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  • Christine Chumbler
    Malawi: Aids Drug Rollout Hampered By Lack of Funds UN Integrated Regional Information Networks November 30, 2004 Posted to the web November 30, 2004
    Message 1 of 1046 , Dec 1, 2004
      Malawi: Aids Drug Rollout Hampered By Lack of Funds

      UN Integrated Regional Information Networks

      November 30, 2004
      Posted to the web November 30, 2004


      Malawi needs an estimated US $28 million to provide free anti-AIDS treatment to some 36,000 people by next year, Health Minister Heatherwick Ntaba, has announced.

      According to the Pan African News Agency, Ntaba said a lack of adequate funding was the main obstacle blocking the country's delivery of treatment.

      Although the government programme plans to operate from 54 accredited sites, a consignment of drugs expected this week will only cover 20 of the sites.

      Malawi's initial target was to place up to 20,000 people on treatment by the end of 2004, but only 8,000 people currently have access to antiretroviral medication.


      Statement By IMF Staff Mission to Malawi

      International Monetary Fund (Washington, DC)

      November 29, 2004
      Posted to the web November 30, 2004

      Washington, DC

      The following statement was issued on November 25, 2004 in Lilongwe at the conclusion of an International Monetary Fund (IMF) staff mission:

      "An IMF mission visited Lilongwe during November 9-23, 2004 to review performance under the Staff Monitored Program (SMP) with the IMF.1 The mission met with a broad range of senior government officials, including the Minister of Finance and the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Malawi, and private sector representatives. The mission also discussed with the authorities economic policies for the remainder of the current budget year and some medium-term issues.

      "In July 2004, the Government of Malawi requested an SMP to support the government's efforts to reestablish its track record of economic policy implementation. The program aims to address macroeconomic imbalances by containing government borrowing and holding down inflationary pressures.

      The SMP, which is closely aligned to the 2004/05 budget approved by Parliament, supports key government initiatives, including the targeted input program (TIP), the purchase of maize to alleviate the expected shortage, and the recent increases in civil service pay. While these initiatives are costly, the mission agrees that food security and a more efficient civil service pay structure are important government priorities. The success of the SMP will, therefore, depend on adherence to the approved budget provisions for these and all other spending items.

      "In general, the mission was encouraged by recent signs that Malawi's economy is strengthening. Preliminary information indicates that economic growth picked up in 2003-04; it is now estimated to be around 4¼ percent in 2004, in part because of a very large increase in tobacco production that is also contributing to a rise in foreign exchange earnings. Average inflation has remained in the 10-12 percent range, but it is projected to rise temporarily to14½ percent around the end of the year because of the impact of higher fuel and maize prices.

      "The mission welcomed the progress observed under the SMP through end-September. In particular, discretionary spending and net domestic financing to the government were significantly below their ceilings due to the new government's effort to rein in spending by rejecting requests for extra budgetary spending and the postponement of maize purchases into the October-December period. Targets on net foreign and net domestic assets of the Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM) were comfortably met, pointing toward strong performance by the RBM in mopping up the monetary overhang and in building the necessary level of reserves during the tobacco marketing season. The authorities have also implemented measures to improve financial management, particularly in the areas of budget monitoring and expenditure control.

      "Going forward, the mission encouraged the authorities to continue the implementation of reforms in order to improve Malawi's growth prospects and social conditions. The success of the SMP, however, depends critically on adherence to the approved budget provisions, and the government will need to counter quickly any pressures that develop. The government is already addressing higher-than-expected costs stemming from the civil service wage reform. It is equally important that the RBM continue to mop up the monetary overhang and take the needed steps to contain inflation.

      "The IMF remains committed to helping Malawi achieve macroeconomic stabilization, sustainable growth, and poverty reduction. The mission team plans to return to Malawi in February to monitor the country's financial performance through December and to continue the policy dialog. Strong performance under the SMP would provide a basis for a new financial arrangement under the Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF)."


      Some ballots sent out in canoes for Mozambique poll


      01 December 2004 12:44

      Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano voted on Wednesday in a landmark election which will see him step down after 18 years in power, saying he was proud of his role in cementing peace after helping end a brutal civil war that killed about one million people.

      "We managed to consolidate the peace process. Things seem to be very well organised ... I feel proud that I can finish my mandate in these circumstances," the 65-year-old Chissano said after casting his ballot at a school near the presidential residence.

      Chissano admitted that there had been some problems in transporting ballot material in certain areas of this impoverished southern African nation, which gained independence from Portugal in 1975, only to be wracked by a 16-year civil war which started a year later.

      "They had to utilise canoes because we don't have our own means in this country for transportation. We don't have helicopters, we don't have planes. We have still a lot of roads to be constructed.

