- MCCCI's Analysis of the 2004/2005 Budget
Malawi Standard (Blantyre)
September 9, 2004
Posted to the web September 9, 2004
The budget for 2004/05 indicates some effort to depart from the budgets Malawi has been implementing in the recent years. However, one has to bear in mind that Malawi is kind of in an economic state of emergency. As such one expects to see Government take serious and bold steps, which to a large extent may be painful.
Broadly, the budget points to a positive direction when you consider the total expenditure to GDP ratio of 30.7 per cent, which is a slowdown on the previous levels. This implies that more of the production (GDP) is left in the hands of private production or consumption.
Nonetheless, a good broad picture is one thing; it requires one to appreciate the components that make it. As the Minister of Finance rightly said, the budget is heavy on the recurrent expenditures and one is forced to conclude that the budget is consumptive and not production oriented. Only K19.8 billion is allocated to the development account, which is 23.3 per cent to total expenditure.
In terms of financing, the development account is about 70 per cent foreign financed. It would be better if Government would devote local resources to development account so that projects do not suffer in case of suspension of donor support and to ensure ownership.
Government's plan not to increase taxes is a good compromise between the private sector's desire to have tax relief and the need for Government to finance the budget.
The reduction in domestic borrowing to K4.3 billion is in line with the Reserve Bank's Act for Government's allowance to finance its activities through domestic borrowing not exceeding 20 per cent of the total revenue. But this will come true if the projected K25.2 billion grants materialize. Foreign grants depend on the pledges indicated by donors. However, this largely depends on good governance. In order for grants to flow into Malawi and support the budget, Government should work towards resolving issues that relate to good governance and these include:
· Governance institutions like the anti-corruption bureau, auditor general, ombudsman, the police, the judiciary and the director of public procurement should not be interfered with by the executive arm of government.
· Ensure independence in terms of appointment of staff in these governance institutions and parastatal bodies.
· Ensure free and fair elections (parliamentary and local government) so that those elected are accountable.
· Ensure fiscal transparency in program design and implementation.
For non-tax revenues, Government indicates that it will be outlining and implementing some in the course of the year following consultations with stakeholders. The consultation spirit should be encouraged so that there are no surprises. There are still areas where Government can collect revenue. For instance extending subscription fee to TVM; and strengthening re-enforcement of laws and regulations with heavy penalties, i.e. road traffic.
On the expenditure side, the budget is still social sector focused as opposed to focusing on productive sectors. Government has to tip the balance in favour of the productive sectors to create financing of the social sectors in future. However, what is critical is to make sure that the expenditure allocations end up delivering the services. Previous public expenditure reviews indicated that most of the expenses go towards administrative activities while actual services are denied resources.
The increase in allocation to some of the economic services (agriculture; information and tourism; trade and private sector development; industry and technology; transport and public works; and mines and environmental affairs) is a welcome move. This is a step into the implementation of the Malawi Business Plan: Malawi Economic Growth Strategy.
However, in the case of agriculture, the subsidy should not only look at food production. It has to look at general agriculture production. As such it has to be applied across the board (wholesale) to support the Malawi Economic Growth Strategy.
The scraping of special activities and VVIP expenditure lines is in line with budget expenditure transparency. In normal accounting those lines don't exist. The items that fell under these lines should be allocated to their appropriate lines.
Indeed, it is one thing to formulate a budget and implementation is another. There is need for Government to adhere to financial management principles. The Minister mentioned of travel expenses as one obstacle to implementation of the budget. One way to overcome this problem is to give officers travel allowances (for accommodation and upkeep) directly. Where they put up or how they travel should be left to them.
On the fleet of vehicles, Government should not only stop procuring new vehicles; the old fleet lying idle should be disposed of. However, this has to be done transparently to avoid abuse as experienced in 2000.
Government indeed loses money through the procurement process where goods and services supplied to Government are charged double or three times compared to prices on the market. Good governance institutions should be strengthened to curb this system.
