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Malawi news pt 3

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  • Christine Chumbler
    Fast Trackers Meet MCP The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe) August 15, 2004 Posted to the web August 16, 2004 Wezie Nyirongo Lilongwe Incensed by the surge of
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 27, 2004
      Fast Trackers Meet MCP

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      August 15, 2004
      Posted to the web August 16, 2004

      Wezie Nyirongo

      Incensed by the surge of resentment by both friend and foe alike, some
      members of the UDF Fast Track, a rebel grouping against President
      Mutharika's administration are alleged to have been meeting the
      opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) leader John Tembo to feed him
      information on how the United Democratic Front (UDF) manipulated the
      votes to assist them in the election court case.

      Sources from the two sides confided with The Chronicle that members of
      the Fast Trackers have been making arrangements to meet Tembo to form a
      strong network in an effort to give information which would be of
      importance to the election case.

      This follows disagreements among UDF members over party and state
      administration leading to the formation of the Fast Track grouping and
      another forum in defence of Mutharika's administration.

      When contacted for comment on the allegations Fast Track leader Dumbo
      Lemani described the allegations as baseless saying he has never met
      Tembo over the issue.

      I did not meet Tembo and will never meet him at any cost. I don't know
      anything about their court case and I have no information to give
      Tembo,' charged the outspoken Lemani while threatening to sue the paper
      if the story is published and avoiding the subject of the interview.

      Sources claim that the Fast Trackers want to work with Tembo in order
      to frustrate Mutharika. The president has not included many of Muluzi's
      acolytes and loyalists in his administration and this has caused
      divisions and resentment. Additionally Mutharika is accused of going too
      far with the separation of party and state and for letting his Chief of
      Staff Ken Ng'oma have too much say and Director of Public Prosecutions
      Ishmael Wadi loose on previously protected VIPs in the party. The
      President's actions have given some UDF loyalists who have pending
      corruption and fraud cases sleepless nights.

      Tembo could not be reached for comment as his cellphone was
      consistently out of reach but his vice president Nicholas Dausi said he
      was unaware of any talks taking place.

      He said that if the MCP need more evidence for their court case they
      would not obtain it through dubious means.

      'I am not aware of the meeting and I think it is not true. However it
      is unethical to get evidence through dubious means and its not a
      question of the party to be searching for evidence because there are
      numerous bits of evidence that we have,' said Dausi.

      Asked whether the party would get information from the Fast Trackers as
      evidence for their case, Dausi said: 'Since they haven't done so, it
      will be mere speculation for me to comment.' Another MCP source on
      condition of anonymity said that they would never accept information
      from the fast trackers as evidence because they know they are a
      disgruntled group of people who are just aiming to disgrace Mutharika
      who is doing a superb job, unlike Muluzi.

      Lemani defied Muluzi's order to slow down his rebel grouping,
      challenging that he will never stop or slow down because some people are
      making noise that he has a corruption case to answer in connection with
      the Petroleum Control Commission.

      A new development in the case found, on Friday last the former General
      Manager Denis Kambalame guilty of receiving gratification as a kick back
      of K3 million from a British firm. Kambalame has since been remanded
      into custody awaiting full sentencing.

      Lemani's fellow UDF executive members Friday Jumbe and Clement Stambuli
      distanced themselves from the Fast Track grouping when Lemani mentioned
      their names as some of the members of his Fast Track.

      In a related development, DPP Wadi has said he is to prosecute Lemani's
      constant companions Thom Chiumia and Ken Ndanga who were with the Fast
      Track originator and are accused of beating up Emmie Chanika, a human
      rights activist who works for CILIC in Blantyre.


      Mhrc Attacks Police

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      August 15, 2004
      Posted to the web August 16, 2004


      The Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) has demanded that the
      Mutharika administration overhaul the Malawi Police Service as a matter
      of urgency, saying the security body and its top leadership has failed
      to provide security and protect the human rights of Malawians without

      The demand is contained in one of MHRC's three reports made after
      investigations on violence that took place in some parts of the country
      during the campaign for the May 20th general elections.

