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  • Christine Chumbler
    Malawi: IMF Welcomes Budget Approval UN Integrated Regional Information Networks July 18, 2005 Posted to the web July 18, 2005 Johannesburg The International
    Message 1 of 1046 , Jul 19, 2005
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      Malawi: IMF Welcomes Budget Approval

      UN Integrated Regional Information Networks

      July 18, 2005
      Posted to the web July 18, 2005

      Johannesburg

      The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has welcomed the parliamentary approval of Malawi's budget late last Friday.

      "Successful implementation of a strong budget is critical to sustain the improvements in economic and fiscal policies during the last 12 months, as is continued donor support," said Thomas Baunsgaard IMF resident representative.

      "The budget is also essential to enable government and donors to start operations to ensure food security later in the year," he added.

      The government is expected to meet the IMF later this month to discuss a request for a Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF) arrangement, noted analyst Boniface Dulani. A delay could have retarded Malawi's prospects of securing international debt relief.

      Up to 80 percent of Malawi's development budget is provided by donors, and the country faces enormous challenges related to poverty, food insecurity, HIV/AIDS and the capacity to deliver services.

      Political bickering between President Bingu wa Mutharika and his political rivals, former president of the country and now chairman of the United Democratic Front (UDF) party, Bakili Muluzi, and Malawi Congress Party (MCP) leader John Tembo had held up approval of the budget.

      Last month the UDF proposed a motion to amend the constitution to allow MPs to impeach Mutharika and his deputy because the president had left the UDF, which sponsored him in the national elections.

      A "compromise" with the opposition also helped smooth the passage of the budget through parliament, noted Dulani.

      "The government had conceded to the opposition's demands of a universal fertiliser subsidy, which had increased the expenditure from an original figure of US $961.3 million to $966.9 million - which has helped ease the tension in parliament," he explained.

      The opposition has argued that a universal fertiliser subsidy would help boost Malawi's agricultural production, which has been hit by four consecutive years of erratic rainfall.

      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. A portion of the funds will be channelled from other departments.

      The Donor Coordination Group on Agriculture and Food Security has warned that increasing the fertiliser subsidy could affect the country's progress towards the completion point of the enhanced Heavily Indebted Poor Countries initiative, influencing the decision on its $11.3 million debt.

      *****

      Antenatal Clinic Routine HIV Testing For Mothers!

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      July 14, 2005
      Posted to the web July 14, 2005

      Pushpa Jamieson
      Lilongwe

      Can this be one way to prevent the infection of babies?

      It has been reported that over 60% of expectant women in Malawi visit an antenatal clinic at least once during their pregnancy.

      It has also been estimated that approximately 16% of the women tested during antenatal clinic have tested HIV positive.

      This has led to questions being asked about the possibility of making HIV testing in antenatal clinics a routine procedure and part of reproductive health service provision for expectant women.

      Like taking all the tests necessary when a woman visits an antenatal clinic, should testing for HIV be done in order to provide the best possible care for both expectant mother and her unborn child?

      A nurse working at one of the antenatal clinics in Lilongwe says it would help the woman in many ways if she were aware of her HIV status. "If a woman knows her status she is able to make a decision to have Prevention of Mother To Child Transmission (PMTCT) treatment which is available to HIV positive mothers during labour and delivery," the nurse said.

      She says it is difficult to offer the treatment when a woman is not aware of her status. "A woman must be aware of her status to give any consent for any treatment to be given. This is needed in order for a woman to be helped," she added.

      A mid-wife said, knowing that a woman is HIV positive is very important in the successful delivery of her baby. "When you know that you are dealing with a woman who is HIV positive, you become more aware of all the possible complications that can arise during delivery." "A woman with the virus often finds that her immune system is not so strong and, as a result can develop other complications which a nurse must look out for. If you are aware of the condition of the woman it helps," she said.

      One pregnant woman said she was able to get her husband to go for Voluntary Counselling and Testing (VCT) after she explained to him the benefits of knowing his status. "My husband decided to come with me for testing after I told him that if I was positive, we could make sure the baby had a better chance of not getting infected with the right medication offered. He has been for VCT and we both know our status," she said.

