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  • Christine Chumbler
    Bingu Says No to Muluzi After Appeal to Mutharika to Drop Probe The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe) October 28, 2005 Posted to the web October 28, 2005
    Message 1 of 1046 , Nov 1, 2005
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      Bingu Says 'No' to Muluzi After Appeal to Mutharika to Drop Probe

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      October 28, 2005
      Posted to the web October 28, 2005

      LEVISON MWASE
      Lilongwe

      Former President Bakili Muluzi this afternoon faces tough questions from the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) on how he pocketed over K1 billion from donors, just days after President Bingu wa Mutharika threw out his predecessor's plea to order the graft busting body to stop the probe.

      Muluzi, who is also the national chairman of the United Democratic Front (UDF), is expected to explain why and how K1.4 billion from donor countries, foreign organisations and local private firms allegedly ended up in his pockets.

      A letter of notice from ACB director Gustave Kaliwo to Muluzi dated 17th October 2005 says the money was deposited into personal bank accounts during Muluzi's 10-year tenure of office.

      But sources confided in The Chronicle that Muluzi telephoned Mutharika immediately after he got the notice to appear before the ACB, pleading with him to stop the ACB from probing into his private bank accounts.

      The sources said Muluzi also pleaded with Mutharika to advise the ACB not to leak such sensitive information to the media.

      Mutharika is said to have rejected the pleas outright, arguing that the ACB is an independent body that needs no interference.

      However, State House Press Officer Chikumbutso Mtumodzi said in response to a questionnaire that, to his knowledge there had been no communication between Mutharika and Muluzi on the issue.

      Muluzi's spokesperson Sam Mpasu could neither deny nor confirm that Muluzi had had a conversation with Mutharika on the ACB notice to appear before it in Blantyre this afternoon. He confirmed that Muluzi will indeed appear before the ACB in Blantyre today. "The national chairman has no choice. But what we are saying is that he is a former Head of State and that the bank accounts being mentioned are private. As a country, we need to respect banking secrets," he said.

      Mpasu further accused the ACB of deliberately leaking the summons to the media, describing it as a ploy by government to damage the reputation of Muluzi. "What has happened is a big blow to the reputation of the country because you do not mention foreign governments in internal matters of a country," said Mpasu.

      According to the ACB summons, Muluzi is expected to answer questions relating to financial transactions he had with foreign governments and local private firms between 1999 and November, 2004.

      The ACB would also like Muluzi to produce all documents in his possession or under his control relating to transactions he had with the government of Libya, the Kingdom of Morroco, Rwanda and the Republic of China on Taiwan.

      According to the ACB summons, Muluzi received over K1.4 billion in donations from these governments and local private firms which he later deposited into a personal account in the period.

      The largest donation, according to the ACB letter, was from the Republic of China amounting to K700 million that Muluzi deposited into a personal account.

      However, Counsellor at the ROC Embassy in Lilongwe, Jimmy Wu told one of the local dailies last week that he was not aware of money from Taiwan that is alleged to have been offered to Muluzi in his individual capacity. "All I know is that there is a government-to-government cooperation and the money that comes from the RoC is for development programmes in Malawi," said Wu.

      During the third term debate in 2002 and campaign for presidential and parliamentary elections last year, Muluzi was constantly questioned over the source of funds he was using to win support.

      Muluzi constantly insisted it was personal money from his many business enterprises.

      President Bingu wa Mutharika, who resigned from the UDF, the party that sponsored him into power, said during his inaugural speech in Blantyre that his administration would embark on a 'zero tolerance' campaign on corruption.

      Mutharika resiged from the UDF, accusing the former ruling party of high-level corruption and alleged that Muluzi was attempting to rule the country from his BCA Hill residence.

      Soon after Mutharika took power, the Director of Public Prosecutions and the ACB pounced on former Shire Bus Lines Chief Executive and Muluzi's close ally and strategist Humphrey Mvula and former Finance Minister Friday Jumbe.

      The ACB also asked Muluzi to explain how he built the multi-million kwacha Keza Office Park Building in Blantyre.

