- NDA Takes Over UDF The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe) January 17, 2004 Posted to the web January 18, 2005 Levison Mwase Lilongwe UDF National Chairman BakiliMessage 1 of 1046 , Jan 19, 2005View SourceNDA Takes Over UDF
The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)
January 17, 2004
Posted to the web January 18, 2005
UDF National Chairman Bakili Muluzi on Thursday last week offered three former National Democratic Alliance (NDA) members prime and strategic positions in the party and kicked out eight UDF officials who stood by him when Brown Mpinganjira and his men ditched the party in 2000.
Sources in the party said Mpinganjira now becomes Organising Secretary of the party taking over from Salim Bagus while Harry Thomson is now Deputy Secretary General, a position previously held by Paul Maulidi.
Another NDA official, Offman Makande takes over from Samson Msosa as Deputy Regional Governor for the South while NDA's Salule Masangwi earlier took over from Ken Lipenga as Publicity Secretary in a move that spelt the removal of all pro-Mutharika members.
Sources in the party said Muluzi made the appointments during a UDF disciplinary committee meeting held at BCA Hill that was attended by 12 members including Mpinganjira, Thomson and Makande, though the three are not members of NEC.
The disciplinary committee Chairman Rodwell Munyenyembe is reported to have excused himself from the meeting but his deputy Sam Mpasu attended and guided the deliberations.
"Muluzi continues to make wrong decisions. Kicking out people who have worked so hard for the party in past years simply because they are supporting the President really beats our imagination," said the sources.
The sources said the position of Deputy National Chairman is going to be taken up by an NDA official from the central region rather than Vice President Cassim Chilumpha or Uladi Mussa, who were the firm favourites.
UDF Publicity Secretary Salule Masangwi said he was not aware of the appointments saying he did not attend the meeting that also agreed to fire Director of Social Services Davis Katsonga and suspend seven others.
He confirmed that the Disciplinary Committee is mandated to only make recommendations to the National Executive Committee and the National Chairman for further action.
Masangwi said the decision to fire Katsonga and suspend seven officials could have been done by Muluzi on behalf of the NEC that comprises of 51 members.
The Chronicle has also been informed that Treasurer General Khumbo Kachali was also earmarked for suspension but survived the chop because he is considered a heavyweight in the Northern region where UDF desperately needs to garner support.
Party sources say Kachali could be replaced with musician and MP Lucius Banda as Treasurer general. Banda comes from the Central region, a stronghold of the MCP.
"Muluzi is not happy that Kachali attended meetings conducted by Mutharika in Kasungu and Mzuzu. He survived the suspension because that could have cost UDF support in the North," the sources said.
Sources said the BCA Hill meeting also agreed to call for a national conference as a process towards initiating the removal of Mutharika from the party. He is seen as a thorn in the flesh for the UDF.
Mutharika's fight against corruption and his clear resolve to maintain a clear separation between party and government has angered Muluzi and divided the party into two camps. All attempts to reach some reconciliation between the two, rather than bear fruit has deteriorated into a 'no holds barred', rough and tumble fight.
MCP Celebrates Win
The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)
January 17, 2004
Posted to the web January 18, 2005
The country's main opposition, Malawi Congress Party (MCP) Thursday said it is happy with Adden Jannat Mbowani for snatching Nkhotakota South constituency which was won by Vice President Cassim Chilumpha in the last May elections.
Ironically, Mbowani was UDF's hot contender against Chilumpha in the last general elections but was controversially made to lose in the primaries when the feared young democrats ambushed him and deflated his car tyres while on his way to the primaries.
MCP Legal Advisor Louis Chimango told The Chronicle that the party is overjoyed with the outcome of the just ended January 11 by-elections for adding two more seats in the National Assembly.
"To the party, it means that voters do indeed recognise our presence on the political spectrum and that they appreciate the messages that were sent out by MCP officials. You should remember that we were campaigning without resources," said Chimango.
He said MCP supporters in Nkhotakota South and Lilongwe East should cerebrate because it is a major victory to the party for fighting the big people in United Democratic Front (UDF) who have lost miserably as a result of wrangles between Party National Chairman Bakili Muluzi and his successor President Bingu wa Mutharika.
