- Malawi takes aim at landmines
Johannesburg, South Africa
31 August 2004 13:02
advertisementMalawi has formulated a plan to clear abandoned landmines and other unexploded ordnance (UXO) from areas along its border with Mozambique.
Colonel Reuben Ngwenya of the National Mine Action office in the Malawi Defence Force said on Monday that the authorities have finalised a plan to conduct "a detailed survey and map areas that are dangerous [infested with mines]. We are also looking at conducting civic education and clearing those areas of mines and UXOs."
The plan has been put to the government and "may be transmitted to [international] partners who can help us, because there are some cost implications", Ngwenya added.
A report by a United Nations interagency mine action assessment mission, released earlier this year, noted that while committed to solving the landmine problem, "the authorities do not have the capacity" to do so.
Three sources of landmines and UXOs were identified.
"Firstly, the 1 000 km border area between Malawi and Mozambique, especially in former refugee-populated areas, is suspected of being contaminated as a result of a spill-over from the conflict in Mozambique that ended in the early 1990s," said the report.
"In addition, under the previous one-party system in Malawi, a paramilitary organisation known as the Malawi Young Pioneers had 33 training camps located throughout the country. The Malawian army forcibly dismantled this organisation in late 1993; the 33 training camps are therefore suspected of being contaminated.
"Finally, because of the regular flooding, it is feared that the landmines/UXO might have been displaced, hence creating additional [areas] of contamination," the report noted.
Malawi does not have a landmine and UXO information management system and "it therefore has no clear understanding or knowledge of the extent of the problem or the real number of victims", according to the report.
Ngwenya confirmed the statistics that about 1 000 people have been injured and 41 killed in landmine or UXO incidents over the past 10 years, but added that these figures might be higher due to under-reporting.
"We believe there could be even more [victims], because in the rural areas they normally don't report each and every incident to higher authorities," he explained.
UN Mine Action Service consultant Richard Cassidy visited Malawi from August 19 to 26 to help draw up a plan to deal with the threat of landmines and UXOs.
The UN Development Programme in Malawi said Cassidy "assisted the government with the development of a national action plan" that will be presented at the Nairobi Summit on a Mine-Free World, beginning on November 29. The summit will bring together governments, international organisations and civil society to take stock of progress made in ridding the world of landmines and develop plans for the future.
"We are very determined to make sure this issue is resolved. Now, with the establishment of a national committee for landmines [at inter-ministerial level] and an office coordinating these efforts, we believe in the next few months we should be able to see some progress," said Ngwenya. -- Irin
CCAP Calls for Behaviour Change, Affirms the Church Does Not Agree That Condom Use As a Solution
The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)
August 29, 2004
Posted to the web August 30, 2004
CCAP Nkhoma Synod General Secretary Winston Kawale has asked families surrounding Nkhoma area to desist from cultural practices which encourage the spread of HIV/AIDS and appealed for behavioural change and abstinence among young people to reduce the increasing infection rate of the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
In an exclusive interview with The Chronicle, Kawale, whose church is against condom use said Nkhoma area is one of the most affected where there are about 7,500 HIV/AIDS orphans who face a lot of challenges in life to earn a daily living and attain proper education.
'HIV/AIDS has left a very pathetic mark here at Nkhoma. Although it is a small area, we have about 7,500 orphans due to the pandemic. The situation is pathetic because we are facing many challenges in trying to assist the orphans who need adequate food stuff, medicine and for them to attain proper education,' said Kawale.
Nkhoma Synod has about 25 Orphan Care Centres and each of the centres looks after 200 orphans on average, a situation which has forced the church to plan on establishing some income generating activities in terms of a multi purpose hall to sustain the orphan care centre projects.
Kawale attributed the great number of orphans in the area to the increase of the HIV/AIDS infection rate which has affected most of the families who had multiple partners and led an immoral life.
'Our message as the church is that we are asking for behavioural change, abstinence and for couples to be faithful to their partners. Condom use is not the solution to HIV/AIDS.
'We feel the only way is abstinence and loyalty to one partner,' he said adding that condom use is promoting promiscuity among young people as well as within families.
'We also discourage the distribution of condoms by some organisations in the area in order to keep people away from condoms and rather learn how to change their behaviour and be loyal to their partners,' Kawale explained.
Nkhoma Synod has also established a support and care programme for HIV/AIDS patients among other HIV/AIDS projects undertaken as a service of the church.
Responding to the problems the church faces in supporting orphans, the National Bank of Malawi (NBM) recently donated assorted food stuffs and a cheque valued at K1 million to be distributed to all Orphan Care Centres surrounding the Nkhoma area.
Kawale described the donation as timely and called for more support from other organisations in rescuing the lives of the needy orphans.
NBM chief executive Isaac Msamala applauded Nkhoma Synod for taking up the challenge as a church to rescue orphans saying the National Bank will therefore be a friend in need in ensuring that orphans are taken care of.
