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  • Christine Chumbler
    Analysts say victory is vote of confidence in Bingu by Henry Chilobwe, 08 December 2005 - 05:21:49 Chiefs and political analysts have described Democratic
    Message 1 of 1046 , Dec 8, 2005
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      Analysts say victory is vote of confidence in Bingu
      by Henry Chilobwe, 08 December 2005 - 05:21:49
      Chiefs and political analysts have described Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) candidates' victory in the just-ended by-elections as a vote of confidence for President Bingu wa Mutharika and his government.
      They have also spelt doom for the United Democratic Front (UDF) which was a close contender in the election, saying its failure to secure a seat even in its Chiradzulu and Zomba strongholds should be a clear warning that people are fed up with its style of leadership.
      Overall, the UDF has lost three seats (in Chiradzulu, Zomba Thondwe and Chitipa Wenya) while the People's Progressive Movement (PPM), the Alliance for Democracy (Aford) and the defunct Republican Party (RP) each lost their seats in Karonga, Mzimba and Nsanje, respectively.
      Senior Chief Kaomba of Kasungu and Traditional Authority Ngabu of Chikwawa said in separate interviews that the victory of DPP is a show of people's confidence in the current government, its leadership and policies towards national development and economic transformation.
      "The party has won seats in all the three regions. It just shows that it's a party that enjoys people's support across all the regions and if it was to be supported by other parties in Parliament I would say we would be heading for a good direction. The government has sound policies which the voters have liked and hence this result," said Kaomba.
      But Institute for Policy Interaction (IPI) Executive Director Rafik Hajat warned that although the outcome of the result legitimises the existence of DPP in Parliament, the six seats are too few to enable it wrestle power from the opposition.
      "This a political score for the DPP and President Mutharika and a warning to the UDF that it should put its house in order. Lack of democratic ideals is evident in the party in the way it fields its candidates," said another political analyst from Chancellor College, Boniface Dulani.
      But opposition parties have cried foul over the poll results whose unconfirmed results indicate that the DPP has scooped all the six seats that were being contested.
      PPM President Aleke Banda said Wednesday the results are a big disappointment to lovers of democracy. He said the election was free since there was no violence but it was not fair because the DPP "used massive state resources to garner support."
      "They were using relief maize as their campaign tool and they kept electioneering after the campaign period was over. To us that is another form of rigging so we are watching the situation but we have not yet decided what to do," said Banda.
      Aford spokesperson Norman Nyirenda also said the election was rigged as "a new and small party like the DPP could not scoop all the seats."
      Meanwhile, the UDF has called for a re-run of the election because of alleged incidents of rigging in Nsanje South-West and Chiradzulu North constituencies.
      A letter signed by UDF Secretary-General Kennedy Makwangwala to the Malawi Electoral Commission claims that Sidik Mia bribed election officers in Nsanje with K1,000 each and that the DPP was still campaigning in Chiradzulu long after the official campaign period had expired.
      UDF spokesperson Sam Mpasu said in interview that the results were a shock to him.
      "My immediate reaction is that of shock and dismay at the scandalous levels of rigging where even the Malawi Electoral Commission itself as aware of our queries but did not do anything.
      "This is an unacceptable result and we will meet as a party to decide the way forward," said Mpasu.
      MCP has petitioned the Malawi Electoral Commission (EC) over the by elections conducted saying there were several anomalies that were reported but the commission ignored them.
      The party has since called on the EC to nullify the results of the election, saying they were undemocratic.
      In a letter dated December 7, addressed to the chairman of the commission, MCP director of elections Joseph Njobvuyalema argues that in Nsanje a senior official of the DPP was caught giving K1000 to polling staff to assist the DPP candidate in winning the elections.
      "The matter was officially and in writing brought to the attention of the commission which it verified and confirmed to be true but no action to disqualify the candidate was taken. Instead elections have gone ahead," reads the petition in part.
      Njovuyalema also says in the petition that DPP candidate for Mzimba North Gondwe was distributing Malawi Rural Development Fund (Mardef) loan forms that they would receive the loans if only they voted for him.
      He claims Gondwe got about 1,400 forms from Mardef offices in Lilongwe on the 11 and 14 November and 2nd December respectively, arguing that the minister was not even mandated to collect the forms because it was only Traditional Authorities and sitting MPs who had that mandate.
      Njovuyalema also claims in the petition that President Bingu wa Mutharika distributed maize to voters on condition that they vote for DPP candidates, saying the development was not only abuse of office but also rigging since it preconceived voter's minds.
      But Information Minister Patricia Kaliati has branded the calls for a re-run as "kicks of a dying horse", saying the UDF does not have any genuine grounds to allege the election was rigged.
      "We are not surprised that they are crying. We would not expect them to laugh after losing miserably to a party they have always despised.
      "This landslide victory now vindicates that the DPP is not a regional party and that the President is a good leader. People will now swallow their pride and begin to respect the President," she said.