      The police said they have stepped up security around ACB offices and the city centre in Blantyre during the time that Muluzi is expected to be taking questions from the organisation to minimize supportive action from rowdy UDF supporters.

      *****

      MCP Joins UDF in Impeachment

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      October 28, 2005
      Posted to the web October 28, 2005

      LEVISON MWASE
      Lilongwe

      The Malawi Congress Party (MCP) President John Tembo has finally accepted an offer from the United Democratic Front (UDF) to act as state president in the event that members of parliament impeach Bingu wa Mutharika.

      Last week, Tembo ordered all the 60 MCP MPs to support the actual impeachment of Mutharika when it reaches voting stage, an indication that an agreement has been reached with the UDF, which is frustrated because of Mutharika's resignation from the party in February this year amid accusations of high-level corruption among UDF top officials.

      Some members of parliament who attended the caucus at Tembo's Area 10 Residence in Lilongwe said Tembo told the MPs that the party stands to benefit a lot if Mutharika is ousted from power through the impeachment this week or next week.

      The MPs however said the caucus agreed not to openly support the impeachment because of its sensitivity and lack of popular support. "The position is that all MCP MPs should not openly support the impeachment but vote in its favour in the National Assembly," said our source.

      According to the MP, Tembo told the caucus that he has been assured by the UDF that he, by virtue of being Leader of Opposition in Parliament; he would head the National Governing Council (NGC) as acting President for 60 days (three months) before calling for fresh elections. "Our president also told us that the UDF has also assured him that cabinet posts would be shared based on the number of MPs that a party has in the House," said another MP who attended the caucus.

      Sources in the party said there is a proposal that apart from leading the NGC, the MCP would get 10 cabinet posts in the proposed 30 -member cabinet.

      The UDF, according to the sources, would get 10 cabinet posts while the remaining 10 posts would be shared among other opposition parties that would support the impeachment.

      MCP Vice President and Publicity Secretary Nicholas Dausi refused to comment on the issue when contacted, saying Tembo was the right person to comment on the matter.

      Tembo could not be reached for comment.

      However, most MCP MPs interviewed expressed fear that President Bingu wa Mutharika would refuse to assent to the NGC bill for it to become a law. "The other major setback is that the NGC can successfully be contested in Court. The Constitution under Section 83 (4) states that the Vice President would take over for the whole remaining part of the term should the office of the President become vacant," said one MCP MP.

      The sources said at least 20 MCP MPs have expressed that they would vote against the impeachment, saying it has no tangible benefit to the MCP and the nation.

      Information Minister Patricia Kaliati said it was unfortunate that the MCP has resolved to have Mutharika removed. "If that is true, then it is very unfortunate. Malawians gave the President the mandate to govern this country for five years and it is unfortunate that other people want to nullify that mandate because of greed," said Kaliati.

      During the caucus the MCP also agreed to support procedures for impeaching a sitting Head of State or the Vice President.

      The UDF has already prepared eight grounds for the removal of Mutharika.

      However the Constitution under Section 11 (4) and 86 (e) gives the impeached President a chance to challenge his removal in a higher court of the country. "Any law that outs or purports to oust the jurisdiction of the courts to entertain matters pertaining to this Constitution shall be invalid," states Section 11(4).

      *****

      Malawi Poverty Rate Worsens As Launch of IHS2 is Postponed

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      October 28, 2005
      Posted to the web October 28, 2005

      CHIKONDI CHIYEMBEKEZA
      Lilongwe

      There has been no change in the country's poverty rate since 1998, the Second Integrated Household Survey (IHS2) for 2005 has revealed, indicating that 52.4 percent of the population still live in dire poverty.

      It says rural areas are worse on non-income dimensions of poverty as compared to urban, saying urban poverty is non-negligible.

      The survey however, says "the IHS2 estimate of 52.4 percent poverty rate should not be compared to the 65.3 percent estimate in IHS1 since survey instruments and methods were revised and improved." However, the launch of the survey in Lilongwe last week Thursday was postponed prematurely because President Bingu wa Mutharika had not responded to the memo the Minister of Economic Planning and Development (EPD) David Faiti had sent to him the previous day to get his (the president's) input.

