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  • Christine Chumbler
    Malawi pardons prisoners to celebrate independence Blantyre, Malawi 06 July 2005 11:05 Malawi President Bingu wa Mutharika on Wednesday pardoned 413 prisoners
    Message 1 of 1046 , Jul 6, 2005
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      Malawi pardons prisoners to celebrate independence

      Blantyre, Malawi

      06 July 2005 11:05

      Malawi President Bingu wa Mutharika on Wednesday pardoned 413 prisoners convicted of minor offences to mark the Southern African country's 41 years of independence from British rule, his office said.

      The inmates who were released had been convicted of "minor offences, had served at least half of their sentence and had a distinguished record of good conduct", said a statement from Mutharika's office.

      Mutharika also said that this year's Independence Day celebrations will be low-key with prayers to be held instead of festivities, as the government wants to use the money to buy maize for Malawians in need of food aid.

      About 65% of the people live below the poverty line and earn less than $1 a day in Malawi, which is also struggling with the Aids pandemic affecting 900 000 people in the country of about 12-million.

      "We want to use the money for celebrations to buy maize to ensure people have food," said Mutharika in his State of the Nation address delivered late on Tuesday.

      "We should reflect on why Malawians are still in a cycle of poverty," he said.

      Malawi is planning to buy R341-million-worth of staple grain from South Africa to try to fill the gap from food shortages caused by drought.

      Wedged between Mozambique and Zambia and one of the world's poorest countries, Nyasaland gained independence from Britain in 1964 and was renamed Malawi. -- Sapa-AFP

      *****

      Two Sisters Take Up the Initiative to Teach HIV/Aids

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      July 3, 2005
      Posted to the web July 4, 2005

      Gregory Gondwe
      Lilongwe

      Two Sisters, twenty-year old Wezi Kalea and her twenty-four year old sister Patience have embarked on an initiative to teach fellow youths in Area 24 in Lilongwe issues concerning the HIV and Aids pandemic.

      The girls, who said they got the inspiration from their late mother who was a senior HIV and AIDS officer, have so far spoken to their colleagues about the ways on how the virus can is spread and the ways in which they can also prevent contracting the virus.

      The two sisters said although the message may sound monotonous, their case is unique because they work together as a team and are a good source of information. When they speak, fellow youths pay close attention.

      The girls also said the one possible reason that has allowed them to easily pass on the HIV and AIDS message has been their membership in two of the Area 24 based youth groups, Cobweb Renovators and Youth Development. "The group meet every Sunday where members share notes on what they know on youth empowerment and cultural values and it is during this time that we also come up with an HIV and AIDS awareness talk," said the older of the two sister, Patience.

      Wezi, the younger one says the Sunday meetings also discuss and participate in cultural activities where members teach each other different kinds of traditional dances depending on where they come from. "We have also taken advantage of this to compose HIV and AIDS songs which we use in the traditional dances. In so doing, we can safely say we have diversified ways in which such messages can be spread," she said.

      She said under the youth empowerment programmes the group identifies different talents amongst its membership and attempt to develop ways of nurturing these talents build into a life skills programme.

      She said if they discover that one has some musical talent they train him or her on various songs as well so that when they produce their music they should not leave out the HIV and AIDS message.

      Says Wezi: "Currently the group is trying to identify funds that could be used to start recording some of the musical artists which it has discovered through its clubs." Other identified talents have been in the areas of acting, carpentry and many entrepreneurial activities.

      She said a drama group of the ages between 14 and 24 years has been formed and has since undertaken outreach campaigns in secondary and primary schools within the Area 24 catchment area.

      The drama group which goes together with other performers has visited Chipasula Secondary School and Hennith Pvt Secondary School at Biwi, to mention but a few.

      Patience says most of what is being taught has an emphasis on abstinence and they encourage extra curricular activities as a way of achieving it. She said they had discovered that just telling the youths to abstain without identifying a substitute activity for them was a futile mission.

