- Malawi: Mutharika's New Party Faces Stiff Challenges - Analysts
UN Integrated Regional Information Networks
May 30, 2005
Posted to the web May 31, 2005
Malawian President Bingu wa Mutharika can expect to face some major challenges for the remainder of his term in office after deciding to formally sever ties with the party that brought him to power, analysts warned on Monday.
Mutharika launched his own political party on Sunday, three months after a bitter fallout with the United Democratic Front (UDF) forced him to resign from the former ruling party.
Political observers pointed out that Mutharika's newly-formed Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was likely to face an uphill battle in parliament.
"The DPP is expected to water down some of the UDF's political clout, but it will have to deal with a lot of criticism as it struggles to create some kind of political identity. There are already accusations being made that Mutharika only used the UDF to gain the presidency," Boniface Dulani, a political science lecturer at the University of Malawi, told IRIN.
Mutharika was thrown his first challenge in March, soon after his dramatic defection from the UDF. His appointment of Mary Nangwale as the first woman inspector-general of police was rejected by parliament after the UDF and the largest opposition party, the Malawi Congress Party, collaborated to outvote Mutharika's and his allies.
The rejection of Nangwale further exacerbated the frosty relationship between the executive and the legislature.
Mutharika, a surprise choice as the UDF's candidate in the 2004 elections, was seen as former president Bakili Muluzi's final attempt to influence the future of Malawian politics, after increasing pressure by civil society forced him to abandon his bid for a third term.
But Mutharika's relationship with Muluzi soured soon after he gained the top job, while the arrest of senior UDF members as a result of his anti-corruption campaign has made him unpopular among sections of the party.
Muluzi, who remains at the helm of the UDF, the entered the fray, sparking a war of words between the two senior leaders that has split the party.
Dulani said Mutharika would have to do some serious legwork to consolidate his political base. "Muluzi still commands a great deal of support in Malawi, mainly because of the UDF's history. Although Mutharika has pulled together some of the smaller opposition parties and a few senior UDF leaders, he still needs to convince the broader electorate."
The UDF, under the Muluzi's leadership, emerged to challenge the dictatorship of Hastings Banda, winning the country's first multiparty elections in 1994.
But observers say protracted internal politicking threatens to draw attention away from the country's most pressing issue: poverty reduction.
Around 65 percent of Malawians survive on less than a US dollar a day, while consecutive poor harvests have also led to mounting food insecurity in recent years.
Tobias Jere, a researcher at the Centre for Social Concern, told IRIN: "The politicians need to move ahead and make a difference in people's daily lives, but this is being overshadowed by these squabbles. It's all fine and well that Mutharika has his own party now, but it's only going to lead to more confusion, as Malawians question the credibility of the party."
Malawi: Concern Over Aids Treatment Delays
UN Integrated Regional Information Networks
May 30, 2005
Posted to the web May 31, 2005
Malawians needing anti-AIDS treatment have been placed on waiting lists due to the government's drug rollout plan being plagued by delays.
Although the national treatment programme was implemented more than 10 years ago, the Malawi Network of People living with HIV/AIDS (MANET+) said there had been delays of up to six months in some areas.
MANET+ director Victor Kamanga told a radio station operated by the Malawi Institute of Journalism that people in the advanced stage of AIDS infection and in urgent need of antiretrovirals were being turned away.
The government recently said it planed to use US $20 million from the Global Fund to treat 44,000 HIV-positive people by the end of June 2005.
Transport Minister Disappointed in Nacala Line
Agencia de Informacao de Mocambique (Maputo)
May 30, 2005
Posted to the web May 31, 2005
Mozambican Transport Minister Antonio Mungwambe has expressed disappointment at the poor performance of the private consortium running the railway line from the northern port of Nacala to Malawi.
Nacala port and the railway have been leased out to the Nacala Corridor Development Company (SDCN), a consortium in which the major foreign partner is the Railroad Development Corporation (RDC) of the United States.
Interviewed on Mozambican Television (TVM), Munguambe said he was satisfied at work undertaken at the port, but the same could not be said for the railway. While the port's capacity to handle cargo had increased, the railway has been faced with constant breakdowns in the few locomotives it possesses.
Munguambe was annoyed to find that the chairman of the RDC board, Brad Knapp, has not been in Mozambique since the formalisation of the lease last year. RDC representatives who met the minister said that he was somewhere in the US, seeking to purchase locomotives for the Nacala line.
Munguambe promised to find out what was really going on, "because we cannot allow things to remain as they are".
Among the accusations facing the RDC and it management of the line is that it has closed stations without authorisation, halted passenger trains, and failed to enter into dialogue with local Mozambican businesses.
