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  • Christine Chumbler
    MPs distance themselves from Malawi impeachment bid Blantyre, Malawi 25 January 2006 02:01 The collapse of an impeachment bid against Malawi s President Bingu
    Message 1 of 1046 , Jan 25, 2006
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      MPs distance themselves from Malawi impeachment bid

      Blantyre, Malawi

      25 January 2006 02:01

      The collapse of an impeachment bid against Malawi's President Bingu wa Mutharika has set off a flurry of resignations by opposition parliamentarians distancing themselves from the parties that had sponsored it.

      Maxwell Milanzi, the United Democratic Front (UDF) MP who introduced the motion in Parliament last year, not only withdrew the bid but has also quit his party to become an independent.

      "I have decided to withdraw the motion because I have realised it has become very unpopular among the majority of Malawians and the donor community," he explained.

      At least seven MPs have recently either resigned from the UDF or the main opposition Malawi Congress Party, with five of them announcing their intention of joining Mutharika's fledgling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

      A group of influential donors also protested the impeachment motion as a diversion at a time when Malawi was facing its worst drought in a decade, and voters punished the opposition in a string of by-elections won by the DPP at the end of 2005.

      Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Henry Phoya said the drive to oust the president, which paralysed Parliament for much of last year, is "now technically over".

      The impeachment attempt was backed by the UDF, smarting over Mutharika's resignation after the party sponsored him as their presidential candidate. Following a power struggle, Mutharika quit in June last year to form the DPP rather than halt an anti-corruption drive that had netted several senior former UDF party colleagues. The UDF also said he had used public funds to launch the DPP, an allegation Mutharika denied.

      Media reports linked Milanzi's decision to leave the UDF to a court case challenging his right to a parliamentary seat after a separate and earlier conviction on fraud charges. Some commentators suggested the case against him would now be quietly dropped.

      "I do not think that the withdrawal of the motion and consequence resignation from the UDF by the MP [Milanzi] is a coincidence," political-science lecturer Boniface Dulani said.

      Milanzi has hit back at his detractors, insisting: "I have not resigned from the UDF because of the court case -- it is up to the courts to continue with the matter if they so wish, and as far as I am concerned, the case is still on." -- Irin

      *****

      'Green Revolution' Instrumental in Achieving the MDGs

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      January 24, 2006
      Posted to the web January 24, 2006

      Gregory Gondwe
      Lilongwe

      Replicating the 'Green Revolution', a concept that turned Asia's poverty into wealth in the mid 1960s, will help Malawi reduce poverty among the poorest of the poor, Director of the UN Millennium Project, Dr. Jeffrey Sachs told the media last week.

      Sachs, who was addressing the media soon after a two and half hour meeting with State President Bingu wa Mutharika said what happened in Asia in the 1960s and 70s now has to happen in Africa in this decade. "The Green Revolution in many ways stands at the heart of the breakthrough out of the poverty trap," said Sachs indicating that the green revolution is instrumental in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015 that the world has agreed on.

      He explained that what happened in Asia in the 60s was that large populations were living in the same kind of chronic hunger, drought, instability and political conflict as is the case in Africa today.

      However, starting from the mid 1960s the smallholder farmers were able to be more productive through better-input systems like fertiliser and better water management and improved seed varieties. This raised their incomes significantly and they changed from being subsistence farmers to big commercial farmers. "That was the impetus for the take-off of what is now extraordinary economic growth in India. The same has to happen here and now, which means Africa needs its own green revolution," he said.

      Sachs, who is also special advisor to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan on the Millennium Goals said while in the country he told donors that Malawi, as a country needs to produce its own food and not to continue relying on emergency food aid.

      He said that this could only be possible if investment is made on the supply side so that farmers can grow three or five times more maize per hectare.

      Sachs said, with that kind of approach the farmers would be able to earn greater incomes by shifting part of the flat lands out of maize, into soya beans, groundnuts, sunflower, cup flower, horticulture, tree crops or into dairy and that will change them away from subsistence farming.

      That change, he asserted could lead the hungry, underfed subsistence farmer into commercial farming where he or she could be earning a higher income. That is what Africa's green revolution is really about, he said.

      He said Malawi is already on the road to that achievement as the starting point started when the government said farmers in this country need fertiliser and improved seeds, not just handouts from the rest of the world. "We encourage the government to continue with the programme that ensures the smallholder farmers have access to the critical inputs they need," he said.

      Sachs said if the soil has nutrient provisions in form of chemical fertilisers or when farmers engaged in agro-forestry, small-scale water management or larger water management programmes or using improved seed varieties then Malawi could end poverty. "Malawi has plenty sunshine and it needs to get the seed, the fertiliser and water together and with the sunshine the country would be able to achieve a real breakthrough," he said, suggesting that the country could increase agricultural production towards achieving the MDGs, bringing food sufficiency and effectively, the eradication of poverty.

