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  • Christine Chumbler
    Malawi: Small-Loan Scheme to Combat Poverty UN Integrated Regional Information Networks February 1, 2005 Posted to the web February 1, 2005 Lilongwe President
    Message 1 of 1046 , Feb 2, 2005
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      Malawi: Small-Loan Scheme to Combat Poverty

      UN Integrated Regional Information Networks

      February 1, 2005
      Posted to the web February 1, 2005


      President Bingu wa Mutharika has launched a US $9.3 million small-loan
      scheme - one of his key election pledges - in a bid to tackle rural

      "I promised the people of this country the loan, and I have fulfilled
      this promise," Mutharika said in response to political sniping over the
      delay in rolling out the programme.

      "My enemy in Malawi is poverty," he told a rally this week in Mangochi,
      in the south of the country. "We will teach you how to do business and
      empower you economically."

      The loan scheme, administered by the Malawi Rural Development Fund,
      will not only provide business grants but also training to would-be
      entrepreneurs. Mutharika said the programme would favour projects
      involving women and youth.

      No collateral is needed to access the loans, and individual
      applications are only accepted through a local collective, which will be
      responsible for ensuring repayments - all members of the group are
      denied new loans if one defaults.

      Malawi is one of Africa's poorest countries, with around 70 percent of
      its people living in poverty. Mutharika, who was elected to power in May
      2004, has pledged to tackle corruption and improve the standard of


      U.P. On Track

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

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

      Pilirani Phiri

      ...... as revival starts in earnest in the Northern Region, Mkandawire

      With the constant acrimonious exchanges taking place between former
      president Bakili Muluzi and State President Bingu wa Mutharika,
      wellwishers have started reviving the defunct United Party (UP) starting
      with the northern region. This, the Mutharika loyalists say is to give
      the president a political base at grassroots should a re-run of the
      presidential poll be called.

      The Chronicle has established that Mzuzu business mogul Harry
      Mkandawire - formerly of UDF, is helping to revive the UP in the North.
      It is hoped that he will, in turn be given the position of UP's Regional
      Governor for the north.

      "It is not a secret. UP has started in earnest in the north through
      their man Mkandawire (Harry). He has been given that task to revive the
      party," said our highly placed source.

      The source then said, after being done with the north, Mutharika wants
      to raid the central region, before proceeding to the southern region,
      the stronghold of the United Democratic Front (UDF).

      "That's the reason why the police arrested UDF district governor Daudi
      Kananji because Mutharika has his UP man waiting in the wings in Kasungu
      to revamp the defunct party," said the source adding;

      "As for Lilongwe, Mutharika has already laid the foundations and half
      the job is already done because the governor has already promised to do
      the job of reviving the party. They want to hijack the UDF".

      When contacted Mkandawire confirmed that he was the one in charge of a
      Committee created to persuade Mutharika to get out of the UDF, saying
      the longer he stays in the party the more he will be discredit by the

      "The fact is that we fear the longer Mutharika stays in the UDF, a
      party that is trying to destroy him - the easier it will be to bring
      disrepute to his efforts at nation building and development. UDF has
      always been associated with, and, as a party has condoned corruption,"
      said Mkandawire on Friday by phone.

      Asked as to whether it was true that he would be appointed UP Regional
      Governor for the north, Mkandawire said he would certainly take on the

      "I would welcome the position," said the Mzuzu business magnate

      Efforts to talk to Ken Zikhale Ng'oma - who was UP's Secretary General
      when the party contested in 1999 and who was elevated to the position of
      State House Chief of Staff - proved futile as he could not be reached on
      his two mobile numbers. His appointment, som analysts say has become of
      greater importance. Mutharika sacked his Chief of Staff, who is
      generally a senior civil servant and replaced him with Zikhale who, at
      the time was seen as having little experience for such a senior

      At the time of going to bed (Sunday), the UDF National Executive
      Committee (NEC) meeting at chairman Bakili Muluzi's BCA Hill residence
      was expected to fire the President from the party.

      Muluzi's spokesperson Sam Mpasu confirmed that at the meeting - which
      was expected to attract drama and betrayal - the NEC had previously
      resolved to push for Mutharika's dismissal.