      The Commission investigated the assault of human rights advocate, Emmie
      Chanika, and post election violence in Blantyre in May where Police used
      live bullets to quell demonstrations leading to the death of six people,
      including a 12 year girl.

      The Commission also carried out investigations into violence which
      erupted in Nsanje in April where the police shot dead two people as well
      as the violence which occurred in Kabula in Blantyre between MCP
      supporters and UDF Young Democrats.

      Section 130 of the Malawi Constitution empowers the MHRC to investigate
      and make recommendations on any human rights violations that it has

      On the assault on Civil Liberties Committee (CILIC) Executive Director
      Emmie Chanika, MHRC found that Dumbo Lemani had indeed provoked the
      situation when he insulted Chanika by calling her a prostitute at the
      COMESA hall.

      The report says when Chanika tried to respond, she was beaten by
      Lemani's assistants, Thom Chiumia, Ken Ndanga and Nyahoda, in full view
      of the police who did little to protect the hapless lady.

      'The assailants beat Chanika in the full presence of the police. The
      police told Chanika that they would only arrest the assailants if she
      gave the police her statement. Up to this day the assailants have not
      been arrested.

      They are walking freely," reads the Chanika report despite the human
      rights activist having submitted her statement.

      The Commission says the Police failed in its duty of protecting human
      rights and the safety of Malawians when it failed to arrest the people
      who assaulted Chanika.

      On the post-elections violence which occurred in Blantyre the
      Commission says it discovered that the Police used excessive force and
      disproportional force on controlling the demonstrators, a development
      which it says led to the killing and severe wounding of innocent

      In the report MHRC has recommended further investigations to ensure
      that individual Police officers who killed the six victims face the full
      force of the law and that those who authorised Police to use the
      excessive force should also be identified and disciplined.

      'The fact remains that several people died of bullet wounds and some
      got serious injuries. The Commission sees and concludes that this use of
      excessive and disproportional force by the Police is a violation of
      human rights. It has been noted that from the Finikiso Phiri fiasco two
      years ago (when an innocent bystander, a University of Malawi student
      was shot dead in cold blood by officers), the Police in this country
      have gone scot-free with murder," reads the report in part.

      The Commission recommends that government compensates families of those
      that died and got seriously injured in the incident.

      On the violence which took place in Nsanje the Commission has
      recommended the immediate prosecution of the police who took part in the
      beating of Felix Moses Chikoti and that government should compensate the
      relatives of Chikoti for the loss of his life.

      It has also recommended for an internal inquiry to find police officers
      who used live bullets in the Nsanje violence and that victims of the
      shooting by police be compensated.

      MHRC has also asked the police to arrest and prosecute perpetrators of
      the violence that occurred in Kabula between MCP supporters and UDF
      Young Democrats.

      ' These perpetrators are known to be supporters of the ruling UDF and
      are identifiable,' says the Commission.

      It says government should treat the reorganisation of the Malawi Police
      Service as a matter of urgency to get rid of instances where the Police
      have deliberately failed to arrest and prosecute perpetrators of
      violence because of the political affiliation of the perpetrators.


      Hospitals and the Drug Supply Situation

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      August 15, 2004
      Posted to the web August 16, 2004


      The issue of a continued shortage of essential drugs throughout the
      hospitals and medical centres in the country has highlighted a prime
      reason why Malawi needs to put in place safe' mechanisms for ensuring
      the supply chain is not interrupted in any way. For this to happen much
      needs to be acknowledged.

      In the past 10 years, the infrastructure that was put in place by the
      Banda regime and allowed for the proper monitoring of the process so
      that the awarding of contracts to supply drugs was done in an
      appropriate manner was deliberately and systematically eroded. This was
      done to allow for an unregulated committee to have sway in the
      procurement process The Central Tender Board that initially made final
      decisions on all procurement issues in the whole public sector was
      replaced by the Government Contracting-Out Unit which heralded a lot of
      political influence in the way contracts were awarded, largely by
      Cabinet ministers. This single decision has ensured that Malawians do
      not get an uninterrupted supply of drugs from the CMS in enough
      quantities and of good quality. [Part XIV continues]

      Executive Manipulation Blamed

      In the last investigative instalment of the 'Drugs in Hospitals' saga
      the report briefly exposed the findings of a controversial Word Bank
      document about the problems faced by the Central Medical Stores. This
      document shows that most of the weaknesses that were unveiled at the
      lower levels of the public drug distribution system are also present at
      the top - particularly the manner in which procurement of drugs is
      conducted by the CMS: 'Absence of clear and efficient procedures in
      selecting drug suppliers, poor bidding and contract awarding
      documentation, complicated processes of awarding procurement contracts,
      poor record keeping, absence of proper inventory system...' the report
      documents in part.

