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  • Christine Chumbler
    The Deliberate Spread of HIV to Be Criminalised The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe) January 31, 2005 Posted to the web January 31, 2005 Gregory Gondwe Lilongwe
    Message 1 of 1046 , Feb 1, 2005
      The Deliberate Spread of HIV to Be Criminalised

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      January 31, 2005
      Posted to the web January 31, 2005

      Gregory Gondwe
      Lilongwe

      Government says the review of the Marriage Act encompassed within the Gender Related Laws, which is going to outlaw the deliberate spreading of the HIV, the virus that causes AIDS is in its final stages.

      Principal Secretary for Nutrition, HIV and AIDS in the Ministry of Health and Population Dr. Mary Shawa said during a public debate in Lilongwe the upcoming review will change this attitude and will make each and every individual personally responsible.

      "Most people have a tendency of 'others gave me so I will give others as well' which has fuelled the spread of HIV/AIDS," said Shawa.

      Malawi Law Commi-ssion says the review includes a clause that says if one of the parties to the marriage is medically proven to be infected and knowingly and wilfully infects the other party then these are grounds for conviction of the offence.

      The Commission's Law Reform Officer Chiza Nyirongo said, based on the said reasons, if one party is convicted of the offence these will also be grounds that will lead to divorce.

      Nyirongo could how-ever not say what penalties the draft law has spelt out as, he said, setting up the penalties was not under the Commission's direct jurisdiction.

      "The process of drafting the Act is an ongoing one. The penalties could be meted out if the case is considered to be either under the penal code or this Act. But the penalties have to be in a broader scope without restricting it to only those people in marriage," he said.

      He said even if one wilfully and knowingly infects another, even if it is not necessarily in marriage, the law would convict them and spell out the charges.

      Dr. Shawa also said it is a pity that even taking of ARVs is clouded in secrecy. She described a scenario where a husband takes ARVs at his work place so that the wife should not know, only to discovers the truth when she goes to collect his belongings after he dies.

      "Let us look at HIV/AIDS as any disease like cancer, TB etc where drugs are taken on a daily basis. The taking of ARVs should also be looked at in the same way," said Shawa.

      *****

      Malawi: Political Infighting Could Destabilise Govt

      UN Integrated Regional Information Networks

      January 31, 2005
      Posted to the web January 31, 2005

      Johannesburg

      Political divisions in Malawi were set to deepen after a meeting at the weekend to discuss the possible expulsion of the country's president from the ruling United Democratic Front (UDF) party for alleged misconduct.

      "The meeting is intended to fire [President Bingu wa] Mutharika for being ungrateful to a party that sponsored him to become president," UDF secretary-general Kennedy Makwangwala reportedly told Agence France Presse late on Sunday.

      Party spokesman Salule Masangwi on Monday confirmed the UDF National Executive Committee meeting, saying it had been called to "explore" ways of "dealing with the wrangle between President Mutharika and the party".

      "Mutharika's position within the UDF was on the agenda, but no resolution has been made. He is still a member of the UDF, and there is every intention of continuing the dialogue between the party and the government to sort out our differences."

      Masangwi would not be drawn on the reasons behind Mutharika's possible ousting from the party ranks.

      A deep rift has appeared between supporters of Mutharika and former president Bakili Muluzi, who retains party chairmanship, after a government crackdown on corruption that has netted several senior UDF officials who served under Muluzi. Earlier this month Mutharika accused four senior party officials of trying to assassinate him, but the charges were later dropped.

      In a new twist to the political standoff, the UDF has dissolved all its regional branches. Masangwi said the move was based on poor performance in local elections, but added that there were also growing concerns over "divided loyalties" among local chapter members.

      "There are some members of the regional committees who are intentionally fuelling the differences between Mutharika and the UDF, in order to gain favours from the government. The UDF cannot afford these divided loyalties, and so it's quite clear that these branches will have to be dissolved and reconstituted at a later stage," he told IRIN.

      Political analysts have warned that, should Mutharika be expelled from the party, the UDF could see further splintering.

