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  • Christine Chumbler
    Malawi: Donors Wait for Results in Anti-Corruption Drive UN Integrated Regional Information Networks September 2, 2004 Posted to the web September 2, 2004
    Message 1 of 1046 , Sep 7, 2004
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      Malawi: Donors Wait for Results in Anti-Corruption Drive

      UN Integrated Regional Information Networks

      September 2, 2004
      Posted to the web September 2, 2004


      The European Union (EU) has welcomed a commitment to fight corruption made this week by Malawi's new president, Bingu wa Mutharika, but stressed the need for action ahead of talks on fresh aid funding.

      "The EU is looking to see whether what Mutharika is saying is going to be put into action," EU information officer Charles Undulu told IRIN on Wednesday.

      Key Western donors suspended aid to Malawi under Mutharika's predecessor, Bakili Muluzi, in protest over the levels of graft and mismanagement.

      "Mutharika knows why donors cut aid to Malawi, and what he is doing is to try and clean his government of corruption," said Undulu. He added that EU funding programmes ended in February this year, and there would be meetings with the government "sometime in September or October for another possibility of funding".

      In a hard-hitting address to parliament on Monday, Mutharika served a warning to corrupt officials. "My government is determined to fight corruption in Malawi; corruption is a cancer and hinders economic development. I have decided that action speaks louder than words - from now on, it will be action, action, action and more action," he said, winning applause from the lawmakers.

      Reacting to the speech, analyst Rafiq Hajat said he welcomed Mutharika's commitment to battle graft, but added that the president should have led by example and been the "first to declare his assets", as stipulated in the constitution, a provision rarely observed by Malawian politicians. Four months after Malawi's general elections, only one MP has reportedly so far complied.

      Mutharika's tough speech follows a growing political storm over investigations into the loss of an estimated MK10 billion (US $97 million) from state coffers during the 10 years of Muluzi's rule. The inquiries have focused on some of the former president's closest colleagues.

      New Attorney-General Ralph Kasambara said that Muluzi, who remains head of the ruling United Democratic Front (UDF), would not be immune from prosecution if "indeed he is found to have abused his office through corruption".

      Director of Public Prosecutions, Ishmael Wadi, last week denied there was a witch-hunt against Muluzi supporters within the UDF, but said he would charge any former minister linked to malfeasance.


      CCAP Synods Differ On Bingu's Tenure

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      September 5, 2004
      Posted to the web September 7, 2004

      Wezie Nyirongo

      A few days after the Livingstonia Synod of the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian (CCAP) declared their stand to rally behind President Bingu wa Mutharika's administration, the Nkhoma Synod says it has not yet recognised Mutharika as president since they are awaiting a court verdict on the May 20 poll case.

      Blantyre Synod on the other hand says it is not fully convinced with Mutharika's overall performance in the past 100 days as he has not yet started implementing programmes, apart from creating unnecessary tension with premature arrests which are never finalised to prosecution stage.

      The political stand made by Livingstonia Synod comes amidst controversy on whether the church should be involved in politics and support a particular party or leader.

      Nkhoma Synod, known for its unequivocal stand against the former Muluzi administration over the Third Term issue through its general secretary Winston Kawale told The Chronicle in an exclusive interview that they will only recognise Mutharika as president if the courts pass a verdict on the May 20 polls because it is believe Mutharika was not elected in a proper manner.

      'In our pastoral letter we indicated that we are disappointed with the elections because the outcome of the poll is contrary to what people expected. The majority are suspicious of whether Mutharika really won the elections and people believe that he was not elected in the right manner,' said a composed and firm Kawale adding: 'In this case, our synod is still waiting for the courts verdict and unless this is done we can not recognise his presidency.' Kawale explained that since none of the observer teams declared the May 20 polls free and fair, it is very difficult to consider Mutharika as the legitimate president.

      'We also question his criteria used on appointing his cabinet. We have noticed that most of his ministers in his cabinet are from the southern region and this is not a healthy situation in a democratic country because this may lead to ethnic conflicts. How can the southern region have 18 ministers and only four from the central region?' He questioned.

      He said if government is really serious about a Government of National Unity (GNU), Mutharika should have given confidence to people from all the three regions because the current situation portrays an unbalanced and bad picture as if the government, like the UDF is for the Southern region people only.

      Kawale said: 'The president should have consulted seriously because issues of regionalism and tribalism are some of the factors which cause chaos and ethnic conflicts in most countries.' The Nkhoma Synod SG further noted that leaders should not be on the forefront creating hatred among ethnic groups saying, the church expects Mutharika to be promoting peace and political stability among Malawians, not divisions and mistrust.

      Commenting on the current political developments, Kawale bemoaned political prostitution among political leaders describing the development as a threat to democracy. On the election management body, he called for an immediate dismissal of all the partisan Electoral Commissioners before local government elections next year so that people should not question the validity of the elections.