      *****

      MCP threatens action against MBC
      by Zainah Liwanda, 08 December 2005 - 06:10:52
      The main opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) has threatened to take unspecified action against state broadcaster Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) for refusing to air a press conference the party's MP's held last month in Lilongwe.
      MCP Second Vice President Nicholas Dausi said Tuesday they would take the issue to Parliament when the house resumes sitting, claiming MBC and Television Malawi (TVM) have recently closed their doors to the opposition.
      "We will take this issue to Parliament, we will take appropriate action, and we will definitely make sure that government knows what it's doing is wrong and we cannot tolerate it, because right now MBC and TVM are completely closed. They are now worse than ever, you cannot go to MBC and TVM this time and be interviewed because everybody is living in fear," said Dausi.
      Dausi's said by returning back their money, MBC had demonstrated high levels of disregard to democratic norms and values where national air waves are supposed to be open to all parties.
      Dausi, who is also the party's Publicity Secretary further lamented that by having the courage to give MCP back their money, it was a manifestation that the Mutharika administration was determined to oppress dissenting views.
      Dausi explained that as professionals, MBC would have called his party to a round table ad seen whether there were areas that they would edit out, but not a complete black out, adding it was a lie to say the tape went missing.
      He said his party can not rule out blocking the budgets for the two state institutions, saying during the last sitting, the opposition, changed its stance because they promised change which has not been forth coming.
      Information and Tourism minister Patricia Kaliati said she was waiting for a report on the matter from MBC officials, saying when the incident happened, she was outside the country.
      She said the officials promised to come back to her on Monday and that its after she sees the written report that she can act on the matter because MCP did not even inform her about the developments.
      Kaliati however said the door was open for MCP to organise interviews on the same subject, if it is willing.
      MBC is said to have returned K42,000 that the party paid for airing of a press conference. Dausi told The Nation recently that MBC director General Owen Maunde had informed him that the tape went missing.

      *****

      CIDA rescues Agric committee
      by Zainah Liwanda, 08 December 2005 - 06:09:22
      The Canadian International Development Agency (Cida) has provided the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources with funds to be used in monitoring the universal fertiliser subsidy and food distribution programmes in response to its cries that it was lacking resources.
      Chairperson of the committee Vitus Dzoole Mwale said Tuesday following a Nation article last Tuesday, Cida pumped in some money to enable the committee perform its monitoring role.
      "Following that article, Cida has given us some funds to start with as we wait for treasury and our chairperson of the agriculture sub-committee Honourable Stanley Chimponda has the other details," said Dzoole Mwale.
      Dzoole Mwale also said his committee would come up with a report on the monitoring to be tabled in Parliament.
      Chimponda could not be reached on Tuesday for comment as his mobile phone was on voice mail mode.
      Dzoole Mwale is on record as having said his committee wanted the monitoring role because reports reaching them indicated the programmes were marred with irregularities such as illegal buying of fertiliser coupons by businessmen from targeted recipients.
      He said by monitoring the programmes, his committee would establish the facts on the ground and come up with a comprehensive report which would be tabled for debate in the House.
      Dzoole Mwale is also told The Nation recently that people in his constituency were dying from hunger and related diseases, claiming he attended a funeral of one such victims.

