- Millions of Malawians face food crisis
12 July 2005 02:10
Up to 4,2-million Malawians face food shortages in the wake of a drought that reduced the poor Southern African country's staple maize output by 24%, a report to assess Malawi's harvest said on Tuesday.
"Malawi will require food aid of some 271 970 tonnes until the next harvest," the Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee said in its report.
The country of 12-million people, wedged between Zambia and Mozambique, was hardest-hit in the south followed by the centre and the north, said the report by the committee, which consists of a consortium of organisations including the government, United Nations agencies and NGOs.
The group visited almost all of Malawi's 28 districts before making the assessment, it said.
Malawi plans to import 300 000 tonnes of maize to the value of $50-million (R332,5-million) from South Africa and requires two million tonnes every year to feed its population, the government has said.
Food security is a pressing issue in Malawi where, despite a huge freshwater supply, fields have little irrigation and most farming remains small-scale, and about 60% of the population lives below the poverty line of $1 a day. -- Sapa-AFP
Malawi: Fertiliser Subsidies Comes Under Scrutiny
UN Integrated Regional Information Networks
July 12, 2005
Posted to the web July 12, 2005
The Malawian government has decided to subsidise fertilisers to small-scale farmers across the board - a decision that will benefit previously ineligible tobacco growers.
However, the World Bank has sounded a note of caution over the expense involved and the possibly negative impact on funding poverty alleviation programmes.
Senior Agricultural Economist Stanley Hiwa told IRIN that "nowhere, have subsidies been cheap - the decision by government to universally subsidise fertiliser is good if it reaches the intended target groups".
"The targeting criteria relate to the intended beneficiaries, the types of fertiliser and seeds to be distributed, and the timing of the deliveries to preclude the possibility of late deliveries".
Minister of Finance Goodall Gondwe, who unveiled the budget last month, announced that the government intended spending more than US $20 million on the fertiliser subsidy, but with the inclusion of smallholder tobacco farmers the cost has shot up to almost $33.9 million.
If the budget is approved, the price of fertiliser will be reduced from $24 to between $8 and $11 for a 50 kg bag, depending on type.
The Donor Coordination Group on Agriculture and Food Security has also warned that increasing the fertiliser subsidy could affect the country's progress towards the completion point of the enhanced Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative, influencing the decision on its $11.3 million debt.
The HIPC initiative aims to achieve sustainable levels of debt for poor countries pursuing adjustment and reform programmes supported by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.
The coordination group, which comprises the World Bank, the United States Agency for International Development, the UK Department for International Development, the European Union and UN systems in Malawi, said the announced subsidy should lead to improved maize and tobacco output.
However, the subsidies "will not, or is most unlikely to, change rural income distribution," the group said in a statement.
Hiwa also warned of a high risk of corrupt practices creeping in, especially in distribution, because "someone could be tempted to start selling the fertiliser".
"Unless government puts in very strong measures aimed at addressing all these problems the costs will be even higher", he said.
The World Bank suggested that all the details of the subsidy programme be spelt out at the outset to avoid a situation where more harm than good would come from a purportedly positive intervention, and recommended that it should "be consistent with the fiscal framework".
The government is expected to raise the funds for the subsidy from cuts in other sectors in the 2005/06 budget of almost $1 billion, which is awaiting approval by parliament in the next two weeks.
Malawi Economic Network Justice National Coordinator Collins Magalasi cautioned the government from deducting money from sectors such as health and education.
The subsidised fertiliser programme replaces the extended Targeted Inputs Programme (TIP) - the free distribution of free seeds and fertiliser to the rural poor.
The TIP was initially run for two consecutive years, during the maize-growing seasons of 2000/01 and 2001/02, and provided small-scale farmers with an agricultural inputs pack containing fertiliser, maize seed and legume seeds. Although the programme received widespread acclaim, there were problems in implementing it.
Attempt to oust Zambia president
Zambia's President Levy Mwanawasa is facing a leadership challenge at his party's convention this week.
