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  • Christine Chumbler
    Malawi: DFID Lauds Country s Improved Economic Performance UN Integrated Regional Information Networks December 13, 2005 Posted to the web December 13, 2005
    Message 1 of 1046 , Dec 14, 2005
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      Malawi: DFID Lauds Country's Improved Economic Performance

      UN Integrated Regional Information Networks

      December 13, 2005
      Posted to the web December 13, 2005

      Lilongwe

      The British Department for International Development (DFID) has lauded Malawi's efforts to stabilise its economy, but warned against further reversals that could damage the country's reputation.

      DFID economic advisor Alan Whitworth said by maintaining fiscal discipline and adhering to the conditions laid down by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Staff Monitoring Programme, President Bingu wa Mutharika's administration had "stabilised domestic debt, started to bring interest costs down and started to restore Malawi's international reputation".

      Whitworth made the remarks at a meeting organised by the Malawi Confederation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry in the capital, Lilongwe, last week.

      "The previous government's failure to control expenditure had led to the accumulation, since 2001, of a dangerously large domestic debt and the loss of government control over its budget. As a result, Malawi faced a fiscal crisis with disturbing implications for macroeconomic stability, investment, financing of public services and poverty reduction," he commented.

      Whitworth noted that the government had managed to stay within its budget for the first time since 1994, and said, "This demonstrates that the persistent over-expenditure of the previous years was a product of political choice rather than technical weakness."

      The IMF, the World Bank and other major donors suspended aid to Malawi in 2001, citing corruption, government over-expenditure and poor governance as some of the reasons.

      After aid was suspended, the former Bakili Muluzi administration borrowed heavily from the domestic banking system in the form of treasury bills, sparking high interest and inflation rates that affected private investment.

      "Direct investment in Malawi dropped from US $59 million in 1999 to $6 million in 2002. This has obvious implications for growth, employment and poverty reduction," Whitworth observed.

      Up to 80 percent of Malawi's development budget is provided by donors, and the country faces enormous challenges related to poverty, food insecurity, HIV/AIDS and the capacity to deliver services.

      Whitworth added that the IMF's Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF) demonstrated that "if this improvement is sustained over the medium term, there are good prospects for overcoming the fiscal crisis". The PRGF is the IMF's concessional loan facility for low-income countries.

      Malawi's improved economic performance also led the IMF to approve a three-year flow of funds under the PRGF earlier this year to support the government's economic reform and poverty alleviation programmes.

      However, donors have expressed concern over the ongoing political bickering between Mutharika and his political rival, Muluzi, formerly president of the country and now chairman of the opposition United Democratic Front (UDF) party, which stalled approval of the country's budget earlier in the year.

      The country has been in the midst of a tense political standoff between the current government and the opposition since June, when the UDF proposed a motion to impeach Mutharika because he had left the party after it sponsored him in the national elections.

      "Should recent improvements be reversed, the gains would be lost very quickly and, with its reputation damaged yet further, Malawi's economic prospects would be bleak indeed," warned Whitworth.

      The Malawian government said it appreciated the concerns raised by donors. Patrick Kabambe, principal secretary in the Ministry of Finance told IRIN, "As government, we will maintain our policy of spending within our means. We need to build on these successes and improve on them even further. We know that we cannot afford to relax, because doing so will mean going back to where we were".

