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  • Christine Chumbler
    Malawi: Electoral Commission Chair Quits Over Flawed Poll UN Integrated Regional Information Networks August 31, 2004 Posted to the web August 31, 2004
    Message 1 of 1046 , Sep 1, 2004
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      Malawi: Electoral Commission Chair Quits Over Flawed Poll

      UN Integrated Regional Information Networks

      August 31, 2004
      Posted to the web August 31, 2004

      Lilongwe

      Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) chairman Justice Kalaile announced his resignation on Monday, three months after presiding over controversial parliamentary and presidential ballots.

      Kalaile's departure has come as a relief to pro-democracy groups and opposition parties, who accused him of failing to conduct free and fair elections.

      The opposition Malawi Congress Party and Mgwirizano coalition are disputing the presidential results in the High Court, alleging the elections were rigged by the ruling United Democratic Front (UDF) with the help of the MEC. Both the UDF and MEC have denied the charges.

      "His [Kalaile's] departure is long overdue. However, this is an honourable thing for him to do," commented Chancellor College law lecturer, Edge Kanyongolo.

      Kanyongolo told IRIN in a recent interview that he was in broad agreement with calls for Kalaila to quit, but cautioned: "My only warning to the nation is that people should not rush into overhauling the MEC because this will be bad for the democratic process."

      Rafiq Hajat, who heads the Institute for Political Interaction, an NGO think-tank, said Kalaile's decision was a "welcome development". "As chairman, Kalaile bears the burden of the mistakes that happened during the elections. This is what people were calling for," Hajat told IRIN.

      Kalaile, who was due to appear next month before a parliamentary committee looking into the conduct of the 20 May elections, denied allegations that he was pressured into resigning.

      The European Union said in a report by its election observer team, presented to President Bingu wa Mutharika in early August, that although polling day was peaceful, problems with the voters' register, counting the ballots and biased media coverage had rendered the election process unfair. It also condemned political intimidation allegedly perpetrated by the UDF's Young Democrats, and the misuse of incumbency.

      The UDF's publicity secretary and Information Minister, Ken Lipenga, said there were complaints against the MEC by all the parties over its management of the elections. "The electoral commission listened to us and tried their best to address the problem," he noted.

      *****

      Bagus, Maluwa Under Probe for K20 Million Tax Evasion

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      August 29, 2004
      Posted to the web August 30, 2004

      Levison Mwase
      Lilongwe

      The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) is probing former local government minister Salim Bagus and former UDF MP Elywin Maluwa for fraud and tax evasion amounting to K20 million, The Chronicle has established.

      Sources close to the investigations said Bagus and Maluwa are being probed on suspicion that they evaded duty amounting to K20 million for the supply of materials to Electricity Supply Commission of Malawi (ESCOM).


      ACB confirmed on Friday that it has been carrying out investigations into allegations of corrupt practice transactions at ESCOM.

      'Investigations into the matter have not been concluded and as such it would be unethical for the Bureau to mention names of those being investigated as this may jeopardise investigations," said the Bureau.

      In an interview on Thursday, Bagus confirmed that he has been supplying materials to ESCOM, even before he became an MP in 1994.

      Bagus, who declined to comment on whether he has, or has not been paying the full duty for the imported materials he has been supplying to ESCOM, said he was not aware that the ACB was probing him and the others.

      Sources at ACB said some senior UDF politicians, including the late Davis Kapito, used to force ESCOM to buy materials from them even when the electricity body had stock sufficient for two years and more.

      'What used to happen was that some politicians would tell ESCOM to buy materials from them even when the power corporation had enough of those materials to last two years,' the sources said.

      The sources said some of the politicians received millions of Kwachas in payment by ESCOM for materials which were sometimes never delivered.

      'Some ESCOM officials assisted UDF politicians to plunder funds and misuse vehicles because they got kickbacks in return," said the sources.

      Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Ishmael Wadi confirmed recently that he had asked the ACB to probe ESCOM's top management for alleged fraud and corruption.

      Wadi said those involved included politicians and officials in government.

      ESCOM , one of the major parastatals whose resources were constantly abused by the ruling UDF party during the Muluzi administration is the third state run institution to be investigated for fraud and corruption after Shire Buslines and Television Malawi (TVM)

      Last Month, fiscal police in conjunction with the ACB, working on an order from the new DPP arrested Shire Bus lines Executive Director Humphrey Mvula, a senior UDF official whom they believe was involved in fraud and corruption.

