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  • Christine Chumbler
    Malawi: Bumper Crop Forecast UN Integrated Regional Information Networks January 20, 2006 Posted to the web January 20, 2006 Johannesburg Drought-affected
    Message 1 of 1046 , Jan 23, 2006
      Malawi: Bumper Crop Forecast

      UN Integrated Regional Information Networks

      January 20, 2006
      Posted to the web January 20, 2006

      Johannesburg

      Drought-affected Malawi could produce a bumper maize crop of more than two million mt this year, an official of the USAID-funded Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) predicted.

      Good rain, a successful government-sponsored fertiliser programme and even floods in the southern half of the country have benefited the winter crop, said FEW-NET's Evance Chavasuka.

      Malawi's annual maize requirement is just under two million mt but last year the country experienced one of its worst droughts in a decade and struggled to produce just 1.3 million mt.

      Alex Namaona, the chief economist at the ministry of agriculture and irrigation expects the harvest to exceed 2.5 million mt, "if no other disaster strikes".

      Southern Malawi, which faced the brunt of last year's drought, has been lashed with heavy rain since December 2005, and the subsequent flooding affected some 20,000 households in Chikwawa and Nsanje districts, according to the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

      Amos Zaindi of the Irish NGO, GOAL, said the floods had damaged crops in the area, which would have an impact on the 2005/06 winter harvest. However, Chavasuka pointed out that in previous years flooding had always resulted in a better harvest. "The soil is wet and rich - besides, some seeds have already been distributed in the affected areas to help the farmers replant."

      Malawi's food shortages, which has left more than five million people in need, had also been compounded by the late delivery of fertilisers and seed. Around 80 percent of the country's workforce are subsistence farmers who depend on fertilisers to grow crops.

      The government introduced a coupon system in 2005, giving a limited number of subsistence producers access to 147,000 mt of fertiliser at half the commercial price. The government had managed to import 110,000 mt of fertiliser for maize farmers by the end of 2005. "We have sold more than 70 percent of the fertiliser so far," said Namaona, describing the success of the fertiliser programme as "unexpected."

      At the moment there is little or no maize in the outlets of the state grain marketer, ADMARC. "Whatever maize that is available in the private markets is very expensive - between 30 to 40 kwacha [about 24 to 32 US cents] per kg," he noted.

      A clearer picture of the winter harvest and the numbers in need of food aid would emerge after the official estimates were released at the end of this month.

