- Malawi leader bans maize exports
Malawi's president has banned all exports of the food staple maize as well as fertilizer as the country gets to grips with the current food crisis.
"From today, no maize should be exported to other countries because we have to feed ourselves first," Bingu wa Mutharika said on Monday.
He said it did not make sense for Malawi - hit by one of its worst food shortages in years - to export maize.
At least 4.2m Malawians are in urgent need of food aid, according to the UN.
The president also ordered a ban of fertiliser exports, saying "we need it here for our food production".
There is a thriving unregulated trade of cheap Malawi maize and fertiliser in Zambia and Tanzania.
Merchants buy the products cheap in Malawi and export them to neighbouring countries.
Ironically, Malawian authorities buy the same maize at a higher price, especially in Tanzania.
"From today our borders are sealed," said Mr Mutharika, urging ordinary citizens to inspect trucks crossing borders and report suspicious exports.
He also announced a "Feed the Nation" initiative - a countrywide campaign to collect contribution in the form of money and food to feed the needy.
"I urge everyone to contribute at least 10% of their earnings to the initiative," he said.
Mr Mutharika, who donated 1m Malawi Kwacha (£5,000) to the initiative, said it was aimed at showing that Malawians can feed themselves before turning to international donors.
Malawi requires at least two million metric tons of maize to feed its 11 million citizens but, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, due to persistent drought, the country recorded a 24% drop in maize production.
The government has announced it will use $50m (£28m) to buy 300,000 tons of maize from South Africa.
Malawi: Britain Releases 20 Million Pounds in Budget Support
UN Integrated Regional Information Networks
July 25, 2005
Posted to the web July 25, 2005
The British government has released £20 million in budget support to Malawi, saying the country had "turned the corner" and was making "real progress" in fiscal discipline.
This is the first disbursement of the £60 million set aside by the British government as budgetary support, making Britain the first bilateral donor to provide macroeconomic support since the International Monetary Fund (IMF) froze aid to Malawi in 2000 as a result of overspending and corruption by the previous government.
"What we see are signs of growing trust from the donors towards the Malawi government. Britain must be recommended for this good gesture - it is now up to government to prove that the money will be used for the intended purpose and according to the budget," said Collins Magalasi, national coordinator of the Malawi Economic Justice Network.
Roger Wilson, head of the British government's Department for International Development (DFID) in Malawi, said the funds had been released in response to parliament's approval of the national budget last week.
The opposition, having a majority in parliament, had held up the budget but relented under pressure from donors and civil society.
British High Commission spokesman Lewis Kulisewa said the funding decision followed a favourable assessment of Malawi's economic and development policies by the Common Approach to Budget (CABS) group. CABS comprises the major donors, who have acted in concert in recent years.
The IMF is expected to meet in August to discuss Malawi's newly approved budget. "Some donors that are part of the Common Approach to Budget Support are likely to release their budget when the IMF board approves a new programme for Malawi," said Kulisewa.
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.
Aid agencies estimate that at current inflation levels 4.2 million Malawians will be vulnerable to drought-linked food insecurity this year.
Malawi's Inflation Rate Soars
Business in Africa (Rivonia)
July 22, 2005
Posted to the web July 22, 2005
- The inflation rate in the southern African state of Malawi as released by the National Statistics Office (NSO) has revealed that the country's annual inflation rose to 15.9% in June from 15.5% in May. This is an increase of 0.4%, and has largely been attributed to the soaring in costs of transport and beverages.
Following the rise in price of fuel the past three months, Malawi registered a rise in transportation costs by a margin 1.2%. Due to the same, beverage manufacturers announced a rise in price of their commodities mostly by K5.00 (approximately R0.25).
The report from the NSO indicates that this is the second month that annual inflation on a month-on-month basis was not dictated by food items. In fact it says monthly food inflation continued to drop.
However compared to last year, the drop is not significant as last year annual inflation was at 11.6% the same month ¡n June.
The non-food items - transport costs and beverages - advanced 1.2% and 1.1% respectively.