      "In spite of that we are doing our best," he said.

      About eight million people are eligible to vote in the two-day presidential and legislative polls, the third since independence as well as a 1992 peace accord signed in Rome that ended the civil war.

      There are about 3 000 polling stations scattered over 11 provinces and the polls are being monitored by about 400 foreign observers, including former United States president Jimmy Carter, and 1 600 domestic monitors.

      Voters queued up in polling stations ahead of the opening time of 7am (5am GMT) and some were wistful about Chissano's departure.

      Twenty-three-year-old Sonia Mate said Chissano's successor "should continue what Chissano has done in terms of poverty, education, Aids and peace".

      Jamisso Taimo, a former head of the country's National Elections Commission who was among one of the earliest voters, said Mozambican elections were always special given the country's bloody history.

      "All our elections are historical in the sense that in other countries elections are an exercise in democracy but here it's an exercise in democracy and reconciliation."

      And Paulo Mabunda (71) who came to vote in a wheelchair added: "We want to continue to live in peace."

      Chissano became president after the shadowy death of founding president Samora Machel in a 1986 plane crash over apartheid South Africa and unlike some other African leaders, he has not tried to tamper with the Constitution to allow himself a third term.

      The governing Mozambique Liberation Front (Frelimo), a former armed group that fought Portuguese colonial rule and became the ruling party after, has picked rich businessman Armando Guebuza as its presidential candidate.

      Guebuza (61) is locked in a tight race with the main opposition leader Afonso Dhlakama (51) whose former rebel Mozambican National Resistance (Renamo) party was backed by apartheid South Africa and fought Frelimo during the civil war.

      Guebuza on Wednesday promised to fight corruption and red tape and speed up foreign investment to accelerate the economic revival of Mozambique, which heavily depends on foreign aid.

      He also pledged to fight HIV/Aids -- which affects about 1,1-million of the country's 17-million people.

      "If I am elected, my government will accelerate the fight against Aids," he said.

      "People need to have more information about how they can defend themselves from the disease. We also need to make sure that infected people get proper treatment. We also need to look at orphans and widows."

      Although Guebuza is expected to win the presidential race, there is the possibility of a run-off vote with Dhlakama, whose Renamo remains popular in the north and centre despite being blamed for committing some of the worst atrocities during the war.

      Dhlakama -- who lost to Chissano in the last two elections and claimed that victory had been snatched from him through fraud -- has cried foul ahead of the current polls, saying the ruling party was planning widespread rigging.

      But he said on the eve of the elections that he would accept defeat if the polls were conducted in a freely and fairly. - Sapa-AFP


      Long queues in Mozambique polls
      By Dan Isaacs
      BBC News, Maputo

      The people of Mozambique have begun voting in presidential and parliamentary elections.
      After 18 years in power, President Joachim Chissano is stepping down and five candidates are vying for his post.

      In scorching heat long queues formed at polling stations around the country on the first of two days of voting.

      The leading candidates are from two parties which fought a destructive civil war which ended in 1992.

      The winner will inherit a country that has shown remarkable economic progress since the end of the conflict, but remains one of the world's poorest.

      The former rebel movement, Renamo, with its strongest support in central Mozambique, is hoping that leader Afonso Dhlakama can improve on the result of the previous poll, in which the party came very close to winning.

      The candidate for the governing Frelimo party, Armando Guebuza, is banking on the electorate supporting the party that has governed the country without interruption since independence 30 years ago.

      Maintaining peace

      Mr Guebuza has been a government minister in charge of senior posts and is also reputed to be a wealthy businessman.

      His supporters see in him a leader who can be trusted to maintain policies that have brought stability and progress.

      "If we want to maintain peace in this country, to see improvements of the country we should vote Guebuza because for now he's the best we have," said one supporter at a rally in Maputo.

      But despite its impressive overall economic growth over the past decade, the vast majority of Mozambique's population lives in deprived urban areas or in rural isolation.

      Opponents of the government argue that it has failed to address these issues and that it has favoured the southern provinces where the ruling party's support has traditionally been the strongest.

      And despite a largely peaceful election campaign, Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama has complained of widespread procedural irregularities.

      He has also highlighted the failure of the electoral commission to get ballot papers on time to all 13,000 polling stations around the country.

      The head of the commission, Reverend Arao Litsuri, said any claims put to the commission would be thoroughly examined.

      All the indications are that this is a very close race for the presidency.

      Five years ago, President Chissano won the poll by a margin of just four percentage points over Mr Dhlakama.

      Although recent splits within the Renamo movement may have weakened the former rebel leader's chances, he remains very much in the running.