      *****

      Govt stops Veep's rally
      by Bright Sonani, 23 January 2006 - 06:04:16
      Vice President Cassim Chilumpha was on Saturday forced to cancel his rally at the eleventh hour in Blantyre's Bangwe township after government pulled down an already constructed podium at the sight, arguing that the meeting was political.
      But both Information Minister Patricia Kaliati and her deputy John Bande said they were not aware of the incident.
      Chilumpha's spokesperson Horace Nyaka in an interview confirmed that the meeting in Bangwe was cancelled after the podium, constructed on Friday, was demolished on instructions from "above".
      "The following morning [Saturday] when we found out that the podium was demolished I talked to Mr Viliri [regional controller of buildings] who said he had received instructions from above to remove it," he said.
      Nyaka explained that as is always the case, when the Vice President has such public functions, all relevant government departments were informed including the Department of Buildings in the Ministry of Transport and Public Works which constructed the podium.
      He said he first heard about the intention to pull down the podium the same Friday evening and after inquiries he was assured by officials that "there was misinformation and the podium would still stand."
      But Nyaka said the following morning he was informed that the podium was demolished.
      "I even spoke to the Minister of Transport and Public Works Honourable Henry Mussa who told me that he was in South Africa and said if the podium was demolished certainly he was not aware and the instructions did not come from his ministry," he said.
      Nyaka also said during the preparations of the meeting among several other government institutions he personally talked to Minister of Information Patricia Kaliati.
      From the Bangwe meeting, Chilumpha was expected to have another rally at St Augustine in Mangochi on Sunday where the Department of Information also gave him a blackout by not sending personnel for coverage but only advised their under-equipped Mangochi office to take care of the function.
      Inside sources said normally the Information Department sends personnel from either Lilongwe or Blantyre to cover public functions for the President and his Vice as back up.
      On the Mangochi rally, Nyaka said it was a technical and administrative misunderstanding between the Vice President's office and the Ministry of Information, which would be sorted out.
      Kaliati in an interview confirmed to have talked to Nyaka but said she was not aware that the podium was pulled down.
      She said she was only informed that her ministry should go for a sight inspection of the place Chilumpha was supposed to have a rally but later she was informed that they should wait and the details would be communicated to them later.
      But, she said no-one from the Office of the vice President came back to her.
      She said the Department of Buildings would be best placed to comment on what happened.
      On the blackout by the Department of Information in Mangochi, Kaliati said Chilumpha's office does not give them a programme of their activities for relevant government departments to get prepared.
      "Even for the President we have a programme in advance but as I am talking to you now I don't have anything on the Vice President. These people should not keep the programme to themselves," she said.
      Viliri, when contacted just said: "You know who the government spokesperson is," before cutting the phone.
      Head of Technical Service in the Information Department Davidson Chirwa confirmed that they were not deploying personnel from Blantyre and Lilongwe to cover Chilumpha because they were sure that the Mangochi office would do the job.
      "There is also a Public Address system in Mangochi. The Vice President can use that, except for the Head of State he is the only one who has his own special equipment that how it happens anywhere in the world," said Chirwa.
      Asked why in the past the department has been sending the Blantyre or Lilongwe crew to cover the same Vice President, Chirwa said: "It is just there for back up service."
      A press release from the Secretary to the Vice President and signed by his Press Officer Diana Mwawa described the Vice President's meetings as development.
      But Deputy Information Minister John Bande speaking in a separate interview questioned Chilumpha's motive to conduct development meetings without involving other government departments.
      "Something I would want to know is why development meetings when he is never in Cabinet meetings, what sort of development would he be talking about. He is just cheating people because government development plans are formulated in Cabinet," he said.
      He said he suspected that the meetings were political because no government minister was involved.
      On the absence of Information personnel Bande said: "To be frank I would think if it is a private function, he has to arrange for his own thing. The information equipment can be hired. If it was political he can do it with his own resources."
      Bande also said he was not aware that the podium in Bangwe was pulled down.

      *****

      MP says ignorance of architectural issues increase flood impact
      by Herbert Chandilanga, 23 January 2006 - 06:53:00
      Mangochi Mkungulu MP Mah'mudu Lali has said ignorance of architectural issues is one of the major factors increasing the number of flood-prone households in the country.
      Lali made the observation in Mangochi on Friday where Petroda Malawi Limited, through its Albarakah Charity Trust, donated food items worth about K1 million to 150 families whose houses were destroyed by floods in the area of Group Village Headman Changamire under Traditional Authority Chimwala.
      Lali noted that most of the houses washed away in the affected seven villages**Changamire 1 and 2, Mpinganjira, Ibrahim, Misesa, Njingama, Miseu and Steven**were either constructed with raw, unburnt bricks or very close to drifts from where water comes raging when it rains heavily.
      "It would help a lot if we conducted civic education to emphasise on safe building sites and the best possible means of constructing fairly strong structures with the cheapest possible materials," he said.
      Group Village Headman Changamire has since appealed for the relocation of his subjects affected by the floods and currently seeking shelter at Changamire Primary school.
      He said the development has caused a halt in classes.
      While appreciating Petroda's effort, Lali said there was still a lot the victims would miss. He expressed hope that other organisations would come in with help as others have already done.
      He challenged the victims to maintain proper health standards as they live in clusters, warning that failure to do so could result in an outbreak of diseases like cholera.
      Petroda Malawi Financial Controller Yusuf Lambat said his organisation was compelled to donate the items after being alerted of the desperation the victims were.
      "It is Petroda's obligation and responsibility as a corporate entity to look into the welfare of the people. We will, therefore, provide iron sheets and other materials as requested by the chief," he said.

