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  • Christine Chumbler
    The Nation (Malawi); August 08, 2005 US gives Malawi K400m for girls education Author : Zainah Liwanda The United States government has released about K400
    Message 1 of 1046 , Aug 15, 2005
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      The Nation (Malawi); August 08, 2005
      US gives Malawi K400m for girls education

      Author : Zainah Liwanda

      The United States government has released about K400 million under the
      Africa Education Initiative (AEI) to cover girls' scholarships that will,
      among other things, cater for food, clothing, school supplies and hygienic
      products to 3,307 primary schools pupils in the country over a three-year
      period.

      Launching the Ambassador's Girls Scholarship Programme (AGSP) in Lilongwe on
      Friday, newly-appointed deputy Education Minister Davie Ngulinga said the
      scholarship would provide an opportunity for more girls to enrol in school.

      He said this would, in turn, contribute towards achieving the Millennium
      Development Goals which challenge the world to halve poverty by 2015.

      Ngulinga said poverty and hunger are some of the challenges affecting
      quality education, especially among girls, whom he described as vulnerable
      compared to boys.

      Representing the US ambassador, Mary Lewellen, acting United States Agency
      for International Development (Usaid) Malawi mission director, pledged her
      country's continued support to education in the country.

      She said Malawi, unlike other countries where the scholarship was being
      implemented, had showed a high level of commitment.

      She added that the involvement of the community in selecting the
      beneficiaries was testimony that all stakeholders were committed to
      improving the quality of education in the country.

      Lewellen said when a girl is educated, the whole family too is educated
      hence she hoped the scholarship would go along way in motivating girls who
      would have otherwise dropped out of school.

      Mathews Chirambo, chairman of the Creative Centre for Community Mobilization
      (Creccom), which is implementing the programme, said school management
      committees, parents and teachers associations, pupils, community leaders and
      government extension staff were among those that selected the beneficiaries
      through focus group discussions, sensitisation meetings and home-school
      visits.

      Chirambo said his organisations has already distributed 609 scholarships in
      the Southern Region, 320 in the Centre and 467 in the North.

      The scholarship was introduced by US President George W. Bush in 2001 and
      seeks to improve girls' education across Africa.

      *****

      Malawi Facing Serious Food Crisis

      Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (Rome)

      August 11, 2005
      Posted to the web August 12, 2005

      Rome

      Malawi is facing its worst food crisis in more than a decade, the result of a combination of factors, including drought, floods, consecutive poor harvests, endemic poverty and the effects of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, FAO said today.

      More than 4.2 million people, or over 34 percent of the population, are unable to meet their food needs. Production of maize, Malawi's most important staple crop, is estimated at nearly 1.3million tonnes this year, the lowest in a decade and around 26percent less than last year's relatively poor harvest.

      "Early and above average rains had raised hopes for a good crop, but the rains failed during the critical period from late January to end of February when the maize crop was pollinating and forming cobs," said Tesfai Ghermazien, FAO emergency coordinator in Malawi. "The dry spell also coincided with cassava and sweet potato planting in some areas."

      In addition, exceptionally heavy rains in December and early January caused flooding and crop losses, especially in the southern and central part of the country.

      "The impacts of the failed harvest won't be felt fully until the lean season sets in between October and April," said Ghermazien. "We need urgent assistance from the donor community to prevent a further escalation of the crisis and to avert widespread hunger and malnutrition, especially among children under the age of five."

      Range of interventions needed

      "Most of the areas affected by drought or flooding this year were already facing critical food shortages, and many families lost both their crops in the field and their food stores," said Ghermazien. "These households will need food aid, but also agricultural inputs, such as seeds and fertilizers for the next planting season, starting in October."

      Assistance is also needed to help vulnerable households broaden their economic base. FAO is promoting crop diversification to reduce reliance on maize, small livestock production, small-scale irrigation and income-generating activities.

      Interventions such as the promotion of home gardens and nutrition education for HIV/AIDS-affected households and malnourished children are needed to help improve the health and nutritional status of these most vulnerable groups.

      Other proposed activities include the promotion of drought-tolerant crops, such as cassava and sweet potatoes, afforestation in flood-prone areas to improve soil structure, and establishment of fruit tree nurseries and primary school orchards to improve child nutrition.

