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  • Christine Chumbler
    Election time for freer but poorer Malawians Frank Phiri | Blantyre, Malawi 19 May 2004 14:29 Malawi is scheduled to go to the polls on Thursday for general
    Message 1 of 1046 , May 19, 2004
      Election time for 'freer but poorer' Malawians

      Frank Phiri | Blantyre, Malawi

      19 May 2004 14:29

      Malawi is scheduled to go to the polls on Thursday for general elections -- this amid polling delays, allegations of bias on the part of electoral officials and deepening poverty.

      The ballot had initially been set for Tuesday May 18, but was postponed by the High Court after a coalition of opposition parties complained that up to a million people may have been excluded from an updated voters' roll, which lists 5,7-million people.

      On May 13, the court ruled that the opposition had to be given time to inspect the roll.

      It also asked to take charge of 1,6-million surplus ballot papers that the coalition and civil society groups had feared would be misused by the ruling United Democratic Front (UDF). This ruling was later overturned by the Supreme Court, on the grounds that it would have been impractical to recall these papers from the districts to which they had already been distributed.

      The case marked the latest hiccough in an increasingly fraught campaign. The Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) has come under fire for allegedly favouring the UDF during the campaign by failing to ensure equal and fair coverage of all parties by state radio and television.

      The MEC is also accused of turning a blind eye to isolated incidents of campaign violence.

      Weighty issues are at stake in Thursday's election -- not least the burden of poverty.

      A 2003 study by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) notes that the living standards of Malawians have not improved during the UDF's 10-year rule.

      As Britain's High Commissioner to Malawi, Norman Ling, observed last month, "Malawians have become freer but poorer" over the past decade. Ling made the comment to delegates at an annual conference of economists held in the capital, Lilongwe.

      In 1994, the UDF pledged to reduce poverty by -- among other things -- giving small and medium-sized companies loans to expand their activities. While several lending institutions were set up to do this, most of them had folded by 1999 -- citing the non-payment of debts.

      The unhappy results of this were coupled with a privatisation policy that labour activists claim has led to substantial layoffs from state-owned companies.

      On the positive side, inflation has come down to 11%; a decade ago, it hovered at 45%.

      But donors, who provide 38% of the national Budget, continue to express concerns about the government's management of the economy.

      Last month, the International Monetary Fund again decided to withhold funds that had been loaned to Malawi under the Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (a previous moratorium came to an end last October). The move was apparently prompted by over-expenditure on the part of Lilongwe.

      In the absence of donor funding to supplement the Budget, the government has resorted to borrowing from the domestic market -- acquiring a $433-million debt that the new administration will inherit alongside foreign debt.

      "Whoever comes after May 18 will carry this burden. The present domestic stock is more than half the national Budget. For government to clear it, they may need to borrow more, and that is not a sustainable way of clearing debts," says Kondwani Mlilima, an economist with Stanbic Bank Malawi.

      Government borrowing has contributed to high interest rates, which now run at more than 35%, to the detriment of business.

      "Because government has been borrowing a lot to cover its deficit, it leaves the private sector with no money to invest," says Sadwick Ntonakuntha, an economist with the Malawi Chamber of Commerce and Industry, a national body for the private sector.

      The net result is that about 41% of Malawi's 12-million people live below the poverty line of $1 a day, according the UNDP's Human Development Report for 2003. One dollar is equivalent to 107 Malawi kwacha, which scarcely pays for bus fare to and from work, in the case of town dwellers.

      "The difficulties they [the electorate] are having to obtain simple daily necessities can cost somebody a vote," says Paul Kwengwere, president of the Economics Association of Malawi. The association groups the country's economists.

      Commentators have billed the presidential poll as a battle between the UDF's Bingu wa Mutharika and Gwanda Chakuamba from the Mgwirizano coalition, which brought the matter of the voters' roll to the court's attention.

      This follows earlier predictions that the coalition's failure to attract important parties -- the National Democratic Alliance led by Brown Mpinganjira, for example -- would act to its detriment.

