- Malawi's opposition turns down offer to join new govt
03 June 2004 12:37
Malawi's main opposition grouping said on Thursday it has rejected an offer from new President Bingu wa Mutharika to join his government in exchange for dropping a lawsuit challenging the outcome of the elections.
"Mutharika asked us to join the government on condition that we withdraw the elections case in which we are challenging the presidential election results in the high court," said a statement signed by the leaders of the seven-party Mgwirizano (Unity) Coalition, said.
Mutharika and former president Bakili Muluzi made the offer to the coalition's leader Gwanda Chakuamba during a meeting on Monday, according to the opposition.
"The move to join the government would be a betrayal of trust of the people who voted for us," the coalition statement said.
Official results released by the elections commission showed that Chakuamba won third place in the presidential election held on May 20, Malawi's third democratic poll since it won independence from Britain in 1964.
Chakuamba however declared himself the winner of the election before the results were announced, citing independent election observers who claimed that he had garnered the most votes.
Malawi's high court postponed hearings into the lawsuit on Wednesday to give the coalition time to amend its lawsuit asking the court to invalidate the May 20 elections and order that a new vote be held.
Lawyers of the coalition said on Wednesday they would not cite Mutharika in the lawsuit as he enjoys presidential immunity, but would instead target the attorney general as the representative of the State.
Mutharika has yet to announce his cabinet, which he promised would be small compared to that of his predecessor Muluzi, whose government had 46 ministers.
The coalition said it would consider a government of national unity if it were extended to all opposition political parties and "done in a transparent manner."
Election observers from the African Union, the Commonwealth and the European Union have all cited flaws in the vote, in particular concerning biased media coverage and use of government resources by the ruling party to its advantage during the campaign.
Mutharika (61) was chosen by Muluzi to be his successor as leader of the governing United Democratic Front (UDF).
Muluzi came to power in Malawi's first multi-party polls in 1994, replacing three decades of dictatorial rule by self-proclaimed president-for-life Kamuzu Banda. - Sapa-AFP
Malawi: New President Promises Wide-Ranging Reforms
This Day (Lagos)
June 2, 2004
Posted to the web June 2, 2004
Malawi's new president, Bingu wa Mutharika, sworn in May 24, has promised wide-ranging economic reforms that, he says, will turn the country around, reports the Mail and Guardian of South Africa. The list includes strict budgetary control, strengthening the National Audit Office, Accountant General and Anti-Corruption Bureau, and trimming the Cabinet from his predecessor's 46 members to a "small but effective one".
"I shall ensure strict investigation of politicians and public officers at all levels -- who are found in corruption, theft, mismanagement and abuse of power in all its forms," said the 71-year-old development economist.
Mutharika, who was hand-picked by his predecessor, Bakili Muluzi, to be presidential candidate of the ruling United Democratic Front (UDF), said his immediate priorities would be to implement public sector reforms aimed at instilling confidence in the civil service and to introduce private sector reforms, including reforms in agriculture, as one way of fighting chronic hunger.
He said Malawi was not poor, "but the people are", and his government would wage war against poverty.
Mutharika's tough speech was welcomed by many as a departure from the speeches Muluzi made while in office. But analysts believe that "Unless Mutharika rises above party politics, he will not be able to implement any major changes in his five-year-term," said Nixon Khembo, a political scientist at Chancellor College.
The 2002 United Nations Development Programme report shows that Malawians have been made poorer than they were before Muluzi came to power in 1994.
Malawi has several corruption cases pending; some of them unresolved for more than six years, analysts say because they involve politicians and other important people. Corruption is one problem, but there is another that Mutharika will have to solve: poverty. About 65 per cent of the 12-million Malawians live below the poverty line.
Khembo said Mutharika was considered an outsider by many UDF supporters. He knew that if he prosecuted people like Muluzi for corruption he would be committing a political crime.
"I personally do not see any significant changes in Mutharika's administration. Maybe the style of leadership might change. Muluzi and Mutharika come from different backgrounds," said Edge Kanyongole, a constitutional lawyer.
Mutharika is well aware that under Muluzi donor communities and the International Monetary Fund lost confidence in the country because of corruption, government over-expenditure, abuse of human rights and lack of accountability and transparency in the government, and withheld support.
Muluzi also gave out cash to people at political rallies, a move which was heavily criticised by donors and civil society.
As the new president starts his work, he has much to do to make Malawi, one of the poorest nations in the world, sustain itself economically.
But for the moment, Malawians are waiting to see if Mutharika will be different from Muluzi, who failed to implement the promises he made while in office.