      Several people spoken to at random said the antenatal clinics should make sure that the importance and benefits of testing for HIV is explained in detail to every client in order that every women who goes for antenatal has the deliberate choice of taking the test. "It is important that women take the test because it is not just herself only involved any more, but her unborn child as well. If the test is HIV positive or negative, in both cases the mother and child will be in a better position to live according to the conditions.

      Although, I am not sure that testing should be done as a routine matter, whether one wants it or not" said one lady.

      A business gentleman who said he was very angry at the stigma that surrounds HIV/AIDS gave a very interesting response.

      Asked if he thought that HIV testing should become a routine process in the antenatal clinics, he said emphatically: "Definitely! Not only in antenatal clinics, but also in all clinics and hospitals. We will never get rid of HIV/AIDS if we continue to treat the infections that come because the immune system is not strong enough to fight other opportunistic illnesses. We must go to the root cause of the problem and make sure that any treatment given is sustained by a healthy immune system." "This means that we have to know that a person's immunity is good. How can we do this if we do not know their HIV status? We will continue to treat infections like malaria, TB and pneumonia in people over and over until we discover that it is really their immune system that needs help".

      Angry at the stigma that is associated with being HIV positive, he said people must accept that we are all affected by HIV/AIDS and stop the stigma and discrimination that results.

      The only way to stop further infections is to know one's status. "Testing for HIV should be a matter of routine for everyone who loves his or her life and wants to contribute to national development," he said.

      Although routine testing may be one way of providing quality reproductive health care for woman, there is the question of infringing on the rights of a person if HIV/AIDS testing is done without consent.

      Seodi White, who is the President of the Women and Law in Southern Africa (WILSA), says any tests done on women in antenatal clinics should be done with the consent of the woman. " Any particular tests being done for any particular reason should be done with full consent" she said adding, "otherwise it is a violation on the person's right and on their dignity," she said. White said it was important that women were given all the information in order for them to make an informed choice about HIV testing.

      According to Allen Aboulungu, Executive Direct for Centre of Human Right and Rehabilitation (CHRR) HIV/AIDS testing without the consent of a person is a violation of their human rights. He however said, if a person is given all the information on the benefits of testing, they will make the right decision. "What needs to be done is to strengthen the counselling so that with VCT women can make the correct choice with the information provided".

      Aboulungu said it was important that no reproductive health provision what-so-ever be tied in any way to HIV/AIDS testing. Reproductive health is every woman's right.

      Providing the women with reproductive health services is aimed at making sure that a woman is given the best possible services available before, during and after becoming pregnant. This includes making sure that if she is HIV positive; she has all the information possible for her to live positively with the virus.

      Making informed choices about the future with regard to reproductive health will benefit both the woman and any babies she may wish to have.

      *****

      K5 Billion Loan Scheme Begins in Earnest

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      July 14, 2005
      Posted to the web July 14, 2005

      Levison Mwase
      Lilongwe

      The Malawi Rural Development Fund (MARDEF), an institution that is administering the K5 billion Loan Scheme on Tuesday last week handed over 10 cows to 10 dairy farmers in Lilongwe East.

      The cows were bought with a K 1 million loan, which MARDEF provided to Nkhweza Milk Bulking Group, through Land O Lakes, an American NGO that provides technical expertise to the diary sector in the country.

      Speaking at the handover ceremony at Kapesa trading centre, MARDEF General Manager Phileas Chienda said the K1 million was allocated to Nkhweza bulking group before the Budget and Finance Committee of Parliament suspended the fund.

      He refuted concerns by opposition parties that politics was at play in the way beneficiaries to the K5 billion loan scheme are selected. "Nkhweza Milk Bulking Group started in 1988, long before the loan was established. It is not true that beneficiaries are selected on party orientation," said Chienda.

      He advised the group to repay the loan in time to allow many more people to benefit from the money as well. "This is not a grant like some components of MASAF. It is a revolving fund and repayment is crucial for it to benefit as many people as possible," he said.

      Earlier, a Capital Diary official Mr Chikaoneka assured diary farmers of an available and ready market for their milk.

      He said his company has raised the price at which it buys milk from farmers from K28 per litre to K36 per litre. "The market for milk is there. In fact, the supply of milk in the country is very low because the nation does not have enough diary cows to meet the demand for milk," he said.

      Statistics show that the country has 16,000 diary cows with more than 8,000 more needed to meet the demand for milk.