Finally, the budget is said to be a shared vision of Malawians (Government, private sector, civil society) in partnership with the donor community, who want to see a turnaround in the economy and in the management of the budget. But what will anchor the vision? This calls for a change of mindset. There is need for a complete overhaul of Malawi's value system. As pointed out earlier, we are like in an economic state of emergency. But a window of opportunity has been granted. It requires sacrifices and adherence to principles of hardworking; taking risks; accountability; and only eating what you have sweated for. Individually, every Malawian should ask himself/herself: If I die today what shall I be remembered for? A restorer and builder; or otherwise? What legacy shall you leave?
Auditors Screen Five Years Account Books At Bt Civic Centre
Malawi Standard (Blantyre)
September 9, 2004
Posted to the web September 9, 2004
In a new twist of events, auditors have demanded to screen Blantyre City Assembly's accounts books dating back to five years, Auditor General Henry Kalongonda has confirmed in an interview.
Auditors from National Audit Office are scrutinising the Assembly accounts system on suspicion that they have loopholes.
"We are auditing their accounts system to find out if it has problems," Kalongonda said, "We will finish the exercise soon if they give us enough cooperation." The Auditor General could not commit himself as to when the Blantyre City Assembly audit report will be made available to the public.
Kalongonda explained that his officers would audit the Assembly from the last date when the last audit took place. He disclosed that the auditors have resorted to audit the Civic Centre books dating back to five years ago because the Assembly has not been audited for almost half a decade and that instead, the assembly's private auditors Price Waterhouse were carrying out the exercise.
The Assembly sent the city treasurer, Alfred Chumachawo, his deputy Ambire Kayange, on forced leave and suspended four debt collectors on suspicion that they were involved in an alleged K10 million scam.
A source at the Civic Centre who asked for anonymity confided in The Malawi Standard earlier on that auditors requested the Blantyre City's Mayor, John Chikakwiya, to send his chief executive Sophie Kalimba on holiday, to pave way for investigations.
But in an earlier interview Chikakwiya denied having any knowledge on the issue.
"You have got the story from your source. I don't know anything," said the city father.
Desired Economic Change to Take Time
Malawi Standard (Blantyre)
September 9, 2004
Posted to the web September 9, 2004
It will take a little more time before Malawians see the much desired economic change in view of the just presented budget, former vice President Justin Malewezi has said.
Speaking response in an interview in responce to the budget speech, the Ntchisi North Member of Parliament said that fact that the budget is a transitional one means it will first have to clean out the issues that were problematic and scared away the donor inflows.
"As the minister said, there is still no sufficient resources so there will still be a lot of borrowing," he observed.
He said Malawians can not completely rule out hard times ahead because the resumption of donor support will only depend on how the Mutharika administration performs.
"Meanwhile the budget is good but it is still just one of those talks. Until such a time when we start walking the talk, we should expect some hard times still," said Malewezi.
He added however, that for the K85.6 billion budget to start reversing the problems that have hit Malawi, there was need for a joint effort regardless of political inclinations.
"The light will come much much later, certainly not very soon. A minimum of probably five years before we can see the actual reverse towards a balanced budget," he added.
Director of Policy Interaction, Rafiq Hajaat, said Gondwe's budget was just one of those papers.
"It sounds like any other budget I have ever heard. Full of promises but it is the implementation that matters," he said.
He said the most important part he could see in the budget, was the last statement the minister said that if we do not change, "if Malawians cannot change their mindset, then all this is just another great plan that will go into the basket like the rest of the budgets."
He said the problem is that all that is coming out at the moment was just mere talk with no action.
"Only when we see the action, then we shall say, we have started," said Hajaat.
People's Progressive Movement President Aleke Banda, said the budget statement has set a good framework on the basis of which Malawi can turn around its economy.
He however described it as a begining of a very long journey yet to be covered.
Finance Minister Goodal Gondwe said the country should not expect the moon.
"It is true of all policy issues. You start them, then when you come to implementation, there are lots of obstacles, but we are all sure of implementing it because it is important for us to do it," he said.
Zim police detain MDC youth wing leader
09 September 2004 17:13
advertisementInvoking sweeping security laws, police detained an opposition leader after a series of raids on the homes and offices of government opponents, Zimbabwe's main opposition party said on Thursday.
Nelson Chamisa, a lawmaker and head of the youth wing of the Movement for Democratic Change, was picked up on Wednesday by police who alleged that he held an illegal political meeting, the party said in a statement.
