- BBC has a photo gallery of a man living with AIDS in Malawi
Sunshine City goes dark
Ryan Truscott | Harare, Zimbabwe
15 July 2004 12:59
Living in the Zimbabwean capital, Harare, is getting harder as weary
residents battle with frequent power cuts, water shortages and the
ever-rising prices of basic goods.
Harare once boasted the nickname "Sunshine City" but in the depths of a
Zimbabwean winter, it's looking less and less that way for all
residents, regardless of their income levels.
Last week the state-run power utility, the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply
Authority (Zesa), announced it is introducing power cuts at peak periods
due to increased demand from the cold weather and Zimbabwe's inability
to find additional sources for power imports from outside the country.
Zimbabwe imports 30% of its power, much of it from neighbouring South
Africa, but has in the recent past reportedly had problems settling its
Coinciding with the power cuts, Zesa has started broadcasting
advertisements every half hour on state radio, proclaiming "Zesa: Power
to the people."
"While we sit in the dark with candles waiting for the power to come
back on and women stream out of the bush with firewood on their heads
because they can't afford electricity, the jingles go on and on and on,"
says Zimbabwe writer Cathy Buckle in her weekly commentary.
In several suburbs of the capital, streetlamps and house lights flicker
off at 6pm at night -- to be restored three hours later.
There are also cuts scheduled for three hours in the mornings.
"It's every night," moans one elderly resident of the relatively
well-heeled Avondale suburb, near Harare's main hospital.
"It was Thursday, Friday and then again at half-past six on Saturday,"
she complains. She adds that she keeps her bath "half full" to be ready
for water cuts -- usually advertised in the state-run Herald newspaper
and on public radio.
In June some suburbs had no water for almost three weeks. The
authorities blamed pump failures at the ageing Morton Jaffray water
plant, as well as a lack of crucial aluminium sulphate used to treat the
A so-called "water demand management system" was brought in. This meant
cutting off supplies to other suburbs for 24-hour periods.
Harare's opposition-led city council says it does not have the funds to
maintain infrastructure. But efforts to hike rates have been blocked by
Local Government Minister Ignatius Chombo, who has also dismissed
Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) mayor Elias Mudzuri.
A member of President Robert Mugabe's ruling party, Chombo last month
declared previously approved increases "unjustified" and ordered a
The Harare city council has only held two meetings in the past six
months, says Jameson Gadzirai of the Combined Harare Residents'
Association, leaving residents concerned that civic governance is being
frustrated by party politics.
"What the residents are feeling now is that council decisions are not
being implemented because of a broader agenda being pushed by the [local
government] ministry," Gadzirai says.
There are other concerns. Public hospitals in the city are faring
badly. The privately owned Standard reported this month that corpses at
Harare's Central hospital are being rolled down the stairs from wards to
the mortuary because there is no money to repair the lifts.
Health delivery has been one of the biggest casualties of Zimbabwe's
four-year old economic downturn. Cases of kwashiorkor -- a sometimes
fatal illness usually associated with times of war and famine -- have
At least 621 were treated last year in the city's clinics, according to
a report by the council's director of health, Lovemore Mbengeranwa.
Price hikes too are a worry. Although inflation rates have fallen, from
more than 600% at the end of last year to just less than 400%, prices of
foodstuffs and many basic goods continue to rise.
Faced with an outcry, the country's energetic Reserve Bank Governor
Gideon Gono last week said that "the thinking that prices ought to come
down because inflation is coming down is fallacious", the state-run
Ziana agency reported.
Gono told the conference that prices should still be going up by about
6%. But his figures do not square with prices on shop shelves: bread has
more than doubled in two months from about Z$1 200 a loaf to Z$2 900.
Meanwhile fuel queues resurfaced last week. A wearying fact of life for
many Zimbabwean drivers over the past three years, the queues seemed to
have disappeared after the authorities removed price controls.
State radio said last week's queues were due to "logistical" problems
in fuel distribution. -- Sapa-AFP
- Malawian leader to boot out MPs
Malawi's newly-elected president has ordered parliament to move to a
bombed-out sports complex so he can make it his official residence.
Bingu wa Mutharika said he wanted to move from his Blantyre residence
to the capital, Lilongwe, as part of attempts to streamline government
But the opposition said the decision ran against his promises to cut
Parliament has 300 rooms and its own school and supermarket.
New State House was originally built as a presidential palace at a cost
of $100m by a former president, Hastings Kamuzu Banda, but he only
stayed in the house for 90 days.
Parliament moved into the site in 1995.
"The president needs enough room," said Ken Zikhale Ng'oma the
president's chief of staff.
But Catherine Chisala, spokesperson for the Peoples Progressive
Movement, said they were unimpressed.