      On average, every Malawian drinks 5 litres of milk per year, a figure far below the 200 litres of milk per year per person in other SADC regions.

      Chikaoneka said most of his company's milk tanks that can take up to 34,000 litres of milk are empty because of a low supply of milk.

      It is estimated that a diary farmer can realise up to K20,000 per month from dairy farming alone.

      Speaking on behalf of the Nkhweza Milk Bulking Group Mr Makhamba thanked MARDEF for coming to the rescue of the group with the 10 cows.

      Makhamba said the group has been failing to source the cows since 1988 because of a lack of ready funds.

      He asked MARDEF to assist more diary farmers with larger loans, saying the industry has the potential to contribute to the socio-economic development of the country as well as assisting in eradicating poverty.

      *****

      K20m Credit Scheme Report This Week

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      July 14, 2005
      Posted to the web July 14, 2005

      Levison Mwase
      Lilongwe

      The Auditor General is this week expected to release a report on how Secretary to Treasury Milton Kutengule used K17 million that he withdraw as a single signatory from a K20 million Ministry of Finance Credit Scheme account that he personally opened at the Finance Bank of Malawi in Lilongwe.

      Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe told the press on Thursday that government has instructed the Auditor General's office to investigate the circumstances surrounding the account. "The report will be released next week. The Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) is also involved and the Budget and Finance Committee and the Public Accounts Committees of Parliament are also concerned with it," he said.

      The account was opened in February with a K20 million dividend cheque from the Malawi Telecommunications Limited (MTL).

      Since then, Kutengule withdrew over K17 million in the months of March, April and May with him being the only signatory to the account.

      Gondwe said although he instructed Kutengule to lend Malawi Rural Development Fund (MARDEF) some money for its administrative operations, he was not aware of the K20 million account.

      He said the money given to MARDEF would be paid back using interest realized from the K5 billion loan scheme. "I did not direct the opening of the account. Details of how the money would be lent to MARDEF were left to the Secretary to Treasury," said the minister.

      Speaking at the same conference, Kutengule said the opening of the account was within his powers as stipulated in the Finance Management Act, which allows him to effectively conduct business for government and this included opening government accounts and moving government funds as he deemed fit.

      Kutengule however acknowledged that it was not normal for him to be the only signatory to any account held by government. "The account was opened in a hurry. It was an oversight on the part of my Director of Administration that other signatories were not included.

      I was equally surprised how Finance Bank did not make a query on it," he said.

      Kutengule also failed to explain convincingly where K8.3 million that was withdrawn from the account though an inward transaction went. "Those are issues that will be explained to the Auditor General because if I tell you, you will not believe me," he said.

      However, when pressed further he said the money was deposited into another account which is part of the Consolidated Fund. "That amount was set aside as part of the functions of the Treasury after I realized that there was slow absorption by MARDEF. The money has not been used, it is in the Consolidated Fund," he said.

      MARDEF General Manager, Phileas Chienda could not confirm or deny whether his institution received all the money that Kutengule has been withdrawing from the account. "I will have to consult my records," he said at the press conference intimating that an injection of the sum of K17 million could not be remembered.

      Chienda hesitantly said MARDEF has spend between K7 to K10 million for administration since it was established four months ago.

      Kutengule, who recently was interviewed by President Bingu wa Mutharika for the position of State House Chief of Staff was also Principal Secretary the time Mutharika was Economic Planning minister.

      Rumour is rife that part of the funds from the K20 million account was systematically used to finance the launch of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) of President Mutharika as well as for the printing of the party's cloth at Mapeto David Whitehead & Sons Limited.

      However, Kutengule, in a press release immediately issued after the media began asking questions refuted the allegations saying no single tambala from the account went to the DPP.

      The report by the Auditor General, which will be released this week is expected to clear up many questions on the operations of Treasury and it is anticipated that more issue may be raised on accountability issues.

      *****

      Restructuring of Teacher's Gratuity/Pension System Bashed

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      July 14, 2005
      Posted to the web July 14, 2005

      Papiya Mwahara
      Lilongwe

      The Civil Servants Trade Union of Malawi (CSTU) and the Teachers Union of Malawi (TUM) have discredit government's move to restructure teacher's gratuity and pension system and the introduction of a contributory Pension Scheme, describing the move as 'daylight robbery'.

