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  • Christine Chumbler
    Malawi impeachment drive dropped A Malawian opposition MP says he has decided to withdraw a motion to impeach President Bingu wa Mutharika. Maxwell Milanzi of
    Message 1 of 1046 , Jan 10, 2006
      Malawi impeachment drive dropped

      A Malawian opposition MP says he has decided to withdraw a motion to impeach President Bingu wa Mutharika.
      Maxwell Milanzi of the United Democratic Front says the proposed impeachment was not popular with Malawians or international donors.

      In October, several donor countries warned Malawi that the impeachment proceedings were diverting attention from the country's food shortages.

      The president denies claims that he misused public funds.

      Mr Milanzi denied that his decision to drop the impeachment motion was linked to his own legal problems.

      The BBC's Raphael Tenthani in Blantyre says that soon after he moved the motion to indict Mr Mutharika, the MP was arrested for allegedly hiding information that he was an ex-convict and therefore not eligible to stand for election.

      Mr Mutharika has fallen out with his predecessor and the ruling UDF party he was elected to lead.

      Last year, he quit the UDF and founded his own Democratic Progressive Party.

      He accused his former political associates of frowning upon his tough anti-corruption drive.

      The UDF has been in the forefront of attempts to impeach Mr Mutharika over accusations that he used state money to set up his party and other charges of going against the constitution.

      *****

      Malawi: Signs of Hope After a Troubled Year

      UN Integrated Regional Information Networks

      January 9, 2006
      Posted to the web January 9, 2006

      Johannesburg

      After a year of living dangerously, Malawian President Bingu wa Mutharika and the opposition might sit down to negotiate a way out of their tense standoff in 2006, say analysts.

      "President Mutharika has indicated that he is willing to sit down at the table and talk," said Boniface Tamani, chairman of the Public Affairs Committee (PAC), an interfaith democracy monitoring group that has been trying to negotiate a peace pact between the two sides.

      In a televised New Year's address last week, Mutharika remarked, "I am ready to talk to any members of the opposition whose agenda is to move forward ... I am ready even to forgive them."

      A power struggle between Mutharika and his predecessor, Bakili Muluzi, who leads the United Democratic Front (UDF), resulted in politicians from either side spending a large part of 2005 trading threats and insults.

      Mutharika fell out with Muluzi after he quit the UDF, which had sponsored him as the party's presidential candidate in the 2004 general elections.

      Unhappy with Mutharika's refusal to appoint corruption-tainted ministers to his cabinet, the UDF leadership was preparing to oust him from the party, but "before they could do that he decided to quit", explained Hetherwick Ntaba, spokesman for the president's newly formed Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

      "Muluzi had probably assumed that he could use [Mutharika] as a rubber-stamp president," commented Ntaba, who also serves as health minister. But the tables have been turned and there are "certain questions surrounding certain deals associated with the former president", that are under investigation, said Ntaba.

      The UDF responded to the anti-corruption drive with an impeachment charge, accusing Mutharika of using US $300,000 of public money to launch the DPP. The opposition parties, the largest bloc in parliament, managed to stall the functioning of the house at a time when Malawi was facing its worst drought in a decade, compounded by the late delivery of fertilisers and seed.

      The impeachment motion also derailed the approval of the country's budget in June 2005, causing concern in the donor and humanitarian communities, who were gearing up to respond to the emergency. In an extraordinary move, the donor community wrote to Malawian political leaders voicing their concern over the impeachment proceedings when the country was experiencing a "serious and prolonged food crisis".

      The PAC stepped in to open a channel of communication between the warring sides but the budget was stalled again when the opposition, responding to criticism about its lack of interest in the food security situation, urged the government to offer a universal fertiliser subsidy.

      As the crisis gathered momentum, the government gave in to the opposition's demands and agreed to subsidise fertilisers to small-scale maize and forex-earning tobacco farmers across the board. About a month later, unable to cope with the costs involved, the authorities replaced the universal fertiliser subsidy programme with a coupon system, giving a limited number of subsistence producers access to fertilisers at half the commercial price.

