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  • Christine Chumbler
    Bingu Must Resign - Tembo Hits Back The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe) June 30, 2005 Posted to the web July 1, 2005 Gregory Gondwe Leader of Opposition in the
    Message 1 of 1046 , Jul 5, 2005
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      Bingu Must Resign - Tembo Hits Back

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      June 30, 2005
      Posted to the web July 1, 2005

      Gregory Gondwe


      Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly and Malawi Congress Party (MCP) President John Tembo, reacting to calls made by State President Bingu wa Mutharika last Friday that he should resign as opposition leader, has hit back at Mutharika, demanding his resignation instead.

      Tembo said Bingu has shown all the signs of a con artist who manipulated the United Democratic Front (UDF) to launch himself to the presidency where he is today on an unsuspecting population. This was reason enough he said for him to throw in the towel, especially with the current pressure. He intimated that the President should resign if he is an honest man, saying this is what has caused the political unrest in the country.

      "The president said it is 'Tembo' who is causing problems in parliament, but when you watch the TV closely you will discover that MCP and Tembo are not concerned with the on-going bickering in the house. It is only DPP and UDF who are fighting," he said.

      Tembo said MCP caused problems in parliament because of hunger. "Tembo has caused problems in parliament like bedbugs and whichever side you run to you get bitten," he said.

      "I have many more MPs in parliament than any other party while DPP has no MPs in parliament. So who should resign between me and Bingu?" he asked.

      He said the other reason he was calling for Bingu's resignation was because, although he has no MPs he has been enticing Members of Parliament from other political parties to join the DPP.

      Mutharika challenged Tembo during a national address which was broadcasted 'live' on the public radio MBC and rebroadcast on TV Malawi Friday evening to step down because he had failed to take control of opposition members in the House whom, he said could have caused the death of the Speaker Rodwell Munyenyembe after he collapsed in the House last Thursday.

      The president accused Tembo of demeaning the Malawi National Assembly for encouraging mayhem in the opposition camp by not giving the Speaker his due respect and underrating the presidency.

      But Tembo said the reason there are currently problems in parliament and in the country is not because of MCP, but it is because UDF made Bingu become president of the country and in an act of dishonesty he (Mutharika) ran away from the party and formed his own.

      "Even if it were you; that you were soaked in the rains, campaigning for me to become your MP only to run away from you after I was elected, wouldn't you call me names? Wouldn't you protest against my actions?" asked Tembo to a mammoth crowd that thronged Chipalukwa Catholic Primary School grounds in Dedza last Sunday.

      He said Bingu's dishonest actions have made UDF members start demanding back their votes and in the event that these people succeed, Mutharika is very afraid of what the MCP president could become.

      "When Bingu looks around in Parliament all he sees is me. I am a threat to his presidency because he knows I am the rightful successor since I am the one wielding much power in the house. No wonder he is demanding my resignation," said Tembo.

      He said he was voted in as Leader of the Opposition in the House by the people themselves, so he cannot leave that position just to satisfy someone's selfish demands.

      In his address, Mutharika linked Speaker Munyenyembe collapsing to the MPs' unparliamentarily behaviour, something that, he said resulted in a massive stroke.

      Tembo, in an effort to tell his constituents why parliament had adjourned said it was because the Speaker collapsed after a sudden illness.

      Mutharika had told the nation that his patience had worn thin and warned Tembo and former President Bakili Muluzi, whom he believed was instigating his United Democratic Front (UDF) MPs of drastic but unspecified action if they continue making the country politically unstable.

      "I will let the law take its course. When that happens, do not say I am a dictator. Do not say that I have turned this country into a police state," warned Mutharika.

      Tembo said Bingu's flare-up is ill timed because it only shows he is trying to bring a kind of rule which could only bring misery to people.

      Speaking at the same function Vitus Dzoole Mwale said the party is angered by Bingu's outbursts to the Opposition Leader.