      "He is the source of confusion in the party. If he gets out, the party
      will be in peace," Mpasu told The Chronicle in a separate interview.

      However, political analyst Rafik Hajat who is Institute for Policy
      Interaction (IPI) executive director has described UDF's intention to
      expel Mutharika as political suicide.

      "It's suicidal and unusual for a party in government to consider firing
      its own President who is the State President," said Hajat.

      Asked if that was done and Mutharika is out of the UDF what would the
      party's next step, Hajat said it could be possible that UDF would rally
      the opposition in challenging the election case to push for a rerun of
      the Presidential poll.

      He then said the breakaway would not cause any problems for Mutharika,
      saying of the 51 UDF MPs many of them are loyal to Mutharika and some to

      "There is a power split in the UDF. Some MPs are for Mutharika while
      others remain faithful to Muluzi. MCP is the only real difficulty that
      Mutharika has in Parliament because it has the majority MPs in the
      House," he said.

      In the 1999 elections Mutharika's UP faired miserably, trailing behind
      all the dozen or so parties that contested including Kamlepo Kalua's
      MDP. There is speculation as to whether Mutharika has done enough in the
      last 8 months to secure the people's trust to be re-elected if a rerun
      was ordered. His main challenger would be John Tembo, President of the
      MCP who is currently contesting the results of the 2004 presidential


      Rare for Presidents to Endorse Privatisation

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

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

      Chikondi Chiyembekeza

      IT IS rare in Africa and even the whole of the world for heads of state
      to endorse the Privatisation of state-controlled companies, the
      Executive Director of Privatisation Commission (PC), Maziko Sauti-Phiri
      said Thursday.

      At a press briefing in Blantyre, Sauti-Phiri said the president's
      speech was a "critical political endorsement" to the process of

      "Without political will, it is very difficult to succeed," he said
      adding: "This is a fantastic landmark and a rare approval of the PC," he

      President Bingu wa Mutharika on Tuesday in Lilongwe, at a high level
      retreat for cabinet ministers on privatisation said the success of the
      process "will be either encouraged or limited by the interplay of
      political will and business confidence."

      The president further said there is need "to redraw the public/private
      relationship as a political process" and said political objectives play
      an important role in the efficiency-shaping process.

      Sauti-Phiri said the recognition by the president to work with the
      private sector in what is called the Public Private Partnerships (PPP)
      underscores the point that the private sector can play a key role to
      "transform the economy."

      He said this entails that government can focus its attention on
      priority areas, leaving the private sector to undertake necessary
      commercial services.

      Media reports recently indicated that the new administration suspended
      the privatisation process. However, Sauti-Phiri dismissed the

      "The programme was not suspended. He (the president) was just reviewing
      the legal process and regulatory framework of PC," he told the news

      He said the activities were still ongoing, citing the initial offer of
      shares in National Investment Trust Limited. (NITL)

      At the news conference it was learnt that the disposing of Blantyre
      Milling Company and Malawi Telecomm-unication Limited (MTL) would be
      completed by February and June 2005, respectively.

      In the case of BMC, Sauti-Phiri said the bids and evaluations have
      already been done.


      CSTU Queries Govt On Retirement Age And Package

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

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

      Hopkins Nyirenda

      THE CIVIL Servants Trade Union [CSTU] is not amused with the Ministry
      of Finance on the new retirement age and new renumeration package of
      civil servants which have been implemented after last year's budget
      session describing it as a non- starter and unprofessional.

      CSTU President Thomas Banda, Secretary General Pontius Kalichero and
      Treasurer General Hastings Kachikopa expressed concern at a press
      conference in Lilongwe last week.

      The three said they wanted to communicate to their members to prepare
      the next course of action if their grievances will not be sorted out
      after failing to resolve the issue during the meeting they had with
      Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe and his officials.

      "Currently, the Malawi Public Service Regulation [MPSR] allows one to
      retire voluntarily after serving for 20 years, and 55 years is mandatory
      retirement age. Recently, the union proposed the reduction of the
      voluntary retirement age from 20 to 10 years and this was agreed on
      between the government Negotiating Team and CSTU," said Banda.