"Though we did not win in Ntcheu and Mzimba South East, our candidates did not do too badly in all the constituency which means we are doing well and we must continue to gain support," he said.
nation is facing. We urge those that have not done well to continue participating in the process of democratisation as this is an ongoing process," she said.
In a separate interview Alliance for Democracy (AFORD) Secretary General Wallace Chiume said the party is happy too with Yeremia Chihana, a nephew to AFORD President Chakufwa Chihana for grabbing Mzimba North constituency which belonged to the MCP.
"Are you not happy yourself, you should because we are getting back our popularity. I am repeating my statement that AFORD is gaining power in the north and we hope to do better in the future," he said.
In another development, the UDF party officials were not represented during the official announcement of the results at the Cresta Hotel in Lilongwe though they have managed to grab Ntcheu South constituency for Thomas Machado with 2,676 votes and Mangochi Lutende constituency for Friday Kalisinje with 328 votes.
Press Briefing by Stephen Lewis, UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, on his recent trips to Malawi and Tanzania
United Nations (New York)
January 18, 2005
Posted to the web January 18, 2005
Stephen Lewis, UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa
Notes for Press Briefing by Stephen Lewis, UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, on his recent trips to Malawi and Tanzania.
Since this is my first press briefing of 2005, I feel compelled to begin with brief reference to the Tsunami, the Millennium Development Goals, the debt of African countries and "3 by 5", the WHO/UNAIDS initiative to put three million people with full-blown AIDS into treatment by the end of 2005. Collectively, they form a backdrop for what I wish to say about the country visits to Malawi and Tanzania.
The evolution of response to the Tsunami is exhilarating and fascinating in equal measure. The outpouring of international concern and generosity attests well to the truth (with apologies to the Bard) that the quality of decency is nowhere strained. But it has also raised predictable anxieties about support for other humanitarian crises.
It is hugely worthy of applause that the Governments of the world, overwhelmingly of the western world, have pledged, in a mere three weeks, some five and a half to six billion dollars. However, it is bracing to note that in more than three years, they have summoned, in pledges, almost exactly the same amount --- $5.9 billion --- for the Global Fund to fight the pandemic of HIV/AIDS.
Without the slightest invidious intent, it is important to recall that there are today, now, at this very moment, six million people dying of AIDS, four million, one hundred thousand of them in Africa. I don't begrudge a penny to South-East Asia. But what does it say about the world that we can tolerate the slow and unnecessary death of millions, whose lives would be rescued with treatment?
The Tsunami must be seen to be the turning-point. The publics of the world have shown their desperate concern for the human condition: how long will it take for Governments to do the same?
Yesterday, Professor Jeffrey Sachs tabled his remarkable blueprint to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. The targets for Official Development Assistance which he sets are entirely attainable. Indeed, the industrial world has been toying with the ".7% of GNP" figure for thirty-six years, overlapping the centuries with hypocritical disdain. They must finally deliver, and the UK Government's quest for an International Financial Facility can be an important step on the road.
What is crucial to recognize, as Gordon Brown said in his speech in Dar es Salaam last week, is that the goals are being fiercely compromised in many African countries by the pandemic of HIV/AIDS. It is the ultimate self-delusion to believe that the MDGs will be reached while the pandemic roils unchecked.
But the signs are not auspicious. For whatever inexplicable reason, the western countries, so magnificently responsive to South-East Asia, bridle in the most unseemly way when it comes to Africa. Nowhere has this been more dramatically underscored than on the question of debt. It took but days for the Paris Club to espouse a debt moratorium for all of the countries affected by the Tsunami, but time and time again --- most recently just last fall --- the G8 refuses to cancel African debts. Even when they agree that it must be done, they can't agree on a formula which would make it possible. There's something indefensible at work, because it's not just South-East Asia. Iraq gets debt reduction; Africa festers in frustration. The G8 Finance Ministers meet next month; surely there's not an excuse left in the armoury of rationalization to prevent the reduction and/or cancellation of African debt.