      ADMARC, the country's three Water Boards and City Assemblies are other government entities whose resources were constantly abused by the UDF during the Muluzi regime.

      President Bingu wa Mutharika, in his inaugural speech said he would have a 'zero tolerance' policy on corruption. As part of this resolve, he has insisted on a distinct separation between state and party and will not abuse state resources for party functions. This fact alone has annoyed senior UDF officials who continued to abuse their positions with impunity.

      *****

      Blm Launches 'Manyuchi' Condoms

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      August 29, 2004
      Posted to the web August 30, 2004

      Chris Makaniki
      Lilongwe

      People who hate using condoms on the basis that condoms reduce sexual pleasure, now have all the reason to smile following the announcement of the launch of a new studded, chocolate flavoured Manyuchi condoms by Banja La Mtsogolo (BLM).

      According to BLM Marketing and Public Affairs Manager Andrew Chikopa, the new imported brand of condoms selling at K20 per pack, which BLM says are studded and flavoured for extra sexual sensitivity will be officially launched Tuesday net week in Lilongwe "The unique features of Manyuchi studs and chocolate flavour, make them unique from other condoms on the market. Manyuchi condoms will not only assure people of protection from HIV/AIDS but also offer extra sexual pleasure," explains Chikopa in the press write up.


      Apart from protecting people from Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) including HIV/AIDS, and unplanned pregnancies Manyuchi condoms, the write up says will, "heighten the intensity of sexual pleasure during intercourse." "The new Manyuchi condoms will not only offer protection but are also are studded for extra sexual pleasure." BLM says the pleasure lubricated condoms, which match in quality to any other expensive studded and flavoured condoms, are in a blue pack containing three coloured condoms.

      Whether a marketing strategy or not, on the pack's cover there is an attractive, strikingly beautiful, and sensually arousing picture of a young woman with the creamy, silky cleavage of her breasts in evidence - a picture that is likely to hook condomisers.

      The condoms, says BLM the reproductive healthcare NGO established in 1987, will be available in all BLM clinics countrywide, shops, fuel stations and drinking spots.

      In April this year, during a two day long workshop on Condom Promotion held in Salima, Family Planning Association of Malawi (FPAM) chairperson senior Chief Kaomba said it was high time government and stakeholders started advocating the use of condoms if the country is to halt the further spread of HIV/AIDS. "While churches continue to promote abstinence and mutual faithfulness, government and stakeholders should also continue to advocate for all options including the use of condoms," Kaomba told The Chronicle.

      Some participants at the workshop drawn from Population Services International (PSI), BLM, other Non Governmental Organisations (NGO) and the media resolved to intensify advocacy in condom promotion in order to create a condom culture for Malawians deep in the HIV/AIDS crisis.


      *****

      Tanzania searches for solution to malaria crisis

      Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

      01 September 2004 12:23

      advertisementIn the next six years, the number of Tanzanians killed by malaria could be halved. They just need to start using insecticide-treated nets.

      "Treated nets can reduce mosquito bites by more than 80% and kill more than 50% of all mosquitoes that enter houses," said Alex Mwita, manager of Tanzania's National Malaria Control Programme. Medical experts say the use of bed nets will cut the number of children killed by the disease by 27%.

      Currently, Tanzania has the highest rate of death from malaria in Southern Africa. A staggering 100 000 Tanzanians die from the disease each year. That is the equivalent to one person every five minutes.

      About 70% of the deaths occur among pregnant women and children below the age of five years.

      Efforts to combat Tanzania's number-one killer have been minimal, until recently.

      "Malaria is a big challenge, but it can be prevented with the right interventions," Mwita said.

      Changing sleeping habits is the issue, Mwita said. Tanzanians need to start using bed nets. But many Tanzanians say they are not used to sleeping under such nets.

      "I feel I can't breathe when I'm under a mosquito net," said Asha Munisi (37), who lives in Tanzania's coast region, one of the hardest-hit malaria zones, and who admits he suffers recurrent bouts of malaria.

      "And I don't trust those chemicals," he added, referring to the insecticide used to treat the nets.

      Tanzania's National Institute of Medical Research (NIMR) has approved the insecticide as being safe for humans. Yet less than 1% of Tanzanians used bed nets before 2002, according to Ministry of Health officials.