      *****

      Constitutional Review Still Remains Uncertain

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      August 12, 2005
      Posted to the web August 12, 2005

      Gregory Gondwe
      Lilongwe

      The Law Commission of Malawi has indicated that the much-publicised Constitutional Review Conference that many have been eagerly awaiting will only take place towards the end of 2005, a slippage of almost an entire year, fuelling speculation that the new government of Dr. Bingu wa Mutharika was unwilling to review the constitution and make it more democratic.

      The just passed national budget has allocated the Commission money amounting to K88.9 million, part of which will be used for the conference.


      Uncertainty still surrounds the process, which was scheduled to have taken place in January this year before government suspended it indefinitely on instruction from the Executive.

      Civil Society organisations have complained that the lack of a calendar of activities that could lead to the actual meeting has affected their consultations badly.

      Justice Minister Henry Phoya early this year said government is taking its time to come up with a date because it wants to make sure that the review process is a "comprehensive overhaul of the constitution and not piece meal".

      "The feedback we are getting is a vindication of government's feelings that the constitution was not adequate. We would determine the date once the Law Commission has come back from the field," he suggested.

      Phoya said government feels the Law Commission is effectively monitoring the process with funding it obtained from the European Union (EU). Prior to this, the Commission was being restricted as a result of a lack of finances.

      Assistant Chief Law Reform officer Peter Chinoko, who could not disclose the figures received from the EU said the understanding with NGOs was that the civil society organs would facilitate and undertake the consultation process and thereafter submit their findings to the Commission.

      The Commission indicated that submissions from NGOs would also help it to plan for the review conference.

      When The Chronicle attempted to find out from Chinoko if the NGOs had submitted their findings he was tight lipped, insisting that the NGOs would be in better position to explain their positions.

      The Malawi Human Rights Consultative Committee (HRCC) Chairperson Rogers Newa said although government deferred the date for the review conference to create room for more consultation, there is little progress because government itself, at Executive level is not actively involved in the consultation process.

      HRCC last month accused government of showing little interest in the on-going consultations for the constitution review process by failing to set up structures to monitor the smooth running of the programme before a new date is set.

      In an interview with The Chronicle last Friday Newa said that what they were doing was sharing their findings with the Commission but they were not under any obligations to hand over their findings. He said HRCC was yet to submit its findings.

      "We are not bound to report to the Commission, after all it is not our show but what we are doing is only to help and there is no legal requirement for it to happen," insisted Newa.

      Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR)'s Executive Director Ollen Mwalubunju said their role as civil society was to conduct wider consultations and he said some of their findings have already been forwarded to the Commission and his organisation was still in the process of compiling more data, which will be submitted in due course.

      He complained about the uncertainty that surrounds the whole process, which he said, has also created problems in their operation. "The situation is not clear as government is not coming out clearly with a plan on how the way forward should be like, making us fail to plan as well," he said.

      Mwalubunju said current findings have shown that most people are ignorant of the whole thing, which has necessitated that civil society organisations carry out an awareness programme so that the contribution from the people should depend on what they know about the constitution and the law.

      He said efforts too; to solicit funds for the awareness process are underway although CHRR has not been successful in that respect because of the uncertainties surrounding the process.

      But HRCC's Newa said they "hope the meeting will take place soon because, this time round the Commission has been given some funding from government and there is serious work going on."

      *****

      Govt. Resources Drop Says RBM

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      August 12, 2005
      Posted to the web August 12, 2005

      Chikondi Chiyembekeza
      Lilongwe

      Government resources dropped by K400 million to K8.1 billion in June from the previous month's K8.5 billion, the Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM) has said in minutes of 47th meeting of the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC).

      The MPC minutes published last week indicated that the revenue collecting body, the Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) beefed up the resources by about K5.6 billion.


      Of the K21.8 billion expenditure in June, government recurrent expenditure amounted to K6.2 billion and the remaining K15.6 billion was spent on the payment of domestic debt, especially towards Treasury Bills (TBs).

      "The transactions resulted in a resource gap of K13.8 billion in June compared to K11.9 billion in May and covered by proceeds from the Ways and Means advances and new issues of Treasury Bills," said the MPC, Chaired by governor Victor Mbewe.

