- Solar Power for Better Rural Cellphone Access
Business Day (Johannesburg)
December 1, 2005
Posted to the web December 1, 2005
SIEMENS Communications has developed a solar-powered base station for cellular network operators operating in remote areas that lack electricity supplies.
The first base station, in Chiringa, Malawi, has been supplied to Celtel, which operates in 13 African countries.
Siemens account manager Hannes Moolman says cellular base stations were usually powered from the electricity grid with a diesel-powered generator as a back-up in case of power cuts.
The diesel generators have high capital and operational overheads that can make it uneconomical to provide cellular coverage in remote regions.
"Mobile networks have to be highly reliable to allow operators to deliver an appropriate level of service to their customers," he says.
The solar-powered base station does not rely on either mains power or a diesel generator for back-up, so each site will be significantly cheaper to operate and maintain.
The design is also environmentally friendly.
Above all, the solar powered sites give operators the freedom to place sites wherever they want, rather than where the local infrastructure is available, says Moolman.
Mwanza has new medical centre
by Nation Reporter, 02 December 2005 - 07:17:56
The Mwanza Border Post received a new lease of life with the opening of a medical centre for users of the border post.
The centre, called Muyende Bwino Wellness Centre, caters for both Malawian and non-Malawian commuters who use the Mwanza boarder for cross boarder activities and was opened on Wednesday last week.
Minister of Transport and Public Works, Henry Mussa, who officially opened the centre, thanked the World Food Programme (WFP), organisations and companies for taking such an important initiative in providing medical services to the commuters using the boarder post.
It has been established with collaborative support from the WFP, Banja La Mtsogolo (BLM), Ministry of Health and TNT Transport. It has therefore brought together stakeholders from both the private and NGO sector in providing the much needed service at this boarder post.
Mussa observed that this establishment is the first of its kind in Malawi and also appeared to WFP and its collaborative partners to consider extending the service to other boarder posts like Kapolo in Karonga.
The centre has been established to provide counselling sessions and treatment for Sexually Transmitted Infections, HIV and Aids information, and for the treatment of minor ailments such as malaria and diarrhoea.
The Muyende Bwino Wellness Centre has been established to assist those at risk, such as truck drivers, business people, commercial sex workers and the community around the boarder post to have access to these medical services.
According to BLM, providers of medical treatment, the centre has been well patronized by commuters crossing the boarder as well as the community from the surrounding areas since opening its doors in September 2005.
Chilumpha in court on Monday
by Zainah Liwanda, 02 December 2005 - 07:16:25
The Lilongwe Magistrate's Court has shifted the hearing of a case where government levelled three counts of alleged corruption against Vice President Cassim Chilumpha from Friday to next Monday.
Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Ishmael Wadi said Thursday the court realised that today was not free.
"The court realised that Monday was not convenient and therefore shifted the date to the 5th, next Monday. For sure as far as I am concerned the case is coming on Monday," said Wadi.
Wadi explained that Friday was the proposed date and that it was up to the court to set the right date at its convenience.
The DPP was last week quoted in the media as saying he had applied for the recommencement of the matter following the dissolution of the injunction Chilumpha obtained at the High Court in Blantyre.
Chilumpha's lawyer Gift Nankhuni recently told the magistrate's court in Lilongwe, where Chilumpha was supposed to appear, that the constitutional court will decide whether or not a sitting VP can be prosecuted in a court of law.
After the vacation of the injunction by Justice Jane Ansah, obtained by Viva Nyimba on behalf of Chilumpha, he hinted that they would either appeal or apply for a judicial review, saying he did not agree with the ruling.
The counts that were levelled about the VP according to court summons are all deemed corrupt practice by a pubic officer contrary to section 24(1) of the Corrupt Practices Act., all related to the famous K187 million education scandal at the Ministry of Education over a decade ago.
On Wednesday, the media quoted dean of law at Chancellor College, Necton Mhura to have said Chilumpha could still maintain his position even if he were to be convicted, arguing the law protects him.
Candidates accuse DC of trying to rig elections
by Edwin Nyirongo, 02 December 2005 - 07:15:59
Opposition candidates contesting in Karonga North by-elections have accused Karonga District Commissioner Felix Mkandawire and Democratic Progressive Party candidate Bernard Mwakaileke of trying to rig the votes.