Food items especially maize greatly affects inflation in Malawi as it accounts for 58.1% in the consumer price indices (CPI).
The NSO says urban inflation was at 17.5 while that of the rural was pegged at 15% in the month of June.
Annual national inflation rose 0.2% to stand at 15.5% in May from 15.3% in April as food scarcity continued to exert pressure on maize prices.
While during the same period, urban and rural inflation rates stood at 17% and 14.7% respectively.
The NSO said month-on-month [May-April] food index fell 3.4% - a drop the office said is lower than the decrease of 4.0% experienced during the same period last year.
"The lower drop this time around is indicative of the scarcity of maize grain being experienced in most parts of the country," the office said in May.
Malawi, IMF to meet
In total it said the beverages and tobacco group index shot 2.8% against 1.2% last year due to adjustments of some local and imported alcoholic drinks in several parts of the country.
The household operation group advanced 1.1% compared to 1.9% recorded during the same period in 2004, said the NSO.
The office, however, said the rest of the commodity group indices experienced marginal upward price movements over the same period.
There is a very likelihood that food inflation will be under control as imported maize starts arriving in the country.
In addition Malawi is scheduled to meet the International Monetary Front (IMF) on August 5 on a possibility of tapping IMF funds under the Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF).
Malawi had the disbursement of funds from the IMF frozen in 2000 due to poor governance and high level corruption, which were some of the condition she was told to observe in order to tap the funds under the PRGF.
Out of the US$55 million she signed under the program, the country had managed to draw only US$8 million. Since 2003 Malawi has been on Staff Monitored Program, a non-aid program, rather a road that leads to the actual tapping of aid.
Overall though, food inflation according to analysts is expected to be 2.3% higher than headline inflation owing to poor weather conditions.
However Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe was recently quoted as saying if the weather conditions improve for the better and the irrigation program yields positive results, the rate is expected to drop to 0.5% by December this year, which will bring headline inflation down to 3.9.
During the presentation of the 2005/2006 budget in parliament in June, Gondwe said the core inflation rate that excludes food is estimated at 13.8% compared to the previous 2004, which was at 13.7%.
Food inflation is projected at 19.2% by December-end this year and authorities expect commodity price rise to average 14.5% in 2005, which will be up from 11.5% in 2004 and 9.6% in 2003.
This owes to the fact that Malawi has been registering a gradual decrease in food production, and an answer to a decline in inflation lies in sound food security measure that will see the country realising bumper harvests.
Inflation has been largely under control since 2003, averaging 10% in that year and 11.1% (estimated) in 2004.
Discount and commercial lending rates also declined from 40%-45% in 2003 to 25% in early 2004 to date.
'Financial hiccups' sees Malawi close four embassies
26 July 2005 07:43
Malawi is to close four of its 19 embassies and recall 35 diplomats from Canada, France, Kenya and Libya as a cost-cutting measure, the foreign minister said on Monday.
"Financial hiccups the country is experiencing have forced the closure," said Foreign Minister Davies Katsonga, adding that the "development will not affect government relations with the four countries".
Katsonga said the poor southern African country, battered with a $600-million domestic debt and $2,9-billion foreign debt, would save two million dollars a
year from the closures.
He added that the four countries were chosen because few Malawians lived there and the volume of trade with the countries was small.
Most of the diplomats deployed during the past 10 years were loyalists and party zealots of retired president Bakili Muluzi, who handed over power to his chosen successor Bingu wa Mutharika last year.
Malawi, backed by the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, is on a cost-cutting drive to try to revive investor confidence.
About 60% of Malawi's 11-million people live below the poverty line. - Sapa-AFP
Zambian politician on spy charges
Zambia's opposition leader Michael Sata has been charged with spying, on top of earlier sedition charges for allegedly inciting miners to strike and riot.
Mr Sata's lawyer accused the police of "playing political games". The charges could lead to a jail term of 20 years.
He was arrested on Friday, following last week's protests in some of the copper mines which remain crucial to Zambia's economy.