'We appreciate the work the church is doing which has encouraged us as a bank to deliver our modest donation. We have an obligation to fulfil and we will try to fulfill our philosophy to care for the needy,' said Nsamala adding that National Bank is making profits that can also benefit the needy.
Among the orphan centres which benefited from the donation are Malindi, Khokhwa, Madzambwa, Kalele, Kaphiringu, Mwangu, Milamba, Kalamba, Mkumbi, Chigodi, Mwalawasema, Nkhoma, Nguluwe, Mkundi, Chipala, Kapalafisi, Msondozi and Thumbe Orphan Care Centres.
Additionally, the Synod has plans to establish a vocational school, to be called Nkhoma Synod University in a move to ease problems facing young people to pursue different careers.
The Synod's secretary general said plans are under way for this and they have already identified Lilongwe where there will be faculty for business while faculties of medicine and education will be based at the Synod headquarters at Nkhoma.
Civil Society Rejects UDF Plea Outright
The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)
August 29, 2004
Posted to the web August 30, 2004
Civil Society organisations have rejected a plea by UDF party members when they say they need more time to adapt to the new President Bingu wa Mutharika government set up of separating party from government business.
This comes fast on the heels of a recent UDF national executive committee (NEC) meeting, where the party members observed that their main problem was to adapt to the new Mutharika administration where there is a distinction between party and government issues.
Speaking recently in an interview, soon after a news conference convened by Human Rights Consultative Committee (HRCC), Institute for Policy Interaction (IPI) Director Rafiq Hajat shot down the plea as an act of desperation, saying the party deliberately wants to continue being parasitic on state resources.
"There is no validity in their claims. The UDF party is not government and vice versa. It is high time the party started raising their own funds and stop feeding on government resources," said Hajat adding: "The problem is that the ruling party wants to deliberately ignore this new set up so that they can continue to feed on government resources."
Hajat said 'government' incorporates the legislature as well as the judiciary but, he said, the UDF party is neither of the two because it has no majority in the national assembly.
"It is clear the UDF must accept the fact that it is just a party and not the government. A party is just a vehicle for that particular party to go into government," he said.
Malawi CARER Executive Director Vera Chirwa said during the Kamuzu dictatorial regime, the party executives could formulate policies that were implemented by the cabinet but, she said, in a multiparty democracy there needs to be the separation of party from government business.
"We are not in a one party system where there is no distinction between party and government. The problem is that these people have been sucking up government resources for such a long time and they still want to cling to the system," said Chirwa.
HRCC chairperson Rodgers Newa appealed to the nation to ignore Muluzi's message when he said his UDF party is superior to government. "We would like to offer a clear correction on Muluzi's message. UDF is not superior to government. He should not capitalise on the people's ignorance and dupe them into believing that his party is superior to the government.
He is lying," said Newa emphatically.
Muluzi recently told a rally that the UDF party is superior to government, and also reminded President Mutharika that people are waiting for the K500 million loan he promised to give to the more vulnerable in society.
However Muluzi, notorious for his verbal U-turns, has surprisingly denied that he never made this statement to the nation which was captured by several media outlets. He has since called the media 'foolish and irresponsible' in defence.
Forum to Protect Bingu Formed
The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)
August 29, 2004
Posted to the web August 30, 2004
Some officials in the United Democratic Front (UDF) with the support of numerous Malawian well-wishers have formed a Forum that seeks to protect the president, Bingu wa Mutharika largely from perceived pressures from some disgruntled members of the ruling party.
UDF officials Mike Omar Bagus and Wakuda Kamanga said the Forum for the Defence of the Presidency (FDP) will work to encourage and support President Bingu wa Mutharika in his efforts to revive the economy, stamp out corruption and reduce poverty in the country.
Bagus said it was unfortunate that a few disgruntled people in the UDF, including former president Bakili Muluzi himself are making rude remarks against the Presidency in order to intimidate and discourage Mutharika from fighting corruption fully and keeping issues of party and government separate.
He said Mutharika has began well and needs to be encouraged and supported so that he is able to achieve much more for the betterment of the nation.
'The aim of the Forum is to bring unity in the party and respect for the office of the Presidency. UDF needs to be united if it is going to win seats in the forthcoming by-elections,' he said.
Wakuda Kamanga said it was surprising that the ruling party wanted him and Bagus disciplined for issuing Press Releases recently as concerned citizens of the party while Muluzi' Personal Assistant, Dumbo Lemani who has formed the Fast Track Committee that could destroy the party is not taken to task.
'While we will continue to respect Muluzi as National Chairman and former head of state, we consider the decision of the party to discipline us as an infringement on our right to freedom of expression and suppression of dissenting views while others are allowed to make rude remarks against the presidency,' said Wakuda.
Kamanga and Bagus recently issued statements in which they congratulated the President for the strides he has taken so far and wished him *sweet success' during his term of office.
The two insisted that some officials in the UDF should stop making rude remarks against the President and urged the new Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Ishmael Wadi to 'move swiftly and prosecute' those who were involved in corruption during the Muluzi regime.
