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  • Christine Chumbler
    Malawi hunger crisis worsening Malawi has had its worst maize harvest in a decade International aid agencies have warned of a sharp increase in the number of
    Message 1 of 1046 , Oct 3, 2005
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      Malawi hunger crisis 'worsening'

      Malawi has had its worst maize harvest in a decade
      International aid agencies have warned of a sharp increase in the number of people in Malawi who may need food aid.
      The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) says some five million people - nearly half the population - may need aid after the maize harvest failed.

      Poor rains and a lack of seeds and fertiliser have been blamed for the poor harvest, the worst in a decade.

      Food prices have jumped sharply, and hundreds of people have already turned up at feeding centres.

      'Rapidly worsening'

      The WFP said the problem was much more severe than it had anticipated.

      It said it had planned to feed more than two million people until April 2006.

      Many report that they are only eating one meal or less per day

      World Food Programme

      "However due to a rapidly worsening situation, WFP is now planning to feed up to 2.9 million people in the southern districts," the agency said.

      This week WFP confirmed that 29 children in southern Malawi had died of hunger-related illnesses between January and September.

      WFP spokesman Simon Pluess said in Geneva on Friday: "The window of opportunity to help is very short."

      Malawi is not the only southern African country facing a food crisis.

      The UN now believes some 12 million people across the region will need international help.

      Many of them are in nearby Zimbabwe, where analysts say the food crisis has been exacerbated by President Robert Mugabe's land redistribution programme.

      *****

      Government to invest $1bn towards food security
      by Taonga Sabola, 03 October 2005 - 06:28:34
      Government says it will invest $1 billion towards the Lower Shire Irrigation Development project to be implemented in the Lower Shire.
      The project is expected to have the capacity to produce food for the whole country once it is fully implemented. This, is in a way, is intended to alleviate hunger in country. Currently, Government is currently importing 250,000 metric tonnes of maize from South Africa valued at about K5.2 billion.
      Irrigation and Water Development Minister Sidik Mia said the project is expected to take off the ground in the near future.
      "Currently, consultants are making final touches on issues concerning the project and it should start any time after they finish.
      "The project has got the support of all our cooperating partners like the World Bank in terms of finances so it should take off any time," said Mia.
      Despite having enormous water bodies, Malawi is constantly hit by hunger due to mainly dry spell.
      Government has since embarked on distribution of treadle pumps in all constituencies to alleviate the problem of food shortage.
      Currently, estimates indicate that over 4.2 million people out of the population of close to 12 million are in dire need of food.
      Recent media reports said over 29 people have already succumbed to hunger in Nsanje which is one of the worst hit areas.
      In a related development, after announcing last Wednesday that it would come up with new prices for maize, government is yet to implement its decision to hike the price.
      Agriculture Minister Uladi Mussa and Information Minister Patricia Kaliati said last Wednesday that government would hike maize prices due to donor pressure and complaints from Admarc and local traders who argued that they were not making profits by selling the maize at K850.
      When contacted on last Thursday to get the price, Mussa said negotiations were still under way with partners.
      Meanwhile, the civil society and Consumers Association of Malawi (Cama) have accused government for its intentions to increase maize price saying it was an insult to Malawians.