      "It would political suicide for the UDF, especially since the goal of a political party is to attain power. Without the highest politician on your side, it would be extremely difficult for the UDF to command the respect of the people. Already alliances have be formed among disgruntled UDF members who are dissatisfied with the manner in which this issue is being dealt with," said Rafiq Hajat, director of the Institute for Policy Interaction.

      Mutharika would need to step up his attempts to enlarge and entrench his political power base in coming months, Hajat added. Muluzi, who ruled Malawi for a decade, handpicked Mutharika to run as his successor. A technocrat plucked from relative political obscurity, Mutharika heads a ruling coalition but holds no leadership position in the party.

      According to Edge Kanyongolo, a law lecturer at the University of Malawi's Chancellor College, the ongoing power struggle is likely to impact on the government's ability to get legislation passed when parliament reopens.

      "I expect those who support Muluzi will embark on a strategy to frustrate the government at every turn; this will lead to delays in implementing legislation and, subsequently, impact on the governance of the country," Kanyongolo commented.

      He warned that a protracted tussle between the UDF and Mutharika could lead to increased insecurity and disillusionment over the government's ability to address major social and economic concerns.

      Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world, with 65 percent of the population living on less than a dollar a day. Kanyongolo noted that the donor-dependent country could not afford further instability.

      "While the donor community is unlikely to take an active role towards resolving this issue, they will at some point have to become involved. They are perhaps already concerned that funds intended to support the upliftment programmes may instead be used to win political support among politicians," he said.

      *****

      Journalist Attacked

      Media Institute of Southern Africa (Windhoek)

      PRESS RELEASE
      January 31, 2005
      Posted to the web January 31, 2005


      On 29 January 2005, "Daily Times" reporter Collins Mtika was beaten up by supporters of the Alliance for Democracy (AFORD), a party that is a member of the ruling coalition.

      Mtika told MISA-Malawi that he was attacked when he went to cover a press conference at AFORD leader Chakufwa Chihana's house, in the northern city of Mzuzu. At the press conference, Chihana challenged a decision by certain executive members to dismiss him from the party on allegations of poor governance and fraud.


      Mtika alleged that Chihana's nephew Jeremiah Chihana ordered the beating, accusing the journalist of "reporting ill about [his] leader."

      "I sustained a swollen left eye and I have general body pains," Mtika said.

      Meanwhile, MISA-Malawi (also known as Namisa) publicly condemned the beating as "barbaric and retrogressive." In an interview with local media, Namisa Chairperson Lewis Msasa demanded an apology from AFORD and asked police to arrest the culprits.

      *****

      NIB in K2 Billion Scam

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      January 31, 2005
      Posted to the web January 31, 2005

      Hopkins Mundango Nyirenda And Chikondi Chiyembekeza
      Lilongwe

      Govt, CIA funds mismanaged

      Eight officials of the disbanded National Intelligence Bureau (NIB) have been accused of mismanaging over K1.5 billion of taxpayer's money through shady deals and falsified payments for services rendered to the intelligence entity over the short period of its existence.

      A counter intelligence memo dated 23rd July, 2004, sourced by The Chronicle states that the money was swindled using bogus businesses owned by some personnel in the Bureau who awarded themselves contracts for supplying stationery and other services at highly inflated amounts.

      According to the detailed leaked memo titled; "Activities of Accounts Personnel," by one of the staff members addressed to the Director General of the Bureau Chitsulo Gama, when he was still in the office, indicates that the sum of money misappropriated "has reached over MK1.5 billion."

      "This is an extraordinary huge sum of money - to be investigated," said the top employee in the memo.

      The syndicate, according to the memo, left the bureau in "an awkward position to service debts to various clients including so many outstanding payments in allowances to the serving officers of the bureau dating back to the year 2001."

      Money in excess of US$50,000 (more than 53 million) which was donated by the American intelligence apparatus, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) for the purchase of motor vehicles was also mismanaged, according to the memo.

      The funds, instead of being used to purchase brand new motor vehicles as budget for, were instead used to purchase second hand saloons whose actual price had little bearing on the actual cost of the ex Japan vehicles purportedly bought at an auction in Durban, South Africa.