The strikes cost Zambia more than $20m, reports the AFP news agency.
His court appearance was delayed because of the new charges.
Mr Sata was a close aide to former President Frederick Chiluba but left the ruling MMD party after being overlooked as its 2001 presidential candidate, to set up the Patriotic Front.
In 2002, he was acquitted of stealing two government cars.
ADB firm on Karonga-Chitipa road contract
by Zainah Liwanda, 22 May 2006 - 06:09:17
The African Development Bank (ADB) has again rejected a proposal by government to look for another contractor instead of China Hunan Construction to construct of the long awaited Karonga/Chitipa road.
China Hunan from Mainland China won the bid which was approved by the ADB but government later wanted to award the contract to a Portuguese firm, Mota Engil, the second lowest bidder, claiming China Hunan's bid was unrealistically low and that the company had very little experience in Africa.
Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe confirmed on Sunday the ADB rejected the proposal at a meeting held between the bank and Malawi government in Tunisia last week.
The Malawi government wanted the Tunisia meeting to authorise it to get another contractor for the road, said Gondwe.
"They did not allow us to look for another contractor because of their regulations. But we are about to get another alternative for Karonga/Chitipa and I would be surprised if it does not start before end June," said Gondwe.
The minister explained that the bank insisted that regardless of the unrealistic cost estimates, China Hunan should be allowed to go ahead with the construction.
But Gondwe could not give further details about the alternatives, arguing there are still a few loose ends to tighten up before disclosing it.
The problem with China Hunan, according to Gondwe, is that it would require more money to meet the total cost of the project.
This paper reported last week that government met Taiwanese representatives where they offered to fund the road if the ADB continued to reject its favoured contractor, Mota Engil.
Gondwe could neither confirm nor deny the reports on the Taiwanese offer, saying government was looking at a number of ways to handle the issue.
According to Gondwe, the China Hunan's bid was 24 percent lower than the consulting engineers' estimates of K7.9 billion and 34 percent below the second lowest bidder.
President Bingu wa Mutharika laid a foundation stone for the construction of the road this year ahead of a crucial byelection in Chitipa in December last year.
The President's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) won the Chitipa Wenya constituency by-election that fell vacant following the collapse and subsequent death of Speaker of Parliament Rodwell Munyenyembe who belonged to the UDF.
Last week, police and the District Commissioner (DC) for Chitipa stopped a rally that was aimed at soliciting people's views about development projects in the district.
The meeting, which was reportedly organised by Concerned Citizens of Chitipa, was among other things also supposed to tackle the controversial Karonga/Chitipa road.
The project failed to start off in 2000 when a contract for an initial loan of US$17 million and US$15 million from the Taiwanese government was signed, with some quarters claiming the Bakili Muluzi administration diverted the money to another road.
Chihana operated on
by Edwin Nyirongo, 22 May 2006 - 06:32:31
Alliance for Democracy (Aford) president Chakufwa Chihana, who is in South Africa receiving treatment, had a brain operation on Friday at Garden City Clinic, family and party officials confirmed on Sunday.
Aford national chairman Chipimpha Mughogho said he was told by the family members that Chihana had a successful operation on Friday and was put in an intensive care unit.
Mughogho said Chihana, who initially complained of headache, was found with a brain tumour which South African doctors removed.
Mzimba West MP Loveness Gondwe said Aford boss condition was stable.
"Hon. Chihana had a major operation and after that he was put in the intensive care unit but his condition is stable. I do not know where he was operated on but it had something to do with the skull," she said.
Deputy Information Minister John Bande referred the matter to the Health Minister Hetherwick Ntaba who was reported to be in Geneva, Switzerland.
Aford publicity secretary Norman Nyirenda said when Chihana's situation got worse, the family alerted the Office of the President and Cabinet who took him to Mwaiwathu Private Hospital.
"The doctors at Mwaiwathu advised that he should be sent to South Africa and they even identified the doctor for him," he said.