      "Bingu cannot demand the removal of Tembo from his post as Leader of Opposition because DPP does not have any MPs in the house. We are still waiting for the courts to declare who really won the last May presidential elections," said Mwale.

      Tembo concurred with Mwale saying they were still awaiting the courts to pass judgement on their case. It was made clear that MCP were not challenging the presidency through the impeachment but on the elections issue.

      "The Attorney General told the court to throw the case out of court and we are still waiting for the courts to decide. We have hired local and international lawyers including Clive Stanbrook who called me some few days ago, he is coming," said Tembo.


      *****

      Bee Keeping, Honey: Is It Malawi's Hidden Treasure?

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      June 30, 2005
      Posted to the web July 1, 2005

      Hopkins Mundango Nyirenda


      - Can it take over from tobacco?

      It is an undisputable fact that the anti-tobacco lobby in the western world is determined as ever to completely phase out, off the face of the earth, Malawi's main foreign exchange earner - tobacco.

      This is going to have far reaching consequences for the country that, up to now is yet to identify an acceptable alternative to the crop.

      But should Malawians smile when they consider there is a chance to make Honey, the hidden Treasure? HOPKINS MUNDANGO NYIRENDA investigated the prospect and writes:

      The government in its diversification drive have suggested many and varied products to replace tobacco like tourism, paprika, cotton, cassava and other crops. But none of the above comes anywhere near to honey which, if properly harnessed, can be the answer to the majority of Malawians and the country since it can indeed bring much needed foreign exchange. This single commodity is currently in short supply because of the low prices of tobacco being fetched of late at the Tobacco Auctions.

      Beekeepers and a group of researchers in Nkondezi Village in Nkhata-Bay north have a point to prove to Malawians; that honey can replace tobacco if harnessed properly. They contend that the nectar can fetch much higher prices on the local and international markets than tobacco.

      Small Bee-keepers Development and Research Association [SBDARA] is a grouping of researchers established in 1986 which brings together 2,000 clubs, with 4,000 farmers involved in bee-keeping whose aim is to conduct research and help farmers to realize their full potential for harnessing honey to improve on standards which can easily compete on the international market.

      According to SBDARA Chief Director John Harawa, bee farming is better than any other farming. He said it helps other horticultural and crop farmers because of the pollination work that bees conduct. He also indicated that even in the conservation of forestry bee keeping helps.

      Often the beehives, which are the breeding place for honey, are located in forest reserves.

      Said Harawa: "Bee-keeping is an affordable undertaking yet its product is highly profitable. Malawi's honey has got big markets within and outside the country but we are failing to satisfy the market because we can't meet the supply and demand."

      The SBDARA Chief said that Malawi's honey has markets in Malaysia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, South Africa, Kenya and United Kingdom, apart from the local markets.

      He said the price of 500 grams of honey is MK185 and 1kg is MK370 [US$3], which by far surpasses tobacco, which this season is selling at an average price of US$1 per kg.

      The researcher said that the quality of honey demands that it be of a high standard for it to fetch good prices on the international market, especially in the European Union markets that are difficult to penetrate. In order to be able to send Malawi's honey to these markets there needs to be a lot of education on standards.

      "Honey with less than 18% water content and without chloramphenicol traces is the one that can be bought on the international market," said Harawa.

      Speaking in an interview, Austin Manda, a bee farmer said that they need a laboratory in their area so that they can meet the standards that are required on the international market.

      He concurred with the other speakers that honey indeed could replace tobacco as the main foreign exchange earner saying that at peak periods a hive with a main flow can yield 15-25 kg while semi flow yield is 9-12 kg per harvest.

      "We harvest honey twice a year. You can see honey has the potential of making a lot of money for the farmer and the country in forex. One meter beehive can produce 30 kgs a season and if translated into monetary terms you can see for yourself how much a farmer gets in a season," said Manda.

      Manda said that once honey has been harvested the residue is also used as raw material for some other products. Unlike tobacco which needs a lot of money to produce with no residue that can be used, beekeeping has many spin-off benefits.

