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  • Christine Chumbler
    Hospitals & Drug Supplies The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe) July 12, 2004 Posted to the web July 12, 2004 Lilongwe The new State President, Dr. Bingu wa
    Message 1 of 1046 , Jul 13 6:18 AM
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      Hospitals & Drug Supplies

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      July 12, 2004
      Posted to the web July 12, 2004

      Lilongwe

      The new State President, Dr. Bingu wa Mutharika spoke in Parliament and made his State of the Nation address that recognised the importance of addressing the health of the nation. He indicated that improved health for the nation must be an essential basis for sound economic development.

      'I would like to draw attention of the House to the need for us to look at the provisions of Primary Health Care as a priority but also to try and prevent readily preventable diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis as well as other related diseases.' He said adding: 'Consequently, substantial resources will be needed for our health services to turn the situation around.' In his response to the address, John Tembo, leader of the opposition in the House said the president's speech was a mere wish list, empty rhetoric and does not prescribe a way forward.


      Unless the problems of the supply of drugs and the management of the process of supply are addressed, the president will not meet the needs nor address the problems faced by the nation.

      Street Vending Encourages Pilferage of Drugs in Malawi 'Policing insufficient to deter practice'

      After investigating the weaknesses in the drug supply chain at health centre, district hospital and referral hospital levels several officials were interviewed from different departments at the Ministry of Health Headquarters. Godfrey Kadewere - Controller of the Central Medical Stores, Albert Khuwi - Deputy Director of Health Medical Supplies Services, Dr.

      Michael O'Carrol - Senior Advisor to the Minister of Health and Dr. Westly Sangala - Chief Technical Advisor agreed to contribute to the findings. All these officials admitted that the drug supply system in the public sector in Malawi urgently needed to undergo serious reforms since pilferage of drugs is rampant.

      Speaking first, Mike O'Carrol who said that like many other third world countries in the world, Malawi's health sector is quite weak, especially in the area of drugs management. He said that this has, on separate occasions, been publicly admitted by several officials such as Dr. Matthews Chikaonda, (former Minister of Finance), Hon. Aleke Banda (former Minister of Health), Hon. John Tembo (Leader of Opposition in Parliament) and even the then Head of State, Dr. Bakili Muluzi.

      'You see,' said O'Carrol, 'I am aware of the fact that some people claim that 50% of the drugs that leave the Central Medical Stores don't arrive at the intended beneficiaries in the rural areas. I am yet to find out if this is a true picture of what the situation really is on the ground. All I know is that there is some drug pilferage at the grassroots levels of the drug distribution chain in the country. What I am pretty sure of is that at both procurement and storage stages Malawi has one of the most efficient drug management systems in this part of the world.' When asked to give possible reasons for the loopholes in the system, O'Carrol said the increasing disease conditions - mainly due to HIV/AIDS as one of the major reasons. He said that there were eleven disease conditions that the country, Ministry of Health and Population to be specific, has to wrestle with. He went on to say that HIV/AIDS has added an extra burden on the ministry as the lead health service provider in the country.

      'Over 70% of the patients admitted in hospitals at any health centre or district hospital are suffering from an HIV/AIDS related illness. Then there is the shortage of personnel, transport services, pressure from private operators, poor remuneration and general indiscipline among the current crop of medical staff. Look at it this way: for every surgeon in the country there are 56,000 people while the World Health Organization recommends 12,000. Out of 1,500 vacancies of clinical officers and medical assistants only 391 have been filled and out of 175 vacancies of nurses only 91 have been filled.

      'On average in every week the ministry loses 4 to 5 nurses either due to death or resignation. Many of them go to South Africa, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, UK or Australia. This means that the ministry is generally working at half capacity. This explains why health centres and district hospitals are understaffed. The few people that are in hospitals work long hours and it becomes difficult for some of them to make proper follow-ups on drug issues.' Dr. O'Carrol also brought up the issue of security in his explanation for drug pilferage in health facilities. He was of the view that the police have been grossly under-utilised in tracking down drug malpractice. He said that in most countries in the world the police make sure that public resources like drugs are well protected. 'How does one explain the big business in drugs taking place at Blantyre Stands and Market? Should we say that no one in the police knows about it? I don't believe it,' O'Carrol declared wryly.

