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  • Christine Chumbler
    Libya dumps UDF by Bright Sonani, 05 January 2006 - 05:54:07 The Libyan Government Wednesday disclosed that it has been bank-rolling the United Democratic
    Message 1 of 1046 , Jan 5, 2006
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      Libya dumps UDF
      by Bright Sonani, 05 January 2006 - 05:54:07
      The Libyan Government Wednesday disclosed that it has been bank-rolling the United Democratic Front (UDF) up to May 2004, but the funding was stopped due to undisclosed reasons soon after the general elections.
      But UDF acting publicity secretary Sam Mpasu in an interview said he was not aware that Libya was assisting the party financially.
      Libyan Charge d'Affaires to Malawi Mohamed Bashir Enwies, when asked during a press briefing to clarify on the funding to the UDF by his government, said Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has been funding the party but at personal level with former President Bakili Muluzi.
      "Since the elections, the Libyan Government has never donated or assisted the UDF, but before then there was a personal relationship between Gaddafi and Muluzi, presents were given on a personal level," said Enwies.
      The Charge d'Affaires could not say why the assistance was stopped but stressed that the going out of government of Muluzi and his UDF has not affected the relationship between Malawi and Libyan governments.
      "In our agreement we don't talk of a relationship between the presidents, but between the countries. As a government we deal with the government in power. We work with the government elected by the people," said Enwies.
      On whether his government was ready to move its assistance to President Bingu wa Mutharika's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), Enwies said there have never been discussions to that effect since the party's leader Bingu wa Mutharika has not met his Libyan counterpart.
      "We are only hoping that they will meet in the near future or probably during the Khartoum (African Union) meeting when they would discuss bilateral issues and probably possible donations," he added.
      Enwies also said the closure of the Malawian Embassy in Tripoli has not affected the relationship between the two countries and he said that is why Libya was going ahead with the construction of the Gaddafi Hospital in Blantyre.
      During the press briefing, the Libyan envoy unveiled a Gaddafi-initiated Strategic New African Project which he said was a programme aimed at alleviating the problems being faced by children, the youths and women in Africa.
      He said the project would involve disbursing of loans to vulnerable groups.
      "This project would involve international non-governmental organisations and will be working through establishment of cultural and education institutions, vocational and training centres which will be formed in all African countries," said Enwies.
      He said the project was part of strengthening the formation of the AU.
      The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) alleged in October last year that Muluzi pocketed a total of K1.4 billion from various donors, one of them the Libyan government.
      Later the party said it used part of the money from the donors in the May 2004 elections which saw Mutharika winning the presidency on its ticket. The president later dump it later.
      The ACB said it would decide on Muluzi's case on January 10.
      Mpasu said yesterday he was not aware that Libya was assisting the UDF since that time he was neither the treasurer general nor publicity secretary.
      He said even the new treasurer general Bob Khamisa would not know since he was also new in the position.
      Mpasu said it was "mostly likely" that the funding was directly to party chairman Muluzi.
      DPP Publicity Secretary Hetherwick Ntaba, when asked whether his party was ready to embrace the benevolent hand of the Libyan government or approach it for any assistance, said the issue has never been discussed in the party.
      "I cannot give you what the stand of the party is, when we meet and discuss we would be able to tell you," said Ntaba.

      *****

      Govt, Tum lock horns over new education system
      by Henry Chilobwe, 05 January 2006 - 06:27:43
      Government and Teachers Union of Malawi (Tum) have locked horns over a proposal to transfer primary school education from the central government to local assemblies.
      Local Government Minister George Chaponda saidWeday the takeover that began mid last year will be finalised this year as the new academic year begins where all teachers will get their salaries from the town or district assemblies.
      But Tum Secretary-General Lucien Chikadza accused Chaponda of telling lies to the nation, saying the agreement between the teachers and the Ministry of Education was that salaries and pensions will be processed by the central government while the assemblies will be responsible for administration and management of school infrastructure.
      "What Honourable Chaponda is saying is a lie because the Ministry of Education told us that our salaries will still come from the central government," said Chikadza.
      Education Minister Kate Kainja could not be reached Wednesday to confirm Chikadza's claims.
      Chikadza also doubted the capacity of the assemblies to handle pensions and salaries and opted for early retirement of the teachers so that they could get their pensions before the new arrangement is finally implemented.
      "Most of the assemblies have already opened the accounts into which Treasury will be depositing money for pensions and salaries of the teachers just as it is doing with other sectors such as Health and Agriculture, the Education sector is no exception," said Chaponda.
      But Chikadza accused government of failing to learn from past mistakes and warned that the system will collapse if it is going to be implemented without proper consultation.
      "We are not doing a new thing. The system was there and it failed. It was in 1979 when the local assemblies handed back the schools to the central government after they failed because of lack of resources. I don't know what knew strategies they have put in place now but government should learn from previous mistakes," said Chikadza.

