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  • Christine Chumbler
    Honour Malawi aid, says minister Countries needs to do more to prevent four million people starving to death in Malawi, Britain s International Development
    Message 1 of 1046 , Oct 6, 2005
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      Honour Malawi aid, says minister

      Countries needs to do more to prevent four million people starving to death in Malawi, Britain's International Development Minister has said.
      Gareth Thomas, speaking from the southern African country, said just $27m of the $88m promised in international aid has been received.

      People in the south of the country have been worst affected due to the worst harvest in a decade, and drought.

      Aid agencies say hundreds are already turning up at feeding centres.

      The problem has been made worse by a sharp rise in the price of maize. The window of opportunity to help is very short

      Simon Pluess from the World Food Programme

      Mr Thomas, visiting the country with ministerial colleagues, praised Malawi's government for buying in 60,000 metric tonnes of food but urged the international community to honour its pledges.

      The United Nations World Food Programme (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.

      "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, the WFP confirmed 29 children in southern Malawi had died of hunger-related illnesses between January and September.

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


      Malawi: Aids Deaths Fuelling Orphan Numbers

      UN Integrated Regional Information Networks

      October 5, 2005
      Posted to the web October 6, 2005


      Malawi's annual HIV/AIDS death rate is fuelling the nation's orphan and vulnerable children situation, a senior government official has said.

      According to Health Minister Hetherwick Ntaba, 70,000 people were dying annually from AIDS-related illnesses, and the pandemic had claimed some 650,000 people over the past two decades.

      The local Chronicle newspaper quoted Ntaba as saying, "At present 50 percent of the country's 850,000 orphans are a direct result of AIDS-related deaths."

      In 2003 Malawi's National AIDS Commission estimated that about 1 million adults and children were living with HIV/AIDS.


      Malawi: Hungry Season Arrives Early for Rural Poor

      UN Integrated Regional Information Networks

      October 4, 2005
      Posted to the web October 5, 2005


      In Malawi's drought-hit southern district of Bangwe, people begin queuing as early as 3.00 a.m. outside the depot of the state grain marketer Admarc for subsidised maize-meal.

      The demand is such, after the worst harvest in a decade, ADMARC has been forced to introduce rationing.

      "We are aware that ADMARC, depending on the maize supply in its depots, has been forced to ration sales to between five to 25 kg per person," said Evance Chavasuka of the USAID-funded Famine Early Warning System Network.

      William Chisego, 17, had been waiting since the night before to

      buy maize-meal for his family. He had walked some 25 km to the depot and joined a queue which by Tuesday morning numbered at least 500 people.

      "I have money to buy some more maize, but they say they will only give five kg - it will not last us long," he said, adding there were five adults in his household.

      Macy Godifely had also been camping outside the ADMARC compound for her ration of the staple food - the carbohydrate in nearly all meals in this region. "This will not even last a week for my family of four," she snapped.

      By mid-morning the crowd was getting restless, pressing up against the depot's gates. Security guards tried to maintain order by hitting out with their batons.

      There is desperation here. This is the fourth drought in a row to scorch southern Malawi, and the poor have hit rock bottom. They cannot afford the commercial price of around 30 kwacha (US 25 cents) a kilo for maize-meal, and even the 17 kwacha (US 14 cents) a kilo that ADMARC charges is too much for some.

      Earlier this week there was speculation in the local media that ADMARC, battling with limited supplies, was about to raise its prices.

      "We have also heard that but we don't know how much the hike is going to be," said Chavasuka. "Even 17 kwacha a kilo is beyond the means of many people - so we don't know how people will afford the new price - more people are going to starve."

      But at least the people in Bangwe, 25 km from Malawi's commercial capital, Blantyre, have ADMARC outlets. In the neighbouring Zomba district people have to buy their maize-meal at the commercial rate.

      "No one can afford to buy maize-meal at 30 kwacha per kilo in the commercial market here, so people are starving," said Sophie Panje, a nurse at the Nutrition Rehabilitation Unit (NRU) at the Catholic mission-run Pirimiti community hospital.

      The NRU is currently treating 10 children for hunger-related illnesses like kwashiorkor and marasmus. The unit, which receives supplies from the UN's World Food Programme (WFP), provides supplementary feeding to about 300 children every two weeks.

      "We are always admitting chronically malnourished children, but this year the numbers are already increasing even before the beginning of the lean season in December," noted Panje.

      The hospital's administrator, Sister Jospehine Gowelo, said the hunger she was seeing was much worse than the last three years, and she was being forced to turn people away everyday who were looking for food.

      The Pirimiti hospital, 60 km from Blantyre, covers 60 villages - a total of about 30,000 people.

      "In January, when we had some maize flour in our reserves, we would give our patients an extra supply to take back home to their families. But now we have nothing to give, so patients don't even stay for a day - as they prefer to go back home and suffer with their families," explained Gowelo.

      The hospital has also recorded an increase in the number of diarrhoea cases as a result of desperate people eating roots and plants not meant for human consumption, she added.

      Linele Manerd, herself gaunt and exhausted, was tending to her two-year-old grandson recovering from kwashiorkor when IRIN visited the NRU.