The president's anti-corruption drive has seen the expulsion and suspension of senior members of the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD).
Veteran politician Enoch Kavindele, sacked by Mr Mwanawasa as vice-president two years ago, has said he will seek the MMD's presidency.
Mr Mwanawasa intends to seek a second term in office in elections next year.
Mr Kavindele said the expulsion of MMD members was not warranted and accused the president of "bad politicking".
"Most of the [MMD's] national executive committee have been replaced with nominated ones, those who are close to Mr Mwanawasa," he told the BBC's Network Africa programme.
The position of party vice-president has been abolished and critics of the president say he is trying to block potential rivals by abolishing this post.
Former President Frederick Chiluba - who handpicked Mr Mwanawasa as his successor - is on trial for corruption.
Church leaders paint bleak picture of Zimbabwe
Stuart Graham | Johannesburg, South Africa
12 July 2005 05:42
The deliberate destruction of the informal economy in Zimbabwe is unparalleled in modern-day Africa, church leaders said in a report released on Tuesday.
The demolitions of townships around Harare may also turn young Zimbabweans into catalysts for conflict, the church leaders said.
The report was compiled by 12 leaders from Christian churches who visited a transit camp about 30km south-east of Harare earlier this week to observe the effects of government-ordered demolitions that began in May.
"This deliberate destruction of the informal economy, which is meant to cater for the economically vulnerable groups, is unparalleled in modern-day Africa," said South African Council of Churches (SACC) president Russel Botman, reading from the report.
"The people we have engaged seem to believe that we have seen a humanitarian crisis last experienced in Zimbabwe during the liberation struggle.
"Young people who could be agents for change may become catalysts for conflict as they are exposed to the hopelessness of their parents."
The Zimbabwean government has razed shacks and shops -- part of an urban renewal campaign, it said, to get rid of crime and social decay.
The United Nations estimates that 200 000 people have been left homeless as a result of the campaign.
Church leaders visited the Caledonia transit camp, which was created in the Ruwa area after the Zimbabwean government's Operation Murambatsvina, or Drive out Trash, campaign, which is linked to the Operation Restore Order campaign.
The leaders included Anglican Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane, Catholic Cardinal Wilfred Napier and Rhema pastor Ray McCauley.
The report said the only existing shelters in the camp are plastic sheets supported by pieces of wood.
"Those displaced to Caledonia camp were told they would only be there for five days. By the time the delegation visited the camp, they had been there for one month. The displaced are living under inhuman conditions."
The report stated: "Because of the stress, trauma and lack of proper nutrition, mothers are unable to breastfeed their babies. Fathers who are denied the opportunity to support their families are loitering in transit camps, consumed by boredom and despair."
Street people and informal vendors are the main victims of the campaign. A considerable number are second-generation Zimbabweans whose parents and grandparents came from neighbouring countries. Many teenage parents in the camp were seen nursing tiny babies.
Botman said there is a shortage of water in the camps and there is bound to be a shortage of food because the next harvest of crops is only due in eight months.
Churches are providing blankets, tents and food to the 4 890 people in the camp, he said.
The delegation also visited a "shocking site" at the Mbare township, which was destroyed in the operation.
"Almost every yard was filled with rubble from the demolition of structures. A considerable number of people who have been living in Mbare for many decades had their homes and informal business structures destroyed," the report said.
When the delegation visited a Catholic church in the township, it was greeted by long queues of people waiting to collect their monthly food rations.
The report said: "This is illustrating a looming hunger crisis in Zimbabwe."
One of the SACC's proposals is to implement a national campaign of relief.
"The church of Christ can not afford to be a silent observer when poverty and homelessness is meticulously implemented," Botman said.
He said the SACC will show its report to President Thabo Mbeki if it is given the chance.
"We want to say to the president what the report was and how we got to it," he said.
Ron Steele, a member of the Rhema Church who was part of the delegation, said it is hoped that the report could be added to a UN report on the demolitions.