      The finance minister is proposing that it should change from 55 to 60
      years and that voluntary retirement age should change from 20 to 30

      Banda argued that: "It is an indisputable fact that the life span in
      Malawi is now 36 years because of the HIV/AIDS pandemic and this will
      lead the civil servants to die without getting their money."

      CSTU also said that the minister of finance ordered the Accountant
      General verbally to freeze payment of retirement packages because it was
      discovered that the civil servants were getting a package that was too
      much because they were using the new consolidated restructured salary

      Banda accused Gondwe of violating worker's rights by withholding their
      pensions and basing it on the old salary structure instead of the new
      consolidated one, which he claims gives them a better package.

      "The Union does not also subscribe to the proposal by Gondwe to freeze
      payment of gratuity while they are working on a contributory pension
      scheme. This would mean restraining us from attaining our retirement
      benefits. We will be monitoring every day to see what is going on. We
      humbly ask government to consider our views seriously to avoid fuelling
      undesirable repercussions,"Banda warned.

      He said they should remember what action they took after the Chatsika
      report, because the next thing will be to demonstrate against him that
      he is incompetant and he can be removed.

      The workers rights body accused the finance minister of making
      decisions unilaterally without consulting them, a thing which has led to
      the present scenario.


      Using the 'Man to Man' Approach to Stabilise Population Growth

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

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

      Happy Saka

      Country-wide reproductive health care provider, Banja La Mtsogolo (BLM)
      says the "Man to Man" method helps many families in the country to
      stabilise population growth because men will play a pivotal role in
      planning the size of their families.

      BLM, Community Outreach Manager, Clement Naunje told The Chronicle in
      an interview recently in Blantyre that the "Man to Man" method which was
      introduced in the country in 1996 has helped men to realise their
      responsibility in family planning and start using available
      contraceptives in order to control the size of their families.

      "Man to Man, is a method where men are informed of the benefits of
      family planning, the different methods of family planing, the dangers of
      engaging in casual unprotected sex and the use of condoms for safer sex"
      said Naunje adding: "Since the method was introduce in the country, many
      families have improved their living standards."

      "Men for the past years could not understand the importance of
      reproductive heath care and family planning methods of their spouses,
      but after introducing the Man to Man approach, things have changed
      completely in many families because most of them have now realised the
      importance of family planning methods," said Naunje.

      He also said BLM will continue to sensitise men in other districts so
      that this year, Malawi should be among the countries that have the
      largest number of men participating in family planing methods.

      According to Naunje, Man to Man gives a chance for men to discuss
      issues concerning reproductive health care methods in an environment
      where they are comfortable amongst themselves.

      "What we have been doing in this project is to visit men in their
      offices and teach them about reproductive health. Those who don't
      understand some issues are encouraged to ask questions to make sure that
      they are assisted at the end of the day," said Naunje.

      Banja La Mtsogolo has maintained and consolidated its network of twenty
      nine clinics throughout the country and provide a full range of high
      quality sexual and reproductive healthcare services. BLM is the only NGO
      in Malawi that provides surgical contraceptive services like Tubal
      Ligation and Vasectomy in all its clinics.

      "Children by Choice and not by Chance" is the motto of BLM.


      State House Tries to Gag the Media

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

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

      Gregory Gondwe

      State House press office on Thursday last week restricted the media to
      only ask four questions that were strictly 'relevant to the president's
      trip to the Republic of China' during a press conference that was called
      at the New State House upon his return, a move which many journalists
      saw as detrimental to the free flow of information.

      This prompted journalists to boycott the press conference and the
      decision was rescinded when journalists from the state run media
      institutions pleaded with their colleagues to reconsider their decision,
      as it would have jeopardised their working status.

      When journalists arrived at the presidential residence, the State House
      Press Officer Prescott Gonani assembled them in a waiting room where he
      spelt out conditions on how to ask questions to his boss President Bingu
      wa Mutharika.

      " As you are aware, the president has been travelling for 18 hours and
      he is very tired. It would help both him and us (the media) if we can at
      least come up with four questions strictly based on the president's
      trip," Gonani said and asked journalist if they were in agreement.

