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  • Christine Chumbler
    Battle for Extra Seats Heats Up Malawi Standard (Blantyre) October 24, 2004 Posted to the web October 25, 2004 Akimu Kaingana Blantyre Almost all political
    Message 1 of 1046 , Oct 26, 2004
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      Battle for Extra Seats Heats Up

      Malawi Standard (Blantyre)

      October 24, 2004
      Posted to the web October 25, 2004

      Akimu Kaingana
      Blantyre

      Almost all political parties are not taking chances in the by-elections
      scheduled for January 2005 as they battle to increase the number of
      seats in the august House.

      Malawi Electoral Commission has slated November 8, 2004 as the date to
      receive nomination papers from all contestants, according to the
      Commission's Press Officer Fergus Lipenga.

      United Democratic Front (UDF) spokesperson Humphrey Mvula said his
      party was ready for the by-elections and had already conducted primary
      elections in some constituencies like Ntcheu South, Blantyre South and
      Thyolo.

      Mvula said prior to the primary elections, the party carried what it
      called a popularity survey to find out from the electorate who they want
      to represent them in parliament.

      "We have not held primary elections in Mangochi because the popularity
      of those who stood in May 20 General Elections has not changed at all.

      "We have also spoken to our coalition partners like Alliance for
      Democracy, National Congress for Democracy and Mgode to see if we can
      approach the elections on a common stand where possible," said Mvula.

      As for campaigning, the party is just waiting for the official campaign
      period, however Mvula said as a party in government, UDF needed to
      increase its numbers in parliament.

      "We cannot depend on our coalition partners, they can chose to break
      ranks with us and it will be a rude awakening," said Mvula.

      The commission will conduct by-elections in eight constituencies
      throughout the country. Two constituencies fell vacant in Thyolo and
      Nkhotakota where President Bingu wa Mutharika and his vice Cassim
      Chilumpha respectively relinquished their seats after ascending to the
      high offices of the land.

      UDF has 49 members of parliament in the 193 seat national assembly.

      The largest opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) is also geared to
      win all the eight seats vacant. MCP has more than 59 members of
      parliament in the house, the largest number so far.

      The party's vice president who also doubles as spokesperson Nicholus
      Dausi said the party was ready to sweep all the eight seats. Primary
      elections have already been conducted.

      Peoples Progressive Movement (PPM) which has six members of parliament
      in the house is geared to ensure it wins some seats in the
      by-elections.

      The party's Secretary General Knox Valera said his party will only
      field candidates in constituencies where it feels it is strong.

      However, the party whose president is the opposition Mgwirizano
      coalition leader Aleke Banda will go it alone in the by-elections unlike
      in the May 20, Presidential and Parliamentary elections where parties
      supported each other.

      Meanwhile, the Malawi Electoral Commission is reeling from heavy
      criticisms by some political parties for having failed to run the May 20
      General elections and hence not fit enough to preside over the forth
      coming by-elections.

      "The current Electoral Commission has failed us and it must go. It has
      proved to be incompetent, inert and manipulated figures in the May 20
      General election to disadvantage the opposition," charged Nicholus
      Dausi.

      He said the current Commission is not fit to run the by-elections as it
      has lost the trust and confidence of the electorate.

      Hours after the announcement of the May 20 elections, there was an
      uproar from the opposition who claimed that the UDF presidential
      candidate Bingu wa Mutharika was not a legitimate winner.

      However the Commission's spokesperson Fergus Lipenga said the political
      parties have no mandate to fire the commission.

      "We are going to run the by-elections, no matter what others may say
      because it is within our mandate," said Lipenga.

      In another interview, UDF spokesperson Humphrey Mvula said his party
      does not subscribe to the views that MEC should be disbanded.

      "If MEC has failed, it means we as parties have also failed. It means
      we have failed to advice MEC.

      The tragedy with life is that losers are quick to blame the referees,
      this is a standard human nature where our problems are past on to
      innocent persons and in psychology we call this scapegoating," said
      Mvula, adding it is too petty to start blaming the Electoral Commission
      and calling for its dissolution because there is nothing wrong they have
      done.

      Press reports have quoted president Bingu wa Mutharika as saying he
      intends to disband the Electoral Commission because it has proved not to
      be independent.