      *****

      MTL to go at $30 million
      by Taonga Sabola, 14 December 2005 - 04:58:46
      The Privatisation Commission (PC) Tuesday announced Malawi Telecommunications Limited (MTL) will be sold at $30 million.
      The figure falls short of the previous $30.7 million price which many people already described as "unrealistic."
      PC boss Maziko Sauti-Phiri said during a press briefing Tuesday the new price had been reached after taking into consideration the companies assets and liabilities.
      As at the end of last year MTL's net assets were valued at K4.4 billion.
      Sauti-Phiri said K1.335 billion of the total sum will accrue to government while K2.225 billion will be invested into the company.
      Government on Friday last week nodded to the sale of 80 percent of MTL shares to an investment vehicle called Telecom Holdings Limited (THL) which is led by Press Corporations Limited (PCL) which has 65.4 percent stakes followed by Old Mutual Malawi with 25.1 percent.
      In addition to the purchase price, THL is expected to inherit K3.150 billion debt and immediately pay K1 billion to cater for staff retrenchment.
      PCL boss Matthews Chikaonda said that for quite some time MTL has been failing to meet its target of increasing access to telecommunication services to many Malawians.
      "People have been arguing that MTL has been doing fine when in actual fact the company has failed to meet the targets it had agreed with the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra)," said Chikaonda.
      He said MTL had agreed with Macra in 2000 to supply 40, 000 additional telephone lines by December 2004 and that it has not been met the target.
      "Had it been that MTL was to fulfil what it had agreed with Macra, whatever they have been posting as profits would have been reduced to zero," he said.
      He added that Malawians need to give them (THL) about two years and if in those years they don't deliver they should be kicked out.
      The THL consortium expects to raise the number of fixed lines from the current 57,000 to 84,000 in its first year and then to 104,000 in the second year.
      The consortium will be expected to pay a fine of $500 for every line they will fail to provide in the urban areas and $1,000 failed line in the rural areas.
      As of Tuesday evening former MTL board chairman Ken Msonda was trying to obtain an injunction restraining government from going ahead with the sale.
      President Bingu wa Mutharika had suspended the sale of the company in August to review some critical areas including the price which people felt could not match the current state of the company.

      *****

      Village head in for subsidised fertiliser
      by Chester Nyirongo, 14 December 2005 - 05:59:28
      Police in Mzuzu have arrested a village headman in Mzimba after being "illegally" found with 12 bags of subsidised fertiliser.
      Mzuzu Police Public Relations Officer Edward Longwe on Monday said Anson Shonga (50), head of Ndewole Shonga Village, T/A Mtwalo, is expected to appear before court to answer charges of obtaining goods by false pretence.
      "Concerned villagers wrote the DC for Mzimba that their village headman had accumulated several coupons for himself for the cheap fertiliser.
      "The DC sent us a copy of the letter which made us investigate the matter. We found the village head with twelve bags which he claimed belonged to his relatives but we arrested him after he failed to prove they were for his relations," said Longwe.
      Last week police in Kasungu also confiscated 79 bags of the same input from Kasungu North-West MP Gerald Mtenje Jere following his failure to prove that the bags he was found with belonged to his constituents.

      *****

      Fertilizer factory takes off
      by Simon Mbvundula, 14 December 2005 - 05:57:22
      Construction of the much talked about fertiliser making company at Kanengo in Lilongwe has started albeit at a slow pace and is expected to be completed by August next year, the Government of Taiwan has said.
      Counsellor of the Taiwan Embassy in Lilongwe Jimmy Wu said everything is ready despite lack of some utilities like water and electricity.
      "Yes people on the ground are ready and they are kicking off. They applied for the water pipe and at the moment it is under construction. They are also building a temporal dome for workers," he said.
      President Bingu wa Mutharika broke the ground for the fertiliser and PVC factory on July 25 this year.
      During the ceremony chairman of Coin Chemical Group Alez Wu said the fertiliser factory would be completed within eight months and would have an annual production capacity of 50,000 metric tonnes of fertilizer.
      The Taiwanese diplomat admitted that it has taken time to commence construction because of some logistical problems but promised rapid development once everything is put in position.
      An employee at the proposed factory site said full-scale construction will start in January 2005 after water and electricity have been provided for.
      The fertiliser company is one of the four companies earmarked for construction by investors from Taiwan in Lilongwe.
      Other companies will be making polyvinyl PVC pipes and roofing, while the third one will be making pharmaceuticals and the last one will be manufacturing painting materials.

      *****

      Villagers stop synod from erecting buildings
      by Chester Nyirongo , 14 December 2005 - 05:50:28
      Some villagers in Mzimba have stopped Ekwendeni Mission of the Livingstonia CCAP Synod from putting up more structures, arguing they own the land surrounding the mission.
      Deputy General-Secretary for the synod Reverend Maurice Munthali said the mission wants, among other things, to build more hostels for the nursing college, development department offices and houses for tutors.
      Reports indicate that surveyors who were working on the land in preparation for the mission's projects last week were stopped by irate villagers who pelted stones at the assessors.
      But in an interview Tuesday Munthali denied that the surveyors were chased from the land.
      "The villagers were just surprised why surveyors started working on the land before the mission discussed the matter with them," said Munthali.
      He said the villagers are refusing to vacate the land because of some misunderstanding over their long stay on the land.
      "The misunderstanding has come about because the villagers feel they own the land because they have been staying on it for a long time," he said.
      Munthali said they would not forcefully chase the villagers but resolve the matter amicably.
      "We cannot chase the people from the land because they are the same we evangelise. The matter is with the DC [for Mzimba] and Lands authorities who will convince the villagers that the land belongs to us," said Munthali.
      He said the land was given to the mission a long time ago by T/A Mtwalo and other traditional leaders but has all along been used by the villagers.
      When contacted, District Commissioner for Mzimba Richard Hara denied having been approached by the synod authorities on the matter.
      He said it was the villagers who complained that the mission was encroaching on their land.
      Hara said he wrote the synod authorities on the matter.
      He said the matter cannot be resolved unless the synod gives him feedback.
      Last month villagers around Choma in Mzuzu attacked and wounded Lands officials over the land which Mzuzu University plans to build its main campus.
      The villagers claimed they own the land and could not move away.