      There was a real stillness in the room as journalists started digesting
      Gonani's bombshell until Blantyre Newspaper Ltd reporter Hope Musukwa
      argued that it was not proper that journalists be limited to such

      " Much as we appreciate that the president is tired after the trip we
      are also here to do a service to the nation through the questions which
      the president is supposed to answer," Musukwa said.

      He argued further that it is imperative that the president answers some
      things that happened on the domestic front while he was away, especially
      considering the current political situation.

      "Sometimes we are advised by our editors to get a response on some
      pertinent issue that we need to ask the president. If my colleagues
      agree with you sir, I don't agree," declared Musukwa.

      While agreeing with Musukwa, Gonani demanded to know the questions,
      which Musukwa had in store for the president. Musukwa was unyielding and
      said the question was between him and the president before softening up
      to say he wanted the president to say what political lessons he had
      learnt from Taiwan.

      Gonani permitted him to ask the question because he thought somehow it
      was related to the trip.

      Come question time during the press conference there was an air of
      intimidation from government officials whose presence some journalists
      felt was aimed at trying to muzzle them.

      Even when journalists had not exhausted the questions Chief Secretary
      of the civil service Charles Matabwa and in the office of the president
      and cabinet Bright Msaka were seen signalling Gonani to end the press
      conference and when Gonani stood up to do so Musukwa grabbed the
      microphone and started firing his question, forcing Gonani to sit down.

      "Sorry for interruption," apologised Musukwa for bulldozing his way, "
      I will try to make my question as relevant as possible to the trip to

      At the end of the conference The Dispatch newspaper journalist was seen
      hiding from Gonani outside the State House because he had flouted
      Gonani's order and asked the president to clear the cloud surrounding
      his said rest in Singapore.

      "As a matter of interest speculation has circulating around town about
      your stopover in Singapore. Some say it was because of security reasons,
      some say you were receiving medical treatment and some say you were
      having a breather and doing some shopping. I wanted you to clarify on
      that. Which is which? Why did you decide to stop in Singapore?" asked
      Mnelelemba during the press conference.

      Mnelelemba said he did not want to meet Gonani because he did not want
      to be scolded which was not the case.

      One of the presidential aides said if the press office is not
      comfortable with journalists then instead of calling for press
      conferences the office should just issue press statements.

      In the past the media has refused to attend Presidential Press
      Conferences because the questionswere often stage managed to allw the
      Head of State to put forward a point. Additionally, follow up questions,
      when it seemed there was some 'dodging' of the question was often


      NAC Drills Media On HIV/Aids Grants Facility

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

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

      Papiya Mwahara

      The National AIDS Commission (NAC) on Friday last week held a Media
      Seminar in Blantyre aimed at informing the professional communicators of
      what the National HIV/AIDS Grants Facility is, and how they (the media)
      can help inform the public about it and ensure that there is
      accountability in the way the funds provided are handled.

      The one-day seminar, which attracted all the media houses across the
      country, also aimed at clarifying some of the issues that the public
      does not know about NAC and the National HIV/AIDS Grants Facility.

      In his opening remarks, NAC Director of Policy and Programmes, Roy
      Hauya said that most of the time people confuse the roles of NAC with
      those of the Ministry of Health, and he also went on to define what the
      Grants Facility is all about.

      Hauya said that the grants facility is a fund that is available at the
      Commission to provide funding to Community Based Organisations (CBOs),
      faith based organisations, non-governmental organisations and to the
      public and private sector organisations in order to expand the national
      response to HIV/AIDS at all levels.

      He, in his presentation, also said that the sole purpose of the grants
      facility is to provide finances that will help strengthen the
      prevention, care and impact on the mitigation of services undertaken by
      various implementing agencies engaged in HIV/AIDS related activists and
      programmes in Malawi.

      Among other things, the Director of Policy and Programmes also
      expounded on the procedures which the interested organisations have to
      follow in order to get funding from the grants facility. He said that
      the organisation first has to submit an expression of interest to the
      Financial Management Agency (FMA) at NAC and prepare a full proposal
      based on the grants manuals that have been developed to guide
      implementing agencies in writing proposals of the appropriate quality.

      "There first has to be an expression of interest made by the interested
      organisation followed by a proposal that has to be carefully screened so
      that we know that we are putting our money in the right place."
      Financial management of how the Commission ensures that the money
      allocated to the organisations is put into proper use was also talked
      about at the seminar.

