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Amazon Adventure

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  • Paul DEVER
    Foto links for this adventure are: At Shutterfly: http://share.shutterfly.com/osi.jsp?i=EeANXLVy3cNmrJjA And at Yahoo:
    Message 1 of 1046 , Feb 1, 2005
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      Foto links for this adventure are:
      At Shutterfly: http://share.shutterfly.com/osi.jsp?i=EeANXLVy3cNmrJjA
      And at Yahoo:
      http://pg.photos.yahoo.com/ph/paulpc1/album?.dir=/9fc8&.src=ph&.tok=phVL3cCB4pm1e7CZ

      Some people had mentioned difficulty at viewing them on Shutterfly so I have
      loaded them in two places. Try either one.

      The day started off well with me waking up well in time to get my plane. I
      took Whistle out for a walk then made sure I had everything packed:
      munchies, fishing gear, and a few books as well as meds, and clothes. Off
      to the airport. The fishing rods were in a five foot long PVC pipe that
      held them well.

      I had no problem with the two pieces that I checked. But when I went
      through the metal detector, they asked me to fish out the pliers I had in my
      bag. Yes, those nasty needle-nose pliers that could be used as a weapon. I
      complied, but as I rummaged through my bag, I had to pull out the fishing
      hooks (treble hooks with three sharp points!!!) and some big lures with
      hooks about an inch long each. Then pull out the lead weights. Nope, those
      were no cause for alarm, but those nasty pliers were. Such is life.

      The plane ride was nothing special. I read a bit, dozed a bit and listened
      to my iPod knockoff. We landed and I recovered my bags. After paying the
      six dollar tourist tax that on one told me about, I sought my bags. Turned
      out that there was one other client going to the Heliconia Jungle Lodge
      40Km. up the Amazon�Her name was Carolina and she is a civil engineer in
      Bogot�. That is about all I learned of her.

      A guy with a Heliconia Hotel ID badge met us at the exit of the airport and
      put us in a taxi, and told the driver where to go. We went to a boat
      dock/diner and waited while they loaded up supplies (a big block of ice,
      soda and water). Then we hopped in and started our journey down the Amazon.
      For all I know we could have been sold off to a trader up the river, with
      all the info we were given.

      We chatted a bit, but once on the boat, it was difficult to talk since the
      motor behind us drowned out any hopes of conversation. We sat back and
      watched the river life: boats, people, dolphins and a few birds here and
      there. I am not big into birds but we did run across a boat full of elderly
      people with their bird guides and binoculars�

      After three hours, we turned off the brown river to an offshoot of black
      water towards the camp. Another thirty minutes, we landed. There were a few
      canoes there and we walked up to the lodge main building. It was much like
      the training center Peace Corps/Mali uses, as is the rest of the lodge:
      rustic. There was no electricity, but a generator ran at night for a few
      hours to light the dining hall/rec room, and our rooms had kerosene
      lanterns�visions of Peace Corps or summer camp danced in my head�

      We sat and talked a bit to the people running the camp (Elidio, the head guy
      and guide, Marta his wife and the cook, Cristina the helper and maid, and
      Rodrigo the boat driver), and looked at the macaw/toucan and the cat and the
      parrots and the two kids scurrying around. It was a nice homey atmosphere.
      After about an hour, we were told that our rooms were ready. Gee, they knew
      we were coming for weeks, and just now got them finished. Such is life.
      The cabins were simple, but functional. Two mosquito net covered beds in
      each cabin, and a table. The facilities were open backed so as you showered
      or washed and such, you could continue to commune with nature and watch the
      wildlife�Luckily the worst thing that approached was a big spider building a
      web large enough to snare Whistle.