      *****

      Mkandawire denies withdrawing poll case
      by Edwin Nyirongo, 14 December 2005 - 05:20:30
      One of the losing candidates in the Karonga North December 6 by-elections Jimmy Mponda Mkandawire has disputed reports that he has withdrawn the case where he wanted the courts to stop polls in the area due to alleged flaws during the registration exercise.
      Mkandawire's reaction comes after government and the Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec) claimed that he had withdrawn the case.
      Both Mkandawire and his lawyer Davie Lameck said on Monday they have not communicated to either government or Mec about case discontinuance.
      Mkandawire said he wanted to continue with the case because he has gathered enough evidence to prove his case.
      "May be things are taking place behind my back but as far as I am concerned, the case is still on," he said.
      Mec Chief Elections Officer Anthony Masanza said he got information that Mkandawire has withdrawn the elections case.
      Masanza, however, admitted that he did not have a written case withdrawal notice in his office.
      Attorney General Ralph Kasambara also alleged that the case has been withdrawn.
      But when put to him that Mkandawire has rejected the claims, Kasambara said he got the message from Mkandawire's lawyer, Lameck.
      "Mponda's lawyer told our lawyer Chifundo Ngwira that he has withdrawn the case and it was Ngwira who told us," said Kasambara.
      Ngwira could not be reached on his mobile phone while Lameck denied notifying Ngwira about the case withdrawal.
      Among other things, Mkandawire alleges that the registration process was defective as some candidates ferried people from outside the constituency to register. He also alleged that some people that registered were underage.
      Karonga North was won by Bernard Mwakaileke of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

      *****

      Malawi mob accuses Chinese man of cannibalism

      Blantyre, Malawi

      14 December 2005 07:28

      Malawi police on Tuesday fired on a mob outside the home of a Chinese businessman rumoured to have abducted and eaten a number of boys in the southern tea-growing town of Bvumbwe.

      Two people were rushed to a hospital after they were shot in the melee, said police spokesperson Willy Mwaluka.

      The bizarre incident happened after the disappearance of at least six boys in the area, about 25km south of the commercial capital, Blantyre. Local leaders filed a complaint with police on Tuesday after an employee of the businessman alleged one of the boys had been brought to the man's residence.

      Police searched the residence, but found no evidence to support the claim, Mwaluka said.

      Residents then decided to take matters into their own hands and besieged the house. Some refused to disperse after the shooting, and police were maintaining a 24-hour watch to ward against further violence.

      The five officers involved in the shooting were arrested pending an investigation.

      "We want to find out whether the situation warranted the opening of fire," Mwaluka said.

      Rumors of cannibalism have surrounded Malawi's small, largely isolated Chinese community since they first arrived in the 19th century to help build the Southern African country's railway line.