      The theory is that if he loses, judging by his hostile campaign rhetoric, he is unlikely to concede gracefully.


      Mozambique faces HIV cash dilemma
      By Orla Ryan
      BBC News business reporter in Mozambique

      It is hard to imagine now, but at the peak of her illness Ana Maria Muhai was a skeletal 29 kilos.

      Her husband left her and her neighbours shunned her when they realised she was HIV positive, leaving her struggling to support her six children.

      Now she is full of fighting talk and enthusiasm, fuelled by the knowledge that if she had not found treatment, she would be dead.

      Italian non-governmental organisation Sant Egidio in Maputo treats Ms Muhai with generic antiretroviral drugs (ARVs).

      Sant Egidio was a pioneer of this treatment in Mozambique, where it launched a pilot project in 2001.

      The trickle of money - and interest - in treatment with ARVs has become a flood.

      The Mozambican government is now one of the recipients of US President George W Bush's $15bn Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (Pepfar).

      Pepfar represents a healthy injection of cash into the fight against HIV/Aids. Just as importantly, it is the result of US recognition that action is urgently needed.

      Spending rules

      But Pepfar cash, however welcome, has attracted controversy.

      It comes with restrictions that prevent the purchase of generics - cheaper, copies of brand name drugs.

      Beneficiaries of Pepfar cash are only allowed to buy drugs approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This effectively rules out the vastly cheaper generic treatments that Ms Muhai benefited from.

      Avertino Barreto, a director in Mozambique's Ministry of Health and one of the coordinators of the HIV/Aids effort, welcomes the cash, but says the restrictions are unfair.

      With less than $2 per head to spend on drugs, the Ministry's policy has always been to buy generics approved by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

      The health ministry plans to treat 8,000 people with ARVs by the end of this year, using money from its own coffers and from other donors who do not have a problem with the generics. By the end of 2008, it hopes to treat 128,000 people.

      Safe, cheap drugs?

      Mozambique and other recipient countries have their hands tied by Pepfar's conditions.

      Within two years, Pepfar money will account for about 20% of the country's HIV/Aids budget, Mr Barreto says.

      Unless the generics have been approved by the US regulator, Mozambique will still not be able to use the Pepfar cash to buy ARVs.

      Emotions run high when you talk of treatments for Aids, which is estimated to kill about 6,000 people each day in Africa.

      Leading pharmaceutical companies argue that they need to charge higher prices to justify the billions of dollars they spend on research and development, costs which generic drug makers like India's Cipla and Ranbaxy do not have to bear.

      There is also a view that generic drugs are unsafe.

      Pepfar, which falls under the auspices of Randall Tobias, a former Eli Lilly chief executive, questions the safety of some generic treatments and the WHO has withdrawn its approval for some generic treatments.

      Generic drug-maker Cipla, which views the Pepfar ruling as unfair, is currently applying for FDA approval.

      Better use of the cash

      Mr Barreto is among the first to say that money spent on drugs is just one part of the Pepfar story.

      "We are using most of the money available for training," he says.

      "Training doctors, training nurses, people for planning, people for management. ARVs is not a question only of drugs, you need to guarantee the system is functioning well," Mr Barreto says.

      US diplomatic sources in Maputo agree.

      "Drugs are an easy way to spend a lot of money," one official said. "The difficult part is to put the programme in place, training and using the healthcare system."

      He points to the fact that there are only 650 doctors in Mozambique, many hospitals lack regular water and electricity supplies and there are only three labs where your CD4 count (a blood test which indicates whether you need to start taking ARVs) can be tested.

      Mozambique is at a far earlier stage of the HIV epidemic than neighbouring countries. Just 14% of its population has the disease, compared with 40% in neighbouring Botswana.

      This could justify spending more of the Pepfar money on prevention and improved healthcare than on buying ARVs, brand names or generics.

      There is, however, no escaping the importance of treatment.

      "Treatment is a component of prevention," a Maputo-based NGO worker says.

      "When you propose testing and you don't have availability of treatment, you are giving someone a death sentence."


      Mugabe moves against party rivals

      Deep splits have emerged in Zimbabwe's ruling party as delegates gather for the opening of the Zanu-PF congress.
      Seven provincial party leaders were suspended for opposing President Robert Mugabe's choice of a new vice-president, state media reports.

      Controversial Information Minister Jonathan Moyo was also severely reprimanded for campaigning against the nomination of Joyce Mujuru.

      Correspondents say the splits result from a campaign to succeed Mr Mugabe.

      Teenage fighter

      Parliamentary speaker Emmerson Mnangagwa, who had been seen as Mr Mugabe's choice to replace him when he eventually steps down, had coveted the post of vice-president.

