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  • Christine Chumbler
    Malawi mayor arrested for fraud The mayor of Malawi s commercial capital, Blantyre, has been arrested and is expected to appear in court on charges of theft by
    Message 1 of 1046 , Dec 3, 2004
      Malawi mayor arrested for fraud

      The mayor of Malawi's commercial capital, Blantyre, has been arrested and is expected to appear in court on charges of theft by a public servant.
      John Chikakwiya of the ruling United Democratic Front party allegedly asked a state-run company to give more than $3,000 to maintain city roads.

      But the money was not used for that purpose and is now missing.

      The arrest is viewed as a part of an anti-corruption campaign launched by President Bingu wa Mutharika.

      But some of the members of his own party have accused the president of using the campaign as a way to settle political scores.

      Mr Chikakwiya's lawyer, Noel Chalamanda, told correspondents he would apply for bail for his client.

      The head of public prosecutions has said at least 10 senior members of the administration of former President Bakili Muluzi are under investigation in connection with the disappearance of government funds.


      *****

      Carter gives Mozambique poll a thumbs-up

      Maputo

      03 December 2004 14:43

      Former United States president Jimmy Carter gave Mozambique's third multi-party elections a tentative thumbs-up on Friday despite a poor turnout, saying the two days of voting appeared to have gone off well.

      Carter said of the polls, which were held on Wednesday and Thursday: "This time we interrogated any obsevers who were there, especially from the opposition parties... and we have found that they had no complaints or problems."

      However, Carter said: "All I can judge so far is what we have seen in the first few days."

      The former US leader, the most prominent of the estimated 400 observers monitoring the elections which will see President Joaquim Chissano step down after 18 years, visited polling stations in the capital Maputo.

      "I understand that out of the 10,1 million names on the [voters'] list only about 7,5 million are alive or actually eligible to vote," he said.

      "I haven't seen the final turnout . My rough estimate is that about 30% of voters participated, almost all of them on the first day.

      "But this is less than half the turnout compared to 1999," Carter said, referring to the last elections, which he monitored with observers from the Carter Centre, putting the turn-out then at around 68% and adding that the poor turnout was "of concern".

      But he hedged a question of whether the increasing slide in turnout from the country's first elections since independence and the end of a brutal civil war in 1994 pointed to a growing disenchantment with democracy and the electoral process.

      "I would not attribute any motivation," he said, adding that the possibilities included the premise that "people don't like the process itself or they don't feel that their vote will make a difference", or they were simply undecided who to vote for.

      Referring to the last elections, Carter said: "We had a major concern in 1999 when a large numbers of returns from individual polling places were thrown out by the CNE [National Elections Commission] in secret and we were never given access to all those.

      "That was about seven percent of the vote, which could have changed the outcome of the election in 1999," he said, adding that he hoped this would not happen again.

      The CNE and foreign observers -- including those from the European Union, which has funded more than 70% of the cost of the elections -- are in a stand-off over giving the observers access to the place where the final vote tabulation is to take place. - Sapa-AFP

      *****

      Where have all the voters gone?

      Justin Pearce | Maputo

      02 December 2004 07:59

      Shortly before the close of voting stations, the chairperson of Mozambique's National Electoral Commission (CNE), Arão Litsure, expressed concern over the low voter turnout in the country's presidential and general elections that took place this week.

      In the north of the country, heavy rain prevented polling from opening on Wednesday.

      "We note with concern the low turnout at the polls. A few hours before the close of polling we must remind voters that voting is a civic duty," he said.
      The elections were marked by controversy over observers' access to the final stages of the count.

      A close result could necessitate a run-off between the two leading candidates: Armando Guebuza, businessman and secretary general of Frelimo, the ruling party since independence in 1975, and Afonso Dhlakama, veteran leader of the former rebel movement, Renamo.

      President Joaquim Chissano, who has led Mozambique since the death of Samora Machel in 1986, is standing down in accordance with a two-term limit demanded by the 1994 Constitution.

      During the past month, observers from the European Union, the Carter Center and the Electoral Observatory * a Mozambican civil society coalition * have been trying to persuade the CNE to permit greater observer access during the final stages of the vote tabulation process, where the Frelimo-dominated CNE has the power to reject the results from entire polling stations. This week, Litsure reiterated that the final stages of the tabulation process would not be open to scrutiny, although public notice would be given of any changes made.
      "Observation must be integral," said Luís de Brito of the Electoral Institute of Southern Africa (Eisa). "It makes no sense to allow observation at one stage and not at another."

      The CNE may reject the results sheets from a polling station if, for example, faulty arithmetic has led to a discrepancy between the numbers of votes recorded and the number of voters crossed off the roll. The CNE also scrutinises any ambiguously marked voting papers submitted for arbitration by vote counters at the polling stations, and in such cases the CNE has the final say over what the voter's intentions were.