      In that year, the government eliminated taxes on mosquito nets and anti-malaria chemicals, in keeping with a pledge it made in 2000 along with 15 other African countries at a meeting on malaria in Abuja, Nigeria.

      Waiving the taxes has lowered the costs of nets and encouraged investment in related industries. But a recent NIMR study found that even after the waiver not even 2% of Tanzanians slept under nets.

      Officials remain hopeful that Tanzanian habits will change.

      "Most mothers already sleep with their babies," Mwita said, "so they can easily sleep under the same bed net."

      And children above five years old normally share one large bed, he added, so they can all be shielded by one large net.

      The country has received at least $19,8-million from the United Nations to support the country's national insecticide-treated nets implementation plan.

      To reduce further the cost to pregnant women and women with children below age five, the government launched a pilot system in 2003. The women are given vouchers to buy bed nets from designated shops that cost them between 500 shillings (50 US cents) and 700 shillings (70 US cents), depending on size.

      So far, the scheme, which is funded by the UN Children's Fund at a cost of $11-million, is only available in two of Tanzania's districts, Kibaha and Kilosa, where more people die from malaria than anywhere else in the country.

      The scheme could eventually be available throughout the country if the government can raise the necessary funds.

      "The target is to have 60% of pregnant women and children below age five using insecticide-treated nets by 2007," Mwita said.

      But at a health centre in Kigamboni, on the outskirts of Tanzania's commercial capital, Dar es Salaam, Mwantunu Ali, a mother of three, said she still cannot afford to buy nets for the whole of her family.

      "I was able to get only one mosquito net with the voucher, which I've given to my children to share. I can't afford to buy another mosquito net for myself," she said.

      The chief medical officer of Kibaha, Mariam Ongara, said even at the discounted price many poor women cannot afford the nets. She and other health experts are calling on the government to distribute the nets without charge.

      Malaria is already a major burden on the country's economy. The government spends $121-million each year on treatment and prevention, which is equivalent to 3,4% of the gross domestic product.

      About 18-million Tanzanians suffer from the disease each year. That is one in every two persons.

      The treatment for outpatients costs about $1,50 a day; inpatient treatment costs $19 a day. That is far more than what the average Tanzanian can pay.

      "These easily preventable deaths of our children every year are unacceptable," said Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa in his monthly address to the nation in July.

      He said the disease infects five times more Tanzanians than Aids, tuberculosis, measles and leprosy put together.

      The malaria parasites in Tanzania are resistant to standard anti-malaria drugs such as chloroquine and sulphadoxine-pyrithemaine. Choloroquine has become so ineffective the government has banned its use. The drugs currently in use include artemisinine and sulphadoxine-pyrethemaine.

      If Tanzanians do not start using bed nets, there is one other radical solution: widespread spraying of a pesticide called dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, commonly known as DDT. It is banned because of serious side effects for humans and the environment, but it would be effective in reducing transmission of malaria.

      An international anti-pesticide treaty allows for an exception to the ban in malarial areas. So far, Tanzania has resisted using DDT. -- Irin

      *****

      Zimbabwe NGO Bill raises concern

      Wilson Johwa | Harare, Zimbabwe

      31 August 2004 17:21

      advertisementA proposed new law that is set to curtail the activities of NGOs in Zimbabwe has grabbed the attention of many among Southern Africa's human-rights defenders.

      Expected to become law before the end of the year, the NGO Bill of 2004 makes it mandatory for all charities, NGOs and community-based associations to register under a government-controlled authority. Many fear this will allow the Zimbabwe government to deny accreditation to organisations likely to question its human-rights record.

      The proposed legislation chillingly resembles a draconian law that has all but destroyed critical journalism, resulting in the media watchdog Reporters sans Frontières placing Zimbabwe next only to Iraq and Cuba for its hostile media environment in 2003.

      The government has used the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (Aippa) -- under which journalists and media houses have to register -- to deny accreditation to individuals and organisations with whom it is uncomfortable. For instance, foreign journalists have been denied registration, as have two independent newspapers.

      In much the same way, should the NGO Bill become law, as expected, hundreds of NGOs will have to register under a government-dominated 15-member council. Defying the law will attract a jail sentence of up to six months.

      But the most far-reaching clause in the proposed law is the requirement that local NGOs engaged in ''governance'' work -- the state's term for human-rights defenders and civic educators -- receive no external funding. Foreign NGOs involved in such work will not be registered at all.