What makes it all so painful is the possibility that we're on the thresh-hold of a breakthrough against the pandemic. Against all odds, I sense that WHO's "3 by 5" is taking hold. Certainly that's true in every African country I visit including, most recently, Malawi and Tanzania. The professional doubters and detractors are losing ground . absolutely everywhere, countries are exercising superhuman efforts to implement treatment, helped appreciably by the UN family, WHO and UNAIDS providing the lead, plus the Global Fund, the Clinton Initiative, the World Bank, and several bilateral donors, the United States in particular.
I don't want for a second to depreciate the difficulties. And some of the countries are facing delays and bottlenecks that can drive you crazy. But every country is trying, is resolute, and even where governments are slow, the force of civil society sustains the battle. It would be the destructive irony of the century, were the wealthy nations to default on their commitments at precisely the point when 3 by 5 is within sight, and with it, a cornucopia of hope.
Which brings me to Malawi and Tanzania.
I traveled to Malawi at the very end of October. The trip comprised the usual elements: political encounters, civil society, groups of People Living with HIV/AIDS, the diplomatic corps, the UN family and several trips to projects in and around Lilongwe. This is now a tried and tested pattern, with a debriefing for UN colleagues and a press conference as the finale.
Malawi, like every other country is preoccupied with treatment and meeting the goals of '3 by 5'. The adult prevalence rate is estimated to be 14.2%, and some 170,000 people require treatment now. Originally, the government had set a target of 44,000 in treatment by the end of 2005, but they moved the date up to June of 2005, and then revised their target upwards to 80,000 by the end of this year.
It has to be understood what a remarkable commitment this target constitutes, and how many potential obstacles the government must navigate. There are many in the country in high places, diplomats included, who think the 80,000 target to be "delusional" (the word was actually used), and the government faces all the classic problems of drug procurement, adequate financing, astonishingly limited capacity, and weary, crumbling infrastructure.
But nothing will stop them. They are as a nation obsessed. They have trained three specialized health professionals --- doctor, nurse and counselor --- for 54 treatment sites across the country, and undoubtedly, given the level of commitment, that number has grown since my visit. They have worked out a drug procurement arrangement involving a tripartite coalition of the National AIDS Council, the Ministry of Health and UNICEF. They have resolved, with goodwill on both sides, outstanding funding differences with the Global Fund, and resources are now flowing. They have decided that treatment will be free in all public health facilities, fully recognizing that this makes all the difference in the world to the principle of access, especially access for women. They have accepted the routine testing approach, and are focusing in particular on patients with TB, working from the logical premise that co-infection rates of TB and HIV are very high. My meeting with the National AIDS Council and Ministry of Health officials on treatment roll-out was one of the most thorough and impressive discussions that I have yet attended.
The demand for treatment is overwhelming. In every facility, there are waiting-lists. It is estimated that there are now approximately 9,000 people in treatment, and the additional numbers to reach the target of 44,000 by June this year can be found in the ragged lines of the desperately ill that fill the hospital waiting rooms.
The biggest challenge is unquestionably capacity. In the health care sector alone, there is an annual attrition rate within the Ministry of Health of 15 per cent, and a vacancy rate of 67 per cent. There are five government pharmacists in the country. The Ministry of Health has a total of 103 physicians in all facilities. There are ten districts in Malawi without a Ministry of Health doctor, and four districts without a doctor, period.
Based on the rough norm for Africa, Malawi should have 12,000 nurses; there are just over 4,000. In 2003, 500 hundred nurses graduated; 70 of them ended up with the Ministry of Health; 108 left the country, 90 for the United Kingdom. Of the 126 obstetricians/gynecologists who are required, there are 11, leaving a 91% vacancy. There is an 85% vacancy rate amongst surgeons and a 100% vacancy for pathologists. All of the figures were given to us by departmental officials, and though they may be out by small factors here and there, the overall picture is inescapable: no, the overall picture is dreadful.
It was recently said --- so we were authoritatively told --- by a senior DfID official, that Malawi's capacity problems were second only to those of Afghanistan!