He said the costs are being met by the Malawi government, contradicting his earlier statement that his boss covered the cost.
Mughogho is now in charge of the party.
Gondwe will be a busy person when Parliament starts meeting on June 6 as she is the only Aford MP remaining.
Pillane proposes presidential age limit
by Emmanuel Muwamba , 22 May 2006 - 06:34:13
A member of the DPP National Governing Council Abdul Pillane on Saturday urged members of political parties and the civil society to put an upper age limit in the Constitution for presidential candidates.
Pillane was addressing members of political parties and civil society in Liwonde during a two-day follow up workshop to the National Conference on the Review of Constitution held in March in Lilongwe.
"My view is that (an upper) age limit should be at 75. We have to give a chance to younger people to lead because in circumstance, when you age you become forgetful especially when sickly," said Pillane. "Overall, chances should be given to young people."
But UDF secretary general Kennedy Makwangwala, whose party members agitated for the age limit during presentations, played the issue down.
"I feel there is no logic to have an upper age limit for presidential candidates. If someone is 90 or 80 I don't know how that can influence the electorate not to vote for someone who is younger, I don't see any logic behind that," said Makwangwala.
MCP participants at the workshop also vehemently objected to the proposal.
MCP vice president Nicholas Dausi in an interview said: "There is no constitution in Africa which stipulates an upper age limit. So it would be strange in Malawi to have an upper age limit for presidential candidates."
MDP President Kamlepo Kalua also opposed the need to have an upper age limit.
"If we have personalities in mind that we want to discriminate against then it is unfortunate. The constitution we want to build is a guiding document for future generations and it should not bar certain individuals on the basis of grudges," he said.
The Malawi Law Constitution Issues Paper of March 2006 says several submissions that were received put an upper presidential age limit in the Constitution.
"It is argued that it is common sense that mental knowledge faculties tend to fail with age. As regards what the actual age limit should be the submissions are far from being agreed. The range is from 60 years to 80 years," read submissions in the Issues Paper.
On whether MPs should double as ministers, Kalua said this should be the case.
Makwangwala also said it is not right for MPs to serve as ministers because the Legislature, another arm of government, is reduced while the Executive branch is beefed up from another arm of government.
"There is no separation of powers when MPs double as ministers," said Makwangwala.
But Pillane said there is no problem for MPs to work as ministers as well, saying MPs are elected by the President.
"One can serve both posts. There have been no problems before for people to double," said Pillane.
The Centre for Multiparty Democracy funded the workshop through the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy.
The objective was to come up with a collective position on the Issues Paper which will be presented to the Special Law Commission that will be constituted soon.
Mussa hails new driving licence
by Zainah Liwanda, 22 May 2006 - 06:58:52
Transport and Public Works Minister Henry Mussa last week said the design of the Malawi-Sadc driving licence would guard against forgery and ensure that only skilled and legitimate drivers of particular vehicles are licensed.
Mussa was speaking at the official launch of the licences in Lilongwe where he announced that traffic police would from July enforce speed limits and sober driving using Breathalysers which his ministry is in the process of procuring.
The minister said financial constraints are the reason for the delay in procuring the equipment but assured that by July they would be available.
"With the new equipment, the days of those who believe in the thrill of drink and driving are numbered," warned Mussa.
Mussa added that with the new licence, government is optimistic that the country's roads would be safe.
Acting Director of Road Traffic James Chirwa said the features that distinguish the new from the old licences are the Malawi national flag and a ghost image of the driver's photograph, among others.
Those with old licences, according to Chirwa, are expected to get the new ones after the expiry of the former.
UDF demands investigation on Kasambara
by Rabecca Theu, 22 May 2006 - 06:30:46
The United Democratic Front (UDF) has asked government to investigate Ralph Kasambara on allegations of abuse of office while he was attorney general.
UDF publicity secretary Sam Mpasu told the press Sunday that the party is neither amused or saddened by the removal of the former AG but asked government to institute investigations on Kasambara.