      The MPC has therefore commended government's efforts for running a surplus on the recurrent budget but has raised concern on public debt expenditure, which they say, has reversed the surplus on the recurrent budget.

      As regards official reserves, the Central Bank say international reserves amounted to US$120 million, approximately K14.8 billion, (at the current exchange rate) in June, representing 1.92 months of import cover.

      This is in comparison to US$106.2 million (K13.1 billion) in May, representing 1.69 months of imports.

      "Economy-wide, these reserves amounted to 3.08 months in June compared to 3.02 months in the previous month (May)," added the MPC.

      In terms of the local currency movement, the bank says the kwacha continued to depreciate further against the dollar in June to K122.985 to one US unit from the K119.06 in May, reflecting mounting pressures on the foreign exchange.

      The local currency has lost its long-time stability due to shortage of foreign currency albeit that tobacco, which contributes about 70 percent of the country's forex earnings, is being sold at the auction floors.

      However, the bank is optimistic that the situation is will stabilize in a few months as donor inflows resume.

      Just a fortnight ago, the British Department for International Development (DFID) gave budgetary support to the Malawi Government amounting to K4.45 billion.

      The bank has noted that reserve money and inflation continues to inch upwards and annual inflation had risen from 15.5 percent in May to 15.9 in June.

      RBM has since resolved to continue the tight monetary policy stance and also maintain the bank rate - the rate at which commercial banks borrow from the Central Bank at 25 percent. It was revised downward in June last year from 35 percent.

      *****

      Taking VCT to the People

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      August 12, 2005
      Posted to the web August 12, 2005

      Pushpa Jamieson
      Lilongwe

      Joe* wants to know his HIV status. He has been meaning to go for a test for some time now, but somehow, he never seems to have the time to attend a clinic that provides the service.

      Living a distance from the city in a semi-urban area, Joe will have to give up a whole day's work to visit his nearest clinic. This means a loss of time spent on the work he does as a carpenter and also a loss of much needed income for him and his family.


      The same is equally true for Emily*. She lives in the village with her children while her husband works in the city. Emily too would like to undergo testing after she had heard of the benefits of Voluntary Counselling and Testing (VCT) on the radio programmes. But this would mean that she has to find someone to take care of the children for the day while she goes to the city to have her test done.

      According to the Ministry of Health VCT centres have been established in all district hospitals in the country, with some mission hospitals also providing the service.

      Although most VCT services are free, it is often the distance of getting to the hospital that most people find discouraging.

      VCT has been described as a major player in stopping the spread of HIV.

      Malawi AIDS Counselling Resource Organisation (MACRO) has a solution to this problem in a very practical way. They are at present involved in providing 'mobile' VCT services in some areas within the country in the structures of health clinics.

      According to a member of staff from MACRO, the testing staff, accompanied by two counsellors, visit about four outlets within the villages around Lilongwe on a regular basis.

      Providing the service almost to the doorstep has resulted in many more women coming forward for testing.

      Many women say it is difficult just to go and undertake VCT because one has to take the time to do so, "unless you are already going to a clinic for another reason, it is difficult just to take all that time to go and have tests done" says one woman. "When there are many of you from a village who are given the chance to have VCT, you will encourage each other to do it, " another woman says.

      What all of them agree on is that a service that is available almost at your doorstep will be utilised well because there are many women who now have realised that it is very important for them to know there status.

      Additionally, MACRO has experienced a high percentage of male participation in VCT in their main branches in Mzuzu, Lilongwe and Blantyre.

      Currently, the mobile VCT clinics have a much higher number of women accessing the facility.

      *****

      Japan Joins the Bandwagon in Giving Financial Support to Malawi

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      August 12, 2005
      Posted to the web August 12, 2005

      Chikondi Chiyembekeza
      Lilongwe

      Barely two weeks after the British Department for International Development (DIFD) announced budgetary support to the tune of K4.4 billon for Malawi, the Japanese government has also joined in by providing grants amounting to US$11.2 million (approximately K1.45 billion).

      The grant provided is for three categories; Project Type Grant Aid for the reconstruction of four bridges; Luwadzi, Nankhokwe, Nankhokwe Culvert and Angoni Culvert between Balaka and Salima to the tune of K840 million, the Project for Groundwater Development in Lilongwe West to cost K372 million and the third is Food Grant Aid for the provision of 4,331 tons of maize to Malawi at a cost of K243 million "to enable the Malawi Government (to) mitigate the effects of the severe drought which has affected the country."