      *****

      Convicts 'Fake' Aids to Escape Jail

      Malawi Standard (Blantyre)

      October 24, 2004
      Posted to the web October 25, 2004

      Harry Mangulenje
      Blantyre

      Soche magistrate court has noted with regret that incidences of
      convicts seeking pardon from courts by 'faking' or revealing HIV/AIDS
      during litigations has worsened.

      Magistrate Kitty Nkhono said though the scourge has reached alarming
      proportions, courts have no mandate to reduce or apply any leniency when
      passing jail sentences to AIDS convicts because of their status.

      "There is no such provision in Malawi's penal code," said Nkhono.

      She said people living with HIV/AIDS should not deliberately break the
      law, hoping the courts will exercise leniency.

      "Law breakers shall be treated the same every time, until laws are
      changed," she said amid tears from a convict who pleaded guilty but
      wanted the court to free him on grounds that he was HIV positive.

      She said it should be up to prison authorities to weigh how they would
      treat convicts suffering from HIV/AIDS.

      An accused person, Gerald Khofi sent the whole court to dead silence
      through, when he revealed his status, asking the magistrate to pardon
      him despite pleading guilty to the theft and escape charges.

      He told the court that Macro testing centre in Blantyre found him HIV
      positive in 2001 and since then his condition has been deteriorating.

      However magistrate Nkhono said such pleas are common in courts these
      days and refused to consider the convict on grounds that he was HIV/AIDS
      positive.

      But the convict still insisted he was suffering from abdominal pains,
      persistent diarrhoea and was receiving medical treatment while on remand
      at Chichiri prison.

      He however could not produce certification to substantiate his HIV
      status claim.

      Nkhono ignored the plea and sentenced the escapee to nine months in
      jail but wrote a report recommending prison officials to treat him as a
      non hard labour.

      The convicted Khofi 22, who hails from Chikwapu village T/A Nthiramanja
      in Mulanje also tried to convince the court to set him free on grounds
      that "I was involved in a terrible road accident last year and I am
      still attending to medical checks at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital."

      Nkhono in her verdict said Khofi should serve as a lesson to all HIV
      /AIDS sufferers that they should not expect sympathy and commit crimes
      deliberately.

      "When one breaks the law, they are aware that they are breaking the
      law, so the court fails to understand how such people expect to be
      treated differently from all law breakers," she said.

      Khofi married, with two children, was arrested after having escaped for
      some weeks while being probed by police on a theft offence of a Samsung
      cell phone worth over K45,000 and some assorted items from his employers
      in Blantyre.

      He was arrested by Luchenza police and sent to Soche where he was
      formally charged.

      He was working for a Mrs.Flora Ngwala 30, of TA Chakhumbira Ntcheu.

      In a separate interview, Malawi Counseling and Resource Organisation
      said:

      "It is not easy these days to believe HIV/AIDS sero status claims until
      both parties come at our offices for proof testing," he said.

      "We abolished the HIVAIDS sero status certifications which prove one is
      either negative or positive because they were being abused and
      counterfeited," he added.

      *****

      'Do Not Take Advantage of Bingu'

      Malawi Standard (Blantyre)

      October 24, 2004
      Posted to the web October 25, 2004

      Joseph Kayira
      Blantyre

      The society must be wary of combined forces of darkness that are taking
      advantage of the president's accessibility and zeal to root out
      corruption by reporting innocent people through anonymous letters.

      Many prominent officials and ministers who served under former
      president Dr. Bakili Muluzi have been targeted to go for the chop or at
      least to go through some form of embarrassment.

      Sources say some people are working day and night scheming plans to
      place others in positions of disadvantage and there are others that are
      simply fabricating stories to ensure that the Bingu administration hates
      them.

      UDF publicity secretary Humphrey Mvula said this week that most people
      have expressed apprehension in the way some of the issues have been
      handled.

      "As liberal democrats, we strive for good governance and free economic
      activity. We also support government's anti-corruption fight. The zero
      tolerance is part of the UDF manifesto. It would appear though that some
      people are bent on peddling personal vendettas to score political
      mileage," Mvula said.