In the statement the two also called upon former cabinet ministers who have not made it into the new cabinet to 'rest in peace" and enjoy *'the fortunes" they amassed while in office.
Irked by the statement, the UDF immediately removed Bagus from the position of Director of Campaigns for the Central region and threatened to haul him and Kamanga before the UDF Disciplinary Committee.
Former cabinet minister Dumbo Lemani - who is also the architect of the Fast Track Committee has vowed to continue fighting the Mutharika government saying it is being ungrateful to the party which ushered it into office.
An NEC meeting that took place at Sanjika Palace in Blantyre recently resolved to stop the infighting that has been going on in the party, saying if the trend continues it could give the opposition room to weaken the ruling party.
However UDF national chairperson Bakili Muluzi has continued to make intimidatory and inflammatory remarks against some decision made by the President, especially those relating to the separation of party and government.
Women And Girls Worst Affected By HIV/Aids, UN Task Force Report Reveals
The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)
August 29, 2004
Posted to the web August 30, 2004
A statement made by Minister of Gender, Child Welfare and Community Services, Joyce Banda indicates that women and girls are bearing the brunt of HIV/AIDS in the country.
'There can be no question that the women and girls of Malawi are bearing the brunt of the HIV/AIDS epidemic,' reads part of the statement. Banda's statement went on to say: 'Not only are they more vulnerable to infections, they are far more vulnerable to the impacts of HIV and AIDS at the household and personal levels'.
Banda made the statement in the National Report of the United Nations Secretary General's Task Force on Women and Girls and HIV/AIDS under the theme 'Facing The Future Together'
The Malawi report, which was launch on the 23rd August aims at highlighting the issues which make women and girls more vulnerable to HIV/AIDS and makes recommendation which will minimise the risks and effects of the epidemic on them.
According to the report, 56.8% of adults living with HIV/AIDS in Malawi at the end of the year 2003 were women and that between the ages of 15 and 49 years, females are infected at earlier ages and in larger numbers than their male counterparts.
The report also states that unless survival rates between infection and death is shorter in males than in females, it would appear that prevention efforts are increasingly less effective in protecting females. These efforts are even less effective in protecting adolescent girls and young women. 'The gender gap in HIV prevalence also appears to be widening,' the report says.
In response to the disproportionate prevalence of HIV/AIDS among girls and young women in southern Africa, the United Nations Secretary General , Kofi Annan established a 25 member Task force on Women, Girls and HIV/AIDS to; 'catalyse and intensify' action by UN agencies, governments and civil society aimed at reducing the impact of HIV/AIDS on women and girls in Southern Africa. Country teams from nine counties in Southern Africa most affected by HIV/AIDS - Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa. Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe were also tasked with developing a national plan of action by focusing on six areas. The areas are; - prevention of HIV infection among women and girls, girls' education, violence against women and girls, property and inheritance rights of women and girls and the role of women and girls as care-givers for those infected and affected by HIV/AIDS.
Recommendations in the report aims at addressing some of the issues include; the improvement of Voluntary Counselling and Testing (VCT) services so that the services offered are women and girl friendly, the Ministry of Education taking a leading role in expanding support to girls, especially orphans and vulnerable children and removal of all material and financial barriers to their education, increase society awareness of the impact of domestic violence and sexual abuse against women and girls and promote zero tolerance of the abuse.
Additionally, the Ministry of Gender and Community Services and NGOs to look into strengthening and upholding women's property and inheritance rights, expanding opportunities for economic empowerment for community based volunteers providing care and support to those infected and affected with HIV/AIDS and develop a targeted campaign that increases public awareness of the availability of anti-retroviral drugs and access points.
The United Nations Task Force members for Malawi are Right Honourable Justin Malewezi, the former Vice President of Malawi, Commissioner Dr. Vera Chirwa the Executive Director of Malawi CARER and President of Women's Voice and Dr Naomi Ngwira, the Executive Director, Institute for Policy Research for Analysis and Dialogue.
Hospitals & the Drug Supply Situation
The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)
August 29, 2004
Posted to the web August 30, 2004
The nation continues to wonder why the noble task of ridding the drug supply chain of corruption, inefficiency and negligence, among other things fails.
There seems little political will to eradicate the elements of fraud ineptitude and all efforts so far have hit a blank wall.
The most plausible argument has to be that there are too many opportunities lost to people in positions who can and will manipulate the system for their own benefit - for any change to take place. Fortunes have been made on the needs of the masses for a health care system that has to be fed constantly with drugs. Medicines, like food - are a commodity that are absolutely essential and its supply easily exploited for personal benefit.
Procrastination and the inability to react positively to address the deliberate fraud and mismanagement, as well as a lack of proper procedure and monitoring at top levels of government continues to be exposed, unveiling the circumstances that led to the failure by the stakeholders to take the first steps towards the reform of the Central Medical Stores (CMS).
In the next three final instalments we conclude the debacle the the CMS is. - Part 16 continues.
