- Malawi: Reining in Overspending Reaps Rewards
UN Integrated Regional Information Networks
September 14, 2004
Posted to the web September 14, 2004
Efforts by Malawi's new government to rein in overspending and tackle
corruption continue to pay off as international financiers lend their
support to antipoverty measures.
The World Bank (WB) this week announced the disbursement of US $25
million to support the country's Fiscal Management and Accelerating
Growth Programme (FIMAG), which is geared to improving service delivery,
bolstering fiscal management and accelerating agricultural growth.
In statement on Monday, Callisto Madavo, World Bank Vice President for
the Africa Region, said the Bank welcomed measures by the new
administration of President Bingu wa Mutharika "to bring economic
performance back on track and tackle governance issues".
In 2001 the International Monetary Fund barred budget support for
Malawi as a result of government overspending. Major Western governments
also demanded greater transparency and froze their funding. Up to 80
percent of Malawi's development budget is provided by donors.
"As you are aware, the World Bank and other donors suspended aid to
Malawi in the past three years for some reasons which I do not know.
They have now accepted to give us financial support. The next US $25
million will be given to us in December , depending on how we are
going to perform," Mutharika told the audience at a rally on Sunday.
The release of US $25 million by the WB is expected to boost
Mutharika's 2004/05 budget, which is currently being discussed in
Since assuming power earlier this year the new president has sought to
convince the international donor community of his government's
commitment to fiscal discipline and stamp out corruption.
Christopher Wraight, political secretary of the British High
Commission, said that while the UK acknowledged the achievements made so
far against graft, further measures should be taken to ensure greater
The outgoing Norwegian ambassador to Malawi, Asborjon Eidhammer, said
corruption should be addressed simultaneously to making improvements in
education and agriculture.
"The European Union (EU) will be waiting to see whether Mutharika will
put into action what he has promised Malawians," said the EU's Press and
Information officer, Charles Undulu.
Now Mugabe wants Zimbabwe's mines
14 September 2004 15:18
The government of Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe will soon lay
claim to half of the ownership of all the country's privately owned
mines, the state press reported on Tuesday.
The state-controlled daily Herald quoted the 80-year-old leader as
saying: "We are going to demand that government be given 50% shares in
"We cannot recognise absolute ownership of our resources," he said.
"That must be corrected."
Comment could not immediately be obtained from the Zimbabwe Chamber of
Mines, which represents the mining industry.
Mining is one of Zimbabwe's most vital economic sectors and one of the
few sources of foreign currency left in the midst of the country's
economic crisis, following the collapse of the once-robust agricultural
The announcement indicates a far more radical approach than was planned
in previous policies. In March, the government shelved plans to force
international mining companies to sell 49% of their shares to blacks.
Observers said Mugabe's statement suggests that he plans a seizure of
the half-shareholdings with no suggestion of compensation.
Zimbabwe has a wide range of mineral output and was a major world
producer of gold, diamonds, platinum, chrome, asbestos and lithium, but
in the past four years of economic and political crisis, production has
The country used to be Africa's third-largest producer of gold, after
South Africa and Ghana, but in the past four years output has fallen
from 30 tonnes a year to 12 tonnes last year.
International mining groups have also largely withdrawn from the
country, with South African-based Anglo American and British-based Rio
Tinto PLC the only foreign companies with any large stake. -- Sapa-DPA
Zimbabwe turns back the clock
Angus Shaw | Harare, Zimbabwe
14 September 2004 08:59
In this nation that once boasted one of sub-Saharan Africa's most
vibrant economies, things have become so bad that people have taken to
telling a wry joke: "What did we have before candles?"
The answer: "Electricity."
Four years of turmoil have turned back the clock here.
Ambulances are drawn by oxen. Hand-guided cattle plows have replaced
farm machinery. The state railroad uses gunpowder charges on the tracks
to warn trains of danger ahead.
The often-violent seizure of thousands of white-owned farms for
reallocation to black Zimbabweans, coupled with erratic rains, has
decimated Zimbabwe's agriculture-based economy.