      In a normal year, Manerd and her family get by as subsistence farmers. This year the harvest failed, and two months before the beginning of the lean season, the household had run out of food.

      Although the rains began last week, signaling the time to plant, Manerd and many other farmers in the area cannot sow as they have no money and no seed, despite a government scheme to provide free seed and fertiliser.

      "The government has not begun any distribution programme here and people have not heard of the fertiliser coupons being distributed," said nurse Panje.

      The government, accused by the opposition of failing to provide seed and fertiliser on time last year, has insisted it was addressing the food crisis as best it can. R P Mwadiwa, permanent secretary in the ministry of agriculture, told IRIN there were plans to flood ADMARC outlets with 70,000 MT of maize by the middle of this month.

      The government has begun working with aid partners to provide food and assistance to 2.2 million people in the north, while WFP was feeding around 700,000 in the south, and aimed to reach two million people in seven districts at the peak of the lean season.

      However, a sharp increase in malnutrition rates and rapidly rising maize prices could push the number of vulnerable people in need of food aid up to five million, WFP has warned.

      In August the UN appealed for $88 million to respond to the hunger crisis in Malawi; so far, donors have contributed or pledged just over $15 million.


      Norway Gives Malawi K7b in Budget Support

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      October 4, 2005
      Posted to the web October 4, 2005


      The Norwegian government has committed K6.9 billion (NOK 350 million) to the Malawi government for budgetary support for the period of 2005 - 2010.

      According to a press statement signed by Ambassador Gunnar Foreland, Norway will first disburse NOK 20 million (K395 million) to support the implementation of the annual budget that Parliament proved for the fiscal year 2005/06.

      "A further disbursement of NOK 20 million is planned later in the fiscal year," says Ambassador Gunner.

      Gunner says the goal of the budget support co-operation between Malawi and Norway is to contribute to sustainable macroeconomic stability and contribute to poverty reduction in the country.

      He said Malawi has shown a credible discipline in the fiscal year 2004 / 05 and that Norway wants to contribute to this positive development in Malawi.

      The Ambassador said Norway, under the Common Approach to Budget Support (CABS) currently consisting of Sweden, UK, and the European Union (EU) - would closely monitor the budget implementation.

      "CABS will follow the preparation and implementation of the new Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MGDS). Further more CABS will focus on governance issues, such as sound public financial management, accountability and effective anti-corruption programmes," says Gunnar.

      The statement assured the Malawi government that Norway intends to be a predictable partner as regards to the budgetary support.


      Urban Women At Higher Risk of Contracting HIV, Survey Reveals

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      October 4, 2005
      Posted to the web October 4, 2005


      A Baseline Surveillance Survey carried out as part of national effort to respond to the HIV /AIDS problem between January and December last year has shown that women in urban centres are at more risk of contracting HIV than their rural counterparts.

      The survey findings, which the National AIDS Commission (NAC) has compiled and titled 'Annual HIV/AIDS Monitoring and Evaluation Report' released this month says this is because urban women were not practising safer sex unlike women from the rural areas.

      The findings, which also pointed out that HIV is spread through casual sex which is largely carried out with non-regular partners showed that urban women were into having sex with non regular partners.

      "Having sex with non-regular partners was two times higher among urban females at 14% compared to rural females at 7%," said the findings.

      The preliminary 2004 Demographic Health Survey (DHS) reveals that the percentage of males having sex with a non-regular partner dropped from 33% in 2000 to 26% in 2004.

      The DHS also discovered that while the percentage of males practising safer sex like consistence use of condoms when having sex with non regular partners increased from 39% in 2000 to 47% in 2004, the percentage of women slightly increased from 29% in 2000 to 30% in 2004.

      The percentage of females who had sex with non-regular partners stagnated at 8% in 2000 and 2004.

      "Although the proportion of having sex with non regular partners has declined among males aged 25 years and above, an increase has been noted among male youth of between 15-24 years from 56% in 2000 to 62% in 2004," the findings discovered.

      The findings further discovered that sex with non-regular partners was highest in the Southern Region where it was 28% for males and 10% for females and was lowest in the central region at 23% for males and 6% for females.

      Condom use during high risk sex, the report says, has significantly increased in the Central Region among both males and females from 39% in 2000 to 56% in 2004 for males and 28% in 2000 to 39% in 2004 for females.

      "While these statistics points to a steady improvement in behaviour change among men indications are such that their female counterparts continue to practice unsafe sex," says the report 'This therefore calls for deliberate efforts to design interventions that will address factors exposing females to unprotected sex."


      UDF Rebuffs Chiefs Over Impeachment

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      October 4, 2005
      Posted to the web October 4, 2005


      The United Democratic Front (UDF) has unleashed its fury at chiefs in the country for suggesting that members of parliament shelve their deliberations on impeachment process, instead to dwell on the food crisis which is threatening over four million Malawians in the country.

      UDF Spokesperson Sam Mpasu said the party will go ahead with the impeachment of President Bingu wa Mutharika, describing as nonsense calls by the chiefs that when MPs meet on October 11, they should prioritise their discussion on the current food shortage.