      Speaking at a press conference at Le Meridian Capital Hotel, last Friday, Hastings Kachikopa, Treasurer General of CSTU said government's move to introduce a new formula for teachers' gratuity in the country is not welcome.

      Kachikopa said as of October last year teachers were receiving their gratuity according to the salary restructuring (consolidated pay-based -pension) that took place then, a thing which had been welcomed by many.

      However, Kachikopa said, early this year, the technical committee in the Ministry of Finance had come up with complaints saying the new system had a lot of anomalies. "Teachers were receiving better gratuity packages after the October 2004 salary restructuring which was welcomed by the state president and the civil service. But things changed in January this year when the ministry of finance stopped all the transactions saying the new system had a lot of anomalies. They were complaining that the gap was too large and government did not have enough money to pay the teachers the new amounts," he said.

      Thomas Banda, the president of CSTU speaking at the conference said these are just delaying tactics by the ministry in order to steal the people's money.

      Banda said it is not right for government to introduce a new system because it reduces the amount that a person takes home.

      Analysing the gratuity system, Banda said a teacher of Grade I (AP/PO) was previously receiving gratuity amounting to K340,920. With the coming of the October 2004 salary restructuring the figure then rose to K1,344, 060 which has then been reduced to K536,796.

      Banda said, the formula that government had come up with was based on an average of the employee's last five year's salary and using it would mean cheating the employee.

      According to Banda, MCTU members who had been involved in discussions in the technical committee at the ministry have decided to pull out. He said the committee, which is chaired by a Mr. Kandoje does not listen to any contributions coming from elsewhere therefore MCTU does not want to act as a rubber stamp on the decisions made.

      Moreover, Banda condemned the new development saying a wrong decision will affect the nation for a long period of time. He further said government was creating more problems than solutions because teachers are currently not receiving their dues as their money has been frozen.

      The Secretary General of TUM, Lucien Chikadza commenting on the issue said the union is concerned about what one will receive because people were happy with what they were getting from October 2004.

      CSTU is planning to meet president Bingu wa Mutharika as the one responsible for the civil service in order to discuss a way forward.

      *****

      Children to Be Included in Museum Programmes

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      July 14, 2005
      Posted to the web July 14, 2005

      Lilongwe

      Minister responsible for Local Government, Dr George Chaponda has said that there is need for African societies to use cultural heritage to deal with contemporary issues and plan more effectively for the future by incorporating children's issues into their plans.

      Chaponda made this remark during the official opening ceremony of the Group for Children in Africa Museums International workshop recently in Blantyre.

      He said the workshop's theme; "Realizing the Dreams, Reaching the Children in Africa," is very touching and challenging such that the workshop will be an opportunity to focus on what museums can do for children.

      He reminded the audience that children's concerns are rarely taken into account in many institutions and there is need that museums should not lag behind, but should be among the few institutions that seriously consider matters affecting children. "It is common knowledge that for children to grow well spiritually, physically, mentally and indeed culturally, we need to make sure that their concerns and aspirations in all spheres are taken on board," explained Chaponda.

      He said children, almost in the entire developing world constitute more than half of the entire population, and their activities should be included in museum programmes. Chaponda said the workshop is a landmark because it will focus on how poverty among children could be addressed. "Apart from poverty, the participants will also look at how to sort out hunger and orphan hood which also affects children," the minister explained.

      Chaponda added; " We can all agree that poverty, hunger and orphan hood are challenges, not only to these few children but to almost all African communities and the world as a whole. I am glad one of the workshop's product will be an exhibition centered on poverty." The exhibition would become a forum where children and adults would come together to share their experiences and learn from one another.

      Chaponda says as future custodians of their nation's culture, children need to be oriented into the museum culture and what museums do. "The inclusion of children programmes in museums is therefore crucial for African cultural preservation," he said.

      He said the Malawi government is committed to developing the cultural sector and this can be seen by the opening of the Karonga museum in the north and the building of a mausoleum for the first head of state of Malawi, Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda.

      Chaponda also mentioned that plans are underway to build a national museum in Lilongwe. Participants to the workshop and exhibition, apart from hosts Malawi have come from Gambia, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Nigeria and South Africa.