      The farmers in SBDARA area are asking government to consider taking positive steps in order for them to have greater profits by introducing bee-keeping education in the agricultural colleges' curricular.

      Community Partnership for Natural Resource Management [COMPASS] is helping these farmers in pricing, packaging and marketing so that farmers can fetch good prices for their honey.

      According to COMPASS Public Awareness Specialist Levi Zeleza Manda, community based natural resources management [CBNRM] in which bee-keeping is a component, should be viewed as a viable strategy for rural development because wealth derived from natural resources is sustainable.

      *****

      More Dirt On 'K20m Credit Scheme'

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      June 30, 2005
      Posted to the web July 1, 2005

      Pilirani Phiri


      Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe has said he is not aware of the existence of a government account within his Ministry dubbed 'Ministry of Finance - Credit Scheme', which opened with a K20 million deposit into an account with the Finance Bank on February 2.

      The account was opened with cheque No. 004296 from Malawi Telecommunications Limited (MTL). Expense Account, Blantyre.

      Gondwe told The Chronicle Monday he was not aware of the existence of such an account, which has since been closed at Finance Bank due to controversy.

      "No. I don't know anything on that. I don't know of its existence," said Gondwe even when The Chronicle insisted it had documents to support the existence of the account at the Finance Bank.

      The Ministry's Accountant General, Rexford Kampanje too has said he is not aware of the existence of the account.

      Finance Bank documents sourced by The Chronicle indicate that Secretary to the Treasury, Milton Kutengule - who recently reportedly attended interviews for the position of State House Chief of Staff - opened the account from which he has been withdrawing cash cheques in excess of K17 million in the space of only three months.

      He has been the only signatory to the account despite the Public Finance Management Act stipulating that government cheques should have at least two signatories.

      But in an interview, Kutengule told The Chronicle it was not unusual for him, as Secretary to the Treasury, to solely open the account and also to be the only signatory.

      "Being Secretary to the Treasury, my job mandates me to transfer even billions without the Minister knowing. I can sign the cheques alone; there is nothing unusual in that," he said in a face-to-face interview last week Saturday.

      He explained that the K20 million in the account was a dividend from Malawi Telecom Limited (MTL) and that he directed that the money be used for opening of a 'Credit Scheme' account for the Ministry of Finance.

      "I directed the K20 million that MTL had paid to government to be used for the opening of the account. The purpose of the account was for the establishment of the Malawi Development Rural Fund (MARDEF) which kick starts very soon," Kutengule said.

      He said over K17 million that he withdrew from the account in the space of three months was used for allowances and for organising workshops, among other activities in preparation for the establishment of MARDEF.

      But MARDEF General Manager Philies Chienda told a local daily on Monday that the Fund does not hold any account with Finance Bank.

      Kutengule, who was at pains to explain as to why the account was called 'Ministry of Finance - Credit Fund' when its purpose was for the establishment of MARDEF, further said all government accounts at Finance Bank have been closed because of 'malpractice' at the bank, he said.

      But sources at Finance Bank alleged to The Chronicle that the millions Kutengule has been withdrawing for the past months were being siphoned to the DPP party for its launch preparations in May, this year.

      "We have information that the account that Kutengule is running is for the DPP. Some of the monies he withdrew in March were somatically deposited to another bank and then they used that bank's cheques to pay for any services rendered to the DPP. This is what has been happening,

      "Some of the monies the party used for its launch and the printing of its party cloth were from the Credit Scheme," said a source from Finance Bank on Saturday last week. The source asked for anonymity.

      On this, Kutengule said although he was aware that people were linking the account with DPP party, the Credit Scheme had nothing to do with DPP.

      "DPP has never acquired any finances from this account but I know people are thinking the withdrawals were being siphoned to the party," he said.