      "To say that MPs should prioritise hunger is nonsense. In the last sitting of Parliament, MPs approved K5.2 billion to be used to buy food so what else can Parliament discuss on hunger?" queried Mpasu in an interview recently.

      Recently, a snap survey published in The Nation newspaper indicated that a cross section of chiefs in the country said their subjects do not want their MPs to discuss the impeachment of Mutharika.

      The Malawi Congress Party (MCP) President John Tembo has said the MCP is not party to moves to impeach President Bingu wa Mutharika.

      "The issue of impeachment is for the UDF, not MCP. My party will look at the issue when it is tabled in Parliament," said Tembo in an interview on Wednesday.

      Tembo however said MCP will support the motion tabled by Balaka North Member of Parliament Lucius Banda to include in the Standing Orders procedures for impeaching a sitting head of state, not necessarily Mutharika.

      "MCP will definitely support the inclusion of the procedures because this is not a controversial issue and there are no political differences about it. The procedures need to be there," he said.

      He said the MCP party looked at the proposed procedures for impeachment and agreed that they conform to natural justice as demanded by the Constitution.

      The UDF has outlined 11 alleged constitutional violations as grounds that would set the process for impeaching President Bingu Wa Mutharika.

      The office of the Speaker was already served with the grounds that would be tabled soon after procedures for impeaching a sitting head of state are included in the Standing Orders.

      The Law Society of Malawi says the above grounds do not warrant impeachment while the Law Commission says it is surprised with the speed at which the Legal Affairs Committee of Parliament is concluding its findings on the impeachment procedures.

      Head of the Malawi Law Commission Elton Singini has since asked the Legal Affairs Committee, headed by former president Bakili Muluzi's son, Atupele, to delay the implementation of the procedures in order to wait for the commission's input.


      Zikhale, Bingu Fall Out Expected, Says Tembo

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      October 4, 2005
      Posted to the web October 4, 2005


      Veteran politician John Tembo, who is also President of Malawi Congress Party says the fall out between President Bingu wa Mutharika and his long time close ally Ken Zikhale Ng'oma was expected.

      Tembo told The Chronicle in an interview that events leading to the fall out showed that Mutharika and Zikhale Ng'oma were already on the collision course.

      Zikhale was fired as Chief of Staff in June, 2005 and was later demoted from Secretary General of Mutharika's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to Campaign Director, 13 steps down the party's hierarchical ladders.

      In his resignation letter, Zikhale Ng'oma cites a number of issues, top among them is Mutharika's loss of confidence in Zikhale.

      "You have lost confidence in me and this has clearly shown through your recent unpredictable moves made on me since I was Chief of Staff, interim Secretary General, down through to the position of Campaign Director in the party hierarchy and this in political terms, is a way of telling me that my services are no longer required," laments Zikhale.

      He reminds Mutharika "of the journey we have travelled together and the hard work that I have put in that has finally put you in the presidential seat."

      Zikhale alleges in the letter that it was him who made contacts and meetings with the likes of Esnath Muluzi, Dumbo Lemani, Kaphwiti Banda, Mr. Jaffu, Mapeto Wholesalers and Friday Muluzi in order to convince Dr. Muluzi himself.

      "I even went as far as befriending Mai Muluzi, mother to Dr. Bakili Muluzi, uncles and his other close relatives just for your cause. I would buy things, such as sugar, on a weekly basis at my own expense and travel to Machinga to socialise with the Muluzi family so that I could integrate into it for your sake," he says in the letter.

      Reports indicate that Zikhale is teaming up with the DPP former Vice President Gwanda Chakuamba to form a new party, called New Republican Party (NRP).

      Tembo said earlier that the composition of DPP executive members was a diverse of politicians from different political backgrounds and predicted that it would be difficult for them to work together.

      MCP's vice president Nicholas Dausi described the composition of DPP National Governing Council as a collection of political asylum seekers and opportunists.

      Officials from the DPP are down playing the impact of Zikhale's resignation from the party, said this would not negatively affect the party.

      DPP spokesperson Hetherwick Ntaba said Ng'oma was exercising his right to freedom of association as enshrined in the Republican Constitution.

      He said the party is not a party of two "big people" but it belongs to thousands of people.

      Meanwhile, Wakuda Kamanga, a close ally of Zikhale and was dropped in the national Governing Council as regional governor for the centre says he has retired from active politics.

      "I am convinced that I have contributed something to the growth of politics in our country and it's time to retire from active politics and redirect my energies to other areas of my life and society. I do this with no bitterness or regrets," says Kamanga who works as Marketing and Administration Manager for Democratus Limited, publishers of the Democratus newspapers where Zikhale is chairman.


      Minister, Vendors Clash Over Loans

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      October 4, 2005
      Posted to the web October 4, 2005


      Armed police in Lilongwe were recently called in to quell mounting tension when angry vendors with disability threatened to attack Minister responsible for people with disability, Clement Chiwaya over loan disagreements.

      According to an eye witness hell broke loose at the ministry's offices at City Centre when the Minister reportedly failed to honour a K20, 000 loan agreement to each of the vendors who had assembled at his office.