      Several observations may provide an answer to Dr. O'Carrol's questions. To start with, the organization that is constitutionally mandated to regulate the medical drug services in the country, the Pharmacy, Medicines and Poisons Board (PMPB) is grossly understaffed. To discharge its drug inspection function the PMPB has only three inspectors at its disposal.

      This puts the ratio at one inspector for every 4 million people. The issue is further compounded by the fact that it is a requirement that one inspector cannot carry out an inspection alone. They always have to be two on an inspection errand. This makes the pace of inspections slow because the remaining one inspector cannot carry out inspections alone when two inspectors are out on a mission. Further, the three inspectors only have one vehicle to use in conducting inspections in the whole country.

      'It is frustrating,' confesses Rex Nkhoma, one of the three PMPB inspectors.

      'Many times we fail to conduct investigations due to a lack of transport especially when the car has broken down or it is being serviced.' As far as the Malawi Police Service is concerned, most of the policemen do not bother to track down medical drug malpractice although the service has a Drug Control Unit, which is headquartered in Zomba. Ironically, the rest of the police force do not consider it their task to fight street medical drug trafficking.

      According to Nkhoma of PMPB this control unit, however, mainly focuses its activities on illegal drugs such as cannabis sativa (chamba or Indian hemp), mandrax and heroine thus neglecting the medical drugs. 'Whenever we need them to jointly work with us in carrying out specific investigations,' Nkhoma says, 'we have to provide them with transport and allowances. Of course, some of them indeed do help us a lot. They help us track down drug vendors and inform us of any arrests made in connection with drug trafficking. However, more needs to be done.' Beyond the problem of a lack of resources, there is a general lack of commitment to tracking down illegal drug dealers in the country. 'Whenever an offender is convicted in a court of law,' complains Nkhoma, 'the fine is ridiculously low, especially when one compares it with the money the offender makes after selling one batch of drugs. It is not surprising to see a convicted drug dealer back on the street the next day. How do you expect those of us who are enforcing the law to keep our fighting spirit?' Other culprits in the failure to curb the thriving street medical drug business in Malawi are the local assemblies. They are mandated to authorize, supervise and inspect all market activities in their area of jurisdiction. However, during visits, that Blantyre City Assembly collects revenue from the vendors who sell drugs at the Blantyre Stands, at Lunzu and Limbe Stands. 'How do you expect an assembly that collects market fees from people like these to go on the streets and rid them of illegal traders?' wondered Nkhoma. 'Of course we hear that sometimes the assemblies discourage local communities from buying drugs from these vendors. But despite being aware of this illegal trade and its obvious consequences people living around these markets continue to buy drugs thereby getting the vendors to maintain their illegal business. The only way out of this mess is for the Ministry of Trade and Industry to bring offenders to book each time they are found dealing in drugs.

      Another highly placed official interviewed at the Ministry of Health Headquarters is former Secretary of Health who is now Chief Technical Advisor, Dr. Sangala. In the course of our investigation many people advised us to meet this experienced public health technocrat. At the beginning of our discussion with him our interviewee dramatically spent the first few minutes quizzing us on our findings during our three-months tour to various health facilities and institutions with questions like: What have you found out so far? How do the health centres procure drugs? How about the district hospitals? What documents did you find there? When he became convinced that we had done our homework he opened up.

      After informing him that the major problems we had found at the health facilities were: deliberate neglect to follow prescribed procedures by hospital managers; absence of checks and balances; deficient record keeping and lack of supervision and inspection - Dr. Sangala immediately admitted that our assessment was correct.

      'What you are describing is very true. You see,' continued Sangala, 'the best way to steal drugs from the health system is to do away with documentation. These people avoid procedures that are clearly written down so that they can defeat any efforts to deal with their indiscipline. We at the ministry are aware of the fact that medical drugs are being stolen from government health facilities in the country.' He said that he knew very well that it was medical assistants and clinical officers who stole drugs from health centres. 'What most of them do is neglect the systems that were put together to regulate procurement, storage, checks and balances and the dispensing of drugs.' When asked whether government was doing anything to solve these problems he said: 'Yes, we are.