Drug Reform : DFID's Contribution
According to the various documents that were collected during the investigations, the Central Medical Stores reform project included three main activities namely:
1. The development of reliable information systems to monitor compliance with agreed policies and financial allocations;
2. Estimating national essential drug needs (also called quantification); and last but not least,
3. Preparing for the institutional changes of the Central Medical Stores.
The adoption of a 'Trust' status was meant to enable the CMS to operate in a more independent manner from the mother ministry. A key aspect of this activity was the drawing up of a Business Plan which would include cost and revenue estimates for the future of the CMS. According to the Draft Paper for the Cabinet Committee on HIV and Health which reads in part: 'This business plan will be the basis for negotiations with donors about funding both a re-capitalisation of CMS drug stocks and the managerial improvements. The Business Plan is also a vital tool for the development of the ministry's sector-wide approach (SWAp) because joint procurement of drugs is a major part of any SWAp.'
To guide all these activities the Project Steering Committee (PSC) was set up comprising top officials from the Ministry of Health and Population, the Controller of the Central Medical Stores, representatives of the donor community, one District Health Officer and a Christian Health Association of Malawi (CHAM) representative. This committee was to have been chaired by the Principal Secretary for Health and Population who currently is Dr. Richard Pendame.
Finally, the Policy Confirmation Workshop, which would bring together international and local experts, was planned. The purpose of this workshop was to confirm the policy changes governing the project.
As the project started moving, in March 2001, a company called HLSP was awarded a contract by DFID. In the contract HLSP was supposed to provide technical assistance to the Central Medical Stores Reform Project. Two long-term Technical Advisors were sounded out but they declined the offer.
This mishap resulted in the first of a long series of delays in the implementation of the project. The consultants who were eventually recruited arrived in Malawi only in September 2001. This meant that the actual start of the project was delayed by four months.
Given this first delay and the fact that the project schedule was tight, one would expect the stakeholders to work extra hard in order to make up for lost time. It is clear, however, that the arrival of the 2 consultants did not give the boost one should have expected. The question that one had to ask is why?
When one reads the review document entitled Strengthening the Central Medical Stores and the Drug supply Chain - Output-to-Purpose (OPR) Review (March 2002), several conclusions could be arrived at:
1. The stakeholders lacked the vision and commitment to reform the CMS.
2. DFID and the rest of the donor community took a 'cautious, optimism stand' which made other stakeholders suspicious.
As a result of these problems, much time during the Project Steering Committee (PSC) meetings was spent on disagreements, which in turn made meetings infrequent. The Project Steering Committee was supposed to get together every two months. By the time the Output-to-Purpose Review team started carrying out its review the Project Steering Committee had met only twice over a period of 6 months. This was a big setback because this team had a crucial role in guiding the reform program.
Regardless of the fact that the project's kick-off was delayed by four months, the PSC had to wait for its second meeting to start direct discussions on the differing views of the project. The meeting that was scheduled for January 11th, 2002, took place on February 27th 2002. Some individuals that attended the first meeting lamented the fact that instead of discussing real issues, the meeting mostly *talked' about petty issues that did not really matter at that time.
'It was taken up with issues of project budget, vehicles, as well as some discussion of the work-plan,' reads the OPR in part.
The direct consequence of these delays is that the initially planned Confirmation Workshop was purely and simply canceled. It was felt 'to be inappropriate (to go ahead with the conference) when so little progress (in the whole reform program) had been made.' According to the work-plan which was approved by the first Project Steering Committee meeting, the main activities should have stuck to the following schedule:
1. A functioning information system by August 2002;
2. A drug quantification exercise by July 2002; and
3. Readiness to change the CMS status by October 2002.
Added to this, it was also hoped that the business plan would be ready by the same cut-off date. Two months after the OPR was completed it became obvious that the initially agreed timetable would remain a far cry.
In trying to remedy the situation in May 2002, the two consultants wrote a proposal to DFID asking it (and its stakeholders) to extend the CMS project deadline from October 2002 to July 2003.
This six months extension was granted and an additional amount of £215,000.00 was promised by DFID.
What then happened, one should ask? This question is very pertinent, especially after so much money was pledged. The saga continues.
Corruption Rife At RTC
The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)
August 29, 2004
Posted to the web August 30, 2004
Citizens in Malawi have called on the new Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Ishmael Wadi and the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) to turn their attention on the Road Traffic Commission after allegations that corruption is rampant in most of the centres.
After experiencing some horrific accidents in the country where many innocent people have lost their lives through careless and reckless driving as well as un-roadworthy vehicles, The Chronicle has learnt that the Driving Schools Association of Malawi (DRISAM) previously expressed concern over the proliferation of corruption practices at the Road Traffic Commission (RTC) over the issuance of SADC driving licenses to clients.
The association observes that the system of issuing driving licenses has been rendered porous due to the existence of numerous license- issuing points which create loopholes for RTC officers to collude with clients to the extent of involving themselves in corruption activities.