      *****

      Kaliati blasts TVM
      by Simon Mbvundula, 23 January 2006 - 06:12:48
      Minister of Information and Tourism Patricia Kaliati on Friday took a swipe at Television Malawi (TVM) after she and three other cabinet ministers had waited for its crew for over two hours to cover a press briefing on subsidised fertilizer.
      Tension started building up after one hour of waiting when the Information Minister visibly losing patience started making phone calls asking the whereabouts of the TV crew.
      "You are not the only public broadcasters. MBC is here. After all this function is for the rural majority and not everyone in the village has a TV set. You may wish not to come," Kaliati said, sounding disappointed.
      "And you reporters, you are the first to question us when we fire someone yet you see how unprofessional [the TV crew] are," she told journalists from other media houses.
      But Kaliati did not know that the crew was delayed by an inter ministerial press briefing by ministers of Justice and Gender, Child Welfare and Community Services at the Capital Hill, about four kilometres from Central Office of Information (COI) where the four ministers were.
      It later transpired that the television station has only one camera in Lilongwe and Kaliati was later heard asking his colleagues for donations.
      The other three ministers were Uladi Mussa, (Agriculture) his deputy Henry Mumba and Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe.
      During the briefing, the ministers said government will during the next growing season continue with the seed and fertilizer subsidy programme despite its budgetary constraints
      Uladi Mussa said the subsidy programme has been one of the most successful things in the Mutharika administration and that government was determined to take it to Parliament for budgetary consideration.
      "Whether costly or not, if government is serious in fighting hunger, then it has to see to it that smallholder farmers should buy cheaper fertilizer, without which there is no way food security can be achieved," said Mussa
      Asked to explain the economic wisdom behind the idea, Gondwe said small holder farmers fail to maximise their produce because they lack farming inputs a thing which he said some international institutions are now appreciating.
      "If there is no subsidy, people fail to produce in which case government has to import. Even some international institutions that were against the subsidy programme now agree the decision was the best ever to be made," Gondwe said
      Gondwe cited the World Bank as one of them and added that other countries like Tanzania and Ghana are doing the same thing
      The briefing was meant to provide an update on the food situation and the status of the subsidy programme.

      *****

      MP's arrest splits Business Committee
      by Gedion Munthali, 23 January 2006 - 06:10:34
      Representatives of the government and the opposition in the Business Committee of Parliament on Thursday quarrelled over the arrest of Mangochi East MP Abubaker Mbaya (UDF) to the extent that the two sides resolved to issue different statements.
      Mbaya was arrested on Wednesday in Lilongwe where he was attending the on-going meeting of the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament.
      The arrest of Mbaya took centre stage at the meeting convened to discuss the sitting of the National Assembly which has been elusive this far.
      A source at Parliament said some opposition representatives demanded the immediate release of Mbaya arguing that the MP was in privileged position as he was attending Parliamentary business.
      One member of the opposition, the source said, claimed Section 60 of the Constitution bars arrests of MPs when going to, returning from or while in the precincts of the National Assembly.
      "By extension MPs are immune from arrest when attending Committee work," the source quoted the opposition member as having argued.
      But the source said Justice Minister Henry Phoya, who is a member of the Committee, accused the opposition of selective citation of Section 60 of the Constitution.
      Phoya, the source said, argued that Mbaya's case satisfied a condition on which the section allows arrest of an MP even if he or she is attending Parliamentary Business.
      The section in question says:
      "The Speaker, every Deputy Speaker, every member of the National Assembly, except in cases of treason, shall be privileged from arrest while going to, returning from, or while in the precincts of the National Assembly..."
      The Justice Minister, according to the source, explained that Mbaya was arrested because he faces a charge of treason.
      The opposition side, which dominates in the Committee, decided to issue a statement condemning the arrest, according to the source.
      But representatives of the executive demanded that the statement should indicate they were not party to the decision.
      "If you issue the statement, make it clear that we do not share your views," demanded Leader of Government Business Henry Chimunthu Banda, adding: "As government we will issue our own statement."
      Speaker of the National Assembly Louis Chimango could not be reached on phone for his comment but he confirmed the differences in the Committee he chairs in a statement.
      "Representatives of Government on the Business Committee disassociated themselves from the stand taken by the Business Committee," said Chimango in the statement.
      The statement also accused government of arresting Mbaya without warrant.
      "Much as Parliament appreciates the power to arrest without warrant in certain circumstances, in this particular case, the member of parliament was attending a meeting of the Public Accounts Committee of the National Assembly and, therefore, entitled to privilege from arrest whilst attending Parliamentary Business," says Chimango.
      Chimunthu Banda also confirmed the differences on Thursday evening.