      But in an interview Friday, Chiwaya said his ministry never promised the vendors K20, 000 loans but simply some financial assistance to the vendors whom he described as mere 'disabled street beggars'.

      He said he suspected that the 'disabled street beggars' were being mobilised by certain quarters to discredit government and his ministry.

      "It is not that we promised them K20, 000 loans to start up businesses, after all they are not vendors but disabled street beggars. In fact as a ministry we are still looking into how we can help them because some of them just want to be reallocated to their various districts of origins and to start business as they are alleging to you," said Chiwaya.

      The Minister further said it was not true that the vendors nearly attacked him and prevented the police from whisking him away from the scene.

      "There was no big tension as they may want you to believe. I was never whisked away," he explained.

      However eyewitness, Chimmwe Ntambalika himself a vendor with disability, said the vendors had a month earlier asked the Minister to assist them with loans and that they were told to fill in forms that would enable them access to K20, 000 each to start small scale businesses.

      "But when we went to get our money on Tuesday (a fortnight ago), we were only told we would be given only K2, 000, a thing that did not go well with all of us and in no time all hell broke loose," narrated Ntambalika.

      He said he and his friends blocked the Minister from being whisked into his Mercedes to the extent that he fell down.

      "Armed police were called in to intervene on the mounting chaos up until we fled the offices for fear of being shot at," explained Ntambalika.

      Meanwhile, the vendors, according to Ntambalika, said they have lost hope of being assisted with the ministry, saying they are now considering the whole initiative water under the bridge while the ministry insists it is still looking into the matter.


      'Integrate FNF Into Govt.'

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      October 4, 2005
      Posted to the web October 4, 2005

      Gregory Gondwe

      Malawi Economic Justice Network (MEJN) Acting Executive Director Mabvuto Bamusi has said the best way to mitigate the impact of hunger in the country is by integrating the newly launched Feed the Nation Fund (FNF) into the Ministry of Agriculture structures.

      Bamusi who was speaking recently during a public debate titled 'Malawi's Preparedness to deal with the food shortage' organised by the Lilongwe Press Club in Mzuzu recently. "We really need an institution that has less bureaucracies, but the way FNF has come in, we think it has taken the place of the Agriculture ministry which is legally mandated to take the role FNF purports to play," said Bamusi.

      He said FNF existence is undermining the work of the Ministry of Agriculture.

      Bamusi argues that Malawians are paying double on hunger cause; to FNF and through fuel levies and other taxes.

      He said FNF cannot claim to have received K70 million, because of the money is in form of pledges. "This practically means there is no actual money in the fund, therefore there is nothing for the hungry and this only shows the government is playing ball with hungry people," he said.

      President Bingu wa Mutharika has been giving different figures on the fund.

      At a rally he addressed in TA Nyambi's area in Machinga three weeks ago, Mutharika said the fund had raised K72 million only to contradict himself a week later at another rally in Liwonde where he said the fund has K62 million in its coffers.

      FNF chairman former Chief Justice Richard Banda recently failed to say the exact amount the fund has, putting the figures between K53 and K60 million.

      Bamusi said the best way the government can do is integrate FNF into the already existing Ministry of Agriculture structures which he said have an array of food security structures.

      During the debate, one contributor argued that government should suspend the Malawi Rural Development Fund (MARDEF) and use the money for the FNF.

      However, Bamusi said although the suggestion is logical, it was not politically sound.

      Bamusi urged the government to declare Malawi a disaster area so that donors respond quickly to the hunger crisis which s threatening over four million people.


      MHC Pounces On Zikhale

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      October 4, 2005
      Posted to the web October 4, 2005


      Controversial former Chief of Staff for State Residences and Bingu wa Mutharika's closest ally, Ken Zikhale Ng'oma risks being evicted from a house in Lilongwe due to non payment of rent to Malawi Housing Corporation.

      Zikhale and other officials, from both the former ruling party the United Democratic Front (UDF) and government are failing to clear their rental housing arrears with the organization, amounting to over K6 million.

      The released list of names the MHC describes as Very Important Persons (VIP) also includes Members of Parliament, envoys, a High Court of Malawi judge and former cabinet ministers.

      Zikhale Ng'oma, who the document says owes MHC K192,000 in rental arrears for a BW/056 house in Lilongwe, is still in the house and MHC has started court action against him to recover the money.

      Zikhale Ng'oma who last week resigned from President Mutharika's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), could not be reached for comment as to when he intends to pay the rental arrears because all his mobile phones were switched off.

      The document also says another political heavyweight, Brown Mpinganjira owes MHC K370, 000 for a TMF/09 House, former Alliance for Democracy (AFORD) Secretary General Wallace Chiume owes the housing body K499, 187.00 on house number TMF/21 and Mohammed Kulesi, Malawi's envoy to Libya who owes K557, 943 on house number 11/009.

      Former cabinet ministers in the Muluzi administration, Alice Sumani and Andrew Chioza owe MHC K469,259 and K291,176 respectively, and former MPs Kennedy Kuntenga and U.Kanyerere owes MHC K95,000 and K145, 626 respectively.