      "Further information reveals that during the budgetary allocation, it was agreed that seven drivers were to be given allowances for the task of ferrying the vehicles from Durban to Malawi but instead a shipping agent was contacted for the same," the memo reveals.

      The vehicles which were purchased included only seven which comprised two Toyota Corollas, two Nissan Sentras, one Toyota Cardina, one Toyota Sprinter and one Toyota Corona.

      During the budget meetings for NIB, the memo further reveals, some creditors who were not given an allocation of payment for that month, ended up being awarded their cheques in contradiction with the arrangement made by the budgets committee.

      "This clearly explains that they were effecting the payments while they were quite aware of the true beneficiaries who sometimes were their own close relations and spouses," says the memo.

      What raised the eyebrows, the memo says, is the involvement of one senior management director (Willy Chimbalanga, Director of Internal Security) who was tasked to undertake the whole purchase.

      This, it says, could have let him to easily flout and engage in a fraudulent acquisition of some of the US dollars cash meant for the exercise.

      The employee in the memo asks for further investigations into the matter which were never carried out.

      The memo further says the personnel involved in the secretive cartel in the bureau include, Willy Chimbalanga, Director of Internal Security, R.

      L. Banda, who held a P 7 grade in the bureau and headed the Accounting section, Charles Banda, W. Dissi, James Mkwate, Clerical Officer, Mrs. Mtimuni, Miss Chinchere and a Miss R. Kantambe.

      "For instance, many of these officers own properties that are in contrast to their earnings as public servants," the memo says.

      When contacted to speak on his involvement in the shady procurement of the vehicles, Chimbalanga told The Chronicle that he was not involved because at that particular time (of procurement of the vehicles) he was outside the country.

      "What happens is that there is an internal procurement committee that sits down and look into those matters," he said adding, "That involves the directors and regional intelligence officers who make that decision."

      He suggested that The Chronicle talk to the Deputy Director General, a Mrs. Bunyani, as she is the one who was chairing that committee that was responsible for the pro-curement of goods and services in the bureau. He also said the director of finance was also respon-sible. Asked to comment on the fact that he has companies that supply goods to the bureau, Chimbalanga said that he only has one company called Bill Building Contractors and does not deal with the bureau.

      Mrs. Bunyani and the finance director could not be reached for their comments.

      President Mutharika early this year ordered the immediate closure of the bureau offices and sent all staff on a one month mandatory leave. The bureau was accused of still owing its allegiance to the former head of state Bakili Muluzi.

      It was alleged that some sensitive information was still being fed to Muluzi instead of only going to the incumbent president Mutharika.

      *****

      MPRSP Fails to Address Reproductive Health Issues

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      January 31, 2005
      Posted to the web January 31, 2005

      Gregory Gondwe
      Lilongwe

      MALAWI Poverty Re-duction Strategy Paper (MPRSP), the country's most touted economic plan, which is phasing out in April this year failed to address reproductive health issues and as a result its reflection on the economy was regretful, government and economic gurus said at a public debate recently in Lilongwe.

      People who attended the debate were however relieved that the drafting of its replacement, the National Economic Development Agenda (NEDA) will take up the issue as part and parcel of the country's economic development plan.


      Principal Secretary for Nutrition and HIV and AIDS in the Ministry of Health and Populations Dr Mary Shawa said during the debate of the MPRSP review of January 13 this year established that the paper was not society centred, but was more of what players had achieved and not what society had gained.

      "Issues of reproductive health, maternity mortality rate and family planning is minimal in the MPRSP, there is unfortunately only a point or two mentioned in the whole paper," said Shawa.

      She added: "In the re-planning phase we will pick up all the loose ends [and come up with a concrete vision] where we can develop the health of the child and mother so as to include the improvement of the situation that will help the decrease transmission of HIV from the mother to her child at birth," said Shawa.

      Shawa said the nation is missing the bus when it thinks maternal death is an ordinary order of the day issue. She said without looking at the issue of gender equality, 'we are useless because, while half the population is growing the other half is left behind.'

      Reputable economist, who is also government's economic consultant Perks Ligoya said figures on maternal mortality, which have moved from 620 five years ago to 1120 last year, is shocking.

      "If we are losing our mothers like that - then we will not get any further. We need to do much more," pleaded Ligoya.

