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  • Christine Chumbler
    Opposition Agrees to Frustrate Govt The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe) November 2, 2005 Posted to the web November 2, 2005 Hopkins Mundango Nyirenda Lilongwe
    Message 1 of 1046 , Nov 3, 2005
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      Opposition Agrees to Frustrate Govt

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      November 2, 2005
      Posted to the web November 2, 2005

      Hopkins Mundango Nyirenda
      Lilongwe

      Malawi Congress Party [MCP] and United Democratic Front [UDF] have teamed up to frustrate government business in parliament following thousands of government sympathizers who besieged the New State House effectively holding Parliament hostage in protest against the indictment motion which was introduced in the House last week against President Bingu wa Mutharika.

      Sources close to the opposition said the two parties met last week in different caucuses and agreed to go flat out to frustrate government business in parliament as a way of hitting back at government for also ordering police to stop the UDF counter demonstrations on Tuesday last week.

      The Minister of Health Dr. Hetherwick Ntaba told parliament that the opposition had indeed connived in their different caucuses to give government, which has no majority in parliament a tough time in this sitting, and all other sittings to come until the government effectively concedes defeat.

      "Indeed two shameful things are happening in the House today. One, the opposition caucuses have agreed to shoot down every government bill," said Ntaba amid wild and loud booing from crazed opposition benches which effectively drowned out his second point.

      Leader of Opposition John Tembo refuted the allegations that they agreed to reject all government bills saying, as far as MCP is concerned they didn't have a caucus. "It is not wrong for us to have caucuses. We can have it today or any other day, but this time around we didn't have any caucuses for MCP.

      This is in spite of the fact that some members of MCP have had their cars damaged by crooks at the gate and yet we have kept our cool," said Tembo

      One MP from the defunct Republican Party who sought anonymity said he has information that indeed UDF and MCP have connived to bring the government to a standstill and that they will not relent until Mutharika resigns.

      "I am reliably informed that the two parties have agreed, including Gwanda Chakuamba and Ken Zikhale Ng'oma to frustrate government and make this country ungovernable because they believe that this will apparently force Bingu to resign or for him to call for fresh elections to legitimize his mandate," said the RP MP.

      The sympathizers of government who held parliament hostage had petitioned the Speaker of Parliament Louis Chimango to call for, among other things, his immediate resignation. They labeled the impeachment process an effective "coup d'etat'.

      *****

      Muluzi Goes for Shock-And-Awe Against Mutharika

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      November 2, 2005
      Posted to the web November 2, 2005

      Our Reporter
      Lilongwe

      Former president Bakili Muluzi has taken a leaf out of the United States military campaign in Iraq by adopting "shock and awe" tactics against agencies of the government and anyone else who is against him.

      This strategy was demonstrated on Wednesday last when hundreds of Muluzi's supporters, led by officials of his United Democratic Front, (UDF), poured onto the Masauko Chipembere highway and the streets of Blantyre to press home their campaign for the impeachment of president Bingu wa Mutharika.

      UDF spokesman Sam Mpasu, who led the demonstrators, said the march - and others that were to be held in other parts of the country -- was staged to encourage Members of Parliament sitting in Parliament in Lilongwe not only to endorse the impeachment procedures in the house, but also to go ahead and impeach Mutharika for allegedly seriously violating the constitution.

      But the impeachment strategy and the shock-and-awe tactic is being seen by Muluzi watchers as a tactic "to kick up a lot of political dust to confuse people" about the real issues behind the political squabble between Muluzi and Mutharika: corruption.

      "The real issue here," said one prominent businessman in Blantyre who asked not to be identified, "is corruption and the fear by Muluzi and his cohorts like Mpasu and others, that Mutharika's 'zero tolerance on corruption' will sooner than later, net in Muluzi and his lieutenants." The Fieldyorke saga involving Sam Mpasu has again reared its ugly head to torment the former Education minister as the DPP has given his consent for the ACB to prosecute, after examining all the evidence saying there was an indication that Mpasu did indeed abuse his position as a public servant. The matter comes before the courts soon.