      He said that if unchecked, the tendency would slowly erode the
      country's hard won democracy because rumour mongering can easily develop
      into a serious cancer. The African society thrives on hatred and causing
      pain, Mvula noted.

      The new administration's stance of zero-tolerance on corruption has
      ushered in a culture of backbiting and a syndrome of reporting innocent
      people to authorities on flimsy charges exactly just like in the days of
      the MCP dictatorship.

      On September 20, 2004 while in London, president Mutharika told the
      British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) that he would not act on
      speculation. He said those that have incriminating evidence should
      tender it to the relevant authorities.

      "If they are right, why do they write anonymous letters or make
      anonymous phone calls," the president told the BBC.

      "A system of responding to anonymous letters will create an environment
      where people would be busy scheming plans to destroy each other,
      destroying the whole nation in the process," he said.

      Mvula, who is also UDF deputy director of research, said the country
      should not backslide to the days of death and darkness when Malawians
      were living in fear.

      "The MCP regime was a police state which instilled fear in the people.
      There was no economic activity without interference from those in
      authority. It should not be that way in this era," he said.

      Mvula said the UDF, was, however, supportive of Dr Mutharika's
      administration to fight corruption and fraud.

      He dismissed allegations that the party and Dr. Mutharika's
      administration were at odds. "What odds? The problem is that people are
      used to seeing the party and government as one entity and where there is
      separation, it doesn't augur well for others," he said.

      The Nation newspaper of October 19, 2004 reported that Dr. Mutharika
      told the Malawi Human Rights Commission that there were some elements in
      the party who were at pains to recognise him as the only state
      president.

      The newspaper said the president is reported to have said that Malawi
      like any other country must have one president at a time.

      The Nation quoted Mutharika: "I want to change things, but some people
      are pulling my jacket and behaving as if Malawi must have two presidents
      "

      Mvula said the UDF would continue to support Dr Mutharika's
      government.

      He said it would be unwise for the two sides to fight "especially when
      one is mindful of the fact that the government is a UDF-led
      government."

      "As a party, we are also mindful that president Mutharika is the
      custodian of everyone. As State President he is the father and mother of
      everyone regardless of our political affiliations," he said.

      Mvula explained that the misunderstandings dogging the two institutions
      emanated from failure to manage change.

      "We are in a transition and it is always difficult to manage change as
      some people feel they have been left out and indeed sidelined. It is
      wise and proper that we manage the change in a responsible manner and
      once that is done, all the bickering and hullabaloo will be a thing of
      the past," he said.

      Mvula also dismissed allegations that there is a faction in the party.

      He explained that the ruling party was intact with the national
      chairman Dr. Bakili Muluzi at the helm.

      "The official stand of the party is that there is no faction in the
      UDF. As far as we are concerned, all party members are loyal to the
      party. All the party structures are intact at the moment," he said.

      Some newspapers have engaged in a hate-campaign to portray that all is
      not well in the UDF.

      The newspapers are also painting a picture, which depicts that, the
      relationship between Dr. Mutharika and Dr. Muluzi has soured.

      *****

      Bingu's Transfer to New State House Misty

      Malawi Standard (Blantyre)

      October 24, 2004
      Posted to the web October 25, 2004

      Wisdom Chimgwede
      Blantyre

      It is not clear on whether President Bingu wa Mutharika would quickly
      transfer to the New State House as government departments keep pushing
      the blame to each other on delays in the evacuation process.

      Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) and the housing department
      hold the keys to President Bingu wa Mutharika's quick or delayed
      re-location to the New State House, it has been established.

      According to sources, Malawi Army, police officers and the Ministry of
      Agriculture staff currently housed at the new state house would only
      move depending on the pace at which the two government arms assist in
      relocating them.

      Meanwhile, the departing personnel has confirmed that their moving or
      not, rests in the hands of the housing department but the department
      says it is in the hands of OPC.

      Malawi Armed Forces Spokesperson Lt. Clement Namangale confirmed in an
      interview that the 16 army officers at the new state house have not yet
      started moving out "waiting for some technicalities at the department of
      housing."

      "Just like all other people who have received the orders to move, we
      shall be moving but we are currently working with the housing ministry,"
      said Namangale.

      The spokesperson also said the Force is also looking at other
      modalities like finding houses in some other locations outside the
      barracks.