In two consecutive letters sourced by The Chronicle addressed to the Director of Road Traffic Commission Jomo Mkandawire signed by DRISAM Vice President Reverend Chimkwita Phiri and DRISAM Central region chairman Danwils Banda, besides corruption practices there is also a lack of security at the Regional Traffic Offices and a lack of discipline among RTC officers.
'We feel it would be wise if we revisited the system by issuing a consultancy and visiting other countries to see how the system is operational in those countries. This has come after we have seen that this system has bred corruption and anomalies in the licensing procedure,' says Chimkwita Phiri in a letter to Mkandawire and copied to DRISAM president in Blantyre and the General Secretary in Zomba.
Chimkwita said the driving schools association will tirelessly work to build a good Malawi and put a stop to practices of corruption.
He adds that in controlling road accidents which is coupled with the corrupt issuance of driving licenses, even diplomats should go through the driving schools to secure their licenses to help enforce safety on the roads and ensuring that drivers are competent.
'We note that discretionary issuing of licenses is a threat to our road users. Therefore, to this extent, we request that even diplomats should go through driving schools for authorisation of licenses,' said Chimkwita Phiri urging Mkandawire to consider their concerns as a matter of urgency.
On discipline, he notes that road traffic officers are often busy with their personal businesses while keeping driving candidates waiting for inordinate hours for attention. In his letter he adds that the RTC offices are overcrowded with clients milling around which also poses a threat to security.
Other issues highlighted for consideration are the delays in repairing computers which have brought great frustration among stakeholders.
Additionally, SADC licensing training as well as testing manuals which were promised a long time ago, have not been received and no training has been conducted.
In a different letter signed by Banda, disappointment is expressed over how the association's members were treated when they were deployed to RTC offices to assist the probing of the problems impacting the corrupting of the SADC licensing system in Malawi.
'Although the Acting Regional Traffic officer had briefed the staff about our exercise, the capturing unit staff exhibited open hostility to the two members of the association assigned to monitor the exercise for our members right from the first day,' said Banda.
He explained that the officers snatched chairs assigned to association members on the first day and treated them rudely and some RTC staff came to block the computer monitors from association members on several occasion.
The chairman further explains that a group, well known by the RTC officers as 'a pa mtengo' or 'Dobadobas' openly threatened, harassed and physically pulled and dragged association members in the full view of the RTC officials who just sat back and watched.
'We will not bow down to the 'a pa mtengo' propaganda. It should be made public that our exercise does not discriminate or shield anybody but it is entirely good for the integrity of the SADC licensing system in Malawi,' said Banda adding, "As such, if they have anything against any individuals, be it in our association or otherwise, let them initiate appropriate action with the appropriate individuals in an appropriate manner.' Banda said it is apparent from what happened that those who have violated or corrupted the SADC licensing system of the country are these Dobadobas that have been colluding with RTC officers to the extent of involving themselves in open impunity with any opposition to their trade.
The assaulted members have since submitted their statements to the police for investigations.
However, in a telephone interview Mkandawire vehemently condemned the association saying it has no mandate to be part of the licensing team and after the investigations the commission mounted it has been established that the driving schools themselves are incompetent and do not meet the conditions of the Road Traffic Act.
'Why are they so interested in being part of the licensing team when they also have problems in their own schools? They don't have the mandate to be part of the team, according to the laws,' said Mkandawire fighting back at the association, saying the commission has since suspended road driving tests until the schools address concerns that government put forward to them.
'We have found that most driving schools have their driving licenses expired, their instructors are not well trained and most of the schools have no vehicles. These are just some of the problems which these schools are supposed to address first before attacking the commission,' said Mkandawire especially pointing out Step Ahead Driving Schools which is owned by Chimkwita Phiri one of the signatories of the letters as one of the schools which do not have the requirements to run as a driving school.
Mkandawire also accused driving schools of exploiting the public by charging exorbitant fees when they don't offer adequate training.
'We had confidence in these driving schools but now were disappointed because they are only interested in making money rather than first offering a good service. This is tantamount to theft,' he declared further accusing them of robbing the masses for selling learners and driving application forms at an exorbitant fee of K3,000 when the government offers them to the public free of any charge.
He further stated, after the letter from the association, the two parties had a meeting and have agreed that the RTC should undertake the monitoring project of issuing licenses.
Many citizens have questioned the rationale behind the policy to deny learner drivers from attempting a driving test without utilising a registered Driving School. Many have said the practice is exploitative and puts driving licences out of rich to many less privileged people who could earn a better living with a driving license. Malawians are largely unable to pay for lessons prior to taking the test.
ADB firm on Karonga-Chitipa road contract
by Zainah Liwanda, 22 May 2006 - 06:09:17
The African Development Bank (ADB) has again rejected a proposal by government to look for another contractor instead of China Hunan Construction to construct of the long awaited Karonga/Chitipa road.
China Hunan from Mainland China won the bid which was approved by the ADB but government later wanted to award the contract to a Portuguese firm, Mota Engil, the second lowest bidder, claiming China Hunan's bid was unrealistically low and that the company had very little experience in Africa.
Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe confirmed on Sunday the ADB rejected the proposal at a meeting held between the bank and Malawi government in Tunisia last week.
The Malawi government wanted the Tunisia meeting to authorise it to get another contractor for the road, said Gondwe.
"They did not allow us to look for another contractor because of their regulations. But we are about to get another alternative for Karonga/Chitipa and I would be surprised if it does not start before end June," said Gondwe.
The minister explained that the bank insisted that regardless of the unrealistic cost estimates, China Hunan should be allowed to go ahead with the construction.
But Gondwe could not give further details about the alternatives, arguing there are still a few loose ends to tighten up before disclosing it.
The problem with China Hunan, according to Gondwe, is that it would require more money to meet the total cost of the project.
This paper reported last week that government met Taiwanese representatives where they offered to fund the road if the ADB continued to reject its favoured contractor, Mota Engil.
Gondwe could neither confirm nor deny the reports on the Taiwanese offer, saying government was looking at a number of ways to handle the issue.
According to Gondwe, the China Hunan's bid was 24 percent lower than the consulting engineers' estimates of K7.9 billion and 34 percent below the second lowest bidder.
President Bingu wa Mutharika laid a foundation stone for the construction of the road this year ahead of a crucial byelection in Chitipa in December last year.
The President's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) won the Chitipa Wenya constituency by-election that fell vacant following the collapse and subsequent death of Speaker of Parliament Rodwell Munyenyembe who belonged to the UDF.
Last week, police and the District Commissioner (DC) for Chitipa stopped a rally that was aimed at soliciting people's views about development projects in the district.
The meeting, which was reportedly organised by Concerned Citizens of Chitipa, was among other things also supposed to tackle the controversial Karonga/Chitipa road.
The project failed to start off in 2000 when a contract for an initial loan of US$17 million and US$15 million from the Taiwanese government was signed, with some quarters claiming the Bakili Muluzi administration diverted the money to another road.
Chihana operated on
by Edwin Nyirongo, 22 May 2006 - 06:32:31
Alliance for Democracy (Aford) president Chakufwa Chihana, who is in South Africa receiving treatment, had a brain operation on Friday at Garden City Clinic, family and party officials confirmed on Sunday.
Aford national chairman Chipimpha Mughogho said he was told by the family members that Chihana had a successful operation on Friday and was put in an intensive care unit.
Mughogho said Chihana, who initially complained of headache, was found with a brain tumour which South African doctors removed.
Mzimba West MP Loveness Gondwe said Aford boss condition was stable.
"Hon. Chihana had a major operation and after that he was put in the intensive care unit but his condition is stable. I do not know where he was operated on but it had something to do with the skull," she said.
Deputy Information Minister John Bande referred the matter to the Health Minister Hetherwick Ntaba who was reported to be in Geneva, Switzerland.
Aford publicity secretary Norman Nyirenda said when Chihana's situation got worse, the family alerted the Office of the President and Cabinet who took him to Mwaiwathu Private Hospital.
"The doctors at Mwaiwathu advised that he should be sent to South Africa and they even identified the doctor for him," he said.
He said the costs are being met by the Malawi government, contradicting his earlier statement that his boss covered the cost.
Mughogho is now in charge of the party.
Gondwe will be a busy person when Parliament starts meeting on June 6 as she is the only Aford MP remaining.
Pillane proposes presidential age limit
by Emmanuel Muwamba , 22 May 2006 - 06:34:13
A member of the DPP National Governing Council Abdul Pillane on Saturday urged members of political parties and the civil society to put an upper age limit in the Constitution for presidential candidates.
Pillane was addressing members of political parties and civil society in Liwonde during a two-day follow up workshop to the National Conference on the Review of Constitution held in March in Lilongwe.
"My view is that (an upper) age limit should be at 75. We have to give a chance to younger people to lead because in circumstance, when you age you become forgetful especially when sickly," said Pillane. "Overall, chances should be given to young people."
But UDF secretary general Kennedy Makwangwala, whose party members agitated for the age limit during presentations, played the issue down.
"I feel there is no logic to have an upper age limit for presidential candidates. If someone is 90 or 80 I don't know how that can influence the electorate not to vote for someone who is younger, I don't see any logic behind that," said Makwangwala.
MCP participants at the workshop also vehemently objected to the proposal.
MCP vice president Nicholas Dausi in an interview said: "There is no constitution in Africa which stipulates an upper age limit. So it would be strange in Malawi to have an upper age limit for presidential candidates."
MDP President Kamlepo Kalua also opposed the need to have an upper age limit.
"If we have personalities in mind that we want to discriminate against then it is unfortunate. The constitution we want to build is a guiding document for future generations and it should not bar certain individuals on the basis of grudges," he said.
The Malawi Law Constitution Issues Paper of March 2006 says several submissions that were received put an upper presidential age limit in the Constitution.
"It is argued that it is common sense that mental knowledge faculties tend to fail with age. As regards what the actual age limit should be the submissions are far from being agreed. The range is from 60 years to 80 years," read submissions in the Issues Paper.