      The signing ceremony for the Project Type Grant Aid was held last week Thursday in Lilongwe between the Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe and the Japanese Ambassador to Malawi, Masaaki Miyashita, currently based in Zambia.

      The Japanese Embassy, in a press statement says the notes for the Food Aid Grant were signed on 26 July 2005 in Rome between the representatives of the Japanese Government and of the World Food Programme (WFP).

      "It is hoped that the grants will further enhance the welfare of the people of Malawi and contribute to the long term development of the Malawi economy," adds the statement.

      Ambassador Miyashita said at the signing ceremony that his government is "highly appreciative of the efforts being undertaken by the Malawi Government to reform the economy and to achieve poverty eradication through economic growth.

      He cited the development of the Vision 2020, the Malawi Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (MPRSP) and the new economic blueprint, the Malawi Economic Growth Strategy (MEGS).

      "It is hoped that through these development initiatives and efforts, Malawi will reach the Highly Indebted Poor Country (HIPC) completion point as early as possible," he said.

      *****

      Muluzi No Longer Sugar Barron As Govt. Strips Him of Sugar Monopoly

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      August 12, 2005
      Posted to the web August 12, 2005

      Gregory Gondwe
      Lilongwe

      Government has put in place new sugar distribution mechanisms aimed at ending the monopoly that UDF National Chairman Bakili Muluzi enjoyed through his Ntaja Trading Company The Chronicle has established.

      Minister of Trade and Private Sector Development Martin Kansichi told The Chronicle yesterday that the monopoly on sugar distribution that Muluzi enjoyed has now ceased.

      Kansichi had promised Parliament in April that the government would wage a war against sugar distribution monopolies that allowed only a few to benefit because of their powerful connections. "The position now is that sugar distribution is in the hands of Illovo Sugar Company because government realised that this is a trade issue," he said.

      The monopoly in the sugar trade allowed Muluzi to export the commodity to countries such as Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, Zambia and the DRC.

      Muluzi inherited a sugar quota distribution system which Lohnro, the then manufacturers of sugar, together with government used to appoint distributors who were given zones and quotas to trade in the commodity.

      Muluzi, as state president who also had a business background abused the system and effectively allocated a big quota to his company which altimetry monopolised the trade.

      Kansichi said sugar distribution has now been left in the hands of Illovo to allow Malawians to participate in and benefit from the trade. "What we have done is to create a conducive environment by making sure that the whole operation is transparent. Currently we are very satisfied with how Illovo has performed. Because of the new arrangement no single person is monopolising the selling of sugar as was the case in the past," he said.

      During the April sitting of Parliament Kansichi was taken to task by the Parliamentary Committee of Commerce, Industry and Tourism to respond to its findings that revealed that former President Muluzi monopolised sugar trade in the country.

      Kansichi then promised the legislators that he has already organised his ministry staff to start working on the sugar issue and that something tangible would be done to address the problem. "I can assure you that we work in the interest of Malawians because we don't want wrong things that were allowed to take place in the business sector for the past years to continue in this government." Kansichi said.

      He said government has a duty to put to an end to any monopolistic tendencies, saying the trend allows a few to accumulate wealth at the expense of the poor majority.

      Kansichi warned that government would continue to deal with those who take advantage of their positions to promote their personal interests.

      Kansichi told parliament that the law and not politics would be allowed to prevail in resolving the sugar issue.

      Speaking through his spokesperson Sam Mpasu, former President Bakili Muluzi said it is extremely irregular that government is forcing itself into the sugar business.

      "This is an issue between the distributors and the manufacturers. I don't see how government is involved, unless they have controlling shares in Illovo or Ntaja Traders," said Mpasu before warning: "Such government interference is dangerous because it scares away potential investors."

      Mpasu, who described government's move as 'political persecution' against Muluzi said a country can not afford to have a president whose government is singling out business people for victimisation. "That is what Dr Banda used to do with his Forfeiture Act and it was okay with him because he was a dictator. But for a President who has only three and half years to go, then really it's a pity," he said. "In the past we also discussed the sugar issue in the private sector but the problem is that we have a political connotation and as govt we want to make sure that whatever is there is resolved in accordance with the law," Kansichi had told Parliament.