      ''It's the kind of Bill we wouldn't expect at this time and age, especially in the context of the overall SADC [Southern African Development Community] and African Union protocols,'' says Abie Ditlakhe, secretary general of the Botswana-based SADC NGO Council, an independent association of the region's national NGO bodies.

      In the past four years, as Zimbabwe's political climate deteriorated following a violent land-reform programme and disputed parliamentary and presidential elections in 2000 and 2002, human-rights and other civic pressure groups have proliferated. Most survive on outside funding.

      To date they have been able to avoid official prying by operating as trusts. But the majority now faces closure. The result, says lawyer Brian Crozier, is that ''tyranny will continue unchecked by civil society and unobserved by all except its victims".

      Concern has extended beyond Zimbabwe's borders to neighbouring states where lobbying against the new law is taking place. But the government says the legislation is essential for national security, to protect the Southern African country from ''foreign values'' championed by ''local puppets''.

      Hassen Lorgat of the Johannesburg-based South African Non-Governmental Organisations Council (Sangoco) likens the Bill to South Africa's apartheid-era legislation.

      He says NGOs in the SADC region agree that there is no problem with regulation in itself. But they disapprove the proposed law ''in a context of violence and the systematic violations of human rights, as is the case of Zimbabwe".

      Lorgat adds Sangoco is disseminating information about the proposed law. It's also organising a summit in Johannesburg late in September ''to tackle issues of human rights violations as a whole in Zimbabwe and in the sub-region''.

      Zimbabwean civil society lobbied heads of state and government gathered for a summit of the 13-member SADC in Mauritius earlier this month.

      In a statement, the largest NGO umbrella organisation in Zimbabwe, the National Association of Non-Governmental Organisations, said the proposed law criminalises a sector that is providing safety nets to many communities hard-hit by social, economic and political turmoil. It warned the Bill has implications on illegal cross-border trading, economic refugees and increased prostitution as well as the spread of HIV/Aids.

      Ditlakhe says he has received many calls from many coalitions in different countries, enquiring about the Bill and what to do about it. The council will send a fact-finding mission to Zimbabwe that will seek to build on the representations already made by civil society within the country.

      Analysts, many of whom have described the law as oppressive and unconstitutional, say the proposed law is aimed at paving the way for the ruling Zanu-PF party to steal next March's parliamentary elections.

      "It's all about elections," says Brian Kagoro, chairperson of Harare-based Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, a collection of civil society organisations. He says with the independent press all but emasculated, the new law is meant to ensure the elections take place with no local or international NGOs to contradict a victory for President Robert Mugabe's party.

      ''This will wholly prevent any outside NGO from monitoring elections in Zimbabwe unless explicitly invited by the Zimbabwe government,'' Lorgat says.

      Violence, intimidation and coercion, mainly through the use of food, have characterised most elections since 2000.

      However, discouraged by what it has termed an uneven playing field, the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change announced this week it will not participate in elections until political space has been opened up. It said although the Zimbabwe government is a signatory to the new SADC protocol on elections, the party's executive does not believe the government acted in good faith and consequently harbours serious doubts as to the government's commitment to enforcing the electoral standards contained in the protocol.

      But the implications of the proposed NGO Act extend beyond elections. For instance, ''foreign NGOs that are providing food aid will not be able to continue doing so unless they are charities which have no interest whatsoever in governance'', Crozier points out.

      Despite official claims of a bumper harvest, independent assessments say about 2,2-million rural Zimbabweans need food aid this year.

      Crozier says the definition of an NGO makes no distinction between non-profit and profit organisations. It is ''extremely wide and covers associations and institutions with every conceivable type of object''. These, he says, range from medical and veterinary practices (unless they are one-person concerns) to pension funds and sports clubs.

      Exempted by the new law will be trade unions and churches "in respect of activities confined to religious work". Crozier says the Jesuits, for example, will have to register their society if they are to continue running schools and providing education in secular subjects.

      The Zimbabwe Red Cross Society and other associations will also be exempt, as will political parties, but only "in respect of work confined to political activities".

      If the new law is passed by the ruling-party-dominated Parliament in October, it will replace the present Private Voluntary Organisation Act. Ironically, NGOs have for long complained that the existing law is draconian, in that it gives too much power to the minister of labour, manpower planning and social welfare to interfere in their activities.