Nonetheless, one of the Mozambican directors of SDCN, Fernando Couto, is optimistic that matters will soon improve.
Cited in Monday's issue of the Maputo daily "Noticias", he said that before the end of this year SDCN will inject eight million dollars into rehabilitating the final stretch of the line, the 77 kilometres from the town of Cuamba to Entre-Lagos on the Malawian border.
In the late 1980s, massive amounts of donor aid went into a full rehabilitation of the line from Nacala to Cuamba.
Inexplicably, the much smaller sums needed to finish the work and upgrade the line as far as the border were never forthcoming. It is this stretch of line which dramatically slows traffic down, and where most derailments have occurred.
"It's been recommended that we improve our services, and we're trying to do that", said Couto. Stations that had been closed would be reopened, he promised.
Furthermore, the delays in moving containers out of Nacala port, noted at the start of the year, has been overcome. The number of containers waiting to be moved has fallen from 5,000 in January to 2,300 now, Couto said.
Thousands held in Zimbabwe blitz
More than 22,000 people have been arrested in the recent crackdown on Zimbabwe's shantytowns, a police spokesman has told state media.
He said some of those made homeless when their shacks were demolished in the capital, Harare, were being sent back to their rural homes.
Residents and riot police clashed overnight in the second city, Bulawayo.
Meanwhile, the head of the World Food Programme has discussed Zimbabwe's food needs with President Robert Mugabe.
Millions of people are suffering from food shortages and Mr Mugabe told James Morris he would "welcome" food aid, Mr Morris said.
Fuel shortages make it difficult for people to leave the cities
Last year, Mr Mugabe asked the WFP to scale down its operations, saying Zimbabweans had so much food, "they were choking".
Mr Mugabe's critics say the shortages have been caused by his seizure of white-owned land.
He denies this, blaming the weather and a Western plot to remove him from power.
Market vendors and local residents fought with police for more than two hours in Bulawayo's Makholkhoba suburb on Tuesday night, after their stalls had been demolished. Scores of people were injured.
The crackdown on illegal settlements in Harare and other cities has led to a huge increase in rents of up to 300%, reports the state-run Herald newspaper.
Market stalls have been set on fire and shacks knocked down with sledgehammers.
"We have so far arrested a total of 22,735 people and recovered 33.5kg of gold from 47 illegal gold panners and 26,000 litres of fuel," said Assistant Commissioner Wayne Bvudzijena.
War on poverty
Hundreds of thousands of people are reported to be homeless following a police operation in several cities that began last week.
But fuel shortages are making it difficult for people to travel to rural areas and escape the crackdown.
The opposition Movement for Democratic Change, which draws much of its support from Harare and other urban areas, has called on Zimbabweans to "mobilise against this assault on their dignity, livelihoods and well-being".
The National Pastors' Conference called on the government to "engage in a war against poverty and not against the poor".
ADB firm on Karonga-Chitipa road contract
by Zainah Liwanda, 22 May 2006 - 06:09:17
The African Development Bank (ADB) has again rejected a proposal by government to look for another contractor instead of China Hunan Construction to construct of the long awaited Karonga/Chitipa road.
China Hunan from Mainland China won the bid which was approved by the ADB but government later wanted to award the contract to a Portuguese firm, Mota Engil, the second lowest bidder, claiming China Hunan's bid was unrealistically low and that the company had very little experience in Africa.
Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe confirmed on Sunday the ADB rejected the proposal at a meeting held between the bank and Malawi government in Tunisia last week.
The Malawi government wanted the Tunisia meeting to authorise it to get another contractor for the road, said Gondwe.
"They did not allow us to look for another contractor because of their regulations. But we are about to get another alternative for Karonga/Chitipa and I would be surprised if it does not start before end June," said Gondwe.
The minister explained that the bank insisted that regardless of the unrealistic cost estimates, China Hunan should be allowed to go ahead with the construction.
But Gondwe could not give further details about the alternatives, arguing there are still a few loose ends to tighten up before disclosing it.
The problem with China Hunan, according to Gondwe, is that it would require more money to meet the total cost of the project.
This paper reported last week that government met Taiwanese representatives where they offered to fund the road if the ADB continued to reject its favoured contractor, Mota Engil.
Gondwe could neither confirm nor deny the reports on the Taiwanese offer, saying government was looking at a number of ways to handle the issue.
According to Gondwe, the China Hunan's bid was 24 percent lower than the consulting engineers' estimates of K7.9 billion and 34 percent below the second lowest bidder.
