- Malawi acts against child brides
The government of Malawi is considering raising the legal age of marriage in the country to 18 as a result of a growing number of cases of young girls being forced to marry much older men.
The legal age of marriage in country is currently 15, but many man are illegally marrying girls as young as 11 or 12.
As a result, the average age of marriage in Malawi is among the world's lowest, while the percentage of teenage mothers is among the world's highest.
Maxwell Matewere, executive director of The Eye Of The Child organisation which fights for children's rights in Malawi, told BBC World Service's Outlook programme that the issue was forcing the country to question itself.
"We strongly believe that the incidents of children being forced into marriage are growing by the day - but for people to report this is a taboo," he explained.
"It brings shame to the community, so they prefer to keep the information within the communities.
"This really does not help the process of protecting the children."
Last year, Malawi's government trained 230 volunteers in ways to protect children, and began efforts to more vigorously enforce the legal minimum age for marriage.
Mr Matewere said that HIV and Aids in the country have greatly increased the number of orphans, as well as increasing the number of vulnerable children.
Poverty is also a major factor, he said - something confirmed by one 12-year-old who has married a man aged 43.
"My grandmother told me to get married because she couldn't help me with all her financial problems," the girl, who did not want to give her name, told Outlook.
"MY husband helps me a lot - he's buying me clothes, food and anything else we need in our house. Of course I feel sorry for myself, because I know that I am so much younger than him.
"But my family chose this husband for me, because we were having problems. I had no other option but to get married to him."
Before the marriage, she would help the family on their farm and go to school, she said.
But she no longer receives any education, despite a wish to go back to school.
She also admitted she would like a husband younger than man she has at the moment.
But her husband said that he did not view marrying her as a violation of the rights of children.
"There is not a problem at all because her parents agreed to the marriage," he said.
"We love each other, and wanted to get married. It is our wish."
He added that in his view the problem was the financial situation in the country, which was "forcing young girls like her to marry older men like me.
"I know that this is wrong, but because of the poverty here in this village, the parents can't afford to care for their daughter and support her needs.
"I'm staying with her as a husband - but at the same time I'm looking after her as a parent... I want to keep on helping her, and in the future I want to open a big shop for her, just like my own."
Chewa chief bashes own culture
by Simon Mbvundula , 15 December 2005 - 06:57:42
Senior Chief Khongoni of Lilongwe has strongly condemned some Chewa cultural rituals like kulowa kufa, chokolo and kuchotsa fumbi as being responsible for the spread of HIV and Aids.
Kulowa kufa is sexual cleansing ritual where a widow is forced to have sex with a relative of the deceased husband, for example, allegedly to prevent further deaths in the family/village while Kuchotsa fumbi is a cultural practice where girls are forced to have sexual intercourse with men after initiation and chokolo involves a widow getting married to the deceased husband's brother and vice-versa.
Khongoni warned in an interview after the launch of the National Programme and Plan of Action on Women, Girls and HIV/Aids that unless the said rituals are stopped the Malawi nation is doomed for extinction.
"From now onwards, let us stop it if it happens in our villages because if the fisi is affected, it will also infect the girl child and what type of culture is that? We should make sure this is stopped forthwith otherwise the nation will perish," she said.
Khongoni urged her fellow chiefs to be in the forefront of condemning such traditions saying although they are the custodians of culture, chiefs also have a duty to protect the vulnerable groups in their societies.
"Some of these customs are as bad as selling our own people," she said.
Khongoni also urged the gulewankulu cult to identify and send only good Aids messages during initiation ceremonies and asked the public to be open during funerals.
Commenting on Khongoni's remarks, Secretary for Gender, Child Welfare and Community Services Andrina Mchiela said government has already started discussing with Mangochi chiefs on incest and hailed Khongoni's stand.
"As government we need to take a dialogue stand and we have already started discussions with chiefs from Mangochi where fathers are marrying their daughters," said Mchiela.
