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  • Christine Chumbler
    Jzu Rejects Bingu Offer The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe) July 20, 2005 Posted to the web July 20, 2005 Pilirani Phiri Lilongwe MCP President John Tembo has
    Message 1 of 1046 , Jul 21, 2005
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      Jzu Rejects Bingu Offer

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      July 20, 2005
      Posted to the web July 20, 2005

      Pilirani Phiri
      Lilongwe

      MCP President John Tembo has confirmed that State President Bingu wa Mutharika offered him the position of second Vice President but he flatly turned it down.

      Speaking Saturday during a news conference at his Area 10 house, Tembo said a government entourage, whose members he did not name, came to his house to tell him of the offer.


      He said the group told him Mutharika had sent them to inform him that MCP must approve the national budget in exchange for him being appointed to the position of second Vice President.

      But Tembo said he told the government delegation that he was happy working in the opposition, fighting for the welfare of the people of Malawi, especially those in villages. "I said 'No!' I refused. No, I can't accept to be appointed Second Vice President. I am sure that when you were coming for the press conference some of you were thinking that I had joined government as VP. No, I refused. I cannot be bought." He said he was startled to learn that the delegation wanted him to confirm he would support the budget at his house. "I asked them: Where in the world is a budget passed or supported through politicians coming to the house of somebody like they did? "I told them I could not tell whether my party would support it or not, but I am happy that we eventually supported it because it (the budget) finally adopted our initiative of introducing the universal fertilizer subsidy." Parliament approved the National Budget in principle on Friday after some amendments that included the universal fertilizer subsidy on maize and tobacco that the MCP insisted on as a means of improving food security in the country.

      Asked if the universal subsidy would not bring some complications to government, considering that the IMF and World Bank restrict third world countries from practicing it, Tembo said that was not his problem. "I don't know how government is going to deal with that but my problem is dealing with matters in Malawi, and not with IMF or World Bank, "Let that be a problem with the IMF and World Bank but let it be something important to our people in the villages," he said.

      The MCP President then disclosed that his party supported the approval of the budget so that government in future would not blame the opposition for failing to fulfill their promises if the opposition had rejected it.

      Back on the VP issue, Tembo further said he refused to accept the offer because he has noticed some of his colleagues who were in the opposition but now who are in government are surprisingly very quiet. "When people go there (government) they stop working for the people and become very silent. I don't want to do that," he said.

      Tembo, who is the Leader of Opposition, suggested that if the President were serious in wanting to offer him the position of VP he would have made it very public. "If President Mutharika comes into the open and says there is a problem which he thinks will be solved by me becoming VP, that would be another issue," said Tembo.

      Commenting on the impeachment motion, which the UDF party is set to table in Parliament, Tembo said although the issue has never been on MCP's agenda they would react to it once it is on the floor. "When it comes on to floor, we will weigh the grounds given for impeachment and, if there would be valid grounds we will support it but if not, we will wash our hands off it," he said.

      However, he confirmed that his party is in full support of amending parliamentary standing orders to lay the way for impeachment because, he said, doing so would bring the standing orders in line with the Republic Constitution. "We are supporting the amending of standing orders so as to regularize the procedure," he said.

      In the event that Tembo had accepted the offer he would have lost his parliamentary seat as stipulated in the Republic Constitution in section 80 (7) (e). He would have also risked being stripped of his position as Leader of Opposition in Parliament.

      Lecturer of political science at Chancellor College, Boniface Dulani said Tembo risked losing his position of Leader of Opposition in Parliament if he became second VP. "Just as the name suggests, Leader of Opposition comes from the largest opposition party in Parliament and if he joined government he would automatically have lost his position. "He cannot continue to be Leader of Opposition if he is working in government," said Dulani.

      He said if Tembo had accepted to become VP, the Leader of Opposition would have come from the UDF party, which is an opposition party.

      Even though President Mutharika ascended to the presidency on a UDF ticket, the party is in opposition after Mutharika dumped the party on February 5 this year.

      Parliamentary Standing Orders define Leader of Opposition as, "Leader of the largest party, elected by the parliamentary membership, which is not in government or in coalition with a government party, and who is recognized by the Speaker as such".

      The position of VP has been vacant ever since President Mutharika came into power in May last year. The last holder of the position was Chakufwa Chihana of AFORD who has been the only holder of the post so far. President Mutharika has so far seen no political benefit in appointing anyone to the post.

      *****

      Impeachment Shifted to September

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      July 20, 2005
      Posted to the web July 20, 2005

      Levison Mwase
      Lilongwe

      Parliament, which rises this Friday after discussing the Budget, is expected to reconvene in September to deliberate on the motion to impeach President Bingu wa Mutharika as demanded by the UDF party, The Chronicle has learnt.