"It will be very expensive to renovate the Kamuzi Institute for Sports
into a habitable place and the New State House into a presidential
palace," she said.
The BBC's Raphael Tenthani in Malawi says that President Mutharika's
predecessor, Bakili Muluzi, who was criticised for excessive
over-expenditure, refused to occupy New State House, calling it an
The site of the proposed parliament was bombed by the army when it was
occupied by paramilitaries loyal to President Banda when he lost power
The Malawi Young Pioneers, as they were called, were suspected of
storing their arms in the building.
The sports complex remains in disrepair.
Malawi: Media Involved in Aids Information Dissemination
UN Integrated Regional Information Networks
July 21, 2004
Posted to the web July 21, 2004
Malawi's National AIDS Commission (NAC) and local media houses are
currently discussing how journalists can help implement the country's
national HIV/AIDS policy.
Launched earlier this year by former President Bakili Muluzi, the
policy aims to engage key institutions, like the media, in planning,
coordinating and ensuring common standards in response to the AIDS
Rita Chilolgozi, resident advisor of the policy project, said the main
aim of the NAC was to disseminate the HIV/AIDS policy.
"We need to use the media as a tool to help the people of Malawi
understand the issues. Writing documents that no one sees just isn't
enough. The media must be used as a channel through which to pass on the
message," a local newspaper, The Chronicle, quoted Chilolgozi as
- Development-Malawi: Rapid Urbanisation Looks Irreversible
Inter Press Service (Johannesburg)
July 27, 2004
Posted to the web July 27, 2004
Every morning, residents of Malawi's sprawling commercial hub, Blantyre
wake up to deafening noises as hundreds of thousands of people pour into
the city to try to make a living.
During peak hours, roads from townships leading to the city's main
streets become clogged with traffic that range from minibuses, trucks,
bicycles and a sea of pedestrians.
Road accidents are common and vary from five to ten a day in the city,
according to the police.
Back in the 1980s, peak hours in Blantyre hardly resulted in traffic
jams unless, of course, if the convoy of the late dictator Hastings
Kamuzu Banda was passing-by and roads had to be cordoned off by order.
Now Blantyre's landscapes are changing. The latest United Nations
Centre for Human Settlement (UNCHS) study on urbanisation shows that the
city of Blantyre and other trading centres in the northern and central
regions of Malawi are becoming noisier, thanks to rapid urbanisation.
The study, which was released this month, says Malawi, a tiny,
landlocked and impoverished southern African nation of about 13 million
has emerged as the fastest urbanising country in the world with an urban
population growth of 6.3 percent, compared to 0.5 percent in rural
According to the study, three million people now live in urban areas
compared to 260,000 in 1966, something which represents a 25-percent
The study, which has tipped Malawi to score highly in urbanisation in
the next 15 years, concurs with an earlier study by the UK Department
for International Development (DFID) that 44 percent, or more than 5
million people would live in towns by 2015.
It says three-quarters of Malawi's population lives in the main urban
centres of Blantyre, Lilongwe, Mzuzu and Zomba.
The findings of the two studies prompted Malawian authorities and civil
society Tuesday to convene a meeting in the administrative capital,
Lilongwe to debate how to meet the challenges of urbanisation in the
next 15 years.
The stakeholders, meeting under the theme "Malawi is World Champion in
Urban Population Growth", admitted that urbanisation was the main
contributing factor to land and housing shortages, congestion, squatter
settlements, crime, HIV/AIDS infection and unemployment.
Malawi's economy depends on agriculture and shortages of land have in
recent years contributed to perennial food shortages, which refuse to
ease. In 2002, the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation
(FAO) and other aid agencies estimated that more than three million
Malawians needed emergency food. This year, the agencies have projected
that more than one million people will starve if food aid is not
Economists fear that the need to import the staple maize this year
could cause depreciation of kwacha as the country's foreign exchange
cover is low. Donors are withholding aid, citing fiscal indiscipline by
Apart from food insecurity, HIV/AIDS infection has emerged as the most
appalling crisis to hit the urban areas. Malawi's HIV infection
prevalence hovers at 14.7 percent, according to the latest UN Joint
Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) report.
Of the one million people infected, the Malawi National AIDs Commission
(NAC) estimates that 25 percent, or 250,000, are in urban areas compared
to 13 percent in the rural areas.
The commission estimates that AIDS has created about 600,000 orphans.
As a result, orphanages are now overwhelmed.
"Most of the orphans end up on the streets as beggars and grow up into
thugs," says Bertha Bonongwe of Chisomo Care Group, an orphanage at
Ndala Village in the outskirts of Blantyre.