      The big demonstration came just a day after the Anti Corruption Bureau, (ACB), announced that it wants Muluzi to explain what happened to billions of donor funds that he put into his personal account during his time in office as president of Malawi.

      Muluzi has so far not publicly denied the misuse of the funds or his abuse of office. But one of his officials, George Nga Ntafu, a former cabinet minister who is also MP for Likoma Island, in a round-about way admitted that the money had indeed been kept in Muluzi's personal account.

      In his backhanded admission, Ntafu claimed that Muluzi used some of the funds to pay for the presidential campaign that saw Mutharika being voted into office as Muluzi's successor.

      But after he was sworn into office, Mutharika ditched the UDF, citing massive corruption by the leadership of the party. He then declared zero tolerance on corruption by his administration and he swore that he would rope in any official who would be found guilty of corruption. "Muluzi has been shaken very badly by the announcement by the ACB," said the businessman. "In the past, the government has only threatened to ask Muluzi how he managed to acquire funds with which to build structures like the Keza Office Complex and how he accumulated other properties. "But this time, there is a real possibility that the ACB will nail him.

      Muluzi is deeply worried and so are some of his top officials who also enjoyed some of the funds." The big question however, said the businessman, was whether Mutharika was worried about whether the impeachment would succeed and whether there could be a back-lash that the government could not handle, by people opposed to the arrest of Muluzi.

      "Muluzi and his people think that Mutharika is worried about this," said the businessman. "This is why they have decided on the shock-and-awe tactics to make Mutharika think twice." But other observers think that Muluzi will end up like a character out of Shakespeare: full of wind and thunder, but signifying very little. "Mutharika needs to act firmly, once and for all to stop all this nonsense," said another businessman. "If he does not," he warned, he would have displayed weakness that could well cost him his own job.

      *****

      The Aftermath of Impeachment

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      ANALYSIS
      November 2, 2005
      Posted to the web November 2, 2005

      Gregory Gondwe
      Lilongwe

      Malawians, including Members of Parliament, the civil society, religious groupings and the rest of the citizens are clearly divided between proponents and opponents of the impeachment debate.

      The donor community and law experts have come out to warn Malawians repercussions of impeachment should the opposition members of parliament succeed to impeach President Bingu wa Mutharika.

      Both the proponents and opponents of the impeachment process agree on some impeachment technicalities like having impeachment procedures entrenched within the Constitution.

      The aim of including the impeachment in the Constitution was to avoid having another dictator in a multiparty set-up, a president without checks and balances, who could do anything without fearing for his or her job.

      The Law Commission, a body formed through an Act of Parliament to give technical in-put to the laws which legislators intend to come up with, amend or repeal among other duties, argued that the impeachment procedures were both misplaced and hurriedly formulated.

      Albeit the Law Commission's proposal that the procedures be part of the Constitution and not just as parliamentary Standing Orders, Parliament snubbed the suggestions and called the Commission's chair Elton Singini names before going ahead adopting a report by the Legal Affairs Committee which now allows amendments to the Standing Orders to enable members vote on the impeachment procedures.

      According to Parliament, Singini was wrong to call MPs incompetent to deal with such issues because he argued that they could not draw clear guidelines on what happens after a president is impeached. "For example will the person removed from office be disqualified to stand in future elections for that office or for what office, and if so what period?" argued Singini who was later forced to apologise to the house.

      Human Rights groups and churches tried in vain to call on MPs not to start the impeachment debate claiming that it is ill-conceived and will create political instability but the debate was started nonetheless and the adoption made.

      The next step was making use of the procedures where in what is known as indictment process the Speaker summoned Mutharika to the House to be charged with eight grounds.

      The Public Affairs Committee (PAC) instructed its lawyers to challenge the constitutionality of the impeachment procedures which the courts dismissed while MP for Karonga Nyungwe Richard Msowoya obtained an injunction stopping Mutharika from appearing before the House for indictment.