      Bertha Masiku, MP in Blantyre owes the organization K116,000, Leader of UDF in Parliament George Ntafu owes MHC K39, 490, J. Luwe K149, 824, former cabinet minister Susan Chitimbe K99, 000, former cabinet minister Lee Mlanga K98, 000 and Concerned Citizens activist Omar Bagus K297,000, among others.

      Kanyerere has since been evicted from the house while MHC has commenced a court action against Kuntenga to recover the rental arrears.

      The Chronicle could not solicit comments from the officials as most of them referred the issue to their respective lawyers who could not be reached for comment.

      MHC Public Relations Officer Lucy Kapito said she did not have the list and claimed she was not competent enough to comment on the matter.

      "Normally what happens when we have people who have outstanding rent arrears, we refer it to our legal section which assists in collecting the arrears," she said.


      Mozambique's Aids children slipping through the cracks

      Ruth Ansah Ayisi | Maputo, Mozambique

      05 October 2005 11:59

      At the tender age of 12, Pedro Moniz* is already a veteran when it comes to observing the regimen of anti-retroviral drugs that keeps Aids-related illnesses at bay.

      "I take one tablet at 6am, another at 1.45pm just before school, another at 5.45pm when I return from school -- and the last at 10pm," he says, without pausing to think. "I take them so I don't get sick and so those spots don't come out again."

      The son of a now-deceased member of Kindlimuka, an association for HIV-positive persons, Pedro was born with the HI virus. He began taking anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs) three years ago -- one of the first children in Mozambique to receive the medication.

      Pedro benefits from a programme supported by the American branch of the Save the Children NGO, which is implemented by Kindlimuka.

      Under this initiative, 2 112 children between the ages of seven and 17 who have been infected or affected by HIV and Aids are visited by trained activists who make sure that their basic needs are met. This includes checking that the children are in school whenever possible, and that they have educational materials, clothes and good food. About 50 of the children are also on ARVs.

      Drop in the bucket
      As heartening as this and similar programmes are, however, they only target a fraction of the children who require Aids treatment in Mozambique -- which has an HIV prevalence of 15,6%, according to the government.

      There are now 91 000 children under the age of 15 living with HIV in the Southern African country. By June of this year, 500 children were registered on the government's free ARV treatment programme; yet more than 60 000 children aged 14 and below are estimated to be in need of the drugs.

      Aids is increasingly emerging as one of the most important causes of illness and death among children in Mozambique. Of the 97 000 people who died from Aids-related illnesses in 2004, 17 500 were children under the age of five.

      An average of 500 new HIV infections takes place every day, 90 of them among children who contract the virus from their mothers.

      This grim array of statistics begs the question of how authorities can possibly meet the needs of HIV-positive children in Mozambique. Are they effectively in a position of spectating on the death of vast numbers of young citizens?

      "The government has a multisectoral approach, which aims to capacitate all the actors, especially those in the community, to help ensure children who are disadvantaged -- who include children affected and infected by HIV and Aids -- have their rights met," says Estrela Herculano, head of the department for women and the family in the ministry of women and social action.

      Assistance not enough
      HIV-positive children who are unable to access ARVs are entitled to a package of assistance that includes treatment for opportunistic infections, food aid from the United Nations World Food Programme and school materials. Some also benefit from the home-based care programme that is coordinated by the ministry of health.

      Yet, says Herculano, children appear to be slipping through the cracks.

      "We don't know how many children we're reaching. We encourage local authorities to make sure children are registered. But ... in some places there are no roads, so we do not even have access," she notes. "Many families don't even know that that their children are HIV-positive, even when they are sick. Most don't get tested."

      The difficulties that surround provision of care to HIV-positive children reflect the larger problems the country faces in catering for its youngest citizens. Vast and sparsely populated, Mozambique is one of the world's poorest states: only about half of school-aged children have the opportunity to study.

      And even with the smallest of the small, stigma presents a problem.

      "We don't want to single out children who are sick with Aids-related illnesses because of the stigma. They might be discriminated against," says Herculano.

      Pedro keeps the fact that he is HIV-positive secret from his neighbours and teachers.

      "His teacher just knows he gets sick, but we don't tell her he is on ARVs or is HIV-positive, because he could face discrimination," says Anifa Amade Ibrahim, a representative of Kindlimuka. "The most important thing is that the children who are sick with Aids should be treated like any other children."

      Says Pedro, shyly: "I used to miss a lot of school when I was small because of fevers."

      Although he has a persistent cough and is very small for his age, Pedro is in far better health than he used to be. It's ironic that this improvement can't be celebrated publicly.

      * Certain names have been changed to protect the identities of the individuals concerned


      Zimbabwe MP held for fuel protest

      Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai is also walking to work
      A Zimbabwean opposition member of parliament and 16 supporters were arrested on Wednesday for walking to work in protest at fuel shortages.
      Police released the group, all supporters of the Movement for Democratic Change, in the evening.

      MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who was not among those arrested, started walking 8km to work two weeks ago as a protest gesture.