      No incidents have ever been confirmed. -- Sapa-AP

      *****

      Police shoot two at Bvumbwe
      by Emmanuel Muwamba, 14 December 2005 - 05:12:05
      A man was battling for his life at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital Tuesday and another one sustained a leg injury after being shot by Police near Bvumbwe Trading Centre. Police have meanwhile arrested four officers in connection with the shooting.
      A statement from Police Headquarters in Lilongwe also says the "service sincerely regrets the shooting of the two."
      The police shot the two during a fracas that ensued when villagers wanted to search a house belonging to a Chinese national (a Mr. Hwangwang) who was allegedly keeping a girl who went missing last week. Hwangwang denies the kidnapping.
      Police fired at Amadu Chiyesa who was allegedly hurling stones from behind a tree. The villagers, noting that Chiyesa was lying in a pool of blood, took him towards the police officers who again shot in the air before they fired at Bamaford Matiyasi in the abdomen.
      Matiyasi lay in a pool of blood for about 30 minutes before a Toyota Land Cruiser registration number MP1730 took him to Bvumbwe Health Centre. Chiyesa and Matiyasi were later taken to Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital for further treatment.
      Bvumbwe was tense when police reinforcement arrived at the scene to quell the situation. Several people were arrested on suspicion that they were ring leaders.
      The missing girl, Grace Chisonga, 14, is reported to have gone missing last week when an unidentified man coaxed her to buy her vegetables leaving three friends behind. The girl's whereabouts cannot be traced todate.
      Grace's parents reported the matter to police on Wednesday last week and they were told to go back Tuesday.
      A villager, Masautso Mbuluma, claimed relatives and parents of the girl consulted a witch-doctor during the weekend who showed them a picture of the girl at Hwangwang's house with her legs amputated.
      The family went to police as advised and while they were in consultations a group of relatives of the missing girl organised themselves and invaded the Hwangwang's house, throwing stones, breaking windows and hitting the Chinese national on the mouth.
      Police came to quell the situation but the villagers hurled stones at them and the police, in an attempt to scare away the villagers, fired in the air.
      Mbuluma, who was at the scene, alleged one of the watchmen at the Chinese residence told some villagers that he saw the girl being brought into the yard of Chinese national's house.
      "This is what made people to believe that Grace is indeed being kept in that house but the police stopped the people from searching the house," he said.
      The situation got out of hand when the police forced people out of the Chinese compound.
      An officer on the spot, speaking on condition of anonymity, defended their action, saying the excessive force they used was a last resort.
      "We requested the villagers to choose representatives but they continued pressing ahead to search the house in their large numbers.
      "It could not work. How do you let over 200 people search one house at the same time?
      "We had to push them away as a way of controlling the crowd but that, too, could not work*forcing us to take up arms," he said.
      Police Public Relations Officer Willie Mwaluka said the acting Inspector-General cannot condone use of excessive force if a situation can be controlled.
      "This is why we have four officers in custody for investigations," said Mwaluka.
      In an interview, the Chinese national denied that he was keeping the girl.
      He said his family is in a state of fear, saying the villagers may come back any time.
      Meanwhile, Luchenza police have arrested five armed robbers who broke into Chipiku Stores Tuesday.
      According to a police statement, the robbers attacked at about 0600 GMT and "managed to go away with cash."
      "The robbers, who were on a pick-up, green in colour , shot one bullet in the air," says the statement.
      Police quickly arrived at the scene, chased the robbers together with members of the general public.
      "The robbers abandoned the vehicle and police managed to arrest five and three others fled," says the statement.
      K32,000, one AK 47 rifle with 19 ammunition and one pump-gun with one ammunition were recovered.


      *****

      Zim returns M&G owner's passport

      Riaan Wolmarans and AFP | Harare, Zimbabwe



      14 December 2005 01:16

      Zimbabwean immigration authorities on Wednesday handed back a passport seized from Mail & Guardian owner and publisher Trevor Ncube six days ago under a new measure to punish government critics.

      Ncube recovered his travel document that was seized at the airport in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe's second city, moments after he flew in from South Africa where he is based.

      "It appears I am winning. My passport is now in the hands of my lawyers," Ncube said in an SMS sent to the M&G on Wednesday.

      "My lawyers are working on a consent order with the judge. They are also working on a court order making sure my travels are not interfered with," he said. "Indications are that I will have my passport in my hands by the end of the day."

      "I have got Mr Ncube's passport in my hands as we speak," lawyer Sternford Moyo said by telephone in Harare.

      "A fellow lawyer went to immigration and they conceded the seizure was unlawful," he said.

      A veteran Zimbabwean journalist, Ncube is the publisher of the weekly Zimbabwe Independent and Standard as well as the M&G.

      All three papers have been openly critical of President Robert Mugabe's policies.

      On Monday, Ncube's lawyers went to the High Court to seek the release of the passport, arguing that the seizure was in violation of "fundamental principles of natural justice". The court hearing was to take place later this week, but immigration authorities decided to return the passport before awaiting the outcome of the legal action.

      Parliament in August approved changes to the Constitution that allow the state to seize the passports of people perceived to be anti-government.