      One of the outspoken interviewees in the Ministry of Health and
      Population, Dr. Wesley Sangala, was quick to acknowledge; 'the best way
      to steal drugs at the grassroots level from the health system is to do
      away with documentation.' In other words, he was of the view that a lack
      of transparency and accountability in the public drug distribution chain
      allows people to make money out of the commodity in the country.

      Emboldened by the openness of Dr. Sangala, who is Senior Technical
      Advisor in this important ministry and also its former Principal
      Secretary, we bluntly asked him: 'Does your analysis only apply to the
      grassroots level or could it also be true with other players at higher
      levels of the drug supply chain such as the CMS and other government
      organs involved in procuring drugs for the public health system?' 'No, I
      would not say so,' answered Sangala, laughing wryly.

      'But are you satisfied with the way drugs are procured for public use
      in this country?' was the next question asked.

      'Of course there is a lot of interference in the drug procurement
      system in Malawi today because procurement is about money.

      'Let me say that things seem to be going in the right direction now
      that we have started implementing the Public Procurement Act. The Act
      looks quite comprehensive and very promising in curbing corruption in
      the public procurement system in the country. I personally am happy with

      However, only time will tell,' Sangala declared.

      Dr. Sangala was blunt when he said that the procurement process was
      full of corruption, particularly in the manner in which contracts were
      being awarded. He said that among other things contracts were largely
      given to people who did not have the capacity to deliver the drugs
      either in time or in the needed amounts. He was of the view that merit
      did not always count.

      'For your information, in the past there was, in this country what we
      called the Medical Buying Board. This was a body of professional people
      who looked at the price, the product and in the end it chose the
      supplier with the relevant capacity in a clear and transparent manner.
      But a few years ago this board received a new status and name. They
      changed the name from Medical Buying Board, which had powers to make
      final decisions on issues of drug procurement, to the Medical Buying
      Committee'. When this board was relegated to the status of a committee,
      it lost all its powers to make independent decisions on procurement. The
      body could no longer make final decisions - it could only make
      recommendations. Instead the Government Contracting-Out Unit was formed
      and took over the responsibility of choosing the suppliers.' Dr. Sangala
      went to great pains to explain the procurement process saying that one
      needed to understand that the Government Contracting-Out Unit had
      replaced the Central Tender Board. In his opinion, the Central Tender
      Board did an excellent job in ensuring that contracts were awarded

      'The government Contracting-Out Unit did, however, many times make
      unexplained changes to the recommendations that have been made by the
      Medical Buying Committee which paradoxically comprises technical people
      in as far as medical drugs are concerned. The changes also resulted in
      tremendous delays in the whole procurement process contributing to drug
      shortages in hospitals,' Dr. Sangala explained emphatic in his assertion
      that irregularities took place in the way drug procurement contracts
      were awarded to some individuals in the country by GCU.

      We asked if it was true that under the current set-up a company can be
      awarded a drug procurement contract without even being registered with
      the Pharmacy Medicines and Poisons Board (PMPB) the answer was: 'Yes, we
      have seen that!' We asked Dr. Sangala whether he had ever been a member
      of the Medical Buying Board or of the Medical Buying Committee. In reply
      Dr. Sangala paused for some time, laughed and then informed us that he
      indeed for many years chaired the Medical Buying Board.

      'But then, some individuals in the ministry and elsewhere accused me of
      awarding contracts to my cronies - implying that I was making a lot of
      money through it,' he said.

      Dr. Sangala was not the first person to mention the negative impact
      that the formation of the GCU has had on the drug procurement scene in
      the country.