"What the senior chief [Khongoni] said is encouraging and we need to use her as our entry point. If only there were 20 of her type in the country, we would probably be winning the battle."
The National Programme and Plan of Action on Women, Girls and HIV and Aids aims at prevention of HIV and Aids among girls and young women. The five-year programme budgeted at K4 billion also aims at promoting girl education.
In 2003, HIV and Aids prevalence among young women aged between 15 and 24 years was 15 percent while that of young men of the same age group stood at seven percent.
Gondwe, Kampanje differ on illegal account culprits
by Tadala Makata Kakwesa, 15 December 2005 - 06:32:54
Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe has said government will not probe and punish culprits in the 3,000 bank accounts that different ministries and departments irregularly opened with various commercial banks, a view contrary to Accountant-General Reckford Kampanje's.
Gondwe said in an interview last Tuesday that his ministry has decided to concentrate on the central payment system instead of wasting time and resources on the investigations.
He said government has finalised closing the accounts and that all financial transactions from ministries and departments will now be channelled through the centralised payment system.
"We have to open a new chapter and start an efficient system that controls expenditure. I cannot be looking back and waste time on things that probably are dry and fruitless. I must look at the future," said Gondwe
He added: "If we start doing the investigations on those accounts, it will take years; our job is to [rectify the problem]."
In November this year, Secretary to Treasury Patrick Kabambe and Accountant-General Kampanje told Nation Business Review that they had uncovered close to 3,000 illegal government bank accounts.
Kampanje said last month that he had instructed his officers to work with the Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM) to investigate and identify those responsible so that action should be taken.
He said the Public Finance Management Act does not allow any government official to open an account without the knowledge and signature of the Accountant General.
"After the investigations have been done, whoever was involved in the opening of these accounts will be taken to task according to what the law says," said Kampanje.
But in a follow-up interview on Monday this week, Kampanje said the decision to conduct the investigations or not will be determined in January.
"What we have done is that we've sent a list of bank accounts which must be closed after reconciliation with the commercial banks. After the reconciliation, we'll ask the banks, through Reserve Bank, to give us a list of all those government accounts. When we get them and find out that there are some which are not on our list, we'll conduct the investigations," said Kampanje.
Kampanje, however, said it was not all the 3000-plus accounts which are fraudulent, saying there are some which are bonafide and others which were opened without passing through his office.
"We have established two task-forces that are looking into the issue [with] the one on reconciliation expected to report to me on Friday," said Kampanje
While agreeing with Gondwe that time and resources will be wasted if the investigations were to be conducted, the top fiscal accountant said government has not decided on the course of action yet.
Kabambe said in last month's interview that government had decided to close the accounts after realising that the accounts were a breeding ground for fraud.
"We believe these accounts were a breeding ground for fraud where people took advantage to swindle government money. Therefore, we have decided to have only five bank accounts, and all transactions will be channelled through these accounts, issuing of cheques will be done by the Accountant-General," said Kabambe.
The bank accounts to be opened are Current, Personal, Donor Financed, Public Debt and Advances accounts, according to Kabambe.
He said Malawi Defense Force, Malawi Police Service and the State Residences will continue running their own bank accounts because they conduct sensitive businesses.
Tanzania awaits outcome of poll
Initial results in Tanzania's parliamentary and presidential elections are expected to be announced shortly following Wednesday's poll.
Turnout was high and the only reports of violence came from Zanzibar, where opposition protesters were hurt in clashes with police.
The governing Chama Cha Mapinduzi party is expected to retain its majority.
The election had been delayed for several weeks following the death of a vice-presidential candidate.
Campaigning ended on a dramatic note on Tuesday, when presidential frontrunner Jakaya Kikwete collapsed at a rally.
The ruling party candidate later blamed his collapse on exhaustion. He is expected to win the vote and become the next president.
Ten candidates are in the running to replace Benjamin Mkapa, who is standing down after serving the maximum two terms.
The winner of the presidential vote will not be known for another three days, the National Election Commission said.
Eighteen political parties are contesting parliamentary seats.