      *****

      US Donates Combat Boots to Army

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      July 14, 2005
      Posted to the web July 14, 2005

      Hopkins Mundango Nyirenda
      Lilongwe

      The Charge d'Affaires of the United States Embassy in Lilongwe David Gilmour on Monday donated 3,000 pairs of leather combat boots to the Malawi Defence Force [MDF] on behalf of the United States government at the Ministry of Defence headquarters in Lilongwe.

      The combat boots worth US$253,344 were bought with Foreign Military Funds [FMF] which are grants allocated to US allies aimed at strengthening military-military relations and can be used on any defence articles and services as required by host nations.

      Speaking during the donation ceremony Gilmour said that his government holds the MDF in very high regard as a shining example of a professional army in a region plagued by conflict. "The MDF is a professional army whose efforts are worth helping because they are involved in humanitarian crisis and peace-keeping in this part of Africa which is plagued by conflicts," said Gilmour.

      Receiving the donation on behalf of the MDF the Principal Secretary for the Ministry of Defense James Kalilangwe expressed profound gratitude for the donation. He described it as timely because of the economic crisis the country is currently facing. "In this lean financial period when our budget allocation is not enough to fulfill what soldiers would want in order for them to perform their duties well, we see this donation as timely and far reaching," said Kalilangwe.

      He said the US government is a friend indeed and promised that the donation would be used appropriately. He also said that government is grateful for other donations made under this programme like the jeeps, ammunition and a Dakota aircraft.

      Through the same programme, the MDF received computer equipment worth US$209,516 in 2002.

      Other assistance Malawi benefits from the US include but are not limited to humanitarian assistance, where the US military channels aid to benefit civilians, International Military Education and Training [IMET] - a programme under which the US provides military training to MDF troops in the country or in the US.

      Since 2004, the MDF through the Naval Health Research Centre [NHRC] receives assistance to help combat the HIV/AIDS pandemic through construction and equipping of VCT centres including training in several MDF units.

      *****

      DPP Causing Political Unrest--Political Scientist

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      July 14, 2005
      Posted to the web July 14, 2005

      Gregory Gondwe
      Lilongwe

      University of Malawi political scientist Nandini Patel has said the greatest problem to Malawi's democracy today and the reason for the political tension currently experienced in the country is the formation of State President Bingu wa Mutharika's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

      She said peace could only have prevailed if the DPP followers and sympathizers had taken a low profile, especially by MPs and Ministers.


      She suggested that they stop mentioning DPP in the national assembly. "I have very serious reservations about the formation of the DPP," said Patel during a Public Debate and Discussion organized by the Lilongwe Press Club which was trying to gauge whether Malawi's democracy was on track or not. "If the DPP wants to save the country from greater tension and confusion it should maintain a very low profile and the Members of Parliament and Ministers who support DPP should not mention the party in the House because it has no legitimacy in parliament as of now. It's a party that is outside," advised Patel.

      DPP Publicity Secretary Hetherwick Ntaba did not believe that Patel had said that. "I don't think you heard her correctly," he said, "but if that is what she said and that you heard her correctly, then that is her opinion and she is entitled to it. But DPP does not share her kind of thinking," he insisted. "If people are determined to cause confusion in the House, if people are determined to get cabinet positions, how is the mention of DPP going to make one try to impeach the president," he added.

      He said DPP or no DPP these people have are predetermined to cause tension in the country. "I don't think you heard her right because those words do not sound like they come from a political scientist," said Ntaba.

      UDF Spokesperson Sam Mpasu said Patel is the only Political Scientist out there who has pointed out the real cause of the problem and that the rest have been pointing at the symptoms only. "There was no DPP when we went to polls. Dr Mutharika was UDF and soon after he got into office he found all the excuses he could to leave the UDF. He then turned his friends into enemies and his enemies into friends and started demonizing the UDF leadership," said Mpasu.

      He said Mutharika then started using legal means to harass the UDF members. "He has accused us of all sorts of things like fraud, corruption and even saying we are trying to disturb and destabilize his government." Mpasu said the worst thing is that Mutharika has even tried to take DPP into parliament although they have no presence. He said Mutharika also converted all the UDF MPs who were in cabinet the time he was ditching the party into DPP and then made them talk ill of UDF.

      He agreed with Patel that the formation of DPP is the source of all the current political problems that Malawi is facing.