      "We have a lot of officers who stay outside but still the housing
      department is still responsible," he said.

      In another interview, Controller of Housing, Morris Sulumbu, however
      said there is no progress made so far, and pushed the blame on OPC.

      "They are still there because there are a lot of technical
      complications to be looked at. We are currently waiting for government
      direction. By government I mean OPC," he said.

      Sulumbu said the delay is due to technicalities revolving around the
      new salary system where the housing allowances are consolidated within
      the salary.

      "When they tell us the direction, we shall see how to move," he said.

      The new salary system approved in the current budget abolished the
      system of separating housing and other allowances from the salary.

      Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet Bright Msaka, speaking
      through his secretary said the housing department was the only rightful
      authority to speak on the matter.

      "He is on an international call, but that is what he says I should tell
      you," said the secretary.

      OPC ordered recently that all the officers that are not under state
      house move out from the new state house premises to pave way for
      Mutharika who intends to occupy the house, possibly before the year
      ends.

      President Mutharika expressed interest in moving to the New State House
      some three months ago saying the Lilongwe State Lodge where he is
      currently operating from, is small. Other commentators have accused him
      of rushing in moving the presidential base from the commercial city,
      Blantyre to the Capital city.

      He ordered that Parliament relocates to other places first suggesting
      Kamuzu Institute for Youth, the idea widely criticized as myopic.
      Meanwhile, Parliament offices have relocated to Chief Mbelwa Building
      while the chamber will remain at the new state house waiting for the
      legislature to construct their own premises.

      *****

      Mvula Speaks On Paradiso Coaches

      Malawi Standard (Blantyre)

      October 24, 2004
      Posted to the web October 25, 2004

      Tusekele Mwanyongo
      Blantyre

      When they decided to pull out in 1997, Stagecoach had left the
      country's public transport company with a fleet of about 50 buses on
      their last wheels and most of these were not able to complete a trip. In
      a historic turn of events, Stagecoach had given back the company to the
      people of Malawi at a nominal cost of K1 at a farewell party at Blantyre
      Sports Club.

      The then Managing Director, in almost tears, told the gathering at that
      function "the deregulation of passenger transport had killed the once
      giant passenger transport company."

      The Government of Malawi had no option but to close the company,
      commencing with a massive retrenchment in 1998/99 and further
      retrenchments were halted due to limited financial capacity to pay off
      retrenchment package.

      In December 2000, Admarc Holdings Company seconded Humphrey Mvula as an
      undertaker to see through the process of the sale of the company and
      ultimate liquidation because at that time, the transport specialist
      hired by the company had recommended closure as the only way out.

      Whilst the shareholders were struggling with the identification of the
      retrenchment package, the new management decided to give the company a
      trial. This resulted in the turn around of the company from MK87 million
      loss registered in 2000/2001 financial year to a profit of MK36 million
      in 2002/2003 and then MK117 million 2003/2004 financial year.

      Mvula had his contract terminated a couple of weeks ago following
      allegations of corruption and fraud. Since his departure at Shire Bus
      Lines, there has been much speculation regarding Mvula's tenure at the
      company.

      The most recent was published in the Malawi News of October 16-22,
      2004, entitled 'Another Probe On Mvula.' In the article, it is alleged
      that "Mvula faces new counts involving the purchase and ownership of the
      company's new fleet of buses, the luxurious Paradiso and Sacramento
      coaches" and that the buses were bought "exorbitantly", suggesting fraud
      in the purchase and dubious ownership.

      In an interview with UDF News Mvula dismisses the allegations as not
      true.

      "The bid to purchase buses is something that started way back in 1999
      and this crusade climaxed in 2000 when the Government of Malawi through
      the cabinet committee on economy and Admarc agreed to assist Shire Bus
      Lines in three ways," Mvula explained.

      He said that first, they decided to assist the bus company to act as
      guarantors in the purchase of buses to the maximum of US$6 million.
      Government was going to guarantee Admarc to help Shire Bus Lines
      identify buses that it could purchase.

      Secondly, he said the agreement also provided that the buses and
      accompanying spare parts package should be imported duty free.