      *****

      MP demands probe on MRA fire
      by Bright Sonani, 05 January 2006 - 06:08:29
      Blantyre City Central MP Gift Mwamondwe has demanded that Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) should thoroughly investigate the fire that gutted its warehouse and destroyed goods worth millions of kwacha.
      The parliamentarian said the incident was suspicious and looked like some people wanted to destroy evidence for cases involving tax evasion.
      "Most of the goods that were there were confiscated from people who wanted to evade tax and had cases where the burnt goods was supposed to be evidence. I want MRA to establish who connived to burn that warehouse and arrest all the culprits," said Mwamondwe Wednesday.
      He said he has already started his own investigations into what really happened and has so far established that some businessmen, some in textile business and MRA employees, were involved.
      Mwamondwe said it was surprising that fire could start at that odd hour of 2 AM without the involvement of any electrical fault. The MRA warehouse had no electrical installation when it was burnt.
      "I am still investigating and some more information is coming. I will be in a position to know my next step when I am through but I would want to see people who are involved prosecuted," he added.
      Mwamondwe said he has decided to personally take up the matter since the warehouse was in his constituency and normally it is people of his area who are affected when such incidents occur.
      MRA spokesperson Kitty Chimseu in an interview declined to comment on Mwamondwe's concern, saying that it was his personal opinion while the authority would only want to comment on facts.
      "Our investigations are still underway and we will only be in a position to comment after we have our facts from a report on what caused the fire," she said.
      Chimseu could not say whether the investigations also involve finding out if there was any foul play and whether the goods destroyed were connected to any court case.
      Electricity Supply Company (Escom) assistant public relations officer Chikondi Chimala said his organisation did not go on with its investigations after discovering that the warehouse had electricity disconnected in 2004.
      "We could not go on with the investigations because to us that warehouse was not among our clients since it had no power supply. That rules out any possibility that the fire was due to an electrical fault unless if it was from an illegal connection," he said.
      The fire, which started on the morning of December 27, destroyed among several goods 539 bales of textile, 100 bales of blankets, 1,000 cartons of cooking oil, filing cabinets and furniture.
      Efforts to get the position of Ministry of Finance failed as Secretary to the Treasury Patrick Kabambe was reported to be in a meeting.

      *****

      Local elections in September
      by Isaac Masingati, 05 January 2006 - 06:04:56
      The Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec) said Wednesday it plans to hold the much-awaited local government elections in September, a move that has been hailed by the civil society and political parties.
      Mec spokesperson Fegus Lipenga said in an interview the electoral body was already preparing the ground work and that a calendar of events had been submitted to government proposing the election dates and overall budget.
      Lipenga said September has been proposed on the understanding that the commission procures additional scanners, digital cameras and computers to speed up the computerisation of the voters roll.
      "Should the procurement fail and we are left to use our existing equipment then things may slow and the elections will have to be held a month later or in November," said Lipenga.
      Lipenga said Mec has prepared a budget of K2.6 billion from K1.6 billion which was provided for in last year's budget and that it was only waiting for Treasury to advise on funding modalities since it is government that discusses with donors.
      He said the commission intends to kick-start the calendar with a meeting of the National Elections Consultative Forum (Necof) this month to discuss the calendar for the polls and modalities for the smooth conduct of the elections.
      "We hope Treasury will treat the budget with urgency as the local polls are long overdue and that people's expectations of the local polls are very high," said Lipenga.
      Lipenga said he was optimistic the polls would receive the financial support they deserve, saying GTZ had pledged K223 million and that there was indication the German agency would pledge more once the election date has been agreed with stakeholders and government.
      The Mec spokesperson also indicated it would discard the current voters roll for a fresh one to eliminate problems experienced during the past elections when some names on the voters roll went missing. The new register, he said, would also be used in the 2009 Parliamentary and Presidential elections.
      Acting secretary to Treasury Patrick Kabambe confirmed receiving a budgetary proposal from Mec and said the department has no problems funding the elections since it is a constitutional requirement.
      Kabambe said Treasury would discuss the budget with Mec to see how much government can afford and how any shortfall can be solved.
      "Treasury will have to fund the elections and should the budget be more than what we can afford, we will discuss whether any items can be removed and how to find alternative resources," said Kabambe.
      The civil society and political parties have meanwhile welcomed the elections, saying the Constitution should be respected without fail.
      Human Rights Consultative Committee chair Rodgers Newa said assemblies had so far been operating illegally as they do not have the mandate of local people by virtue of the absence of councillors.
      "Government has so far scored negatively where local representation is concerned by failing to finance the elections last year when they were due," said Newa.
      "Democracy is about participation of local people. People at grassroots do that through councillors they elect to represent them but they have been operating without the blessing of the people they serve," said Newa.
      UDF spokesperson Sam Mpasu said his party was ready for the elections but said they were overdue.
      Mpasu said the UDF believes in democratic representation as such it would encourage measures that are meant to strengthen democracy through elected office bearers.
      "The UDF had councillors all over the country and it is our wish to maintain them although you cannot foretell with elections," said Mpasu.
      Democratic Progressive Party spokesperson Hetherwick Ntaba said his party was eagerly waiting for the elections which, he said, his party would win with overwhelming majority.
      Ntaba said the fact that his party had won all six seats in the just ended by-elections was indicative enough that it would do well in any elections.
      "People vote for parties they like and people like the DPP because they are happy with its policies and those of its president," said Ntaba.

