- Malawi police to question former president
17 November 2004 14:42
Police in Malawi are to question former president Bakili Muluzi and the education minister over the murder of a prominent anti-government Muslim cleric two years ago, the chief prosecutor said on Wednesday.
"We want to interrogate Muluzi and a minister to get their information and some clarification which would help us," said Director of Public Prosecutions Ishmael Wadi.
Wadi said Education Minister Yusuf Mwawa and Muluzi, who stepped down in May after serving two five-year terms as head of state, will be quizzed as "potential witnesses" to the murder and not as accused persons.
He said two daughters of the murdered cleric, Sheikh Abdul Hamid Bugudad el-Bannah, who are in Zambia for "security reasons", will also be questioned by Malawian detectives.
The cleric, who headed the Sunni Muslims' Supreme Council of Malawi, led street protests in 2002 after publishing a scathing open letter in which he accused Muluzi of condoning corruption.
He was detained by police along with 600 of his followers after riot police thwarted their move to march to the presidential palace. He was beaten up later and died of his injuries.
The Young Democrats, the youth wing of Muluzi's United Democratic Front and notorious for beating up government critics during his 10-year rule, is suspected of fatally assaulting the cleric.
Eight Young Democrats members were arrested early this month in connection with the murder.
Their arrests came after two senior politicians of the United Democratic Front -- a top aide to Muluzi and an ex-lawmaker -- were charged in October with the same murder. -- Sapa-AFP
Zim Parliament rejects own election report
17 November 2004 11:19
Zimbabwe's Parliament has rejected an adverse report on its own electoral reforms, despite the report having been written by a parliamentary committee.
Heated debate between the ruling Zanu-PF party and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) this week saw a report by the parliamentary legal committee being thrown out by 75 votes to 37.
The MDC said clauses in new electoral reforms dealing with voter education and the banning of foreign funding are unconstitutional.
Meanwhile, Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa said: "The prohibition of foreign funding is intended to ensure that the sovereignty of the state and its government is not undermined. Foreign donations usually come with foreign interests and strings attached."
Chinamasa claimed foreign funding in "the electoral process" is banned in many countries, including the United States and France.
He also said Zimbabwe is "well ahead" of most Southern African Development Community (SADC) nations in the implementation of new electoral norms and policies.
The MDC, which won about half the elected seats in Parliament in 2000, said Zanu-PF-initiated reforms make it impossible to hold free and fair elections in March next year. The party is calling for parliamentary polls to be postponed.
The opposition is also threatening to boycott next year's election unless "meaningful change" is implemented by Mugabe's Zanu-PF government.
The MDC argues it is denied access to public broadcasters and the state-controlled media. It also wants draconian press and public-order laws to be abolished, saying the laws are used exclusively against the opposition.
The SADC's parliamentary forum said Zimbabwe's parliamentary polls in June 2000 and the presidential election in 2002 were "not a free expression of the will of the people". -- Sapa
Mozambique's sugar faces a new threat
BBC News business reporter in Mozambique
Mozambique's sugar industry is a miracle of reconstruction.
Nowhere is this clearer than at Maragra sugar plantation and mill, situated some 100km (62 miles) outside of Maputo.
The end of October signals the end of the sugar harvest and the well-ordered fields of green are quiet.
It is hard to imagine now, but when general manager Tony Currie arrived in 1998, he was greeted by chaos.
"Everything was overgrown, drains were blocked, electrical lines were down," he says.
The country had just emerged from years of civil war, between the government and South African-backed rebels.
Illovo, the owners of Maragra and one of the world's largest sugar companies, started the slow work of rehabilitation, planting sugar cane, renovating the mill, training workers and rebuilding roads. Altogether investment totalled $30m (£16m).
One year after the company had planted its first cane, it started to rain.
With little advance warning of what was to come, Mozambique witnessed some of the worst floods in its history.
There was water as far as the eye could see, and it took Illovo four months and another $15m to clear up the aftermath of three days of rain.
When they rebuilt Maragra the second time, Mr Currie made sure they put in as much protection against future floods as they could. A marker remains, signalling how high the flood waters went.
Producers now want a different kind of protection, not against war or floods, but low world prices and proposed European market reforms.
Without this, the industry's 25,000 workers could lose their jobs, a disaster of a different kind for one of the world's poorest countries.
Sheltered from markets
Investors in Mozambican sugar already benefit from substantial market protection.
In the post-war years, the government wanted to give the sugar industry, a potentially big employer in poor rural areas, all the help it could.
South African and Mauritian investors could see potential in the Mozambican market - which was then importing all its sugar - but were wary of putting money in a battered industry and a country recovering from war. What they wanted was a tax on sugar imports to encourage people to buy local sugar.
To organisations like the International Monetary Fund (IMF), this was anathema.
If an industry cannot survive without protection, then is it really a viable business?
Without the protection, no one would have invested, says Filipe Raposo, the director of marketing for DNA, the company which sells Mozambican sugar abroad.
"The investors incurred a huge amount of debt in order to build these projects," he points out.
"Africa is late in the race for globalisation, what are we going to do, hold out our hands to donors for ever? I don't think protectionism is a long term plan, (but) you do need some level of protection," Mr Raposo says.
The IMF did recognise there was a need to rekindle industry. Mozambique won its support for protection and implemented a variable import tax on sugar.
Now, sugar is one of the country's biggest employers. About 25,000 people earn their living from it, working either in the mills or the fields at one of the country's four sugar plantations, funded by some $350m worth of investment.
To Western ears, their wage sounds a pittance.
A mere $37 a month if you work in the field and $52 if you work in the factory. About half of what is needed to live for a month, sugar union Sintia says.
The wage is, however, above Mozambique's minimum wage and does compare favourably with Mozambique's 2003 per capita income of $210.
The country's sugar producers have come a long way in a relatively short time but for them to fully profit from this investment and for rural Mozambique to thrive, they have a lot further to go.
Mr Currie knows they need to become more efficient, a lot more efficient.
They sell about half of their sugar domestically, with the rest sold into the world market and Europe.
It costs Mozambique $330 to produce a tonne of sugar and it sells it for about half that price on the world market.
But producers do get a better price on the European market under the ACP Sugar Protocol, where they can sell up to 10,000 tonnes at a guaranteed price of 632 euros ($817; £441) per tonne.
The European Commission is reforming its system of sugar subsidies and quotas and from next year, the price will start to fall and by 2008, the price will be 422 euro per tonne.
Anti-poverty campaigners and sugar producers do want Europe's sugar system to be reformed - as ultimately this should benefit producers from developing countries. Christian Aid says they want more time for developing countries, where sugar employs thousands of people, people who have few other alternatives.
Mr Currie accepts prices will fall, but wants the fall to be staggered to give him more time to be able to compete.
On the plantation in rural Mozambique, it is clear how globalised the business world has become.
He talks of how Maragra is less efficient than other sugar producers in the region.
He fears cheap Brazilian sugar, decisions from Brussels and China's demand for steel, which is pushing freight rates higher.
In the fields outside his office, there is little evidence of the floods. The biggest threat to its future lies not in the skies above, but in decisions made thousands of miles away in offices in Brussels.
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