      A DPP official who is also the international affairs in charge of the Concerned Citizens Shyley Kondowe argued during the public debate that the formation of DPP is appropriate because Mutharika intends to use it as a vehicle for meaningful development in the nation.

      The issue of the DPP became very hot during the debate that a contributor, Dr. Ben Dzowela Mwale said whether one forms a political party today or tomorrow make little difference because there are no meaningful ideological differences between Malawi's political parties. "This therefore shows that the timing of the formation of DPP was wrong and detrimental to peaceful coexistence. That, he said is why a lot of observers have said there is a lot of friction in parliament as a result of the formation of the party that does not have representation in parliament," he said.

      But another contributor Wanangwa Ngwira said he saw no problem with the formation of DPP as it was just following the general philosophy that has been laid in the past ten years. "Political parties in the country are not formed because of any ideas or any ideological vision. Not at All! It is all a question of survival. That's why you will have small little briefcase parties bundled together in an attempt to form one strong party to frustrate the others," he said.

      He said that Mutharika was only proving right what the former President Bakili Muluzi once said; that there is no way a president could run without a political party. "So, DPP was formed as a strategy for survival. It is a question of balancing politics and what he (Mutharika) needs to do to survive? This is how he sends his views across," argued Ngwira.

      Patel still insisted that the timing of the formation of the DPP was totally wrong. She said her assertion is vindicated by what the country has witnesses in the last few months. What Mutharika is doing is just advancing his political agenda by paying teachers to dancing for him and using such resources for himself and his DPP. "And there is too much reporting in the newspapers [about DPP abusing public resources] and we wonder where the money is coming from for the uniforms and so on. So, obviously this is following the same old trend as we had under the MCP and the UDF. What has changed for the better?" She challenged insisting that the democratic agenda is being negated.

      Patel argued that there was no justification for the formation of DPP because the question of Mutharika's survival was guaranteed. It would have been pertinent had he said; "look, I do not have a party and now I must entirely depend on the support and goodwill of the Members of Parliament". "The MPs and the nation at large I am sure, would have willingly gone with him and he would have ruled easily for five years with no difficulty." The political tension was further fuelled recently in Chitipa when the interim Secretary General Ken Zikhale Ng'oma again antagonized the mourners when he politicized the occasion, calling on Northerners, (of which he is one) to react to the death of Speaker Rodwell Munyenyembe.

      He pointed at former President Bakili Muluzi accusing him of creating the death of the Speaker.

      Muluzi and the deposed AFORD President Chakufwa Chihana had to be whisked off to avoid more trouble between the political parties.

      *****

      Aleke Urges MPs to Go for VCT

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      July 14, 2005
      Posted to the web July 14, 2005

      Pilirani Phiri
      Lilongwe

      People's Progressive Movement (PPM) President who is also Member of Parliament (MP) for Nkhatabay South, Aleke Banda has called on fellow MPs to go for HIV and AIDS Voluntary Counselling and Testing (VCT).

      Speaking in Parliament last week Banda, who disclosed that, he and his wife went for VCT at Mwayiwathu Hospital in Blantyre, asked fellow MPs in the House to consider going for VCT.

      He said Malawi could only achieve in the fight to combat the further spread of the HIV and AIDS pandemic. "We will not stem the tide of the pandemic until we reduce the number of new infections; I therefore would like to ask my fellow Mps to lead by example by going for VCT,

      "If people know their sero status they are capable of living their lives accordingly. Me and my wife went for VCT recently at Mwayiwathu Hospital in Blantyre, and I urge you to also go for VCT," said Banda amid chants from the House demanding to know his results. "One is privileged not to disclose his results, but with the way I am sounding I think you can know that the results were favourable," said Banda sending the House into stitches.

      Banda then went on to say the HIV and AIDS pandemic is an unparallel disaster for Malawi and the world at large. "Although the national prevalence rate has stabilised at around 14. 4 per cent, there are still 110,000 new infections each year and there are currently 900, 000 Malawians who are living with the virus," said Banda.

      He said so far the pandemic has orphaned 840, 000 children and that about 170, 000 people are currently in need of the life pro-longing drugs, ARVs.

      Several organisations dealing in HIV and AIDS activities are advocating for the need for Malawians to go for VCT to know their sero status.
    • 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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