City officials say urbanisation is also leading to squatter
settlements, which cause congestion and sanitation breakdowns. According
to UNCHS, 71 percent of residents in Blantyre live in squalid and
City officials blame utility companies for providing installations in
areas that are not fully developed.
"Installations such as water and electricity in underdeveloped places
attract people to go and settle in such areas," says Sophie Kalimba, the
chief executive of Blantyre City Assembly.
Masauko Ngwaluko, spokesperson for the Lilongwe Water Board, says
vandalism of plastic water pipes has been on a steady increase in recent
years. The pipes are used for making teapots and other domestic
appliances, which are on high demand in the city.
"We're losing about K650,000 (6,000 United States dollars) every month
to repair vandalised installations," he says, adding that such
disruptions were leading to failure by the board to provide
uninterrupted services to residents.
The country's sole power utility, the Electricity Supply Corporation of
Malawi (Escom), is also feeling the pinch of urbanization. Its
installations, such as transformers, are targeted by residents who
extract the oil for unknown use, it says.
Critics say Malawi has become poorer in the past 10 years of
re-introducing multiparty democracy. Before 1994, Malawi had been a
one-party state for more than 30 years under Banda. Over 65 percent of
the population now lives below the poverty line of one dollar a day,
according to the World Bank.
In April, a study by Khwima Nthara, an economist with Deloitte and
Touche firm revealed that Malawi's Gross National Income - that is
earned by individuals in a country - has fallen from 220 dollars in 1997
to 160 dollars now.
Economists and UN agencies believe poverty is the main driving force
behind the rural-urban migration in Malawi. "The influx of people from
rural areas is directly linked to increasingly harsh conditions many
families are facing in outlying areas of Malawi," says the UNCHS study.
To address the problems faced by the urban poor, the Secondary Centres
Development Project (SCDP) - a German funded project - is servicing
unplanned housing sites with access to clean water, drainages, roads and
processing land ownership certificates.
Charles Mkula, the projects' communication officer, says SCDP has
processed 8,900 title deeds for the poorest households in urban areas.
"Due to urbanisation, poverty is increasing in urban households with
homeless migrants living in slums not fit for human habitation," Mkula
Like it or hate it, rapid urbanisation looks irreversible in Malawi.
"Evidence shows urbanisation cannot be stopped whether by law, policy
or development projects targeting the poor. The best thing to do would
be to let public investment follow the people," argues Mtafu Zeleza
Manda of the Malawi Institute of Physical Planners (MIPP), which pools
the country's engineers, architects, and planners.
Malawi clerics caught canoodling
By Raphael Tenthani
BBC correspondent in Blantyre
A Catholic priest and nun have been arrested in Malawi for making love
in an airport car park.
The 43-year-old priest and 26-year-old nun were caught "in the act" in
a tinted saloon car parked at Lilongwe International Airport.
"It was a bizarre spectacle, the public alerted airport police after
noticing the car shaking in a funny way," police spokesman Kelvin Maigwa
told the BBC.
The pair is due before a magistrate in the capital, Lilongwe, on
Abandoning pastoral duties
When the police arrived, catching them in the act, the two were
promptly arrested and charged with indecent behaviour in a public place,
Mr Maigwa said.
They were detained overnight at a police station near the airport.
The charge is a misdemeanour and, if convicted, the pair may get away
with a small fine.
The two were first noticed by eye-witnesses as they parked the car and
wound up the tinted windows.
"We thought they could be rushing for a plane that was about to take
off but we were surprised that they never got out of the car," said a
After being arrested, the nun was allowed to put on her habit, Mr
The priest was dressed in civilian clothes, he said.
Zambia cracks down on hackers
Dickson Jere | Lusaka, Zambia
29 July 2004 13:58
Zambia's government is to present a tough Bill on cyber crime to
Parliament on Friday that will see convicted hackers and other offenders
face harsh sentences ranging from 15 to 25 years in jail.
The Computer Misuse and Crimes Bill enjoys strong backing from bankers
and the Computer Society of Zambia, a group of professionals promoting
computer use, who say hacking into dormant accounts has become a problem
in this poor Southern African country.
"We feel this law will help to deal with the increasing number of
electronic frauds and hacking especially in the financial sector," said
Milner Makuni, president of the Computer Society of Zambia.
The most famous cyber offence in Zambia was committed by a young
computer wizard who hacked the State House website and replaced the
picture of then president Frederick Chiluba with a cartoon.
He was arrested and charged with defaming the head of state but the
case failed to succeed because there was no law in Zambia that deals
with cyber crimes.
"The Bill, once passed, will help to deal with high-tech cyber crimes
that our current legal system cannot address," said Bob Samakai, a
Ministry of Communication permanent secretary.