      A recent USAID-commissioned report, 'The Governance Dimensions of Food Security in Malawi', highlighted similar inconsistencies in the Mutharika administration's stand on universal fertiliser distribution last year, which has been partly responsible for the current food shortages.

      Mutharika promised subsidised fertilisers in the run-up to the May 2004 elections, but distribution, only began in January last year - too late for farmers who had begun planting in November 2004.

      In October the opposition lobbied the government to declare a state of disaster to enable the state to better deal with the emergency.

      It has been a precarious year for Mutharika, keeping the opposition at bay and ensuring the loyalty of his members of cabinet drawn from various political parties.

      Any member caught displaying closeness to either Muluzi or Mutharika, found himself out of the UDF or the cabinet respectively.

      The politics of confrontation - between the government and the opposition-dominated parliament - marked 2005, noted analyst Rafiq Hajat, director of the Institute for Policy Interaction, who feared a continuation of the "tit-for tat" situation between the president and the house in 2006.

      However, the by-election success last month of Mutharika's DPP, in which it took all six contested seats from the UDF, might enable Mutharika to stop "ignoring parliament and take an interest in its functioning".

      The polls were held to fill seats left vacant following the death of five MPs in the last 18 months and the conviction of another MP. The DPP's victory was "a sign that Mutharika has a support base" among the public, noted Dulani.

      After months of bitter acrimony, pressure from NGOs and the donor community within and outside Malawi had begun to bear fruit.

      Mutharika is willing to negotiate, but not without conditions. "I am not afraid of impeachment; I am not weak and certainly not desperate ... however, in order to create a more favourable environment for fruitful dialogue, the opposition must unconditionally withdraw impeachment from the agenda in parliament," he said last week.

      The UDF responded that they were willing to talk if Mutharika worked on improving relations with parliament.

      The fact that both sides were laying down conditions was welcomed by Tamani. "At least they did not shut the door. No one has said they do not want any dialogue - they have in fact laid the basis to begin negotiations."

      Mediation efforts outside Malawi have also been underway. Two weeks ago Muluzi and John Tembo, leader of the largest opposition party, the Malawi Congress Party, returned from a meeting initiated by the Global Leadership Foundation, an NGO based in South Africa.

      UDF spokesman Sam Mpasu said the details were being kept under wraps for the moment. "It is a beginning - last year Mutharika was not willing to even talk to the opposition."

      *****

      Police take rap for minibus touts
      by Bright Sonani, 10 January 2006 - 04:56:25
      Minibus owners have accused Police of not doing enough to make sure that touts are chased out of the streets following an agreement between the Minibus Owners Association and government last week.
      Government and the Police had given the touts up to Monday to get out of the bus terminals and major urban areas across the country after a meeting with the minibus owners last week resolved that the touts should go.
      But efforts to implement the move proved futile as the touts were still in the streets of most urban centres except Mzuzu City.
      Spot checks and random interviews with the minibus owners showed that Police are to blame for the failure of the programme.
      Minibus owners complained that Police were reluctant to chase the touts, especially from major bus terminals following an agreement that the touts should be involved in curbing crime through formation of community policing committees within their communities.
      "We agreed that the law should be applied but we feel that the Police officers are embarrassed to apply full force because of that arrangement. However, that arrangement was done without involving us, the owners of the minibuses," said one minibus owner in Lilongwe who declined to be named.
      National Minibus Owners Association Chairman Christopher Chisesele disclosed that in Blantyre there was no any "movement" and the association was just looking up to Police and government to do the job.
      "We talked to government on this issue and we are just waiting to see what they would do. On the 16th (of this month) we will again have a meeting to see the way forward and that is only when we would know what to do next," said Chisesele.
      Another official in Lilongwe who did not want to be named said the association was only waiting for the government and the Police to say if they have failed to see how they can handle the touts issue themselves.
      "But certainly the State cannot fail to enforce its own laws, this would be the first time that we would hear government failing to enforce its laws," he said.
      The official said while the touts were helping in bringing order in the bus terminals, the boys have grown "too big headed" that they were now demanding too much money and sometimes beating conductors and drivers.
      He pleaded not to be mentioned saying that if his name appears in the paper he would have problems with the touts.
      Northern Region Minibus Owners Association Chairman Ian Munthali said by Monday there were no touts in the streets of Mzuzu.
      Chairman of the touts in Lilongwe John Wimbe vowed that if government was not offering any alternative to their problems then they will not move out of the streets.
      "What we want is that those people who want us to get out of the streets should give us employment," he said.
      Wimbe said the fear was that when the touts go out of the street it means robbery would come back in most cities saying the touts were instrumental in curbing criminal practices in most bus depots.
      Police Spokesperson Willie Mwaluka could not comment on the accusations against the Police saying that he has to be given more time to establish what was happening on the ground.
      Minister of Transport and Public Works Henry Mussa said the programme to remove the touts would be implemented without fail since it was backed by law.
      "The problem is laziness, there are people who cannot think and would want people to think for them," said Mussa.
      He said there was no point of talking of terrorising people in the streets or government finding the touts jobs as an alternative.
      "That is why we have the Mardef loans. Let them form groups and apply for the loans," said Mussa.
      The minibus owners last month gave government up to January 9 to clean up the streets and threatened that if it fails they would go on a countrywide strike and take off their minibuses from the streets.
      Government had to negotiate with the owners and asked to be given a month to look into the problems.
      According to the owners the touts sometimes demand more than three times a single fare instead of the usual equivalent of one passenger's fare.