      Victory will hinge on the various parties' ability to win votes in Malawi's populous south. Given that Mutharika, Chakuamba and Mpinganjira all hail from this region -- and can count on a certain amount of tribal loyalty from the area -- this promises to be an interesting contest.

      The UDF's daily rallies have been marked by pomp and ceremony, with state radio providing live coverage of the bands, long convoys of vehicles and helicopters in attendance.

      Muluzi, with his booming voice, has assured party hardliners ferried from all parts of the country that nothing is going to get in the way of a third UDF victory.

      "All that we'll be doing is to put Bingu wa Mutharika on the throne. It's just a formality, amayi ndi abambo [ladies and gentlemen]," he said at a recent event. Election observers from the European Union have drawn the ire of the head of state for allegedly inciting voters to cast ballots for other parties.

      At more than 75 years of age, Mutharika has appeared exhausted by the campaign trail, and cannot address supporters for sustained periods without Muluzi chipping in to assist.

      "He [Mutharika] has not had a chance to emerge as a leader. It's fair to say that many people look at him as Muluzi's man, and he has been unable to come out and say I am my own man -- this is what I will do," says Boniface Dulani, a political scientist at Chancellor College, a branch of the University of Malawi.

      From 1992, Mutharika served as secretary general of the Lusaka-based Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa. He was fired from the post in 1997 -- allegedly for swindling almost $70 000 from the organisation.

      The UDF torchbearer strongly denies the allegations, claiming the affair was trumped up by a group of disgruntled staff.

      Impressions that Mutharika is a front man for Muluzi were strengthened last year when he promised at a rally to protect Muluzi from prosecution for possible abuse of state resources.

      Although Muluzi is said to have been a struggling businessman before coming to power, he has since acquired sufficient wealth to bankroll the UDF's campaign, and has even opened his own radio station: Joy 89.6 FM in Blantyre. The president's empire is also said to include a bank.

      In December 2003, Muluzi's former economic adviser and business partner, Kalonga Stambuli, died in mysterious circumstances after authoring a report that accused the head of state of amassing wealth from state coffers and public projects.

      An investigation has since revealed that Stambuli was poisoned -- but those responsible for his death have yet to be brought to book. -- IPS


      Catholics Guide Flock On Voting

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      May 15, 2004
      Posted to the web May 17, 2004

      Gregory Gondwe

      Reverend Father Isaiah Nyirenda of the Roman Catholic Church told a packed congregation of St. Denis Parish in Rumphi that all the church's priest from Nsanje to Chitipa recently met and came up with resolutions to guide their Christians on whom to vote for in the forthcoming elections, stressing that Christians should not vote for someone who supported the Open Term Bill or one who gives out cash hand outs.

      He said although the church can not specifically dictate whom to vote for, it is under a divine obligation to expose the best qualities of a leader to the faithful.

      MCP Presidential candidate John Tembo he said supported the Open Terms Bill while UDF Presidential candidate Bingu Wa Mutharika continues to walk in the footsteps of President Bakili Muluzi's system of offering hefty cash handouts to woo support. Mutharika recently gave cash handouts to over 100 CCAP clergy in Blantyre and also officials of MCTU and some journalists.

      Nyirenda told the congregation that all the country's priests agreed that Catholic Christians must only elect those leaders who are God fearing without looking at which denomination they belong to, and also those who are consistent with what they say.

      'You also must vote for a leader who took a stand against both the open and third term bills because whoever supported these bills showed us that he was not consistent with our republican constitution and could not be trusted to protect it in future,' he said.

      The priests, he said, also agreed to ask their Christians not to vote for a person who say will continue doing what the present government is doing as this means the office of the country's president will continue to be put into disrepute. 'Any God chosen person can make a very good leader and you do not need to be too educated to do that.' He urged the Catholic faithful that a president should be the one who has never been involved in corruption issues but somebody who is clean. He added that the leader should also be the one who will appeal to their conscious.

      'Our observation at the meeting was that some of us have compromised our prophetic role as Christians because we have received political donations from some influential political sources,' he said.