      *****

      Oxfam Maize Scam Unearthed

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      January 24, 2006
      Posted to the web January 24, 2006

      St. Leonard Mkhuwala
      Lilongwe

      Two field supervisors on duty from Mulanje Oxfam diverted truckloads of relief maize worth three hundred and fifty thousand Kwacha (MK350,000) meant for charity distribution in Mulanje north and sold to private traders.

      The employees (names withheld but holding positions of Field Monitor and Distribution Supervisor) were, on the night of December 20, 2005, on duty assignment to monitor maize distribution in chief Ndanga's area when the fraud took place.

      Oxfam source says the two employees left at night with the two trucks loaded with maize to chief Ndanga's via Limbe. On arrival, the supervisors told the expectant crowd gathered there that the maize was meant for another area.

      The source further said that when the crowd dispersed they (supervisors) returned with the trucks and offloaded the maize at the chief's house. Some people smelt a rat and tipped off the police.

      Mulanje Police confirmed the incident and said that cash amounting to MK110,000 was recovered from the chief's house while MK140,000 was found in the possession of the supervisors.

      The spokesperson for Mulanje Police, Ralph Makondetsa, said the police had referred the matter to Oxfam management since, he said, Oxfam generally refuses its cases to be handled by the police. "Oxfam matters are always resolved domestically as it aligns itself to Christian principles as a charitable organisation. We only had to tell them of the development at Ndanga when the tip from the public came in," said Makondetsa.

      In his capacity as Mulanje Oxfam Programme Officer, Felix Ntonda said the theft indeed took place and that the culprits have so far returned the maize and any cash they received. "We normally tell people in every distribution area to report any suspicious move to police, said Ntonda.

      So far, Oxfam has terminated the employee's services simply by not renewing their contracts that are due for renewal this time around. "For the past three years the two have been with Oxfam, they have always been very useful people at service. We could not understand why they did this awful act. They even confessed that they did not know what they were doing and begged for forgiveness," he explained.

      Ntonda said since the matter was resolved amicably, he would not want to give the details of their names as it would hinder their chances of future opportunities. He further said that he was giving the details only because he was the one who dealt with the incident when it occurred, otherwise the country representative for Oxfam was the one entitled to speak.

      Oxfam Malawi representative, Mary Nyang'wa could not be reached for comment as she was reported to be on leave.

      In Malawi, Oxfam, a well-respected British relief agency is operational mainly in the southern region and partly in the central region.

      *****

      Guardians Refuse Tablet ARVs

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      January 24, 2006
      Posted to the web January 24, 2006

      Lilongwe

      An officer at the Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital [QECH] in Blantyre who did not wish his name to be disclosed said in an interview that some guardians had been refusing to continue to givetheir children antiretroviral (ARV) treatment in tablet form, which the children had been taking.

      This, he said, was despite assurances from medical personnel that there was nothing wrong with the tablets being given to children, as this was how children are taking medication to control the virus in the body. "What puzzled us is that these people have been giving the children ARVs in tablet form since last year without any problems," he said adding: "When we questioned them, they told us that they obtained reliable information that these ARVs in tablet form were banned by the World Health Organisation".

      The medical officer said the guardians have since been made to understand the importance of continuing medication. "Now they have started giving their children the medication again, but we have reports that some guardians and parents are also doing the same in some hospitals mandated to administer the life pro-longing drugs," he said.

      The development has concerned the Principal Secretary for Nutrition, HIV and AIDS in the Office of the President and Cabinet, Mary Shawa who fears that this may result in mutation and resistance of the virus when treatment is resumed.

      Asked if she was aware of the development, Mary Shawa confirmed that indeed, there have been cases where some parents and guardians were refusing tablet ARVs for their children.

      But she attributed this to what she termed 'misleading media reports' that have been disseminated saying that the World Health Organisation (WHO) had banned the use of the tablets, which she charged, is incorrect. "Let me set the record straight by informing the nation that ARVs in tablet form have not been banned. They are still in use and recommended for use. "They are no different from syrup ARVs. Some countries are using syrup but it's no different from tablets. There are also some CHAM hospitals using syrup in Malawi. The good thing about tablets is that they are simple to administer, while syrup needs some measurements and many other instructions, which we feel may complicate matters for most parents and guardians. But both syrup and tablet ARVs are good," said Shawa.

      She assured Malawians that tablets were still in use and recommended by WHO, and discouraged the tendency of turning them down, saying it would encourage resistance and also affect the health of those on treatment.