Chamisa was arrested after meeting with eight supporters, the statement said, adding that it was expected he would be charged under the security laws, which stipulate that any gathering of more than five people requires prior police approval.
The opposition accuses the government of using those laws to routinely harass political opponents. In this case, the Movement said it believed officials were trying to keep the party from celebrating its fifth anniversary on Saturday.
Police spokesperson Wayne Bvudzijena confirmed that officers had raided the Movement's offices in the city of Bulawayo on Tuesday and Wednesday, and that Chamisa had been arrested after being accused of holding an illegal meeting.
The police were acting on information from informants, the police spokesperson said, and were searching for subversive material but found none.
Chamisa was being held at a station near the western Harare district he represents in parliament.
Police also raided the Harare home of Lovemore Madhuku, head of the National Constitutional Assembly, a militant reform group, and arrested him for allegedly organisation an illegal demonstration on September 1, his group said.
Baton-wielding police broke up that protest against proposed government restrictions on charities and human rights groups.
Madhuku was released later Wednesday with charges pending under the Public Order and Security Act, according to Jessie Majome, an official with Madhuku's group.
Madhuku has been arrested 15 times in the past two years, and 32 of the Movement's current 51 lawmakers have been arrested since the last parliamentary election in 2000.
The opposition has said it plans to boycott a parliamentary election in March to protest unfair electoral laws and media and security laws that they say violate freedom of speech.
In the 2000 ballot, the opposition won 57 seats of 120 elected seats -- the biggest challenge to President Robert Mugabe's authoritarian rule. Since that election Mugabe -- who personally appoints 30 lawmakers, allowing him to give his Zanu-PF party a sweeping parliamentary majority -- has cracked down severely on dissent. - Sapa-AP
Mugabe faces class action lawsuit
Gift Phiri | Harare
10 September 2004 09:50
advertisementZimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights and the Legal Resources Foundation are contemplating a class action to compel Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe to publish findings of investigations into military atrocities against civilians in Matabeleland in the 1980s.
A spokesperson for the two human rights groups said they were still collecting signatures from victims of an alleged genocidal campaign in Zimbabwe's Matabeleland and Midlands provinces that claimed the lives of an estimated 20 000 people in five years.
"By failing or refusing to make the reports public Mugabe is hindering many people's enjoyment of freedom of expression," the organisations' lawyer said. "As an alternative remedy, it is prudent for us to bring a class action lawsuit against Mugabe until he concedes to our demands to make the two reports public."
The Matabeleland massacres -- which have been described by Mugabe as an "act of madness" -- were committed by the North Korean-trained Fifth Brigade during a security clampdown against purported dissidents in the south-western part of the country.
Investigations by human rights groups have found that at least 20 000 civilians were killed in the Matabeleland and Midlands provinces in what political analysts have said was a bid to establish a one-party state. Most of the people in the affected regions supported the now defunct PF-Zapu, a former liberation movement.
Although Mugabe has not directly apologised for the mass murders, he has said it was "an act of madness" that should not be repeated. He came close to apologising at Zimbabwean politician Joshua Nkomo's funeral in July 1999 when he said he regretted the loss of lives during the Gukurahundi campaign.
The massacres between 1982 and 1987 were preceded by bloody clashes in Zimbabwe between former liberation movements PF Zapu and Zanu's armed wings -- Zipra and Zanla respectively.
Mugabe reacted to the incidents by appointing a commission of inquiry chaired by the late former Chief Justice Enock Dumbutshena.
Another commission chaired by Harare lawyer Simplisius Chihambakwe was set up to investigate the atrocities in Matabeleland and Midlands.
However, Mugabe has refused to publish the reports despite sustained pressure to do so.
This forced human rights groups to approach Zimbabwe's supreme court to compel him to release the reports. But a full complement of the highest court of appeal bench dismissed the application for the publication of the reports.
Justice Misheck Cheda ruled that Mugabe could not be compelled to reveal the findings contained in the reports.
"The president is, by virtue of executive privilege, permitted to withhold such a report where he deems it to be confidential and its revelation would be prejudicial to public safety and order," Cheda said.