On whether MPs should double as ministers, Kalua said this should be the case.
Makwangwala also said it is not right for MPs to serve as ministers because the Legislature, another arm of government, is reduced while the Executive branch is beefed up from another arm of government.
"There is no separation of powers when MPs double as ministers," said Makwangwala.
But Pillane said there is no problem for MPs to work as ministers as well, saying MPs are elected by the President.
"One can serve both posts. There have been no problems before for people to double," said Pillane.
The Centre for Multiparty Democracy funded the workshop through the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy.
The objective was to come up with a collective position on the Issues Paper which will be presented to the Special Law Commission that will be constituted soon.
Mussa hails new driving licence
by Zainah Liwanda, 22 May 2006 - 06:58:52
Transport and Public Works Minister Henry Mussa last week said the design of the Malawi-Sadc driving licence would guard against forgery and ensure that only skilled and legitimate drivers of particular vehicles are licensed.
Mussa was speaking at the official launch of the licences in Lilongwe where he announced that traffic police would from July enforce speed limits and sober driving using Breathalysers which his ministry is in the process of procuring.
The minister said financial constraints are the reason for the delay in procuring the equipment but assured that by July they would be available.
"With the new equipment, the days of those who believe in the thrill of drink and driving are numbered," warned Mussa.
Mussa added that with the new licence, government is optimistic that the country's roads would be safe.
Acting Director of Road Traffic James Chirwa said the features that distinguish the new from the old licences are the Malawi national flag and a ghost image of the driver's photograph, among others.
Those with old licences, according to Chirwa, are expected to get the new ones after the expiry of the former.
UDF demands investigation on Kasambara
by Rabecca Theu, 22 May 2006 - 06:30:46
The United Democratic Front (UDF) has asked government to investigate Ralph Kasambara on allegations of abuse of office while he was attorney general.
UDF publicity secretary Sam Mpasu told the press Sunday that the party is neither amused or saddened by the removal of the former AG but asked government to institute investigations on Kasambara.
"Beyond the removal of the Attorney General, we now urge President Mutharika to institute investigation against Mr Kasambara into allegations that have made rounds in the public domain during the recent past. These include: Mrs Helen Singh and SS Rent-a-Car; SGS and ITS saga; ...........the use of Malawi Police Service in the arrest of three Chronicle journalists and the handling of Mrs Rubina Kawonga," said Mpasu.
Mpasu also accused Kasambara of awarding government contracts to Lawson and Company where he was a senior partner.
"We urge government to thoroughly investigate the former AG. We also ask government to cautiously select the new AG ," said Mpasu, who was accompanied by the party's Secretary General Kennedy Makwangwala, leader of the party in Parliament George Mtafu, chief whip Leonard Mangulama and a member of the executive Hophmally Makande.
But Minister of Information Patricia Kaliati said UDF should give offer its advice to the Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB).
"They should advise bodies like the Anti-Corruption Bureau to conduct the investigations and why are they saying this now? Is it because Kasambara has been fired? This is not a personal issue. If they have other pressing issues they should just say so. These arguments should have come up earlier on when the said cases were happening," she said.
Kasambara asked UDF to proceed with the mission of urging government to investigate him.
"They can do their job. Everyone has a right to lobby for anything they want in the country. UDF has a right to do that, let them go ahead," he said.
Kasambara was relieved of his duties as AG by the President last week. Government has not given reasons behind the removal.
Zambia: Malawians Grab Zambian Land
The Times of Zambia (Ndola)
May 18, 2006
Posted to the web May 19, 2006
MALAWIANS who have encroached on both the 'no-man's' and part of the Zambian land at the Mwami border in Eastern Province have plucked out some beacons that were used in the demarcation of the border.
The Malawians are now using the beacons as stools in their newly-established villages on Zambian land.
Eastern Province Minister, Boniface Nkhata, said in Chipata yesterday that if the situation was not controlled urgently, Zambia would lose huge tracts of land to Malawians migrating into Zambian in large numbers.
A check at the Zambia-Malawi border showed a number of beacons had been vandalised and new structures constructed on the 'no man's' land and a large portion of Zambian land.
Mr Nkhata said the trend extended to many parts of the province bordering the two countries.
"A large portion of Zambian land has been taken up by the Malawians starting from the Chama boundary up to the Mwami border.
"The weighbridge at the Mwami border was initially in Zambia from the time both countries gained independence from Britain, but now the bridge is on Malawian soil," Mr Nkhata said.
The minister, who is former Chama District Commissioner, said there was similar encroachment in Lundazi and Chama districts where Zambia shares a boundary with Malawi.
He said a Malawian farmer identified as Mr Mfune had cultivated 71.5 hectares on Zambian land and employed about 265 Malawian workers.
"Khombe Farm in Chama district in Kanyerere's area, along the Muyombe road which leads to Northern Province where this Malawian farmer has cultivated a vast land is on the Zambian territory," he said.