      "These decisions were made because at the time when Stagecoach
      dis-invested from Malawi, it had stopped the fleet replacement programme
      leaving behind buses that had an average age of ten to fifteen years.
      This fleet replacement programme had stopped long time ago, seven years
      before 1997 when Stagecoach pulled out," Mvula recalled.

      "In a viable bus operation, the useful life of any bus ends at about
      five to seven years maximum and at that stage the drive train will have
      gone through the first and second overhaul. The bus becomes very
      expensive and unreliable to operate beyond that age, especially when you
      look at our roads and the distances that these buses cover," Mvula
      said.

      "Four white managing directors had come and gone." Mvula said. "Some
      stayed for very few days. One stayed for only two months and said 'look
      this company is beyond salvation.' And technically when I came in on
      secondment from Admarc Investments, I was meant to be an undertaker,
      somebody who was going to see through the sale of the company," he
      emphasised.

      The former CEO said that the company had actually started reducing
      staff, under a retrenchment programme. He, however, could not continue
      with the retrenchment programme because there was no money to pay the
      terminal benefits of retrenched employees.

      "So we lived on. We crawled on hoping that maybe we shall have money
      tomorrow, and the issue of getting new buses became more of a nightmare
      than a real business thought. I changed orientation, the mindset of the
      people. I said, look guys, we can still make money with these old buses,
      because even in the UK, some buses are 15 or so years, we just have to
      improve and get these buses going," recalled Mvula.

      He said that at that particular time they had been to "every bank in
      Malawi and to every bank in this part of Africa."

      "I went with my directors, not alone, and with Ministry of Finance
      officials, looking for money; ABSA, Standard Bank, any bank that you can
      talk about in this part of the world. But the company was just not
      credit-worthy. The company was as good as bankrupt and no-one was
      prepared to risk his or her money into this company," he said, adding
      that Shire also looked for technical partners all over to add value to
      the venture.

      "We said what are going to do; we have to live on. Look, we have so
      many people most of whom have worked only for Shire Bus Lines. Their
      skills are only towards a passenger transport company, they cannot be
      re-trained. The company is one of those with the highest number of
      drivers, over 500 PSV drivers. If they lost jobs today where would they
      go? The company has over 700 qualified mechanics and assistants; all
      these are specialized in buses, where would they go? We have 500 plus
      conductors. These have only been trained in issuing tickets and managing
      passenger transport, where would they go? Basically, it's a specialized
      industry and that even the person who is in support service, the
      expertise is only towards a bus."

      [story continued at http://allafrica.com/stories/200410251269.html%5d

      *****

      Southern Africa: Malawi Gets Bulk of Informal Cross-Border Food Trade

      UN Integrated Regional Information Networks

      October 25, 2004
      Posted to the web October 25, 2004

      Johannesburg

      The first report on the scale of informal cross-border trading in food
      among countries in Southern Africa has identified Malawi as the largest
      recipient of imports.

      A joint World Food Programme (WFP) and Famine Early Warning Systems
      Network (FEWS NET) report noted that "informal cross-border trade played
      a significant role in averting widespread food insecurity in Southern
      Africa during the major regional drought of 2002 and 2003".

      However, the report said information on informal trade was mainly
      anecdotal and its contribution to addressing supply and demand
      imbalances had thus "not been adequately quantified in Southern
      Africa".

      To address this information gap, WFP and FEWS NET, along with other
      partners, had established a monitoring system for capturing informal
      cross-border trade.

      The system began operating in June 2004 and currently covers 24 borders
      shared by six countries: the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Malawi,
      Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

      In the initial three months of operation the monitoring mechanism
      recorded trades accounting for over 36,000 mt of maize, close to 3,700
      mt of rice and about 6,100 mt of beans.

      "The bulk of the trade has been maize exports into Malawi, which have
      amounted to 34,000 mt, or 94 percent of the total maize trade captured,"
      the report said. "Since July 2004, informal traders have been bringing
      an average of 11,000 mt of maize per month into Malawi from her
      neighbouring countries. Malawi is facing a major maize deficit estimated
      at nearly 280,000 mt."

      WFP has said it plans to feed about 1.1 million Malawians until March
      2005.

      Almost all the maize Malawi has imported through informal cross-border
      trade has come from Mozambique, as southern Malawi is virtually
      surrounded by Mozambique and "is the most affected by the food deficit,
      and trade links with northern Mozambique are well-established".