"We want to elevate the report to an international agenda," he said.
A UN envoy left Zimbabwe at the weekend after a two-week investigation. Mbeki has said he will consider what action to take after studying the UN report.
"We have got to do something urgently," Steele said. "One way is to get aid relief going. We will have to do much praying." -- Sapa
ADB firm on Karonga-Chitipa road contract
by Zainah Liwanda, 22 May 2006 - 06:09:17
The African Development Bank (ADB) has again rejected a proposal by government to look for another contractor instead of China Hunan Construction to construct of the long awaited Karonga/Chitipa road.
China Hunan from Mainland China won the bid which was approved by the ADB but government later wanted to award the contract to a Portuguese firm, Mota Engil, the second lowest bidder, claiming China Hunan's bid was unrealistically low and that the company had very little experience in Africa.
Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe confirmed on Sunday the ADB rejected the proposal at a meeting held between the bank and Malawi government in Tunisia last week.
The Malawi government wanted the Tunisia meeting to authorise it to get another contractor for the road, said Gondwe.
"They did not allow us to look for another contractor because of their regulations. But we are about to get another alternative for Karonga/Chitipa and I would be surprised if it does not start before end June," said Gondwe.
The minister explained that the bank insisted that regardless of the unrealistic cost estimates, China Hunan should be allowed to go ahead with the construction.
But Gondwe could not give further details about the alternatives, arguing there are still a few loose ends to tighten up before disclosing it.
The problem with China Hunan, according to Gondwe, is that it would require more money to meet the total cost of the project.
This paper reported last week that government met Taiwanese representatives where they offered to fund the road if the ADB continued to reject its favoured contractor, Mota Engil.
Gondwe could neither confirm nor deny the reports on the Taiwanese offer, saying government was looking at a number of ways to handle the issue.
According to Gondwe, the China Hunan's bid was 24 percent lower than the consulting engineers' estimates of K7.9 billion and 34 percent below the second lowest bidder.
President Bingu wa Mutharika laid a foundation stone for the construction of the road this year ahead of a crucial byelection in Chitipa in December last year.
The President's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) won the Chitipa Wenya constituency by-election that fell vacant following the collapse and subsequent death of Speaker of Parliament Rodwell Munyenyembe who belonged to the UDF.
Last week, police and the District Commissioner (DC) for Chitipa stopped a rally that was aimed at soliciting people's views about development projects in the district.
The meeting, which was reportedly organised by Concerned Citizens of Chitipa, was among other things also supposed to tackle the controversial Karonga/Chitipa road.
The project failed to start off in 2000 when a contract for an initial loan of US$17 million and US$15 million from the Taiwanese government was signed, with some quarters claiming the Bakili Muluzi administration diverted the money to another road.
Chihana operated on
by Edwin Nyirongo, 22 May 2006 - 06:32:31
Alliance for Democracy (Aford) president Chakufwa Chihana, who is in South Africa receiving treatment, had a brain operation on Friday at Garden City Clinic, family and party officials confirmed on Sunday.
Aford national chairman Chipimpha Mughogho said he was told by the family members that Chihana had a successful operation on Friday and was put in an intensive care unit.
Mughogho said Chihana, who initially complained of headache, was found with a brain tumour which South African doctors removed.
Mzimba West MP Loveness Gondwe said Aford boss condition was stable.
"Hon. Chihana had a major operation and after that he was put in the intensive care unit but his condition is stable. I do not know where he was operated on but it had something to do with the skull," she said.
Deputy Information Minister John Bande referred the matter to the Health Minister Hetherwick Ntaba who was reported to be in Geneva, Switzerland.
Aford publicity secretary Norman Nyirenda said when Chihana's situation got worse, the family alerted the Office of the President and Cabinet who took him to Mwaiwathu Private Hospital.
"The doctors at Mwaiwathu advised that he should be sent to South Africa and they even identified the doctor for him," he said.
He said the costs are being met by the Malawi government, contradicting his earlier statement that his boss covered the cost.