      "It's not morally right and patriotic for any Zimbabwean to go gallivant the world on a Zimbabwean passport asking for a military invasion of Zimbabwe or the imposition of official and unofficial sanctions," Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa told lawmakers at the time the Bill was approved.

      The seizure of Ncube's passport was the first time that the provision had been applied.

      The board of M&G Media, which publishes the M&G, on Tuesday said Ncube was effectively under country arrest in Zimbabwe after his passport was confiscated.

      In a statement, chairperson of the board Professor William Makgoba said the board was shocked at the confiscation of Ncube's passport.

      "It marks another sad day for Africa," Makgoba said, "and a step back for the New Partnership for Africa's Development, the continental programme aimed at lifting our continent high."

      On Friday, a senior member of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), Paul Themba Nyathi, became the second high-profile Mugabe critic to have his passport seized.

      Nyathi is a former human rights activist and an outspoken critic of the Harare government, which he has called "tyrannical".

      Mugabe's party on Saturday endorsed the seizure of the passports, urging state security agents to draw up lists of targets.

      In a resolution adopted by Mugabe's Zanu-PF at its annual conference, the party said it "welcomes the 17th constitutional amendment, in particular the withdrawal of passports of Zimbabweans who go around demonising the country".

      "We want the security people to draw up a list of people like that and withdraw their passports," it said.
    • Christine Chumbler
      ADB firm on Karonga-Chitipa road contract by Zainah Liwanda, 22 May 2006 - 06:09:17 The African Development Bank (ADB) has again rejected a proposal by
      Message 1046 of 1046 , May 22, 2006
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        ADB firm on Karonga-Chitipa road contract

        by Zainah Liwanda, 22 May 2006 - 06:09:17

        The African Development Bank (ADB) has again rejected a proposal by government to look for another contractor instead of China Hunan Construction to construct of the long awaited Karonga/Chitipa road.

        China Hunan from Mainland China won the bid which was approved by the ADB but government later wanted to award the contract to a Portuguese firm, Mota Engil, the second lowest bidder, claiming China Hunan's bid was unrealistically low and that the company had very little experience in Africa.

        Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe confirmed on Sunday the ADB rejected the proposal at a meeting held between the bank and Malawi government in Tunisia last week.

        The Malawi government wanted the Tunisia meeting to authorise it to get another contractor for the road, said Gondwe.

        "They did not allow us to look for another contractor because of their regulations. But we are about to get another alternative for Karonga/Chitipa and I would be surprised if it does not start before end June," said Gondwe.

        The minister explained that the bank insisted that regardless of the unrealistic cost estimates, China Hunan should be allowed to go ahead with the construction.

        But Gondwe could not give further details about the alternatives, arguing there are still a few loose ends to tighten up before disclosing it.

        The problem with China Hunan, according to Gondwe, is that it would require more money to meet the total cost of the project.

        This paper reported last week that government met Taiwanese representatives where they offered to fund the road if the ADB continued to reject its favoured contractor, Mota Engil.

        Gondwe could neither confirm nor deny the reports on the Taiwanese offer, saying government was looking at a number of ways to handle the issue.

        According to Gondwe, the China Hunan's bid was 24 percent lower than the consulting engineers' estimates of K7.9 billion and 34 percent below the second lowest bidder.

        President Bingu wa Mutharika laid a foundation stone for the construction of the road this year ahead of a crucial byelection in Chitipa in December last year.

        The President's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) won the Chitipa Wenya constituency by-election that fell vacant following the collapse and subsequent death of Speaker of Parliament Rodwell Munyenyembe who belonged to the UDF.

        Last week, police and the District Commissioner (DC) for Chitipa stopped a rally that was aimed at soliciting people's views about development projects in the district.

        The meeting, which was reportedly organised by Concerned Citizens of Chitipa, was among other things also supposed to tackle the controversial Karonga/Chitipa road.

        The project failed to start off in 2000 when a contract for an initial loan of US$17 million and US$15 million from the Taiwanese government was signed, with some quarters claiming the Bakili Muluzi administration diverted the money to another road.

        *****

        Chihana operated on

        by Edwin Nyirongo, 22 May 2006 - 06:32:31

        Alliance for Democracy (Aford) president Chakufwa Chihana, who is in South Africa receiving treatment, had a brain operation on Friday at Garden City Clinic, family and party officials confirmed on Sunday.

        Aford national chairman Chipimpha Mughogho said he was told by the family members that Chihana had a successful operation on Friday and was put in an intensive care unit.