      In a separate interview Blantyre Synod general secretary Reverend Daniel Gunya described Mutharika as some one who is not close to his people and a leader who does not have the welfare of the people at heart.

      Justifying this assertion, Gunya said, as a new president Mutharika should have waited for 2-3 years before making suggestions of moving his residential palace to the New State House because there are many pertinent issues which need to be addressed urgently in the areas of good governance, political and economical stabilisation.

      'Its too early for him to demand a comfortable residential place because people may look at him as someone who is greedy and someone who does not put the people's problems at heart, but is more concerned about his own comfort,' Gunya observed.

      He also expressed worry over the numerous arrests which have occurred within the past three months saying people will only start gaining confidence in Mutharika if all those who have been arrested over different charges are taken to book and effectively prosecuted.

      'We are very worried with the tendency of arresting people without proper preparations over their arrests. It doesn't make sense really to arrest people when you don't have enough evidence. This just creates unnecessary tension in society,' said Gunya referring to the arrest of Shire Buslines chief executive Humphreys Mvula who is still on bail after three weeks and is now pending trial. Gunya hinted that the development also creates enmity among parties and individuals.

      The outspoken Gunya further observed that the tendency of arresting people is cropping back from the early years of the Muluzi administration during 1994/95 when Muluzi made more arrests on murder cases implicating MCP leader John Tembo and others. At the end of the day the UDF lost all the cases.

      'Mutharika is also traveling quite a lot. As much as we appreciate that his trips are official and business oriented, our worry is that at the end of the year he might be having over 15 trips and this will make little difference to Muluzi who also used to travel a lot and bash people who tended to question his frequent trips,' said Gunya who promised to release a statement at the end of the year over Mutharika's performance which will be made public, adding that it is very premature to pass a justifiable judgment at this stage.

      Gunya was also among vocal church leaders who strongly campaigned against the Third Term Bid for Muluzi.

      Nkhoma and Blantyre Synods recently released separate pastoral letters in the aftermath of the May 20 polls. Blantyre Synod in its pastoral letter called for reconciliation between party leaders and supporters over the campaign period and Nkhoma called for the removal of the Electoral Commission indicating that it failed to perform its duty as an independent electoral management body. They also expressed disappointment with the results of the elections indicating that the results were not a true reflection of what people expected.


      Damaged Hospital Equipment of Concern As Donors Require Participation of Local Service Providers

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      September 5, 2004
      Posted to the web September 7, 2004

      Pushpa Jamieson

      Life saving medical machines are lying damaged in referral hospitals around the country. Reports reaching The Chronicle state that there are important machines for x-ray, dialysis and other specialist equipment which have not been working for some time because there are no technicians specially trained to repair them or there is no money to get spares from international suppliers.

      According to the source, there are concerns being raised amongst medical practitioners about the equipment being installed at the hospitals without any form of back up for maintenance and repair, should it be required.

      Hospital administrators have lauded initiatives by Malawi's bilateral partners to include the provision of a local maintenance and service provider in the tender to supply, install and maintain medical and laboratory equipment for the newly built Thyolo and Chiradzulu hospitals.

      Tender No. EuropeAid/114935/D/MW financed by the European Union (EU) was for the supply, installation and provision of adequate after sale service of medical and laboratory equipment for the two hospitals. Four lots of the tender were successfully won by Globe Corporation BV of Holland who were able to fulfil the tender requirement by tendering together with Medical Consultant Africa (MCA) Limited, a Lilongwe based company.


      Part of the requirement criteria of the tender was that a bidder had to identify a local company who would provide the said services. The warranty for after sales services reads: 'The tenders shall provide proof of their ability to ensure an adequate economically & technically viable after sales service for a period of at least 5 years.' In addition the warranty requires that the name of a local partner be made available: 'An explanatory note shall indicate the name of the local representative, its statutory reason, the location of the establishment, its financial status, the list of stock normally available, the quantities of the personnel & the organisation of the after-sales services,' the warranty reads.

      Information received by The Chronicle alleges that after winning the tender, Globe Corporation flouted the terms of the tender contract by trying to sideline the local partner who was to have been responsible for the maintenance of the equipment and any after sales services.


      Hospital administrators have become concerned by the recently news report in The Nation indicated that Globe Corporation, the Dutch company have now sought court intervention to vacate an injunction placed on it by Medical Consultancy Africa, the local partner to stop the foreign company from supplying the equipment until the matter of the partnership for *after sales service' is resolved. Reports indicate that the foreign company had received payment for the supply of equipment without consulting the local partner, an action that contravenes the terms of the EU tender.

      'It is possible that the equipment can be given to the hospitals, but what will happen if there is a problem with any machine?' The source added: 'The local firm was also to have made sure that there are qualified personnel who can operate the equipment by providing training. What good is equipment when there is no one who knows how it works?' Speaking to some members of staff at one of the referral hospitals, it was revealed that there is some medical equipment which is faulty and needs repairs.