      She said they also encounter different problems due to different beliefs that are held by the group's 108 membership. "We have problems teaching fellow youths of the Catholic faith to practice safe sex by using condoms if they cannot abstain as they say it against what their church teaches. Our campaign on sticking to one partner also meets resistance from members of the Islamic faith who also say it not in keeping with the teachings of their faith," she said. "We also teach our members on the importance of VCT services and that they can benefit if they know their sero-status. "If there are any dissenting views regarding all that we teach we undertake research and make sure that explanations have been made through deliberately organised debates on a particular subject like - say the merits and demerits of accessing VCT services. Through the debates a lot of misconceptions are cleared," she explained.

      One may wonder how these young girls got such rich knowledge on the HIV/AIDS. The girls said they started being taught the subject by their late mother who was a medical expert on the issue and even when she passed away she left a lot of written material, which has been the biggest source of information on the subject.

      The girls who have both done courses in computer subjects said the materials are also shared freely amongst the youth group membership.

      *****

      MCP Keen to Approve Budget On the Proviso That Demands Are Met

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      July 4, 2005
      Posted to the web July 4, 2005

      Gregory Gondwe
      Lilongwe

      The Country's Main Opposition Malawi Congress Party (mcp) That is Accused of Trying to Sabotage This Year's Budget After Conniving With the United Democratic Front (udf) Has Said It Will Approve the Budget Only If Its Demands Are Met.

      MCP President John Tembo said during a political meeting over the weekend in Dedza that they had read the budget carefully and were about to respond to it when the speaker collapsed.

      He said the party has some areas in the budget like the universal subsidy on fertilizer, the current levels on Pay as You Earn (PAYE) and the method of managing the Malawi Rural Development Fund (MRDF) that need discussion and debate. "The Finance Minister (Goodall Gondwe) has told me that things are not okay and has asked me to sit down with him and clear the areas of our main contentions," Tembo told the meeting. "This budget is incomplete and unless it is more comprehensive we are not approving it as MCP. We will seek to introduce universal subsidy on fertilizer that must be sold at the ADMARC where sales are done during the day not during the night as others are now doing," he added.

      The MCP leader said the current hunger crisis in the country should have made the government take up their demand without any resistance.

      Tembo said when he was going to parliament he thought it was only in Dedza where people have been hit by hunger but after meeting fellow MPs he discovered that the hunger has hit the whole country. "It is only MPs from DPP who never compl-ained about the hunger in parliament like one from Dedza here. Did you ever hear her complain about hunger?" Tembo asked the meeting which answered back with a deafening "No!". He was referring to an MP for Dedza who has since aligned herself to the DPP of President Bingu wa Mutharika.

      He said the disbursement of the loans from the MRDF is clouded in secrecy. "If people are eating nsima, they do not put it under a table but on top, for all to see and appreciate who is getting what share".

      He said when he quizzed the government side on why the disbursement was being handled in such a clumsy manner they came out into the open and conceded that they have indeed started on a wrong note. He said MCP was thus demanding a change in the method of disbursement.

      This country does not belong to Tembo neither does it belong to Chakuamba or Bingu. It belongs to the people of Malawi both in the rural and urban areas.

      He said there are some areas on the taxes where they agree with but others they do not believe are correct. "We want taxes that consider those doing small businesses as well. The tax restructuring only benefits those in gigantic business ventures," he said.

      On the tax called (PAYE) Tembo said they demand that those getting below K8, 000 must not be taxed rather than at K5, 000 as is recommended in the proposed budget. He said if the PAYE was to be as it is teachers will be badly affected because they get so little. "We also demand an increment of salaries for teachers and other civil servants to be above the proposed 17% because if this percentage is translated into figures the increment is just peanuts. Last year teachers were cheated with a kind of increment that effectively gave with the right hand and then took away with the left. So we don't want this kind of increment," explained Tembo.

      He said if all these issues will not be looked into, MCP is not ready to approve the budget. Tembo boasted 'And, when I speak about these things in parliament I cause them sleepless nights'.

      Speaking earlier Tradi-tional Authority Kasumbu encouraged Tembo not to relent on the fertiliser subsidy issue. "The president is not aware of the hunger that has ravaged our communities so make him understand this," said the chief.