But Mkandawire described the accusation as baseless, saying he is a professional who has been on the job for a long time.
The candidates, among them independents Kondwani Nyasulu, Mponda Mkandawire, Nelson Mwambungu and Lyton Mwangulukulu of Aford told Malawi Electoral Commissioner Reverend Emmanuel Chinkwita Phiri during a meeting that Mwakaileke is telling people at public rallies that he has already won the by-elections because Mkandawire is his close friend and will help him.
And in an interview, Nyasulu alleged that the words were uttered at three different places and many people were listening.
"He repeated the same words at three different places; Mwasulama Village, Ngalamo School and Kiwe School when he was addressing campaign rallies," he said and other candidates agreed.
Chinkwita Phiri confirmed that the issue was raised to him about the alleged conniving.
"The candidates raised the issue at a meeting where we were talking about violence during campaign rallies," he said.
But Chinkwita Phiri said the commission is not going to act on the matter because it "does not investigate rumours".
"They complained, yes but they know the procedures that they should write a letter and if they cannot, then there is nothing we can do," he said.
Mkandawire said there is no way he can influence the results because he does not vote.
"Even if one can buy the DC, you can still not win because he does not vote and when the results come from the voting places, there are a lot of people who witness them, including the candidates' monitors," said Mkandawire.
Mwakaileke could not be reached on Thursday.
Meanwhile PPM and DPP candidates clashed over the weekend, resulting in one person taken to Karonga District Hospital unconscious.
Both Chinkwita Phiri and Mkandawire confirmed the incident but referred all queries to Karonga Police.
The police officer-in-charge for the station was absent and the station officer referred the matter to a public relations officer who left his phone in the office.
DPP publicity secretary Hetherwick Ntaba and regional governor for the North Harry Mkandawire could also not be reached as their phones were on voicemail.
MRA lawyer fails to show up for Muluzi case
by Olivia Kumwenda, 02 December 2005 - 07:12:47
Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) lawyers failed to show up Thursday at the Blantyre High Court for the start of a hearing of a case in which the tax authority is demanding that former president Bakili Muluzi pays about $1 million duty for 86 vehicles he reportedly cleared duty free.
Muluzi purportedly cleared the vehicles under the Presidents (Salaries and Benefits ) Act of 1994 when he was in power.
No explanation from the MRA legal practitioners was given either to the court or the defence counsel even though it was MRA which summoned Muluzi to court.
Muluzi's lawyer David Kanyenda told the court Thursday that he was served with notice of hearing scheduled for yesterday on November 22, 2005 by the plaintiffs.
"This hearing was slated at 8:30 am today, it's now 9:30 am, a full hour after the appointment time and we have received no communication from the plaintiff legal practitioners explaining their absence," said Kanyenda who is defending Muluzi together with Michael Mtambo.
He added that the defence would have asked the court to struck out the matter from the cause list but [Muluzi] is anxious to have it heard.
"We would, therefore, pray to have the matter adjourned to a specific date," said Kanyenda.
In his ruling, Justice Joseph Manyungwa said it must be appreciated that when matters are set down for hearing the parties must ensure that they attend court.
"Counsel to the plaintiff being officers of the court shall have taken every step necessary to either attend, or if there is justifiable cause for failure to attend, to at least, inform the court in good time of their inability to attend. In the instant case, I note that none of the above has been done by counsel for the plaintiff which is not only regrettable, but also conduct that cannot be condoned by the court," said Manyungwa.
He adjourned the case to next week, 7 December, 2005.
In an interview at MRA offices in Blantyre, lawyer Dominic Mpango, who filed the summons, said he did not know that the case was scheduled for Thursday.
"I thought it's on tomorrow, I filed the summons but I am not the one handling the case, you have to talk to my colleague Mr. Ngutwa," said Mpango.
But Ngutwa distanced himself from the case, saying he cannot comment on what happened in court Thursday as he is not handling the matter and referred the reporter back to Mpango.