President Bingu wa Mutharika laid a foundation stone for the construction of the road this year ahead of a crucial byelection in Chitipa in December last year.
The President's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) won the Chitipa Wenya constituency by-election that fell vacant following the collapse and subsequent death of Speaker of Parliament Rodwell Munyenyembe who belonged to the UDF.
Last week, police and the District Commissioner (DC) for Chitipa stopped a rally that was aimed at soliciting people's views about development projects in the district.
The meeting, which was reportedly organised by Concerned Citizens of Chitipa, was among other things also supposed to tackle the controversial Karonga/Chitipa road.
The project failed to start off in 2000 when a contract for an initial loan of US$17 million and US$15 million from the Taiwanese government was signed, with some quarters claiming the Bakili Muluzi administration diverted the money to another road.
Chihana operated on
by Edwin Nyirongo, 22 May 2006 - 06:32:31
Alliance for Democracy (Aford) president Chakufwa Chihana, who is in South Africa receiving treatment, had a brain operation on Friday at Garden City Clinic, family and party officials confirmed on Sunday.
Aford national chairman Chipimpha Mughogho said he was told by the family members that Chihana had a successful operation on Friday and was put in an intensive care unit.
Mughogho said Chihana, who initially complained of headache, was found with a brain tumour which South African doctors removed.
Mzimba West MP Loveness Gondwe said Aford boss condition was stable.
"Hon. Chihana had a major operation and after that he was put in the intensive care unit but his condition is stable. I do not know where he was operated on but it had something to do with the skull," she said.
Deputy Information Minister John Bande referred the matter to the Health Minister Hetherwick Ntaba who was reported to be in Geneva, Switzerland.
Aford publicity secretary Norman Nyirenda said when Chihana's situation got worse, the family alerted the Office of the President and Cabinet who took him to Mwaiwathu Private Hospital.
"The doctors at Mwaiwathu advised that he should be sent to South Africa and they even identified the doctor for him," he said.
He said the costs are being met by the Malawi government, contradicting his earlier statement that his boss covered the cost.
Mughogho is now in charge of the party.
Gondwe will be a busy person when Parliament starts meeting on June 6 as she is the only Aford MP remaining.
Pillane proposes presidential age limit
by Emmanuel Muwamba , 22 May 2006 - 06:34:13
A member of the DPP National Governing Council Abdul Pillane on Saturday urged members of political parties and the civil society to put an upper age limit in the Constitution for presidential candidates.
Pillane was addressing members of political parties and civil society in Liwonde during a two-day follow up workshop to the National Conference on the Review of Constitution held in March in Lilongwe.
"My view is that (an upper) age limit should be at 75. We have to give a chance to younger people to lead because in circumstance, when you age you become forgetful especially when sickly," said Pillane. "Overall, chances should be given to young people."
But UDF secretary general Kennedy Makwangwala, whose party members agitated for the age limit during presentations, played the issue down.
"I feel there is no logic to have an upper age limit for presidential candidates. If someone is 90 or 80 I don't know how that can influence the electorate not to vote for someone who is younger, I don't see any logic behind that," said Makwangwala.
MCP participants at the workshop also vehemently objected to the proposal.
MCP vice president Nicholas Dausi in an interview said: "There is no constitution in Africa which stipulates an upper age limit. So it would be strange in Malawi to have an upper age limit for presidential candidates."
MDP President Kamlepo Kalua also opposed the need to have an upper age limit.
"If we have personalities in mind that we want to discriminate against then it is unfortunate. The constitution we want to build is a guiding document for future generations and it should not bar certain individuals on the basis of grudges," he said.
The Malawi Law Constitution Issues Paper of March 2006 says several submissions that were received put an upper presidential age limit in the Constitution.
"It is argued that it is common sense that mental knowledge faculties tend to fail with age. As regards what the actual age limit should be the submissions are far from being agreed. The range is from 60 years to 80 years," read submissions in the Issues Paper.
On whether MPs should double as ministers, Kalua said this should be the case.
Makwangwala also said it is not right for MPs to serve as ministers because the Legislature, another arm of government, is reduced while the Executive branch is beefed up from another arm of government.
"There is no separation of powers when MPs double as ministers," said Makwangwala.
But Pillane said there is no problem for MPs to work as ministers as well, saying MPs are elected by the President.
"One can serve both posts. There have been no problems before for people to double," said Pillane.
The Centre for Multiparty Democracy funded the workshop through the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy.
The objective was to come up with a collective position on the Issues Paper which will be presented to the Special Law Commission that will be constituted soon.