Mughogho is now in charge of the party.
Gondwe will be a busy person when Parliament starts meeting on June 6 as she is the only Aford MP remaining.
Pillane proposes presidential age limit
by Emmanuel Muwamba , 22 May 2006 - 06:34:13
A member of the DPP National Governing Council Abdul Pillane on Saturday urged members of political parties and the civil society to put an upper age limit in the Constitution for presidential candidates.
Pillane was addressing members of political parties and civil society in Liwonde during a two-day follow up workshop to the National Conference on the Review of Constitution held in March in Lilongwe.
"My view is that (an upper) age limit should be at 75. We have to give a chance to younger people to lead because in circumstance, when you age you become forgetful especially when sickly," said Pillane. "Overall, chances should be given to young people."
But UDF secretary general Kennedy Makwangwala, whose party members agitated for the age limit during presentations, played the issue down.
"I feel there is no logic to have an upper age limit for presidential candidates. If someone is 90 or 80 I don't know how that can influence the electorate not to vote for someone who is younger, I don't see any logic behind that," said Makwangwala.
MCP participants at the workshop also vehemently objected to the proposal.
MCP vice president Nicholas Dausi in an interview said: "There is no constitution in Africa which stipulates an upper age limit. So it would be strange in Malawi to have an upper age limit for presidential candidates."
MDP President Kamlepo Kalua also opposed the need to have an upper age limit.
"If we have personalities in mind that we want to discriminate against then it is unfortunate. The constitution we want to build is a guiding document for future generations and it should not bar certain individuals on the basis of grudges," he said.
The Malawi Law Constitution Issues Paper of March 2006 says several submissions that were received put an upper presidential age limit in the Constitution.
"It is argued that it is common sense that mental knowledge faculties tend to fail with age. As regards what the actual age limit should be the submissions are far from being agreed. The range is from 60 years to 80 years," read submissions in the Issues Paper.
On whether MPs should double as ministers, Kalua said this should be the case.
Makwangwala also said it is not right for MPs to serve as ministers because the Legislature, another arm of government, is reduced while the Executive branch is beefed up from another arm of government.
"There is no separation of powers when MPs double as ministers," said Makwangwala.
But Pillane said there is no problem for MPs to work as ministers as well, saying MPs are elected by the President.
"One can serve both posts. There have been no problems before for people to double," said Pillane.
The Centre for Multiparty Democracy funded the workshop through the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy.
The objective was to come up with a collective position on the Issues Paper which will be presented to the Special Law Commission that will be constituted soon.
Mussa hails new driving licence
by Zainah Liwanda, 22 May 2006 - 06:58:52
Transport and Public Works Minister Henry Mussa last week said the design of the Malawi-Sadc driving licence would guard against forgery and ensure that only skilled and legitimate drivers of particular vehicles are licensed.
Mussa was speaking at the official launch of the licences in Lilongwe where he announced that traffic police would from July enforce speed limits and sober driving using Breathalysers which his ministry is in the process of procuring.
The minister said financial constraints are the reason for the delay in procuring the equipment but assured that by July they would be available.
"With the new equipment, the days of those who believe in the thrill of drink and driving are numbered," warned Mussa.
Mussa added that with the new licence, government is optimistic that the country's roads would be safe.
Acting Director of Road Traffic James Chirwa said the features that distinguish the new from the old licences are the Malawi national flag and a ghost image of the driver's photograph, among others.
Those with old licences, according to Chirwa, are expected to get the new ones after the expiry of the former.
UDF demands investigation on Kasambara
by Rabecca Theu, 22 May 2006 - 06:30:46
The United Democratic Front (UDF) has asked government to investigate Ralph Kasambara on allegations of abuse of office while he was attorney general.
UDF publicity secretary Sam Mpasu told the press Sunday that the party is neither amused or saddened by the removal of the former AG but asked government to institute investigations on Kasambara.