"Beyond the removal of the Attorney General, we now urge President Mutharika to institute investigation against Mr Kasambara into allegations that have made rounds in the public domain during the recent past. These include: Mrs Helen Singh and SS Rent-a-Car; SGS and ITS saga; ...........the use of Malawi Police Service in the arrest of three Chronicle journalists and the handling of Mrs Rubina Kawonga," said Mpasu.
Mpasu also accused Kasambara of awarding government contracts to Lawson and Company where he was a senior partner.
"We urge government to thoroughly investigate the former AG. We also ask government to cautiously select the new AG ," said Mpasu, who was accompanied by the party's Secretary General Kennedy Makwangwala, leader of the party in Parliament George Mtafu, chief whip Leonard Mangulama and a member of the executive Hophmally Makande.
But Minister of Information Patricia Kaliati said UDF should give offer its advice to the Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB).
"They should advise bodies like the Anti-Corruption Bureau to conduct the investigations and why are they saying this now? Is it because Kasambara has been fired? This is not a personal issue. If they have other pressing issues they should just say so. These arguments should have come up earlier on when the said cases were happening," she said.
Kasambara asked UDF to proceed with the mission of urging government to investigate him.
"They can do their job. Everyone has a right to lobby for anything they want in the country. UDF has a right to do that, let them go ahead," he said.
Kasambara was relieved of his duties as AG by the President last week. Government has not given reasons behind the removal.
Zambia: Malawians Grab Zambian Land
The Times of Zambia (Ndola)
May 18, 2006
Posted to the web May 19, 2006
MALAWIANS who have encroached on both the 'no-man's' and part of the Zambian land at the Mwami border in Eastern Province have plucked out some beacons that were used in the demarcation of the border.
The Malawians are now using the beacons as stools in their newly-established villages on Zambian land.
Eastern Province Minister, Boniface Nkhata, said in Chipata yesterday that if the situation was not controlled urgently, Zambia would lose huge tracts of land to Malawians migrating into Zambian in large numbers.
A check at the Zambia-Malawi border showed a number of beacons had been vandalised and new structures constructed on the 'no man's' land and a large portion of Zambian land.
Mr Nkhata said the trend extended to many parts of the province bordering the two countries.
"A large portion of Zambian land has been taken up by the Malawians starting from the Chama boundary up to the Mwami border.
"The weighbridge at the Mwami border was initially in Zambia from the time both countries gained independence from Britain, but now the bridge is on Malawian soil," Mr Nkhata said.
The minister, who is former Chama District Commissioner, said there was similar encroachment in Lundazi and Chama districts where Zambia shares a boundary with Malawi.
He said a Malawian farmer identified as Mr Mfune had cultivated 71.5 hectares on Zambian land and employed about 265 Malawian workers.
"Khombe Farm in Chama district in Kanyerere's area, along the Muyombe road which leads to Northern Province where this Malawian farmer has cultivated a vast land is on the Zambian territory," he said.
Workers on the farm admitted that they were farming on Zambian soil but could not go back to Malawi because the land in that country was inadequate for cultivation.
Mr Nkhata appealed to the ministry of Lands to urgently release money for the demarcation of the Zambia-Malawi border to avoid further land disputes between the two countries.
Meanwhile, the Immigration Department in Livingstone has arrested a couple and another man, all Zimbabweans, for working in Zambia without permits.
They were arrested at Gwembe village yesterday where they worked for Into Africa, a tour operating company that provides bush dinners and breakfast.
According to the Immigration Department in Livingstone, the trio entered Zambia through the Victoria Falls border as visitors but decided to work for the company illegally.
Last week, immigration officers arrested 10 Zimbabwean traders and six Ethiopians for entering and staying in Zambia illegally.
The Zimbabwean traders were warned and cautioned and later released.
The Ethiopians were arrested at Konje Guest House when they ran out of money to proceed to Botswana.
Zim unions, MDC still plan anti-govt protests
22 May 2006 11:51
Zimbabwe's biggest labour federation on Saturday threatened to call massive demonstrations against the government over poor salaries and worsening living conditions for workers in the country.