Mussa hails new driving licence
by Zainah Liwanda, 22 May 2006 - 06:58:52
Transport and Public Works Minister Henry Mussa last week said the design of the Malawi-Sadc driving licence would guard against forgery and ensure that only skilled and legitimate drivers of particular vehicles are licensed.
Mussa was speaking at the official launch of the licences in Lilongwe where he announced that traffic police would from July enforce speed limits and sober driving using Breathalysers which his ministry is in the process of procuring.
The minister said financial constraints are the reason for the delay in procuring the equipment but assured that by July they would be available.
"With the new equipment, the days of those who believe in the thrill of drink and driving are numbered," warned Mussa.
Mussa added that with the new licence, government is optimistic that the country's roads would be safe.
Acting Director of Road Traffic James Chirwa said the features that distinguish the new from the old licences are the Malawi national flag and a ghost image of the driver's photograph, among others.
Those with old licences, according to Chirwa, are expected to get the new ones after the expiry of the former.
UDF demands investigation on Kasambara
by Rabecca Theu, 22 May 2006 - 06:30:46
The United Democratic Front (UDF) has asked government to investigate Ralph Kasambara on allegations of abuse of office while he was attorney general.
UDF publicity secretary Sam Mpasu told the press Sunday that the party is neither amused or saddened by the removal of the former AG but asked government to institute investigations on Kasambara.
"Beyond the removal of the Attorney General, we now urge President Mutharika to institute investigation against Mr Kasambara into allegations that have made rounds in the public domain during the recent past. These include: Mrs Helen Singh and SS Rent-a-Car; SGS and ITS saga; ...........the use of Malawi Police Service in the arrest of three Chronicle journalists and the handling of Mrs Rubina Kawonga," said Mpasu.
Mpasu also accused Kasambara of awarding government contracts to Lawson and Company where he was a senior partner.
"We urge government to thoroughly investigate the former AG. We also ask government to cautiously select the new AG ," said Mpasu, who was accompanied by the party's Secretary General Kennedy Makwangwala, leader of the party in Parliament George Mtafu, chief whip Leonard Mangulama and a member of the executive Hophmally Makande.
But Minister of Information Patricia Kaliati said UDF should give offer its advice to the Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB).
"They should advise bodies like the Anti-Corruption Bureau to conduct the investigations and why are they saying this now? Is it because Kasambara has been fired? This is not a personal issue. If they have other pressing issues they should just say so. These arguments should have come up earlier on when the said cases were happening," she said.
Kasambara asked UDF to proceed with the mission of urging government to investigate him.
"They can do their job. Everyone has a right to lobby for anything they want in the country. UDF has a right to do that, let them go ahead," he said.
Kasambara was relieved of his duties as AG by the President last week. Government has not given reasons behind the removal.
Zambia: Malawians Grab Zambian Land
The Times of Zambia (Ndola)
May 18, 2006
Posted to the web May 19, 2006
MALAWIANS who have encroached on both the 'no-man's' and part of the Zambian land at the Mwami border in Eastern Province have plucked out some beacons that were used in the demarcation of the border.
The Malawians are now using the beacons as stools in their newly-established villages on Zambian land.
Eastern Province Minister, Boniface Nkhata, said in Chipata yesterday that if the situation was not controlled urgently, Zambia would lose huge tracts of land to Malawians migrating into Zambian in large numbers.
A check at the Zambia-Malawi border showed a number of beacons had been vandalised and new structures constructed on the 'no man's' land and a large portion of Zambian land.
Mr Nkhata said the trend extended to many parts of the province bordering the two countries.
"A large portion of Zambian land has been taken up by the Malawians starting from the Chama boundary up to the Mwami border.
"The weighbridge at the Mwami border was initially in Zambia from the time both countries gained independence from Britain, but now the bridge is on Malawian soil," Mr Nkhata said.
The minister, who is former Chama District Commissioner, said there was similar encroachment in Lundazi and Chama districts where Zambia shares a boundary with Malawi.
He said a Malawian farmer identified as Mr Mfune had cultivated 71.5 hectares on Zambian land and employed about 265 Malawian workers.
"Khombe Farm in Chama district in Kanyerere's area, along the Muyombe road which leads to Northern Province where this Malawian farmer has cultivated a vast land is on the Zambian territory," he said.
Workers on the farm admitted that they were farming on Zambian soil but could not go back to Malawi because the land in that country was inadequate for cultivation.
Mr Nkhata appealed to the ministry of Lands to urgently release money for the demarcation of the Zambia-Malawi border to avoid further land disputes between the two countries.
Meanwhile, the Immigration Department in Livingstone has arrested a couple and another man, all Zimbabweans, for working in Zambia without permits.
