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  • Christine Chumbler
    Poor response to Malawi s growing hunger Benita Van Eyssen | Blantyre, Malawi 14 October 2005 10:48 The twin infants wrestle for their mother s breasts as the
    Message 1 of 1046 , Oct 14, 2005
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      Poor response to Malawi's growing hunger

      Benita Van Eyssen | Blantyre, Malawi

      14 October 2005 10:48

      The twin infants wrestle for their mother's breasts as the young woman stops to catch her breath. Weak and exhausted she is standing in the shade of a large tree at the United Nations food distribution centre in rural Malawi, one of Africa's poorest
      countries.

      For the fourth time in as many months Agata George has walked the five kilometre path to the centre from her village in Malawi's southernmost Nsanje district -- her daughters slung over both shoulders.

      As one of an estimated 1,2-million Malawians registered for food aid with a UN World Food Programme relief effort, she has arrived to collect her family's monthly ration of 50kg of maize.

      Prolonged drought has brought hardship, uncertainty and fear to Malawi where subsistence farming is a way of life. Ordinary people in the parched rural districts of the landlocked nation have looked on helplessly as the maize harvest shrivels to the lowest levels in a decade.

      Malawi has reached a dangerous point in its chronic food crisis with an estimated 2,9-million people expected to need food aid in the coming months. Most of them are in the south of the country.

      "When the rain did not come in January, I realised that we were going to have a problem of hunger," says George.

      In the last 12 months her tiny field on the banks of the Shire river has produced only three 50kg bags of maize -- a third of its output during the previous three harvests.

      A modest profit from the sale of two bales of tobacco has long been spent on commercially available maize sold at incredibly high prices, leaving no money to buy seeds and fertilisers for the new planting season, she says.

      Without urgent intervention the numbers of hungry people could soon climb to about five-million in a country of 11-million people, the UN has warned in persistent appeals to wealthy donor nations.

      Against this grim outlook, however, UN officials stress that they are wary of warning about "famine". But they concede: early signs of a humanitarian disaster have became evident in Malawi.

      Aid agencies are particularly concerned in light of an outpouring of international donor assistance to other parts of the world that has seen the plight of George and millions like her go virtually unnoticed for months.

      "There's Sudan and Niger and the tsunami in Asia and now the earthquake in Pakistan," WFP public affairs officer for Africa, Peter Smerdon points out. Other NGO's agree.

      "We've known since February or March that the rainfall had not been normal and we knew this was going to be a difficult time," confirms Oxfam regional humanitarian coordinator Neil Townsend.

      Malnutrition among children in Malawi is on the rise. The latest nutritional survey shows a 29% increase in the south and a 40% increase in central parts of the country. A second survey due this month will indicate similar or even higher levels,
      aid workers predict.

      At the donor-funded Montford Mission nutritional rehabilitation unit in the Chikwawa district, 50km south of the commercial capital Blantyre, an emaciated one year old clings to his grandmother.

      He has been in her care since his mother died of HIV/Aids, according to health workers. "Most of the children that come here are severely malnourished and very sick because there is no food at home and they are from very poor families," says resident nurse Getrude Mkwapu.

      "We give them skimmed milk, corn porridge, vegetable oil, relish, eggs and chicken -- the foods that keep the body strong. It takes about two months for the children to recover," she says.

      However: "Some come when it is too late or don't come and then they die."

      High malnutrition levels are just one of the factors indicating that people are running out of food earlier than in previous years, remarks Townsend. "But some people aren't able to find ways of coping. These early signs are worrying signs," he says.

      The price of commercially available maize has soared to levels beyond what most people can afford. Malawi's Ministry of Agriculture recently pointed to a 70% increase in the price of the staple crop.

      Prostitution and crime are also seen to be on the rise while some subsistence farmers have long sold their assets in order to feed their families.

      Back home in Ntolongo village near the country's border with Mozambique, George and her husband Haroon Shuva explain that aside from their single daily meal of WFP maize, they have also come to rely on wild leaves and roots to survive.

      Shuva says: "Even our drought crops of cassava and sweet potatoes were not enough to help this year. We don't have money for anything. We cannot buy clothes or materials like timber to complete our house," he says pointing to the rudimentary clay and thatch structure he began building in 2001.

      "We use all the money that we are paid when we work as casuals in other people's fields for food. I can not make my life better in any other way," he explains, and stresses: "In Malawi we have always been poor but now we feel that we really can say we have nothing."

      Townsend agrees that high levels of poverty in Malawi leave its people "inherently very vulnerable".

      Under prevailing conditions this vulnerability is seen to be generally increasing.

      "We'll see more of it in future. What we need is to find better ways of addressing poverty and the problem of HIV/Aids," he suggests.

      High levels of HIV/Aids infection -- officially declared at around 14% of the population in 2003 -- is one of the leading factors that has plunged life expectancy in Malawi to 39 years.

      Describing the crisis in an impoverished society like Malawi, Smerdon highlights the logistical challenges and the time -- usually four months -- that it will take to get donor funding and food.

      The WFP is expanding its operation -- funded largely so far by Malawi's former colonial power Britain and the European Union -- with a view to providing for at least 2,9-million people in the coming months.