        Mughogho said Chihana, who initially complained of headache, was found with a brain tumour which South African doctors removed.

        Mzimba West MP Loveness Gondwe said Aford boss condition was stable.

        "Hon. Chihana had a major operation and after that he was put in the intensive care unit but his condition is stable. I do not know where he was operated on but it had something to do with the skull," she said.

        Deputy Information Minister John Bande referred the matter to the Health Minister Hetherwick Ntaba who was reported to be in Geneva, Switzerland.

        Aford publicity secretary Norman Nyirenda said when Chihana's situation got worse, the family alerted the Office of the President and Cabinet who took him to Mwaiwathu Private Hospital.

        "The doctors at Mwaiwathu advised that he should be sent to South Africa and they even identified the doctor for him," he said.

        He said the costs are being met by the Malawi government, contradicting his earlier statement that his boss covered the cost.

        Mughogho is now in charge of the party.

        Gondwe will be a busy person when Parliament starts meeting on June 6 as she is the only Aford MP remaining.

        *****

        Pillane proposes presidential age limit

        by Emmanuel Muwamba , 22 May 2006 - 06:34:13

        A member of the DPP National Governing Council Abdul Pillane on Saturday urged members of political parties and the civil society to put an upper age limit in the Constitution for presidential candidates.

        Pillane was addressing members of political parties and civil society in Liwonde during a two-day follow up workshop to the National Conference on the Review of Constitution held in March in Lilongwe.

        "My view is that (an upper) age limit should be at 75. We have to give a chance to younger people to lead because in circumstance, when you age you become forgetful especially when sickly," said Pillane. "Overall, chances should be given to young people."

        But UDF secretary general Kennedy Makwangwala, whose party members agitated for the age limit during presentations, played the issue down.

        "I feel there is no logic to have an upper age limit for presidential candidates. If someone is 90 or 80 I don't know how that can influence the electorate not to vote for someone who is younger, I don't see any logic behind that," said Makwangwala.

        MCP participants at the workshop also vehemently objected to the proposal.

        MCP vice president Nicholas Dausi in an interview said: "There is no constitution in Africa which stipulates an upper age limit. So it would be strange in Malawi to have an upper age limit for presidential candidates."

        MDP President Kamlepo Kalua also opposed the need to have an upper age limit.

        "If we have personalities in mind that we want to discriminate against then it is unfortunate. The constitution we want to build is a guiding document for future generations and it should not bar certain individuals on the basis of grudges," he said.

        The Malawi Law Constitution Issues Paper of March 2006 says several submissions that were received put an upper presidential age limit in the Constitution.

        "It is argued that it is common sense that mental knowledge faculties tend to fail with age. As regards what the actual age limit should be the submissions are far from being agreed. The range is from 60 years to 80 years," read submissions in the Issues Paper.

        On whether MPs should double as ministers, Kalua said this should be the case.

        Makwangwala also said it is not right for MPs to serve as ministers because the Legislature, another arm of government, is reduced while the Executive branch is beefed up from another arm of government.

        "There is no separation of powers when MPs double as ministers," said Makwangwala.

        But Pillane said there is no problem for MPs to work as ministers as well, saying MPs are elected by the President.

        "One can serve both posts. There have been no problems before for people to double," said Pillane.

        The Centre for Multiparty Democracy funded the workshop through the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy.

        The objective was to come up with a collective position on the Issues Paper which will be presented to the Special Law Commission that will be constituted soon.

        *****

        Mussa hails new driving licence

        by Zainah Liwanda, 22 May 2006 - 06:58:52

        Transport and Public Works Minister Henry Mussa last week said the design of the Malawi-Sadc driving licence would guard against forgery and ensure that only skilled and legitimate drivers of particular vehicles are licensed.

        Mussa was speaking at the official launch of the licences in Lilongwe where he announced that traffic police would from July enforce speed limits and sober driving using Breathalysers which his ministry is in the process of procuring.

        The minister said financial constraints are the reason for the delay in procuring the equipment but assured that by July they would be available.

        "With the new equipment, the days of those who believe in the thrill of drink and driving are numbered," warned Mussa.

        Mussa added that with the new licence, government is optimistic that the country's roads would be safe.

        Acting Director of Road Traffic James Chirwa said the features that distinguish the new from the old licences are the Malawi national flag and a ghost image of the driver's photograph, among others.