"As long as the first respondent (Mugabe) declines to publish the reports on the basis of the interest of the state and safety of other persons, he cannot be compelled to publish the reports."
But human rights groups say they will now resort to a class action to oblige President Mugabe to publish the reports to heal the wounds. - Zimbabwe Independent
Sewage seeps into Harare water supply
Itai Dzamara | Harare
10 September 2004 09:50
advertisementFormer Harare Mayor, Elias Mudzuri, has said residents of the Zimbabwean capital and satellite towns are consuming water contaminated with raw sewage, due to fighting between government and the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) council over the past year.
Mudzuri on Thursday said investigations he had made and information he obtained revealed that Harare could run dry next month. There was a grave risk to residents' health, he said.
Mudzuri said the fighting between government and the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) council over the past year had led to structures collapsing in the water treatment system.
"We have to alert the people that Harare is likely to run dry in October. I have done investigations and visited Lake Chivero and established that things have fallen apart," Mudzuri said. "One day the city could wake up without any drop of water because of the looming collapse of the water treatment system."
Lake Chivero supplies water to Harare and satellite towns such as Norton, Chitungwiza and Ruwa.
Mudzuri, who is a qualified engineer, said the quality of water currently being pumped into Harare was unfit for human consumption.
"The treatment plants (at Morton Jaffray) are terribly bad and Lake Chivero is badly polluted. The water currently being consumed has a bad smell because of the untreated raw sewage flowing into the lake and I have since stopped drinking it."
Mudzuri was elected to head the Harare City Council in 2000 but was only in office a year when local government minister Ignatius Chombo suspended him. Government eventually fired Mudzuri earlier this year and Sekesai Makwavarara, who recently defected to Zanu-PF, took over as acting mayor.
Harare has been struggling to secure funds to import water treatment chemicals over the past year and Mudzuri said, added to this, plumbers who had been employed during his tenure were fired leaving the council without enough manpower at the water treatment plants.
University of Zimbabwe scientist Professor Chris Magadza this week warned of the danger of microcystin levels rising well above World Health Organisation recommended limits in Lake Chivero.
Microcystins cause cancers, intestinal disorders and damage human male testicular chromosomes, Magadza said.
Mudzuri said recent claims by Chombo that government was giving Harare City Council Z$50-billion didn't offer hope for the city.
"That amount is too little considering the terrible state of affairs on the issue of water treatment as well as others such as refuse collection," he said.
The MDC pulled out its remaining 22 Harare councillors a fortnight ago following six months without council holding meetings. Chombo suspended 19 councillors in May after they had refused to take his orders barring them from holding meetings. - Zimbabwe Independent
Zimbabwe debt soars to Z$1,4 trillion
Ngoni Chanakira | Harare
10 September 2004 10:47
advertisementZimbabwe's domestic debt which stood at Z$590,5-billion in December last year has ballooned to Z$1,4-trillion in June. Latest figures available from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe on the country's foreign debt are for November when the figure stood at US$4 billion.
The domestic debt, which stood at Z$346-billion in December 2002 rose dramatically to Z$546-billion as at June 30 2003.
NMB Holdings Ltd this week said Treasury Bills, which were mainly two-year paper, account for 93% (Z$1,3-trillion) while government stock accounted for the balance of 7%.
The financial institution said government intended to further restructure the domestic debt during the second half of the year.
Analysts said the high interest rates would continue to be a burden on the fiscus.
They said the increased borrowing had tied up a high percentage of the nation's savings.
They said the domestic debt would continue to soar due to the necessity to fund various imports such as electricity, grain and providing financial support for newly-resettled farmers.
When he took over as Zimbabwe's Reserve Bank governor, Gideon Gono said the current debt overhang had a negative impact on money supply numbers and, therefore, efforts to fight inflation.
He said Zimbabwe's treasury and monetary authorities and the private sector were engaged in active discussions over the idea of ring-fencing this debt and coming up with innovative instruments of dealing with the entire outstanding domestic debt.
Gono then proposed a zero-coupon bond where government issues a zero-coupon bond which investors purchase at a discount. He also proposed a weighting system to determine the discount factor for the said bond.