      According to a bank statement on the account sourced by The Chronicle barely five days after the account was opened, Kutengule on 1st March withdrew cash amounting to K200,000 before coming again to withdraw half a million on the same day.

      On March 17 he again signed a K 8.375 million cheque. The statement indicates the money was inexplicably being paid back to the Ministry of Finance.

      Come March 22, Kutengule again withdrew K500,000 before returning five days later to withdraw another K500, 000.

      On 1st April, he withdrew K600.000. Fifteen days later, on April 16 he withdrew K700.000.

      Another K700,000 and K2.5 million were withdrawn on April 22 and 28 respectively.

      On April 28, Kutengule withdrew another 2.5 million before coming again to withdraw K200.000 on May 4.

      On May 4, he obtained foreign currency equivalent to K592.565. His last withdrawal was on May 18 when he withdrew K2.5 million leaving a balance from the K20million of just over K2 million when the account was closed.

      Meanwhile, the DPP have distanced themselves from allegations that Kutengule was siphoning the finances to benefit the party.

      DPP Publicity Secretary Hetherwick Ntaba said Tuesday that although he could disclose where DPP gets its funds, allegations that the party has been a parasite on government resources from the Credit Scheme in question are nonsense.

      "Those saying that we used finances from the Credit Scheme must bring evidence. DPP doesn't use government resources," he said.

      Katengula is yet to explain to the nation where all the money he was withdrawing was going to, especially as the MARDEF management have denied receiving any of the money he says went to them to establish the Fund.

      *****

      Malawi's Mixed Performance in RH Related MDGs

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      June 30, 2005
      Posted to the web July 1, 2005

      Gregory Gondwe


      Malawi has enjoyed a mixed bag of success so far as performance in Reproductive Health related Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

      Maternal Health is one of the eight goals that it signed for in 2000 at the millennium summit that took place in New York, USA.

      Despite this, Malawi seems to be doing extremely well on the fourth MDG, which relates to the reduction of the child mortality rate.

      Malawi has not done so well in most of the seven other MDGs namely MDG 1: Poverty reduction/Food security; MDG 2: Achieving Universal primary education; MDG 3: Promotion of Gender Equality and Empowering Women; MDG 5: Maternal health; MDG 6: Combating HIV&AIDS; MDG 7: Environmental sustainability; and MDG 8: Establishing Global partnership for development

      A United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) report says in spite of Malawi's level of poverty it has made steady progress towards addressing the reduction of infant and child mortality (from 134 and 234 in 1992 to 104 and 189 in 2000) respectively.

      The other area Malawi has done well on is Executive Breast Feeding (EBF) that is now being promoted through Baby Friendly Hospital initiatives with current coverage of 52% of mothers' breastfeeding their infants up to six months.

      The MDG that is directly linked to Reproductive Health is that of Maternal Health which is MDG 5. Unfortunately Malawi continues to have one of the highest numbers of women who die as a result of pregnancy and childbirth.

      Malawi's maternal mortality ratio has worsened from 620 per 100,000 live births in 1996 to 1,120 per 100,000 in 2000.

      UNDP says the ratio is expected to rise as the quality of health services continues to deteriorate.

      "The maternal mortality has been described as a disaster by high level political figures, which makes the political context conducive for development actions and advocacy by the UN," says UNDP.

      To make sure that Malawi registers success in this MDG all UN institutions, including UNICEF, UNFPA, WHO and WPF are supporting the Health Ministry with a countrywide assessment of Emergency Obstetric Care.

      According to UNDP the assessment will be used to develop a costed road map for the reduction of maternal mortality in Malawi and will serve as a tool for advocacy and mobilisation of resources to improve reproductive health.

      Another joint UN programme is providing food supplements and other nutrition support to malnourished pregnant women.


      *****

      'Callous' raids anger Mugabe ally

      A former director of Zimbabwe's secret police has told the BBC that he left the ruling party over the "callous" destruction of people's homes.
      Former Zanu-PF MP Pearson Mbalekwa contradicted President Robert Mugabe's assertions that the operation had been planned long in advance.

