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  • Christine Chumbler
    Japan pledges K375m for Ovop by Lucas Bottoman, 17 January 2006 - 06:07:17 Japan has pledged US$3 million (K375 million) for the One Village One Product (Ovop)
    Message 1 of 1046 , Jan 17, 2006
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      Japan pledges K375m for Ovop
      by Lucas Bottoman, 17 January 2006 - 06:07:17
      Japan has pledged US$3 million (K375 million) for the One Village One Product (Ovop) project to build its capacity and strengthen its secretariat.
      Speaking during the Jica-net video-conferencing seminar on Ovop, Jica representative in Malawi Kyoji Mizutani said the money would be used for the next five years up to September 2010.
      Mizutani said the seminar was organised to let the participants acquire a high degree of understanding of Ovop activities.
      Chief Secretary for Public Service Charles Matabwa said the funding from the Japanese Government to Ovop will have a very big impact on the operations of various programmes thereby helping to reduce poverty among many Malawians, especially in rural areas.
      "Ovop is a government initiative which seeks to promote business development by encouraging value-adding to primary products and services. It is in line with the Millennium Development Goals which the Malawi Government has embraced to reduce poverty among its citizens," said Matabwa.
      He said Ovop is premised on six specific objectives namely; to facilitate access to resources for business development; to promote processing of primary products; to promote sustainable environmental friendly technologies; to facilitate marketing of goods and services; to develop human resource through capacity building and then to promote equity through gender equalisation and moralistic standards in business development.
      Matabwa said that since the establishment of Ovop Secretariat last March, there are 48 operational projects focusing on various products ranging from foodstuffs and wood to mining products.
      Ovop National Coordinator Bruce Munthali said there is tremendous progress as evidenced by a number of projects that have already kicked off and are doing very well on the ground.


      Assembly warns briefcase CBOs
      by Edwin Nyirongo, 17 January 2006 - 06:40:32
      Mzuzu City Assembly has warned people who operate fake community-based organisations (CBOs) saying the law will catch them.
      The Assembly's Chief Executive Samson Chirwa said this Friday when he presented cheques totalling K9,534,506 to 16 CBOs from Mzuzu whose objectives are to fight HIV/Aids.
      Chirwa expressed concern that people are talking advantage of the plight of Malawians to enrich themselves saying this is not only a crime but a sin before God.
      "There are reports of briefcase CBOs disguising to help the needy and suffering but they do not render the services. You should not be part of them because once caught, the law would take its course," he told them.
      Chirwa observed that the HIV/Aids has caused a lot of misery and advised the people to work hard so that the disease is reduced.
      He acknowledged the patience the CBOs endured by waiting for long before receiving the money. He asked Plan International, who gave the funding, which came from National Aids Commission to process applications in good time.
      Willis Mwandira from Plan advised the recipients to use the money according to the proposals put forward to District Aids Committee saying failing to do that would be a breach of contract.
      Mwandira noted that if the money is well utilised, it could have an impact on the people who are affected by Aids.
      He also called for transparency and accountability saying everyone, including traditional leaders, should be aware of what is happening with the money.
      Organisations that received the money came from Qaadriya Muslims Association, traditional healers and drama groups among others.


      Ministry bemoans lack of counselling structures
      by Simon Mbvundula, 17 January 2006 - 06:37:23
      The Ministry of Education has decried weak guidance and counselling structures at school level in the country saying the situation has led to deterioration of academic performance and competitiveness in schools.
      Raphael Agabu, Deputy Director of Education Methods and Advisory Services, said during a three-day youth guidance and counselling workshop in Lilongwe that it is sad that academic performance of most youths is affected because they cannot cope with realities of life once their parents or guardians die.
      "It pains for brighter children to lose concentration because they were not counselled and guided through bereavement and grief process. Youths should be conversant with real life situations in this country," said Agabu
      The workshop was the first of its kind to be hosted by the Guidance Counselling and Youth Development (GCYD) Centre for Africa, an institution that seeks to address social issues affecting boys and girls.
      African ministers of education established the regional centre in 1994 to impart sufficient information and skills to African youths so that they are capable of developing their own solutions to the problems they face.
      GCYD Acting Director Kenneth Hamwaka said training in counselling and guidance open minds of people and youths in particular.
      "We could have best teachers in schools but if children have closed minds all this is wasted. Therefore, youths should be equipped with life skills so that they are able to comfort one another if they have problems," Hamwaka said.
      The workshop drew participants from six secondary schools in the Dzenza Cluster Centre in Lilongwe and was sponsored by Unicef with officials from the Ministry of Education, GCYD staff and Censorship Board as facilitators.
      The workshop also came barely days after six local youth organisations had last week expressed concern over delays in opening the centre claiming it would have gone a long way in assisting the youths.
      The organisations said they were arranging to meet the Minister of Education who was reportedly keeping the keys of the centre.