But some cyber experts worry that the measure is likely to be abused by
the authorities to curb access to the internet.
"It is difficult to regulate the use of computers and internet because
we are dealing with a world wide web," said Brenda Zulu, a renowned
cyber journalist who specialises in online reporting.
She said the country should first develop a policy on information
communication technology (ICT) before rushing to enact legislation on
Currently, the Zambian government is seeking public input in its draft
ICT policy, which is yet to be adopted.
"This law is very vague and not necessary for Zambia at the moment,"
said Lloyd Himambo, an editor of Zambia's online newspaper The
He said regulating the use of computers will be a difficult undertaking
and wondered how such a law will be enforced in Zambia, a country where
computers are a preserve of the rich.
About one in 1 000 Zambians owns a computer, according to unofficial
The Computer Society of Zambia agrees that enforcing such a law will be
difficult, but pledged to help train police officers to understand cyber
"I think what people should be fighting for is to upgrade their
security features on their websites to deal with hacking but not to
criminalise it," said Zulu, adding that hacking a site can be done
outside Zambia, making it difficult to track the offenders.
A senior Zambian lawyer who has studied the Bill said it is an "import
of the British Act" and lacks local input.
"I think this law is very advanced for the Zambian society and
government should not rush it through Parliament before reaching
consensus," he said, on condition of anonymity. -- Sapa-AFP
- Malawi: Winter Maize Harvest in Doubt
UN Integrated Regional Information Networks
September 20, 2004
Posted to the web September 20, 2004
Malawi's winter harvest should ordinarily ease the country's existing
food shortage, but there is concern that the new crop could be affected
by poor summer rains.
The cultivation of winter crops starts soon after the main summer crop
has been harvested, usually around July, and takes place in areas where
there is residual moisture after the end of the rainy season, or farmers
have access to irrigation facilities.
Due to a poor summer harvest it is estimated that up to 1.6 million
people will require food assistance up to March 2005, but aid agencies
have noted that a bumper winter harvest could narrow the existing food
"In the past few years, the government of Malawi has been encouraging
winter crop production through various means, and this has resulted in a
steady production increase," the Famine Early Warning Systems Network
(FEWS NET) said in its latest country report.
However, the 2003/04 rainfall "was significantly worse than that of
2002/03, especially in the winter maize producing areas", FEWS NET
noted. "This poor rainfall would have resulted in relatively less
residual moisture and water availability, necessary preconditions for
winter crop production. The general expectation is that winter crop
production should be lower than last season, especially in the southern
region, which was the most hit by the dry spells and shortness of the
The National Statistics Office (NSO) has forecast a winter maize
harvest of around 225,000 mt, slightly higher than the previous year's
224,000 mt. However, FEWS NET said the NSO forecast was questionable,
given the poor rainfall this year.
"Although the coming winter harvest - around October to December -
would help improve the aggregate national food availability situation,
the improvements for smallholders in the southern region will be
short-lived, and a majority of the households will continue to rely on
the markets for food," FEWS NET commented.
But the rising cost of staples has limited household access to food.
"Prices have already started to rise, consistent with predictions of a
worse than normal [harvest] year ... continued prices increases will
adversely affect households' ability to purchase food," the report
It will take an estimated 56,000 mt to 83,000 mt of emergency food aid
to assist the rising number of households in need until the next
harvest, FEWS NET forecast.
Zimbabwe court drops paper case
A Zimbabwean court has dropped charges against four directors of the
banned Daily News newspaper.
The privately-owned paper was shut down a year ago by police under the
country's tough media laws.
The magistrate said there was insufficient evidence to show they had
published the paper illegally.
But the publication will stay off the news-stands pending a decision by
the Supreme Court on the constitutionality of the media legislation.
Zimbabwean and international rights groups have condemned the law,
which compels all journalists and newspapers to be accredited by a
government-appointed media commission.
Magistrate Lillian Kudya said the state failed to prove the paper
intentionally violated the law, as the paper had won court cases
granting the paper a licence, AFP news agency reported.
"We are free. We knew justice was going to prevail," said Samuel Nkomo,
the paper's chief executive after the ruling.
Launched five years ago, the Daily News was the country's sole
privately-owned daily paper and was a persistent critic of President
Robert Mugabe's government.
- Well that's not good news... let's hope that the colorful Autumn
leaves and Spring flowers brighten the moods of Malawi's disappointed
"Christine Chumbler" <cchumble@d...> wrote:
> Malawi: Winter Maize Harvest in Doubtexisting
> UN Integrated Regional Information Networks
> September 20, 2004
> Posted to the web September 20, 2004
> Malawi's winter harvest should ordinarily ease the country's
> food shortage, but there is concern that the new crop could beaffected
> by poor summer rains.