      Shawa said MPRSP failed to achieve development of individuals to sustain their lives. She said social services like health and education, which is a prerequisite to development, were overlooked.

      Other contributors were of the view that NEDA should include Health Minister Hertherwick Ntaba's suggestion that there be a provision of six months maternity leave and a three months paternity leave. But Labour and Vocational Training Principal Secretary Martin Mononga said maternity and paternity leaves are areas that touch the world of work and could not just be taken lightly.

      " These areas would require broader consultation with trade unions and all stakeholders," he said.

      Shawa said while a Vision 2020 aspiration is to achieve a vibrant society, å will combine certain spheres to create a holistic approach.

      " Like in our education curriculum there is going to be a component that will deal with HIV/AIDS so that children will understand it when they leave school. "The other component will be training on life skills so that children can stand on their own soon after leaving school," she said.

      *****

      Bingu Faces Impeachment

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      January 31, 2005
      Posted to the web January 31, 2005

      Mundango Nyirenda, Chikondi Chiyembekeza And Levison Mwase
      Lilongwe

      Ahead of the next UDF National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting on Sunday planned to expel President Bingu wa Mutharika from the party, former President Bakili Muluzi is reportedly canvassing for support from MPs to table a motion to impeach Mutharika when Parliament convenes in March.

      Information received by The Chronicle indicate that Muluzi wants MPs from the UDF party to move a private members motion that will set a process of the impeachment of Mutharika on the grounds that he has violated the principles of the Constitution and the written laws of the country.

      The Chronicle has information to the effect that Muluzi has put aside over K200 million to buy support from MPs from the UDF, the opposition, mainly the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) which has the largest number of MPs in Parliament. He also intends to target the independent MPs.

      The money, according to inside sources, has been sourced from the Northern African City of Casablanca in Morocco and is stashed in an offshore account.

      The sources said MPs who agree to support the motion will be given K2 million each so as to obtain the required two thirds majority for the motion to pass without too much of a hitch.

      "Muluzi thinks Mutharika will soon be on his neck so as to arrest him.

      He is now more determined than ever to get rid of the President, no matter the consequences," said one source.

      In a bid to top up the money sourced from Morocco, sources say Muluzi has sold hundreds of acres of land at ITG in Limbe, and other plots in BCA Hill where his posh house is located.

      Sources say some of the grounds that Muluzi wants to be advanced for the planned impeachment of the State President are top level appointments which the president has made since he assumed power.

      For instance, the appointment of Gustav Kaliwo as the Director of the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) who replaced Justice Michael Mtegha and DPP Ishmail Wadi who replaced Fahad Asani, who was unceremoniously dismissed from the post and the appointment of Mary Nangwale as the police chief, replacing Joseph Aironi, who was seen as a Muluzi's ally.

      Also, other possible impeachment reasons are; Bingu's resolve to rid the country of high level corruption which Muluzi is having difficulty with and, recently in Mangochi he described the arrests as "arbitrary and political persecution" as it has affected most of his aides.

      Meanwhile, sources say, a committee has been set up which is being co-chaired by UDF strategist and also deputy director of research, Humphrey Mvula and Brown Mpinganjira, formerly of the disbanded National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

      Included in the committee is former top cop who has just been rejected by the Public Appointments Committee (PAC) of parliament for a diplomatic posting to Ethiopia, Joseph Aironi and the leader of the backbenchers in parliament, Leonard Mangulama.

      It is also reported that the committee's first task is to target all the MPs who come from the Southern region to woo them into supporting the idea.

      When contacted Muluzi's spokesperson Sam Mpasu acknowledged that the idea has been mooted but said it was not yet appropriate for Muluzi and the UDF party to impeach Mutharika.

      "But is not entirely true and at the moment it is just pure speculation," said Mpasu adding; "After all, where is Parliament going to meet. It has no home," he joked.

      Mpasu also said that Mvula, Mpinganjira and Mangulama could not be involved in those plans as both of them are strong and loyal UDF members.

      When The Chronicle attempted to contact Mvula and Mpinganjira, their phone numbers went unanswered.