      One highly placed source in the Ministry of Health and Population,
      speaking on condition of anonymity, informed us that it was not
      difficult to see that the Government Contracting-Out Unit was created
      with the intention of giving the executive arm of government
      (politicians in cabinet) power to influence contract-awarding decisions
      as well as to award themselves such lucrative contracts.

      'Look at it this way: we used to have the Central Tender Board that
      made final decisions on all procurement issues in the whole public
      sector. And there was no political influence in its work. But for some
      ill-explained reason this board was replaced by the Government
      Contracting-Out Unit. But since this change was made we saw a lot of
      political influence in the way contracts were awarded - mainly coming
      from Cabinet ministers. And this was even seen in the way appointments
      and demotions were effected particularly in the Ministry of Health and
      Population. It all depended on your perceived attitude to the powers
      that be,' he said.

      'You see, procurement is the most dangerous topic one can discuss in
      this country. Some people even lost their lives for poking their noses
      into this issue,' confided another Ministry of Health and Population
      official without elaborating.

      The confusion surrounding the procurement issues is not only dangerous
      for people who are looking at procurement of drugs too closely or for
      journalists who try to investigate it. When procurement is poorly
      effected, it also puts at risk the health of millions of innocent
      Malawians. As already indicated in this report, the health sector is
      awash with problems that have arisen from political influence mainly at
      procurement level.

      The issue of frequent out-stocks in hospitals can be partially
      attributed to the delays in awarding procurement contracts as well as to
      the failure of certain suppliers to meet delivery deadlines due to a
      dismal lack of capacity. Unscrupulous suppliers also deliver low quality
      drugs. In the course of this report, we have already mentioned the
      problem of low quality antibiotics. Big tins of penicillin coming from
      India had half of the tablets turned into powder. We also reported about
      Adricaine, a poor quality drug which found itself on the market and in
      Dedza District Hospital pharmacy, for one, in the most questionable
      fashion. This is a dental surgery anaesthetic that both patients and
      prescribers complained about on its efficacy.

      And as we went to press last Friday we learnt from insiders that for
      the past two weeks district hospitals and health centres in the country
      are going without SP (Fansidar) the most reliable anti-malaria drug in
      this part of the world. We learnt that this happened because the one who
      was awarded the contract during the previous bidding was only able to
      supply 1,500 tins out of 15,000 tins that they was required to supply to
      the Central Medical Stores.

      'Visit any hospital or health centre in the country this week,' started
      one highly placed source in the Ministry of Health and Population, 'they
      will tell you that they don't have SP. And it's all because someone was
      not able to supply the right amounts. What do you think clinicians are
      doing with people suffering from malaria - the greatest killer in the
      country? The poor man in the village is dying because of someone's
      crookedness. The 1,500 tins that have been received will probably be
      finished within a week. Would you believe that?' he lamented.


      Mejn Launches Loan Contraction Report

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      August 15, 2004
      Posted to the web August 16, 2004

      Pilirani Phiri

      Malawi Economic Justice Network (MEJN) has launched the loan
      contraction process report aimed at sensitising people to understand how
      the loans taken by government are legitimate and serve the basic
      functions of poverty reduction and development.

      Speaking recently in Lilongwe during the report launch, MEJN board
      chairperson Francis Ng'ambi said the report will help Malawians
      understand how to monitor loans obtained by government and also to push
      for the participation of civil society in the loan contraction and debt
      management process "Loans are acquired with the aim of contributing to
      national development and to alleviate poverty but what happens in most
      cases is that these loans are siphoned off by political figures and
      other government officials exposing a lot of Malawians to abject poverty
      "But this can only be solved by making Malawians themselves monitor the
      loans and also the participation of civil society," said Ng'ambi.

      In Malawi only the Minister of Finance is responsible for examining the
      feasibility of a project and the cabinet committee on the economy's
      mandate is to discuss loan and debt issues before they are tabled in

      Members of Parliament (MPs) who attended the report launch further
      disclosed that most loan authorisation bills that have so far been
      approved in Parliament were just rubber stamped on the grounds that the
      legislators were not given ample time to scrutinise the loans. "Most
      loan authorisation bills that have so far passed in Parliament were just
      rubber stamped because government was always on our neck to quickly go
      through the bills and approve them. A minister would just come in and
      introduce a bill and then in no time the bill would be passed: "In all
      fairness government should be giving the loan documentation to MPs a
      week before, to consult widely whether it is appropriate to go for such
      a loan," said the MPs citing the commercialisation of ADMARC which they
      say was daylight robbery.