      As you might have already observed during your visits at the health centres you must have already heard that we no longer deliver drugs through the district hospitals. Since August 2003 we are distributing these drugs straight to the Health Centres in the Southern Region. Since 1st November 2003 the system has been extended to the Central and Northern Regions.

      'This new system will also enable the ministry to have a fair understanding of the level of drug consumption at each and every health centre in the country. This way, planning will become much easier.' After surveying the situation at the grassroots level, it is very obvious that changing systems on paper in the Ministry of Health is one thing but operationalizing the changes is quite another. As it can be seen from the previous parts of the story, the situation on the ground has not improved at all and a more through monitoring and control mechanism needs to be put in place, possibly with greater focus on open prosecution for offenders. Unless the entire police service becomes involved in deterring malpractice, it will continue to escalate. continued in next issue

      *****

      Malawi Signs Up .... Eventually, Under Mutharika - Agreeing to Be Reviewed

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      July 12, 2004
      Posted to the web July 12, 2004

      Robert Jamieson
      Lilongwe

      Economic and Human Rights groups as well as political activists have welcomed the move by Malawi to be subject to the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) which took place at the African Union (AU) summit in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa last week. Five countries, among them Malawi have subscribed to the much heralded APRM which rates their performance on everything from human rights to economic transparency, bringing the number of signed up countries to 23.

      The first countries to sign up to be reviewed on good governance, democracy, human rights, transparency and their domestic business environment were Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda and Mauritius. Malawi, under President Bakili Muluzi was unwilling to accede to any probe on it's activities.

      State President Bingu wa Mutharika was one of the 38 leaders who attended the meeting where they have set themselves an enormous challenge for Africa.

      The continents gross domestic product (GDP) is dwarfed by its debt. More than 40 percent of Africa's 830 million people live on less than $1 a day and hunger and AIDS are widespread. About 6,500 Africans die each day of AIDS, while 200 million others faced chronic hunger.

      Africa accounts for just 1 percent of foreign direct investment, 1 percent of world GDP and 2 percent of world trade, which has also been declining steadily. Member states have paid up only $13 million of the AU's $43 million annual budget this year. Seven countries face AU sanctions for nonpayment of AU dues, thereby losing their voting rights.

      Meanwhile, the AU's home-grown economic rescue plan, the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) will cost a staggering $64 billion a year.

      Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, the new AU Chairperson said the chances of many African nations meeting the 2015 anti-poverty targets, known as the Millennium Development Goals, were slim. He said that without the support of the international community, the AU would have to struggle, just as did its predecessor, the Organisation of African Unity (OAU).

      The cash-strapped OAU was widely criticised for failing to address crises on the continent, and leaders are keen not to see the AU go the same way.

      But Obasanjo also pointed to a litany of unkept promises by rich nations, and argued that they too, and not just African countries, should be placed under the spotlight.

      The purpose of the APRM that Malawi has now acceded to is to foster the adoption of appropriate laws, policies, standards and practices that lead to political stability, high economic growth and sustainable development in each country, Additionally this home grown mechanism seeks to foster confidence in the African leaders' ability to govern so as to encourage support from the international community.

      After a country signs up, the APRM secretariat prepares a background document on the country, which is sent back for comment and input.

      Following the completion of the background process, an APRM delegation makes a visit to assess the situation on the ground. The country then establishes a national team to interact with the APRM secretariat. Ghana, which is currently being reviewed, has included members of civil society, the media and the business community in its team who are essentially driving the process.

      If any shortcomings are identified in the review process, assistance would be provided to the country to overcome them. The mechanism helps countries to achieve certain standards to make them attractive to investors. If any country shows a lack of political will to reform, then as a very last resort they get reported to the Heads of the other (AU) member states Since 2001, Malawi has had most of its bilateral and budgetary support largely suspended with the IMF and the World Bank refusing to fully reinstate the nation's funding to pre 2000 levels.