      *****

      Government releases K10m for flood victims
      by Emmanuel Muwamba, 05 January 2006 - 06:02:04
      Government has released K10 million to the Department of Poverty and Disaster Management Affairs to help flood victims and others affected due to heavy rain in the country.
      The commissioner for the department Meria Nowa-Phiri said government released the money last week.
      "We received K10 million to deal with the situation. The money will be used to procure food. We will provide them with maize flour, beans, plastic sheets for temporary shelter, plastic pails, cups among others," she said.
      She added that the department has run short of the supplies and "that money will be used to build the stock."
      Nowa-Phiri disclosed that a number of households in the country have been affected, saying apart from Nsanje and Chikwawa, other districts like Lilongwe, Zomba, Thyolo and Balaka have reported heavy rains or hailstorm affecting households.
      "I have heard reports that Mulanje has been affected too but the matter has not been reported to me. But I know of Thyolo where 228 households have been affected with heavy rains. In Zomba 94 households have been affected as well as Balaka with 535 households," she said.
      She added that other areas are Nkhata Bay and Mzimba.
      "In Nsanje the initial figure was 60 households but the projections indicate that the figure may rise above 1,000 but I am yet to confirm the figure with the DC.
      She said her department has scaled up relief efforts and will be able to deal with the current disaster because it prepared a budget of K30 million from where K10 million has been withdrawn.
      In Chikwawa, flash floods have rendered more than 8,000 farming families homeless with crops and livestock washed away and houses falling. Government Wednesday said it has provided 6,000 kg of maize seed for replanting.

      *****

      HIV test scares MPs from scheme
      by Edwin Nyirongo, 05 January 2006 - 06:00:18
      Members of Parliament have shunned the Parliamentary Superannuation Scheme, a life assurance cover that was agreed between the House and Nico Life Insurance Company Limited, saying it is discriminatory and degrading because it demands an HIV test.
      Nico wrote letters to all Members of Parliament in April last year informing them that they have to go for HIV tests to enjoy full benefits of the scheme.
      "We would like to inform you that your life assurance cover (Death Benefit) provided under the above scheme has exceeded K1,000,000 the HIV testing scheme. Your full life cover of equal to two times annual salary is K2,088,000. For you to enjoy full benefit, we will require you to submit medical evidence as follows: Standard Medical Examination Report by a General Practitioner (and) HIV Test Certificate," reads the letter in part.
      But most of the MPs have not joined the scheme, saying it is discriminatory and aimed at embarrassing.
      "The scheme is discriminatory. As an MP I would not want to be seen to be promoting such things. Should one be HIV negative in order to enjoy more money," said Balaka North MP Lucius Banda.
      Banda said he totally supports the idea of going for an HIV test but said he was concerned about putting conditions to them.
      He went on to say that the country is fighting against discrimination and that if insurance companies lead the way to have people tested; they are practising the same segregation the country is trying to eradicate.
      Mzuzu City MP Good Kaira also bashed the scheme as degrading and embarrassing, saying this is the reason many MPs just locked the forms in their drawers.
      "Much as it is good to get insured for the benefit of the children and family members, the conditions attached are not good," he said.
      Kaira wondered how a five-year-term could warrant HIV testing as if five years is 20 years. He said at present the term is almost half way and there was no reason to put such conditions.
      The MP also doubted the claims that the information would be kept confidential, saying experience has shown that the secrecy is only temporal and that the parliamentarians would exposed in the newspapers later.
      Nico Life Insurance Company General Manager Stain Singo said the scheme was put in place so that the MPs are covered in the event of death before the end of the term so that their dependants should benefit.
      Singo said the company covers people to a certain limit and that beyond that they require a medical report.
      He said when they work out plans to insure someone, they look at the probability of death which he said is higher depending on the kind of illness one has.
      He could not say how many MPs have joined the scheme, saying the information is confidential.
      Deputy Clerk of Parliament Stanislaus Chisanu said the whole process is carried out between the MPs and Nico and could not know who has joined and who has not.