      *****

      Govt to punish illegal developers, squatters
      by Joseph Langa, 01 October 2005 - 04:52:23
      Owners of illegal developments in urban areas have been given 90 days to demolish their structures and pay relevant fines or government will raze them at the owners' expense, Weekend Nation has established.
      It has also transpired that government has initiated legal proceedings to demolish all houses people developed in Areas 50 and 51 in Lilongwe and to prosecute the encroachers.
      A senior official in the Ministry of Lands, Physical Planning and Surveys said Cabinet has approved recommendations by an inter-ministerial committee that was mandated to investigate illegal developments.
      According to documents available to us, the committee comprising Ministries of Lands, Transport, Local Government and Mines made recommendations to the Cabinet based on an earlier Cabinet directive made on October 5, last year.
      The official said the recommendations were approved two weeks ago and Cabinet directed that the developers be given 90 days to comply with relevant actions as recommended by the four-member cabinet committee.
      According to a "Report on Cabinet Directives on Control of Illegal Developments", Cabinet has approved to demolish all illegal structures that could not be normalised, fine some of the developers and stop and withdraw some of the plots.
      "If they don't comply within 90 days government will take action. Some of them have been asked to demolish their structures, in full or in part, others to pay fines," said the source.
      According to the documents, Keza Office Park and Chichiri Shopping Mall in Blantyre are some of the structures affected. The two have reportedly encroached into a reserve area and Chipembere Highway respectively.
      Other structures include Petroda Filling Station at Kameza in Blantyre, which will be demolished in full, and Petroda House at Area 18 roundabout in Lilongwe where the owners have been fined over K200,000, asked to work on the landscape and ordered to plant trees in nearby areas.
      Cabinet has also directed to stop the following projects in Lilongwe; a Casino along the road to New State House, a hotel near Reserve Bank, a motel near Area 18 filling station and a building opposite Maula Parish which will be demolished in part.
      They have also directed to withdraw 12 plots allocated between Kachere Prison and Lilongwe Bottom Hospital, withdraw 14 plots in Area 2 and freeze developments on several plots near Lilongwe Bridge and Escom which have already been withdrawn.
      Lilongwe City Assembly director of Planning and Development, Dalitso Mpoola said the assembly has just received the letter from Ministry of Lands instructing them to carry out various orders on respective developers but added that details were confidential.
      He said although the letter, written on 2nd September had just arrived, the assembly will try to do what is required within the set deadlines.
      But Mpoola said he was not the right person to comment on whether the deadline will be based on the day the letter was written or the day it reached his office, claiming that his job is to spell out what was supposed to be done on various plots and it will be up to the Ministry of Lands to take action.
      American Palace Casino general manager, Steven Gooderson confirmed they were stopped from continuing with the Casino project but said government has promised to give them an alternative piece of land for the project. He declined to give more details.
      But Petroda General manager Fuad Omar said he was out of the country and was not aware of the developments.
      Knight Frank, property managers for Keza Office Park said David Russell and Thom Kanyuka were the right people to comment on the matter but both were reported out for meetings since Monday.
      Meanwhile, there are documents which show that Ministry of Lands and the Office of the Attorney General have sworn in Affidavits to obtain an eviction order and prosecute people who encroached into Area 50 and 51 in Lilongwe.
      But some of the encroachers who were on site building their houses when Weekend Nation visited the area on Thursday said they will not move out of the area unless government allocates them alternative plots as promised by Information Minister Patricia Kaliati.
      "Let them come and demolish our houses but we are not going anywhere until they allocate us alternative plots as they promised. Let them shoot us if they want but we are not going anywhere," said Andreya Matola, a member of a 20-member committee in Area 51 that was formed to negotiate with government.
      Secretary of the committee, Malison Nthondowa said they never bought the plots but just allocated themselves because the land was idle and they were desperate for plots to build houses. They claimed that there are a total of 3,009 people in Area 51 alone, some of whom have already finished and occupied their houses.
      "We will be surprised if they take us to court and demolish our houses because they told us to form a committee to discuss with them. The committee was formed and we have been going to the Ministry of Lands to meet them," said Nthondowa.
      People who have settled in the area are a mixture of upper, middle and lower classes and Nthondowa suggested that government is targeting his group because they are of the lower class leaving others who settled in the area long time ago.
      "As you can see all these houses are in Area 51 but they are not touching them because our friends have money," he said. "Maybe they tricked us into forming a committee in order to arrest us," said Nthondowa in a group of 10 others.
      In his Affidavit to the Attorney General dated September 13, Commissioner for Lands, Francis Majankono says "in the circumstances, provisions of the Land Act and Town and Country Planning be invoked in obtaining the necessary orders which would enable the police to evict these squatters and also prosecute them".
      Majankono was responding to a memo from the Attorney general, Ralph Kasambara to Lands Minister Bazuka Mhango dated August 26 asking for details of the offence, encroached land and the names of their representatives which he asked to be supported by an affidavit.
      The Lands Ministry also wrote Home Affairs Ministry to provide police officers for the eviction exercise.
      In her letter to Mhango dated September 2, Home Affairs Minister Anna Kachikho has accepted to deploy police officers for the exercise which officials in the ministry said is likely to start next week after obtaining court orders.
      "Hon Minister, in as much as I am prepared to assist in deploying policemen to move out the encroachers who are still carrying out development activities, I will appreciate that we do this exercise jointly with your men and the City Assembly officials," reads her memo in part.
      Majankono says in his Affidavit that all the land the squatters encroached on is public land zoned for industrial purposes and it is illegal for them to encroach it under the Land Act Chapter 57:01 and Town and Country Planning Act Chapter 23:01.
      Summons have already been drafted to six representatives of the group * chairman Bush Kapacha and Mastala from Area 25 market, Selemani from Area 25 sector 7, Aaron Lipande from Area 25 C and Suman and Chakuda from an area known as Dubai.
      "These squatters in their organised manner managed to clear the entire land, demarcate plots and allocate them to unsuspecting beneficiaries at a fee," reads Majankono's affidavit in part.
      Government spokesperson, Patricia Kaliati who promised to comment this week was out to a funeral since Tuesday.
      Kasambara confirmed that the matter is going to court but referred the matter to senior deputy chief state advocate Geoffrey Nkhata. Nkhata said the state was still consulting internally and court proceedings will follow the consultations.