      Speaking on behalf of MCP Regional Chairman Bitton Kutsaira who is reportedly on official duty to Mauritius, Vitus Dzoole Mwale MP for Msodzi South said had MCP been in government it would have reduced the price of fertiliser to as lower as K750 per 50kg bag. "We are just holding the budget in our hands and we will approve it only when fertiliser is lowered to that affordable figure," he said. 14 other MPs graced the meeting that was held at Chipalukwa Catholic Primary School grounds.

      Parliament is expected to reconvene on Tuesday to debate on and to pass the budget.

      *****

      Ntaba Condemns UDF- MCP Linkages

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      July 4, 2005
      Posted to the web July 4, 2005

      Chimwemwe Festino
      Lilongwe

      Health Minister Dr Hetherwick Ntaba has described the recent working relationship between the UDF and MCP as a strange marriage aimed at frustrating government efforts at developing the country.

      Briefing the press on Sunday, Ntaba said the UDF-MCP relationship is strange and suspicious because the two parties, which were not seeing eye to eye some few years ago, all of a sudden have become brothers in arms. "This marriage is really strange because not long ago the two parties were enemies. I remember at one time the former head of state denouncing Tembo and his party as a leader with blood on his hands saying he could not work with a party he described as a "party of darkness." Suddenly the two are good friends. This is unheard of," explained Ntaba.

      Ntaba stated that the government was aware of what has been discussed during the MCP secret meetings. "The opposition is so much excited and think that we are not aware of whatever they are planning. "We know their plans. Tembo is behind the proposal of impeaching the president although he acts as if he does not know what is happening," explained Ntaba.

      The minister also disclosed that government is getting all the information that transpires during meetings between UDF and MCP. "We know that the two parties are fighting tooth and nail to remove the president. We have information that positions have already been shared among them for example Tembo is set to be the president. This is a sign of greed and completely unacceptable," explained Ntaba.

      He added that the opposition parties are jealous of the present government, which has won donor confidence because of its developmental programme and its will to curb corruption, promote good governance and uphold the rue of law, among others. "Let us all be united and build our nation. There is a lot of money out there meant for development. For example the Ministry of Health will be given K18 billion for implementing issues concerning health," he said.

      On the impeachment of the president and the formation of the National Governing Council (NGC), Ntaba said he wondered why there should be an NGC when the constitution clearly states that if an impeachment succeeds, the vice president automatically is supposed to take over. "It's a pity to note that they are in a hurry at the expense of not following what is written in the constitution. This shows how desperate and power hungry they are," he said adding that UDF want to get power through the backdoor.

      Ntaba also lamented over the behavior of some parliamentarians when conducting business, saying it leaves a lot to be desired. "This unacceptable behavior has led to the collapse of the Speaker. How do those MPs who contributed to this feel when they hear what has happened to the speaker?" he questioned.

      He called upon all the MPs to check their conduct and deliberate issues that would benefit every Malawian.

      *****

      Government to Close Down Orphanages

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      July 3, 2005
      Posted to the web July 4, 2005

      Priscilla Mateyu
      Lilongwe

      Government Has Said It is Planning to Close Down Orphanages Which Do Not Meet the Basic Requirements Equal to Any International Standards of Looking After Orphans.

      The Director of Social Welfare Services in the Ministry of Gender And Child Welfare, Penston Kilembe, Said Government Has Taken This Step After Seeing That a Lot of Places That Are Being Turned Into Orphanages Do Not Meet the Required Standards. "We Have Already Deployed People to Assess the Conditions of Orphanages in All Districts And When They Come With Full Reports, We Are Going to See Which Ones Are Suitable to Operate As Orphanages," He Said.

      Kilembe said some of the problems why some orphanages are failing to meet the required standards include the place where the children are being kept, the levels of staff alertness towards the children and alack of appropriateness in dealing with the children.

      Kilembe said his ministry is going to deal seriously with all those who have not met the required standards of operating an orphanage. He said plans are underway to relocate all those children whose orphanages will be closed to other orphanages and also to open up drop-in centers. "We are going to close the orphanages and relocate all the children to other centers. We are also renovating a building in Lilongwe Old Town beside Bottom Hospital, where we want to establish a drop-in center. "This center is going to cater for all orphans and also those young sex workers where they will receive counseling services. This center is going to start operating in August this year," Kilembe explained.