      Dave Runganaikoo of FMA, which is a unit contracted by NAC, spoke on
      how they audit all the organisations allocated with funds in
      collaboration with Umbrella organisations and Assemblies in managing the
      grants at district and community levels and all other institutions in
      the private sector.

      "We, the FMA, are responsible for providing financial and procurement
      management support to implementing agencies, conducting financial
      management audits of implementing agencies as well as reviewing and
      approving financial reports submitted by implementing agencies. FMA also
      is responsible for monitoring and evaluating of activities managed by
      respective umbrella organisations and reporting to NAC on financial and
      programme progress." The seminar was also attended by one of the
      umbrella organisations, Action Aid International Malawi, which explained
      its role in the National HIV/AIDS Grants Facility.

      The Programme Manager for Action Aid International Malawi, McBride
      Nkhalamba, speaking on the umbrella organisations, which are
      non-governmental organisations (NGOs) hired by NAC, said that their duty
      is to provide technical assistance to organisations, assist the
      assemblies and implementing organisations to monitor and evaluate
      HIV/AIDS and conduct advocacy and community mobilisation activities to
      enable communities to access funding.

      The entire media seminar took place in order to tell the media
      practitioners that they have a big role to play in letting the public
      know what the National HIV/AIDS Grants Facility is, since many Malawians
      are ignorant about it; how they can gain access to it and ensure that
      there is transparency in the way organisations that have been funded
      handle their finances.

      The National AIDS Commission receives its money from a number of donors
      and is said to be the most well supported AIDS Commission on the African


      Gender And Governance Project Launched in Chitipa

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

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

      Grant Ndoza

      The National Women Lobby and Rights group has broken the odds by taking
      the Gender and Governance Project to Chitipa District where it will be
      fully operational. The project, which intends to promote gender equality
      and empower women to actively and positively contribute towards
      development projects in Chitipa was launched Friday by Deputy Minister
      for Local Government and Rural Development Patricia Kaliati at the
      Chitipa Secondary School Hall.

      Speaking at the launch Kaliati said active involvement of women in the
      decision making process was vital as it ensures full participation by
      women in all development programmes.

      Kaliati emphasised that women are develop-ment minded and, if given
      responsibilities, would discharge their duties with great ability, just
      like their male counterparts. She said women's trademark of 'pull her
      down syndrome' is what men capitalises on to trod over them.

      "Just like men, women have the potential to do great things in life
      only if they are given chance. Women are their own worst enemies in that
      they take great delight in pulling each other down and take joy in their
      friend's failure due to jealousy," said Kaliati.

      Women, she said must cultivate a culture of love and support for each
      other if they want to attract respect from their male counterparts.

      Speaker of Parliament Rodwell Munyenyembe speaking at the same function
      said the project will help mitigate the numerous problems facing women
      because of male domination which renders the contribution of women

      While women are known for devoting all their efforts to sustaining
      families, Munyenyembe said they were unfortunately being sidelined from
      key issues of socio-economic development.

      Rogers Newa Chairman of Consultative Committee commended the Women
      Lobby Group for taking its projects to Chitipa has impressed his

      NGOs have often been criticised because they have focussed their work
      and development activities in the mainly urban centres of Blantyre,
      Lilongwe, Mzuzu and Zomba.


      Zimbabwe announces election date

      Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe has announced a general election is
      to be held on 31 March.
      The main opposition Movement for Democratic Change is due to announce
      later this week whether to take part.

      Last year, it said it would boycott elections because all the odds were
      stacked against them and in favour of Mr Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF party.

      Mr Mugabe has promised to abide by a set of regional guidelines to
      ensure that elections are free and fair.

      He has set up an independent electoral commission but the MDC says
      these changes do not go far enough.

      They had wanted the election to be put back so that more reforms could
      be passed.


      MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai recently said they would be "damned if we
      do take part and damned if we don't".

      President Mugabe could remain in charge until elections in 2008

      In his weekly newsletter published on Tuesday, Mr Tsvangirai expressed
      the hope that the polls could prove significant.

      "Whether we opt to stay at home or not, the ensuing consequences shall
      push the political temperature beyond boiling point and hasten the
      demise of tyranny in our country," he said.