The threats are ratcheting up pressure against President Robert Mugabe's government after similar threats by the biggest opposition party in the country, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), about two months ago.
Speaking at the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) conference on Saturday, the labour body's president, Lovemore Matombo, said the powerful union wants the government to award workers salaries that match the country's ever-rising inflation.
"I can assure you we will stage massive demonstrations to force them [employers] to award workers minimum salaries that tally with the poverty datum line," said Matombo.
Matombo did not say when exactly the ZCTU would order workers to strike.
Meanwhile, the MDC on Sunday said it will push ahead with plans for anti-government protests, saying victory in a key by-election at the weekend was a "sign the electorate supported its policies", including democratic mass resistance.
A spokesperson of the main faction of the splintered MDC, Nelson Chamisa, said victory over Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF and a rival MDC faction in a Saturday by-election in Harare's Budiriro constituency is a sign Zimbabweans still have confidence in party leader Morgan Tsvangirai and his policies.
Tsvangirai, the founding leader of the MDC, heads the main rump of the opposition party whose candidate, Emmanuel Chisvuure, polled 7 949 votes to win the Budiriro House of Assembly seat.
Gabriel Chaibva of the other faction of the MDC, led by prominent academic Arthur Mutambara, garnered 504 votes while Zanu-PF's Jeremiah Bvirindi polled 3 961 votes.
"This election showed that the electorate still has confidence in the MDC [Tsvangirai-led] leadership and its policies," Chamisa told independent news service ZimOnline.
He added: "We will now move to consolidate our position * we still believe in mass protests. Until we have attained our goals we see no reason why we should abandon [plans for protests]."
Tsvangirai has threatened to call mass protests this winter against Mugabe and his government. He says the mass protests, whose date he is still to name, are meant to force Mugabe to relinquish power to a government of national unity to be tasked to write a new and democratic Constitution that would ensure free and fair elections held under international supervision.
Mugabe and his government, who had hoped for victory in Budiriro to show they were recapturing urban support from a splintered MDC, have not taken idly the opposition's threats to call mass protests, with the veteran president warning Tsvangirai he would be "dicing with death" if he ever attempted to instigate a Ukraine-style popular revolt in Zimbabwe.
In a fresh crackdown against dissension, the police last week arrested several church and civic leaders for organising public prayers and marches to mark last year's controversial home-demolition exercise by the government.
The police also banned the marches and prayers, fearing they could easily turn into mass protests against Mugabe and his government.
However, the marches went ahead in the second-largest city of Bulawayo after organisers had obtained a court order barring the police from stopping the march.
Political analysts say although Zimbabweans have largely been cowed by Mugabe's tactics of routinely deploying riot police and the military to crush street protests, worsening hunger and poverty are fanning public anger that Tsvangirai -- with proper planning and organisation -- could easily manipulate.
Zimbabwe is in the grip of a severe six-year old economic crisis that has seen inflation breaching the 1 000% barrier. Last year, the World Bank said Zimbabwe's economic crisis was unprecedented for a country not at war.
The MDC and major Western governments blame Mugabe for wrecking the country's economy, which was one of the strongest in Africa at independence from Britain 26 years ago.
Mugabe denies the charge blaming the crisis on sabotage by Britain and her allies after he seized white-owned farms for redistribution to landless blacks six years ago.
The Harare authorities recently hiked salaries for civil servants, with the lowest-paid soldier now earning about Z$27-million while the lowest-paid school teacher now takes home about Z$33-million.
But the salaries are still way below the poverty datum line, which the government's Consumer Council of Zimbabwe says now stands at a staggering Z$42-million a month for an average family of six.
The Zimbabwe government often accuses the ZCTU, a strong ally of the MDC, of pushing a political agenda to remove Mugabe from power.
Meanwhile, Matombo and Lucia Matibenga retained their posts as president and first vice-president respectively during the ZCTU congress that ended on Saturday. -- ZimOnline