MRA is also demanding that the former president pays duty for 96,000 metres of UDF party cloth, 5,000 T-shirts, 2,500 caps and 2,000 UDF wrist watches he imported duty free.
The tax collectors had argued in their earlier affidavit that Muluzi imported goods and vehicles in the mistaken belief that such goods were meant for personal use by him.
Muluzi distributed the vehicles to UDF officials and other people.
Muluzi had in August argued that he had bought most of the said vehicles locally from HTD Limited and CFAO (Malawi) and that MRA ought to demand duty from the importers.
Bazuka refuses to join DPP
by Edwin Nyirongo, 02 December 2005 - 03:19:20
Lands Minister Bazuka Mhango refused to join the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) but he has assured government that he will work with the party.
DPP regional governor for the north, Harry Mkandawire said in an interview after announcing the defection of Mzimba East MP, Abbie Shawa that Bazuka opted to assist government outside the DPP.
"You see, we have three types of people that support government. We have those who join the party, then those that decide to remain in their parties but assist government and then we have independents. Bazuka is in the second category," he said.
Mkandawire disclosed that his party is neither worried nor suspicious about the stand taken by Bazuka saying he is a personal friend of president Bingu wa Mutharika and he cannot let him down.
He also mentioned that Mzimba North East MP, Bitwell Kaonga also decided to assist government outside the DPP.
Bazuka's phone was with his wife who said he was travelling between Karonga and Chitipa.
The Lands Minister has on several occasions refused to answer the question, insisting to be sent a questionnaire which he never answers.
Kaonga confirmed in an interview yesterday that he told the regional governor about his position.
"Mkandawire asked me about joining the DPP but I told him that I will remain a member of Movement for Democratic Change (Mgode) but would support government," he said.
Kaonga said Mgode resolved to work with government and that he is still supporting the government as per agreement.
Asked why he does not join the DPP at a time when many MPs in the north are doing it, Kaonga explained that he does not believe in one party state and that he would rather remain Mgode or become independent.
Meanwhile Economic Affairs minister David Faiti was mum when asked to declare his political stand.
"Where do you think I belong, DPP or RP? Is RP still there?" he said before cutting the line.
People survive on wild leaves in Nsanje
by Emmanuel Muwamba, 02 December 2005 - 02:44:28
People in some parts of Nsanje are surviving on bitter wild leaves locally known as sangowa because they cannot access or afford maize, The Nation has established.
But government says people should not panic because maize is being imported from South Africa and transported to designated markets which takes time.
During on-the-spot interviews, some people claimed Admarc officials are selling maize to private traders in bulk, forcing the poor to go back without buying the commodity after spending a night or two at depots waiting for the grain.
In other parts of the same district, people are banking their hopes of survival on wild tubers called nyika which grow underwater on the banks of the Shire River. But the tubers are also reportedly becoming scarce because of high demand.
People in the district have also complained that they have never seen any fertiliser coupons government has been distributing.
Benford Francis of Mtemangwawa Village, T/A Malemia, said the sangowa leaves are very bitter but people are eating them because that is the only way to survive. He said the leaf is also becoming scarce.
"We are in danger of dying because people do not have any maize nor millet. And children are at great risk because at times they refuse to eat the leaves, forcing them to go to bed on empty stomachs.
"We eat the leaves not as relish/vegetables but it is regarded as main dish. There is no option out because there is no maize in Admarc selling points and when it is available very few people buy it," said Francis.
His wife Regina said most of the maize is bought by vendors who later sell the grain at a higher price. She said last Friday she slept at Nsanje Admarc but before she was served it was announced that the maize had sold out
She also said some vendors send some young men to buy maize for them, forcing the ordinary people to starve in villages.
A visit to Nsanje Admarc showed that there was no maize. Vendors are selling the grain at K20 per 500 ml cup which people in the communities say is exorbitant to meet household demands.
Mose Thom of Mbangu Village, T/A Malemia* a father of five*lamented that nyika is vanishing fast and that people are travelling to Marka, a distance covered in over 30 minutes on a bicycle ride, looking for the tuber.
Monica James of Group Village Headman Nyanga in T/A Mbenje said her family and other people in the area are surviving on nyika but said recently crocodile attacks have threatened people's enthusiasm to look for the tuber in the waters.