      But it had to take the Constitutional Court's ruling last week Thursday for Mutharika not to really appear before parliament to answer impeachment charges until the court makes a determination on the matter.

      While all this was taking shape, opposition parliamentarians led by leader of opposition and Malawi Congress Party (MCP) President John Tembo and Leader of the United Democratic Front(UDF) in the house George Ntafu were clearing path for what was to follow after impeaching Mutharika.

      For the two parties to work out their marriage of convenience, they have struck a deal which allows the MCP leader to lead the National Governing Council (NGC).

      While the UDF, which is licking wounds caused by 'Mutharika injustices' after doing everything including using all tricks in the book to make him an all conquering presidential candidate while Mutharika's only gratitude was dumping UDF to form his Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and arresting some UDF gurus on charges which the UDF claimed were trumped up.

      Now there is no NGC bill appearing anywhere on the parliamentary order papers and MCP has asked the UDF to push for the tabling of it if the impeachment has to succeed. "If there is no NGC (which seeks to amend section 83 of the constitution to provide for its establishment), there is no way MCP would support the impeachment," MCP President John Tembo told the local media last week.

      UDF sensed this, as some days before Tembo put this conditionality in the open, its leader in Parliament Ntafu cried foul at the delay of the printed bill papers by government.

      On Wednesday, October 19 he asked the house to give UDF permission to circulate rough copies of the NGC private members bill so that it enabled one member to table the motion on Thursday October 20, 2005.

      There is little being said about what happens after the impeachment as the only indication is that there shall be an NGC which for six months will be an interim governing body in the event that the president or his vice is impeached from office until such a time when a presidential election is held.

      With such a drive to boot out Mutharika, donors have cautioned political parties and Members of Parliament against impeaching Mutharika predicting a disaster of unprecedented scale through a letter copied to all heads of political parties in the country. "The impeachment might place at risk Malawi's much prized stability and given the uncertain and transitory nature proposed National Governing Council (NGC), we cannot be certain of being able to have satisfactory relationship with such body," reads the letter in part.

      The donors have also questioned the speed at which the impeachment motion is being debated at the expense of more pertinent issues like current hunger crisis, development and poverty.

      But in contradiction to the donors, the Blantyre CCAP Synod General Secretary Daniel Gunya is of the opinion that Mutharika has to go. "The problem is that he thinks he knows it all and he is very intelligent. This is bad. He'll have nobody's sympathy if he's impeached and I'm for the impeachment, I say this with no regrets," Gunya said.

      Some commentators have warned that the impeachment aftermath would include constitutional crisis because of the hurried manner in which the amendment will be made to section 83 as it will be in contradiction with section 6 of Constitution which says: "Save as otherwise provided in this Constitution, the authority to govern derives from the people of Malawi as expressed through universal and equal suffrage in elections held in accordance with [the] constitution in a manner prescribed by an Act of Parliament." Commentators say since the right to govern emanates from the polls which proceed from the bill of rights it is never known under what mandate the NGC will be ruling within those six months as prescribed in the NGC bill.

      It is expected that there will be a lot of litigations, challenging the way the procedures were formulated.

      According to Commissioner Singini, the impeachment procedures are supposed to contain the rules of natural justice which come under two headings; the rule against bias and the right to fair hearing which the impeachment procedures were made without consideration of.

      The coverage of parliament by The Chronicle has led to close interaction with some opposition Members of Parliament who have been heard avowing that whatever the case the Mutharika ouster is a foregone conclusion.

      In essence this is defeating the element of natural justice of fair hearing and the rule against bias which gives ground of a legal challenge.

      The impeachment aftermath would even include plundering the tax-payers' coffers.