      Fire guts Chitakale Tea Factory
      by Emmanuel Muwamba, 17 January 2006 - 05:49:05
      Uncontrollable fire on Saturday gutted down Chitakale Tea Factory in Mulanje. An electrical fault is suspected to be the cause.
      The factory general manager Francis Gundo said the fire was reported to him at midnight on Saturday but said efforts to put it out were hampered by the fact that the company premises were closed and that fire extinguishers were not enough.
      "Our only alternative way of putting off the fire was to use water from the horse pipes whose pressure was not all that strong," he said.
      Gundo could not immediately quantify the value of the damaged property but explained that the extent was "very grave" adding that the factory will need a complete overhaul.
      He said the factory will require new machines for the factory to start processing tea which are expensive.
      Gundo said the company laid off all factory workers in 2004 and that the damage will not have adverse effects on its operations because it sells its tea leaves to Eastern Produce.
      He said the support staff saved some machines and 50 motors.
      "When I came the fire was already raging. The fire extinguishers that we were using were not enough to help control the fire. But the fire continued to rage because the building was made from wood, roofed with asbestos and the ceiling all acting as catalysts," he said.
      He said he called the Blantyre City Assembly fire office but he was told that the assembly does not have fuel and was referred to Chileka Airport where the phones went unanswered.
      "We continued to fight the fire and it was finally put off at around 8 am on Sunday."
      Some of the badly affected premises are the factory, computer supervisory office section, the general manager's office and the registry of accounts clerk.


      Armyworms attack 20 districts
      by Lucas Bottoman and Isaac Masingati, 17 January 2006 - 06:02:22
      The Ministry of Agriculture on Friday said 27,445 hectares have been affected by armyworms countrywide since the rains started this growing season, saying 2,638 hectares of maize have been completely destroyed
      Speaking during a press conference Principal Secretary Radson Mwadiwa said 20 districts in seven Agricultural Development Division (ADDs) have been affected by the armyworms.
      According to the ministry, Lilongwe ADD is the worst hit with 1,605 hectares requiring replanting.
      "In Lilongwe ADD the affected districts are Lilongwe, Dedza and Ntcheu, which is the worst affected district because the area that has been replanted 1, 500 hectares. A total crop and bush area of 4, 330 hectares was affected in the districts of Lilongwe, Dedza and Ntcheu within Lilongwe ADD. The damage ranged from mild to severe," said Mwadiwa.
      Mwadiwa said the second worst hit ADD is Machinga where a total area of 671 hectares of maize and 25 hectares of rice were replanted.
      He said although there are fresh armyworm outbreaks in Shire Valley, Machinga, Lilongwe, Kasungu and Karonga ADDs, the ministry was spraying pesticides in the affected areas.
      Controller of Agricultural Extension and Technical Services Jeffrey Luhanga said the armyworms are always there in the bush hence there is need for the farmers to be on the lookout to detect the outbreak before it is too late.
      "The advice to all farmers is that they should never let a day pass without visiting their gardens of maize, rice and other crops of grass family to avoid being shocked by armyworm attack at the time they could not expect," said Luhanga.
      "Although maize seeds donated by Monsanto Ltd have been distributed to all the affected ADDs across the country to be used for replanting the destroyed crop areas, safeguarding of the standing crops is vital, hence farmers should immediately report any suspected cases of the outbreak to the ministry for appropriate action in order to save the crops," said Luhanga.
      Luhanga said in many areas where the armyworm outbreaks occurred the situation is under control.
      He said the overhead spraying using the helicopter as suggested by some people was not done for fear of contaminating wells.
      But Luhanga said the assessment of crop shows there will be a bumper harvest this year.
      The seven ADDs that have been affected by armyworm attacks include Lilongwe, Blantyre, Machinga, Kasungu, Salima, Shire Valley and Karonga.
      In those ADDs the affected districts are Lilongwe, Dedza, Ntcheu, Kasungu, Ntchisi, Salima and Nkhotakota in the Centre; Phalombe, Chiradzulu, Mulanje, Blantyre, Neno, Balaka, Machinga, Zomba, Chikwawa and Nsanje in the South; Karonga and Chitipa up North.
      Meanwhile at least 7000 families have been rendered homeless in Nsanje with 670 hectares of maize, millet and sorghum washed away due to heavy rains that fell in the district last week.
      Nsanje North Member of Parliament and Deputy Speaker of Parliament Esther Chilenje confirmed the incident saying she feared it would affect maize yield in the district this year.
      "As I am speaking there is massive crop devastation and I fear for people's lives even after harvest," said Chilenje.
      Chilenje also said over 780 hectares of maize crop had been attacked by army worms.
      She said the district has this year alone experienced two major floods that have affected her constituency, a thing she said, had resulted in loss of thousands of hectares of grain crops.
      Chilenje said the suffering of the people had been aggravated by lack of maize at Admarc selling points.
      She said Muona, Masenjere and M'bwazi Admarc depots were running without the staple food forcing private traders to profiteer by selling the maize at over K55 per kg.
      Chilenje said since maize was scarce people were buying water lilies which she claimed to be selling at K200 per basin.
      Meanwhile reports also indicate that wash-away floods have destroyed in Phalombe affecting 400 families.
      Phalombe district commissioner Khumbo Chongwe said the wash always had destroyed crops in Liphala, Nthowa, Nachinde, Ligwiligwili and Mausi villages in Traditional Authority Nazombe.
      "Some of the maize plants have just been submerged while others on uplands have been attacked by army worms,' said Chongwe.
      Chongwe said three extension areas of Waruma, Mpinda and Naminjiwa had so far been affected and that local agricultural authorities were fighting the pests.