      Britain, Malawi's largest development partner as well as the U.S., Germany, the Nordic countries and EU states have continued, for some years now to insist that the high levels of corruption be tackled and that the management of public funds and assets be improved to remove over-expenditure.

      President Mutharika's move to be exposed to scrutiny augers well for Malawi whose development index and poverty levels have plummeted largely due to a lack of political will by previous leaders.

      *****

      Zimbabwe 'returning to stone age'

      The introduction of ox-drawn ambulances is a sign that President Robert Mugabe is taking Zimbabwe back to the stone ages, the opposition says.
      The nine ambulances are destined for rural areas around the capital, Harare, as well as more remote regions, where there is a lack of motorised transport.

      "Our neighbours are getting state-of-the-art services, while we are going backwards," an opposition official said.

      Zimbabwe's health minister said the new ambulances would save many lives.


      Zimbabwe is in the midst of an economic crisis, with annual inflation running at more than 400%, unemployment of some 70% and shortages of foreign currency.

      One health official told a South African newspaper that in many state-run hospitals, Panadol is the only available drug.

      "An ambulance will thus be a big luxury," he told the Johannesburg Star.

      'Worried'

      Pregnant women and children will be given priority on the ox-drawn carts, said Health Minister David Parirenyatwa.

      He urged the village leaders responsible for the ambulances to look after them and guard them against abuse.

      "We are going back to the stone ages," Movement for Democratic Change spokesman Paul Themba Nyathi told BBC News Online.

      Rural communities have long used donkey-drawn carts to take the sick to health clinics "but when this is the official, state-provided service, you have to be worried," he said.

      However, one international health official told BBC News Online that it was unfair to blame the government entirely for the crisis in the health system.

      "Aids and structural adjustment policies, which led to the introduction of users fees also played a part," she said.

      She added that the ox-drawn ambulances were the "appropriate technology" for remote rural areas, where people may not be able to access fuel or spare parts for motor vehicles.

      Distant clinics

      The ox-drawn ambulances were donated by the United Nations Children's Fund, Unicef, following a request from the Zimbabwe government.

      Maternal mortality has increased from 283 per 100,000 live births in 1994 to 695 per 100,000 births in 1999.

      "The gains made over the last 20 years to address maternal mortality, especially to provide emergency obstetric care services, are at risk of being lost," said Dr Juan Ortiz, Chief of the Health, Nutrition and Environment Section at Unicef.

      "We know that most of the complications related to childbirth are preventable if obstetric services are available, especially in remote areas," he said.

      Unicef officials say that the ambulances could indeed save many lives as Zimbabwe's rural women live an average of 10km from the nearest health facility.

      *****

      A Farm Disaster of a Different Color
      Mugabe's Land-Seizure Campaign Leaves a Black-Owned Business in Ruin

      By Craig Timberg
      Washington Post Foreign Service
      Tuesday, July 13, 2004; Page A10


      ODZI, Zimbabwe -- Where rows of sweet corn once grew, there are now brown and dead stalks. Where beans once sprouted, there are weeds. And where 5,000 Zimbabweans long made a good living off the land, there is hunger.

      Similar scenes are common on farms, most previously owned by white Zimbabweans, across this southern African nation after four years of violent land seizures under President Robert Mugabe. What is different about the Kondozi farm is that the owner of the business that was confiscated is black.

      Edwin Moyo, who owned 52 percent of Kondozi, thrived at what was traditionally a white man's business in this former British colony, running a horticultural company that stocked vegetable bins throughout Britain and brought in $15 million a year to this poor corner of a poor nation.

      But under a farm seizure program Mugabe has said was necessary to redistribute the ownership of land, Moyo's business met the same ruin as those owned by thousands of whites. On Good Friday, in April, dozens of police arrived with water cannons and submachine guns, Moyo said, and blocked off the road, looted the offices and beat anyone who sought to resist.

      "This is something I wanted to do as a black man . . . so I could look after other people," said Moyo, 46, who owns several other business interests in Zimbabwe.