      A foreign exchange shortage has led to Zimbabwe's worst fuel crisis.

      Police arrested Gilbert Shoko, the MDC MP for Budiriro in Harare, and a group of MDC supporters as they were walking to central Harare, lawyer Alec Muchadehama told the AFP news agency. The police said there was plenty of fuel and rounded them up saying they were demonstrating against the government

      MDC spokesman Maxwell Zimuto

      "They have since been released," Mr Muchadehama said later.

      "The police said they were going to continue their investigation. If they do not find any evidence against them, it means they will not take them to court. It will be the end of the matter."

      MDC spokesman Maxwell Zimuto the MP and his supporters were confronted by the police, who asked why they were walking as a group.

      "They told the police they had no other means of transport because of the fuel crisis but the police said there was plenty of fuel and rounded them up saying they were demonstrating against the government," Mr Zimuto said.
    • Christine Chumbler
      ADB firm on Karonga-Chitipa road contract by Zainah Liwanda, 22 May 2006 - 06:09:17 The African Development Bank (ADB) has again rejected a proposal by
      Message 1046 of 1046 , May 22, 2006
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        ADB firm on Karonga-Chitipa road contract

        by Zainah Liwanda, 22 May 2006 - 06:09:17

        The African Development Bank (ADB) has again rejected a proposal by government to look for another contractor instead of China Hunan Construction to construct of the long awaited Karonga/Chitipa road.

        China Hunan from Mainland China won the bid which was approved by the ADB but government later wanted to award the contract to a Portuguese firm, Mota Engil, the second lowest bidder, claiming China Hunan's bid was unrealistically low and that the company had very little experience in Africa.

        Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe confirmed on Sunday the ADB rejected the proposal at a meeting held between the bank and Malawi government in Tunisia last week.

        The Malawi government wanted the Tunisia meeting to authorise it to get another contractor for the road, said Gondwe.

        "They did not allow us to look for another contractor because of their regulations. But we are about to get another alternative for Karonga/Chitipa and I would be surprised if it does not start before end June," said Gondwe.

        The minister explained that the bank insisted that regardless of the unrealistic cost estimates, China Hunan should be allowed to go ahead with the construction.

        But Gondwe could not give further details about the alternatives, arguing there are still a few loose ends to tighten up before disclosing it.

        The problem with China Hunan, according to Gondwe, is that it would require more money to meet the total cost of the project.

        This paper reported last week that government met Taiwanese representatives where they offered to fund the road if the ADB continued to reject its favoured contractor, Mota Engil.

        Gondwe could neither confirm nor deny the reports on the Taiwanese offer, saying government was looking at a number of ways to handle the issue.

        According to Gondwe, the China Hunan's bid was 24 percent lower than the consulting engineers' estimates of K7.9 billion and 34 percent below the second lowest bidder.

        President Bingu wa Mutharika laid a foundation stone for the construction of the road this year ahead of a crucial byelection in Chitipa in December last year.

        The President's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) won the Chitipa Wenya constituency by-election that fell vacant following the collapse and subsequent death of Speaker of Parliament Rodwell Munyenyembe who belonged to the UDF.

        Last week, police and the District Commissioner (DC) for Chitipa stopped a rally that was aimed at soliciting people's views about development projects in the district.

        The meeting, which was reportedly organised by Concerned Citizens of Chitipa, was among other things also supposed to tackle the controversial Karonga/Chitipa road.

        The project failed to start off in 2000 when a contract for an initial loan of US$17 million and US$15 million from the Taiwanese government was signed, with some quarters claiming the Bakili Muluzi administration diverted the money to another road.


        Chihana operated on

        by Edwin Nyirongo, 22 May 2006 - 06:32:31

        Alliance for Democracy (Aford) president Chakufwa Chihana, who is in South Africa receiving treatment, had a brain operation on Friday at Garden City Clinic, family and party officials confirmed on Sunday.

        Aford national chairman Chipimpha Mughogho said he was told by the family members that Chihana had a successful operation on Friday and was put in an intensive care unit.

        Mughogho said Chihana, who initially complained of headache, was found with a brain tumour which South African doctors removed.

        Mzimba West MP Loveness Gondwe said Aford boss condition was stable.

        "Hon. Chihana had a major operation and after that he was put in the intensive care unit but his condition is stable. I do not know where he was operated on but it had something to do with the skull," she said.

        Deputy Information Minister John Bande referred the matter to the Health Minister Hetherwick Ntaba who was reported to be in Geneva, Switzerland.

        Aford publicity secretary Norman Nyirenda said when Chihana's situation got worse, the family alerted the Office of the President and Cabinet who took him to Mwaiwathu Private Hospital.

        "The doctors at Mwaiwathu advised that he should be sent to South Africa and they even identified the doctor for him," he said.

        He said the costs are being met by the Malawi government, contradicting his earlier statement that his boss covered the cost.

        Mughogho is now in charge of the party.

        Gondwe will be a busy person when Parliament starts meeting on June 6 as she is the only Aford MP remaining.