'Well but tired'
Long queues formed outside polling stations on Wednesday. Problems reported with names not appearing on registration lists, were not serious and primarily voters being impatient, an election commission official told the BBC.
Earlier in the day, several opposition supporters in the semi-autonomous Zanzibar archipelago were injured in clashes with police.
The activists claim police opened fire on them as they attempted to prevent bogus voters from casting their ballot.
Poll violence erupts in Zanzibar
Issa Maalim | Zanzibar, Tanzania
15 December 2005 09:41
At least nine people were wounded and dozens arrested on Wednesday as police battled opposition supporters on Tanzania's volatile Zanzibar archipelago during the country's national elections.
One man was shot when security forces fired live rounds over the heads of demonstrators, another was stabbed and seven people, including an opposition candidate and a police officer, were beaten in melees across the main island in the semi-autonomous Indian Ocean territory, witnesses and officials said.
Police opened fire and detained dozens in Bumbwini and Potoa constituencies -- about 35km north of Stone Town, the historic centre of Zanzibar city -- when opposition supporters tried to block people they claimed were bogus voters from casting ballots, they said.
"Many illegal voters were brought in early in the morning, but when we protested, the police fired in the air," said a witness named Omar who identified himself as a supporter of the opposition Civic United Front (CUF).
Six opposition backers, including candidate Rashid Sudi, were beaten by police and sustained injuries requiring urgent medical attention, witnesses and hospital sources said.
In Stone Town itself, one person was stabbed in the stomach by supporters of the ruling Revolutionary Party (CCM) during a similar opposition protest over alleged bogus voters and polling irregularities, witnesses and medics said.
Ramadhan Kinyogo, the head Zanzibar's Criminal Investigation Department, said one police officer had been wounded and one reported missing.
"One of our officers has been beaten and one is missing," he said. "We are following up in all the incidents."
Three more people sustained unspecified injuries in the Stone Town, bringing the toll of injured to 12, a police official added.
The clashes were similar to those that erupted six weeks ago when Zanzibaris elected local officials six weeks ago and police used tear gas to break up opposition crowds protesting alleged irregularities, including bogus voters.
The CUF maintains the CCM stole the Zanzibari elections through ballot fraud and has claimed the ruling party is using the same method to rig Wednesday's elections for the presidency and Parliament of the Union of Tanzania.
Police, who were patrolling the Stone Town, barred journalists and observers from entering halls where ballots were being counted, telling they are not needed, according to an Agence France-Presse correspondent.
The union was created in 1964 between mainland Tanganyika, as it was known then, and Zanzibar, which has been an opposition stronghold for years and the site of deadly political violence in the past.
While the CCM narrowly won Zanzibar's October 30 polls, it is widely expected to cruise to victory in the national elections due to its large backing on the mainland. -- Sapa-AFP
MDC members launch fresh bid against leader
15 December 2005 08:11
Members of Zimbabwe's main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party said on Wednesday they will launch a fresh bid to win legal backing for their decision to suspend party leader Morgan Tsvangirai.
High Court Judge Yunus Omerjee on Friday dismissed an application by MDC deputy secretary general Gift Chimanikire, who asked him to enforce a decision taken three weeks ago by a party disciplinary committee to suspend Tsvangirai.
"We will appeal against the court ruling or resubmit the application," the MDC's vice-president, Gibson Sibanda, told journalists after a meeting of the party's national council.
"The judge ruled on technical issues such as Mr Chimanikire's legal standing in the matter. He [Omerjee] did not look at the substance of the court application."
The meeting scoffed at a suspension by a faction of six top party officials two weeks ago on charges of abandoning their official party while leading a clique opposed to Tsvangirai's leadership.
"The entity that seeks to carry out the suspensions is unconstitutional," Sibanda said of the committee that suspended him and five other party officials, including secretary general Welshman Ncube and treasurer Fletcher Dulini Ncube. "The said officers should not cooperate with or appear before the bogus disciplinary committee."