      Sources at Parliament said the decision to reconvene Parliament in September came from President Bingu wa Mutharika. "The President told leader of Government business in Parliament Henry Chimunthu Banda to convince his colleagues in the Business Committee of the House to devote the current session entirely to the Budget and have a special session in September to discuss anything else, including the impeachment," said the sources.

      The sources said Mutharika wants the impeachment concluded so that the opposition, led by the UDF, does not use it as a decoy to divert his zero tolerance on corruption and derail his development agenda.

      When the House reconvenes in September the priority, according to the sources, will be to debate a motion Balaka North Member of Parliament (UDF) Lucius Banda moved recently that seeks to include in the Parliamentary Standing Orders procedures for the impeachment of the President or his Vice.

      Once the motion for the procedures for impeachment is passed, another UDF MP Ibrahim Matola will move another motion to indict (formerly charge) the President.

      According to the proposed procedures for impeachment, a motion to indict the President will have to be signed by one third of the MPs and sent to the office of the Speaker of Parliament 7 days before the motion is moved in the House.

      The Notice of Motion for the indictment of the President, according to the procedures, shall be accompanied by a concise statement of the provisions of the Malawi Constitution or written laws of the Republic which the President or his Vice is alleged to have seriously violated.

      The statement shall also contain facts, relied upon to prove the seriousness of the violations.

      According to the Procedures, upon receipt of the motion for indictment, the Speaker of the National Assembly shall issue a writ of summons to the accused President or his Vice citing the serious violations and notifying him to appear before the House.

      The date on which the accused President or his Vice shall appear before the House shall be fixed by the National Assembly where the President shall confirm if he understands the grounds of impeachment against him. "After the motion has been debated the Speaker of the National Assembly shall call upon Members of the National Assembly to vote on the motion.

      The Motion of indictment shall be passed if affirmed by a two thirds vote of the Members of the National Assembly and the committee of the whole house," outlines the procedures.

      After the President or his Vice has been indicted, a full impeachment trial shall commence and shall be presided over by the Chief Justice at a date fixed by the National Assembly. "The period between the indictment of the President or his Vice President on impeachment and trial of an impeachment shall not be less than 14 days," says the procedure provision.

      The accused President or his Vice shall again be called to appear before the House to answer on the grounds of impeachment against him.

      The accused President or his Vice shall also be given time to plead to each of the counts in the articles of impeachment, according to the procedures.

      During the impeachment trail, both sides (the accused and the accusers) shall be accorded an opportunity to bring into the House witnesses.

      The procedures state that after the accused President or his Vice has finished his defense, the House shall debate the motion for impeachment. "The Chief Justice shall thereafter ask the House to vote on the motion to impeach the accused. Conviction on impeachment shall require the affirmative vote of two thirds of the Members of the National Assembly," read the procedures in part.

      Constitutional experts say the whole impeachment process could take more than a year to conclude. Clerk of Parliament Roosevelt Gondwe was not available to confirm the September sitting.

      However, Home Affairs Minister Uladi Mussa told the House last week Parliament would reconvene in September where, among other things, the establishment of the National Intelligence Bureau (NIB) would be discussed.

      *****

      Party Caucuses Causing Political Instability - MP

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      July 20, 2005
      Posted to the web July 20, 2005

      Gregory Gondwe
      Lilongwe

      Party caucuses, which different political parties conduct close to parliamentary sittings, are causing the political turmoil currently being experienced in the country. Karonga Nyungwe Member of Parliament, Richard Msowoya, declared this recently.

      He was speaking during a public discussion in Lilongwe last Tuesday conceding that as parliamentarians, they have failed to become agents for political stability in the country because they face severe pressure from party Presidents. "What I am telling you is that there are party caucuses. If you don't understand what party caucuses are, you better send investigators there to find out what actually happens. That is where the MPs get so much pressure from the leaders," he said.

      He said the major pressure point that is preventing MPs from contributing to stability is the party leadership itself. "In this country, probably because of its cultural, many people don't want to speak the truth and, because we continue lying we continue hiding the truth from our leaders and keep on misinforming the people," he said.

      He said the truth is that during caucuses the party would tell the MPs what it intends to do, and because of the Malawi culture, MPs will never talk against the leader or criticise him what is being put forward. "If you stand up against the leader of your party and say, 'but Sir, I am afraid you're wrong', then you are also wrong because the next thing that will happen, unless you are financially okay, you are going to lose your influence, even be left out at the primaries." He added that the country has witnessed this happening before and that the worst that further happens, especially aided by Malawi's first past the post electoral system is that the 'revolting' MPs would have their seats given to somebody else. The party then begins to de-campaign against you using all available resources. "The moment you develop a culture of talking when the boss is talking then you must have a lot of money. You are expected to keep quite when you go there and if it is an open vote you just look at your friends and you will see them [then you deduce] the signs. If leadership says we are going to the east, you face east," said Msowoya sending the gathering into stitches.