      We sat down to a home cooked meal of fried dorado and salad and rice and
      beans, simple but filling fare. As we ate, the main guy, Elidio talked to
      us about what was in store for us. As I was in for fishing, he said that he
      would take me to several places to fish. Carolina was interested in nature
      walks and Indian Villages and such. They had something sort of planned for
      her as well. It seems that it is quite informal and they will do what they
      can to match your needs. As I had written several times to the owner about
      my desire to fish, they were quite aware what I wanted to do. They were
      probably glad that I finally showed so I would write no more emails. They
      were quite insistent that the fishing was not that good during the wet
      season, and that it would be much better if I came in July/Aug when the
      river was lower. I told them I understood that but wanted to fish anyway,
      and was not certain about coming in July.

      I went back to my room after dinner and prepared my rods and got the gear I
      would use in one bag. As I would later find out, over half of what I had
      was useless this time of year. But this was a test trip. I was using this
      as a recon mission so I could tell my friend coming in March what to expect
      and what to bring. In short: bring what you want to have out there because
      they do not have a 7-11 there. We are in the middle of the jungle with
      medical help and supplies 40 Km away, or about 3 hours minimum. Bring your
      smokes, booze, cards, books, and candy and chips because if you don�t bring
      it, it won�t be available.

      In the morning I awoke to a buzz-saw sound. Turns out it was a chuchara, a
      bug that sounds like a buzz saw. It brought to mind the scene from �My
      Cousin Vinny� as Joe Pesci wakes to the sound of the train whistle at
      5AM�.so this is the �What the f�� bird. There was another bird that sounded
      like a wolf whistle. A third memorable bird sounded like the �Bee-otch�
      bird. Reminds me of a poker game somewhere.

      Elidio and I loaded up the canoe with my gear and his (his consisted of a
      wooden pole with line tied to it, low tech but effective), while I also
      brought along the bait. I had a few packs of hot dogs, blood sausages and
      chicken hearts. I figured some if not all of them would be effective for
      catfish or piranha. As the days went by, the chicken hearts began to smell
      so bad, only the catfish would touch them. Like I said, if you don�t bring
      it, it won�t be there.

      We motored out to some remote section of the Javari River (the Amazon River
      is actually one huge rivers that is fed by many others), and during the
      rainy season (basically whenever it rains, but usually Sept to June) the
      river rises about 40 feet in some places, higher in others. As we passed
      along the riverbanks, and under the brush, I kept expecting to hear �Sampan
      off port bow�Lance, get the gun on them, now!�, but never did.

      We stopped on Lago Tortuga, or Tortoise Lake. Now a lake to you and me is
      different than the lakes here. They are not self contained bodies of water,
      but areas interconnected during the rainy season by the 40 foot leap in
      depth of the river. So I cut up a chicken heart, tossed a couple to Elidio
      so he could fish too. After a few minutes, I pulled up a catfish. It was a
      spotted catfish, not like anything I got out of the Ocmulgee in Riverside
      Park. A few more catfish came up, then I got my first piranha. A small
      one, but with nasty teeth. I tossed him back. Had it been the dry season
      when fishing is better, I would have hooked him under his spine on a bigger
      hook and tossed him to the bottom so I could get a bigger fish.

      After a few more strikes, but misses and a few mosquito bites, we changed
      places, and finally returned to camp with four catfish. None was large, but
      they were fish. We would try somewhere else after lunch.

      When we returned, Carolina was back from her nature walk and talked about
      the birds and flowers and stuff she had seen. We ate lunch which was a
      chicken concoction of some sort and quite delicious. Also was salad, rice
      beans and a hush puppy type thing that was nice and spicy.

      The afternoon fishing trek found us in Lake San Antonio, with Carolina in
      the boat. She had never fished, but said she wanted to try. She picked up
      the technique pretty quick, but was not too successful. Elidio and I caught
      a few fish, and one of the ones I got was a blue piranha, a keeper. His
      teeth were bigger that then other one�s. Elidio caught an electric eel, and
      beat it to death with his machete while holding onto the line, so he would
      not get shocked. I suggested we use it as bait, but Elidio had never heard
      of such a thing so felt it better to return it to the river. Who was I to
      argue?