      The center will be operating with funds from the Malawian Government, UNICEF and the Norwegian government.

      Lilongwe based woman who operates an orphanage said it was very sad for government to close down orphanages, as this will cause congestion in the remaining orphanages. She said although some of the orphanages operate in dilapidated buildings, with the little they have, still look after and help orphans as their own children. "This is a sad development. I urge the government to think twice over this issue before they take any action. The place where they are suggesting to turn into a drop-in center is very close to town and there is a possibility that children will be attracted to town life more easily, that they will never be safer there than when they are in the villages," complained the woman.

      Kilembe disclosed that it takes a minimum of 600 pounds (K140,000) to take care of an orphan per year. Currently there are 12 accredited orphanages recognized by the government in the country.

      *****

      Dedza HIV/Aids Committee Gathering Data

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      July 3, 2005
      Posted to the web July 4, 2005

      Gregory Gondwe
      Lilongwe

      The Dedza District AIDS Co-ordinating Committee has embarked on an information gathering exercise that is set to assist in the establishment of HIV/AIDS programmes in the district.

      Lonely Matewere, the District AIDS Co-ordinator said currently the information which they have show that there are 200 HIV/AIDS and support groups in the district. "This is only what is in our directory but there are others whose activities are yet unknown, so we are about to embark on a re-organisation programme to establish accurate data on HIV and AIDS.


      Currently, we are depend-ent on data which is collected from the District Hospital," she said.

      She said because of the low figures gathered they only have two known Community Based Organisations (CBOs) in the district funded by the District AIDS Co-ordinating Committee. She said they had carried out a needs assessment in April that helped determine the kind of activities to be carried out in a specific location across the district. "Other areas are much in need of home-based care services while others are in need of preventive sensitisation campaigns," she said.

      She said the District AIDS Coordinating Committee (DACC) started its initial operation without information.

      Matewere said when they were conducting the needs assessment they were informing the responsible CBOs about the importance of ARVs in prolonging lives as well as indicating to them that the door to getting ARVs is through VCT.

      She said the committee is also strengthening CBOs to access more funding from NAC through World Vision, which is the umbrella organization for Dedza. "We also told the people during the assessment that in accessing funding they should focus on serious advocacy to encourage people to go for VCT so that, if found infected they can start getting ARVs when the need arises," she said.

      Matewere said the district is also trying to address this year's AIDS theme of 'women, girls and HIV/AIDS', which she said is very important.

      This group, she said often meets a lot of problems in terms of HIV/AIDS.

      Matewere said more qualified trainers are now involved in training on Home Based Care (HBC). "The quality of training used to leave a lot to be desired and now we are trying to involve specialists since HBC is a sensitive area that does not just need any trainer. "As of now, about 20 people are accessing ARVs. This shows that it is a good start because when we were starting the DAC secretariat in November there were only four clients," she said.

      *****

      Tax Some NGO Employees' Salaries Says SOCAM

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      July 3, 2005
      Posted to the web July 4, 2005

      Chikondi Chiyembekez
      Lilongwe

      Salaries of some Non Governmental Organisation (NGO) employees must be taxed and the misconception that they do not fall under the tax net be cleared, the Society of Accountants in Malawi (SOCAM) has said.

      The Chairman of Taxation and Economic Issues Committee of SOCAM, Raymond Davies told The Chronicle on Tuesday that the tax revenue collection body, the Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) "must take steps" to make sure that they are taxed on the Pay As You Earn (PAYE) basis.


      He however said they are other employees who are exempted from paying tax because of their status. "But it is not all of them who are not supposed to pay tax," he said, adding that some of the employees who have this misconception (that they are exempted from paying tax) should account to the MRA on a monthly basis.

      At the post-budget meeting in Lilongwe organized by the Private Sector, Davies told the participants that it would be helpful to the economy, in as far as boosting revenue is concerned, if some of these employees were "brought under the tax net." "NGOs must become more tax compliant on their employees' salaries," he said.