      *****

      Children Hardest Hit By HIV/Aids

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      November 2, 2005
      Posted to the web November 2, 2005

      Gregory Gondwe
      Lilongwe

      Malawi joined the rest of the world on Monday last week in the launch of an initiative with the theme 'Unite for Children, Unite Against AIDS'. The UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, UNICEF Executive Director Ann Veneman and UNAIDS Executive Director Peter Piot, all in a joint statement noted that every minute a child dies of an AIDS-related illness.

      Children are the hardest hit by HIV/AIDS and, as a result the United Nations Children Fund together with UNAIDS felt the need to launch a global campaign to invigorate action for the millions of children affected by the pandemic.

      The three UN officials noted that while a child becomes infected with HIV every minute, four young people aged 15-24 also become infected with HIV. In addition, an estimated 15 million children have lost at least a parent to AIDS.

      "Nearly 25 years into the pandemic, help is reaching less than 10 percent of the children affected by HIV/AIDS, leaving too many children to grow up alone, grow up too fast or not grow up at all," said Annan, adding, "simply put, AIDS is wreaking havoc on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)." UNICEF Resident Representative to Malawi Aida Girma said eight out of 10 children (80%), which the three officials spoke about live in sub-Saharan Africa and that by 2025, 20 million children would be missing one or both of their parents because of AIDS.

      She said 46% of new infections are amongst young people aged 15 to 24 years and in 2003 it was estimated that 70,000 children under the age of 15 were living with HIV/AIDS. "Every year, close to 40,000 newborn babies get infected with HIV through mother to child transmission of HIV (MTCT) in this country [and] of the estimated one million orphans in Malawi, 500,000 have lost one or both of their parents to AIDS," said Girma.

      Girma said that the global campaign aims at telling the world that children are missing out on efforts to fight AIDS and therefore the world has to achieve measurable progress for children based on internationally agreed goals in four key result areas.

      The areas are; the prevention among young people aimed at reducing the percentage of young people living with HIV by 25 % by 2010, prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) which aims at providing 80% of women in need with access to services to prevent transmission of HIV to their babies by 2010, an increase in the paediatric treatment which aims at improving the current situation that shows that less than 5% of HIV-positive children in need of AIDS treatment are receiving it. The initiative therefore aims at providing antiretroviral treatment to 80% of children in need by 2010.

      The last area of focus is the protection, care and support of orphans and children affected by AIDS. It is estimated that by 2010 there will be 18 million children who would have lost at least one parent to AIDS.

      The campaign aims to reach 80% of children in need of public support and services by 2010.

      Girma indicated that Malawi has indeed made significant progress to respond to the pandemic in the last three years. "There is growing commitment at all levels to fight HIV/AIDS; policy and institutional frameworks are in place; sufficient know-how has been acquired from the various initiatives supported over the years and there is an increase in resources for HIV/AIDS," she said, adding that very little resources are reaching the Malawian children.

      Speaking at the launch UN Resident Representative Michael Keating said the challenge is to use the money available in an effective way to make a difference for Malawi.

      *****

      Environmental Sustainability Central to All MDGs

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      November 2, 2005
      Posted to the web November 2, 2005

      Gregory Gondwe
      Lilongwe

      Five global bodies have established that environmental sustainability is central to achieving all the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and that the conditions to meet the MDGs involve expanding per capita endowments of capital assets or wealth.

      Looking at what President Bingu wa Mutharika saidat the UN assembly recently, on this seventh MDG which aimed at 'ensuring environmental sustainability' there is little showing that the country is subscribing to this belief that all the efforts to achieve all the MDGs have to be built around MDG 7.

      The five global institutions say achieving all the MDGs will require expanding environmental assets used by the poor to earn their livelihoods and increase their well-being. "Achieving MDG7 on environmental sustainability, including its cross-cutting impacts on all the other MDGs, will require that policymakers target the productivity of environmental resources, especially those that promote agricultural productivity, such as soil and water resources," says the institutions in a well detailed report called 'Environment for the MDGs: Investing in Environmental Wealth for Poverty Reduction.'