Sibanda accused Tsvangirai of hiring thugs to bar members of his faction from entering the party's headquarters in Harare.
Once a major political force challenging President Robert Mugabe's grip on power, the MDC has been bogged down in infighting over Tsvangirai's decision to call a boycott of the November 26 Senate elections.
Tsvangirai maintained that the elections were a waste of money at a time when the country was facing severe food shortages, but his opponents within the MDC contended that voters should be given a choice at the ballot box.
Tsvangirai had dismissed the suspension as unlawful and defied the committee's ban on holding rallies, making public statements, visiting party offices or using party property.
Mugabe's Zanu-PF won 43 of the 50 contested Senate seats, while the MDC picked up seven seats in the elections that were marred by poor turnout. -- Sapa-AFP
Unionist loses Zimbabwe passport
Zimbabwe has confiscated the passport of trade unionist Raymond Majongwe, shortly after returning the confiscated passports of two government critics.
Opposition official Paul Themba Nyathi and newspaper owner Trevor Ncube got their passports back after starting legal action against the government.
Mr Ncube has meanwhile published a list of 17 people whose passports the government has cancelled.
Earlier this year parliament approved a law allowing the seizure of passports.
Mr Majongwe, secretary general of the Progressive Teachers' Union of Zimbabwe, had his passport seized on Wednesday afternoon as he returned from a trip to Nigeria.
According to the list published by Mr Ncube's South African Mail & Guardian newspaper on Thursday, Catholic Archbishop Pius Ncube, and Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai are among those whose passports have been invalidated by the Zimbabwe government.
Human rights lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa, MDC secretary general Welshman Ncube, and prominent businessman Strive Masiyiwa are also on the list.
Mr Masiyiwa took the government to court to get a licence to set up a mobile phone network. He is now based in South Africa.
Mr Themba Nyathi and Trevor Ncube were both told by officials last week they were on a list of 64 people whose passports the government intended to seize.
On Wednesday both men were told they could collect their passports from the department of immigration in Harare, before their legal action against the government had gone to court.
But Mr Themba Nyathi said he felt it would just be a matter of time before his documents were seized once more.
"This is a question of the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing... But they will find another way before too long."
Mugabe speaks -- on CD and cassette
15 December 2005 10:37
He may be revered by some and reviled by others, but Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe's skills as an orator are rarely in doubt, prompting a local record company to put his speeches on tape for "good home entertainment", a newspaper reported on Thursday.
The compilation is entitled Mugabe Speaks and is to be released by recording firm Gramma Records, the state-controlled Herald said.
Minister of Policy Implementation Webster Shamu said the recordings "would not only provide good home entertainment but would be useful to scholars", the paper reported.
Some of the speeches date back to the late 1970s, when Mugabe and other key nationalists were waging a guerrilla war against the former white minority government of then Rhodesia.
Shamu said the record "will assist our children and will also educate people on where we came from and where we are going".
The authorities have complained in the past that some Zimbabweans -- especially those critical of the government -- are not patriotic enough.
The Herald did not say how much the compilation -- available on CD and cassette -- will cost.
However, many Zimbabweans are struggling to afford even the most basic necessities, with prices going up every few days. Bread has nearly doubled in price in shops this week: from Z$29 000 (R2,42) to about Z$50 000 (R4,20). -- Sapa-DPA
Microsoft Swahili speakers launch
Microsoft has launched its software in Swahili targeting more than 110 million speakers of the language.
The Swahili Windows and Office programmes are a product of two years of work by language experts from East and Central Africa.
They had to work on the standardisation of the language which is spoken in different dialects across the region.
The software giant says this software is intended to bridge a digital divide between developed and emerging markets.
Language experts from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Zanzibar as well as the Great Lakes and the Democratic Republic of Congo had to come up with a common glossary.
Some 650,000 words have already been translated for the Windows and Office programmes, while another 70,000 words have been translated for the help menus.