      He said because of political hand-outs Christians have sacrificed the country's liberty.

      'Let's not compromise the future with little hand-outs which you can only use here and now. Please do not get these bloody donations because if you do, then it means you are propagating the bad message and you will prove a failure as a Christian since this is evil,' he declared vehemently.

      Nyirenda said the priests agreed to warn their Christians because in the 1994 and 1999 elections they did not warn their flock not to vote for leaders who were once convicted of a criminal offence like theft of a public servant.

      'If you will do the same against this warning then the leader you will elect against this warning will crush you before you know it. We appeal to you in the name of God to vote for the truth which will set you free,' said Nyirenda to a congregation that nodded in agreement.


      Fisticuffs in Zimbabwe Parliament

      19 May 2004 07:45

      Zimbabwe's justice minister and a leading white opposition lawmaker traded blows in Parliament on Tuesday allegedly over racial insults during a debate over changing the country's laws concerning livestock theft.

      Roy Bennett from the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) charged at Patrick Chinamasa, the parliamentary leader of the ruling Zanu-PF legislators and Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Minister as he was making comments that "agitated" Bennett.

      "Again for the umpteenth time, he [Chinamasa] took attack and threw racial and all sorts of abuse at me. I confronted him and pushed. He fell over," said Bennett, one of the three white MPs in the 150-member Parliament.

      "Didymus Mutasa [the anti-corruption minister] kicked me from behind and I turned and pushed him," said Bennett.

      "These things get to you and you react and that is what I did today. I don't regret it," Bennett said.

      "Whatever the consequences, I am ready to die for Zimbabwe. I am a Zimbabwean, I am not a white man, I am not a black man," he said.

      A correspondent for the state-run Ziana news agency said Bennett "grabbed Chinamasa by the throat, shook him violently and pushed him to the ground.

      "While the minister was struggling to sit up, Bennett charged at him again, stood with his legs spread over him and threatened to assault him further," he said.

      MDC leader of the house and party vice-president Gibson Sibanda apologised to Chinamasa and the Parliament speaker, saying his party did not condone such "unfortunate" behaviour, Ziana said.

      "Roy Bennett assaulted the minister of justice," said Joram Gumbo the chief whip of the governing Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front (Zanu-PF).

      "He left his seat and came shouting towards Chinamasa and he shoved him to the ground," said Gumbo. "I ran to the aid of the minister and held his head to prevent it from hitting against a table."

      Several other opposition legislators tried to pacify Bennett. An opposition MP who did not want his name used said that Chinamasa's comments had enraged Bennett, whose farm was recently seized by government under its controversial land reforms programme.

      "Chinamasa got personal about Bennett saying his grandfather stole the land from blacks and that he should not dream of going back to that farm. It was very provocative, abusive and arrogant," the lawmaker said.

      Chinamasa could not be immediately reached for comment.

      Bennett said he was opposed to the changes to the proposed law that was being discussed during the altercation which will make it a mandatory for anyone convicted of livestock theft to be imprisoned for nine years.

      The lawmaker said he had argued against the mandatory jail sentence because it was too heavy for starving people trying for fend for their families in a country whose economy is in ruins.

      He alleged that while Parliament was making laws, no one was observing them.

      "You want to pass laws in Parliament, when outside there is no law," he said in reference to developments at his farm that has been taken over regardless of several court orders that allow him to return to his property. - Sapa-AFP


      Men break with tradition to become Aids caregivers

      Harare, Zimbabwe

      18 May 2004 23:59

      Zimbabwean men have become increasingly involved in caring for Aids patients, challenging the stereotype that caring for the terminally ill is women's work.

      For 48-year-old Luckson Murungweni, until recently it would have been inconceivable that he would one day be actively involved in caring for the chronically ill, let alone those dying from Aids. Now his attitude is different and he has become the focal point of a home-based care project in rural Goromonzi, about 35km east of the capital, Harare.

      "For years we watched with bleeding hearts as our daughters and sons came home from the towns and cities to die after having contracted HIV. Those who lived in the towns were also passing on the virus to the young in the area, and the burden of caring for the ill was left to women," Murungweni says.