      Mutharika at the UN World Summit said Malawi is looking at the MDG7 from two folds; MDG 7A which seeks to halve the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and MDG 7B which targets to integrate the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programmes and reverse the loss of environmental resources.

      He said the country plans to construct and rehabilitate water facilities; increase capacity to meet demand from industry and domestic users which was ironic as around the same time in Blantyre the taps had run dry.

      The main focus of Malawi government was not as the institutions two-fold goal on poverty reduction observed.

      The institutions which include United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), International Institute for Environment and Development (iied), The World Conservation Union (IUCN) and World Resource Institute believe that expanding asset base of the poor and increasing the efficiency with which those the assets are converted into well-being for the poor.

      According to the Malawi president the other areas of activities, which the country planned to achieve MDG7, include the introduction and enforcement in conservation and management of water resources and reduction of the incidence of water borne diseases.

      The other areas are strengthening the legal and institutional framework for decentralized environment and natural resource and promoting alternative livelihood strategies to reduce pressure on natural resources. "Create awareness in sustainable utilization, development and management of natural resources and the environment and integrate sustainable development into the country's socio-economic development," said Mutharika.

      In the foreword of the World Bank presentation to the summit called 'Ensuring Environmental Sustainability: Measuring Progress Toward the 7TH Millennium Development Goal' the bank's Vice President Ian Johnson says five years after the Millennium declaration, the developed community and developing countries are one-third away from the MDG target date of 2015. "There is shared sense of urgency about meeting the MDGs, however, it would be tragic if the achievements of 2015 are not sustainable because soils have been mined and fisheries and forests depleted," he said before declaring; "Avoiding this outcome is the true seventh Millennium Development Goal."

      *****

      US Gives Malawi K50m

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      November 2, 2005
      Posted to the web November 2, 2005

      Gregory Gondwe
      Lilongwe

      Barely two weeks after President Bingu wa Mutharika declared a national state of disaster due to famine which threatening 4.2 million people in the country, the United States government has given Malawi K50 million to be used in monitoring child malnutrition.

      A statement from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) says following an appeal by the Malawi government, USAID and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) signed the grant.

      The grant, according to the statement provides resources for the government of Malawi and UNICEF to monitor child malnutrition cases throughout the country from this month to March next year. "This monitoring is crucial in identifying children who may be at risk of malnutrition related illnesses and who may need supplementary feeding or admission at Nutrition Rehabilitation Units over the next four to six months," reads the statement.

      The ministry of health and UNICEF will use the grant to increase the government's capacity to monitor child malnutrition. "We believe that by working together we can mitigate the impact of the drought and help Malawians plan for a successful harvest in March next year," says the statement.

      *****

      ESCOM Doubts Effectiveness of Scrap Metal Act

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      November 2, 2005
      Posted to the web November 2, 2005

      Chikondi Chiyembekeza
      Lilongwe

      The Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (ESCOM) has said it is not sure if the Second Hand and Scrap Metal Dealers Act is being followed to the book because it has been observed that the dealers are disregarding the provisions of the act.

      The sole power supplier says it has noted that there is a general laxity in the enforcement of the legislation to protect infrastructure that is being vandalized.

      ESCOM believes that the increase in the vandalism of the service provider's equipment is as a result of a ready market for scrap metal in the country. "For instance, of late, there has been a proliferation in the business of buying and selling of scrap metal in the country," said a report from ESCOM.

      It further adds: "It is doubtful if the operators are operating within the provisions of the Second Hand and Scrap Metal Dealers Act (Chapter 50:06) of the laws of Malawi." "If only the relevant Government department can take the responsibility to enforce the provisions of the said Act, the market will not be accessible to vandals, hence reduce the cases of vandalism," said the report.

      The Acting Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of ESCOM, Kandi Padambo said the company has recently lost money in excess of K300 million to replace vandalized equipment.

      However, officials from the company said they are working hand in hand with the Malawi Police Service which acts as the registrar of scrap metal dealers in the country and the Ministry of Commerce and Industry to control the scrap metal market.