      *****

      Finance Minister to contest Mzimba by-elections
      by Francis Tayanjah-Phiri, 03 October 2005 - 06:25:53
      Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe has come out of his non-political cocoon to stand as a Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) candidate in Mzimba North by elections scheduled for December this year..
      Gondwe, who was outside the country on official duties, was fielded as a candidate in absentia during the DPP primaries held at Emanyaleni in the district.
      Gondwe confirmed on Sunday he will stand as the party's candidate, contrary to what he has been saying all along, that he sees himself serving the country more as a technocrat than a politician.
      "Actually as I am talking to you now, I am leaving for Mzimba to present nomination papers to the returning officer tomorrow," he said.
      He explained that he was lured to stand as a candidate by people from the constituency, who he said convinced him that time has come for him to use his experience towards developing the area.
      "I feel convinced I can do more to assist my area if I serve as an MP. We have lagged behind in development especially in communication, transport and schools," he said.
      He said his earlier remarks on politics had nothing to do with contesting for a parliamentary seat.
      "Maybe people did not understand what I meant. Simply put, what I was saying was that the problem at that time could better be tackled by political leaders at higher level," he said.
      Asked if he has not succumbed to pressure to protect his ministerial position if he does not belong to the DPP, the minister laughed this off.
      "The president has given me indications he would keep me in cabinet even when I am not an MP. My decision to stand as an MP has nothing to do with my cabinet position. It is just that time has come for me to serve my constituency as such," he said.
      In the primaries, Gondwe scooped 363 votes, beating one time Aford MP for the area Kateya Tembo (who got 146 votes) and a D.D.Chirwa who got 10 votes.
      The seat became vacant after Yeremia Chihana, who won in an earlier by-election, was convicted by Mzuzu Magistrate Court before he could be sworn in as MP.