      "Most important is that the CNE, when verification happens, posts the results of all decisions made," Eduardo Sitoe, chairperson of the Electoral Observatory, told the Mail & Guardian.

      Asked whether the current guidelines guarantee sufficient access to information about the CNE's decisions, Sitoe replied: "I have no basis on which to answer that question. We don't want to work in bad faith, but we need them to create access in order to prove this."

      Predictions of a close finish have given an added urgency to the need for a credible result. "If the difference between the parties is small, and there are a large number of disputed results sheets or questionable votes, then the final decision will rest with the CNE," Sitoe warned.

      People going to the polls in Frelimo's traditional southern stronghold seemed divided between ruling party faithfuls and people who were hesitant about expressing an opinion.

      At the Junto minibus taxi rank on the edge of Maputo, a Frelimo activist who gave his name as Izidro said he traveled 200km to Chongoene where he was registered "because if I don't vote I can only blame myself if the wrong man wins".
      Civil servant António Silva was not revealing his choice as he shared a post-poll beer with friends in Maputo's Jardim township, but hinted he was voting for the opposition: "Mozambique is infected by a virus. People are not voting with their conscience * they are voting to perpetuate the poverty they are in."

      Maputo street vendor Rosita Martins had pictures of Dhlakama on her stall, but seemed uncertain whether she would vote. "Politics? When the buffalo fight, it's the grass that gets trampled. I lost my husband in the war, and have to support five children."

      According to Eisa's De Brito: "The forces are balanced, and new dynamics make the outcome undeterminable."

      Among the factors that could contribute to a neck-and-neck finish between Frelimo and Renamo, De Brito said, was that Guebuza's status as an electoral newcomer could cost him recognition among illiterate voters. He also pointed out that the gap between the two main parties has gradually been closing since the first general election 10 years ago, as ongoing unemployment breeds disillusionment with Frelimo, even in the south.

      In Beira, Mozambique's second city, the crowd that turned out for a Renamo rally this weekend was reportedly large enough to keep Dhlakama's motorcade trapped for four hours.

      Renamo eventually called in the police, who fired teargas to clear a path for the Renamo leader.

      Failure by either of the main parties to attract 50% of the vote could lead to a presidential run-off, and a hung Parliament with the new Peace, Democracy and Development (PDD) party holding the balance of power.

      In Matola, near Maputo, a fire destroyed the offices of Renamo, according to local news agency AIM, early on Monday morning. The director of the Renamo Maputo provincial election office, Samuel Mandlate, said that during the night arsonists had broke down one of the doors to the offices, poured kerosene on all materials, documents, and furniture, and set the place on fire.

      *****

      Chissano suggests paying voters

      Mozambique's outgoing leader Joaquim Chissano has said that turnout would be higher if people were paid to vote.
      He was speaking after a low turnout in general elections and said people may not believe they gain by voting.

      Mr Chissano is steeping down after 18 years in power, with five candidates vying to replace him.

      Initial results suggest that Armando Guebuza, from Mr Chissano's Frelimo party is ahead but as rural votes are counted, this could easily change.

      Afonso Dhlakama from the former rebel movement Renamo is coming second and the BBC's Dan Isaacs in the capital Maputo, says he has more support in central Mozambique, where votes are still being counted.

      Our correspondent says that votes were counted overnight, often by candlelight, in schools and civic centres across the country.

      Global phenomenon

      There is no figure for the turnout but the head of the National Electoral Commission said he was worried.

      "In a country with a high rate of illiteracy, and high rate of ignorance about the [political] systems themselves, people may have tended to ask themselves: What do I gain by voting?" Mr Chissano said in an interview with the AFP news agency.

      "I'm sure if we had to say that each one who votes gets some money, even if it was very little, they would go and vote," he said.

      Despite rapid economic growth in recent years, Mozambique remains one of the world poorest countries.

      He added, however, that low voter turnout was a global phenomenon.

      It has also been suggested that heavy rains and scorching heat dissuaded some people from going to the polling stations.

      Another BBC correspondent in Maputo, Jose Tembe, says that some people have taken advantage of the two-day national holiday to enjoy themselves instead of voting.

      Others have suggested that an election between former rebels and Frelimo, which sent people to Soviet-style re-education camps, had not motivated the electorate.

      "My grandfather was killed in the civil war by Renamo and my mother suffered in a camp... so what choice have I really been presented?" taxi driver Roque asked.

      Voters were also selecting members to the 250-seat National Assembly.

      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.

      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, Mr 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.

      The BBC's Dan Isaacs says that 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.

      Our reporter says that the theory is that if he loses, judging by his hostile campaign rhetoric, he is unlikely to concede gracefully.

      [pictures from the elections are at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/in_pictures/4058851.stm%5d

      *****

      Chissano bids adieu after 42 years

      Maputo

      03 December 2004 11:43

      Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano, who is stepping down after 42 years in politics and at the forefront of a liberation struggle against Portuguese rule, says although he wants to "be free" now, he will be on call to help resolve "terrible problems" anywhere in the world.