      Finance Bank employees in K21m scam
      by Bright Sonani, 17 January 2006 - 06:00:40
      At least 12 employees of Finance Bank of Malawi, Lilongwe Branch, have been suspended and some of them are believed to have bolted out of the country following a scam believed to have drained close to K21 million (about $173,000 ) .
      The employees are alleged to have been swindling the bank by transferring millions of Kwacha from the company's coffers into unsuspecting customers' accounts and would later use the clients to withdrew the funds.
      National Police Public Relations Officer Willie Mwaluka on Monday confirmed that police were investigating the alleged scam but could not give details.
      "As of now all I can say is that it is true and we arrested two people. The case is with the court here in Lilongwe. However, I need to get more information from those who are investigating the issue," said Mwaluka.
      He could also neither name the two suspects who have been arrested nor confirm the amount involved and the employees who have been suspended.
      The bank's interim General Manager Neil Nyirongo could not answer his phone on Monday when called.
      But Police sources disclosed that several clients of the bank were called for questioning after discovering that the suspected employees were using their accounts to transfer the money.
      The sources also disclosed that some of those employees, including some senior officers at the branch, suspected to have been directly involved, are still on the run while others fled the country.
      "Some of the clients indicated that they were not aware that they were being used to swindle the bank because the employees could get the unsuspecting client and tell him or her that he was doing a part time business and as someone working with the bank would not want to open an account which would raise suspicions," said the source.
      The source also said Police only managed to get a few clients for questioning as some of them are also suspected to be on the run after the scam was discovered.
      According to the source, police have so far impounded property, including vehicles of those who were arrested and the employees who are on the run while the affected accounts have so far been frozen.
      A source at the bank revealed that one of the used accounts had money in excess of K6 million when the scam was discovered and so far about 12 employees, who are suspected to have been working as a network, are connected to the scam.
      Finance Bank is currently under the management of the Reserve Bank of Malawi following fiscal discipline dispute last year when government revoked its licence and eventually closed it before it was re-opened.


      BLM sensitises Zomba residents on VCT
      by Emmanuel Muwamba, 17 January 2006 - 06:39:16
      Banja La Mtsogolo (BLM), a local reproductive health NGO, last week sensitised and mobilised women of child-bearing age to access voluntary counselling and testing (VCT) services before having children.
      The public sensitisation campaigns were held in Zomba town, Songani and Thondwe trading centres where BLM also imparted knowledge on the services it renders in the district including VCT.
      BLM Marketing Officer Felistas Sibweza said she was impressed with how people, especially the youth, responded to the messages.
      "A number of activities were lined up to motivate people to participate in sexual and reproductive health activities and undergo the VCT services at Zomba BLM Clinic. What I can say is tat he response was very encouraging because most youth showed willingness to access our services," she aid.
      BLM also conducted competitions at the sites of the campaign where people who answered questions correctly on BLM services and products in general and about the VCT were given T-shirts and caps.
      The Judges Dancing Troupe entertained people through their traditional dances and songs with VCT and family planning messages in the three sites.
      With 29 clinics, BLM provides integrated sexual and reproductive healthcare services including family planning services, sexually transmitted infections, treatment of general ailments and laboratory services.