      *****

      Gwanda has joined UDF, says Ching'ang'a
      by Isaac Masingati, 10 January 2006 - 04:34:42
      New Republican Party (NRP) president Gwanda Chakuamba has discreetly joined the United Democratic Front where he is earmarked for the position of party president, NRP officials have alleged.
      But UDF spokesperson Sam Mpasu and Chakuamba's personal assistant Grace Mhango have described the allegations as funny and untrue.
      NRP spokesperson Steve Ching'ang'a at a press briefing in Blantyre on Monday said Chakuamba had technically joined the UDF and that what was remaining was for him to officially call for a press conference and announce the defection.
      Ching'ang'a said Chakuamba was already enjoying some fringe benefits from the UDF, claiming the VX Landcruiser vehicle the former Agriculture Minister is driving was bought with UDF money.
      He also cited the campaign rallies Chakuamba addressed in Chiradzulu and Zomba in support of UDF candidates in the recent by-elections as an indication that he had his heart on the party's presidency.
      "That is why we are now announcing our resignation from the party before he makes his move official in a couple of days," said Ching'ang'a.
      Ching'ang'a said as a senior party executive member he was concerned with Chakuamba's behaviour of starting parties and disbanding them at will without considering other people's feelings.
      Ching'ang'a said although he and other NRP executive members had always rallied themselves behind Chakuamba, they had decided to part ways with him this time around and seek a new lease of life in the DPP.
      "We want to teach him that you do not abandon your unborn baby and let others take care of it. We are moving out first before he disbands it because we cannot follow him to the UDF," said Ching'ang'a.
      NRP deputy president Eston Kakhome said Chakuamba had shown no vision by joining the UDF and that he does not have anything to offer Malawians.
      "People like him have nothing to offer and we can no longer be taken for granted," said Kakhome.
      Kakhome said he had therefore decided with other party members to join the ruling DPP to help foster national development.
      Kakhome said although he and Ching'ang'a had senior positions in their former party they would be joining the DPP as ordinary members.
      DPP regional governor for the South Sam Msosa, who also attended the press conference, said the DPP would see where to place the two in the party hierarchy.
      He also announced that many more members particularly from the UDF would be joining the DPP soon only that they were being screened because some of them have criminal records.
      But when contacted for comment, UDF spokesperson Sam Mpasu laughed off the allegations saying there was no such position in the UDF.
      Mpasu said a UDF national convention in 2003 abolished the position in preference for the national chairmanship as was currently the case.
      "Even when Dr. Mutharika was our candidate, he had no position in the National Executive Committee. He was an ordinary member and Dr. Muluzi was national chair," said Mpasu.
      Mpasu said it was amazing that Ching'ang'a and Kakhome had decided to be spokesmen for Chakuamba when he could speak for himself if the allegations were true.
      He however said the UDF would welcome Chakuamba should he decide to join the party claiming the party has an open-door policy.
      Chakuamba's personal assistant Grace Mhango said her boss had no intentions to disband the NRP for the UDF and denied that the car he drives was bought by the UDF.