      As the sun was setting, Carolina finally caught a piranha and was tickled
      pink. About as pink as the dolphins we saw on the way home. We saw a few
      pair jumping out of the water like synchronized swimmers, and then a black
      dolphin her and there. The black dolphins are just like the regular old
      dolphins, but the pink ones have a funny looking head. I got some pictures,
      but from a distance, and you have to look heard to see the dolphins.

      We headed back to the lodge, but it was dark. Elidio must have grown up on
      the water, since he used sixth sense and landmarks that we could not see to
      guide us exactly home. Were anything to have happened to him, we would
      still be floating on the Amazon looking for the correct hole in the
      vegetation to pass through. Shut up, Winston.

      Dinner the second evening was more fish cooked in a sauce that was delish.
      Many of you know that I am not much of a fish eater. Ironic since I love to
      fish. But I tolerated it, since I figured there was nothing much I could do
      about it�It was good and I even went for seconds. The meals were simple but
      filling. Good fare for rustic campers.

      Elidio promised to take me to a special lake, but we would have to walk
      about one and a half hours to get there after going to the land area by boat
      for half an hour. I wanted an Amazon trip and an Amazon trip I got.

      I awoke at five o�clock thanks to the �What the f�� bird. I got my gear
      ready and went to the refectory. Breakfast was some coffee and pancakes
      fresh fruit, hot chocolate and juice. Then Elidio and I loaded up the boat
      once again with gear and bait and headed to Canyon de Mora. Funny, I don�t
      remember seeing any strawberries there. When I asked Elidio about this, he
      laughed at my corny joke and said that the lake was named for a guy named
      Mora, not the Spanish word for strawberry. We hopped into the boat, and
      rode a bit, and stopped ashore next to another boat. I asked if other
      people knew about this fishing hole. He said that it was probably hunters.

      As we walked, Elidio noticed that I was walking fast. I explained that I
      was not the average tourist, and was used to walking fast. I told him that
      as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Africa (Mauritania would be a bit much) I was
      known for my speed, and people in my village could not understand why I
      walked so fast. Other people have noticed too, but not so politely. He
      told me that the walk might only be forty-five minutes.

      On our way, we walked by a pile of guts. Hanging in a tree was a hunk of
      liver. Elidio looked around, and peered into a small pond behind us. After
      moving a few leaves, he showed me the carcass of a bush pig. He said that
      it was killed by the hunters. He said they probably used bow and arrows or
      blowgun. I spotted a shotgun shell, and said, �They probably used this��
      He picked up the shell and put it in his bag.

      We kept on walking and crossed a river on a cut down tree. It was about
      eight inches wide and well rounded. Someone had been nice a while ago and
      put up some guide poles so we would not fall. It sure helped. It was only
      three or four feet down, but the water was running, and who knew what was in
      there. We walked more, and came across another bridge, but at least this
      was two trees next to each other. It was much easier to cross.

      After another few minutes, Elidio said �Here we are�let�s fish�. I must be
      brutally honest and did not see what was so unique about this particular
      spot. We dropped our lines and I caught a small catfish quickly. Maybe it
      was good. Then I caught another. This one was a bit strange. It felt as
      though it were armor-plated, and had these hook-like things that stuck out
      pointing backwards. I got a picture so you can see it. If any of you knows
      what type it is, please enlighten me. Feel free to look at the other fish
      and identify them as well.

      We moved down to another area and fished some more. The fish were not too
      good there so we meandered on back to the boat. Elidio suggested we fish at
      �The Bridge�, so we went to the two-log bridge and tried there. I got a
      small catfish, well a fully grown catfish that does not grow big. It was
      Elidio�s favorite so we kept it. After a few more unsuccessful moments, we
      walked back to the shore, on our way noticing that the pig was still in the
      water. A short skip and a jump and we were at the lunch table for more,
      simple but filling and delicious fare. I told Elidio he was lucky to have
      such a good cook as a wife. He said that many people had said that.