      *****

      [an interesting perspective illustrating that everything is relative]

      Malawi: a Lesson in Beauty And Variety

      The East African Standard (Nairobi)

      COLUMN
      January 22, 2006
      Posted to the web January 23, 2006

      Njeri Kabeberi
      Nairobi

      Driving a few kilometres from the Kamuzu Banda International Airport, I was pleasantly surprised to see how green the whole place looked.

      It was such a refreshing contrast to the now common scenes in Nairobi where herds of livestock desperately search for something to eat all the way to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.

      Of course, I was to learn later that in 2005 Malawi experienced the lowest crop production of the past 7 years causing the country's president to declare a state of national disaster on the October 14. After all 34 per cent of the population had insufficient production or income to meet their minimum food requirements. The situation persists but some respite is expected this March when the next harvest is due.

      Malawi boasts a variety of landscapes, from wetlands and lakes to mountains and forests. National parks and game reserves beckon visitors. Although Malawi is small and landlocked - occupying the southern part of the East African Rift Valley and bordered by Mozambique, Zambia as well as Tanzania - it has five lakes. Lake Malawi is the third largest lake in Africa and twelfth in the world and the home to the most diverse fish variety of any lake in the world.

      Another pleasant shocker about Malawi is that it is one of the few countries in the world whose society is characterised by both patriarchal and matrilineal systems of social governance.

      The north and the two southernmost districts are patriarchal while the rest of the country is matrilineal - with each part having its own sets of values and rules. Other countries that have matrilineal societies are Mozambique to the North and Tanzania to the South.

      This could explain the impressively high levels of politeness among the people of Malawi and, possibly, Tanzania and Mozambique. In Malawi, speaking in a loud voice is frowned upon and any aggressive body language disturbs the peace. It reminds one of being in a club with loud music and everyone is busy shouting because they cannot hear each other; and when the loud music abruptly stops, one is embarrassed at how loud their voice was.

      One can only try to imagine how much uproar the current President, Bingu wa Mutharika, has caused in this extremely peaceful country by defecting from the party that sponsored his presidency - the United Democratic Front (UDF) - and forming the Democratic Progressive Party.

      President wa Mutharika, who was sworn in on May 24, 2004 resigned from the UDF less than a year later, accusing the party and his predecessor, Bakili Muluzi, of opposing his high-profile anti-corruption campaign.

      An impeachment procedure against the President which was tabled in Parliament in October 2005 by the opposition parties led by Muluzi (alleged to have literally handpicked wa Mutharika), was halted at the last hour, on October 26, 2005 when the Constitutional Court issued a temporary injunction restraining the Speaker of Parliament from implementing the procedures adopted by Parliament pending a constitutional review.

      Fortunately after 30 years of post-independence autocracy and one party rule, there was a smooth and conflict-free transition to multi-party democracy with the first multiparty elections held in 1994, the second in 1999 and the latest - which has resulted in the new controversies - held in May, 2004.

      A written constitution was adopted in 1995 and has been widely accepted as the basis for constitutional government. It enshrines the separation of powers between the executive, the legislature and an independent judiciary.

      It has a chapter on human rights and the severe climate of repression has been replaced by the ability to debate openly, criticise leaders and comment freely on a wide variety of issues without fear of unlawful State retribution. There are no reports of political prisoners.