      *****

      UDF gurus ask Muluzi to account for Libya money
      by Willie Zingani, 10 January 2006 - 04:32:53
      Five top UDF National Executive Committee (Nec) members say the party's national chair Bakili Muluzi must account for millions of Kwachas they allege he pocketed from Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, insisting the money was not for an individual but meant to cover the 1999 and 2004 presidential and parliamentary elections.
      An inside source told The Nation Monday that some senior Nec members met in Blantyre over the weekend and resolved to "politely" ask Muluzi to submit an expense report in a spirit of accountability.
      "All we are asking for is for the national chair to be a good example," said the source.
      "He used to tell everybody that the money spent on party activities came from his personal businesses and here we are today being told that Gaddafi had pumped in substantial amounts for election campaigns."
      The source said the five concerned Nec members were not after embarrassing Muluzi but to help by bringing in a new approach to UDF party politics which over the years has been characterised by a few individuals.
      But UDF secretary general Kennedy Makwangwala dismissed there were such demands from executive members, saying he was not aware of any meeting that discussed the funds Gaddafi gave Muluzi in 1999 or 2004.
      Makwangwala accused President Bingu wa Mutharika's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) of creating false stories with the intention of destroying UDF.
      "We are at war with DPP and we know they are busy trying to damage us but they will not succeed," said Makwangwala.
      Makwangwala said he saw no need for anyone to ask Muluzi to account for the money which he received from Gaddafi in a spirit of brotherhood, adding that the UDF national chair used a lot of his money to run party activities, including last year's campaign which brought Mutharika to power.
      He said it is, therefore, unfair to expect Muluzi to account for the funds a year after somebody who benefited from it is comfortably in the highest office of the land.
      "What Malawians should know is that it is this same money that made President Bingu wa Mutharika win the presidential race in 2004," said Makwangwala who added that it was for that reason that at one point the UDF requested Mutharika to contribute something to clear the K200 million loan the party incurred in 2004 elections.
      But DPP publicity secretary Hetherwick Ntaba said his party was not interested in UDF's financial mismanagement or how they used the funds they got from Libya through Muluzi, but described Makwangwala's remarks as words of desperation.
      "Here you have people who wanted President Bingu wa Mutharika to contribute to their debts because they insisted that the party took loans from certain quarters and now the nation is also being told that the UDF chair actually received money from Libya.
      "I think they are just on a fund-raising campaign, in which case we in DPP are saying let them resolve their financial problems on their own. We shouldn't be involved at all," said Ntaba.
      On Thursday Libyan Charge de' Affaires Muhamed Bushir Enwies disclosed that Libya funded UDF through former President Bakili Muluzi in an arrangement which was purely personal between the two leaders.
      Enwies said Libya's policy as a government is that it deals with government of the day, adding that it was for that reason that his country's funding to the Muluzi and UDF was stopped the moment President Bingu wa Mutharika succeeded Muluzi in May 2004.
      "Since the elections, the Libyan government has never donated or assisted the UDF," said Enwies.
      The Malawi-Libya ties got strengthened prior to the 1999 general elections which saw Muluzi win his second term of office. Following two private visits to Libya by Muluzi the two countries opened diplomatic offices in Tripoli and Lilongwe.
      But Malawi has this year closed the office in Tripoli while Libya still operates one in Lilongwe currently being run by a Charge de' Affaires.