      This is not the first time for Muluzi to canvass for support from the MPs to fulfil personal agendas.

      Between 2000 and 2003, Muluzi was accused of spending millions of tax payer's money in buying support from MPs from the opposition to vote in favour of his failed Third Term and Open Term Bills despite widespread disapproval from Malawians.

      Party sources say Muluzi wants Bingu removed as Head of State so that his Vice Cassim Chilumpha, who has sided with Muluzi, takes over as President.

      The Malawi Constitution under Section 86 says, the President or the first Vice President shall be removed from office where the President or the first Vice President has been indicted or convicted by impeachment.

      The constitution further states that indictment and conviction by impeachment shall only be on the grounds of 'serious violation' of the Constitution or a 'serious breach of the written laws of the Republic' that either occurred or came to light during the term of office of the President or the first Vice President.

      A constitutional analyst at the Chancellor College said the high profile appointments that Mutharika has made and the firing of those who occupied those positions does not amount to a serious violation of the Constitution.

      The analyst said if anything Muluzi is the one who seriously violated the Constitution during his last five years in office.

      The Zomba based analyst said he doubted serious minded MPs would support the motion to impeach " the popular President" Mutharika.

      *****

      Volunteers worth their weight in gold

      Ruth Ayisi | Maputo

      31 January 2005 06:59

      The tall man is skeletal. Even so, it is a huge feat for him to muster up the energy to sit upright in front of his visitor *- a young, vibrant woman.

      They sit on wooden chairs around a small table in the centre of a starkly bare room. Lying on the table are a wall clock and several packets of pills *- for the time being, things that are key to the man's survival.

      "Why do you have to go yourself to the hospital tomorrow?" asks the 31-year-old woman, Louisa*. The man, 51-year-old Fernando, coughs and then replies faintly, between gasps of breath, "My wife doesn't understand Portuguese well, so it is difficult with the doctors."

      Louisa asks to see his health card. She confirms that he does not have to give any blood during tomorrow's appointment, just replenish his stock of tablets. She then advises him gently but firmly to send his wife to the hospital to get the tablets for him *- language difficulties notwithstanding. Fernando agrees. "OK, I can take the time to have some rest," he adds simply.

      It is important advice, as the trip to the hospital would take a huge toll on Fernando.

      "I am too weak to walk, so my wife straps me on her back, and carries me like that. It takes one hour for her just to carry me to the bus stop," he said. Fernando and his wife live in Matola, a city 10 kilometres away from the hospital, which is situated in the capital, Maputo. To make the trip, he usually has to leave at 05.30; only then can he return home by 14.00.

      Fernando is sick with Aids-related illnesses and has been on Haart (Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy) for a month. (A Haart regimen, under which three or more drugs are prescribed, is an aggressive Aids treatment.)

      Louisa is a non-professional community worker with the Portuguese chapter of Médecins du Monde (Doctors of the World, or Médicos do Mundo), who has participated in Mozambique's home-based care (HBC) programme since September last year. In a country where doctors and nurses are scarce, she *- and others like her *- are increasingly on the front line of efforts to provide care for the 1.4-million Mozambicans who are living with HIV.

      The Ministry of Health began the HBC programme in 2002 to help HIV-positive persons and their families. Official statistics put HIV prevalence in the country at almost 15%.

      National and international non-governmental organisations are responsible for implementing the programme. At present, they run 47 HBC initiatives that are regulated by health officials.

      However, the health ministry does assist with training.

      Last year, it conducted a "train the trainer" course that focused on the management of ARVs, with the aim of having the 40 people on the course pass this knowledge on to volunteers in the HBC programme.

      "We are encouraging decentralization of the training," said Sandy McGunegill, a technical advisor on HBC in the Ministry of Health.

      Particular attention is given to assisting the HBC workers -* or "activistas", as they are known here -* to recognize serious side effects of ARV drugs, so that they can refer patients to the appropriate medical or social services when necessary.

      Activistas try to ensure complete and timely adherence to treatment regimens, paying daily visits to clients who have just begun ARV therapy for at least the first month. They fill out detailed forms about the patients, and assist them with monitoring their drug stocks so that they don't run out of medicine.