      The company says it has put in place three dimensional strategies to combat vandalism of their equipment: Legal, Security and Technical.

      In terms of the legal approach to the cases of vandalism, it is considered in three spheres that include law reform, enforcement and prosecution of the offenders. The parent legislation in the electricity sector is the Electricity Act.

      The act provides for penalties and punishments for individuals who break the provisions of the law.

      The Safety Officer, Patrick Jumbe lamented that the courts are not helping them because penalties meted out on the culprits under the Act are on the lower side. "Therefore the perception people have is that the courts are lenient on lawbreakers," said Jumbe.

      He also said the police appear not to be doing enough to bring the situation to a halt.

      The report further says that under the current setup, the maximum sentence that courts can impose on a convicted vandal is five years.

      In the meantime, the company is also lobbying the Department of Energy Affairs to review the Act (Electricity Act) more specifically on provisions dealing with penalties and sentences. "It is believed that once the necessary reforms have been effected, the penalties would be realistic so as to act as a deterrent to the would-be offenders on electricity apparatus." On the security side of it, ESCOM, together with the police have embarked on two initiatives that include the ESCOM/Malawi Police Service Anti-Vandalism Project and also the formation of an Anti-Vandalism Task Team for different stakeholders.

      As regards the technical aspect, "the approach is geared at looking at the technical specification of ESCOM by modifying some of its equipment. ESCOM has also deployed measures, which will protect its equipment. "ESCOM intends to add a special colour tint to its transformer oil for easy identification on the black market." About 7 percent of Malawians have access to electrical power and ESCOM says it is becoming more costly to extend the power supply, as millions of kwachas are regularly lost through vandalism.

      The country's economy is also affected due to the vandalism as many large companies become affected by power interruptions for their production.

      *****

      Speaker to Rule On Floor Crossing

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      November 2, 2005
      Posted to the web November 2, 2005

      Hopkins Mundango Nyirenda
      Lilongwe

      The First Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly Esther Mcheka Chilenje told the House that the Speaker will make a ruling on Sec 65 [1] of the Constitution today of members who are deemed by their parties to have crossed the floor.

      The United Democratic Front (UDF) wrote to the Speaker asking him to declare vacant the seats of MPs that defected from UDF and joined other political parties, claiming that they had effectively crossed the floor.

      The UDF spokesperson Sam Mpasu was quoted as saying: "There are a lot of MPs that went in there on a UDF ticket but are now in a different party. These people have crossed the floor and we want the Speaker to act on them." Some of the MPs that risk losing their seats, should the Speaker act in UDF's favour are Democratic Progressive Party's [DPP] secretary general Joyce Banda, its vice president Uladi Mussa and organizing secretary Ken Lipenga. Others include Local Government Minister George Chaponda, Justice Minister Henry Phoya, Works Minister Henry Mussa and MP Callister Chimombo.

      Asked how the party hoped to succeed considering that DPP, the party to which most MPs defected to are not represented in the house, Mpasu said his party has based its argument on Justice Chipeta's ruling on a similar issue two years ago.

      On October 6,2003 Chipeta declared invalid and unconstitutional the amended version of Section 65[1] of the constitution, which empowered the Speaker to declare vacant any seat of an MP who voluntarily leaves his or her sponsoring party and joins another political party or organization 'whose objectives are political in nature'.

      Malawi Law Society [MLS] Deputy President Noel Chalamanda said the UDF had a slim chance of succeeding as it was just looking at a judgment with little or no regard to the constitution. "The issue behind crossing the floor is about switching from one party to another represented in parliament. That ruling was against the background of the constitution. As such, they have to consider what the constitution says," he said.

      However the MLS President Alick Msowoya said, should the DPP scoop some parliamentary seats in the forthcoming by-elections, the seats of MPs that defected from other parties and joined it would then risk being declared vacant as the issue of crossing the floor would then be applicable.
    • 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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