      In an interview, Moyo did not blame Mugabe or his ruling ZANU-PF party, which controls most aspects of the national economy. Instead, Moyo vaguely accused "certain greedy individuals," whom he did not name, of taking Kondozi.

      But former employees of the farm, opposition leaders and independent journalists say Kondozi represents the reality of land reform in Zimbabwe, where there are few, if any, checks on government power and those who wield it.

      Moyo's former employees, most of whom are still out of work, said a group of top government officials who live in the area coveted Kondozi for themselves and were eager to punish independent farmers, seeing them as the financial base for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change.

      The toll has been high for thousands of workers, their families and the region. One former employee, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of government retribution, said he had lost income equal to $100 a month -- a good wage in Zimbabwe -- plus housing and living expenses.

      "Now it's disaster," he said. "I've got nothing right now."

      Twenty-two farmers, most of whom are black and who sold beans, corn, melons and other crops under contract to Kondozi, also lost their livelihoods. Hundreds of other workers were employed by these smaller farms, many of which have stopped producing.

      The attack was even more startling to those here because the High Court of Zimbabwe had ruled in February that the government could not take Kondozi.

      The government, in newspapers it owns, has repeatedly portrayed the seizure of Kondozi as an unvarnished success of land reform and contended that the farm has resumed its earlier productivity.

      But a recent visit showed that on Kondozi's 550 acres, only a few fields still had crops, and those were stunted and immature. Most fields were overgrown with weeds, including an inedible reddish plant that Zimbabweans call "witch's wheat."

      Mayor Misheck Kagurabadza of nearby Mutare, Zimbabwe's third-largest city, about 25 miles from Kondozi, said suffering in the area had been widespread since the farm was seized.

      Former workers and their families come to the mayor's office looking for help buying food, or a few dollars to pay school fees for their children. The situation is worse in the rural areas, the mayor said, because the prospects for work are slimmer there.

      "People who used to work in that area, they are really in trouble," said Kagurabadza, a member of the Movement for Democratic Change.

      Since Zimbabwean authorities began seizing land in 2000, they have taken thousands of farms, often by threatening and attacking farmers and their families.

      The government has said the farms will remain the property of the state, but leases of 99 years have been given to members of the political elite. Some cabinet members have received several farms each, a development that even Mugabe has criticized.

      "A man can have as many wives as he wants as long as he can look after them," Mugabe said last week in Harare, the capital. "Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about farms."

      The former farm owners, most of whom are white, in many cases have fled to Britain, Australia or over the border to Zambia, where the agricultural industry is suddenly booming.

      The former farm workers, almost all of whom are black, often have been left destitute because new managers often lack expertise, training and equipment. In the process, Zimbabwe has been transformed from a nation that was known as southern Africa's breadbasket into a country where hunger is common.

      In April, the same month Kondozi was seized, the U.N. World Food Program reported feeding 4.5 million Zimbabweans, roughly one-third of the nation's population. Millions of citizens have fled to South Africa and other countries in search of work and food.

      Two decades after white rule ended in 1980, most of the country's best farmland had belonged to several thousand white farmers. Although many Zimbabweans said they were uneasy about the ruthlessness used to seize the farms and were troubled by the hunger that resulted, there initially was support for the idea of reclaiming the most fertile land from the descendants of colonizers.

      But the takeover of Kondozi provoked a reaction different from that regarding earlier farm seizures. Many Zimbabweans were puzzled over how the government could take a business that was owned by a black man, employed so many people and generated so much precious foreign currency.

      In defending the takeover, despite the High Court's ruling in February, officials pointed out that although Moyo was majority owner of the business, a white family owned the land.

      Yet even within Mugabe's party, the seizure provoked outrage so intense it caused a rare public fracture. Vice President Joseph Msika, who oversees land redistribution for Mugabe, sought to block the takeover.

      But in an interview with the Zimbabwe Independent in May, Msika said he had no choice but to back away from the issue after discussing it with Mugabe. In the same interview, Msika blamed the farm seizure on "immoral little boys" whom he did not name.