      After lunch we went to where the black water (from the tannin) meets the
      brown river (from the mud). Elidio said that the fishing should be good
      here since fish are coming from the offshoot to the main river. Also we
      would see dolphins since they are after the fish coming from the offshoot to
      the main river. We dropped our lines and I missed a couple of fish,
      probably cats. Elidio got a catfish successfully landed, and I finally got
      one. He noticed some fish jumping about thirty feet away. He said that
      some people he took out before had luck with small plastic fish. I grabbed
      in my bag for the two lures I had brought from my room: a floating Rapala
      minnow about five inches long, and a Fat-Rap that dives deep.

      Now for those of you who do not know fishing, Rapala is the best lure there
      is for freshwater bass (and sea bass in Mauritania), and is hand carved from
      balsa wood in Finland. Some old guy named Rapala noticed one day that in
      schools of minnows, the ones that were too slow and wounded swam funny and
      got eaten, so he carved many a lure until he got one that swam just that
      way, crooked and wounded-like. The rest is fishing history.

      I tossed the floater over to the fish, and shortly after it was attacked
      violently. Something had hit it! As I reeled in carefully (Well, actually
      faster that I can imagine), I landed a huge sardinela. We have caught these
      in Mauritania (saltwater) before, and even used them as bait, but never had
      I seen them in freshwater�until now. During the next twenty minutes I
      caught three more and lost a whole more than that. The funny thing is that
      only one was caught in the mouth, the others caught in the back as though
      they attacked it, then decided they could not swallow plastic but were too
      spastic to keep from getting their backs caught in it. One was caught with
      all three treble hooks: mouth, eye and back.

      We noticed that there was much more fish jumping on the other side of the
      outlet, so we scooted the boat over there. Elidio said that those were
      payarin, a smaller version of the payara (see here:
      http://www.acuteangling.com/Payara/payhome.htm ), a pre-historic looking
      fish that has two bottom teeth that curve up much like a rattlesnake�s
      fangs, and even have holes in the upper lip to accommodate them. That would
      make my trip complete, since I had wanted to catch some catfish, piranha,
      peacock bass and payara. I was out of luck for peacock bass since they were
      in the low waters way out there. My dad had even sent a few lures my way,
      but alas I will have to use them another time. I did bring them with me,
      though.

      After I threw the line over there, the lure was hit. I brought the fish
      closer, but he jumped off. I found out why: he had bitten the lure itself,
      and not the hooks. The lure continued to work with a few holes it in, but I
      knew I would have to bury it with honors. Maybe even play taps. I finally
      managed to keep one of the many strikes on the line. I brought it in, and
      was happy as a clam. I told Elidio that my trip was complete and I was
      quite happy. He knew that already. He told me to be careful taking off
      the lure, as I might find myself with a few more holes in my fingers.
      Before I successfully managed to remove the fish, I asked Elidio to take a
      picture of me and my prize catch. It would not win any records, but I will
      send the picture to Rapala and see what they will do with it.

      As it was getting dark, Elidio let me cast a few more times, and then we had
      to hit the road�er water. It was darker than�hmmm not sure what, but Elidio
      made it back once again, with nothing to guide him but his memory and a few
      stars. What a guy!

      Dinner was food and fish stories. As I got my dinner, something fell onto
      my shoulder from above, and I froze. It scared the bejeezus out of me.
      Marta laughed and came around and removed a small primate of some sort off
      my shoulder. It scurried off to feed on some fruit.

      Rodrigo did not show so much enthusiasm about the payarin, as he recounted a
      tale of his younger years in which a payarin got his foot, and he allowed as
      how he did not know a worse pain that lasted for a long time. I guess
      stepping on a nail when I was younger does not compare�

      Elidio said he would take me to another special place that he and his wife
      went that was good fishing. I prepared my things again, read a bit and
      crashed. Sleep found me soon, but that damn �What the f�� bird found me
      shortly after. As it was our last day fishing, I decided to make the most
      of it, an d was out front waiting for Elidio. This time breakfast was just
      coffee. That was just fine with me.

      We went a ways out and then went off to the side in a new offshoot and
      meandered into some place that was a cross of the Bayou Country in �Southern
      Comfort� and the Okeefenokee Swamp in Georgia. I kept thinking we would see
      dangerous Cajuns scurrying around or a croc slithering into the water.

