwean
women cluster at street corners and wave at passing cars. Zimbabwean sex
workers now outnumber local prostitutes and the competition has driven
Ordinarily Francistown is a placid little border town, but the scenes,
the stories and the desperation of the Zimbabweans make the locals feel
as if they are living next to a volcano. No electric fence can keep that
unease away. - Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2004
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