"Beyond the removal of the Attorney General, we now urge President Mutharika to institute investigation against Mr Kasambara into allegations that have made rounds in the public domain during the recent past. These include: Mrs Helen Singh and SS Rent-a-Car; SGS and ITS saga; ...........the use of Malawi Police Service in the arrest of three Chronicle journalists and the handling of Mrs Rubina Kawonga," said Mpasu.
Mpasu also accused Kasambara of awarding government contracts to Lawson and Company where he was a senior partner.
"We urge government to thoroughly investigate the former AG. We also ask government to cautiously select the new AG ," said Mpasu, who was accompanied by the party's Secretary General Kennedy Makwangwala, leader of the party in Parliament George Mtafu, chief whip Leonard Mangulama and a member of the executive Hophmally Makande.
But Minister of Information Patricia Kaliati said UDF should give offer its advice to the Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB).
"They should advise bodies like the Anti-Corruption Bureau to conduct the investigations and why are they saying this now? Is it because Kasambara has been fired? This is not a personal issue. If they have other pressing issues they should just say so. These arguments should have come up earlier on when the said cases were happening," she said.
Kasambara asked UDF to proceed with the mission of urging government to investigate him.
"They can do their job. Everyone has a right to lobby for anything they want in the country. UDF has a right to do that, let them go ahead," he said.
Kasambara was relieved of his duties as AG by the President last week. Government has not given reasons behind the removal.
Zambia: Malawians Grab Zambian Land
The Times of Zambia (Ndola)
May 18, 2006
Posted to the web May 19, 2006
MALAWIANS who have encroached on both the 'no-man's' and part of the Zambian land at the Mwami border in Eastern Province have plucked out some beacons that were used in the demarcation of the border.
The Malawians are now using the beacons as stools in their newly-established villages on Zambian land.
Eastern Province Minister, Boniface Nkhata, said in Chipata yesterday that if the situation was not controlled urgently, Zambia would lose huge tracts of land to Malawians migrating into Zambian in large numbers.
A check at the Zambia-Malawi border showed a number of beacons had been vandalised and new structures constructed on the 'no man's' land and a large portion of Zambian land.
Mr Nkhata said the trend extended to many parts of the province bordering the two countries.
"A large portion of Zambian land has been taken up by the Malawians starting from the Chama boundary up to the Mwami border.
"The weighbridge at the Mwami border was initially in Zambia from the time both countries gained independence from Britain, but now the bridge is on Malawian soil," Mr Nkhata said.
The minister, who is former Chama District Commissioner, said there was similar encroachment in Lundazi and Chama districts where Zambia shares a boundary with Malawi.
He said a Malawian farmer identified as Mr Mfune had cultivated 71.5 hectares on Zambian land and employed about 265 Malawian workers.
"Khombe Farm in Chama district in Kanyerere's area, along the Muyombe road which leads to Northern Province where this Malawian farmer has cultivated a vast land is on the Zambian territory," he said.
Workers on the farm admitted that they were farming on Zambian soil but could not go back to Malawi because the land in that country was inadequate for cultivation.
Mr Nkhata appealed to the ministry of Lands to urgently release money for the demarcation of the Zambia-Malawi border to avoid further land disputes between the two countries.
Meanwhile, the Immigration Department in Livingstone has arrested a couple and another man, all Zimbabweans, for working in Zambia without permits.
They were arrested at Gwembe village yesterday where they worked for Into Africa, a tour operating company that provides bush dinners and breakfast.
According to the Immigration Department in Livingstone, the trio entered Zambia through the Victoria Falls border as visitors but decided to work for the company illegally.
Last week, immigration officers arrested 10 Zimbabwean traders and six Ethiopians for entering and staying in Zambia illegally.
The Zimbabwean traders were warned and cautioned and later released.
The Ethiopians were arrested at Konje Guest House when they ran out of money to proceed to Botswana.
Zim unions, MDC still plan anti-govt protests
22 May 2006 11:51
Zimbabwe's biggest labour federation on Saturday threatened to call massive demonstrations against the government over poor salaries and worsening living conditions for workers in the country.