      *****

      Pardoned prisoners not yet out
      by Edwin Nyirongo, 10 January 2006 - 04:57:34
      Prisoners President Bingu wa Mutharika pardoned as part of Christmas and New Year celebrations have not yet been released almost nine days after the pronouncement.
      Prison spokesperson Tobias Nowa attributed the delay on late release of the list but was quick to add that it is now out.
      "The list of those to be released is out and shortly they will be out," he said.
      Nowa and Chief Commissioner of Prisons told a local daily last Monday that Prison Headquarters had not yet received the list of those pardoned from Home Affairs Ministry.
      But a source at Prison Headquarters blamed the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) for rushing to announce the names without sending the list to them.
      He said when the names are selected by the Prison and Police officials, they are sent to Presidential Pardon Committee for scrutiny.
      The names are then sent to the Minister of Home Affairs and then to her Principal Secretary who writes the Chief Commissioner of Prisons.
      "After the whole process has finished, the announcement is then made. But on this one while the Prison Department was waiting for confirmation of the list, OPC went ahead to announce and everyone was taken by surprise," he said.
      Nowa insisted that what matters was that some people have been pardoned and that they would be released not the delay.
      But the Human Rights Consultative Committee (HRCC) has called on the people that deal with the pardoning of prisons to be active administratively.
      HRCC chair Rodgers Newa said the prisoners that are expected to be released have suffered psychologically because they were given hope.
      "People should be professional enough to sort out administrative issues instantly because there are some prisoners who behaved well in Prison and had served long enough to warrant pardoning but have been delayed," he said.
      Newa said looking at the conditions of prisons in the country and the congestion that is there, it was painful for prisoners to hear that some of them have been pardoned and then delayed to see freedom.

      *****

      Zimbabwe's inflation approaches record levels

      Harare, Zimbabwe

      10 January 2006 02:06

      Zimbabwe's annual inflation reached 585,8% in December, closing in on the record high levels reached in 2004, the government statistical agency said on Tuesday.

      The latest figures mark an increase of 83,4 percentage points from December 2004 and fly in the face of Zimbabwe Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono's projections of inflation levels reaching between 280% and 300% by December 2005.

      The year-on-year inflation rate has been climbing monthly since March.

      "The consumer price index increased by an average of 585,8% between December 2004 and December 2005," the Central Statistical Office said in its monthly report.

      Economist Best Doroh, of banking group Zimbabwe Financial Holdings, expects inflation to continue creeping up until May.

      "Between now and May, the probability of inflation continuously going up is high," Doroh said. "This is largely because the country will continue importing food. Zimbabwe will only know of its total grain produce probably in May, so this uncertainty will add on to inflationary pressures."

      Inflation in Zimbabwe reached its peak in January 2004, hitting 624%.

      Zimbabwe's economy has taken a steep dive since the late 1990s, shrinking by 30% over the past six years.

      Over four million Zimbabweans in a population of 11,6-million face food shortages, according to United Nations agencies.

      The government blames the economic drop on drought and targeted sanctions imposed by the European Union and the United States on President Robert Mugabe, members of his inner circle and their families following the disputed presidential election in 2002.

      Critics say the seizure of white-owned farms since 2000 has led to the collapse of agriculture, which was the backbone of the economy. -- Sapa-AFP



      *****

      Ease witchcraft restrictions, says top Zim judge

      Angus Shaw | Harare, Zimbabwe

      10 January 2006 02:44

      A senior High Court judge urged Zimbabwe's government to ease colonial-era restrictions on the practice of witchcraft, state-run radio reported on Tuesday.

      Many in the country retain strong beliefs in the healing power of spirit mediums -- known as n'angas, or witchdoctors -- along with the role of ancestral rites in the nation's cultural life, Judge Maphios Cheda said on Monday at the opening of a new judicial year in the second city of Bulawayo.

      "The strongly held conviction of belief in witchcraft and traditional healers ... cannot be wished away," Cheda said in the speech quoted on state radio.

      He urged amendments to the century-old Witchcraft Suppression Act "in keeping with the popular thinking and beliefs of the majority in this country".

      The Zimbabwe National Traditional Healers' Association estimates 80% of Zimbabweans visit traditional healers for treatment or consultations, Cheda said.

      Though the Act has not been strictly enforced since independence from Britain in 1980, he said it has forced some rites to be performed in secret. The law prohibits "the throwing of bones" to diagnose problems by traditional healers clad in feathered headdress and animal skins. So, well-to-do Zimbabweans often visit healers under cover of darkness.

      Cheda also accused lawyers of decrying the government's human rights record when they ignored colonial-era injustices.

      President Robert Mugabe's government faces mounting local and international criticism for its suppression of dissent, including arresting critics, closing down independent newspapers and packing the courts with sympathetic judges. -- Sapa-AP
    • 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

        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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