      The veteran leader ruled the southern African nation for 18 years during which he negotiated an end to a vicious 16-year civil war that claimed up to one million lives and was marked by the use of landmines.

      Chissano said in an interview that he was bidding adieu in full glory after this week's elections which he chose not to contest.

      "I decided to be free," he said. "The only thing which will hold me is the chairmanship of the [ruling] party, not government affairs or anything similar to government affairs."

      "I have been here 18 years and I think that's a lot of time," he said. "On top of that I was in government before becoming president for 12 years which means that I am in government for 30 years. And before that I was in the leadership of my party or the liberation movement for another 12 years.

      "I think I have attained the normal age for retirement if I were a civil servant so taking all this together... it's time [to] retire," the 65-year-old Chissano said.

      He said he accomplished most of what he had set out to do to lift the war-devastated country from ruin to economic recovery.

      "All this also gives me the feeling that I continue to merit the respect of the world, of Africa, and therefore I may in my humble way try and bring some inputs in the search for solutions of the terrible problems which we are facing in the world," Chissano said.

      Chissano became Mozambique's first foreign minister after it gained independence in 1975 and took over as head of state in 1986 after founding president Samora Machel's death in a plane crash over South Africa, at the height of a civil war that only ended in 1992.

      "This leadership was undertaken under very hard conditions and of course I could consent [to] all sacrifice when it was absolutely necessary but I [hoped to] bring about a situation of peace in Mozambique and a situation of economic growth, thus creating the basis for development."

      Chissano shed his ruling Frelimo party's Marxist ideology and opened up the economy with stirring results.

      "It was a hard task and I am happy that we have reconstructed almost everything and we went beyond reconstruction," he said.

      Foreign investors had come in a big way, there had been a huge expansion in education, health, electricity and water supply services, Mozambique was nearly self sufficient in staple crops and the poverty index was 55% now from around 70% earlier, he said.

      Chissano plans to set up a foundation to deal with issues related to peace, development and the revival of local culture.

      The multi-lingual leader, who did his higher studies in Portugal and France, ruled out taking top international jobs.

      "I will not stay in the headquarters of the African Union or the United Nations," he said. "If I willingly have decided to leave this job, obviously I would not seek any other job which would put me in the same position."

      Chissano underlined that peace appeared to have taken firm roots in Mozambique and said the main opposition Renamo party -- a former rebel group which had been blamed for some of the worst atrocities during the civil war -- had also undergone a metamorphosis.

      "As it had to happen, Renamo itself is suffering some transformations... working as a coalition of parties, some of which did not take part in the armed struggle," thereby minimising any threats of a slide into violence despite the "excess of desire to take power by some leaders", he said. - Sapa-AFP

      *****

      Paramilitary leader killed in Zanzibar

      Zanzibar

      03 December 2004 12:17

      The commander of a paramilitary group backed by Zanzibar's ruling party was stabbed to death following several days of violence related to voter registration on the semi-autonomous archipelago, police said Friday.

      An unidentified assailant killed Ayoub Mohammed Suleiman, the commander of the Volunteer Group on the northern island of Pemba, on Thursday night in the main town of Chake Chake, said police commander Faraji Kayuga.
      Senior ruling party officials attended Suleiman's burial on Friday morning, Kayuga added.

      Zanzibar's minister of home affairs and senior security officials met on Friday in Chake Chake to discuss violence related to voter registration that began on Monday in southern Pemba.

      Registration for the October 2005 general election will take place in phases, with the first registrations being done in south Pemba.

      After three days of clashes with riot police, which left three opposition party supporters dead, Kayuga said calm had returned Friday to Pemba, home to 30 000 people. Suleiman's murder was suspected to be retaliation for the deaths of the opposition supporters.

      "The situation is in control. We will, without any doubt, find a worthy way out of this complicated situation," Kayuga said.

      Zanzibar is part of Tanzania, but under a federal system, Zanzibar has its own president and parliament. The two previous multiparty elections in 1995 and 2000 were marred by allegations of vote rigging and violence.

      Both ruling party and opposition leaders have warned that the 2005 elections may be even worse, since both sides have been training so-called "civil defence" forces to ensure the 2005 elections are free and fair.

      A spokesman for the opposition Civic United Front, Salim Bimani, called for the resignation of Zanzibar's chief minister and minister for security following the deaths of the three opposition supporters, who were shot by riot police.

      The ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi party blamed the opposition for the violence, insisting that the opposition was trying to block ruling-party members for registering in Pemba, an oppositions stronghold, said Vuai Ali Vuai, spokesperson for Chama Cha Mapinduzi.

      So far 50 people have been arrested in connection with the registration process. The establishment of a permanent voters' roll is part of a deal struck between the parties in 2001 to help prevent vote rigging. - Sapa-AP
    • 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

        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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