She said people from Dande, Misamu and Chithumba in the same traditional area are travel over 10 km to the banks of the Shire River to look for the wild tuber.
"The situation is pathetic because even those that had planted potatoes harvested before maturity and they are also eyeing the wild tubers. But the situation may worsen when the banks of Shire River overflows because the tubers may be swept away," she said.
Agriculture Minister Uladi Mussa yesterday said he could not give out figures on how many people are getting the free maize in Nsanje, saying "this is the reason why government asked the World Food Programme (WFP) to scale up free food distribution in most districts."
On reports that Admarc officials are selling maize in bulk to traders Mussa said he had already issued a warning to such officials, adding that if they are caught the law will take its course.
He added that he was not aware that people have not accessed fertiliser coupons.
"We sent fertiliser to Admarc selling points in the Lower Shire. If it has ended we will supply more but if they are saying they do not have coupons then I cannot comment because I am not a person on the ground. However, what I know is that 1.5 million additional coupons were printed," said Mussa.
Department of Poverty and Disaster Preparedness spokesperson Lucy Davidson could not give the number of people in need of food or those that are currently receiving free food in Nsanje but said those that were identified as needy are receiving the aid.
But she said in December the figures are likely to go up, saying a re-assessment of the situation was done but the report is not yet out.
In Salima last month people from Mvululu and Njati villages in T/A Kalonga were reportedly living on bamboo seeds, mangoes and termites out of desperation.
WFP spokesperson Stethanie Savariaund said out of 228,656 population of Nsanje, her organisation is feeding 185,468 which represents 81 percent of the population.
Savariaund added that in TA Malemia 12,400 people are receiving free food while in TA Mbenje 25,575 are getting the food.
Chilumpha snubs Bingu
by Joseph Langa, 02 December 2005 - 02:41:12
Vice-President Cassim Chilumpha says he will not call for a news conference to respond to President Bingu wa Mutharika's accusations against him, saying doing so would irreparably damage the dignity of the Presidency.
Chilumpha said in a statement signed by his Public Relations Officer Horace Nyaka that he read in Wednesday's newspapers the statements against him by the President and the call for him to call for a news conference to respond.
"He feels it will be most dishonourable and undignified for him to discuss or respond to those allegations at a news conference or indeed any medium of public communication," said the statement.
"His Honour believes that such a news conference would irreparably damage the dignity of the Presidency and is therefore not in the national interest.
"Consequently the Vice-President will not hold the news conference or make any public comment on these statements allegedly made by his Excellency the State President against him," adds the statement in part.
Chancellor College Senior Lecture for Politics and Administration Mustapha Hussein agreed with Chilumpha, saying the call to hold a news conference is not the best way forward because it will undermine the dignity of the two offices (of the President and his deputy).
"I don't think it is necessary that the Vice-President should hold a news conference to respond to the issues. The two offices should avoid verbal war through the media. If they go into verbal war, that will only aggravate the misunderstandings," said Hussein.
He said the solution is for the President and his deputy to iron out their differences through a discussion.
But government spokesperson Patricia Kaliati said by refusing to hold a news conference, Chilumpha has already responded and agreed that he has problems but he will find a way of changing his behaviour.
"By sending a press release it means he has accepted that he has a problem and he will a them out. It's one way of saying 'I am going to change'. Maybe he is going to change and start meeting the President, attending cabinet meetings and other government functions," Kaliati said.
On his arrival from the Commonwealth and Heads of State and Government (CHOGM) Summit in Malta on Tuesday, Mutharika blamed his deputy for the current problems in the presidency and called on him to respond to the public through a news conference on "what his problem is".
The President blamed Chilumpha for, among other things, not attending cabinet meetings and other state functions.
Find lasting solution to hunger * Nsamala
by Nation Reporter, 02 December 2005 - 02:47:22
National Bank of Malawi chief executive Isaac Nsamala has asked government to find a lasting solution to the perennial hunger, saying it is a shame for Malawi to be talking of hunger when it has a river and lake which contain water throughout the year.
NB chief executive Isaac Nsamala said this when he presented 1,440 bags of 50kg maize worth K2.5 million to Feed the Nation Fund.