President Robert Mugabe argues that the land seizures have corrected
ownership imbalances from British colonial days that left one-third of
the country's farmland in the hands of about 5 000 white farmers.
Many seized farms went to Mugabe's cronies and lie fallow.
Ownership deeds were abolished, denying most new farmers collateral for
loans for equipment and materials. Tobacco production -- once the
country's biggest hard-currency earner -- has dropped by nearly 75%
since the seizures began in 2000.
The economic free-fall has been marked by regular power blackouts and
acute shortages of fuel, spare parts and new technology. Soaring
inflation and a shortage of hard currency have made it impossible to
import machinery needed to rebuild the economy.
Once-fertile farmland now has the desolate look of a junkyard; farm
machines that used to rumble through fields now stand idle, broken down
or plundered for components.
"Whole irrigation systems are down, farm equipment is at a standstill
or in a shocking state of repair," said John Worsely-Worswick, head of a
farmers' support group.
A formerly white-owned estate that produced a fourth of the nation's
wheat has been broken up into small parcels of land for black farmers,
bringing intensive, large-scale farming to a halt.
The once-mechanised property in the main grain-growing area of
Chinhoyi, north-west of Harare, is now mainly tilled by animal-drawn
In an unusual admission of economic weakness, the government recently
estimated that at least 35 000 new tractors are needed to revive
mechanised agriculture, which began here with the importation of the
first tractor in 1911. Foreign investors and aid groups have been
withholding support because of alleged government corruption and
With signals functioning on just 20km of a 300km stretch of track, the
state-owned National Railways of Zimbabwe has reverted to posting
handwritten cards at sidings and stations to advise crews about the
movements of trains.
Crews use signboards or small gunpowder charges detonated by an
oncoming train's front wheels to warn of blockages ahead.
A plan to reintroduce steam trains on some routes was abandoned earlier
this year because costly and impractical repairs were needed at
The independent Southern African Railways Association has described
Zimbabwe's broken railway system as lagging at least 50 years behind
Faced with a shortage of ambulances in the crumbling national health
system, nine wooden carts hauled by oxen went into service in July to
ferry pregnant women, children and other non-emergency cases safely --
and slowly -- along rural dirt roads to the nearest clinics.
The United Nations Children's Fund helped pay for the locally built
ambulances -- bigger, enclosed versions of the traditional donkey cart,
with a red cross emblazoned on their white sides. More are planned, said
Tich Chikowore, of the Children's Fund.
Abraham Kochi, a house painter from western Harare, said he can no
longer find kerosene for his stove and is forced to cook with firewood.
"I go to meet the buses coming from the rural areas. They are bringing
bundles of wood to sell," he said.
This new reliance on firewood by poor families has caused severe
As poverty deepens, the Zimbabwe National Association of Traditional
Healers has reported a sharp increase in patients consulting herbalists
and spiritualists who practise centuries-old rituals that had previously
Their services and potions -- such as crushed beetles and roots to
treat common fevers and other ailments -- cost a fraction of those of
Doctors say midwives are now sealing off the umbilical protrusion of
newborns with string, and dentists say many of their patients are using
salt instead of toothpaste.
Unemployment of nearly 80% has forced many skilled workers to eke out a
living as street vendors.
Disused mine shafts have been unsealed by desperate Zimbabweans
searching for the remnants of ore that is then crushed and panned in
water using ancient techniques.
Much of the ore is found around the pillars that hold up the shafts,
said mining expert John Holloway.
"Hacking away at the pillars and walls is very dangerous indeed," he
said, though there are no records of deaths or injuries among the
Panners digging deep into river banks have also caused massive
environmental damage, he said. Seasonal rains wash away the banks and
dump silt into the rivers and dams.
Such practices are effectively encouraged by the government, which
increased the price paid by the state bullion exchange for gold after a
dramatic fall in legal production last year, blamed on shortages of
mining equipment and spare parts.
"We have gone back in time," said Worsely-Worswick, of the farmer's
support group. -- Sapa-AP
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