      The number of people currently receiving food aid in the hard-hit southern districts nearly equals the number of people countrywide that relied on WFP donations during chronic food shortages in 2002.

      Oxfam remains hopeful that the world will come to the assistance of Malawi as it stands at a "crossroads", says Townsend: "There is still a big question mark over the number of people in Malawi who will need food in the next year and whether there is enough money." - Sapa-DPA

      *****

      Malawi: Opposition Attacks Govt On Food Crisis

      UN Integrated Regional Information Networks

      October 13, 2005
      Posted to the web October 13, 2005

      Lilongwe

      Malawi's food security crisis fuelled a fierce battle in parliament on Thursday, with the opposition approving a motion urging government to declare a state of national disaster.

      An opposition Malawi Congress Party member of parliament (MP) proposed the motion criticising government's handling of the food crisis, which was opposed by MPs aligned with President Bingu wa Mutharika.


      The opposition, which on paper holds a majority of seats, also asked Mutharika to explain the whereabouts of US $41.9 million approved by parliament to buy maize about three months ago.

      Malawi is in the grip of food shortages brought on by the worst drought in a decade, compounded by the late delivery of fertilisers and seed. The UN's World Food Programme (WFP) has warned that the number of people in need could rise to five million - almost half the population - in the coming months.

      The government plans to feed 2.2 million in the north and centre of the country through a voucher scheme backed by the UK's Department for International Development (DFID), while WFP focuses on the harder-hit south. Mutharika has also launched a Feed the Nation Fund and asked Malawians to dig into their pockets to help the needy.

      Minister of Agriculture and Irrigation Uladi Mussa told parliament that the government had bought 22,000 mt of maize for commercial sale, while another 20,000 mt had been set aside for aid distribution.

      Minister of Information Patricia Kaliati has accused the opposition of politicising hunger and called on MPs to establish distribution points for government-bought maize in their constituencies.

      Analyst Boniface Dulani pointed out that Malawi's opposition and civil society organisations have been urging the government to declare a state of disaster to enable international relief agencies to step up efforts to provide humanitarian relief.

      "Ironically, the very same opposition has been criticised for distracting the government from tackling the food security crisis by its attempts to impeach the president; now that they are raising the food crisis, the government wants to send the message that it has everything under control," Dulani commented.

      Political bickering between Mutharika and his political rival, former president of the country and now chairman of the United Democratic Front (UDF), Bakili Muluzi, has been raging since June. The UDF has proposed an impeachment motion because Mutharika left the party after it sponsored him in national elections.

      Mutharika formed his own political organisation, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), but which has no seats in parliament.

      The British High Commissioner to Malawi, David Pearey, warned politicians last week against placing personal ambition ahead of the concerns of ordinary Malawians.

      Food experts previously estimated the number of people facing food shortages during the 2005/06 marketing year (April/March) at around 4.2 million, or 34 percent of the total population, but that figure was based on a maize price-band of 19-23 kwacha/kg (about 14 to 18 US cents).

      Some southern districts have already recorded prices of nearly 33 kwacha (about 26 US cents) - way beyond the pockets of the poor.

      UN agencies are due to meet next week to discuss a possible revision to an $88 million "flash" appeal to donors launched in August.

      According to the UN Development Programme, about 65 percent of Malawi's population live on less than $1 a day.

      *****

      Implement resolutions or you'll go, Tembo warns govt
      by Zainah Liwanda, 14 October 2005 - 07:53:12
      MCP President John Tembo Thursday warned government against ignoring resolutions passed by the House on the food crisis, saying the "people who voted the government in have the machinery to remove it."
      Tembo, who is also leader of opposition in the House, issued the warning in an interview soon after Mangochi South MP Lilian Patel (UDF) moved a motion which, among other things, asked government to declare Malawi a state of national disaster, to implement a universal fertilizer subsidy without delay and to provide free food and fertilizer to the aged, orphans and persons living with disabilities.
      The motion was seconded by MP for Lilongwe North West Ishmael Chafukira (MCP).
      Tembo said resolutions passed by the House are supposed to be law, saying in the past, government has disregarded resolutions by the National Assembly.
      "We have no confidence in a government which goes against representatives of the people. When government disregards [resolutions], they...should be punished. The people cannot use the same instruments that government uses, but they have their own, they are voters, they put in place government and also have got the machinery to remove it," said Tembo.
      Leader of government business Henry Chimunthu Banda said since the motion was just passed, government was yet to consider and look at the resolutions before making its comment.
      Leader of UDF George Nga Mtafu also warned government to stop politicking about the food crisis.
      "This time around if they do not implement our resolutions, we have penalties. We want results before the next sitting of Parliament in November, that's when we shall take stock and that stock will be very punitive," said Mtafu.
      Moving the motion, Patel condemned the manner in which government was handling the food crisis, saying there was need for corrective measures to be put in place to ensure that rightful steps are followed to address the problem.
      "The House, therefore, resolves that government should declare a state of national disaster and ask the international community, in particular, all those agencies that specialise in providing food to famine stricken communities to come to our rescue. Government should implement the universal fertilizer subsidy without fail," said Patel.
      Earlier during debate on the motion, MP for Zomba Likangala Calister Chimombo admitted that government was implementing the Targeted Input Programme, instead of the universal fertilizer subsidy because the legislators only advocated for the subsidy, but did not advise government where the additional money for the universal subsidy would come from.
      She said about K11 billion was needed for the universal subsidy and that by allocating only K4 billion, it was clear when Parliament adjourned last sitting that the legislators had passed a TIP.
      Health Minister Hetherwick Ntaba concurred with Chimombo, saying there was no way Parliament would expect government to implement the universal fertiliser subsidy costing about K15 billion when they only approved only K4 billion.
      But the statements did not go down well with opposition members, who accused government of contradicting itself, saying it has always insisted that it was implementing a universal fertilizer subsidy.
      Chairperson of the Budget and Finance Committee Ted Kalebe said it was not true that Parliament had not identified sources of the additional costs for universal fertilizer, saying government was asked to reduce on other allocations.
      Lucy Davidson, communications officer for World Food Programme (WFP) declined to comment when asked to say whether or not Parliament's resolutions were workable, saying the official spokesperson for Disaster Preparedness was outside the country.