      MBC journalist dies
      by Henry Chilobwe, 16 January 2006 - 04:48:35
      Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) journalist and presenter Madalitso Chauluka, fondly known as Oyiya, died of meningitis Sunday morning at Queen Elizabeth Central hospital in Blantyre.
      MBC Public Relations Officer Edith Tsirizani said meningitis attacked Chauluka last November while she was attending a three-week training course in South Africa.
      Tsirizani said Chauluka was admitted to a hospital in South Africa for two weeks but she felt unwell when she returned home.
      "She had been complaining of headache and then yesterday (Saturday) she went with her mother to the hospital where she died this morning," she said.
      Tsirizani did not have details of the burial arrangement but said Chauluka's remains were taken to her home in Machinjiri, Blantyre where friends and relatives are mourning her.
      Chauluka first worked at MIJ 90.3 FM as a reporter and continuity announcer before she joined MBC in 2003 as an announcer.
      At MBC Chauluka was fondly known as 'Oyiya', especially when she presented the popular Radio One breakfast show, Tadzuka Sitidziwa Anzathu and Zokonda Amayi programmes.


      MDC hullabaloo has roots in Zimbabwe's past

      Bafana Mpofu

      16 January 2006 11:00

      Writing in South African newspaper The Star this month, Basildon Peta pointed out -- quite unnecessarily -- that Zimbabwe opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) vice-president Gibson Sibanda belongs to the "minority Ndebele tribe" while disputed party president Morgan Tsvangirai comes from "the main Shona tribal group".

      Therein lies the riddle of Zimbabwean politics. While Zimbabwe -- quite unlike many other countries in the region -- has relatively few different ethnic groups, ethnicity has long dictated its politics, both in the ruling party and in the opposition, at the expense of rational policies and clear national concerns, such as sorting out the economic mess Zanu-PF has created and establishing a truly democratic system, which should be the national focus today.

      Zanu-PF, the party that has held Zimbabwe captive since independence from Britain in 1980, was born after the 1963 rebellion against the Zimbabwe African People's Union (Zapu), the main party that was led by the late Joshua Nkomo, who was President Robert Mugabe's second vice-president at the time of his death.

      While the split between Nkomo and Ndabaningi Sithole, who led the rebellion, was over strategies to tackle the Ian Smith regime -- Nkomo preferred giving dialogue more chance, while Sithole and others wanted to engage in armed confrontation immediately -- the hostility that grew between the two camps was eventually fuelled more by ethnic divisions and less by the differences over approach. Besides his many weaknesses, Nkomo lost the plot largely because of his ethnic background, as he too, to borrow from Peta, belonged to the minority Ndebele tribe.

      When independence loomed, it mattered very little to many Zimbabwean voters what programme each of the two main parties -- Zanu-PF and PF-Zapu -- championed. During the campaign for the 1980 general elections -- and, indeed, subsequent elections up to this day -- trivial slogans such as "Pasi naNkomo! [Down with Nkomo!]" and "Phansi loMgabe! [Down with Mugabe!]" were more visible than visions for the new nation were. Tribe took precedence, and hence many were only happy to rid themselves of their colonial rulers and to get either Nkomo or Mugabe into power, depending on their ethnic orientation.

      Because of this lack of maturity among Zimbabwean voters, Mugabe managed to retain the support he had gained at independence while he continued to butcher Ndebele civilians in Matabeleland and the Midlands for five years after independence -- under the pretext that Nkomo wanted to start an insurrection -- while little real progress was taking place in the country besides selective distribution of the wealth left by the Rhodesian government.

      For many among the majority Shona voters, Mugabe was protecting them from the disloyal Ndebeles, and it mattered little how he did it. And I believe the same would have happened if roles were switched and the Ndebele were in the majority and controlled state power.

      Herein lies the predicament of the MDC. Many Zimbabweans, be they supporters of the "pro-Senate group" or the "anti-Senate group", as the divisions in the MDC are called now, are quite aware that MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai erred when he misrepresented his party's national council vote on October 12. They know that it was Tsvangirai who ordered the attacks on senior colleagues in his party in July, which precipitated the current impasse, probably because he believed there was a plot to remove him.

      They know too that Tsvangirai's principle of boycotting the Senate, whether right or wrong, should have been a settled matter the moment it was taken to a vote in the national council. But very few care. Even journalists -- in a country where investigative journalism has become a catchword -- have not explored these disturbing facts.