      Illovo Sugar Malawi Limited Public Relations Officer Irene Phalula told The Chronicle in response to a questionnaire that when Illovo came into the country in 1997 there was already a sugar quota distribution system in place. She said the system was revisited and changed in 1998. "We no longer have sugar quotas but sugar depots owned by Illovo, but administered by third parties who are paid a commission of three percent," she said.

      She explained that the depots are just storage centres and any Malawian can buy sugar from them at the national ex mill price as long as the purchase is of one ton and above. This is unlike the previous system and ensures the depot distribution system is completely liberalized market open to all comers.

      "This means that there are no licences required to wholesale sugar and no quota restrictions on amounts which can be bought," she said.

      She said a return to the old quota system was inconceivable because, looking at domestic sale of the year 2004 which were the best and on record, shows that the depot system is working well with evident results.

      *****

      Local Government Elections Next Year Govt Set Aside Mk200 Million

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      August 11, 2005
      Posted to the web August 11, 2005

      Hopkins Mundango Nyirenda
      Lilongwe

      The Malawi Electoral Commission has said Local Government Elections will be held in July 2006 following government's allocation of MK200 million from the just passed 2005/06 budget, The Chronicle has learnt.

      Chief Elections Officer Anthony Masanza said that the money will help to kick- start the process in readiness for the polls next year. "The total budget for whole process is more than MK1 billion and government has promised to give us more money next year. We expect to get the additional funds from donors who have always helped us in the previous elections," said Masanza.


      He said that government, which is the major source of funding for the commission, has promised to give additional funds from the 2006/07 budget so that come July 2006 the local polls will take place.

      Local Government Minister George Chaponda in April told the National Assembly that local authorities were dissolved and that the elections were expected to be held in the third week of March 2005, but did not happen due to logistical problems, adding that the commission would announce a new date later. "Mr. Speaker Sir, honourable members, I wish to inform this House that in line with section 147[v] of the constitution, all local authorities stand dissolved by law with effect from 20th March 2005," he was quoted as saying.

      Chaponda said following the dissolution of the assemblies until the next election, the ministry would put in place working arrangements. At the assembly level, a secretariat led by district commissioners and chief executives will be fully operational to handle administrative, financial and developmental issues.

      The country expected that government would give a substantial amount to the EC to conduct the elections but inside sources confided to this paper that the amount was diverted to fund the universal fertilizer subsidies after the main opposition Malawi Congress Party threatened to reject the budget if subsidies are not included.

      This led the Minister of Finance Goodall Gondwe to amend the budget to include the funding of fertilizer on the expense of the Local Government Elections This is not the first time that government has left a vacuum in the local governance, because immediately after the Muluzi administration assumed the reigns of power it also dissolved the local assemblies only to conduct the elections in 2000 after it put in a new Local Government Act which came into effect in 1998 and which ushered in the concept of decentralization.

      Many analysts have critised government for not being serious with the elections because of the vacuum the lack councilors have impacted on local developmental.

      The Executive Director for Institute for Policy Interaction Rafik Hajat said the delay shows lack of proper planning on the part of government since it is clear in the constitution that the next Local Government Elections were to be held in March 2005. "Government had enough time to prepare for the elections since the last elections were heard in November 2000.They had ample time to prepare and failing to prepare is preparing to fail," said Rajat.

      One analyst who opted for anonymity said that it is good for government to choose priorities if it is true that they diverted money for the elections to fund fertilizer subsidies because of acute food shortages the country is facing which is a direct result of the escalating prices of agro-inputs which are beyond the reach of the ordinary Malawians.

      Suggestions have been made recently that the law be looked at in order to make provision for the councilors those term has just ended to continue doing business until the new elections take place. This would ensure that the work of the Assemblies continues without any difficulties.

      *****

      Breakthrough for Malawi IMF Approves US$55m PRGF Programme

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      August 11, 2005
      Posted to the web August 11, 2005

      Chikondi Chiyembekeza
      Lilongwe

      After several years of mismanagment and unsatisfactory economic performance in the country by the former Muluzi administration, the Board of Directors of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in Washington Friday finally approved a three-year US$55 million (approximately K6.7 billion) Poverty Reduction Growth Facility (PRGF) programme for Malawi.