"As a bank, we believe that Malawi has to find a lasting solution to the perennial problem of hunger, especially when the hunger is attributed to inadequate rainfall.
"Malawi is blessed with abundant fresh water and it is not proper that every year we should be talking of food shortage due to poor rains," said Nsamala.
He challenged Malawians to put their heads together on how they can benefit from the waters of Lake Malawi and the Shire River.
He said it is a shame that the country should be importing maize from neighbouring countries who a few years ago were shunning agriculture.
"For Malawi to achieve sustainable economic and social development, we need to diversify our economic activities and venture into more creative avenues of exploring ideas on agricultural investment," he said.
That, Nsamala said, will help to spread the economy on a broad spectrum of reliable wealth generating activities other than depending on a few areas.
"This will offer us a cushion when one sector or activity is negatively impacted," he said, adding that the donation is in line with NB commitment to corporate social responsibility.
While thanking the bank for the donation, chair of the Fund Justice Richard Banda said the maize will go a long way in alleviating the shortage of food in the country.
"Hunger is a challenge which no Malawian of goodwill can remain indifferent to. We are helping people who as I am talking do not know where they will get the next meal," he said.
Banda said out of 72 metric tonnes donated, 40 tonnes had already been delivered at Boadzulu Admarc in Mangochi yesterday.
About 5 million Malawians are in dire need of food due to a crop failure during the 2004-2005 growing season which came as a result of insufficient rains.
Ntaba admits ministry's inactiveness
by Felix Malamula, 02 December 2005 - 03:18:02
Health and Population minister, Hetherwick Ntaba says his ministry has not been active enough in the fight against dental problems in the country.
Speaking during the official handover of a dental schools programme by Colgate Palmolive on Monday in Lilongwe, Ntaba said it is true that his ministry has not made enough effort in dealing with the problem.
"My ministry has not been active enough. It should have been in the fight against dental problems," admitted Ntaba.
He cited lack of resources and other problems as contributing to the ministry's inactiveness.
"However, it should also be noted that oral health and dental programmes have not been kicking enough on the back of my ministry as a result it was not getting the attention it needed," said Ntaba.
"However, since you have started kicking we will be having our attention on this area," he pledged.
The programme, coded 'Bright Smiles, Bright Futures', will see Colgate Palmolive in conjunction with the ministries of health and education teaching kindergarten and primary school children how to take care of their teeth.
Colgate Palmolive managing director for Zimbabwe and Malawi, Davis Kanyama said there is need to train kids at a tender age on how to take care of their teeth so that they grow up already aware of the importance of teeth.
"Children need to know how many times they should clean their teeth per day and which tooth paste should they use because we have many counterfeit toothpastes on the market," explained Kanyama.
The programme, which will be launched next year, will also see kindergarten and primary schools teachers as well as dental professionals trained so that they in turn impart the knowledge to the children.
"We want oral health and dental lessons incorporated in the schools curricula," said Kanyama.
Zimbabwe to get more UN food aid
Zimbabwe has agreed with the UN food agency to feed at least three million people in the country until next June.
The deal is intended to smooth the World Food Programme's operations in the country. It does not guarantee help to victims of housing demolitions.
Last year, President Robert Mugabe told aid groups that Zimbabwe could feed itself without their help.
But the WFP said Harare now recognised high food prices will leave many people short of food before April's harvest.
"The memorandum of understanding, which was signed after several weeks of discussions with the government of Zimbabwe, sets out the framework under which food aid distributions take place," the WFP said in a statement.
It said the agreement also clarified the responsibilities of the WFP and the Zimbabwean government.
WFP's country director for Zimbabwe, Kevin Farrell, said the deal "will certainly will certainly assist in meeting our plans to deliver food aid to hungry people across Zimbabwe".
A report issued this week by Human Rights Watch accused the UN humanitarian agencies of neglecting those people affected by the Zimbabwe government's housing demolition programme, Operation Murambatsvina, in urban areas.
WFP's southern Africa spokesman, Mike Huggins, told the BBC News website that in terms of the new memorandum of understanding, "we are free to operate in any programme or area the government allows us to operate in".