      The report, which has also been done in Tanzania, Uganda, Tanzania, and
      Zambia, recommends that governments should make transparent decisions
      about whether to finance certain development programmes and projects
      through loans or through grants, and also to enact laws that will
      require the executive bodies responsible for dealing with external debt
      to make debt information accessible to the public.

      According to information obtained from the International Monetary Fund
      (IMF), every year Sub-saharan Africa countries spend $14.5 billion
      dollars in repaying debts to the world's rich countries and
      international money lending institutions.

      The report was done by courtesy of Christian Aid, and African Forum and
      Network on Debt and Development (AFRODAD) civil society organisations
      which work with and through affiliates in ten African countries.


      Malawi: Girls Still Disadvantaged, Despite Free Schooling

      UN Integrated Regional Information Networks

      August 11, 2004
      Posted to the web August 11, 2004


      Despite a decade of free primary education in Malawi, the number of
      girls dropping out of school continues to outstrip that of boys, the UN
      Children's Fund (UNICEF) said in a new report.

      "The main problem is that the free primary education policy does not
      translate into action on the ground. Making tuition free for pupils was
      not sufficient to take girls to school - there are other non-tuition
      costs, such as school materials, which parents have to pay," UNICEF's
      Head of Basic Education in Malawi Bernard Gatawa told IRIN.

      Extra costs mean that poor families have to choose between educating
      boys or girls. In a culture of early marriages, and where women's rights
      are traditionaly subordinate, boys are usually given preference.

      "These pupils are not dropping out of school, they are pushed out of
      school," Gatawa added.

      The government has stressed the need to strengthen resources for the
      education sector. A senior official, Baxton Mpando, said: "As staff from
      the Ministry of Education we are aware that in the past 10 years
      government and its partners have taken measures aimed at improving
      primary education, and [the enrolment of] girls in particular." But,
      despite the efforts, there were still challenges in giving girls access
      to education, keeping them in school, and their educational

      When free primary education was introduced in 1994, enrolment numbers
      jumped from around 1.2 million to over 3 million pupils. But the
      government appeared to have been caught by surprise by the response -
      there were not enough teachers, classes or learning materials, and the
      quality of education suffered.

      "Shortage of classrooms, inadequate toilets, large numbers of
      unqualified teachers, inappropriate school curriculum, and division of
      labour in the home militate against girls' school performance," said

      A study carried out in 2003 showed that 10.5 percent of girls who
      enrolled in school each year dropped out, against 8.4 percent of boys.
      Around 22 percent of primary school age girls are not in school, while
      60 percent of those enrolled do not attend regularly.

      Gatawa said he was optimistic that these problems could be tackled.
      Introducing life skills in the school curricula would empower girls to
      know their rights, while "giving powers to local communities, so that
      they discuss among themselves the dangers of some of the cultural
      traditions, will help in the long run to reduce school dropouts."


      Malawi: Maize Prices Continue to Climb Following Poor Harvest

      UN Integrated Regional Information Networks

      August 10, 2004
      Posted to the web August 10, 2004


      Maize is being sold at twice its normal price in parts of southern
      Malawi after a sharp drop in crop production, aid workers told IRIN on

      "Maize is normally available at 10 kwachas (almost 10 US cents) a kilo
      at this time of the year, but we have received reports of it being sold
      at 20 kwachas (about 20 US cents) a kilo," said Famine Early Warning
      System Network (FEWS-NET) country director, Sam Chimwaza.

      A Malawian living in the southern region, one of the poorest parts of
      the country, earns about 10,000 kwachas ($94) a year.

      "Many farmers in the region have had to replant several times because
      the rain failed to arrive on time," further depleting their resources,
      said Chimwaza.

      Mavuto Bamusi, deputy national coordinator of the NGO coalition Malawi
      Economic Justice Network, commented, "Around this time, Malawians are
      expected to begin getting their inputs for the growing season - their
      level of affordability is even lower at this stage."