Workers on the farm admitted that they were farming on Zambian soil but could not go back to Malawi because the land in that country was inadequate for cultivation.
Mr Nkhata appealed to the ministry of Lands to urgently release money for the demarcation of the Zambia-Malawi border to avoid further land disputes between the two countries.
Meanwhile, the Immigration Department in Livingstone has arrested a couple and another man, all Zimbabweans, for working in Zambia without permits.
They were arrested at Gwembe village yesterday where they worked for Into Africa, a tour operating company that provides bush dinners and breakfast.
According to the Immigration Department in Livingstone, the trio entered Zambia through the Victoria Falls border as visitors but decided to work for the company illegally.
Last week, immigration officers arrested 10 Zimbabwean traders and six Ethiopians for entering and staying in Zambia illegally.
The Zimbabwean traders were warned and cautioned and later released.
The Ethiopians were arrested at Konje Guest House when they ran out of money to proceed to Botswana.
Zim unions, MDC still plan anti-govt protests
22 May 2006 11:51
Zimbabwe's biggest labour federation on Saturday threatened to call massive demonstrations against the government over poor salaries and worsening living conditions for workers in the country.
The threats are ratcheting up pressure against President Robert Mugabe's government after similar threats by the biggest opposition party in the country, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), about two months ago.
Speaking at the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) conference on Saturday, the labour body's president, Lovemore Matombo, said the powerful union wants the government to award workers salaries that match the country's ever-rising inflation.
"I can assure you we will stage massive demonstrations to force them [employers] to award workers minimum salaries that tally with the poverty datum line," said Matombo.
Matombo did not say when exactly the ZCTU would order workers to strike.
Meanwhile, the MDC on Sunday said it will push ahead with plans for anti-government protests, saying victory in a key by-election at the weekend was a "sign the electorate supported its policies", including democratic mass resistance.
A spokesperson of the main faction of the splintered MDC, Nelson Chamisa, said victory over Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF and a rival MDC faction in a Saturday by-election in Harare's Budiriro constituency is a sign Zimbabweans still have confidence in party leader Morgan Tsvangirai and his policies.
Tsvangirai, the founding leader of the MDC, heads the main rump of the opposition party whose candidate, Emmanuel Chisvuure, polled 7 949 votes to win the Budiriro House of Assembly seat.
Gabriel Chaibva of the other faction of the MDC, led by prominent academic Arthur Mutambara, garnered 504 votes while Zanu-PF's Jeremiah Bvirindi polled 3 961 votes.
"This election showed that the electorate still has confidence in the MDC [Tsvangirai-led] leadership and its policies," Chamisa told independent news service ZimOnline.
He added: "We will now move to consolidate our position * we still believe in mass protests. Until we have attained our goals we see no reason why we should abandon [plans for protests]."
Tsvangirai has threatened to call mass protests this winter against Mugabe and his government. He says the mass protests, whose date he is still to name, are meant to force Mugabe to relinquish power to a government of national unity to be tasked to write a new and democratic Constitution that would ensure free and fair elections held under international supervision.
Mugabe and his government, who had hoped for victory in Budiriro to show they were recapturing urban support from a splintered MDC, have not taken idly the opposition's threats to call mass protests, with the veteran president warning Tsvangirai he would be "dicing with death" if he ever attempted to instigate a Ukraine-style popular revolt in Zimbabwe.
In a fresh crackdown against dissension, the police last week arrested several church and civic leaders for organising public prayers and marches to mark last year's controversial home-demolition exercise by the government.
The police also banned the marches and prayers, fearing they could easily turn into mass protests against Mugabe and his government.
However, the marches went ahead in the second-largest city of Bulawayo after organisers had obtained a court order barring the police from stopping the march.
Political analysts say although Zimbabweans have largely been cowed by Mugabe's tactics of routinely deploying riot police and the military to crush street protests, worsening hunger and poverty are fanning public anger that Tsvangirai -- with proper planning and organisation -- could easily manipulate.
Zimbabwe is in the grip of a severe six-year old economic crisis that has seen inflation breaching the 1 000% barrier. Last year, the World Bank said Zimbabwe's economic crisis was unprecedented for a country not at war.
The MDC and major Western governments blame Mugabe for wrecking the country's economy, which was one of the strongest in Africa at independence from Britain 26 years ago.
Mugabe denies the charge blaming the crisis on sabotage by Britain and her allies after he seized white-owned farms for redistribution to landless blacks six years ago.
The Harare authorities recently hiked salaries for civil servants, with the lowest-paid soldier now earning about Z$27-million while the lowest-paid school teacher now takes home about Z$33-million.
But the salaries are still way below the poverty datum line, which the government's Consumer Council of Zimbabwe says now stands at a staggering Z$42-million a month for an average family of six.
The Zimbabwe government often accuses the ZCTU, a strong ally of the MDC, of pushing a political agenda to remove Mugabe from power.
Meanwhile, Matombo and Lucia Matibenga retained their posts as president and first vice-president respectively during the ZCTU congress that ended on Saturday. -- ZimOnline