Nonetheless the government perseveres and will not be daunted. And in one of the most innovative initiatives in Southern Africa, Malawi, funded chiefly by DfID, is undertaking a six- year $283 million capacity building plan in the Health sector that is extraordinary in its design and intended implementation.
Will they make it? I think they will. And I have taken this time to emphasize why it is that '3 by 5' has become the sine qua non of treatment in Africa. It is driving the agenda.
As in all other visits, a number of predictable patterns emerged: the situation of women is truly desperate, and although there are plans afoot to address the issues, little has changed on the ground; the situation of orphans is, as everywhere, numbing in sadness and complexity, and although there is a Plan of Action to address the needs of the estimated 900,000 orphan and vulnerable children, it has yet to be funded and implemented; there continues to be widespread food insecurity and malnutrition, some 1.3 million to 1.6 million people forever experiencing hunger. In fact, highly reminiscent of a trip I made to Malawi with James Morris, Executive Director of the World Food Program, exactly two years ago, the repeated pleas for food were amongst the most depressing experiences of the visit.
But as always there are images of vivacity and pain co-mingled. In a community, just outside Lilongwe, we were taken to an orphan setting called Consul Homes. Sustained purely by volunteers, with projects around the country, encompassing nine thousand orphan children, it has managed to create an environment of fun and purpose and support and hope for orphans, widows and grandmothers. The concentration is very much on psycho-social support for the children, with everyone joining in, and a mere modicum of training. But it works because the emotional and psychological well-being becomes the prevailing rationale.
The children had created their own "OAU", standing for Orphans Affairs Unit, where the elected "President", and members of parliament, all between the ages of 8 and 16, regularly meet to debate the issues of the day. I had a glorious encounter with these youngsters, who raised everything from fees for secondary school as a bar to attendance, to sexual violence against young girls, to children with disabilities. It was all conducted in such a tenor of mixed solemnity and touches of hilarity as to make the ravaging ills of the world fade into the nether distance.
Before leaving Consul Homes however, I met with seventy-five widows and grandmothers, all of them beset by hunger and orphans. We talked for quite a while. It confirmed for me, yet again, that grandmothers are emerging as the heroes of the African continent: no one gives them their due; few acknowledge that society and its children could not exist without them; no special provision is made for their food or clothing or shelter or healthcare or emotional needs. Does no one recognize that the grandmothers of Africa are the ultimate and final expression of gender inequality? All that awaits them is death.
The trip to Tanzania was just last month. It encompassed all of the elements of the visit to Malawi, except that I traveled more widely --- to Zanzibar, Mwanza and Arusha, as well as Dar es Salaam --- and managed to have a lengthy and productive discussion with President Mkapa.
Tanzania is curious, in some ways inexplicable. As in all other countries, there is a profound yearning for treatment, but it seems to get confounded in all manner of ways, large and picayune.
The adult prevalence rate is 8.8 per cent. It is estimated that 450,000 people need antiretroviral treatment now, and consistent with '3 by 5' goals, the government is aiming for 220,000 by the end of 2005. The first tranche of intended treatment would reach 44,000 by June.
But there have been endless difficulties, and Tanzania is only now gathering itself together.
Originally, the roll-out was slated for March of 2004; it was delayed until October. There was, for a time, quite a dispute with and within the diplomatic community, about how realistic the treatment goals were. Could they possibly be achieved given the limits on human capacity? There was a running contretemps over Global Fund monies, now it would seem, largely resolved. Tanzania was even affected more than others by the delisting of certain generic drugs, that is, taking them off the WHO pre-qualification list . it happened at a most inopportune moment (I spent an inordinate amount of time explaining that delisting didn't mean the drug couldn't be used). And just when they were ready to proceed, the packs of 'starter drugs' (special dosages required in the first fifteen days) weren't available. And of course, as always, the limits on capacity undermined resolve.