        Those with old licences, according to Chirwa, are expected to get the new ones after the expiry of the former.

        *****

        UDF demands investigation on Kasambara

        by Rabecca Theu, 22 May 2006 - 06:30:46

        The United Democratic Front (UDF) has asked government to investigate Ralph Kasambara on allegations of abuse of office while he was attorney general.

        UDF publicity secretary Sam Mpasu told the press Sunday that the party is neither amused or saddened by the removal of the former AG but asked government to institute investigations on Kasambara.

        "Beyond the removal of the Attorney General, we now urge President Mutharika to institute investigation against Mr Kasambara into allegations that have made rounds in the public domain during the recent past. These include: Mrs Helen Singh and SS Rent-a-Car; SGS and ITS saga; ...........the use of Malawi Police Service in the arrest of three Chronicle journalists and the handling of Mrs Rubina Kawonga," said Mpasu.

        Mpasu also accused Kasambara of awarding government contracts to Lawson and Company where he was a senior partner.

        "We urge government to thoroughly investigate the former AG. We also ask government to cautiously select the new AG ," said Mpasu, who was accompanied by the party's Secretary General Kennedy Makwangwala, leader of the party in Parliament George Mtafu, chief whip Leonard Mangulama and a member of the executive Hophmally Makande.

        But Minister of Information Patricia Kaliati said UDF should give offer its advice to the Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB).

        "They should advise bodies like the Anti-Corruption Bureau to conduct the investigations and why are they saying this now? Is it because Kasambara has been fired? This is not a personal issue. If they have other pressing issues they should just say so. These arguments should have come up earlier on when the said cases were happening," she said.

        Kasambara asked UDF to proceed with the mission of urging government to investigate him.

        "They can do their job. Everyone has a right to lobby for anything they want in the country. UDF has a right to do that, let them go ahead," he said.

        Kasambara was relieved of his duties as AG by the President last week. Government has not given reasons behind the removal.

        *****

        Zambia: Malawians Grab Zambian Land

        The Times of Zambia (Ndola)

        May 18, 2006

        Posted to the web May 19, 2006

        Andrew Lungu

         

        MALAWIANS who have encroached on both the 'no-man's' and part of the Zambian land at the Mwami border in Eastern Province have plucked out some beacons that were used in the demarcation of the border.

        The Malawians are now using the beacons as stools in their newly-established villages on Zambian land.

        Eastern Province Minister, Boniface Nkhata, said in Chipata yesterday that if the situation was not controlled urgently, Zambia would lose huge tracts of land to Malawians migrating into Zambian in large numbers.

        A check at the Zambia-Malawi border showed a number of beacons had been vandalised and new structures constructed on the 'no man's' land and a large portion of Zambian land.

        Mr Nkhata said the trend extended to many parts of the province bordering the two countries.

        "A large portion of Zambian land has been taken up by the Malawians starting from the Chama boundary up to the Mwami border.

        "The weighbridge at the Mwami border was initially in Zambia from the time both countries gained independence from Britain, but now the bridge is on Malawian soil," Mr Nkhata said.

        The minister, who is former Chama District Commissioner, said there was similar encroachment in Lundazi and Chama districts where Zambia shares a boundary with Malawi.

        He said a Malawian farmer identified as Mr Mfune had cultivated 71.5 hectares on Zambian land and employed about 265 Malawian workers.

        "Khombe Farm in Chama district in Kanyerere's area, along the Muyombe road which leads to Northern Province where this Malawian farmer has cultivated a vast land is on the Zambian territory," he said.

        Workers on the farm admitted that they were farming on Zambian soil but could not go back to Malawi because the land in that country was inadequate for cultivation.

        Mr Nkhata appealed to the ministry of Lands to urgently release money for the demarcation of the Zambia-Malawi border to avoid further land disputes between the two countries.

        Meanwhile, the Immigration Department in Livingstone has arrested a couple and another man, all Zimbabweans, for working in Zambia without permits.

        They were arrested at Gwembe village yesterday where they worked for Into Africa, a tour operating company that provides bush dinners and breakfast.

        According to the Immigration Department in Livingstone, the trio entered Zambia through the Victoria Falls border as visitors but decided to work for the company illegally.

        Last week, immigration officers arrested 10 Zimbabwean traders and six Ethiopians for entering and staying in Zambia illegally.

        The Zimbabwean traders were warned and cautioned and later released.