      Additionally, "most of northern Mozambique had a good harvest and
      [internal] trade linkages with major consumption centres in central and
      southern Mozambique are weak" due to poor transport infrastructure.

      According to the report, informal trade in maize across the
      Malawi/Mozambique border was being conducted with relative ease.

      "The process starts from the Mozambican side, where stacks of maize are
      brought in bulk to the border ... these stacks are heaped on the
      Mozambican side of the border for sale to Malawian traders," the report
      said. Most of it is then transported across to Malawi by people on
      bicycles.

      "During the peak of the marketing season for maize, July to September,
      the frequency and number of cyclists crossing the border increases.
      Currently ... it is estimated that up to 100 cyclists carrying three to
      four 50 kg bags ferry the maize across the border every 30 minutes...
      Once on the Malawi side, the maize is then consolidated into truckloads
      for onward shipment to inland urban markets of Malawi," the report
      related.

      Monitoring of informal trade allowed for better decision-making "by
      governments, aid agencies and traders about appropriate levels of
      commercial imports and food aid", the report noted.

      Consequently, more borders are being assessed for inclusion in the
      monitoring exercise.

      *****

      Zimbabwe deports SA unionists

      A South African trade union mission is being deported from Zimbabwe
      after defying a ban to enter the country.
      President Robert Mugabe's government had described their trip to assess
      the ongoing economic and political crisis in the country as "not
      acceptable".

      The 14-member group was initially allowed into Zimbabwe late on Monday
      with the stipulation that they did not meet certain civic groups.

      But the delegation refused to give any guarantees.


      'Appalled'

      "They tell us we must go back because in our passports we were given
      only one day's stay," Violet Seboni, a Congress of South African Trade
      Unions (Cosatu) official, said.

      Zimbabwe's trade union spokesman Mlamledi Sibanda told Reuters news
      agency that police had arrived at the delegation's hotel to deport them.


      "They are being deported right now, the police are here and they are
      saying they should go."

      Speaking from Johannesburg, Cosatu spokesman Patrick Craven told AFP
      the organisation was "appalled at the conduct of the Zimbabwe police".

      "They invaded the offices of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions
      (ZCTU) and just as the meeting of the mission was coming to an end, the
      mission was escorted by the police back to the hotel and told that the
      cabinet has decided that the mission must come to an end."


      He said the delegation were due to meet the South African high
      commissioner later on Tuesday. "The move is a snub to the South African
      government as well as to Cosatu," he said.

      'No democracy'

      The group had intended to assess the state of the country ahead of
      parliamentary elections next year.

      Earlier Ms Seboni had said "if the delegation was deported, it would be
      the clearest indication yet that there was no democracy or rule of law
      in Zimbabwe".

      Among the groups the mission had been told not to meet were the
      Zimbabwe Crisis Coalition, the Zimbabwe Council of Churches and the
      National Constitutional Assembly, which the government view as
      politically linked to the opposition.

      Meanwhile, no details have emerged from Zimbabwean opposition leader
      Morgan Tsvangirai's meeting with South African President Thabo Mbeki in
      Pretoria on Monday.

      Mr Tsvangirai is now visiting the leaders of Mauritius, Lesotho,
      Namibia and Botswana.

      It is his first trip outside Zimbabwe for nearly three years, following
      the return of his passport after his acquittal on treason charges last
      week.
    • 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 8:06 AM
      • 0 Attachment

        ADB firm on Karonga-Chitipa road contract

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

        *****

        Chihana operated on

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

        Mughogho is now in charge of the party.

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

        *****

        Pillane proposes presidential age limit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

        *****

        Mussa hails new driving licence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

        *****

        UDF demands investigation on Kasambara

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

        *****

        Zambia: Malawians Grab Zambian Land

        The Times of Zambia (Ndola)

        May 18, 2006

        Posted to the web May 19, 2006

        Andrew Lungu

         

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

        The Zimbabwean traders were warned and cautioned and later released.

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

         

        *****

        Zim unions, MDC still plan anti-govt protests

        Harare, Zimbabwe

        22 May 2006 11:51

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

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

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

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

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

        Opposition protests

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

        Crackdown

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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