      *****

      Men shy from literacy classes
      by Herbert Chandilanga, 03 October 2005 - 06:42:14
      Men shun adult literacy classes to protect their pride because they have a mindset that society will laugh at them for reaching adulthood without knowing how to read and write, Hunger Project Country Director Rowlands Kaotcha said on Friday.
      Kaotcha made the observation in Blantyre during a graduation ceremony for 22 students from 15 surrounding villages who completed an adult literacy course managed by the organisation since June 2003 at its Mpingo sub-epicentre in Mpemba in the area of Traditional Authority Somba. Out of the 22 only one was a man.
      "Many men have a problem in overcoming such a mindset. Others have gone about society without people realising they don't know how to read and write, so they fear if they attend classes people will notice and realise they are illiterate," Kaotcha noted.
      Among other projects in the area, Hunger Project is overseeing a community food bank, rural banking activities and a farm inputs and livestock revolving fund initiative.
      Kaotcha said it was difficult to deal with illiterate people in such activities since at some point the villagers need to read documents and sign for agreements.
      Blantyre District Commissioner Charles Makanga urged villagers to welcome adult literacy initiatives "is education was vital in the understanding of social and development issues like food security."
      T/A Somba said it is a disgrace for chiefs and other community leaders to bank hope on free food when knowledge through adult literacy efforts would help communities strategise on food security.
      According to Mpingo sub-epicentre chairperson Mary Nkundika, the food bank now has 1,081 bags of maize in stock. She said each farmer, on agreement that he or she pays back six 50kg bags of maize to the food bank, is supplied with 50kg of 23;21;0 fertilizer, 50kg urea fertilizer and 10kg maize seed.

      *****

      Man to walk over 300 km for charity
      by Mzati Nkolokosa, 03 October 2005 - 06:41:39
      A 58-year-old man will walk from Blantyre to Lilongwe to raise funds to bail out young girls trapped in indecent practices like forced marriages, which the Civil Liberties Committee (Cilic) says is on the increase.
      Spencer Mhone said on Friday he will start his journey from Kandodo Corner Shop in Blantyre on October 9 and arrive at the New State House in Lilongwe six days later at about midday of October 14.
      The money raised, says Mhone, will be for prosecution of people who victimise young girls, build an asylum/home where such girls will live temporarily before being reunited with society and to help Cilic run.
      "Incest is a big issue and people need to know this," said Mhone who will be seen off by retired Chief Justice Richard Banda, Cilic board members and management up to Lunzu.
      On the way, Mhone will spend nights at Zalewa Road Block, Chingeni, Mlangeni, Dedza and Nathenje.
      "I expect individuals and corporations to support this cause with at least K100 per kilometre," said Mhone. "We need about K10 million for this cause."
      Part of the money will be used to bail out a 17-year-old girl who was wedded to an old man as a means of settling down her father's loan.
      "These are things we should not accept in our country," said Mhone. "Cilic will use money raised from the walk to pay back what this man is owed."
      In preparation for the walk, Mhone has been exercising everyday by running and walking for about two hours from 4:30 to 6:30 at dawn.
      He is expecting to be welcomed by the Speaker of Parliament Louis Chimango or even President Bingu wa Mutharika. Parliament will be in progress by this day.