      *****

      Malawi: Interview With WHO Representative Dr Matshidiso Moeti

      UN Integrated Regional Information Networks

      INTERVIEW
      January 4, 2006
      Posted to the web January 4, 2006

      Lilongwe

      What is your general impression of the health system in Malawi?

      The health system in Malawi is in a very dynamic process of improvement right now. But I know there are a number of challenges: these ... include shortage of staff, and there is need to recruit more to meet these challenges; the other challenge facing the health system is the supply and management of drugs.

      As you know, Malawi, with the assistance of the donors, is implementing the Sector-Wide Approach Programme (SWAP), in which resources are pooled from donors in order to help recruit and maintain health workers in addition to funding existing programmes. Government's decentralisation programme will help quite a lot, in that the healthcare services will also have to be decentralised. With the donor assistance, this programme will improve the harmonisation of the health system.

      In the past years we have seen hospitals running out of drugs, with patients going back home without getting any treatment. What do you think is the problem?

      I think sometimes it is the problem of capacity and systems that have been put in place. It is true that in Malawi, just like in many other countries, procurement and distribution system of drugs need to be improved. It is quite often ... problems of understaffing and sometimes the system is not functioning properly.

      But also sometimes there is a problem of infrastructure, where you do not have enough space to store the drugs, and here in Malawi there is work that is going on to improve the work of the Central Medical Stores. Government is working with its partners to sort out the problems.

      In addition to that, there is also need to improve drugs management at district level. They should be able to quantify their stock needs so that delivery works well. WHO, for example, has provided support to people working at district level in this regard. What I am aware of is that there is a shortage of staff and we need people who are qualified, such as technicians and nurses, so that they are able to procure and manage the drugs properly.

      The government is losing a lot of qualified doctors and nurses to other countries because of low pay and poor salaries. Do you think this problem can be sorted out?

      What government should do, together with its partners, is to improve the working conditions of staff and improve on their salaries. Currently there is dialogue going on, facilitated by WHO, to try and compensate poor countries that lose their health workers to other countries. This is an issue which has been debated at WHO assemblies - the discussions are still going on - and the aim is to persuade rich countries to fund poor countries so that more doctors and nurses are trained.

      Do you think Malawi is doing enough in the fight against HIV/AIDS?

      I think Malawi has done extremely well in scaling down the transmission of HIV. When you compare what was happening three years ago, you will see that the number of people dying of AIDS has now been reduced. People were in a state of despair because they had no drugs that could prolong their lives.

      Malawi has again expanded its policy from testing and counselling to prevention, and the country is fighting other diseases such as TB - it happens that in most cases people with TB are also infected with HIV. The Malawi government has done well in providing care and resources to AIDS and TB patients. The establishment of the National AIDS Commission (NAC) is the most effective way of dealing with HIV/AIDS and it is working well in Malawi. The area that government now needs to work on hard is the area of prevention of HIV. The other area that needs to be ... [tackled] is prevention of the transmission of HIV from mother to child.

      Do you think Malawi will achieve the UN's Millennium Development Goals related to health by 2015?

      With what is happening currently, Malawi is likely to reach it. There is a lot of commitment from government, donors and all its development partners. The National AIDS Commission is doing tremendous work in the fight against AIDS and Malawi is one of the best examples in the region. HIV infections are now being stabilised and this is attributed to a number of factors, some of which I have already mentioned.


      *****

      Zim council offices without power for five days running

      Harare, Zimbabwe

      05 January 2006 12:10

      Municipal headquarters in the Zimbabwean capital Harare have been without power for the past five days, reflecting the poor state of basic infrastructures in the country, according to local reports on Thursday.

      The power cut has severely curtailed activities at the imposing Town House building in the centre of the city, the state-controlled Herald newspaper said.

      "The situation has affected the council in dispensing services to the people," said council spokesperson Madenyika Magwenjere. "We cannot receive calls or write letters to our clients," he added.

      Harare's city council is run by a commission appointed by President Robert Mugabe's government, following the dismissal of opposition mayor Elias Mudzuri on charges of misconduct two years ago.

      Like many other towns and cities across Zimbabwe, Harare and its townships are cluttered with uncollected rubbish, unrepaired potholes and burst pipes. Residents are plagued by frequent water and power cuts.

      A spokesperson for the state electricity supply company blamed the blackout at Town House on "damaged cables and incapacitated transformers," the paper said.

      "The current blackout is also affecting the central business district," James Maridadi said.

      Harare city council has recently been allowed to implement a massive hike in fees for basic services including burials, which now cost 17-million Zimbabwe dollars ($210). Most Zimbabweans earn less than five million Zimbabwean dollars ($62) a
      month. - Sapa-DPA
    • 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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