        Pillane proposes presidential age limit

        by Emmanuel Muwamba , 22 May 2006 - 06:34:13

        A member of the DPP National Governing Council Abdul Pillane on Saturday urged members of political parties and the civil society to put an upper age limit in the Constitution for presidential candidates.

        Pillane was addressing members of political parties and civil society in Liwonde during a two-day follow up workshop to the National Conference on the Review of Constitution held in March in Lilongwe.

        "My view is that (an upper) age limit should be at 75. We have to give a chance to younger people to lead because in circumstance, when you age you become forgetful especially when sickly," said Pillane. "Overall, chances should be given to young people."

        But UDF secretary general Kennedy Makwangwala, whose party members agitated for the age limit during presentations, played the issue down.

        "I feel there is no logic to have an upper age limit for presidential candidates. If someone is 90 or 80 I don't know how that can influence the electorate not to vote for someone who is younger, I don't see any logic behind that," said Makwangwala.

        MCP participants at the workshop also vehemently objected to the proposal.

        MCP vice president Nicholas Dausi in an interview said: "There is no constitution in Africa which stipulates an upper age limit. So it would be strange in Malawi to have an upper age limit for presidential candidates."

        MDP President Kamlepo Kalua also opposed the need to have an upper age limit.

        "If we have personalities in mind that we want to discriminate against then it is unfortunate. The constitution we want to build is a guiding document for future generations and it should not bar certain individuals on the basis of grudges," he said.

        The Malawi Law Constitution Issues Paper of March 2006 says several submissions that were received put an upper presidential age limit in the Constitution.

        "It is argued that it is common sense that mental knowledge faculties tend to fail with age. As regards what the actual age limit should be the submissions are far from being agreed. The range is from 60 years to 80 years," read submissions in the Issues Paper.

        On whether MPs should double as ministers, Kalua said this should be the case.

        Makwangwala also said it is not right for MPs to serve as ministers because the Legislature, another arm of government, is reduced while the Executive branch is beefed up from another arm of government.

        "There is no separation of powers when MPs double as ministers," said Makwangwala.

        But Pillane said there is no problem for MPs to work as ministers as well, saying MPs are elected by the President.

        "One can serve both posts. There have been no problems before for people to double," said Pillane.

        The Centre for Multiparty Democracy funded the workshop through the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy.

        The objective was to come up with a collective position on the Issues Paper which will be presented to the Special Law Commission that will be constituted soon.


        Mussa hails new driving licence

        by Zainah Liwanda, 22 May 2006 - 06:58:52

        Transport and Public Works Minister Henry Mussa last week said the design of the Malawi-Sadc driving licence would guard against forgery and ensure that only skilled and legitimate drivers of particular vehicles are licensed.

        Mussa was speaking at the official launch of the licences in Lilongwe where he announced that traffic police would from July enforce speed limits and sober driving using Breathalysers which his ministry is in the process of procuring.

        The minister said financial constraints are the reason for the delay in procuring the equipment but assured that by July they would be available.

        "With the new equipment, the days of those who believe in the thrill of drink and driving are numbered," warned Mussa.

        Mussa added that with the new licence, government is optimistic that the country's roads would be safe.

        Acting Director of Road Traffic James Chirwa said the features that distinguish the new from the old licences are the Malawi national flag and a ghost image of the driver's photograph, among others.

        Those with old licences, according to Chirwa, are expected to get the new ones after the expiry of the former.


        UDF demands investigation on Kasambara

        by Rabecca Theu, 22 May 2006 - 06:30:46

        The United Democratic Front (UDF) has asked government to investigate Ralph Kasambara on allegations of abuse of office while he was attorney general.

        UDF publicity secretary Sam Mpasu told the press Sunday that the party is neither amused or saddened by the removal of the former AG but asked government to institute investigations on Kasambara.

        "Beyond the removal of the Attorney General, we now urge President Mutharika to institute investigation against Mr Kasambara into allegations that have made rounds in the public domain during the recent past. These include: Mrs Helen Singh and SS Rent-a-Car; SGS and ITS saga; ...........the use of Malawi Police Service in the arrest of three Chronicle journalists and the handling of Mrs Rubina Kawonga," said Mpasu.

        Mpasu also accused Kasambara of awarding government contracts to Lawson and Company where he was a senior partner.

        "We urge government to thoroughly investigate the former AG. We also ask government to cautiously select the new AG ," said Mpasu, who was accompanied by the party's Secretary General Kennedy Makwangwala, leader of the party in Parliament George Mtafu, chief whip Leonard Mangulama and a member of the executive Hophmally Makande.

        But Minister of Information Patricia Kaliati said UDF should give offer its advice to the Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB).

        "They should advise bodies like the Anti-Corruption Bureau to conduct the investigations and why are they saying this now? Is it because Kasambara has been fired? This is not a personal issue. If they have other pressing issues they should just say so. These arguments should have come up earlier on when the said cases were happening," she said.

        Kasambara asked UDF to proceed with the mission of urging government to investigate him.

        "They can do their job. Everyone has a right to lobby for anything they want in the country. UDF has a right to do that, let them go ahead," he said.