      *****

      Three students, teacher drown
      by Francis Tayanjah-Phiri, 03 October 2005 - 06:40:09
      Three students and a teacher of Ekwendeni Girls Secondary School in Mzimba drowned on Saturday afternoon during a graduation party by the lakeside in Nkhata Bay.
      Deputy headmistress Helen Scott said graduating Form Four students decided to have the party at Kande.
      "It's indeed true we have lost three of our students and a teacher who drowned yesterday at Kande. The entire Form Four class, 78 students, and seven teachers went to the graduation by the beach," she said Sunday during an interview at the school.
      Scott said the lake was rough and the teachers advised the girls not to jump into the water until the weather was calm.
      "But some of them were overexcited and started swimming in shallow waters. However, the rough tide swept them to deeper waters until one of them started waving for help, " she said.
      Scott said those on the beach rushed to pull the girls from the water, immediately giving them artificial respiration, but three were pronounced dead on arrival at Chintheche Rural Health Centre.
      They are Magdalena Sikwese (18), Oreen Luhanga (19) and Rachel Luwanda (19) from Chitipa, Rumphi and Mangochi, respectively.
      A fourth girl, Florence Gondwe, survived the ordeal, which has sent the whole Ekwendeni into grief.
      She is admitted to Ekwendeni Hospital for observation.
      "She is in a sense of trauma. We cannot allow you to talk to her. Let's wait for a moment," said Scott.
      The teacher, Mackson Manda, who was also sportsmaster, was found dead on the beach after the students had already been pulled out of the water.
      He was from Ehehleni, T/A Mzikubola, Mzimba.
      "He was also swept by the current but no one noticed that. Later, the group realised he was also missing and after looking around, his body was found on the beach," said Scott.
      School authorities were on Sunday making arrangements to have the bodies despatched to their homes.
      Students, teachers and residents at Ekwendeni wore sombre faces as they waited for the bodies to arrive from Mzuzu Central Hospital morgue for prayers at the school before departures for burial at respective homes.
      Northern Region Police Spokesperson John Namalenga, who also confirmed the incident, said records indicated the four died of suffocation in water.

      *****

      Mozambicans to Transport Emergency Food for Malawi

      Agencia de Informacao de Mocambique (Maputo)

      September 30, 2005
      Posted to the web September 30, 2005

      Maputo

      Mozambican operators are to take part in the transportation of food aid to Malawi to help relieve the emergency situation caused by drought in that country, reports Friday's issue of the daily paper "Noticias".

      Malawi needs a steady supply of food channelled, as from next week, through the Mozambican road and rail corridors from the ports of Beira and Nacala, to cater for the 4.2 million citizens who are facing hunger in that country.


      Mozambican Transport Minister Antonio Munguambe said that this situation, where Malawi needs huge supplies in food (and fertiliser, for the coming agricultural campaign), represents a window of opportunities for Mozambican operators.

      Also to respond to the Malawian crisis, the governments of Mozambique and Malawi agreed, during a meeting on Wednesday, to extend the working hours of the Zobue border post, in the western Mozambican province of Tete, as a means to speed up the delivery of food. The border post usually closes at 19:00 hours, but the new agreement extends the timetable to 22:00 hours.

      Trucks for Malawi from Beira, or from the South African ports, must all pass through Tete, and one serious constraint is the poor condition of the bridge at Tete city over the Zambezi river.

      To avoid the danger of a collapse, trucks are only allowed on the bridge one at a time. This has resulted in huge queues of trucks, many of whom arrive at Zobue after the border has closed.

      Keeping the border open an extra three hours will reduce this problem considerably. Mozambican operators have complained that they are always excluded whenever there is an international tender to select companies to transport goods in the region, even when the operations start off from Mozambican ports.

      But this time Munguambe assured them that both Mozambique and Malawi have been granted the transportation of 40 per cent of the cargo each, while the remaining quantities will be carried by whichever of the two countries has spare capacity, or by operators from the neighbouring countries, namely South Africa, Zimbabwe or Zambia.

      Speaking on Wednesday, after a meeting with his Malawian counterpart, Henry Mussa, Munguambe could not estimate the profits transporters will be able to make in this operation, but advised them to start contacting the provincial governments in Sofala and Tete, to learn further details about the necessary procedures.

      To try and raise funds for the emergency situation in Malawi, where at least 29 children are reported to have died recently from hunger related causes, the United Nations launched a call to the international community to contribute 88 million US dollars - as of Monday this appeal had only received 15 million dollars.


      *****

      Fuel-starved Harare makes way for bicycle boom

      Jan Hennop | Harare, Zimbabwe

      03 October 2005 08:27

      Fed up with petrol pumps that often run dry, commuters in Zimbabwe's capital are turning to an alternative way to get around -- trading petrol power for pedal power.

      The humble bicycle is becoming a vehicle of choice as the Southern African country wrestles with its worst fuel crisis since independence in 1980, prompted by a severe foreign currency shortage.