The threats are ratcheting up pressure against President Robert Mugabe's government after similar threats by the biggest opposition party in the country, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), about two months ago.
Speaking at the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) conference on Saturday, the labour body's president, Lovemore Matombo, said the powerful union wants the government to award workers salaries that match the country's ever-rising inflation.
"I can assure you we will stage massive demonstrations to force them [employers] to award workers minimum salaries that tally with the poverty datum line," said Matombo.
Matombo did not say when exactly the ZCTU would order workers to strike.
Meanwhile, the MDC on Sunday said it will push ahead with plans for anti-government protests, saying victory in a key by-election at the weekend was a "sign the electorate supported its policies", including democratic mass resistance.
A spokesperson of the main faction of the splintered MDC, Nelson Chamisa, said victory over Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF and a rival MDC faction in a Saturday by-election in Harare's Budiriro constituency is a sign Zimbabweans still have confidence in party leader Morgan Tsvangirai and his policies.
Tsvangirai, the founding leader of the MDC, heads the main rump of the opposition party whose candidate, Emmanuel Chisvuure, polled 7 949 votes to win the Budiriro House of Assembly seat.
Gabriel Chaibva of the other faction of the MDC, led by prominent academic Arthur Mutambara, garnered 504 votes while Zanu-PF's Jeremiah Bvirindi polled 3 961 votes.
"This election showed that the electorate still has confidence in the MDC [Tsvangirai-led] leadership and its policies," Chamisa told independent news service ZimOnline.
He added: "We will now move to consolidate our position * we still believe in mass protests. Until we have attained our goals we see no reason why we should abandon [plans for protests]."
Tsvangirai has threatened to call mass protests this winter against Mugabe and his government. He says the mass protests, whose date he is still to name, are meant to force Mugabe to relinquish power to a government of national unity to be tasked to write a new and democratic Constitution that would ensure free and fair elections held under international supervision.
Mugabe and his government, who had hoped for victory in Budiriro to show they were recapturing urban support from a splintered MDC, have not taken idly the opposition's threats to call mass protests, with the veteran president warning Tsvangirai he would be "dicing with death" if he ever attempted to instigate a Ukraine-style popular revolt in Zimbabwe.
In a fresh crackdown against dissension, the police last week arrested several church and civic leaders for organising public prayers and marches to mark last year's controversial home-demolition exercise by the government.
The police also banned the marches and prayers, fearing they could easily turn into mass protests against Mugabe and his government.
However, the marches went ahead in the second-largest city of Bulawayo after organisers had obtained a court order barring the police from stopping the march.
Political analysts say although Zimbabweans have largely been cowed by Mugabe's tactics of routinely deploying riot police and the military to crush street protests, worsening hunger and poverty are fanning public anger that Tsvangirai -- with proper planning and organisation -- could easily manipulate.
Zimbabwe is in the grip of a severe six-year old economic crisis that has seen inflation breaching the 1 000% barrier. Last year, the World Bank said Zimbabwe's economic crisis was unprecedented for a country not at war.
The MDC and major Western governments blame Mugabe for wrecking the country's economy, which was one of the strongest in Africa at independence from Britain 26 years ago.
Mugabe denies the charge blaming the crisis on sabotage by Britain and her allies after he seized white-owned farms for redistribution to landless blacks six years ago.
The Harare authorities recently hiked salaries for civil servants, with the lowest-paid soldier now earning about Z$27-million while the lowest-paid school teacher now takes home about Z$33-million.
But the salaries are still way below the poverty datum line, which the government's Consumer Council of Zimbabwe says now stands at a staggering Z$42-million a month for an average family of six.
The Zimbabwe government often accuses the ZCTU, a strong ally of the MDC, of pushing a political agenda to remove Mugabe from power.
Meanwhile, Matombo and Lucia Matibenga retained their posts as president and first vice-president respectively during the ZCTU congress that ended on Saturday. -- ZimOnline