      *****

      Sangala denies being bought
      by Nation Reporters, 08 December 2005 - 06:08:13
      MP for Ndirande Malabala Aaron Sangala has parried accusations that he was bought off to join President Bingu wa Mutharika's Democratic Progressive Movement DPP.
      The former Republican Party vice general secretary Sangala was speaking when he addressed a press conference at the Central Office of Information in Blanytre.
      "We are in a democracy so let people think I've been bought but I've been in opposition for the past 11 years.
      "In fact I should admit that I was among those who initially resisted joining the DPP when [former RP president Gwanda] Chakuamba was joining but after attending a number of DPP caucuses, I was convinced of Mutharika's strategies," he said.
      Sangala added that people have used Ndirande as a political football long enough and that it was high time meaningful development took place in the populous township.
      "Look at the lives and poverty in Ndirande it is almost worse than in the village and 10 years ago. I'm here to tell the nation that the people of Ndirande have said they don't want to hear about impeachment. They want development," said Sangala flanked by DPP party officials and Malabada's group village headman.
      Sangala announced during a public rally held by Mutharika in Bvumbwe on Monday that he had joined the DPP.

      *****

      Financial hiccups rock constitutional review process
      by Zainah Liwanda, 08 December 2005 - 05:27:00
      The Malawi Law Commission is soliciting funding from donors and other stakeholders to complement government's commitment of providing half of the commission's budget for the constitutional review process pegged at K100 million.
      Chief Law Reform Officer Janet Banda said after the opening of a consultative meeting with chiefs from the Central Region Wednesday the commission would have loved to consult all stakeholders, including the grassroots as suggested by the chiefs, but because of insufficient funds, it was not possible to do so.
      Banda said the budget for the review is K100 million but that government pledged half of it which it has since been honouring through monthly disbursements.
      She explained that the commission was hopeful that the deficit would be offset by donors, adding the European Union had pledged assistance.
      Banda said during the various consultations that the commission has undertaken, there have been concerns from people on various aspects of the Constitution, including the composition of the Electoral Commission (EC).
      She said some have expressed dissatisfaction with the way elections have been conducted in the past, saying they were not happy with the leadership of the commission, especially having a judge as head.
      She said the proponents of those arguments feel that it was proper to have someone with managerial skills not necessarily a judge in the position. Banda was quick to say that those of the contrary views said it was better to have lawyers to assist the commission because they are conversant with the law.
      Banda also said some people felt that the commission does not have the capacity to demarcate constituencies and that the exercise should be left to a separate body.
      Law Commissioner Elton Singini who chaired the meeting said the national conference would take place either early January or February.
      Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Henry Phoya said the agreement with the commission was that government pays half of the budget and the other be honoured by other stakeholders such as donors.
      "When we are contacted officially and formally by the Law Commission, we will look into ways of alleviating that particular problem.
      "But let me hasten to add that we made a pledge on the understanding that we are quite aware that the money that was coming from government would not suffice for the whole process," said Phoya, adding government is ready to discuss the issue with the commission.
      On the dates of the conference, Phoya said it would take place between January and June but not beyond.
      Earlier during the meeting, some chiefs expressed concern on the national conference, saying they were afraid efforts the commission has made since the start of the process would be defeated because some people would come with dissenting views
      Traditional Authority Kachere of Dedza said he wanted to know whether the issues to be raised at the national conference would be any different from those that had been solicited from all parts of the country, saying it might be a replica of what was already done.
      But Senior Chief Kaomba said he saw no problem with having a national conference because all the views from different stakeholders would be put together to come with one solid stand.
      The general consensus of the meeting was that all traditional authorities should be consulted independently with at least five women to ensure that gender is taken care of.