      'Some of these life saving machines have been damaged and have been lying around for some time. In some cases the equipment has broken down because the people who operate them are not fully trained to work on them,' said one nurse who did not wish to be named.


      When asked for clarification on the hold up of the delivery of the equipment, David Bisnowaty, a Director of MAC Ltd, the local partner in the tender said he would not be able to make any statement as the matter was before the courts. 'Sorry I can not tell you anything as the matter is in court at the moment and I cannot discuss it, only that I have the welfare of the patients at heart' he said.


      A source at the Ministry of Health said some machines previously supplied by foreign companies in the past are not functioning because of an absence of a maintenance or repair provision. He said many of the machines in Malawi's hospitals have not yet been repaired because of the high cost of repairs which, in most cases requires the machines to be sent back to the country of supply or to bring in an engineer to do the work from abroad. The cost of doing this, he said is prohibitive. 'It is encouraging to know that there is this component now in the tenders. It will make it more affordable for Malawi and will ensure that equipment, when it breaks down will be repaired speedily.' Speaking about the many pieces of equipment that are lying dormant in the hospitals the MoH official said: 'In most cases, there is the problem of finding the spares locally. If we have local service providers, they will know where to get these spares from'. he said.


      It has been established by The Chronicle that it was because of the high cost of maintenance and after sales service of medical equipment that the EU tender placed the requirement of a local representative for the machinery which was to be installed in the Thyolo and Chiradzulu hospitals.

      According to the Principal Secretary for the Ministry of Health Dr. Richard Pendami, the opening of the two hospitals should be on schedule. The opening is expected to be in November 2004.

      When asked if the disagreement between the international and local contractor would in any way delay the opening of the hospitals, Pendami said he hoped that any differences between them would be resolved soon, so as not to affect the opening of the hospitals.

      'The equipment was sourced in several lots. Not all the equipment was sourced from one company and those that do not have a problem will deliver their equipment.' he said.

      Thyolo and Chiradzulu districts have some of the highest population densities in the Malawi and there has been a need, for a long time to establish such facilities.


      Malawi Reintroduces Fertiliser Subsidy to Boost Yield

      Inter Press Service (Johannesburg)

      September 6, 2004
      Posted to the web September 7, 2004

      Frank Phiri

      Fertiliser subsidy, phased out in 1996 on the advice of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), is set to return to Malawi to boost food production and counter perennial hunger.

      The subsidy is expected to swallow up about 272 million dollars of the government's 9.48- billion-dollar budget, according to the 2004/2005 budget draft.

      Last week President Bingu wa Mutharika, presenting budget speech in parliament, said 50,000 metric tonnes of fertiliser will be dished out to a targeted 2 million poor households in exchange for vouchers.

      "These are people living below the poverty line and with no means of buying fertiliser," he said.

      According to Mutharika, the subsidy would be implemented as an extension of the Targeted Input Programme (TIP), a safety net scheme formerly funded by Britain, which disbursed pockets of seeds and fertiliser to poor households.

      The donors, including the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, were behind the gradual scrapping off subsidies in sub-Sahara Africa, including Malawi, between 1980 and the late 1990s. They deemed the subsidies wasteful and destructive to poor economies.

      But economic commentators in Malawi say the subsidies proved wasteful because they were not targeted, and implemented across the board.

      "This meant that the cost of the subsidies fluctuated as number of beneficiaries was not constant. If more people grew maize in a particular year, the government's bill would soar and this proved unsustainable in addition to abuse by unscrupulous agents," Kondwani Mlilima, the head of Risk and Economic Services for Stanbic Bank (Malawi), told IPS.

      Government seems to have learnt its lesson.

      Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe told IPS the government would like to put the subsidy to test to see if it will prove efficient.

      Gondwe, a former head of the IMF Africa region, said if successful, the scheme could provide lessons to both donors and government as to what could have gone wrong with initial subsidy programmes.

      "We'll see if it will work for us and if it does, we think it will help improve events and prove a point elsewhere," he said.

      Gondwe said government had convinced the IMF and World Bank to give it a chance.

      "They (IMF) would like to give us the benefit of doubt. We have sat with them both (in Malawi) and in Washington," he said.

      According to a study released in August by the International Fertiliser Development Centre (IFDC), a global body monitoring soil fertility and agricultural development issues, the price of fertiliser purchased by Malawian farmers has more than doubled since 1998 due to devaluation of the Kwacha and increasing prices on the international market.

      IFDC cites the price of a 50-kilogramme bag which has increased from 6.8 dollars in 1998 to 16.75 dollars in 2003, due to devaluation of the Malawi kwacha. In 1998, one dollar was equalled to K44; now it's K109.