      The Zanu-PF provincial chairmen and Mr Moyo had reportedly attended a meeting held to discuss how to block Mrs Mujuru's nomination in favour of Mr Mnangagwa.

      Mr Mugabe reportedly now favours Water Resources Minister Joyce Mujuru, whose husband, retired General Solomon Mujuru, is seen as a kingmaker within Zanu-PF.

      Mr Mugabe, 81, is not thought likely to stand for re-election when his current term of office expires in 2008.

      Mrs Mujuru, 49, a former teenage guerrilla fighter with little formal education, is not seen as a likely presidential candidate.

      She is set to become the first female vice-president of both Zanu-PF and the country.

      Meanwhile, in a BBC interview, Zanu-PF spokesman Nathan Shamuyarira has called for improved relations between Zimbabwe and Britain.


      Zim security police budget to surge


      01 December 2004 07:10

      Spending on Zimbabwe's feared security police is set to surge to Z$395,8-billion ($70,6-million) in 2005, according to expenditure estimates released on Tuesday.

      President Robert Mugabe's government refuses to discuss the operations of the Central Intelligence Organisation. Funding for the shadowy force appears under a "special services" category in the budget for his own office.

      According to figures released Tuesday, spending on special services ballooned in 2004 from an approved Z$62-billion ($11,1-million) to Z$101,6-billion ($16,3-million) without consulting Parliament. No explanation was given.

      Next year, Z$334,5-billion ($59,7-million) is budgeted for special services.

      A separate equipment procurement account for special services is also increasing from Z$10-billion ($1,8-million) -- of which just Z$1,5-billion ($270 000) was spent in 2004 -- to Z$61,3-billion ($10,9-million) in 2005.

      The funds are being used to build training facilities, housing and regional officials, as well as to purchase unspecified equipment.

      Mugabe, who has lead Zimbabwe since independence in 1980, has stepped up a crackdown on descent in this troubled southern African country since losing a constitutional referendum in 2000.

      The surge in spending on the security police comes as Zimbabwe prepares to hold key parliamentary elections next year.

      Human Rights groups accuse Mugabe of using the Central Intelligence Organisation to spy on suspected opponents at home and abroad, intimidate voters and other abuses.

      Parliament is barred from discussing the special services allocations in the annual budget, which regularly increase at a rate in excess of the country's soaring inflation. - Sapa-AP


      WFP to feed 1,6 in Zimbabwe


      01 December 2004 09:41

      The World Food Programme (WFP) confirmed on Tuesday that it plans to expand its support to 1,6-million Zimbabweans during December via its targeted feeding programme.

      WFP spokesperson in Zimbabwe, Makena Walker, said that about 25 000-million tonnes of food aid, left over from its assistance programme last year, would be distributed next month to vulnerable groups, including the chronically ill, child-headed households and the disabled.

      "At the request of the government we will go ahead and increase the number of people under WFP's targeted assistance programme. It is a necessary move because it coincides with the upcoming lean period, when vulnerability increases among the population," Walker said.

      Up to 600 000 beneficiaries received WFP aid between October and November.

      Earlier this year the government decided not to renew an appeal for international food aid and, controversially, cancelled a crop assessment mission by the Food and Agriculture Organisation and WFP, claiming the country would have a bumper harvest.

      Walker said: "So far there has been no indication from the government that they would like us to continue with general distributions."

      A report released by the parliamentary portfolio committee on lands and agriculture last month said the government had seriously miscalculated the size of its grain stocks, and noted that despite a predicted maize production of 2,4-million tonnes, as of 15 October the state-owned commodity buyer, the Grain Marketing Board, had received only 388 558 million tonnes.

      The GMB told the committee that farmers preferred to hold onto their grain stocks rather than sell them to the board. * I-Net Bridge
    • Christine Chumbler
      ADB firm on Karonga-Chitipa road contract by Zainah Liwanda, 22 May 2006 - 06:09:17 The African Development Bank (ADB) has again rejected a proposal by
      Message 1046 of 1046 , May 22, 2006

        ADB firm on Karonga-Chitipa road contract

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


        Chihana operated on

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

        Mughogho is now in charge of the party.

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


        Pillane proposes presidential age limit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


        Mussa hails new driving licence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


        UDF demands investigation on Kasambara

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


        Zambia: Malawians Grab Zambian Land

        The Times of Zambia (Ndola)

        May 18, 2006

        Posted to the web May 19, 2006

        Andrew Lungu


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

        The Zimbabwean traders were warned and cautioned and later released.

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



        Zim unions, MDC still plan anti-govt protests

        Harare, Zimbabwe

        22 May 2006 11:51

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

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

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

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

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

        Opposition protests

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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