      The new legislation entrenches ministerial authority. The minister may dissolve any NGO as he sees fit as well as rule on appeals brought by aggrieved registered NGOs.

      Kagoro says the law will increase the number of voices sceptical of Zimbabwe's recovery.

      ''It will not do any good to the government's image even within Africa,'' he says. -- IPS

      *****

      Large parts of Harare without water

      Harare, Zimbabwe

      01 September 2004 11:18

      advertisementLarge swathes of Zimbabwe's capital, Harare, and adjoining towns have gone without water for weeks, forcing residents to store water in often unhygienic drums borrowed from elsewhere in the city.

      Worst affected are the four-million-strong city's middle-class eastern suburbs, where one resident said on Wednesday he "could not remember when he last had water".

      The Harare city council director of works, Psychology Chiwanga, blamed the shortage on "technical problems" at the city's main water-treatment works.

      Meanwhile, the city's public-relations manager, Leslie Gwindi, blamed neighbouring towns for the problem.

      "It's really a problem for us being able to have enough water to supply everyone," he said.

      Harare city supplies the urban areas of Ruwa, Epworth and Chitungwiza, now indistinguishable as separate towns because of Harare's urban sprawl. -- Sapa
    • Christine Chumbler
      ADB firm on Karonga-Chitipa road contract by Zainah Liwanda, 22 May 2006 - 06:09:17 The African Development Bank (ADB) has again rejected a proposal by
      Message 1046 of 1046 , May 22, 2006
      • 0 Attachment

        ADB firm on Karonga-Chitipa road contract

        by Zainah Liwanda, 22 May 2006 - 06:09:17

        The African Development Bank (ADB) has again rejected a proposal by government to look for another contractor instead of China Hunan Construction to construct of the long awaited Karonga/Chitipa road.

        China Hunan from Mainland China won the bid which was approved by the ADB but government later wanted to award the contract to a Portuguese firm, Mota Engil, the second lowest bidder, claiming China Hunan's bid was unrealistically low and that the company had very little experience in Africa.

        Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe confirmed on Sunday the ADB rejected the proposal at a meeting held between the bank and Malawi government in Tunisia last week.

        The Malawi government wanted the Tunisia meeting to authorise it to get another contractor for the road, said Gondwe.

        "They did not allow us to look for another contractor because of their regulations. But we are about to get another alternative for Karonga/Chitipa and I would be surprised if it does not start before end June," said Gondwe.

        The minister explained that the bank insisted that regardless of the unrealistic cost estimates, China Hunan should be allowed to go ahead with the construction.

        But Gondwe could not give further details about the alternatives, arguing there are still a few loose ends to tighten up before disclosing it.

        The problem with China Hunan, according to Gondwe, is that it would require more money to meet the total cost of the project.

        This paper reported last week that government met Taiwanese representatives where they offered to fund the road if the ADB continued to reject its favoured contractor, Mota Engil.

        Gondwe could neither confirm nor deny the reports on the Taiwanese offer, saying government was looking at a number of ways to handle the issue.

        According to Gondwe, the China Hunan's bid was 24 percent lower than the consulting engineers' estimates of K7.9 billion and 34 percent below the second lowest bidder.

        President Bingu wa Mutharika laid a foundation stone for the construction of the road this year ahead of a crucial byelection in Chitipa in December last year.

        The President's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) won the Chitipa Wenya constituency by-election that fell vacant following the collapse and subsequent death of Speaker of Parliament Rodwell Munyenyembe who belonged to the UDF.

        Last week, police and the District Commissioner (DC) for Chitipa stopped a rally that was aimed at soliciting people's views about development projects in the district.

        The meeting, which was reportedly organised by Concerned Citizens of Chitipa, was among other things also supposed to tackle the controversial Karonga/Chitipa road.

        The project failed to start off in 2000 when a contract for an initial loan of US$17 million and US$15 million from the Taiwanese government was signed, with some quarters claiming the Bakili Muluzi administration diverted the money to another road.

        *****

        Chihana operated on

        by Edwin Nyirongo, 22 May 2006 - 06:32:31

        Alliance for Democracy (Aford) president Chakufwa Chihana, who is in South Africa receiving treatment, had a brain operation on Friday at Garden City Clinic, family and party officials confirmed on Sunday.

        Aford national chairman Chipimpha Mughogho said he was told by the family members that Chihana had a successful operation on Friday and was put in an intensive care unit.