      "As men, we never viewed ourselves as crucial in providing care to those being claimed by the Aids pandemic, choosing instead to spend most of our time at Juru Growth Point [a central business centre], drinking beer. But things changed last year when councillors in various districts of Goromonzi approached us and urged us to become involved," he explains.

      With the support of the Hospice Association of Zimbabwe (Hospaz), district councillors appealed to men in the community to form a group that would complement the efforts of the women providing home-based care.

      Hospaz area coordinator Kuziva Makamanzi says the NGO decided to involve men in order to address the HIV/Aids pandemic in a holistic way. Although the men were initially reluctant to participate for fear of stigmatisation, the relatively novel idea has spread to other parts of the country and the Zimbabwe Red Cross Society now has its own home-based project in which 105 out of 900 facilitators countrywide are men.

      "To me it is encouraging to see men becoming less idle and less chauvinistic. Their decision to participate in community-based caregiving is a great shift in the way they have been perceiving the Aids issue -- they are coming to realise that Aids is just one of the diseases that needs to be fought by society as a whole," says Murungweni.

      Zimbabwe has one of the highest HIV prevalence rates in the world, and the third-worst level of infection in Southern Africa. Health Ministry statistics show that about 24,6% of the population is HIV-positive and an estimated 3 000 people contract the virus every week, of whom the most vulnerable are women.

      In a speech delivered at a recent seminar, the resident minister for Mashonaland East, David Karimanzira, said women are also more affected by HIV/Aids due to the "caregiver role that a woman or girl assumes the moment a member of the family is sick and needs care".

      "The issue of male involvement in care still remains an issue to contend with ... it is my hope that this programme will be replicated in other areas, where it will assist in equipping men and women to be actively involved in looking after and caring for the sick at home and in communities," added Karimanzira.

      As part of the Hospaz home-based care initiative, volunteers like Murungweni are given basic training in caregiving, counselling the sick and their families, nutrition for the ill and protection against contracting HIV themselves.

      The volunteers assist in bathing, feeding and doing chores for patients, such as fetching firewood and food. They also provide financial assistance for buying drugs, or help with transport when patients need to be taken to clinics or hospitals to have opportunistic infections treated.

      Murungweni's support group comprises mainly men, who work closely with the women in the local communities.

      "It would be very difficult for men to provide care exclusively on their own, for there are obvious barriers. For instance, when we visit a female patient, we cannot bathe her, change her clothes or take her to the toilet -- this makes it necessary to consult female volunteers," says Murungweni.

      There is no overall leader in the Goromonzi project, but chiefs, councillors and a Hospaz area coordinator regularly check on progress being made.

      Vaal Maasdorp, acting director of Island Hospice, an NGO that cares for the terminally ill and bereaved, says the men are as good as the women caregivers.

      "It is not entirely true to say that women have been solely looking after the sick in our society. Husbands often take care of their wives or children, and when they see other men getting involved, that inspires them to do even better."

      She noted that in some cases women regard their male counterparts with suspicion and block their efforts to provide care, since traditional culture has taught them to view tending to the sick as their preserve.

      The Zimbabwean chapter of Southern Africa HIV/Aids Information Dissemination Services (Safaids) sees a host of advantages in men participating in home-based care. In a recent publication the organisation said because men are the traditional leaders and decision-makers, they have greater influence on attitudes towards HIV/Aids.

      "If men get involved in home-based care, they may be in a better position to act as role models for younger men, show other men how to change their behaviour, protect themselves and their families against HIV and the consequences of Aids," Safaids noted.

      The organisation said men and women working together in a programme on HIV/Aids are better able to fight stigma and fear of discrimination in communities, particularly if they promote the disclosure of people's HIV status. -- Irin
    • Christine Chumbler
      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
      Message 1046 of 1046 , May 22, 2006

        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

        Andrew Lungu


        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

        Harare, Zimbabwe

        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.

        Opposition protests

        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

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