      The centre says the global fertiliser market was this year experiencing some of the highest prices witnessed since the 1974 oil shortage, with no real end in sight to the increasing trend.

      "From June 2001 to April 2004, Urea prices from the Arabian Gulf, the principal supply point for Malawi, have risen steadily by 50 percent. Some analysts are suggesting that prices in 2005 will be higher than we're currently experiencing in 2004," says IFDC.

      Gondwe said governments in Malawi, Ghana and the 13-nation Southern African region were forced by the IMF and World Bank to withdraw input subsidies on the premise that their poor economies could not sustain them. The removal of subsidies came in as a pre-condition for aid, he said.

      A report on Malawi's readiness to embrace the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), a blue print to pull the continent out of poverty, showed last month food insecurity is a perennial problem in the country.

      The Aug. 15 report, prepared by the Johannesburg-based South African Institute of International Affairs (SIIA), says five of the last eight years saw Malawi grappling with food production deficits with net food gaps of 56,849 metric tones and 546,962 being reported in 2001 and 2002.

      Aid agencies estimate that between 2001 and 2002 when a serious wave of food shortages swept through parts of Southern Africa, three million people in Malawi were affected and that hundreds died from malnutrition in parts of the country.

      Between 2004 and 2005 one million Malawians will be in need of food aid, according to the UN World Food Programme (WFP). Between 56,000 and 83,000 metric tonnes of food will be required before the next harvest in March 2004, says NEPAD.

      Similar food shortages will be experienced in Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Lesotho, Angola and Mozambique, aid agencies say.

      Most stakeholders see the re-introduction of the subsidy as the only way forward to combat food insecurity in malawi.

      "From the food security point of view, we believe government is on the right track by introducing this subsidy," Nellie Nyang'wa, country project manager for Oxfam (Malawi) told IPS.

      She urged government to put in place measures to ensure that the scheme is sustainable, as inconsistencies were likely to bring harm to soil fertility.

      Perks Ligoya, publicity secretary for the Economics Association of Malawi(Ecama), said: "The beneficiaries must be made to understand that the subsidy is something to help them move from one level to another."

      Others have called on government to improve irrigation systems.

      "Government must concentrate on irrigation because we can't be sure of the rains. On its own, fertiliser cannot do anything without rains," said Charles Undulu, of the European Union (EU), which is assisting government on food security.

      So far, prices of the staple maize have been on the increase in most parts of the country since July, with private traders, who are importing the commodity from Mozambique, cashing in on the shortage.

      Random surveys by IPS indicate that the price of a 50-kilogramme bag of maize has increased from 8 dollars to 9.5 dollars.

      Economists say the low food stocks will trigger inflation, currently at 11.4 percent.

      "Food prices are expected to rise strongly in the coming months as food stocks are expected to decline rapidly from low levels," said a market report on Malawi, released by the Standard Bank Group in Johannesburg on Aug. 31.

      Government believes the sooner economic growth picks up, the better for the food security and poverty alleviation.

      "Bearing in mind the impact that food shortages and poverty have on inflation, we must quickly address the economy to reverse the situation. This is a multi-dimensional problem, and introducing the subsidy is just one of the approaches to try and improve things," said Patrick Kabambe, Principal Secretary in the department of Poverty Reduction in the Office of the President.


      Zim govt says fuel shortage to end 'within 48 hours'


      07 September 2004 11:35

      advertisementA chronic fuel shortage that has crippled Zimbabwe for the last three days will end "within 48 hours," the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe said on Tuesday.

      The bank's governor, Gideon Gono, said $10-million had been released to pay for desperately needed fuel already in Zimbabwe, but held in bond by oil companies.

      He said 12,4-million litres of diesel and 13,2-million litres of petrol would be released to filling stations within the next two days.

      "We are not saying we are out of the woods yet in terms of the availability of foreign currency. We have to be realistic," Gono told reporters.

      Zimbabwe uses about $30-million (about R198-million) worth of fuel each month, making it southern Africa's biggest consumer after South Africa's Gauteng province.

      Zimbabwe has seen periodic and often lengthy fuel shortages for the last four years as the country reels under 360% inflation and rising unemployment. - 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
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        ADB firm on Karonga-Chitipa road contract

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


        Chihana operated on

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

        Mughogho is now in charge of the party.

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


        Pillane proposes presidential age limit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


        Mussa hails new driving licence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


        UDF demands investigation on Kasambara

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


        Zambia: Malawians Grab Zambian Land

        The Times of Zambia (Ndola)

        May 18, 2006

        Posted to the web May 19, 2006

        Andrew Lungu


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

        The Zimbabwean traders were warned and cautioned and later released.

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



        Zim unions, MDC still plan anti-govt protests

        Harare, Zimbabwe

        22 May 2006 11:51

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

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

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

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

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

        Opposition protests

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


        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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