        Mughogho said Chihana, who initially complained of headache, was found with a brain tumour which South African doctors removed.

        Mzimba West MP Loveness Gondwe said Aford boss condition was stable.

        "Hon. Chihana had a major operation and after that he was put in the intensive care unit but his condition is stable. I do not know where he was operated on but it had something to do with the skull," she said.

        Deputy Information Minister John Bande referred the matter to the Health Minister Hetherwick Ntaba who was reported to be in Geneva, Switzerland.

        Aford publicity secretary Norman Nyirenda said when Chihana's situation got worse, the family alerted the Office of the President and Cabinet who took him to Mwaiwathu Private Hospital.

        "The doctors at Mwaiwathu advised that he should be sent to South Africa and they even identified the doctor for him," he said.

        He said the costs are being met by the Malawi government, contradicting his earlier statement that his boss covered the cost.

        Mughogho is now in charge of the party.

        Gondwe will be a busy person when Parliament starts meeting on June 6 as she is the only Aford MP remaining.

        *****

        Pillane proposes presidential age limit

        by Emmanuel Muwamba , 22 May 2006 - 06:34:13

        A member of the DPP National Governing Council Abdul Pillane on Saturday urged members of political parties and the civil society to put an upper age limit in the Constitution for presidential candidates.

        Pillane was addressing members of political parties and civil society in Liwonde during a two-day follow up workshop to the National Conference on the Review of Constitution held in March in Lilongwe.

        "My view is that (an upper) age limit should be at 75. We have to give a chance to younger people to lead because in circumstance, when you age you become forgetful especially when sickly," said Pillane. "Overall, chances should be given to young people."

        But UDF secretary general Kennedy Makwangwala, whose party members agitated for the age limit during presentations, played the issue down.

        "I feel there is no logic to have an upper age limit for presidential candidates. If someone is 90 or 80 I don't know how that can influence the electorate not to vote for someone who is younger, I don't see any logic behind that," said Makwangwala.

        MCP participants at the workshop also vehemently objected to the proposal.

        MCP vice president Nicholas Dausi in an interview said: "There is no constitution in Africa which stipulates an upper age limit. So it would be strange in Malawi to have an upper age limit for presidential candidates."

        MDP President Kamlepo Kalua also opposed the need to have an upper age limit.

        "If we have personalities in mind that we want to discriminate against then it is unfortunate. The constitution we want to build is a guiding document for future generations and it should not bar certain individuals on the basis of grudges," he said.

        The Malawi Law Constitution Issues Paper of March 2006 says several submissions that were received put an upper presidential age limit in the Constitution.

        "It is argued that it is common sense that mental knowledge faculties tend to fail with age. As regards what the actual age limit should be the submissions are far from being agreed. The range is from 60 years to 80 years," read submissions in the Issues Paper.

        On whether MPs should double as ministers, Kalua said this should be the case.

        Makwangwala also said it is not right for MPs to serve as ministers because the Legislature, another arm of government, is reduced while the Executive branch is beefed up from another arm of government.

        "There is no separation of powers when MPs double as ministers," said Makwangwala.

        But Pillane said there is no problem for MPs to work as ministers as well, saying MPs are elected by the President.

        "One can serve both posts. There have been no problems before for people to double," said Pillane.

        The Centre for Multiparty Democracy funded the workshop through the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy.

        The objective was to come up with a collective position on the Issues Paper which will be presented to the Special Law Commission that will be constituted soon.

        *****

        Mussa hails new driving licence

        by Zainah Liwanda, 22 May 2006 - 06:58:52

        Transport and Public Works Minister Henry Mussa last week said the design of the Malawi-Sadc driving licence would guard against forgery and ensure that only skilled and legitimate drivers of particular vehicles are licensed.

        Mussa was speaking at the official launch of the licences in Lilongwe where he announced that traffic police would from July enforce speed limits and sober driving using Breathalysers which his ministry is in the process of procuring.

        The minister said financial constraints are the reason for the delay in procuring the equipment but assured that by July they would be available.

        "With the new equipment, the days of those who believe in the thrill of drink and driving are numbered," warned Mussa.

        Mussa added that with the new licence, government is optimistic that the country's roads would be safe.

        Acting Director of Road Traffic James Chirwa said the features that distinguish the new from the old licences are the Malawi national flag and a ghost image of the driver's photograph, among others.