      *****

      British NGO donates K22m medical supplies
      by Lucas Bottoman, 14 October 2005 - 08:25:12
      Africa Health Limited, a British non-governmental organisation involved in the training of nurses in developing countries, on Wednesday donated medical and surgical supplies valued at about K22 million to the Ministry of Health.
      Africa Health Limited Director Chris Prinsloo said during the presentation ceremony in Lilongwe that his organisation feels compelled to provide medical supplies to developing countries to improve the delivery of quality health services.
      "Our participation defines us as true global citizens and lends a human face to the ongoing struggle of mankind to survive these changing and turbulent times," he said.
      Prinsloo said his organisation made the donation to ensure a safe and conducive environment for both the health care staff and patients.
      "This donation which include digital thermometers, surgical dressings, examination gloves and antibiotics is particularly important as we contribute to creating a safer working environment for health care professionals," said Prinsloo.
      Health and Population Services Minister Hetherwick Ntaba expressed gratitude to Africa Health Limited for what he called timely assistance that would benefit many needy Malawians in addressing their health problems.
      "These are very timely gifts when the country is grappling with frequent stock-outs of medical and surgical supplies," said Ntaba.
      The minister applauded the exemplary contribution of the private sector through Africa Health Limited towards the welfare of Malawians to strengthen partnership between public and private sectors.
      Ntaba assured the donors that the donation will be used for the intended purpose to inspire them to give more in future.

      *****

      Malawi changes agent on fertiliser deal
      by Edward Chitsulo, 14 October 2005 - 08:19:42
      Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe has said Malawi is still dealing with a Saudi based firm, Pioneer Chemicals Company, in procuring fertiliser from Ukraine and Thailand, but has only changed a contact person.
      Gondwe made the clarification Thursday, following an earlier story that linked the process to an al Qaeda connection, as reported from Parliament. Gondwe said government was linked to the Saudi Arabia company through their UK-based agent.
      "We knew about the UK-based agent because it was taking us long to establish letters of credit [for the transaction]," said Gondwe, adding that the Saudi company, which acts as an agent between buyers and manufactures, deals with many countries.
      But he said when there were many questions on the UK agent, Malawi felt suspicious and decided to break the link.
      "We are now dealing with somebody in Spain," said Gondwe, noting that it is not easy to directly deal with manufactures. "You have to first establish yourself well with them before you deal directly."
      Gondwe said Pioneer "are a reputable company. Everybody is dealing with them."
      He said the suspicions and questions on the England-based agent are what brought in the al Qaeda element he mentioned in Parliament on Wednesday.

      *****

      US ambassador to Zim caught 'trespassing'

      Johannesburg, South Africa



      14 October 2005 07:04

      United States Ambassador to Zimbabwe Christopher Dell has been caught trespassing in Harare, Zimbabwe's Herald Online reported on Friday.

      It said security forces found him entering a restricted security zone in the National Botanical Gardens in Harare.

      Zimbabwean authorities regarded Dell's actions as a deliberate attempt to provoke a diplomatic incident.

      "Such action was taken in a calculated disregard of the rules governing relations between states and was clearly intended to provoke an unwarranted diplomatic incident," Zimbabwe's foreign ministry said.

      The Herald said Zimbabwe had lodged a formal protest with the US
      embassy in Harare over Dell's conduct.

      The incident happened on Monday at 4.30pm when Dell deliberately ignored "No entry security zone" signs posted in the vicinity of the restricted security area.

      The foreign ministry said he "purposefully" proceeded to the security zone.

      Dell would have continued to enter the security installations had members of the presidential guard not stopped him.

      Information and Publicity Secretary George Charamba said the US envoy should count his blessings.

      "The ambassador must consider himself very lucky that he is dealing with a professional army that the Zimbabwe National Army is," Charamba said.

      "Elsewhere, and definitely in America, he would have been a dead man. His adventure is really dangerous." - AFP
    • 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.

        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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