Zimbabwe imports maize despite 'bumper' harvest
03 June 2004 09:28
The Zimbabwe government, which has said it has produced enough grain to feed its people, is importing millions of dollars worth of the staple maize grain, a local privately owned paper said on Wednesday.
"Yes, we are importing maize," Samuel Muvhuti, the acting chief executive officer of the country's sole state-owned grain marketer, the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) told the Daily Mirror.
The government last month said the country, under its new land reform exercise, had produced 2,4-million tons of the staple corn, exceeding the country's annual requirements of about two million tons.
It told donors it would not require any food aid this year and suspended a UN-led food assessment exercise.
But Muvhuti said the government had struck a deal with a US-based company, Sentry Financial International, for the import of $46-million worth of grain.
"Government, in fact, has gone into a deal with the US company to source food for us and the food is intended to feed the nation during the time the farmers would be harvesting," Muvhuti was quoted as saying.
Farmers are currently harvesting grain produced in the just ended growing season.
The paper cites a letter from a local bank, mediating between the GMB and Sentry, offering $80-million credit for the importation of grain.
Zimbabwe, which has over the past three years depended on food aid and imports, announced last month it would not require assistance from international donors this year and neither would it need food imports.
It has forecasted that some 2,4-million tons of the staple corn, which surpasses the national annual requirements of between 1,8-million and two million tons, would be produced.
The opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) described the government's crop prediction as "absurd" and meant to win votes ahead of next year's parliamentary elections.
President Robert Mugabe in a recent interview said there were other countries that needed food aid more than Zimbabwe.
"We are not hungry. It should go to hungrier people, hungrier countries than ourselves," Mugabe said in an interview with British's Sky television.
"Why foist this food upon us? We don't want to be choked," he said. - Sapa-AFP
Schools spring up on farms in Zimbabwe
Susan Njanji | Chegutu
03 June 2004 08:18
Hundreds of schools have sprung up in Zimbabwe's former white farmlands but many of the black children they are meant to educate are not turning up at classes.
At the Laforte school in Chegutu, located about 140km west of Harare, three quarters of the 116 children have not paid the fees imposed by the government to cover education costs.
Their parents -- peasant farmers who have taken over former white-owned commercial farms -- cannot pay the fee of Z$5 000 (94 US cents) per term.
"We don't have any textbooks, not even one," said a teacher who refused to give her name for fear of losing her job. "I have to go back to town, borrow books from friends so that I can plan for my lessons".
"It's very demoralising having to teach under such conditions."
"Pupils cannot even afford to bring a piece of scrap paper on which to write," said another teacher.
The school opened a year and a half ago and has been dubbed a satellite school by authorities because it does not yet qualify to be registered as a normal learning institute.
Temporarily set up in a block of formerly farm workers' houses, only one of the classes at Laforte school has benches and desks.
The local farmers contributed funds to buy the furniture.
The rest of the pupils sit on a cold cement concrete floor, some after having walked for up to five kilometres from home to get to class. Some who show up for class but have not paid the fees are turned away.
"We have had to send them away to get the school fees because as we speak we do not even have a single chalk to write with on the board," said one teacher.
"Sometimes we are forced to improvise and use charcoal to write on the board, but it is difficult to erase," he said.
Most of the children do not have shoes nor jerseys.
The school serves children from four former large commercial farms that have now been sub-divided for scores of blacks farmers.
It is one of the estimated 700 schools that have sprung up in Zimbabwe's newly resettled farming areas since the country launched its controversial land reforms in 2000 that saw thousands of white-owned farms seized and given to blacks.
These children used to attend schools in either rural areas or urban areas, depending on where their parents were settled before being allocated land in the former commercial farms.
By the mid-nineties, 15 years into independence and black majority rule, Zimbabwe was close to realising its goal of education for all. Then primary education was free and compulsory at government schools. But now the gains have been reversed, according to figures released by the UN Children's Fund (Unicef).
Primary school enrollment had improved from 82% in 1984 to 90% in 2000, but in the last three years it has slumped back to 65%.
"The introduction of fees and levies in the 1990s and the current humanitarian crisis countered the positive effects of... free education," said Unicef communications officer in Zimbabwe Shanta Bloemen.
The education ministry did not respond to questions on the government's plans for satellite schools and the general state of education in the southern African country.
School fees and levies were introduced to help develop schools amid inadequate funding from the state.
Education in Zimbabwe has also been adversely affected by a brain drain spurned by dire economic conditions which have forced many skilled teachers to leave the country.
The impact of HIV/Aids has also left many children without adequate teachers. Approximately one in every four of the 104 000 teachers are infected by HIV/Aids in Zimbabwe. - 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