      The country's programme with the IMF was suspended three years ago due to, among other reasons, fiscal mismanagement and rampant corruption by the previous administration.


      The Principal Secretary (PS) for the Ministry of Finance Patrick Kabambe told The Chronicle on Saturday that the first disbursement of about US$8 million (about K976 million) will be made this week. "What this means is that when we have this programme, other pledges will be forthcoming," said Kabambe, adding that other donors would normally wait for the IMF to give its stamp of approval in order for them to also start giving financial support to the country.

      He also said resumption of the PRGF suggests that Malawi is "on the right path" to meeting the criteria necessary to enjoy the benefits of the Highly Indebted Poor Country (HIPC) initiative for the total cancellation of debt.

      President Bingu wa Mutharika, at his inaugural speech promised that he would 'scientifically' appoint his cabinet and make sure that it as lean as possible. During his first executive Mutharika hired a 28-member cabinet that gave hope to the populace that he is living up to his word.

      However, just a fortnight ago, the President increased his cabinet by almost 15% to 32, which is contrary to what he has always preached when he promised that he would control public expenditure. Just last week, the British government cautioned the President on his recent cabinet appointments saying he needs to uphold financial discipline to the keep spending within strict limits, an achievement of the first year of his office.

      Assistance Press and Public Relations Officer for the British High Commission Lewis Kulisewa said part of good fiscal management is the "process of maintaining a cabinet at a size the country can afford".

      He said it would be a great shame if this discipline were to be relaxed, placing an undue burden on the country's finances.

      Despite this criticism and admonition, some development partners have released funding to Malawi ahead of the IMF decision with Britain giving K4.4 billion in BOP support and the European Union making a contribution of MK6.6 billion. Japan too made project grant aid to Malawi of MK1.45 billion and food aid for the provision of 4,331 tons of maize.

      Malawi was left out from a list of 18 countries that were considered for debt cancellation by the G 8 that met in Gleneagles, Scotland in June. At the time, the reasons assumed was that the nation was too turbulent politically with threats of impeachment of the President by Parliament and the opposition ganging up against government to torpedo the budget, effectively making it impossible for the IMF to bring Malawi to their board meetings, which were to have taken place on 18 July.

      With this sanction, Malawi can now move forward with greater confidence. However, the PS said this approval by the IMF does not mean that the country can relax in its financial discipline. "If we relax, we are going to lose much," he noted, hinting that the international lending body would still maintain an eagle's eye on the country.

      An economic lobby group, the Malawi Economic Justice Network (MEJN) has said the resumption of the programme with the IMF is a "milestone, which the government has attained." Deputy National Coordinator, Mavuto Bamusi said this would help to narrow down the huge budget deficit the country has been having in the past years when donor money was not forthcoming.

      However, he cautioned in an interview on Saturday that government should not be too excited with the programme and lose track in the process.

      Bamusi said this should also translate in an improvement in the wellbeing of Malawi's rural poor masses but he observed that this should not provide a leeway for the IMF to impose more and stricter conditionalities on the country.

      Economic commentators have expressed hope that the new administration is keen on seeing that fiscal prudence is maintained at all cost by spending only allocated resources and not overshooting the budget.

      *****

      US envoy warns on Zimbabwe hunger

      A senior US diplomat dealing with food aid has expressed deep concern about the food situation in Zimbabwe at the end of a three-day visit.
      Tony Hall said Zimbabwe did not appear to have enough food for the immediate future and government policies were making the crisis worse.

      He said donors trying to help were being hampered by delays in getting permission for food distribution.

      The US is donating nearly 75,000 tons of food relief to the region.

      Zimbabwe and four neighbouring drought-hit countries - Malawi, Lesotho, Swaziland and Zambia - all stand to benefit.

      Mr Hall, who is US ambassador to the United Nations food agencies, also complained of being stopped from visiting some of the Zimbabweans left homeless by recent government urban demolitions

      Soldiers running a camp outside the capital, Harare, had said he did not have the proper paperwork.

      Mr Hall, however, disclosed that he had been told quietly that old people at the camp were dying.

      On Friday, Mr Hall met and informed Zimbabwean Social Welfare Minister Nicholas Goche of his concerns.
    • 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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