      *****

      MP dragged to court over fertiliser
      by Zainah Liwanda, 08 December 2005 - 05:25:43
      MP for Kasungu North-West Gerald Mtenje Jere is expected to appear before court Thursday to answer charges of obtaining fertiliser by false pretence after he allegedly failed to prove that the 79 bags of fertiliser he was caught with belonged to his constituents.
      Officer-in-Charge of Kasungu Police station Davison Bandawe said Wednesday following the failure by Jere to prove that the fertiliser belonged to his constituents, police sold it in his area and gave him back the money.
      "Since he came here without the people who sent him to buy the fertiliser, we have sold it at his home to the poor people and the money has been returned to him, but we will be going to court any time after tomorrow for him to answer charges of obtaining fertiliser by false pretence," said Bandawe.
      Bandawe said there were 79 bags and sold at K950 each, adding the sale was conducted in full view of chiefs and the general public.
      Bandawe said at first people thronged the station to buy the fertiliser but were told that the exercise should be conducted in Jere's constituency.
      Jere could not be reached for comment yesterday but he was quoted earlier as saying he had purchased the fertiliser for his constituents.
      Asked whether the police have the mandate to sell the confiscated fertiliser, Agriculture Minister Uladi Mussa said he was not aware of the incident and could not comment.
      "The issue you are referring to me is news to me, nobody has reported. May be because it's a criminal police case that's why it has not been actually referred to me," said Mussa.
      But Mussa said there was no such policy in his ministry, saying the police are obliged to recover property.
      The minister said the arrangement was that each person is supposed to buy two 50kgs of maize fertiliser and four bags for tobacco.

      *****

      AG takes up Muluzi's duty evasion case
      by Olivia Kumwenda, 08 December 2005 - 05:24:28
      Attorney-General (AG) Ralph Kasambara together with Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) lawyer Henry Ngutwa are now representing the authority in a case former president Bakili Muluzi is being asked to pay about K111 million for 86 vehicles he reportedly bought duty free.
      The former president is said to have cleared the vehicles under the President's (Salaries and Benefits) Act of 1994 when he was in power. The Act allows the President to obtain goods for personal use duty-free.
      But Muluzi is said to have distributed the vehicles to UDF officials and other people.
      During Wednesday's hearing at the Blantyre High Court, Kasambara asked the court to give direction on certain issues before commencement of the substantive hearing of the matter.
      The issues include the fact that either party may file a supplementary affidavit, both parties file in court skeletal arguments, list of authorities and chronological of events, the matter should come before a judge in an open court and deponents of affidavits be present in court to be cross-examined where necessary.
      "Supplementary affidavits and skeletal arguments will help clear all preliminary matters and assist the court in preparing to hear the matter respectively," said Kasambara.
      But Muluzi's lawyer David Kanyenda objected to Kasambara's application, saying the defence was served by the plaintiff a notice of hearing that clearly indicated that they are ready to proceed with the substantive matter.
      "In our view this matter ought to proceed today," said Kanyenda.
      In his ruling, Justice Healey Potani said it is apparent that the parties had come to court with different things in mind.
      "The plaintiff was coming to court for directions on some technical aspects as to how the matter would proceed and not for the substantive hearing. On the part of defendant, counsel was prepared for a substantive hearing and as such objected to the direction being sought and indeed the adjournment of the hearing of the substantive action," said Potani.
      Potani added that because there were no skeleton arguments from both sides, he found merit in the prayer for direction by the plaintiff and adjourned the case to week beginning January 16, 2005.
      He further ordered that both parties be free to file and serve affidavits within seven days, both parties file skeletal arguments, lists of authorities and chronological of events within seven days.
      The judge also ruled that each side should file court bundle, should any party wish to cross-examine any deponents it should be done by way of notice and that the hearing of the matter shall be before a single judge in an open court.
      Hearing of the case failed last week after MRA lawyers did not show up. When asked on their absence, none of MRA legal practitioners knew who was supposed to handle the case as they kept referring it to one another.