      "More people must be included in the ownership of the concerns, but not through violent and barbaric ways," Msika told the weekly newspaper. "Personally, as the chairman of the land task force, I wouldn't accept having the army and police descending on farms to forcibly evict owners, farm workers or peasants. Such actions cast a bad image on the land issue that has been a success generally."

      As Kondozi's workers struggle, Moyo said he has moved on. He has written off the debt from the farm and turned his attention to a processing plant he bought in Zambia. It employs 9,000 people, a success that is bittersweet for Moyo, who said he would rather see those jobs in Zimbabwe, at Kondozi.

      But, he said: "It is over and done with. This farm is gone. There's nothing to be done."


      *****

      Hope out of pain: Botswana's Aids story


      By Alastair Leithead
      BBC correspondent in Botswana

      For the last few years Botswana has been known as the country with the highest rate of HIV/Aids in the world.

      And even though Swaziland has now overtaken the diamond-rich nation as "world's worst", the pandemic in Botswana is still cutting a swathe through families and making orphans of thousands of children.


      Drug cocktail: Botswana offers free treatment

      Almost 40% of sexually active adults are HIV-positive in Botswana, but at this week's International Aids conference in Bangkok, the message will be one of success and achievement.

      Botswana is addressing the problem, and treating people who are HIV-positive.

      The government promises anyone who needs the drugs, which stop HIV deteriorating into Aids, can have them, free of charge.

      And so far more than 20,000 people in Botswana are being kept alive by the cocktail of life-saving anti-retroviral drugs.

      It is the most advanced programme in Africa.

      Saving lives

      Patients pack into the clinic in Serowe in central Botswana to pick up their month's supply of antiretroviral drugs.

      The biggest HIV clinic in the world is in the capital, Gaborone, but even in rural parts of this huge but thinly- populated country, the drugs are getting to the people. People were assuming that if they had seen a doctor, the doctor would have told them if they had Aids. They presumed they had been tested

      Dawn Mokgautsi was one of the first people in the country to start antiretroviral drug therapy two years ago.


      Her husband took ill and was declared HIV-positive. She volunteered to be tested and also had the virus, but because of the pills she has never been ill from it.

      "It really changed our lives because now we know where we are," she said, showing me her daily dose of pills.

      "I would encourage people to go for a test while they are still fit. If you are sick, the doctors have to deal with the opportunistic infections which you have got and that also takes time."

      Changing minds

      There is a lot of American funding and expertise here, but the government foots most of the bill.

      Harvard doctor and public health specialist Ernest Darkoh runs the national antiretroviral programme and he was surprised how long it took to get people involved.

      They were just not coming forward when they were well, and did not really want to know their status.

      "In slightly over two years we have started treating more than 20% of the people who need anti-retroviral therapy," he said, explaining that now the results of treatment are being seen in the community, more are coming forward.

      "People were assuming that if they had seen a doctor, the doctor would have told them if they had Aids. They presumed they had been tested."

      So the government decided to change the system. People are now routinely tested for HIV.

      "No-one gets upset if you have your blood pressure tested at the hospital or your weight taken, because they do it to everyone."

      Tackling stigma

      But this routine testing is something new; it goes against the international advice on dealing with the pandemic.

      The national Aids co-ordinator, Dr Banu Khan, says stigma is still a problem.

      She challenges the international guidelines and blames them for creating the problem.

      "I think we created the stigma," she said.

      "Sex and sexuality brings about its own stigma and social taboos, but it was the way HIV/Aids was handled that did it.

      "The international guidelines from the World Health Organization and others told us to deal with it in strict confidentiality, and it became a different way of dealing with a communicable disease.

      "Now we are trying to undo that stigma and make it more routine and more like any other disease."

      There are still tens of thousands of people who need the drugs, and will continue to need them for the rest of their lives.

      The treatment programme in Botswana is a drop in the ocean, but it is expanding very quickly.

      It really is an example to the rest of the continent.

      And observers say it is the willingness of the government to open up and allow outsiders to come and help run its treatment programme that has led it along the right track, and set it apart from its neighbours.

      *****

      and the attached cartoon should bring back a memory or two.
    • 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
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        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.

        Crackdown

        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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