      He said the memo highlighted some of the grey areas that the President was supposed to see. "My minister was trying to find out from HE if the survey is acceptable," said the Principal Secretary of EPD, Patrick Kamwendo.

      He said the minister was "uncomfortable" to proceed with the launch until the views from the President are heard. "My ministry has been advised that we should postpone (the launch) until we have heard and received the views from the President," he said and added that the survey has to be withdrawn immediately.

      According to the summary table of poverty headcount by place of residence, it shows that rural poverty is worse that urban poverty which stands at 55.9 percent and 25.4 percent respectively.

      In terms of region, the South is the worst hit with 59.7 percent, followed by the northern region at 54.1 percent and Central at 44.2 percent.

      As per the districts, Nsanje in the south, Mchinji in the Central and Chitipa in the North are the worst hit by poverty. Nsanje's rate is at 76.0 percent and that of Mchinji at 59.6 percent with Chitipa at 67.2 percent.

      The survey also shows that most of the poor in Malawi, with 49 percent live in the Southern region and 11 percent in the North and 34 percent n the south.

      And poverty profile in terms of gender shows that overall 58.5 percent of women are poor as compared to 51.0 percent for the men.

      Poverty in rural areas is more severe that in the urban areas, the survey shows. In the rural, 60.8 percent of women are poor in comparison to the 54.7 percent of the menfolk whereas in the urban 31.8 percent of female are engulfed in poverty, which is much more worse than that of men at 24.4 percent.

      The survey further shows that adult literacy for people above 15 years old in the country is higher in men than in women. The IHS2 shows that more than 70 percent of men are literate compared to 50 percent for women.

      In the North, the IHS2 shows that Nkhatabay is the second poverty stricken district with 63.0 percent, followed by Rumphi at 61.6 percent and Karonga 54.9 percent.

      And in the Central, following Mchinji is Salima at 57.3 percent, then Dedza at 54.6 percent and Ntcheu at 51.6 percent.

      In the South in terms of poverty rate, Nsanje is followed by Mulanje at 68.6 percent then Chikwawa at 65.8 percent and then Thyolo at 64.9 percent.

      And in the Eastern region Machinga's poverty rate is the worst at 73.7 percent, followed by Zomba rural at 70 percent and Mangochi at 60.7 percent.

      The first IHS was done in 1997-98 and the second was conducted between March 2004 and March 2005.

      *****

      Leaders Demand More Powers On Environmental Protection

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      October 28, 2005
      Posted to the web October 28, 2005

      Hopkins Mundango Nyirenda
      Lilongwe

      Traditional leaders have demanded that they be given more powers to punish those who cut down trees wantonly in forest reserves.

      The remarks were made in Lilongwe where 44 traditional leaders from 15 districts in the country met to discuss their role in Community Based Natural Resources Management (CBNRM) that was organized by Community Partnership for Sustainable Resource Management (COMPASS).

      Senior Chief Mwaulambya from Chitipa said that chief's roles are not recognized and respected in regards to natural resources management because some Acts of Parliament are not explicit of the traditional leaders' role in such undertakings. "There have been times when villagers have been caught cutting down trees in protected areas but when they are brought before a chief, the culprits challenge them, saying they have no powers to prosecute them," said Mwaulambya.

      Concurring with the chiefs, the Executive Director for Centre for Environmental Policy and Advocacy Gracian Banda said powers of traditional leaders have been reduced because of the Local Government Act which only provides that the chiefs are ex-officio members.

      Banda said this means the Act limits roles chiefs play in decision making because they don't have voting powers in their respective assemblies

      "This needs to be reviewed to give traditional leaders substantive role in the assembly. Instead, it is the district assembly which has more powers out smarting the chiefs who should have influence over customary land," said Banda.

      In her presentation, the Assistant Decentralization Specialist for COMPASS Priska Munthali said the role of chiefs in the forest sector are explicitly outlined while in the Fisheries and National Parks and Wildlife are not visibly outlined despite the policy being conducive to sustainable management.

      "There is a need for synchronizing the Fisheries and National Parks to the Environmental Act so that the rightful role of chiefs in CBNRM should command respect. Otherwise if things continue as they are, it is a set back to sustainable natural resources management," said Munthali.