      *****

      Another honjo star from Ndirande
      by Ayami Mkwanda, a correspondent, 08 December 2005 - 05:51:56
      He is not yet known, but sooner or later you are bound to hear this name.
      Like the famed honjo star San B, he hails from Blantyre's populous Ndirande Township, and sounds just like the controversial singer.
      Steve T*born Steven Thembachako*is only 17 but has shown the music fraternity that music skill and talent can also dwell and be exploited in teenagers of high ambitions and hopes.
      Steve T, who has recently released his second album, Uziona which features such songs as Kafere Kwanu, Kalidololo and a gospel track, Ndikhulupirira, is a teenager whose music adventures seem to show that he has a rare touch.
      Steve T's music interest dates as far back as 1996.
      In 1999, he released a single entitled Atheramoyenda.
      The year 2002 saw him holding shows with Ras PD and Henderson Sande, but it was in the following year when he made a collaboration with Daniel Mbengo and dropped his first album Patsogolo, in which the popular hits were Mayi Shumba, Timafunana and Zidadziwika.
      However, because of other reasons the album failed to reach the market but the songs just enjoyed maximum air time from all radio stations in the country.
      That wasn't the end of his music career. Steve T came bouncing back mid this year with a relatively mature and much improved album Uziona.
      He tackles various issues and tracks like Kafere Kwanu and Kalidololo are against the HIV and Aids pandemic while Ndikhulupirira is a gospel track.
      "I want to help disseminate the message of the danger of HIV and Aids to all and sundry through music. Aids is threatening the lives of many youths in the country and coincidentally these youths are the leaders of tomorrow.
      Therefore, after seeing how the youths are busy indulging themselves in promiscuity, one of the ways in which the deadly virus is spread, I thought it wise to take the responsibility of steering back my fellow teenagers from the bottomless pit of death by releasing this album whose sole and core objective has been HIV and Aids oriented," says Steve T.
      Kafere Kwanu is in Top 10 in the MBC's Top 20 Singles Chart.
      When asked why he sings like San B, Steve T replies: "I sing like San B because I love San B a lot. He inspires me quite a lot and, undoubtedly, he's my idol and I will take after him."


      *****

      Lilongwe CEO Hails Clean-Up

      The Herald (Harare)

      December 7, 2005
      Posted to the web December 7, 2005

      Harare

      CHIEF executive of Malawi's capital city, Lilongwe, Professor Donton Mkandawire has said the clean-up operation and the subsequent reconstruction programme should be emulated by cities in Africa as a way of attracting investors and maintaining the dignity of the people.

      "Investors want clean environments free from thieves and robbers. A clean environment is good for investors. An ugly face of a city does not attract investment," he said after a tour of Operation Garikai construction sites in Harare.

      Prof Mkandawire, who was in Zimbabwe for a municipal development workshop on urban agriculture, said he had also been tasked by his government to learn from Zimbabwe's successful clean-up operation and the reconstruction phase.

      "We must congratulate the Government (of Zimbabwe) for taking the bold step to clean up the city. We in Lilongwe will certainly copy from the good lessons," he said.

      Uncontrolled vending and informal settlements give our cities bad images and drive out business, he said.

      Prof Mkandawire said he was impressed with the housing programme noting that no sane person could ever criticise the Government for doing good.

      He said the Zimbabwean experience should be emulated by countries in Africa most of which have similar problems but were afraid of international condemnation. "We should not be afraid to do good because someone out there will criticise us. The removal of people from slums and relocating them in modern houses is commendable. Lilongwe should take a leaf from Harare," he said.

      Prof Mkandawire said Lilongwe faced problems with street vendors and informal settlements. There was also a shortage of housing in the city.

      He said there was need to build at least 150 000 houses. The city has a population of 1 million people. He said the present trend in Lilongwe if left unchecked could destroy its good image.

      "The sooner we correct the situation, the better," he said.


      *****

      Mugabe plans to 'consolidate gains'

      Susan Njanji | Harare, Zimbabwe

      08 December 2005 01:55

      Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe opens the annual congress of his ruling Zanu-PF party on Friday, buoyed by his recent big win in controversial senate elections and infighting that has left the opposition in tatters.