      One of the panellists at the public discussions Rafiq Hajat, Executive Director of the Institute for Policy Interaction (IPI) said indeed if MPs were elected on a party ticket they have to toe the party line. "If an MP does not toe the party political line, all sorts of things happen; even ejected from the party as we have seen so many times. So if you have all those issues in this boiling pot what do you expect the MP to do?" wondered Hajat.

      He said MPs find it very difficult to differentiate between the party line and in the national interest, "and you have to remember that, by and large, in Malawi party ideologies are very weak most of our parties are personalised, with focus on an individual". "What happens is that we have personal politics coming into play and that is the weakness of our political parties. If we have weak political parties then we have a weak parliament.

      Msowoya said the Godfather type of leadership is not only available in the system of Malawi politics but it would also happen even with the proportional representation system. "I was in Namibia and there is a very able Professor Chitendero who was the Speaker of the National Assembly of Namibia but now he has no job.

      Even today I sit, I think; that that intellectual should be somewhere in SADC doing something useful. But why? He differed with the president on the selection of a presidential candidate," he said Adding that now Chitendero is seen as the useless man in town.

      Msowoya therefore said when the country talks of stability the forums like the public discussion organised by the Lilongwe Press Club must make people look at ways of how our party leadership can meet and discuss issues of national importance without an ulterior motive as parliamentarians do.

      He said party leadership is where the problem of political instability is. "Most of the things that make the leadership create problems, is not even poverty, it is just pure greed," he said.

      *****

      Lipenga Downplays Parliamentary 'Chaos'

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      July 20, 2005
      Posted to the web July 20, 2005

      Gregory Gondwe
      Lilongwe

      Information Minister and Phalombe East Member of Parliament Dr. Ken Lipenga has downplayed what he described as 'chaos in the national assembly' describing it as a catalyst for bringing political stability in the country.

      The minister was making his contribution last Tuesday at a public discussion on the role of parliamentarians in bringing political stability in the country. The debate was organised by the Lilongwe Press Club. "When I saw the title of the discussion, I began to think of what people tend to think as instability. Sometimes when we see some temporary chaos we quickly jump to conclusions that there is instability," said Lipenga.

      He went on to add that despite the temporary quarrels that people hear in parliament, the MPs have actually a high degree of camaraderie in that house because they look and laugh at each other from time to time. "It is very good," he said, "in fact, I put it to you ladies and gentlemen that parliament is in fact the most important institute or agency of stability because that is where people of different opinions gather. By listening to each other they tend to accommodate each other's views and in the process stability is created," he declared.

      Lipenga said silence in itself is not an indication of stability. "So the temporary chaos that you see from time to time does not mean that there is instability." "We are actually friends, maybe a similar thing ought to be done with our (political) leaders, he suggested adding: "Maybe they also should be locked up in a building from time to time to have some dialogue because it is working for us as parliamentarians." People's Progressive Movement President who was one of the panellists, Aleke Banda said that despite what people see on television and read in the newspapers there is order in the seeming disorder in the house.

      Lipenga said he totally agreed with Banda in that there is a great degree of camaraderie in the house and that it extends even during coffee breaks where they can exchange notes and make fun at each other.

      He said much as parliament is an agent of the people the media as well are also agents of stability because they bring out certain things that jolt the system for a while and eventually they contribute to stability. "It is my opinion that the Lilongwe Press Club is an agent for stability because it gives an opportunity to people of various views to meet and discuss those views," he said.

      In the same vein Lipenga told the debate that there was some indication that the public seems to be demanding that parliament pass the budget without discussing it. "Actually I don't think that's what the public is demanding. The public is simply demanding a sense of priority," observed Lipenga.

      He said on its side Government would not be happy if the budget were to be passed without discussion and debate. "It would be important that we discuss and the various views, which must be taken into consider-ation," observing that the debate and discussion are making a difference. "I cite, for instance the discussions that has been taking place at an individual level between the Minister of Finance and the right honourable Leader of Opposition Hon. J.Z.U. Tembo," he said. "But you find that criticism of the budget does not always come form the opposition. This will also come from members who support government," he said suggesting that this is normal and does not add to instability.