      After meandering for about another hour, we came upon a place, quite similar
      to the famous Canyon de Mora as I saw nothing special about this body of
      water. Elidio said thios place was Lake Vacaba. I got a catfish or two,
      and Elidio got a few piranha, a nice hulking Brazilian piranha, not the
      welterweight Colombian variety (according to him). We tried a few other
      places, but Elidio was the winner of the morning trip. I missed a few fish,
      as they managed to get off before I could land them. Don�t believe me? Well
      just go on down to the Heliconia Jungle Lodge and ask Elidio!

      We had decided to return to the place of yesterday where I had success with
      the payarin. I got a couple of strikes, but since this fish grabs the lure
      and holds onto it, rather than getting the hooks into his mouth, I did not
      have much luck. We said that we would return there after lunch. We raced
      home to get some more food under our belts and rush back out.

      After a quick bite to eat, and a short rest, we hopped back into the boat,
      and sped to the offshoot point. A drizzle started and then it began
      pouring. I worried about my camera and tucked it under the bow of the
      canoe. I began casting for fish and got a few strikes, but nothing landed.
      Then I got lucky and landed a payarin. Then after a few more casts, I got
      another one. Elidio was happy that I was happy, but must have thought I was
      crazy as that preacher in Caddyshack who was shooting the best game of his
      life in the thunderstorm.

      There I was standing in a canoe during a hellacious downpour not worried
      about getting wet since I was already soaked. I was slightly concerned that
      Elidio would say that we had to turn back. When I turned to look at him, he
      was looking at my lure in the water waiting for another strike. I guess he
      figured since we were already wet, we had nothing to gain by returning. My
      hat allowed me to get an unobstructed view of the water, but at times, I was
      throwing blind, and getting strikes nonetheless. No more popped on the
      line.

      The rain stopped and Elidio said we should try another place that he knew of
      where the black and brown waters met. We went there and right away I got a
      monster strike, but the fish did not stay on the line. We continued for a
      another twenty minutes with many strikes, but nothing landed. When I looked
      at the poor Rapala, I knew that I would have to bury it with honors. No way
      could this lure work another day. It had too many holes.

      I kept the heads of the three payarin that I caught and I am going to dry
      their skulls so I have the wicked teeth open ready to strike in the
      afterlife. I will send the lure to my Dad and have him give it a decent
      burial in our back yard.

      We finally returned to the camp and he told everyone how cra�enthousiastic a
      fisherman I was. They all seemed to be happy that I enjoyed myself. I know
      I had a good time, rather an excellent time. I got to fish to my heart�s
      content, and even got some good pictures. We had a good dinner, and then
      off to bed for final packing.

      The next morning we went breakfast and said our goodbyes. It was a parting
      of sweet sorrow. I knew I would be back with some friends in two month�s
      time. They were looking forward to it almost as much as I was. They were a
      really good crew. They provided me with hours of enjoyment, and I think I
      had a great time. One of my best so far.

      The physical toll on me: not too bad, but I did get a spider bite I think.
      When I felt the sting, I poked the blister with my knife, and squoze until
      nothing more came out. It sure felt better after that. Visions of a
      medevac chopper trying to find us and the resulting trip to the Leticia
      Medical Center make me roll down my pant legs as far as they would go. And
      yes, I am still taking the Doxycycline once a day for the next 27 days so I
      won�t get malaria from the 233 mosquito bites I counted on my legs and back.
      I also found a tick on my foot, did a body inspection, and found no more.
      If you want to make the trip, bring malaria medicine, DEET (it really does
      work if you bother to put it on!), sunscreen (45 SPF is good), and good
      general health. No medical conditions that might need acute critical care.

      Heliconia lodge is a great place to go for an Amazon adventure, but it is
      not the Ritz. It should not be since it is a great place to commune with
      nature and get a taste of simple, but exciting living. Look them up:
      http://www.amazonheliconia.com/phping/index.php
    • 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
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        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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