      "If there was a plan, we wouldn't have people sleeping under trees or next to rivers," he said.

      The shanty town demolitions have left 200,000 people homeless, the UN says.

      Operation Murambatsvina [Drive Out Rubbish] has been condemned by teachers, doctors, church groups, the UN and the opposition.

      At the weekend, Methodist bishops from Southern Africa warned of a potential genocide.

      Mr Mugabe says the six-week operation is aimed at ridding urban areas of criminals.

      'Puzzled'

      Mr Mbalekwa, a former senior director of the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO), was a member of Zanu-PF's senior body, the central committee, until resigning last Friday.

      He said that neither the central committee nor MPs were consulted until the crackdown had already begun.

      "This thing was not planned, it was done haphazardly, thereby causing a lot of suffering to people," he told the BBC's Network Africa programme.

      He said he had no idea why the operation was being carried out.

      "It puzzles me and it puzzles all sane people," he said.

      The opposition says its urban supporters are being punished for voting against Zanu-PF in March elections.

      But many of the demolitions have also been of structures built by Zanu-PF supporters on previously white-owned farms.

      UN special envoy, Anna Tibaijuka, has extended by a week her visit to Zimbabwe to assess the impact of the government campaign against illegal structures and informal traders.


      *****

      Police smash more homes in Harare

      Michael Hartnack | Harare, Zimbabwe



      05 July 2005 01:08

      Armed paramilitary police swept through a Harare township, pulling down more than 100 prefabricated wooden cabins -- including one in which screaming children had taken refuge, witnesses and opposition activists said on Tuesday.

      Monday's raid took place despite promises that police are winding down Operation Murambatsvina, or Drive Out Trash, a so-called urban renewal drive that has destroyed the homes and livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans.

      Police could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.

      It was the latest in a series of raids against Hatcliffe township, where an estimated 20 000 people have already been forced from their homes since police started torching and bulldozing shantytowns, markets and other structures deemed illegal on May 19.

      A United Nations envoy is in Zimbabwe to assess the humanitarian impact of the campaign, which aid workers and opposition leaders estimate has displaced up to 1,5-million people at the height of the Southern African winter. Police put the figure at about 120 000.

      Since UN envoy Anna Tibaijuka's visit was announced, government officials have repeatedly stated that the demolished homes will be replaced with a Z$3-trillion (R2,2-billion) reconstruction effort.

      On Monday morning, truckloads of paramilitary troops raided Hatcliffe, smashing homes, chasing street vendors and seizing their wares, witnesses said.

      "First they came after us sellers at the market area, where the council gave us the green light to sell," said Brighton Chiwolo, a cigarette seller who lost his job as a supermarket checkout clerk last year. "Then they went from street to street, ordering people to demolish the cottages that were there."

      "Some five or six kids that were there ran and locked themselves in a cottage, and then the police went and demolished it with iron bars while the kids -- aged nine, 10, 11 -- started screaming," he said.

      The children escaped unharmed, but another resident was injured when a sheet of roofing fell on his foot, Chiwolo said.

      Officials have said previously they are targeting illegal structures, but Hatcliffe residents said they are being forced from land and homes given to them by the government itself ahead of elections in recent years.

      Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai told journalists in South Africa on Monday that the demolitions appear aimed at breaking up opposition strongholds among the urban poor and diverting attention from the government's economic failings.

      The destruction comes at a time of economic crisis in Zimbabwe, where inflation has topped 144%, unemployment is about 70% and an estimated four million are in urgent need of food.

      "I am going on playing hide and seek with the police. I still have to sell -- I cannot find a job," Chiwolo said.

      The Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights said in a statement on Tuesday that the evictions have also disrupted HIV/Aids treatment programmes and left the sick exposed to the elements. A number of people have reportedly died of pneumonia since they were left to sleep in the open.