      Facing the beautiful and richly-endowed lake Malawi, whose horizon is bordered with differently shaped hills, as the sun rises is an experience to behold and continues to symbolise the peace and tranquillity in this country: An experience rarely felt in our beautiful city in the sun.


      *****

      Zim vendors, farmers in bitter turf war

      Harare, Zimbabwe

      23 January 2006 02:39

      Farmers and vegetable vendors in the Zimbabwean capital Harare are locked in a bitter turf war after the authorities closed down the city's main outdoor market to stop the spread of cholera, local reports said on Monday.

      Thousands of small-scale farmers were left stranded earlier this month after they arrived at the popular Mbare Msika market to sell their fresh produce, only to find the city authorities had closed it down citing fears of cholera.

      Cholera has already killed 14 Zimbabweans, three of them from Harare.

      When some of the farmers tried to sell their produce at a smaller market in the eastern township of Mabvuku, they were chased away by street vendors who accused them of charging lower prices and pinching their customers, the state-controlled Herald newspaper reported.

      "We don't want to see these people here because they are stealing our customers," one unnamed female vendor told the Herald.

      Vendors are struggling to eke out a living following a controversial clean-up campaign in the middle of last year.

      Thousands of vendors were arrested and hundreds of flea market stalls demolished. The traders are now supposed to operate only from designated areas.

      But the farmers -- many of whom live in outlying rural areas -- also appear desperate to maintain their trade in Zimbabwe's highly inflationary environment.

      "There is no need for farmers and vendors from this suburb to fight for customers. We are also in business and we should be allowed to sell," farmer Nicholas Mazambani told the paper.

      The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights group meanwhile lays the blame for Harare's public health crisis squarely with the authorities, who they said had failed to organise proper waste disposal. - Sapa-DPA

      *****

      Mozambique murderer sent to jail

      The man convicted of murdering Mozambican journalist Carlos Cardoso is to serve 30 years in jail.
      A retrial in Maputo upheld the 2003 conviction of Anibal "Anibalzinho" dos Santos Junior, who planned the killing.

      An appeal court allowed a retrial since the first trial was conducted in absentia after he fled Mozambique.

      Cardoso was murdered in 2000 while investigating a $14m fraud related to bank privatisation. The case has drawn attention to corruption in Mozambique.

      "The judges consider the charges proven and therefore decide in the name of the Republic of Mozambique to condemn Anibal dos Santos Junior," Judge Dimas Marroa said as he passed sentence in the Maputo City Court.

      'Unfair'

      Dos Santos, a Portuguese citizen who has maintained his innocence throughout the trial, denied his involvement once again after the trial.

      "It's an unfair judgement because I didn't ask for and didn't kill Carlos Cardoso," he said.

      Dos Santos was also found guilty on other counts, including falsifying his name, forging a passport, giving false statements to the authorities and stealing.

      In addition to prison terms, Dos Santos will also pay several fines, including about $584,000 in compensation for the damages caused to the Cardoso family.

      Cardoso family lawyer Lucinda Cruz expressed satisfaction at the verdict but said much remained to be uncovered about the journalist's murder.

      Judge Marroa ordered that Dos Santos should be deported to his country of nationality, Portugal, after serving the sentence.

      Escape

      Dos Santos was charged with contracting two men to carry out the killing and it is still unclear who originally ordered the assassination.

      Dos Santos escaped twice from custody while awaiting trial in Mozambique, fleeing on the first occasion to South Africa and on the second to Canada.

      It is widely believed in Mozambique that he had inside assistance from someone who did not want the truth about the Cardoso murder revealed.

      Evidence in the first trial raised questions about the alleged role of Nyimpine Chissano - son of the then Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano - in ordering the killing.

      He has denied any involvement.

      *****

      A photo gallery of "junk art" from Zimbabwe, a bit beyond the typical Shona stone sculpture.

      http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/spl/hi/picture_gallery/06/africa_zimbabwe0s_junk_art/html/1.stm
    • 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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