But Tanzania has also done some strikingly intelligent things. The government has determined that treatment will be free. It has also determined that the treatment regimen will consist of generic fixed dose combinations (FDCs) which undoubtedly provides the greatest treatment potential because the cost to the government of generic drugs is so low. The treatment potential is further enhanced because the FDCs are but one tablet taken twice a day so that adherence rates are very high. Further, in a thoroughly reasoned move, Tanzania has resolved any potential competitive difficulties with the US AIDS Presidential initiative (PEPFAR), by arranging that the Government of Tanzania would provide the drugs for first-line interventions (the great mass of treatment), and PEPFAR would provide the drugs, free, for second-line interventions, as well as providing the paedeatric medications. This seems an excellent compromise (although the PEPFAR drugs are not yet in the country).
But seemingly inconsequential matters can turn best intentions on their head. When we visited the hospital in Zanzibar, there were 195 people on the list for immediate treatment, but they weren't receiving it because a) the hospital had no CD4 counter, and they felt they were obliged to do CD4 counts before they could proceed (a misconception as it turned out), and they didn't have the starter drugs. I raised these matters with the President of Zanzibar who was appropriately appalled, but to this day I suspect that treatment has not yet begun.
Why not? Because somehow the desperate sense of emergency has just begun to grip the bureaucracy. The President is fully engaged, but his appeals to urgency are only now penetrating the wider political establishment.
What is hopeful, however, is the feeling that the miasma is in methodical retreat. What is hopeful is the incontrovertible fact that the government has trained four to six health care professionals for each of the 60 facilities where treatment will be offered. What is hopeful is the sophistication and competence of the leadership and membership in both the Ministry of Health and the National AIDS Council. The change in priorities can't come soon enough. Everywhere we went, people were clamouring for treatment.
As in every visit, something arises which speaks to the broader issues. In the case of Tanzania, there were two such episodes.
First, in a large gathering of orphans in Zanzibar we were faced with a small number of children who needed treatment. But there was an insidious philosophic assumption that these children wouldn't get treatment, that it wasn't available for children, that they would simply live out their brief young lives.
It's a classic commentary on the human condition that children always come last. In the instance of antiretroviral therapy, the scenario for children is, quite simply, doomsday. Incredibly enough, we don't even have paedeatric formulations . when treatment takes place --- a rarity amongst rarities --- doctors and nurses fumble over breaking capsules into several pieces to estimate the dosage for a child, or scramble around to find a syrup solution. It's bizarre.
For some reason, beyond the capacity of the mind to identify, we've all blithely assembled the apparatus of treatment as though children don't exist. But the numbers are paralyzing: in 2004, 510,000 children under the age of 15 died worldwide of AIDS; 640,000 were newly-infected; two million, two hundred thousand were living with the virus, at least two-thirds in Africa.
How has it come to this?
Second, on both the mainland of Tanzania and in Zanzibar, I met with formal groups of People Living with HIV/AIDS ... the people with the courage to declare themselves and to take public stands on and against the pandemic. Their stories rang true: no one in authority listens to them, no one in authority consults with them, no one in authority offers treatment, no one in authority expresses concern except on public rhetorical occasions. There's a deep and abiding bitterness to all of this.
And it tends to be quintessential of Africa. It is a matter of continuing concern that lip-service almost everywhere characterizes the attitude and behaviour of government towards organized associations of People Living with HIV/AIDS. It's hurtful and it's painful. All the blather in the world about banishing stigma and discrimination can't mask the pall of rejection subtly conveyed by governments.
On the other hand, by way of vivid contrast, one of the strengths of Tanzania, is the phenomenal organization against the pandemic at district and village level. When I traveled into the hinterland, especially in and around Mwanza, I was stunned by the detailed planning for prevention and home-based care activities. There were endless community committees to deal with HIV/AIDS, working relentlessly to carry the message of prevention from household to household. And there was a culture of caring, not notably different from others, but made real by virtue of the support from the district officials. I talked to families, and local luminaries, and adolescents and elders and widows and grandmothers and orphan children, and they shared such a collective solidarity, and they got such pleasure out of supporting each other that I could scarce believe it. Of course it doesn't apply across the board; there are, I am certain, great reservoirs of alienation and isolation. But I very much had the sense that when the government gets its treatment rollout into gear, the entire country, district by district, will be galvanized.