      Civic society has not reacted any differently. Many civic organisations and activists, including rights organisations and campaigners, never raised a voice during the intraparty violence in the MDC, as this would have compromised their relationships with either Tsvangirai or his perceived enemies. Hitherto respected human rights organisations and activists therefore opted to put their integrity on the block and portray themselves as merely opposed to Zanu-PF, whose violent streaks they never hesitate to condemn, rather than put their fingers in a boiling pot.

      If Zimbabwe were a normal country and the MDC a normal party, Tsvangirai would have come back to his colleagues and apologised for undermining the authority of his own party, if only for the sake of protecting the record of democracy and tolerance that the MDC has cherished until the recent circus. If Tsvangirai did not apologise, all the members of his national council -- the majority of whom approved the Senate elections in the first place -- would have demanded that he be subjected to the party's disciplinary procedures, as happened with former MDC MP Munyaradzi Gwisai, who was hugely popular when the party expelled him for indiscipline.

      In fact, it is a known fact that many of the senior MDC members on either side of the Senate debate, including MDC chairperson Isaac Matonga, who is Tsvangirai's right-hand man, wanted to contest for Upper House seats before the dispute.

      Even MDC MPs who participated in the March 2004 general election, which Tsvangirai was reportedly opposed to initially, have taken positions on the stalemate with scant regard to what is right or wrong. The abusive language that characterises much of the debate between the MDC antagonists over this issue is an example of the dearth of principles and the lack of a clear vision about the future, not just in the opposition party but also in Zimbabwe as a nation.

      Like Mugabe after independence and even now, Tsvangirai knows that his political survival has little to do with whether he does right or abides by the authority of his party. He knew when he defied his party that, ultimately, his tribe would play a big role in his political future, as the long-held suspicions between Zimbabwe's two major ethnic groups would come to the fore in the event of any dispute.

      Similarly, Sibanda and his camp also calculated that while they would lose a lot of support from most of the provinces in Zimbabwe, regardless of whether they were right or wrong, they would retain Matabeleland and part of the Midlands mainly on tribal sympathies and use this as a lever to convince the rest of the party hierarchy to back them.

      This attitude has been evident in the national response to a disputed report in a Central Intelligence Organisation-controlled newspaper, which accused Sibanda of calling for an independent Ndebele state, a topic that always drives Zimbabweans into their tribal forts. Tsvangirai and his colleagues jumped on to the bandwagon and accused the pro-Senate faction of being secessionists and tribalists who were working with Zanu-PF. Even Mugabe weighed in at his party's conference in December last year, warning those wanting to split Zimbabwe that they would be dealt with -- the only time that he and Tsvangirai had sung from the same book in a long time.

      The problem with a political system that is deeply divided on ethnic lines is that conspiracies are easy to conjure up, and politicians and ordinary people alike refuse to engage their minds in serious debate, opting to spend endless hours discussing phantoms.

      Conspiracy culture
      The culture of using conspiracies as a scapegoat when tackling problems dates back to colonial administrations in this country. Rhodesian government ministers believed accusing nationalists of being communists, instead of addressing their problems, was enough to dismiss them, while soon after independence Mugabe's ministers and apologists routinely accused Nkomo of trying to start an insurrection with the help of the apartheid South African government, and looked aside as he killed more than 20 000 civilians on the basis of that, instead of owning up to the glaring fact that Zanu-PF's blind desire for a one-party state had plunged the nation into a bloodbath.

      Few Zimbabwean opinion leaders have tried to consider the merits of the row that has all but destroyed the MDC. Some, including progressive intellectuals, have even openly said there is nothing wrong with Tsvangirai dictating in the party, and have disregarded the danger that failing to rein him in now may turn him into another Mugabe in the unlikely event that he becomes Zimbabwe's next president. On the other hand, supporters of the pro-Senate faction have also not taken time to ask themselves if there is anything to gain in risking the existence of the party to a project that is clearly designed for Zanu-PF's succession programme.

      It is this lack of rational judgement that has long been the enemy of Zimbabwean politics. Anyone who points out a wrong is given a name, and hanged on the basis of his tribe. And this lack of maturity is never more evident than in the fact that 26 years after independence, every Zimbabwean knows that no one can be president unless he is from the dominant Shona group. This is the strength that Tsvangirai thinks he has, and the weakness that Mugabe has exploited since 1980.

      If Zimbabweans don't change their attitudes and start using their heads and not their hearts to make political decisions, we should be deeply concerned about the future, and should forget about making our leaders realise that no democracy can be established without accountability. Perhaps we should take heart in the few moderates in each of the MDC camps who have adopted their positions on the basis of their principles, without regard to ethnic orientation.
    • 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.


        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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