      *****

      'Civic Education Could Ease Political Instability'

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      July 20, 2005
      Posted to the web July 20, 2005

      PILIRANI PHIRI
      Lilongwe

      By educating Malawians on democracy and governance issues the country could attain political stability because an educated nation would hold their politicians accountable thereby creating more political stability, Nkhatabay South MP, Aleke Banda has said.

      Banda, who is also President for opposition People's Progressive Movement (PPM) party, was speaking last week in Lilongwe at a Lilongwe Press Club (LPC) debate on The Role of MPs in Promoting Political Stability where he was Guest Speaker, alongside Rafik Hajat, Executive Director of Institute for Policy Interaction (IPI).


      Banda said if MPs could only fight for programmes that would ensure civic education, Malawi would maintain political stability because, he said, an educated and understanding nation is capable of initiating political checks and balances, which in turn would create political stability in the nation.

      He also said MPs should push for an equitable share of developmental activities from government so that their constituents should not react to the inequitable distribution of government developmental projects. "In the past we have been hearing about 'support government so that you get development'. This leads to some people being favoured and others being disgruntled. This inevitably leads to political instability," said Banda adding: "This should also apply to the use of state resources. People have, for a long time been reacting to government, accusing it of using and abusing state resources to fulfil the wishes of their parties, "What does government expect the opposition to feel or think? These are things that MPs can debate and ensure that they do not happen so that there is political stability in the country." He then said MPs can also work for political stability by ensuring that people appointed to high office are competent prior to ratification by Parliament.

      He also said that through assets declaration law, MPs must put in place systems to monitor the income and earning base of key politicians in the country. "Through this, wealth would not be accumulated wrongly making people want to cling to positions and therefore create political instability for the nation," he said.

      Commenting on the same topic Minister of Information Ken Lipenga, who participated in the debate, said political chaos should not always be construed as a sign of political instability in a country. "Chaos should not always be construed as a sign of political instability. It is silence that sometimes can be a sign that not all is well politically in country. So sometimes political differences should not always be seen as political instability, in fact sometimes chaos creates stability," Lipenga said.

      Several participants at the debate concurred that MPs, politicians, civil society players, and the media must come together to ensure that political stability reigns in the country.

      Malawi has been engulfed in political tensions ever since President Bingu wa Mutharika quit the UDF, the party that put him into power.

      More tension was created when he declared and launched his own Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), a move that has been condemned by many in the country.

      Reaction from Parliament and the opposition has been swift and acrimonious with attempts being made to impeach President Mutharika.

      Impeachment debate in the House was largely blamed for the death of late Rodwell Munyenyembe, Speaker of Parliament who collapsed in the House and died a few days later at Milpark Hospital in South Africa.

      The Lilongwe Press Club has been hosting numerous debates on topical subjects that have generated a lot of interest from society.

      The debates are supported with the kind assistance of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).


      *****

      Minister Advocates for Vernacular Parliament

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      July 20, 2005
      Posted to the web July 20, 2005

      Gregory Gondwe
      Lilongwe

      Information Minister Ken Lipenga has indicated that he would support the use of local language as a medium of communication in the legislative assembly, saying that the continued use of English, which is the colonial language, was an embarrassment.

      "I think the day will come, by the way, when we will move on and use our own language. I think there is a case to be made for that. It is humiliating to have to be using the language of our colonial masters," bemoaned Lipenga. "We still do use it, much to our embarrassment. The levels of competence in this 'foreign' language obviously varies from individual to individual and we noticed that there are certain English words that are grossly mispronounced in the national assembly," he said.


      But Lipenga said some of those who mispronounce those words actually make the most important contributions to the debate and that this therefore, should not surprise anybody because English is not a natural language for Malawi.

      Lipenga said that he observed with one of his friends that MPs, despite the assertions that they fight so much in the national assembly, learn from each other so much and in this learning, they also learn the wrong way of speaking English. "What we found interesting is that over the period of time some new Members of Parliament because look up to the more experienced members and tend to learn the mispronunciations as well and begin to speak like them," he observed.

      He said that this is interesting because it indicates that, indeed members of parliament do learn from each other even if sometimes they learn the wrong things in the process.

      Lipenga said people mispronounce certain words because they look up to certain people that they respect and then adopt those mispronunciations. He insisted that articulation in the local language would be the best lingua franca for Parliament.


      *****

      Abuse of Minors On the Increase

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      July 20, 2005
      Posted to the web July 20, 2005

      Chikondi Chiyembekeza
      Lilongwe

      Many under-age children, especially destitute boys in the Capital, Lilongwe are being sexually abused after being coerced by monetary favours and job opportunities, The Chronicle has established.

      Most of the culprits (child abusers) are said to be foreigners, who dupe the minors by offering them household chores at their residences.