A final word. In both Malawi and Tanzania, the UN country team was clearly valued and respected by Government . the relationships were first-rate. This isn't always the case. But in these two countries, there was the feeling that the UN had a decisive role in pricking the leadership into action, and then sustaining it. More, the expanded theme groups on HIV/AIDS were clearly working, with great potential for that coarse and vulgar word we know as "harmonization". I am more and more convinced that faced with the greatest calamity humankind has ever known, the UN family should be courageous, impatient, outspoken, bold, demanding, provocative, helpful and ineffably appealing.
Stephen Lewis is the UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa.
Zim ministers tumble as Mugabe hails Iran
18 January 2005 11:36
At least four Zanu-PF ministers will lose their parliamentary seats after failing to secure nomination in party primaries held in Zimbabwe at the weekend.
Minister of Trade and Industry Samuel Mumbengegwi; his deputy, Kenneth Manyonda; Minister of Labour Paul Mangwana; and Minister of Parastatals Rugare Gumbo all fell to more popular candidates for parliamentary polls set for some time in March.
This comes after President Robert Mugabe vowed not to appoint anyone to his Cabinet who had not been elected by the people.
The party has also suspended more of its officials for indiscipline, including two sitting MPs.
Deputy Minister of Transport Andrew Langa and Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Adednico Ncube have been accused of taking part in the "Tsholotsho declaration" of last December.
This unsanctioned meeting -- allegedly called to lend support to parliamentary Speaker Emmerson Mnangagwa's bid for vice-presidency -- angered Mugabe.
"We have decided that, like the other six provincial chairmen who were suspended for taking part in the Tsholotsho declaration, Langa and Ncube should also be suspended and barred from taking part in the primaries," said a senior party official from the western province of Matabeleland on Tuesday.
Some primary elections in the troubled province have been postponed until the party has completed its investigation into the meeting.
In an unprecedented move, Zanu-PF suspended six of its 10 party chairpersons for five years, accusing them of breaking party procedures.
The move came ahead of parliamentary polls set for some time in March.
Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change has not yet announced whether it will take part in the polls, saying conditions for free and fair elections do not exist in the country.
Mugabe hails Tehran as key partner
Meanwhile, Mugabe hailed Iran as a "critical partner" and vowed to take cooperation to "new heights" as he welcomed President Mohammad Khatami to Zimbabwe, a state-run newspaper reported on Tuesday.
Khatami, who arrived in Harare late on Monday on the penultimate leg of a seven-nation African tour, was due on Tuesday to visit the National Heroes' Acre in Harare where those who fought in Zimbabwe's liberation war against British colonial rule are buried.
He will then hold talks with Mugabe before leaving for the Victoria Falls, the country's top tourist destination.
Speaking at a banquet in Khatami's honour late on Monday, Mugabe hailed oil-rich Iran as a key partner in Zimbabwe's drive to shun the West.
"We attach great importance to this visit as it will enable us to work towards strengthening and diversifying our relations," Mugabe was quoted as saying in the state-run Herald newspaper.
"Your visit affords an opportunity to raise our bilateral cooperation to new heights, as my government has embarked on a deliberate 'look East' policy in which your country is a critical partner."
Iran is one of the countries Mugabe has been warming up to following his new policy, partly forced by Zimbabwe's isolation from the West over controversial land reforms and allegedly fraud-marred elections in 2000 and 2002.
Mugabe also slammed Western powers opposed to his land reforms, saying they are the same ones who branded Iran part of an "axis of evil", a reference to the policy outlined by United States President George Bush in 2002 that put Iran, Iraq and North Korea on the top of the US list of outlaw states.
"They have demonised my leadership and government while feverishly working to effect a regime change," Mugabe said.
"We cherish your unwavering support during the land-reform process and look forward to its continuation as we empower our people," he added.
Iran -- which has provided a 15-million (R118-million) credit line to Zimbabwe to purchase tractors, combine harvesters and medical equipment -- will extend a further 20-million credit line for agriculture and communications, the newspaper reported. -- Sapa-AFP, Sapa
- 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 byMessage 1046 of 1046 , May 22, 2006View Source
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