There are more than 100 million Swahili-speakers in the region - in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and parts of the Horn of Africa, Great Lakes, Malawi, Mozambique and the Indian Ocean islands.
The company argues that in a region with few computer users and high illiteracy rates, the Swahili version of Windows will inspire East African governments to expand their IT economies, encourage literacy campaigns and attract more computer users.
ADB firm on Karonga-Chitipa road contract
by Zainah Liwanda, 22 May 2006 - 06:09:17
The African Development Bank (ADB) has again rejected a proposal by government to look for another contractor instead of China Hunan Construction to construct of the long awaited Karonga/Chitipa road.
China Hunan from Mainland China won the bid which was approved by the ADB but government later wanted to award the contract to a Portuguese firm, Mota Engil, the second lowest bidder, claiming China Hunan's bid was unrealistically low and that the company had very little experience in Africa.
Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe confirmed on Sunday the ADB rejected the proposal at a meeting held between the bank and Malawi government in Tunisia last week.
The Malawi government wanted the Tunisia meeting to authorise it to get another contractor for the road, said Gondwe.
"They did not allow us to look for another contractor because of their regulations. But we are about to get another alternative for Karonga/Chitipa and I would be surprised if it does not start before end June," said Gondwe.
The minister explained that the bank insisted that regardless of the unrealistic cost estimates, China Hunan should be allowed to go ahead with the construction.
But Gondwe could not give further details about the alternatives, arguing there are still a few loose ends to tighten up before disclosing it.
The problem with China Hunan, according to Gondwe, is that it would require more money to meet the total cost of the project.
This paper reported last week that government met Taiwanese representatives where they offered to fund the road if the ADB continued to reject its favoured contractor, Mota Engil.
Gondwe could neither confirm nor deny the reports on the Taiwanese offer, saying government was looking at a number of ways to handle the issue.
According to Gondwe, the China Hunan's bid was 24 percent lower than the consulting engineers' estimates of K7.9 billion and 34 percent below the second lowest bidder.
President Bingu wa Mutharika laid a foundation stone for the construction of the road this year ahead of a crucial byelection in Chitipa in December last year.
The President's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) won the Chitipa Wenya constituency by-election that fell vacant following the collapse and subsequent death of Speaker of Parliament Rodwell Munyenyembe who belonged to the UDF.
Last week, police and the District Commissioner (DC) for Chitipa stopped a rally that was aimed at soliciting people's views about development projects in the district.
The meeting, which was reportedly organised by Concerned Citizens of Chitipa, was among other things also supposed to tackle the controversial Karonga/Chitipa road.
The project failed to start off in 2000 when a contract for an initial loan of US$17 million and US$15 million from the Taiwanese government was signed, with some quarters claiming the Bakili Muluzi administration diverted the money to another road.
Chihana operated on
by Edwin Nyirongo, 22 May 2006 - 06:32:31
Alliance for Democracy (Aford) president Chakufwa Chihana, who is in South Africa receiving treatment, had a brain operation on Friday at Garden City Clinic, family and party officials confirmed on Sunday.
Aford national chairman Chipimpha Mughogho said he was told by the family members that Chihana had a successful operation on Friday and was put in an intensive care unit.
Mughogho said Chihana, who initially complained of headache, was found with a brain tumour which South African doctors removed.
Mzimba West MP Loveness Gondwe said Aford boss condition was stable.
"Hon. Chihana had a major operation and after that he was put in the intensive care unit but his condition is stable. I do not know where he was operated on but it had something to do with the skull," she said.
Deputy Information Minister John Bande referred the matter to the Health Minister Hetherwick Ntaba who was reported to be in Geneva, Switzerland.
Aford publicity secretary Norman Nyirenda said when Chihana's situation got worse, the family alerted the Office of the President and Cabinet who took him to Mwaiwathu Private Hospital.
"The doctors at Mwaiwathu advised that he should be sent to South Africa and they even identified the doctor for him," he said.
He said the costs are being met by the Malawi government, contradicting his earlier statement that his boss covered the cost.
