- Malawi leader urges cooperation
Malawi's newly-elected President, Bingu wa Mutharika, has said he is confident that his ruling party can work with a united opposition.
"I do not believe that winner takes all - sharing is better," he told the BBC's Network Africa programme.
On Thursday, three opposition groups announced that they had united to become the largest bloc in parliament.
They said they wanted to provide a "vibrant opposition" and have lodged legal challenges to last week's polls.
'Father of the nation'
The three groups - Malawi Congress Party, the Mgwirizano Coalition and the National Democratic Alliance - will hold 92 seats in the 193-member parliament, compared to 49 for the governing United Democratic Front (UDF) party.
At least three people have died in clashes between protesters and police in the largest city, Blantyre, since the results were announced.
"I am the president of Malawi, not of one political party or one region," he said.
"Even those areas that voted against me are all my children. I am the father of the nation."
When asked if the united opposition would make life difficult for him, he replied:
"I do not believe anybody one in the opposition can seriously oppose simply for the sake of opposing."
Battle for seats
It is not yet clear whether Mr Mutharika or the opposition will get a parliamentary majority, - the opposition alliance is five seats short.
Voting was postponed in six areas. The BBC's Raphael Tenthani from Blantyre says that although no date has been set for the by-elections, by law they must be held within 60 days.
Our correspondent says that five of the six seats are believed to be in opposition strongholds.
But the UDF is also still battling to scrape a majority.
Its ally Aford has six seats. And the party is courting the 38 independent members - many of whom are originally from the UDF.
International observers have reported "serious short-comings" in the poll.
But election officials have denied vote-tampering.
Free and fair elections could be key for Malawi's capacity to secure development aid to deal with poverty and Aids, which affects 14% of the population.
Departure Statement By the Commonwealth Observer Group At the Malawi Elections
Commonwealth News and Information Service (London)
May 26, 2004
Posted to the web May 27, 2004
Justice Joseph Warioba, former Prime Minister of the United Republic of Tanzania and Chairperson of the Commonwealth Observer Group at the Malawi parliamentary and presidential elections, issued the following Departure Statement on 25 May 2004 in Blantyre, the capital of Malawi.
"When we issued our Interim Statement we said that in arriving at our overall assessment of the electoral process in Malawi we would take a number of factors into account. We have been doing that over the last three days. We have now completed our Report, which we have signed and will send to the Commonwealth Secretary-General. He will then forward it to the Head of Government, the Chairman of the Malawi Electoral Commission, the political parties and all Commonwealth governments. It will then be made public, in printed form and on the Commonwealth website.
"The conclusion we have reached is that the voters were free to express their wishes on election day itself, but because of the problems with the register, the bias of the state media and the abuse of incumbency, the process prior to election day was unfair. Some of the requirements of the democratic process have been met, but others have not.
"We have also made a series of recommendations, which we hope will help for the future. We will now return to our countries, with fond memories of the people of Malawi and the warm welcome we received here. Each of us will follow developments in this country closely. We wish the people of Malawi well in all your work to strengthen your democracy. We hope that our Report will contribute to that effort. As individuals we will do whatever we can to help. We know that the Commonwealth as a whole will do so too."
The Observers had begun work on Monday, 10 May 2004. The team comprised 14 eminent Commonwealth citizens, assisted by a Commonwealth Secretariat staff team led by Professor Ade Adefuye, Special Adviser in the Political Affairs Division of the Secretariat.
Southern Africa: Civil Liberties Remain Under Threat - Amnesty
UN Integrated Regional Information Networks
May 26, 2004
Posted to the web May 27, 2004
Politically motivated violence, torture and the excessive use of force by state security continued to be key concerns in several Southern African countries, according to the Amnesty International (AI) 2004 report published on Wednesday.
Zimbabwe was the worst offender of human rights in the region, while civil liberties were under threat in Swaziland, Angola and Malawi.
The London-based rights watchdog noted that rights abuses in Zimbabwe continued unabated in 2003, as the state stepped up attacks against its opponents, particularly the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
It noted "an escalation in state-sponsored attacks on its critics", while "incidents of ill treatment and torture were reported throughout the year".
Civic groups remained under pressure, but journalists bore the brunt of the crackdown. Media legislation, introduced in 2002, was being used by the authorities to "silence" reporters, and both local and foreign journalists were subjected to arbitrary detention and attacks.
The closure of the country's only independent newspaper, the Daily News, in September last year was seen as an example of attempts by the authorities to muzzle freedom of expression.