      The participants at the meeting included the Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe, the Chairman of the Budget and Finance Committee of Parliament Ted Kalebe, other concerned members of the private sector and players from civil society.

      In agreeing to the proposal the economic lobby group, the Malawi Economic Justice Network (MEJN) said what is important is to "widen the tax base." The Deputy National Coordinator, Mavuto Bamusi said there is need to boost the capacity at MRA. "There is a lot of idle capacity at the MRA," noted Bamusi.

      Nonetheless, SOCAM has said that the tax measures in the 2005-06 national budget are positive for the business community as well as low-income earners.

      Analysts have said if some of the employees in the NGO sector were taxed, this would help to a certain extent in the boosting of the country's revenue base.

      In the budget presented by Gondwe on 10 June 2005, employees whose take home pay is less than K5, 000 would not be taxed.

      It is also indicated that pension of up to K10, 000 per month will be tax-free but pension incomes of above K10, 000 will be taxed at the new PAYE rates. "This measure is aimed at increasing pensioner's disposable incomes," said Gondwe during the budget presentation.

      *****

      Budgetary Allocation On Education Under Microscope

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      July 3, 2005
      Posted to the web July 4, 2005

      Chikondi Chiyembekeza
      Lilongwe

      The Civil Society Coalition for Quality Basic Education (CSCQBE) has said though this year's proposed budget (2005-06) is good, the greatest concern is the continuing decline in government expenditure on Education at a time when stakeholders expect it to be increased.

      CSCQBE is a coalition of 58 Non-Governmental Organisation (NGOs) whose task is to analyse and monitor government budget and spending, especially on Education. "Government's commitment to fund education has declined from allocating around 28 percent of the total budget in 1990s to 10 percent in 2005-06 financial year," said information sourced from the CSCQBE secretariat.

      The percentage increase, says the statement, from last year's figures is only 5 percent, which is the lowest among key sectors relative to Agriculture, Health and others.

      The coalition says the decline in the budgetary allocation on education portrays that government is not that much committed to overcome the many problems dogging the sector.

      This, the statement says is "in disrespect of international obligation which stipulate allocation to education of not less than 26 percent of the total budget to achieve Education for All (EFA) goals and the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) set to be achieved by 2015.

      According to the yet-to-be passed 2005-06 budget presented by the Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe last month, the education sector has been allocated K14.1 billion.

      This is 12 percent of the total budget, and it is 2 percent down from the revised 2004-05 budget of K13.4 billion, which was 14 percent of the total budget.

      Another area of concern pointed out by the coalition is the Other Recurrent Expenditure (ORT) on primary education, which has decreased by 35 percent to K388.01 million from last year's K605.7 million.

      And administrative activities' allocation has dropped drastically from last year's K402.6 to K397.8 million. "We question the seriousness of government for trimming the primary education ORT budget when all stakeholders agree that, of all the levels, primary is the most crucial level and is the most affected by declines in standards of education. As such, it requires a doubling of funding," said the coalition On the contrary, the share on secondary education has been increased from the previous allocation of K702.5 million to the proposed K796.3 million and K382.2 million is reserved for tertiary education services from last year's K289.5 The University of Malawi (UNIMA), whose constituent colleges have suffered greatly due to inadequate funding, this time around has been allocated K2.3 billion, a small rise from K2.1 billion in the last budget.

      Of the K14.1 billion allocated to the education sector, K9.2 billion is for recurrent expenditure and K2.629 billion for development expenditure.



      *****

      Mozambique learns to build from within

      By Evan Davies
      BBC Economics editor

      Imagine that we took all the staff of the BBC, and safely tucked them in Wembley stadium, well away from the BBC's studios, computers and offices. Now, ask yourself this question: which would be more damaging to the BBC - destroying Wembley Stadium with all the staff in? Or destroying the empty buildings and equipment?

      If one was to go, and the other kept, which one would you preserve if you wanted to get the corporation back on air as effectively as possible - putting aside personal feelings about individual presenters?