Mughogho is now in charge of the party.
Gondwe will be a busy person when Parliament starts meeting on June 6 as she is the only Aford MP remaining.
Pillane proposes presidential age limit
by Emmanuel Muwamba , 22 May 2006 - 06:34:13
A member of the DPP National Governing Council Abdul Pillane on Saturday urged members of political parties and the civil society to put an upper age limit in the Constitution for presidential candidates.
Pillane was addressing members of political parties and civil society in Liwonde during a two-day follow up workshop to the National Conference on the Review of Constitution held in March in Lilongwe.
"My view is that (an upper) age limit should be at 75. We have to give a chance to younger people to lead because in circumstance, when you age you become forgetful especially when sickly," said Pillane. "Overall, chances should be given to young people."
But UDF secretary general Kennedy Makwangwala, whose party members agitated for the age limit during presentations, played the issue down.
"I feel there is no logic to have an upper age limit for presidential candidates. If someone is 90 or 80 I don't know how that can influence the electorate not to vote for someone who is younger, I don't see any logic behind that," said Makwangwala.
MCP participants at the workshop also vehemently objected to the proposal.
MCP vice president Nicholas Dausi in an interview said: "There is no constitution in Africa which stipulates an upper age limit. So it would be strange in Malawi to have an upper age limit for presidential candidates."
MDP President Kamlepo Kalua also opposed the need to have an upper age limit.
"If we have personalities in mind that we want to discriminate against then it is unfortunate. The constitution we want to build is a guiding document for future generations and it should not bar certain individuals on the basis of grudges," he said.
The Malawi Law Constitution Issues Paper of March 2006 says several submissions that were received put an upper presidential age limit in the Constitution.
"It is argued that it is common sense that mental knowledge faculties tend to fail with age. As regards what the actual age limit should be the submissions are far from being agreed. The range is from 60 years to 80 years," read submissions in the Issues Paper.
On whether MPs should double as ministers, Kalua said this should be the case.
Makwangwala also said it is not right for MPs to serve as ministers because the Legislature, another arm of government, is reduced while the Executive branch is beefed up from another arm of government.
"There is no separation of powers when MPs double as ministers," said Makwangwala.
But Pillane said there is no problem for MPs to work as ministers as well, saying MPs are elected by the President.
"One can serve both posts. There have been no problems before for people to double," said Pillane.
The Centre for Multiparty Democracy funded the workshop through the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy.
The objective was to come up with a collective position on the Issues Paper which will be presented to the Special Law Commission that will be constituted soon.
Mussa hails new driving licence
by Zainah Liwanda, 22 May 2006 - 06:58:52
Transport and Public Works Minister Henry Mussa last week said the design of the Malawi-Sadc driving licence would guard against forgery and ensure that only skilled and legitimate drivers of particular vehicles are licensed.
Mussa was speaking at the official launch of the licences in Lilongwe where he announced that traffic police would from July enforce speed limits and sober driving using Breathalysers which his ministry is in the process of procuring.
The minister said financial constraints are the reason for the delay in procuring the equipment but assured that by July they would be available.
"With the new equipment, the days of those who believe in the thrill of drink and driving are numbered," warned Mussa.
Mussa added that with the new licence, government is optimistic that the country's roads would be safe.
Acting Director of Road Traffic James Chirwa said the features that distinguish the new from the old licences are the Malawi national flag and a ghost image of the driver's photograph, among others.
Those with old licences, according to Chirwa, are expected to get the new ones after the expiry of the former.
UDF demands investigation on Kasambara
by Rabecca Theu, 22 May 2006 - 06:30:46
The United Democratic Front (UDF) has asked government to investigate Ralph Kasambara on allegations of abuse of office while he was attorney general.
UDF publicity secretary Sam Mpasu told the press Sunday that the party is neither amused or saddened by the removal of the former AG but asked government to institute investigations on Kasambara.