      Long queues fill the roadsides outside service stations that are still getting some deliveries, with cars, buses and trucks sometimes parked for days before getting rationed amounts.

      Fuel shortages have also caused a surge in price for public transport -- for many poor Zimbabweans one of the few ways of getting around -- with private bus operators doubling their fares last month.

      Many Zimbabweans, like 33-year-old Biliat Jorindo, say they cannot afford to take the bus anymore and must seek an alternative.

      "This is my new car," Jorindo said as he unwrapped his brand-new black bicycle, partly funded by his employer, a security company.

      "For us there is no other way. This is now my only mean of getting around," said Jorindo, who will now be cycling the eight kilometres to work near downtown Harare from his home in Kuwadzana township on the capital's western oustkirts.

      On a good day, said Jorindo, it could take him between half-an-hour and forty minutes to get to work using public transport.

      On a bad day, when long queues form at the bus stop because there are fewer buses, it can take up to three hours, he said.

      Jorindo is one of the lucky ones who lives fairly close to town.

      "Some people cycle in a round trip that takes them from places like Chitungwiza to Ruwa [townships south of Harare] to work and back, culminating in a trip of up to 100km per day," said Laster Chihuri (36) a fellow security guard.

      In downtown Harare the bicycle business is booming, dealers said.

      "The fuel crisis is definitely having a major influence as more and more people turn to cycling," said Yunis Mahomed, owner of Manica Cycles, the capital's oldest bicycle shop.

      He said companies especially were buying bicyles for their workers, mainly in an effort to cut down on the time it takes people to get to work.

      "The only problem is that I'm battling to replenish my stock. It's difficult when you sell, say 200 bicycles this month, and there's no foreign currency to buy more," Mahomed said.

      Zimbabwe has been in the throes of a severe fuel crisis since late April when a foreign currency crunch began wreaking havoc on petrol imports.

      The crisis has crippled municipal and emergency services in Harare, with only one fire engine in operation, and city authorities have admitted they have bought fuel on the black market to keep afloat, the state-run Herald newspaper reported last month.

      Two weeks ago, opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai began walking the eight kilometres to work to protest the fuel shortages.

      Ordinary Zimbabweans are faced with few choices but to start peddling.

      Said security guard Chihuri: "Cycling should be practised for the sake of enjoying, not for the sake of surviving." - Sapa-AFP

      *****

      Harare police arrest 15 000 in quest for 'clean city'

      Harare, Zimbabwe



      03 October 2005 09:56

      Zimbabwean police have arrested 14 706 vagrants, street vendors and illegal foreign currency dealers in the capital, Harare, over the past two weeks, a newspaper reported on Monday.

      The arrests come as police battle to enforce an urban clearance campaign launched five months ago that saw the arrest and subsequent release of about 46 000 street traders and black marketeers as well as the countrywide demolition of cottages, shacks and houses.

      The latest operation intends "to make follow-ups to monitor the city so that we deal with any of those who are returning to the city and conducting shady deals", police spokesperson Loveless Rupere told the state-controlled Herald.

      Rupere said police were "dedicated to having a clean city" and would continue rounding up touts and vendors, the newspaper reported.

      Operation Restore Order was condemned by the United Nations, which said around 700 000 were made homeless and jobless as a result. During that operation, police swept through Harare's city centre demolishing flea markets and stalls, and confiscating the wares of street traders.

      Similar operations countrywide also saw the demolition of houses and workshops in poor suburbs of the country's major cities.

      Critics of the government say that with more than 70% of the country's working population unemployed, and increasing levels of poverty, Zimbabweans have little choice but to turn to selling things like fruit, vegetables and cigarettes on pavements as a way of earning a living.

      Rupere vowed police would continue with the operation "until they nabbed all the unruly elements including those loitering for the purposes of prostitution", the paper said. - Sapa-DPA
    • 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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