"What they [the government] were very against was intervention for people targeted by Operation Murambatsvina, and in those cases we were not able to act as freely as we would have liked."
Although the memorandum of understanding covers only rural areas, Mr Huggins said he hoped that the signing of the agreement would lead to further dialogue with the government.
He said one problem was that the government "does not recognise a need for food aid among the displaced - they see shelter as a need, but not food".
In November, the WFP and its partners distributed food to some two million Zimbabweans, the WFP statement said.
Mr Mugabe has blamed the poor harvest on recent droughts, which prompted WFP to start feeding millions across southern Africa in 2002.
Some economists say that Zimbabwe's controversial land reform, restrictions on the imports and movement of grain, have worsened the problem.
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
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
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.
Meanwhile, the MDC on Sunday said it will push ahead with plans for anti-government protests, saying victory in a key by-election at the weekend was a "sign the electorate supported its policies", including democratic mass resistance.
A spokesperson of the main faction of the splintered MDC, Nelson Chamisa, said victory over Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF and a rival MDC faction in a Saturday by-election in Harare's Budiriro constituency is a sign Zimbabweans still have confidence in party leader Morgan Tsvangirai and his policies.
Tsvangirai, the founding leader of the MDC, heads the main rump of the opposition party whose candidate, Emmanuel Chisvuure, polled 7 949 votes to win the Budiriro House of Assembly seat.
Gabriel Chaibva of the other faction of the MDC, led by prominent academic Arthur Mutambara, garnered 504 votes while Zanu-PF's Jeremiah Bvirindi polled 3 961 votes.
"This election showed that the electorate still has confidence in the MDC [Tsvangirai-led] leadership and its policies," Chamisa told independent news service ZimOnline.
He added: "We will now move to consolidate our position * we still believe in mass protests. Until we have attained our goals we see no reason why we should abandon [plans for protests]."
Tsvangirai has threatened to call mass protests this winter against Mugabe and his government. He says the mass protests, whose date he is still to name, are meant to force Mugabe to relinquish power to a government of national unity to be tasked to write a new and democratic Constitution that would ensure free and fair elections held under international supervision.
Mugabe and his government, who had hoped for victory in Budiriro to show they were recapturing urban support from a splintered MDC, have not taken idly the opposition's threats to call mass protests, with the veteran president warning Tsvangirai he would be "dicing with death" if he ever attempted to instigate a Ukraine-style popular revolt in Zimbabwe.
In a fresh crackdown against dissension, the police last week arrested several church and civic leaders for organising public prayers and marches to mark last year's controversial home-demolition exercise by the government.
The police also banned the marches and prayers, fearing they could easily turn into mass protests against Mugabe and his government.
However, the marches went ahead in the second-largest city of Bulawayo after organisers had obtained a court order barring the police from stopping the march.
Political analysts say although Zimbabweans have largely been cowed by Mugabe's tactics of routinely deploying riot police and the military to crush street protests, worsening hunger and poverty are fanning public anger that Tsvangirai -- with proper planning and organisation -- could easily manipulate.
Zimbabwe is in the grip of a severe six-year old economic crisis that has seen inflation breaching the 1 000% barrier. Last year, the World Bank said Zimbabwe's economic crisis was unprecedented for a country not at war.
The MDC and major Western governments blame Mugabe for wrecking the country's economy, which was one of the strongest in Africa at independence from Britain 26 years ago.
Mugabe denies the charge blaming the crisis on sabotage by Britain and her allies after he seized white-owned farms for redistribution to landless blacks six years ago.
The Harare authorities recently hiked salaries for civil servants, with the lowest-paid soldier now earning about Z$27-million while the lowest-paid school teacher now takes home about Z$33-million.
But the salaries are still way below the poverty datum line, which the government's Consumer Council of Zimbabwe says now stands at a staggering Z$42-million a month for an average family of six.
The Zimbabwe government often accuses the ZCTU, a strong ally of the MDC, of pushing a political agenda to remove Mugabe from power.
Meanwhile, Matombo and Lucia Matibenga retained their posts as president and first vice-president respectively during the ZCTU congress that ended on Saturday. -- ZimOnline