      Senior Chief Mabuka of Mulanje criticized government of paying mere lip service to the powers it claims is invested in traditional leaders, saying the reality on the ground is the opposite.

      He said in his area, there is Milonde Forest Reserve where he said patrol-men of the forest connive with business people to cut down trees wantonly, undermining traditional leaders who are supposed to protect the forest for future generations.

      *****

      Angry Opposition Asks Donors to Keep Out of Internal Politics

      UN Integrated Regional Information Networks

      October 28, 2005
      Posted to the web October 28, 2005

      Lilongwe

      Malawi's opposition have asked donors to keep out of their country's "internal matters" following a letter from foreign envoys criticising an attempt to impeach President Bingu wa Mutharika.

      In a remarkable development on Thursday the donor community, including South Africa, wrote to Malawian political leaders voicing their concern with the impeachment proceedings when the country was experiencing a "serious and prolonged food crisis".

      Some members of the opposition United Democratic Front (UDF) have described the donors' statement as "unfortunate".

      Speaking during a phone-in programme on a local radio station, a former UDF MP, Phillip Bwanali, commented, "Donors must not dictate to us on what to do - Malawi is a sovereign state, and what is happening here is an internal matter and does not involve the donors."

      Thursday's letter, also endorsed by the US, the European Union and the British, Norwegian and French governments, is the third intervention by the donor community in response to the expanding political crisis in Malawi.

      Political bickering between Mutharika and his political rival, Bakili Muluzi, former president of the country and now chairman of the UDF, has been raging since June, when Mutharika left the party after it sponsored him in the 2004 general elections.

      Mutharika formed his own political organisation, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). The UDF hit back with the impeachment charge, accusing Mutharika of using US $300,000 in public money to launch the DPP.

      The motion delayed approval of the country's budget, causing concern in the donor and humanitarian community. In mid-October, British High Commissioner David Pearey said the political crisis could retard the country's development, and warned politicians against putting personal ambition ahead of the concerns of ordinary Malawians.

      Critical donors have warned that a government coming to power after a "hasty and less than transparent constitutional process would be less likely to command the respect and support of the international community, and could mar the image of the country abroad."

      Opposition MPs have proposed that a National Governing Council (NGC), headed by Malawi Congress Party (MCP) president John Tembo, run the country for six months in the event of Mutharika's impeachment.

      However, donors have commented that, "given the uncertain and transitory nature" of the proposed NGC, "we cannot be certain of being able to build a satisfactory relationship with such a body".

      A member of the diplomatic community added that the letter should not be read as a possible threat to continued donor funding.

      Donor community opinion is vital to the country's economy. Political analyst Boniface Dulani pointed out that although Malawi was a sovereign state, "financially, it is fair to say the donors do run matters, since they contribute a big chunk of the national budget". Donors financed 83 percent of Malawi's 2004/05 development budget.

      The impeachment motion, backed by the UDF, the MCP, the Alliance for Democracy and some MPs from the Republican Party, has deeply divided the country, with demonstrations for and against taking place every day.

      Mutharika was saved from impeachment by parliament on Thursday after a constitutional court order blocked the move, saying it needed to review the procedures for impeaching the president.

      Malawi's constitution provides for the impeachment of a sitting president but does not say how this should be accomplished. The opposition wants a two-thirds majority vote by the current 193-seat parliament to impeach a sitting president.

      The two largest opposition parties in parliament - the MCP and the UDF - already have the 124 votes between them if the constitutional court ruling is overturned.

      Adding further fuel to an already smouldering situation, agents of the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) investigating Muluzi's alleged misuse of $11.4 million in donor aid, raided houses belonging to Muluzi in the capital, Lilongwe, the second city, Blantyre, and his home village of Kapoloma in the Southern province.

      UDF deputy publicity secretary Mary Kaphwereza-Banda told IRIN, "In our view, we think that government wants to harass Dr Muluzi - this is persecution at its best."

      Dulani said it was not "surprising" that the donors were "wary" of the impeachment. "The leaders that are likely to benefit are the same leaders accused of corruption and mismaganegement in the past...[because of which] donor aid was suspended to Malawi until recently."