      Tibaijuka, the Tanzanian head of UN Habitat, planned to visit Zimbabwe's second city of Bulawayo on Tuesday, scene of sporadic violence during the campaign.

      David Coltart, spokesperson for the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change, estimated about 30 000 people have been left homeless in the south-western city.

      "There are relatively few on the streets here because churches have opened their doors," he said. "Every church hall is jam-packed with internally displaced people and families are doubled-up in homes."

      Jenni Williams, a Bulawayo-based activists with Women of Zimbabwe Arise, said her women's rights group hopes to tell Tibaijuka: "Zimbabweans are not expendable."

      "Mugabe has been operating with such impunity, and he expects voluntary organisations and the international community to clean up after him," Williams said. -- Sapa-AP

      *****

      UN criticises Zimbabwe slum blitz

      A UN envoy visiting Zimbabwe has said that the authorities could have taken steps to minimise the human impact of a controversial slum clearing programme.
      Anna Tibaijuka told the BBC that while urban development was important, the government should have followed better procedures to avoid human misery.

      Her visit follows international anger over the demolitions, which have left an estimated 275,000 people homeless.

      Officials say the moves are aimed at removing criminals and reviving cities.

      Ms Tibaijuka said she would submit her report to the UN secretary general, Kofi Annan.

      Why Africa won't condemn the blitz

      Her visit coincides with Amnesty International reports that three more people have died during the clearances.

      On Thursday Ms Tibaijuka visited the Porta Farm site where two women - one pregnant - and a boy were reportedly killed, but said she was unable to confirm the report.

      Over breakfast with thousands of former residents of another site at Caledonia Farm, she said something had to be done for the displaced people.

      "I think it was very clear that they all seem anxious to get their lives improved," she said, quoted by AFP news agency.

      "When I asked them if they were happy, I got a resounding no. So definitely there are challenges that we have to sort out," she said, quoted by AFP news agency, after visiting the Caledonia Farm site.

      In a separate move, the World Food Programme (WFP) said Zimbabwe's current food shortages made it one of the most worrying countries in the world.

      Dialogue call

      The demolition programme began a month ago. At least three other children have been killed during the operation.

      Thousands of the displaced people are now living on the streets, while others have gone back to rural areas, and some have moved into unaffected parts of the cities.

      UN Security Council members criticised the demolitions.

      Britain's ambassador to the UN, Emyr Jones-Parry, said the government was to blame for many of the problems facing Zimbabwe.

      Acting US ambassador Anne Patterson said America was deeply concerned about the demolition scheme and urged the government to begin a dialogue with the opposition.

      Meanwhile South African has hit back at accusations that it has been silent about Zimbabwe's problems.

      "President Thabo Mbeki has been very clear on this - he went to Zimbabwe twice, and in the presence of President Mugabe expressed his displeasure about things that were going on in Zimbabwe," South African presidential spokesman Bheki Khumalo told the BBC.

      "The notion that we have not spoken out is not true."
    • Christine Chumbler
      ADB firm on Karonga-Chitipa road contract by Zainah Liwanda, 22 May 2006 - 06:09:17 The African Development Bank (ADB) has again rejected a proposal by
      Message 1046 of 1046 , May 22, 2006
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        ADB firm on Karonga-Chitipa road contract

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

        *****

        Chihana operated on

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

        Mughogho is now in charge of the party.

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

        *****

        Pillane proposes presidential age limit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

        *****

        Mussa hails new driving licence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

        *****

        UDF demands investigation on Kasambara

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

        *****

        Zambia: Malawians Grab Zambian Land

        The Times of Zambia (Ndola)

        May 18, 2006

        Posted to the web May 19, 2006

        Andrew Lungu

         

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

        The Zimbabwean traders were warned and cautioned and later released.

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

         

        *****

        Zim unions, MDC still plan anti-govt protests

        Harare, Zimbabwe

        22 May 2006 11:51

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

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

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

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

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

        Opposition protests

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

        Crackdown

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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