        Those with old licences, according to Chirwa, are expected to get the new ones after the expiry of the former.

        *****

        UDF demands investigation on Kasambara

        by Rabecca Theu, 22 May 2006 - 06:30:46

        The United Democratic Front (UDF) has asked government to investigate Ralph Kasambara on allegations of abuse of office while he was attorney general.

        UDF publicity secretary Sam Mpasu told the press Sunday that the party is neither amused or saddened by the removal of the former AG but asked government to institute investigations on Kasambara.

        "Beyond the removal of the Attorney General, we now urge President Mutharika to institute investigation against Mr Kasambara into allegations that have made rounds in the public domain during the recent past. These include: Mrs Helen Singh and SS Rent-a-Car; SGS and ITS saga; ...........the use of Malawi Police Service in the arrest of three Chronicle journalists and the handling of Mrs Rubina Kawonga," said Mpasu.

        Mpasu also accused Kasambara of awarding government contracts to Lawson and Company where he was a senior partner.

        "We urge government to thoroughly investigate the former AG. We also ask government to cautiously select the new AG ," said Mpasu, who was accompanied by the party's Secretary General Kennedy Makwangwala, leader of the party in Parliament George Mtafu, chief whip Leonard Mangulama and a member of the executive Hophmally Makande.

        But Minister of Information Patricia Kaliati said UDF should give offer its advice to the Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB).

        "They should advise bodies like the Anti-Corruption Bureau to conduct the investigations and why are they saying this now? Is it because Kasambara has been fired? This is not a personal issue. If they have other pressing issues they should just say so. These arguments should have come up earlier on when the said cases were happening," she said.

        Kasambara asked UDF to proceed with the mission of urging government to investigate him.

        "They can do their job. Everyone has a right to lobby for anything they want in the country. UDF has a right to do that, let them go ahead," he said.

        Kasambara was relieved of his duties as AG by the President last week. Government has not given reasons behind the removal.

        *****

        Zambia: Malawians Grab Zambian Land

        The Times of Zambia (Ndola)

        May 18, 2006

        Posted to the web May 19, 2006

        Andrew Lungu

         

        MALAWIANS who have encroached on both the 'no-man's' and part of the Zambian land at the Mwami border in Eastern Province have plucked out some beacons that were used in the demarcation of the border.

        The Malawians are now using the beacons as stools in their newly-established villages on Zambian land.

        Eastern Province Minister, Boniface Nkhata, said in Chipata yesterday that if the situation was not controlled urgently, Zambia would lose huge tracts of land to Malawians migrating into Zambian in large numbers.

        A check at the Zambia-Malawi border showed a number of beacons had been vandalised and new structures constructed on the 'no man's' land and a large portion of Zambian land.

        Mr Nkhata said the trend extended to many parts of the province bordering the two countries.

        "A large portion of Zambian land has been taken up by the Malawians starting from the Chama boundary up to the Mwami border.

        "The weighbridge at the Mwami border was initially in Zambia from the time both countries gained independence from Britain, but now the bridge is on Malawian soil," Mr Nkhata said.

        The minister, who is former Chama District Commissioner, said there was similar encroachment in Lundazi and Chama districts where Zambia shares a boundary with Malawi.

        He said a Malawian farmer identified as Mr Mfune had cultivated 71.5 hectares on Zambian land and employed about 265 Malawian workers.

        "Khombe Farm in Chama district in Kanyerere's area, along the Muyombe road which leads to Northern Province where this Malawian farmer has cultivated a vast land is on the Zambian territory," he said.

        Workers on the farm admitted that they were farming on Zambian soil but could not go back to Malawi because the land in that country was inadequate for cultivation.

        Mr Nkhata appealed to the ministry of Lands to urgently release money for the demarcation of the Zambia-Malawi border to avoid further land disputes between the two countries.

        Meanwhile, the Immigration Department in Livingstone has arrested a couple and another man, all Zimbabweans, for working in Zambia without permits.

        They were arrested at Gwembe village yesterday where they worked for Into Africa, a tour operating company that provides bush dinners and breakfast.

        According to the Immigration Department in Livingstone, the trio entered Zambia through the Victoria Falls border as visitors but decided to work for the company illegally.

        Last week, immigration officers arrested 10 Zimbabwean traders and six Ethiopians for entering and staying in Zambia illegally.

        The Zimbabwean traders were warned and cautioned and later released.