        The Ethiopians were arrested at Konje Guest House when they ran out of money to proceed to Botswana.

         

        *****

        Zim unions, MDC still plan anti-govt protests

        Harare, Zimbabwe

        22 May 2006 11:51

        Zimbabwe's biggest labour federation on Saturday threatened to call massive demonstrations against the government over poor salaries and worsening living conditions for workers in the country.

        The threats are ratcheting up pressure against President Robert Mugabe's government after similar threats by the biggest opposition party in the country, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), about two months ago.

        Speaking at the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) conference on Saturday, the labour body's president, Lovemore Matombo, said the powerful union wants the government to award workers salaries that match the country's ever-rising inflation.

        "I can assure you we will stage massive demonstrations to force them [employers] to award workers minimum salaries that tally with the poverty datum line," said Matombo.

        Matombo did not say when exactly the ZCTU would order workers to strike.

        Opposition protests

        Meanwhile, the MDC on Sunday said it will push ahead with plans for anti-government protests, saying victory in a key by-election at the weekend was a "sign the electorate supported its policies", including democratic mass resistance.

        A spokesperson of the main faction of the splintered MDC, Nelson Chamisa, said victory over Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF and a rival MDC faction in a Saturday by-election in Harare's Budiriro constituency is a sign Zimbabweans still have confidence in party leader Morgan Tsvangirai and his policies.

        Tsvangirai, the founding leader of the MDC, heads the main rump of the opposition party whose candidate, Emmanuel Chisvuure, polled 7 949 votes to win the Budiriro House of Assembly seat.

        Gabriel Chaibva of the other faction of the MDC, led by prominent academic Arthur Mutambara, garnered 504 votes while Zanu-PF's Jeremiah Bvirindi polled 3 961 votes.

        "This election showed that the electorate still has confidence in the MDC [Tsvangirai-led] leadership and its policies," Chamisa told independent news service ZimOnline.

        He added: "We will now move to consolidate our position * we still believe in mass protests. Until we have attained our goals we see no reason why we should abandon [plans for protests]."

        Tsvangirai has threatened to call mass protests this winter against Mugabe and his government. He says the mass protests, whose date he is still to name, are meant to force Mugabe to relinquish power to a government of national unity to be tasked to write a new and democratic Constitution that would ensure free and fair elections held under international supervision.

        Mugabe and his government, who had hoped for victory in Budiriro to show they were recapturing urban support from a splintered MDC, have not taken idly the opposition's threats to call mass protests, with the veteran president warning Tsvangirai he would be "dicing with death" if he ever attempted to instigate a Ukraine-style popular revolt in Zimbabwe.

        Crackdown

        In a fresh crackdown against dissension, the police last week arrested several church and civic leaders for organising public prayers and marches to mark last year's controversial home-demolition exercise by the government.

        The police also banned the marches and prayers, fearing they could easily turn into mass protests against Mugabe and his government.

        However, the marches went ahead in the second-largest city of Bulawayo after organisers had obtained a court order barring the police from stopping the march.

        Political analysts say although Zimbabweans have largely been cowed by Mugabe's tactics of routinely deploying riot police and the military to crush street protests, worsening hunger and poverty are fanning public anger that Tsvangirai -- with proper planning and organisation -- could easily manipulate.

        Zimbabwe is in the grip of a severe six-year old economic crisis that has seen inflation breaching the 1 000% barrier. Last year, the World Bank said Zimbabwe's economic crisis was unprecedented for a country not at war.

        The MDC and major Western governments blame Mugabe for wrecking the country's economy, which was one of the strongest in Africa at independence from Britain 26 years ago.

        Mugabe denies the charge blaming the crisis on sabotage by Britain and her allies after he seized white-owned farms for redistribution to landless blacks six years ago.

        The Harare authorities recently hiked salaries for civil servants, with the lowest-paid soldier now earning about Z$27-million while the lowest-paid school teacher now takes home about Z$33-million.

        But the salaries are still way below the poverty datum line, which the government's Consumer Council of Zimbabwe says now stands at a staggering Z$42-million a month for an average family of six.

        The Zimbabwe government often accuses the ZCTU, a strong ally of the MDC, of pushing a political agenda to remove Mugabe from power.

        Meanwhile, Matombo and Lucia Matibenga retained their posts as president and first vice-president respectively during the ZCTU congress that ended on Saturday. -- ZimOnline

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