      Others, it has been learnt, pick up these unsuspecting destitutes at night from under the bridges within the capital where they sleep.

      They are shown huge sums of money, which they (the abusers) promise to give them after providing sexual services.

      However, in most cases at the end of it all, the unsuspecting children do not get the money they were promised.

      According to two minors, both under 12 years old, who The Chronicle bumped into last week, they have managed to escape after undergoing the ordeal for more than eight months now at a certain posh residence in Lilongwe. "I have now escaped the ordeal. Our boss cheated us by offering us work at his residence when in actual fact he wanted to abuse us sexually" said one boy (name known but withheld), while sobbing.

      He added that they were sexually abused almost on a daily basis and they had to flee to escape the ordeal. "It was a painful experience for us," added one, in a rather low voice, his face clearly showing the signs of pain he has gone through.

      The Chronicle has however, established that the trend (of abusing the minors sexually) is on the increase but that it is proving difficult to track down the culprits, as the abuse is carried out in the confines of their (abusers) houses. "The picking up of these minors is mostly done in the middle of the night and it is difficult to know where they are taken to," said one destitute man who identified himself as Yonasi Lumero.

      He told The Chronicle that he has been in the streets for close to five years and has seen whatever happens at night to some of his fellow destitutes who are young.

      Most of the minors who are exposed to the abuse are orphans who have fled their homes and try to earn a living in town by begging.

      The Ministry of Gender, Child Welfare and Community Services, is tasked with the responsibility of looking after the welfare of children.

      However, asked to elaborate on how the Ministry helps these destitute who are being subjected to such kind of sexual abuse, the Minister responsible Joyce Banda said last Wednesday that she has not yet received such reports but said her ministry would investigate. "I will have to find out from my ministry on the issue and to investigate if indeed such things are happening because that is a police case," said Banda, sounding concerned with the issue.

      Cases of abuse of minors are not only isolated to boys but to young girls as well.

      Recently, it was revealed that a certain businessman in Lilongwe is operating brothels where girls as young as 11 years are involved in prostitution.

      The Ministry of Gender promised to investigate and bring the culprits to book but up to now nobody has been apprehended.


      *****

      Is this just another political gimmick?
      The Zimbabwean government has started moving some former slum dwellers left homeless by a controversial demolition campaign back to what remains of their destroyed shacks, state television reported on Wednesday.

      "What is happening is that those from Hatcliffe Extension who have ... lease agreements are being asked to return to their old stands," said police inspector Garikai Marange, referring to a once densely populated township.

      Marange, who is in charge of a transit camp on the outskirts of the capital Harare, added: "About 100 people have left the camp so far. We have between 200 and 300 people and they are very happy to go back to their stands."

      Human rights lawyers said 2 000 families were thrown out of their makeshift homes in Hatcliffe Extension, a slum 10km west of Harare when the government launched its controversial clean up campaign in May.

      Some of them were moved to the settlement in the early 1990s after they were removed from the streets of Harare in a clean up campaign on the eve of a visit by Britain's Queen Elizabeth II.

      High Court Judge Tedius Karwi dismissed an application in May by 2 000 families removed from Hatcliffe Extension, who wanted their eviction to be declared illegal.

      "It's not clear whether they are going to stay or if this is just another political gimmick," said Otto Saki of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights.

      "The other question is what is the government going to do about shelter and property they destroyed and the families who have moved to their rural homes. Are they going to compensate everyone affected?" - Sapa-AFP

      *****

      Zimbabwe halts flights over fuel

      A shortage of fuel has forced Zimbabwe's national airline to cancel some of its domestic and international flights, state media reports.
      Two weeks ago, two Air Zimbabwe planes were grounded because of a shortage of spare parts, the official Herald newspaper reports.

      There have been extreme fuel shortages in Zimbabwe for months, with petrol stations remaining dry for weeks.

      Last week, Zimbabwe requested emergency economic help from South Africa.

      Zimbabwe has had a shortfall of foreign currency for several years and has been struggling to pay for imports, such as fuel.

      Suspended

      On Wednesday, Air Zimbabwe confirmed it was forced to suspend some of its flights because of the fuel shortages.

      "We did not have our full operation because we didn't have sufficient fuel," spokesman David Mwenga told the Herald.

      "Some flights were suspended while some are operational as usual," he added without giving further details.

      The Herald quoted an official at the national carrier as saying the cancelled flights included those to the resort town of Victoria Falls, South Africa and London.

      A London-bound flight was delayed on Wednesday for nearly seven hours as "officials ran around to find the scarce commodity", the paper said.
    • 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 8:06 AM
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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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