They were arrested at Gwembe village yesterday where they worked for Into Africa, a tour operating company that provides bush dinners and breakfast.
According to the Immigration Department in Livingstone, the trio entered Zambia through the Victoria Falls border as visitors but decided to work for the company illegally.
Last week, immigration officers arrested 10 Zimbabwean traders and six Ethiopians for entering and staying in Zambia illegally.
The Zimbabwean traders were warned and cautioned and later released.
The Ethiopians were arrested at Konje Guest House when they ran out of money to proceed to Botswana.
Zim unions, MDC still plan anti-govt protests
22 May 2006 11:51
Zimbabwe's biggest labour federation on Saturday threatened to call massive demonstrations against the government over poor salaries and worsening living conditions for workers in the country.
The threats are ratcheting up pressure against President Robert Mugabe's government after similar threats by the biggest opposition party in the country, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), about two months ago.
Speaking at the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) conference on Saturday, the labour body's president, Lovemore Matombo, said the powerful union wants the government to award workers salaries that match the country's ever-rising inflation.
"I can assure you we will stage massive demonstrations to force them [employers] to award workers minimum salaries that tally with the poverty datum line," said Matombo.
Matombo did not say when exactly the ZCTU would order workers to strike.
Meanwhile, the MDC on Sunday said it will push ahead with plans for anti-government protests, saying victory in a key by-election at the weekend was a "sign the electorate supported its policies", including democratic mass resistance.
A spokesperson of the main faction of the splintered MDC, Nelson Chamisa, said victory over Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF and a rival MDC faction in a Saturday by-election in Harare's Budiriro constituency is a sign Zimbabweans still have confidence in party leader Morgan Tsvangirai and his policies.
Tsvangirai, the founding leader of the MDC, heads the main rump of the opposition party whose candidate, Emmanuel Chisvuure, polled 7 949 votes to win the Budiriro House of Assembly seat.
Gabriel Chaibva of the other faction of the MDC, led by prominent academic Arthur Mutambara, garnered 504 votes while Zanu-PF's Jeremiah Bvirindi polled 3 961 votes.
"This election showed that the electorate still has confidence in the MDC [Tsvangirai-led] leadership and its policies," Chamisa told independent news service ZimOnline.
He added: "We will now move to consolidate our position * we still believe in mass protests. Until we have attained our goals we see no reason why we should abandon [plans for protests]."
Tsvangirai has threatened to call mass protests this winter against Mugabe and his government. He says the mass protests, whose date he is still to name, are meant to force Mugabe to relinquish power to a government of national unity to be tasked to write a new and democratic Constitution that would ensure free and fair elections held under international supervision.
Mugabe and his government, who had hoped for victory in Budiriro to show they were recapturing urban support from a splintered MDC, have not taken idly the opposition's threats to call mass protests, with the veteran president warning Tsvangirai he would be "dicing with death" if he ever attempted to instigate a Ukraine-style popular revolt in Zimbabwe.
In a fresh crackdown against dissension, the police last week arrested several church and civic leaders for organising public prayers and marches to mark last year's controversial home-demolition exercise by the government.
The police also banned the marches and prayers, fearing they could easily turn into mass protests against Mugabe and his government.
However, the marches went ahead in the second-largest city of Bulawayo after organisers had obtained a court order barring the police from stopping the march.
Political analysts say although Zimbabweans have largely been cowed by Mugabe's tactics of routinely deploying riot police and the military to crush street protests, worsening hunger and poverty are fanning public anger that Tsvangirai -- with proper planning and organisation -- could easily manipulate.
Zimbabwe is in the grip of a severe six-year old economic crisis that has seen inflation breaching the 1 000% barrier. Last year, the World Bank said Zimbabwe's economic crisis was unprecedented for a country not at war.
The MDC and major Western governments blame Mugabe for wrecking the country's economy, which was one of the strongest in Africa at independence from Britain 26 years ago.
Mugabe denies the charge blaming the crisis on sabotage by Britain and her allies after he seized white-owned farms for redistribution to landless blacks six years ago.
The Harare authorities recently hiked salaries for civil servants, with the lowest-paid soldier now earning about Z$27-million while the lowest-paid school teacher now takes home about Z$33-million.
But the salaries are still way below the poverty datum line, which the government's Consumer Council of Zimbabwe says now stands at a staggering Z$42-million a month for an average family of six.
The Zimbabwe government often accuses the ZCTU, a strong ally of the MDC, of pushing a political agenda to remove Mugabe from power.
Meanwhile, Matombo and Lucia Matibenga retained their posts as president and first vice-president respectively during the ZCTU congress that ended on Saturday. -- ZimOnline