Police officers were implicated in "torture, ill-treatment and unlawful killings, mostly of MDC supporters," Amnesty said, while "hundreds of people were detained for holding political meetings or peaceful political protests".
Public gatherings are restricted under Zimbabwe's Public Order and Security Act, and rights groups have argued that the law is being used to clamp down on civil liberties. Up to 200 trade unionists and prominent civil rights activists were arrested throughout the country in October last year following protests against high taxes and inflation.
Since the start of the government's controversial land reform programme in 2002, Zimbabwe's economy has steadily deteriorated: unemployment currently stands at approximately 70 percent and inflation is hovering around 600 percent.
Aid agencies estimate that this year Zimbabwe will face shortages of up to 800,000 mt of maize, a national staple, but the authorities have refuted these findings, projecting a bumper harvest of 2.3 million mt.
In Swaziland AI found the apparent lack of independence of the judiciary a cause for concern. Prime Minister Sibusiso Dlamini declared in November 2002 that the government would not obey two Appeal Court judgments, sparking a mass resignation by the Court's judges. Despite the intervention of intergovernmental organisations, the rule-of-law crisis remains unresolved.
In some cases, High Court judges and magistrates were "subjected to intimidation, demotion and other forms of pressure as a consequence of their rulings", the report claimed.
In August 2003, during an international conference in the capital, Mbabane, security forces reportedly used excessive force to disperse trade unionists protesting the lack of political freedom.
Amnesty was also critical of the use of excessive force by Malawi police in the lead-up to the recent general elections.
On 27 January 2003, AI noted, the police fired rubber bullets and tear gas at demonstrators protesting against a third term for former president Bakili Muluzi. The torture of suspects and deaths in police custody continued to be reported.
Press freedom was under threat, as the state continued to launch attacks on media workers.
Efforts to consolidate peace in Angola continued, but ongoing hostilities between the government and rebels in the northern Cabinda enclave undermined political stability. AI highlighted an NGO report, released in November 2003, detailing rights abuses in the oil-rich province, including torture, rape and extrajudical executions.
Although FLEC, the main rebel group in Cabinda, was responsible for some of the abuses, "many more of the human rights violations", were committed by government forces.
Media freedom had improved slightly in Angola, but there were instances of journalists being intimidated and threatened with violence. Some were arrested in connection with their work, but were usually released without charge or acquitted afterwards, Amnesty said.
For the full report: http://web.amnesty.org/
Zim farmer challenges land laws in top court
28 May 2004 11:17
A white farmer went before Zimbabwe's top court on Thursday to challenge parts of the controversial land reform laws under which his property was seized and given to black farmers.
George Quinnell and his wife, who owned a farm north of Harare, have been deprived of their only source of income since they were forced to leave their land in December 2002.
They appeared before all five judges in the Constitutional Court to try to have their eviction order overturned and amendments to the country's land laws declared unconstitutional.
Lawyers specifically targeted amendments made in 2002 to the land laws that reduced from 90 days to 45 days the timetable given to farmers to wind up their affairs after receiving an eviction order.
The amendments also allow the government to resettle people on the farm and make it a crime for the farmer to interfere in the process.
"The act pursuant to the amendments does not meet the constitutional demand for a reasonable notice," said South African lawyer Wim Trengrove, representing Quinnell.
Trengrove said Zimbabwe farmers facing an eviction order should be given "a reasonable opportunity to wind up their affairs and adjust their lives to the acquisition of their land".
The case has taken two years to come to court.
Since Quinnell started his legal battle in 2000, most of Zimbabwe's white farmers have been evicted from their farms to make way for new black farmers.
The number of whites still in farming has reportedly dwindled to fewer than 400 out of an estimated 4 000 four years ago.
Before the legislation was amended, farmers were given 90 days to wind up their business and resettlement could not take place if they challenged the eviction order in court.
Trengrove argued that the amendments to the Land Acquisition Act, made two months after President Robert Mugabe won another term in office in March 2002, violated parliamentary procedure because Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa had not yet been sworn in when he introduced them.
Neither had Agriculture Minister Joseph Made, who signed Quinnell's eviction notice, the court heard.
Mugabe swore in his cabinet ministers three months later, in August 2002.
State lawyer Loyce Matanda-Moyo however argued that as Mugabe was an incumbent, the ministers' swearing in was not needed to make the cabinet effective.
"The mere fact that they [Quinnell's lawyers] sued them as ministers means they recognised them as ministers," she said.
Farmers who lost their land under the land reform programme were notified of the government's intention to acquire their farms two years before receiving an eviction order, she argued.
Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku reserved judgement, saying the court needed time to consider submissions made. - Sapa-AFP
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