      Western donors froze balance of payments support to Malawi over corruption and governance concerns during Muluzi's 10-year tenure.


      *****

      Zanzibar president wins elections

      Zanzibar's President Amani Karume has been re-elected after Sunday's poll, the election commission has announced.
      Opposition candidate Seif Hamad has rejected the results, claiming widespread fraud and vowed to carry out threats of Ukraine-style protests.

      Earlier, police and opposition CUF activists clashed for a third day on the semi-autonomous Tanzanian islands.

      The police fired tear gas and beat CUF activists outside their party base in Zanzibar's historic Stone Town.

      The BBC's Noel Mwakugu in Zanzibar says hundreds of opposition supporters kept an overnight vigil before the police moved in, firing tear gas.

      'Doctored'

      Police were seen beating them with sticks and Red Cross workers said they had taken at least 30 injured people to local hospitals - some had been hit by rubber bullets.

      Reuters news agency reports that the CUF activists responded by throwing stones and lighting fires on the streets.

      Mr Karume got 53% against 46% for CUF (Civic United Front) candidate Seif Sharif Hamad, said Zanzibar Electoral Commission chairman Masauni Yussuf Massauni.

      "According to the law, I declare and announce that Amani Abeid Karume has been elected as the Zanzibari president," he said.

      Mr Karume's ruling CCM (Chama Cha Mapinduzi) has also retained its majority in the legislature, with 30 seats against 19 for the CUF. One seat will be rerun.

      "They doctored the results," Mr Hamad said, claiming CCM supporters were bussed in to CUF strongholds to vote illegally.

      "The ZEC has planted Zanzibar into another political crisis," he said. "We are not accepting [the results], we are going to demonstrate at a date that will be determined later."

      The claims of fraud were denied by both the CCM and the electoral commission.

      Third time unlucky

      As well as casting their ballots for a president for the islands, voters were choosing 50 members for the legislature and 139 local councillors.

      Mr Karume was running for a second term after winning elections in November 2000, while Mr Hamad was runner-up in Zanzibar's 1995 and 2000 presidential elections.

      There were also clashes after the 2000 elections, with the CUF crying foul.

      Nationwide voting across Tanzania has been postponed until 18 December due to the death of opposition vice-presidential candidate, Jumbe Rajab Jumbe.

      photos of the Zanzibari political violence at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/in_pictures/4392802.stm

      *****

      Zim opposition talks end in deadlock

      Harare, Zimbabwe

      01 November 2005 07:21

      Zimbabwe's main opposition party edged closer to a split on Monday as crisis talks to resolve differences over taking part in controversial polls next month ended in a deadlock.

      "We had a two-hour meeting to further discuss the crisis in the party, and the president and members of the management committee agreed to disagree," said Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) deputy secretary general Gift Chimanikire.

      "The president [Morgan Tsvangirai] refused to accept the national council resolution to participate in the Senate elections in violation of the party's constitution and placed himself not only above the council, but also above the constitution," he said.

      Chimanikire said after Monday's meeting of the opposition party's six top-ranking officials that there are "no prospects of another meeting" and those who have registered to contest the polls are going ahead.

      He said Tsvangirai "and his cabinet of unelected, self-seeking individuals" usurped the powers of the national council and sought to replace officials elected by the party congress.

      Chimanikire also accused Tsvangirai and other officials of inciting "hooligans through lies and misrepresentation" to harass members of a faction that voted in favour of contesting the Senate polls in the Southern African country.

      Cracks in the opposition widened last week after 26 members defied Tsvangirai's call to boycott next month's elections to a new Upper House of Parliament, which critics say is aimed at tightening the ruling party's stranglehold on the legislature.

      Tsvangirai on Thursday said party officials had resolved "to continue the dialogue with a view to finding an expeditious resolution of the dispute in the party".

      He said the MDC management committee also called on members to "immediately refrain from all forms of threats, intimidation and violence against any official or member of the party related to the dispute over the Senate election".

      As simmering divisions in the MDC became apparent two weeks ago, party leaders issued contradictory statements over the party's participation in the Senate elections.