      The National Statistics Office estimated maize production at 1.7
      million mt, down by 13 percent from last season. Maize is consumed even
      in areas where cassava and rice are considered a staple food.

      An inflation rate of 11.6 percent in June, up by 0.3 points from May,
      had also eroded the purchasing power of households, who already had
      trouble covering basic needs.

      Inadequate rainfall, especially in the south, was one of the reasons
      for the drop in maize production. According to the latest FEWS-NET
      report, the government is purchasing 60,000 mt to replenish the
      Strategic Grain Reserve and procuring an additional 70,000 mt for sale
      to the public, with food aid needed to plug the deficit.

      A Food and Agriculture Organisation/World Food Programme Crop and Food
      Supply Assessment report estimated that Malawi would need 56,000 mt of
      food aid. However, the FEW-NET report suggested that the price of maize
      "is drifting towards the worst-case scenario presented in the last VAC
      [Vulnerability Assessment Committee] analysis report, and that the food
      aid needs will be closer to the upper range of 83,500 mt rather than
      56,000 mt".

      Most of the maize in southern region markets originates from farmers in
      Mozambique. Preliminary findings from a newly instituted informal
      cross-border monitoring system, which became effective at the beginning
      of this month, showed that the country has been informally importing
      about 1,500 mt to 2,500 mt of maize every week, mostly from Mozambique.


      Malawi Included in New US Aid Package

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      August 10, 2004
      Posted to the web August 10, 2004

      Pilirani Phiri

      Malawi has now been included among 70 identified countries that will be
      selected to apply for funding from the United States' US$15 billion
      Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) in the fiscal year beginning October

      Malawi's inclusion as part of the aid recipient countries, comes barely
      three months after the country - under former President Bakili Muluzi's
      administration - was left out of the same aid due to poor economic
      governance and performance as well as a lack of emphasis on
      anti-corruption reforms.

      According to a recent Washington File newsletter, the Millennium
      Challenge Corporation (MCC) board will subsequently determine which of
      these '70 candidate countries' will be eligible to apply for the
      Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) funding on their relative performance
      in ruling justly, encouraging economic growth and investing in programs
      that directly help their citizens. "We want a growth return on US
      taxpayers dollars", the newsletter quoted MCC Chief Executive John
      Applegarth, adding that eligibility will be based on progress with

      The newsletter also quoted Applegarth as saying each eligible country's
      proposal to the MCC should include an explanation of how that particular
      country decided on the development priorities for which it seeks MCA

      The MCC wants the content of proposals to clearly include input from
      civil society and the business sector and not just reflect the decisions
      of a small number of government officials. "Proposals should also
      indicate how an MCA funded project would not duplicate or obstruct a
      project funded by another donor. MCA is based on the principle that
      foreign aid works best when a recipient country takes ownership of its
      development programs and creates an environment for economic growth,"
      said Applegarth.

      The MCA programme announced by US President George Bush in 2002 is set
      to assist poor nations spur economic growth and attract the investment
      necessary for further development.

      So far the International Monetary Fund (IMF) mission has said the new
      administration has shown good performance to control spending. The IMF
      is currently in Malawi in consultations with government which involves a
      review of economic performance, policies and prospects.

      Since his inauguration in May this year, President Bingu wa Mutharika
      has stressed that his government is committed to ensuring economic
      growth by controlling expenditure, among other measures.

      The previous Muluzi government often clashed with the Bretton Woods
      institutions, bilateral donors and civil society over government's
      mismanagement of the public purse resulting in constant un-budgeted for
      over-expenditure. This included expensive countrywide travel where
      Muluzi addressed rallies at an unsustainable estimated cost of K6.1
      million each trip, sometimes occurring on a weekly basis. As a result,
      budgetary support was withdrawn by bilateral donors making the UDF
      government and its policies under Muluzi unpopular both with development
      partners as well as with citizens.

      Some of the other 70 countries shortlisted that are likely to benefit
      from the MCC aid include Angola, Uganda, Zambia, Sri Lanka, Swaziland,
      India and Senegal.
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