        Kasambara was relieved of his duties as AG by the President last week. Government has not given reasons behind the removal.


        Zambia: Malawians Grab Zambian Land

        The Times of Zambia (Ndola)

        May 18, 2006

        Posted to the web May 19, 2006

        Andrew Lungu


        MALAWIANS who have encroached on both the 'no-man's' and part of the Zambian land at the Mwami border in Eastern Province have plucked out some beacons that were used in the demarcation of the border.

        The Malawians are now using the beacons as stools in their newly-established villages on Zambian land.

        Eastern Province Minister, Boniface Nkhata, said in Chipata yesterday that if the situation was not controlled urgently, Zambia would lose huge tracts of land to Malawians migrating into Zambian in large numbers.

        A check at the Zambia-Malawi border showed a number of beacons had been vandalised and new structures constructed on the 'no man's' land and a large portion of Zambian land.

        Mr Nkhata said the trend extended to many parts of the province bordering the two countries.

        "A large portion of Zambian land has been taken up by the Malawians starting from the Chama boundary up to the Mwami border.

        "The weighbridge at the Mwami border was initially in Zambia from the time both countries gained independence from Britain, but now the bridge is on Malawian soil," Mr Nkhata said.

        The minister, who is former Chama District Commissioner, said there was similar encroachment in Lundazi and Chama districts where Zambia shares a boundary with Malawi.

        He said a Malawian farmer identified as Mr Mfune had cultivated 71.5 hectares on Zambian land and employed about 265 Malawian workers.

        "Khombe Farm in Chama district in Kanyerere's area, along the Muyombe road which leads to Northern Province where this Malawian farmer has cultivated a vast land is on the Zambian territory," he said.

        Workers on the farm admitted that they were farming on Zambian soil but could not go back to Malawi because the land in that country was inadequate for cultivation.

        Mr Nkhata appealed to the ministry of Lands to urgently release money for the demarcation of the Zambia-Malawi border to avoid further land disputes between the two countries.

        Meanwhile, the Immigration Department in Livingstone has arrested a couple and another man, all Zimbabweans, for working in Zambia without permits.

        They were arrested at Gwembe village yesterday where they worked for Into Africa, a tour operating company that provides bush dinners and breakfast.

        According to the Immigration Department in Livingstone, the trio entered Zambia through the Victoria Falls border as visitors but decided to work for the company illegally.

        Last week, immigration officers arrested 10 Zimbabwean traders and six Ethiopians for entering and staying in Zambia illegally.

        The Zimbabwean traders were warned and cautioned and later released.

        The Ethiopians were arrested at Konje Guest House when they ran out of money to proceed to Botswana.



        Zim unions, MDC still plan anti-govt protests

        Harare, Zimbabwe

        22 May 2006 11:51

        Zimbabwe's biggest labour federation on Saturday threatened to call massive demonstrations against the government over poor salaries and worsening living conditions for workers in the country.

        The threats are ratcheting up pressure against President Robert Mugabe's government after similar threats by the biggest opposition party in the country, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), about two months ago.

        Speaking at the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) conference on Saturday, the labour body's president, Lovemore Matombo, said the powerful union wants the government to award workers salaries that match the country's ever-rising inflation.

        "I can assure you we will stage massive demonstrations to force them [employers] to award workers minimum salaries that tally with the poverty datum line," said Matombo.

        Matombo did not say when exactly the ZCTU would order workers to strike.

        Opposition protests

        Meanwhile, the MDC on Sunday said it will push ahead with plans for anti-government protests, saying victory in a key by-election at the weekend was a "sign the electorate supported its policies", including democratic mass resistance.

        A spokesperson of the main faction of the splintered MDC, Nelson Chamisa, said victory over Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF and a rival MDC faction in a Saturday by-election in Harare's Budiriro constituency is a sign Zimbabweans still have confidence in party leader Morgan Tsvangirai and his policies.

        Tsvangirai, the founding leader of the MDC, heads the main rump of the opposition party whose candidate, Emmanuel Chisvuure, polled 7 949 votes to win the Budiriro House of Assembly seat.

        Gabriel Chaibva of the other faction of the MDC, led by prominent academic Arthur Mutambara, garnered 504 votes while Zanu-PF's Jeremiah Bvirindi polled 3 961 votes.

        "This election showed that the electorate still has confidence in the MDC [Tsvangirai-led] leadership and its policies," Chamisa told independent news service ZimOnline.

        He added: "We will now move to consolidate our position * we still believe in mass protests. Until we have attained our goals we see no reason why we should abandon [plans for protests]."

        Tsvangirai has threatened to call mass protests this winter against Mugabe and his government. He says the mass protests, whose date he is still to name, are meant to force Mugabe to relinquish power to a government of national unity to be tasked to write a new and democratic Constitution that would ensure free and fair elections held under international supervision.

        Mugabe and his government, who had hoped for victory in Budiriro to show they were recapturing urban support from a splintered MDC, have not taken idly the opposition's threats to call mass protests, with the veteran president warning Tsvangirai he would be "dicing with death" if he ever attempted to instigate a Ukraine-style popular revolt in Zimbabwe.


        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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