      Tsvangirai announced a boycott, but hours later party spokesperson Paul Themba Nyathi said the MDC's supreme decision-making organ had voted to take part in the elections.

      The MDC, which won nearly half of the contested parliamentary seats in the 2000 elections, decided to contest parliamentary elections earlier this year despite concerns they would not be fair. -- Sapa-AFP

      *****

      Zimbabwe's farmers lacking 'passion'

      Fanuel Jongwe | Harare, Zimbabwe



      01 November 2005 12:26

      Zimbabwe on Tuesday launched its strongest criticism of black farmers who benefited from its controversial land reforms, saying their apathy was responsible for a serious food crisis.

      "We have a few people that are really committed to production while many others are doing nothing on the farms," Deputy Minister of Agriculture Sylvester Nguni was quoted as saying by the state-owned Herald newspaper.

      "The problem is that we gave land to people lacking the passion for farming and this is why every year production has been declining."

      He said although an ongoing drought had contributed to reduced yields, "the biggest let-down has been that people without the slightest idea of farming got land and the result has been declining agricultural output."

      Nguni's remarks at a congress of the Zimbabwe Farmers' Union came on the heels of warnings by the country's two vice-presidents that the government would reclaim under-utilised farms.

      "We will not hesitate to reclaim all the under-utilised farms and allocate [them] to other farmers," Vice-President Joseph Msika was quoted as saying two weeks ago.

      "We do not want people who simply build homes at their new farms without using the land for productive purposes and we want people to work the land to avoid chronic food shortages."

      Zimbabwe's land reforms, which began, often violently, in 2000 after the rejection in a referendum of a government-sponsored draft Constitution, have seen about 4 000 white farmers lose their properties.

      Seized land has been distributed to landless farmers in a move that the government has said is designed to correct imbalances created by colonial rule, when the majority of prime farmland was owned by about 4 500 whites.

      But critics of the land reforms say most beneficiaries lack farming knowledge and depend on government handouts while others were sitting on fallow land.

      International aid agencies estimate that about 4,3-million people out of Zimbabwe's population of 13-million require food assistance.

      Last month co-Vice-President Joyce Mujuru labelled new farmers who were under-utilising the land "saboteurs" and "perennial beggars".

      Central Bank chief Gideon Gono last week hit out at new farmers keeping farmland purely for its own sake and turning once productive farms into "weekend picnic venues" while the country is reeling under acute food shortages.

      "We are not blind to the fact that it was not land for the sake of having it and merely looking at it that mattered to our liberators. It was not about having vast pieces of land and using them as braai [barbecue] spots and weekend picnic venues," Gono said.

      Opposition lawmaker suspended
      Meanwhile, Zimbabwe's main opposition movement has suspended a lawmaker who claimed his party received $2,5-million in illegal funding from three foreign nations, a spokesperson said on Tuesday.

      Job Sikhala alleged last week that the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) had received funding from Ghana, Nigeria and Taiwan. The three countries have denied bankrolling the opposition party's operations.

      "He has been suspended for bringing the party into disrepute and his case will be looked into at the national council meeting on Saturday," said MDC spokesperson William Bango.

      "He will remain suspended pending the determination of the national council meeting."

      Sikhala made an about-turn on Thursday, saying he was speculating on the cause of a bitter feud rocking the party when he raised the issue of money.

      But the country's police said it would still proceed with investigations into the Movement for Democratic Change's funding.

      "I was merely working on speculation on what was causing divisions in the MDC," Sikhala was quoted as saying by the Daily Mirror.

      Sikhala could not be immediately reached for comment.

      Zimbabwe's laws prohibit external funding of local political parties.

      The MDC has denied ever receiving foreign funding and Bango suggested Sikhala needed a psychiatric examination.

      The leading opposition party has in recent weeks been rocked by divisions over participation in next month's senatorial polls.

      More than two dozen party members defied leader Morgan Tsvangirai's calls to boycott the November 26 elections to the new upper house of Parliament and registered as candidates.

      Crisis talks to close the growing rift over the polls ended in a stalemate on Monday. - Sapa-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
      • 0 Attachment

        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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