      About 5 000 delegates of the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (Zanu-PF) will converge on the small town of Esigodini in the southern Matabeland province, an opposition stronghold where the party won all five seats for the new senate in the polls last month.

      The three-day congress held under the theme "Consolidating Our Gains" is to take stock of Zanu-PF's victories in the March parliamentary vote and the November senate elections, said party spokesperson Nathan Shamuyarira.

      Under Mugabe's leadership, Zanu-PF has kept a tight grip on power in Zimbabwe ever since the Southern African country won independence from Britain in 1980.

      Delegates are also to discuss land reform and there may be new appointments to senior party positions that will be closely watched for clues about possible contenders to succeed Mugabe, who has said he wants to retire in 2008.

      Last year's congress was marred by a party revolt over Mugabe's choice of Joyce Mujuru to be his vice-president, prompting the 81-year-old leader to launch a purge of several senior party officials including six of the 10 provincial party chairpersons.

      Land reform to be debated
      The ruling party weekly newspaper The Voice said in its latest edition that land reform would be "widely debated" at the congress to assess the performance of new black farmers who were given land seized from white farmers.

      Top Zimbabwean officials have recently acknowledged that the apathetic attitude of many black farmers who were given land was responsible for the country's food crisis and warned that some farms could be reclaimed.

      More than four million Zimbabweans are in need of food aid, according to the United Nations World Food Programme, which last week signed an agreement with the government to launch a massive food distribution plan.

      About 4 000 white farmers have lost their land under the policy launched in 2000 to redress imbalances created under British colonial rule when the majority of farmland was owned by whites.

      But after facing a stiff challenge for the past six years from the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, Zanu-PF is expected to breathe easier.

      The MDC remains divided and weak over a bitter row sparked by leader Morgan Tsvangirai's call for a boycott of the senate elections.

      Commenting on the state of Zana-PF's main political rival, party chairperson John Nkomo dismissed opposition claims that the ruling party has infiltrated the MDC.

      "Zanu-PF has never interfered with the MDC. MDC has no agenda and was bound to collapse," Nkomo was quoted as saying in the state-controlled daily The Herald.

      "The opposition party was a creation of our former colonial master to ward off the land reforms," he said.

      'Fuel is abundant here'
      The price of fuel in Zimbabwe has been unofficially hiked nearly six times, reports said on Thursday.

      Petrol is now selling openly in fuel stations for up to Z$120 000 ($1,62) a litre, according to the state-run Herald newspaper. The price set by President Robert Mugabe's government in September was Z$22 300 a litre.

      The Zimbabwe dollar has lost value in the last three months and private fuel companies have decided that price controls no longer apply, the paper said.

      "It is understood that most companies were using last week's sentiments by the Minister of Finance Dr Herbert Murerwa that it was 'critical that market pricing mechanisms be embraced, which are central to ensuring the viability of industry, as well as the well-being of consumers' to mean that there were no more price controls," it said.

      The price of basic goods has also rocketed in supermarkets in the last few days.

      Zimbabwe has been suffering from a critical fuel shortage since March this year, and all but a few fuel stations ran dry. Drivers who could afford it turned to the black market for fuel where the commodity was available but at a much higher price.

      Now some service stations appear to be openly charging black market prices.

      "Fuel is abundant here and if you want you can buy your coupons and get as many litres as you want," said one petrol attendant at a garage in Harare's Kamfinsa suburb. Twenty litres at the garage costs Z$2,4-million ($32), the Herald said.

      The state oil company appears to be turning a blind eye to the hikes.

      "There has not been any price increases as far as we are concerned. They [filling stations] are charging the prices to recover their costs of importing the fuel into the country," an unnamed official at the National Oil Company of Zimbabwe (Noczim) told the paper. - Sapa-dpa, Sapa-AFP
    • Christine Chumbler
      ADB firm on Karonga-Chitipa road contract by Zainah Liwanda, 22 May 2006 - 06:09:17 The African Development Bank (ADB) has again rejected a proposal by
      Message 1046 of 1046 , May 22 8:06 AM
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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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