        The Ethiopians were arrested at Konje Guest House when they ran out of money to proceed to Botswana.

         

        *****

        Zim unions, MDC still plan anti-govt protests

        Harare, Zimbabwe

        22 May 2006 11:51

        Zimbabwe's biggest labour federation on Saturday threatened to call massive demonstrations against the government over poor salaries and worsening living conditions for workers in the country.

        The threats are ratcheting up pressure against President Robert Mugabe's government after similar threats by the biggest opposition party in the country, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), about two months ago.

        Speaking at the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) conference on Saturday, the labour body's president, Lovemore Matombo, said the powerful union wants the government to award workers salaries that match the country's ever-rising inflation.

        "I can assure you we will stage massive demonstrations to force them [employers] to award workers minimum salaries that tally with the poverty datum line," said Matombo.

        Matombo did not say when exactly the ZCTU would order workers to strike.

        Opposition protests

        Meanwhile, the MDC on Sunday said it will push ahead with plans for anti-government protests, saying victory in a key by-election at the weekend was a "sign the electorate supported its policies", including democratic mass resistance.

        A spokesperson of the main faction of the splintered MDC, Nelson Chamisa, said victory over Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF and a rival MDC faction in a Saturday by-election in Harare's Budiriro constituency is a sign Zimbabweans still have confidence in party leader Morgan Tsvangirai and his policies.

        Tsvangirai, the founding leader of the MDC, heads the main rump of the opposition party whose candidate, Emmanuel Chisvuure, polled 7 949 votes to win the Budiriro House of Assembly seat.

        Gabriel Chaibva of the other faction of the MDC, led by prominent academic Arthur Mutambara, garnered 504 votes while Zanu-PF's Jeremiah Bvirindi polled 3 961 votes.

        "This election showed that the electorate still has confidence in the MDC [Tsvangirai-led] leadership and its policies," Chamisa told independent news service ZimOnline.

        He added: "We will now move to consolidate our position * we still believe in mass protests. Until we have attained our goals we see no reason why we should abandon [plans for protests]."

        Tsvangirai has threatened to call mass protests this winter against Mugabe and his government. He says the mass protests, whose date he is still to name, are meant to force Mugabe to relinquish power to a government of national unity to be tasked to write a new and democratic Constitution that would ensure free and fair elections held under international supervision.

        Mugabe and his government, who had hoped for victory in Budiriro to show they were recapturing urban support from a splintered MDC, have not taken idly the opposition's threats to call mass protests, with the veteran president warning Tsvangirai he would be "dicing with death" if he ever attempted to instigate a Ukraine-style popular revolt in Zimbabwe.

        Crackdown

        In a fresh crackdown against dissension, the police last week arrested several church and civic leaders for organising public prayers and marches to mark last year's controversial home-demolition exercise by the government.

        The police also banned the marches and prayers, fearing they could easily turn into mass protests against Mugabe and his government.

        However, the marches went ahead in the second-largest city of Bulawayo after organisers had obtained a court order barring the police from stopping the march.

        Political analysts say although Zimbabweans have largely been cowed by Mugabe's tactics of routinely deploying riot police and the military to crush street protests, worsening hunger and poverty are fanning public anger that Tsvangirai -- with proper planning and organisation -- could easily manipulate.

        Zimbabwe is in the grip of a severe six-year old economic crisis that has seen inflation breaching the 1 000% barrier. Last year, the World Bank said Zimbabwe's economic crisis was unprecedented for a country not at war.

        The MDC and major Western governments blame Mugabe for wrecking the country's economy, which was one of the strongest in Africa at independence from Britain 26 years ago.

        Mugabe denies the charge blaming the crisis on sabotage by Britain and her allies after he seized white-owned farms for redistribution to landless blacks six years ago.

        The Harare authorities recently hiked salaries for civil servants, with the lowest-paid soldier now earning about Z$27-million while the lowest-paid school teacher now takes home about Z$33-million.

        But the salaries are still way below the poverty datum line, which the government's Consumer Council of Zimbabwe says now stands at a staggering Z$42-million a month for an average family of six.

        The Zimbabwe government often accuses the ZCTU, a strong ally of the MDC, of pushing a political agenda to remove Mugabe from power.

        Meanwhile, Matombo and Lucia Matibenga retained their posts as president and first vice-president respectively during the ZCTU congress that ended on Saturday. -- ZimOnline

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