"Beyond the removal of the Attorney General, we now urge President Mutharika to institute investigation against Mr Kasambara into allegations that have made rounds in the public domain during the recent past. These include: Mrs Helen Singh and SS Rent-a-Car; SGS and ITS saga; ...........the use of Malawi Police Service in the arrest of three Chronicle journalists and the handling of Mrs Rubina Kawonga," said Mpasu.
Mpasu also accused Kasambara of awarding government contracts to Lawson and Company where he was a senior partner.
"We urge government to thoroughly investigate the former AG. We also ask government to cautiously select the new AG ," said Mpasu, who was accompanied by the party's Secretary General Kennedy Makwangwala, leader of the party in Parliament George Mtafu, chief whip Leonard Mangulama and a member of the executive Hophmally Makande.
But Minister of Information Patricia Kaliati said UDF should give offer its advice to the Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB).
"They should advise bodies like the Anti-Corruption Bureau to conduct the investigations and why are they saying this now? Is it because Kasambara has been fired? This is not a personal issue. If they have other pressing issues they should just say so. These arguments should have come up earlier on when the said cases were happening," she said.
Kasambara asked UDF to proceed with the mission of urging government to investigate him.
"They can do their job. Everyone has a right to lobby for anything they want in the country. UDF has a right to do that, let them go ahead," he said.
Kasambara was relieved of his duties as AG by the President last week. Government has not given reasons behind the removal.
Zambia: Malawians Grab Zambian Land
The Times of Zambia (Ndola)
May 18, 2006
Posted to the web May 19, 2006
MALAWIANS who have encroached on both the 'no-man's' and part of the Zambian land at the Mwami border in Eastern Province have plucked out some beacons that were used in the demarcation of the border.
The Malawians are now using the beacons as stools in their newly-established villages on Zambian land.
Eastern Province Minister, Boniface Nkhata, said in Chipata yesterday that if the situation was not controlled urgently, Zambia would lose huge tracts of land to Malawians migrating into Zambian in large numbers.
A check at the Zambia-Malawi border showed a number of beacons had been vandalised and new structures constructed on the 'no man's' land and a large portion of Zambian land.
Mr Nkhata said the trend extended to many parts of the province bordering the two countries.
"A large portion of Zambian land has been taken up by the Malawians starting from the Chama boundary up to the Mwami border.
"The weighbridge at the Mwami border was initially in Zambia from the time both countries gained independence from Britain, but now the bridge is on Malawian soil," Mr Nkhata said.
The minister, who is former Chama District Commissioner, said there was similar encroachment in Lundazi and Chama districts where Zambia shares a boundary with Malawi.
He said a Malawian farmer identified as Mr Mfune had cultivated 71.5 hectares on Zambian land and employed about 265 Malawian workers.
"Khombe Farm in Chama district in Kanyerere's area, along the Muyombe road which leads to Northern Province where this Malawian farmer has cultivated a vast land is on the Zambian territory," he said.
Workers on the farm admitted that they were farming on Zambian soil but could not go back to Malawi because the land in that country was inadequate for cultivation.
Mr Nkhata appealed to the ministry of Lands to urgently release money for the demarcation of the Zambia-Malawi border to avoid further land disputes between the two countries.
Meanwhile, the Immigration Department in Livingstone has arrested a couple and another man, all Zimbabweans, for working in Zambia without permits.
They were arrested at Gwembe village yesterday where they worked for Into Africa, a tour operating company that provides bush dinners and breakfast.
According to the Immigration Department in Livingstone, the trio entered Zambia through the Victoria Falls border as visitors but decided to work for the company illegally.
Last week, immigration officers arrested 10 Zimbabwean traders and six Ethiopians for entering and staying in Zambia illegally.
The Zimbabwean traders were warned and cautioned and later released.
The Ethiopians were arrested at Konje Guest House when they ran out of money to proceed to Botswana.
Zim unions, MDC still plan anti-govt protests
22 May 2006 11:51
Zimbabwe's biggest labour federation on Saturday threatened to call massive demonstrations against the government over poor salaries and worsening living conditions for workers in the country.