Another idea to try and stop the soaring domestic debt was that of converting the current domestic debt into foreign debt.
Gono said government with the help of the private sector would, on a bilateral basis, request friendly countries to issue foreign currency denominated bonds in international capital markets.
The foreign currency raised would then be sold to Zimbabwe's Reserve Bank and the local currency used to extinguish domestic debt while the foreign currency with the Reserve Bank could then be used to repay part of the foreign debt or meet the country's import requirements.
It, however, seems none of these proposals have begun to bear fruit if they have been put in motion. Zimbabwe's balance of payments position has remained weak, largely as a result of poor export performance and continuing importer demand. - Zimbabwe Independent
Harare Acts to Change Electoral Law
Business Day (Johannesburg)
September 9, 2004
Posted to the web September 9, 2004
THE Zimbabwean government has adopted a draft bill to amend archaic electoral laws ahead of next year's general election.
The bill, which will be gazetted soon, is expected to be introduced in parliament next month, paving the way for an overhaul of the system.
It proposes the establishment of an independent electoral body, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, to run all future elections, including referendums.
The bill says the commission will not be subjected to " direction or control of any person or authority" in the conduct of duties.
However, the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) said yesterday the move was a "cynical attempt" by President Robert Mugabe's regime "to pull the wool over the eyes of Zimbabweans and (the) international community".
MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai met diplomats in Harare yesterday to explain his party's recent decision to boycott elections until the electoral system was overhauled. They also discussed Southern African Development Community (SADC) principles and guidelines on elections that were adopted recently at a regional meeting in Mauritius.
The principles lay down the rules and procedures for conducting free and fair polls.
Tsvangirai told the ambassadors the MDC decided to boycott elections because of increasing repression and government's unwillingness to discuss ways to implement the SADC principles.
He cited the continued banning of MDC rallies, prevention of public demonstrations, violence and intimidation by pro government militias and the suppression of civil and political liberties.
Tsvangirai said as long as Zimbabwe had laws such as the Public Order and Security Act and the Access to Information & Protection of Privacy Act, it would be hard to have freedoms of assembly, association and expression.
"Fear is now endemic, especially in the rural areas, thus destroying the confidence of the people in the electoral process.
"Some say we rushed into the decision to suspend our participation in elections," Tsvangirai said. "They argue that we should have given the government a chance to implement the Mauritius protocols. Our answer is simple. We say look at the political facts and the political reality on the ground."
The MDC resolved to boycott elections because Mugabe's regime was refusing to implement SADC principles and abandon repression. "There is no willingness to deal with political violence. There is no intention to disband the militias," he said.
Tanzanian marine park planned
BBC correspondent in Mnazi Bay
An ambitious plan to open a big marine park that includes a large area of land with over 30,000 people living on it has been launched in southern Tanzania.
Unlike most marine parks which have no human habitation, the Mnazi Bay - Ruvuma River Estuary Park will have to match the goals of marine conservation with the needs of the fishermen and farmers who live off the sea.
It will mean radically changing the way local people interact with their environment.
It was set up to protect an area rich in biodiversity.
Park warden Milali Machamu said their approach will be participatory, using the community as a partner.
"Most of the people are dependent on marine resources and we need to preserve these resources," he said.
He said many were still using unsustainable fishing equipment and this needed to change.
"A change of attitude is in process and of course it takes time... We need these people to benefit from resources, such as tourism, to ensure it works."
'Gift from God'
However, there are reports that some local fishermen are unhappy at the creation of the park.
Local community representative Buhura Ismaili said the marine park would not make a difference to their lives.
"As far as I can understand the sea is a gift from God. This is nature at work.
"Nobody can decide where the fish is. We just have to hope that a park will stop illegal fishing," she said.
Several people I spoke to said that they wanted to carry on fishing as before - which in effect means trying to pull out as many fish as possible, as quickly as possible to sell to dealers from the commercial capital, Dar es Salaam.
The difficulty will be to ensure the protection of species such as the Sea Robin.
It could well prove to be a near impossible task trying to police the area if even some locals do not want to come on board.
The park is a massive undertaking, but its success will ultimately depend on how local people respond.
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