      But the BBC's Southern Africa correspondent Barnaby Phillips says that
      the opposition MDC must make an awkward decision. If it doesn't take
      part, it risks sinking into political oblivion. But if it does
      participate, and the indications are that it will, it knows that the
      odds are hopelessly stacked against it.

      If Zanu-PF gains a two-thirds majority in parliament, it would be able
      to change the constitution, which could be important if Mr Mugabe, 80,
      decides to step down or if his health worsens.

      President Mugabe has the power to nominate 30 MPs within the 150-member


      The United States and the European Union have accused Mr Mugabe of
      using violence and electoral fraud to rig his 2002 re-election.

      He denies the charges and accuses his western "enemies" of trying to
      oust him because of his policy of seizing white-owned land.

      Also on Tuesday, the Zimbabwean government withdrew an appeal against a
      court ruling acquitting Mr Tsvangirai of plotting to kill President

      If convicted, he could have been sentenced to death.

      "As far as the treason case is concerned that's the end of it," Mr
      Tsvangirai's lawyer told AFP news agency.


      Zimbabwe expels SA union leaders

      A group of South African unionists is being deported from Zimbabwe
      after arriving on a "fact-finding" mission ahead of next month's
      The 20-member team was refused entry by immigration officials at
      Harare's international airport.

      The government of President Robert Mugabe suspects South African
      unionists of backing the main opposition party, which was formed
      Zimbabwe's unions.

      The trip could threaten relations between the two neighbours.

      South Africa is seen as a key player in attempts to resolve Zimbabwe's
      problems and some have called for it to stop supplying subsidised
      electricity to put pressure on Mr Mugabe.

      'North Korea'

      "We are not shocked but we are going back home with a better sense of
      what's happening in Zimbabwe. What is it that the government has to
      hide?" Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) general secretary
      Zwelinzima Vavi told AFP news agency by phone shortly after being
      refused entry.

      They had initially planned to meet human rights groups but then said
      they would only meet their fellow unionists.

      Mr Mugabe has promised that the 31 March parliamentary elections would
      be held according to new regional guidelines to ensure that elections
      are free and fair.

      "If it is really levelling the playing field and conforming to Sadc
      [Southern African Development Community] norms, how can they feel
      threatened by people carrying pens and notebooks," Mr Vavi said.

      "They have been charged with (Section) 18A of the Immigration Act which
      relates to prohibited immigrants. They are being put on the next plane
      back to South Africa," said Wellington Chibebe, head of the Zimbabwe
      Congress of Trade Unions, which organised the trip.

      Last year, another Cosatu delegation was deported from Zimbabwe.


      Labour, Public Service and Social Welfare Minister Paul Mangwana said
      the delegation needed to apply for a permit through the South African
      labour minister.

      "Until they comply with that requirement, which we have already
      communicated to them, their coming is not welcome," he said.

      He did not repeat a threat made on Tuesday to arrest the group.

      BBC Southern Africa correspondent Barnaby Phillips says the expulsion
      is embarrassing for Zimbabwe coming just before parliamentary elections
      which Mr Mugabe hopes will be endorsed by African leaders.

      He says it also places South Africa's governing African National
      Congress (ANC) in a very tricky situation.

      The ANC is allied to Cosatu, but has been much less critical of human
      rights abuses in Zimbabwe.

      Now that Cosatu has been so publicly snubbed, the ANC will be under
      pressure to adopt a tougher line on Zimbabwe.
    • 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
      • 0 Attachment

        ADB firm on Karonga-Chitipa road contract

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


        Chihana operated on

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

        Mughogho is now in charge of the party.

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


        Pillane proposes presidential age limit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


        Mussa hails new driving licence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


        UDF demands investigation on Kasambara

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


        Zambia: Malawians Grab Zambian Land

        The Times of Zambia (Ndola)

        May 18, 2006

        Posted to the web May 19, 2006

        Andrew Lungu


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

        The Zimbabwean traders were warned and cautioned and later released.

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



        Zim unions, MDC still plan anti-govt protests

        Harare, Zimbabwe

        22 May 2006 11:51

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

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

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

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

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

        Opposition protests

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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