The threats are ratcheting up pressure against President Robert Mugabe's government after similar threats by the biggest opposition party in the country, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), about two months ago.
Speaking at the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) conference on Saturday, the labour body's president, Lovemore Matombo, said the powerful union wants the government to award workers salaries that match the country's ever-rising inflation.
"I can assure you we will stage massive demonstrations to force them [employers] to award workers minimum salaries that tally with the poverty datum line," said Matombo.
Matombo did not say when exactly the ZCTU would order workers to strike.
Meanwhile, the MDC on Sunday said it will push ahead with plans for anti-government protests, saying victory in a key by-election at the weekend was a "sign the electorate supported its policies", including democratic mass resistance.
A spokesperson of the main faction of the splintered MDC, Nelson Chamisa, said victory over Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF and a rival MDC faction in a Saturday by-election in Harare's Budiriro constituency is a sign Zimbabweans still have confidence in party leader Morgan Tsvangirai and his policies.
Tsvangirai, the founding leader of the MDC, heads the main rump of the opposition party whose candidate, Emmanuel Chisvuure, polled 7 949 votes to win the Budiriro House of Assembly seat.
Gabriel Chaibva of the other faction of the MDC, led by prominent academic Arthur Mutambara, garnered 504 votes while Zanu-PF's Jeremiah Bvirindi polled 3 961 votes.
"This election showed that the electorate still has confidence in the MDC [Tsvangirai-led] leadership and its policies," Chamisa told independent news service ZimOnline.
He added: "We will now move to consolidate our position * we still believe in mass protests. Until we have attained our goals we see no reason why we should abandon [plans for protests]."
Tsvangirai has threatened to call mass protests this winter against Mugabe and his government. He says the mass protests, whose date he is still to name, are meant to force Mugabe to relinquish power to a government of national unity to be tasked to write a new and democratic Constitution that would ensure free and fair elections held under international supervision.
Mugabe and his government, who had hoped for victory in Budiriro to show they were recapturing urban support from a splintered MDC, have not taken idly the opposition's threats to call mass protests, with the veteran president warning Tsvangirai he would be "dicing with death" if he ever attempted to instigate a Ukraine-style popular revolt in Zimbabwe.
In a fresh crackdown against dissension, the police last week arrested several church and civic leaders for organising public prayers and marches to mark last year's controversial home-demolition exercise by the government.
The police also banned the marches and prayers, fearing they could easily turn into mass protests against Mugabe and his government.
However, the marches went ahead in the second-largest city of Bulawayo after organisers had obtained a court order barring the police from stopping the march.
Political analysts say although Zimbabweans have largely been cowed by Mugabe's tactics of routinely deploying riot police and the military to crush street protests, worsening hunger and poverty are fanning public anger that Tsvangirai -- with proper planning and organisation -- could easily manipulate.
Zimbabwe is in the grip of a severe six-year old economic crisis that has seen inflation breaching the 1 000% barrier. Last year, the World Bank said Zimbabwe's economic crisis was unprecedented for a country not at war.
The MDC and major Western governments blame Mugabe for wrecking the country's economy, which was one of the strongest in Africa at independence from Britain 26 years ago.
Mugabe denies the charge blaming the crisis on sabotage by Britain and her allies after he seized white-owned farms for redistribution to landless blacks six years ago.
The Harare authorities recently hiked salaries for civil servants, with the lowest-paid soldier now earning about Z$27-million while the lowest-paid school teacher now takes home about Z$33-million.
But the salaries are still way below the poverty datum line, which the government's Consumer Council of Zimbabwe says now stands at a staggering Z$42-million a month for an average family of six.
The Zimbabwe government often accuses the ZCTU, a strong ally of the MDC, of pushing a political agenda to remove Mugabe from power.
Meanwhile, Matombo and Lucia Matibenga retained their posts as president and first vice-president respectively during the ZCTU congress that ended on Saturday. -- ZimOnline