      Of course, both the staff and the buildings are replaceable, particularly if you have a well-framed insurance policy. But personally, I suspect that the staff are more important to the BBC than the buildings. I would say that anyway.

      Human capital

      But the basic point is that the institutional capacity of the BBC resides far more in its human structures, than in its physical ones.

      You could re-house us in Portacabins, give us the equipment and a passable service would be on air soon, and the BBC would be back to normal very quickly, as the staff would soon have re-housed themselves in suitable premises.

      If you had entirely new people working the old equipment, they might broadcast very well; but it wouldn't quite be the BBC: Those new people will have none of the knowledge of old-timers, they wouldn't know their place in the organisation, what their job is, what the internal systems are, the habits, the institutional history. It would be a new broadcasting organisation.

      The idea of this thought-experiment is to highlight the importance of human capacity in the process of development. The good news is that human capacity can be created and taught; the bad news is that it is a slow process.

      Grounds for optimism

      The relevance of this point has been hardened in my mind after visiting Mozambique last week.

      It was my second trip to the country, the last was back in 2003.

      And there are real grounds for optimism there.

      The capital, Maputo, is visibly less poor than it was last time I saw it; there has been an election there and a (peaceful) change of President. But the challenges facing the country primarily relate to undeveloped human institutions, which will take a generation to build. For example, in 1975 when Mozambique became independent, it had about 40 university graduates.

      It's not a lot to run a country in the disrupted circumstances of war and a rapid Portuguese exit.

      Building blocks

      Now to build a modern economy with a vibrant private sector, you need all sorts of things in place: from a flourishing legal system, the right to buy (or at least lease) property; to the existence of accountants, insurance companies and banks.

      You don't need them in one go on the scale of the UK, but it is useful to have this soft infrastructure in place for development to occur. Mozambique is building these institutions up.

      For example, Mozambique got the Yellow Pages in 1989 which certainly represents an enormous jump in the commercial infrastructure, but my impression, for what its worth, is that new enterprise in Mozambique is still quite reliant on the state for licences, funding and land.

      But the process of institutional development is necessarily slow.

      For banks to develop, for example, you need business; and for business to develop, you need banks.

      You can short cut the process by which they slowly evolve together, but you can't by-pass it altogether. Another factor that makes institutional capacity slow to emerge, is that the capacity we are talking about, are the systems, skills and processes that demonstrate themselves as working in practice.

      You don't design those systems, you create them by trial and error.

      Aid limitations

      Now if capacity building is an essential prerequisite for sustainable development, there is a limit to the degree to which aid can buy you development: there is a limit to the capacity of the nation to absorb aid for development.

      This is not to repeat the oft-used argument that aid is wasted on corruption, as corruption is a symptom as much as it a cause of undeveloped institutional capacity.

      It is simply to assert that the human dimension is more painstaking to develop, than the physical infrastructure.

      But that does not mean the West cannot help countries like Mozambique.

      We saw when we were there, the Customs service which had been re-built by development consultants, Crown Agents.

      The process of cleaning the service up, designing systems and training local staff has been useful to the Mozambique government (which now gets more revenue) and to business there (which now pays tax at the border, rather than bribes).

      Among the measures introduced by the British was a big hike in pay, combined with a dramatic clampdown on corruption.

      This work was partly financed by DFID, and this kind of aid is all the rage now.

      It is vital. And it is an approach that offers some alternative to the grand projects of the past.

      Thinking small

      As the World Bank's representative in Maputo told me, the continent is littered with decaying infrastructure projects, under-maintained because there was no capacity to keep them.

      So building more railways, without training engineers is could be an expensive waste; liberalising trade, to let Africa "trade its way out poverty" in the absence of any capacity to trade, will deliver less than the proponents hope.

      One can only admire the Make Poverty History campaign and its achievements at raising awareness of global poverty and inequality.

      But perhaps the least convincing claim being made at the moment is that the fate of Africa entirely hinges on the decisions of eight men this week.

      It is clear that the eight men at Gleneagles can make a significant difference to the lives of many people in Africa.

      But life is too complicated for them to determine the continent's overall fate.
    • 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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