      At present 6 000 people receive free ARV drugs from the government, a number which is expected to rise to 29 000 by the end of this year. This is far short of the 200 000 people who need medication to avoid succumbing to Aids-related diseases. However, substantial obstacles stand in the way of getting ARVs to all who qualify for them.

      There is a lack of laboratories for measuring viral loads and CD4 counts, and a serious shortage of trained health personnel to monitor the patients. (A CD4 count measures the number of T cells *- or helper cells *- that a person has in their blood. T cells, which are responsible for building immunity, are targeted by HIV.)

      "Providing the care for those living with HIV is a huge challenge in Mozambique," says McGunegill.

      "There is only one nurse for every 5 000 people, which is one of the lowest ratios in the region," she adds. "Many of our health centres do not have nurses, and most of the health workers have a low level of education or training."

      When not monitoring ARV dosages, HBC workers provide health education, information on Aids prevention, counseling *- and assist with the care of opportunistic infections.

      Louisa *- who is herself HIV-positive -* says she finds her job rewarding, especially when clients follow her advice and start to improve.

      Fernando has obeyed her instructions religiously. "I like her visits so much," he says. "She has helped me a lot. She tells me how to take the drugs, and she has helped my wife understand my condition and how best to support me." (His wife is HIV-negative).

      Other clients are little more problematic.

      "I do have some of my patients who are not so easy. They do not take the drugs at the right time and sometimes they stop taking them when they feel better," said Louisa.

      "I keep telling them they must take the tablets at 12-hourly intervals and never stop, then they will live long. I tell them that I am HIV-positive and I take the drugs. Some of them think I'm lying, so I show them my test result," she adds. Louisa has been on ARV drugs since September last year.

      As a result of cultural and economic factors, most volunteers have tended to be women. But, "We are encouraging more men too to get involved," said Ussumane Dauto, a member of the HBC programme team at the Ministry of Health.

      With increased financial benefits, more men should come aboard, adds McGunegill.

      Happily, the Ministry of Health recommended this month that activistas should be given a monetary incentive of 60% of the minimum wage of about $60 a month.

      "It is a very difficult job," says Nydia Sofia Pinzon, HBC coordinator at Médicos do Mundo, of the work done by activistas. "Nobody can work for free these days. The activists too have lots of problems, the same as the community."

      The Médicos do Mundo project in Matola assists 175 people living with HIV *- 109 of whom are on an ARV programme. Of these, 54 have already started taking the drugs; the remaining 55 people are having their CD4 counts monitored, and will be able to begin treatment when it is necessary.

      Louisa is one of the few HBC workers who already receives a salary, (Médicos do Mundo pays its 10 activistas about $100 a month). This money keeps an entire household afloat.

      Louisa is a widow, and the only breadwinner for a family that includes her mother-in-law and three children -* all under the age of 10. As Louisa was being interviewed, a little girl -* smartly dressed, hair neatly plaited -* ran up and hugged her, showing off huge dimples as she smiled.

      "That is my six-year-old daughter," Louisa said. "She is also HIV-positive. She started taking ARVs two years ago."

      * The names of Louisa and Fernando have been changed to protect their privacy. -- IPS
    • Christine Chumbler
      ADB firm on Karonga-Chitipa road contract by Zainah Liwanda, 22 May 2006 - 06:09:17 The African Development Bank (ADB) has again rejected a proposal by
      Message 1046 of 1046 , May 22, 2006

        ADB firm on Karonga-Chitipa road contract

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

        *****

        Chihana operated on

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

        Mughogho is now in charge of the party.

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

        *****

        Pillane proposes presidential age limit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

        *****

        Mussa hails new driving licence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

        *****

        UDF demands investigation on Kasambara

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

        *****

        Zambia: Malawians Grab Zambian Land

        The Times of Zambia (Ndola)

        May 18, 2006

        Posted to the web May 19, 2006

        Andrew Lungu

         

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

        The Zimbabwean traders were warned and cautioned and later released.

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

         

        *****

        Zim unions, MDC still plan anti-govt protests

        Harare, Zimbabwe

        22 May 2006 11:51

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

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

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

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

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

        Opposition protests

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

        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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