      Reports last year indicated that WHO had removed some pharmaceutical companies from their list of ARV suppliers because they had not met the strict WHO criteria and requirement for manufacturing the drugs.

      According to the Minister of Health and Population, Hetherwick Ntaba, the efficacy of the drugs for the de-listed pharmaceuticals was never in question but that the WHO requirement needed to be adhered to by the manufacturing companies.

      *****

      Kellog Foundation Donates Mk20m to Community Policing

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      January 24, 2006
      Posted to the web January 24, 2006

      ZIGGY KONDWANI MAGOMBO
      Lilongwe

      The New York based organisation, Kellog Foundation, has donated MK20 million to the Kanengo Police station for the construction of a Victim Support Unit (VSU) and other required structures within the station's policing zone to facilitate their Community Policing efforts.

      This was disclosed by the station's executive committee chairperson, Felix Mphonde during the central region Community Policing AGM held at the Officer's Mess, Area 3, in Lilongwe recently.

      Mphonde said the donation followed a visit by the Kellog Foundation to the Malawi's first ever model in Community Policing and that they were greatly impressed with the services rendered there. "With what they saw, the Kellog Foundation gave us the funding for the construction of a fully equipped VSU and other necessities to enhance mobility in the execution of the station's services. They saw that even with very little resources available we were able to do our work," Mphonde said, adding that the funding is already serving its purpose. "We have the construction of the VSU underway and it's the first ever of its kind with four offices and a big conference room for sixty people," Mphonde said.

      He further said that part of the money has been used to purchase a motor vehicle, forty bicycles to be distributed in the station's six policing zones and, he said they also intend to build a police satellite station at Mtema. The chair added that the rest of the money would be used for training of personnel in Community Policing and sensitizing the people through the publication of a newsletter.

      Present at the AGM were station executive committees from all districts in the central region. The meeting carried out a postmortem of the just ended year and it looked at the way forward in 2006.

      In his remarks the guest of honour, Central Region Commissioner of Police, Titus Thyolamwendo said although they had some challenges in terms of resource, the police have managed to bring the crime rate to acceptable levels. "There are several successes that we can proudly point out such as the decrease of small arms related cases and the establishment of crime prevention initiatives, just to mention a few. This year we are geared to continue working with the community to ensure that the crime rate is kept low," Thyolamwendo said.

      A cross-section of annual community policing activities from various stations presented at the meeting indicated the success of Community Policing services. Ntcheu, for instance, boasted of recovering goods worth millions of kwacha and the arrest of the most notorious armed robber who is currently serving 24 years IHL.

      *****

      ARCOD Mitigates the Impact of HIV/Aids

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      January 24, 2006
      Posted to the web January 24, 2006

      Arnold Mnelemba
      Lilongwe

      The Association for Rural Community Development (ARCOD) has embarked on a prestigious, rural livelihood project intended at sustaining household food security, improving household income and assisting in easing farm labour for affected and infected farmers as a way of mitigating the impact of HIV and AIDS.

      Patrick Mkandawire, executive director for ARCOD said in an interview at Nathenje in Lilongwe after opening a peer educators training course with funding from Kindernothfe (Germany), ARCOD has embarked on the 3 year project that aims at improving living standards of rural Malawians through the encouragement of self reliance in the areas of Traditional Authority (T/A) Chiseka, Kalumba and Chadza.

      Mkandawire said that his institution carried out research to find out what are other areas that ought to be addressed in mitigating the HIV/AIDS impact and it was revealed that some farmers are spending more time taking care of the sick, a thing, he said is affecting productivity. "Initially, our programmes were to do with irrigation farming but we learnt in the process of implementing our programmes that people were failing to do their work because most of them were busy taking care of the sick in the villages and sourcing food for children and grand children, most of whom were orphans. We therefore thought it wise that we help in sensitising the people about the dangers of HIV/AIDS, ease the farm work by teaching the farmers about zero tillage farming methods, providing them with necessities in the form of soft loans and teaching them about seed multiplication as a way of encouraging self reliance," said Mkandawire.

      ARCOD board chair Maina Mkandawire emphasised the importance of the project to the rural masses saying it will go a long way in assisting government's effort in eradicating poverty as well as in fighting against the killer pandemic HIV/AIDS, which he said is contributing to the lack of meaningful growth.

      Mkandawire said the project has since witnessed the distribution of soya beans and groundnuts seedlings in the areas.

      Mkandawire said the use of non-tillage farming reduce the work burden for farmers who are infected and affected saying they cultivate their crops using very little labour. "We are distributing bullet and round up herbicides. Using these herbicides, farmers spend very little time in the field and have ample time to take care of the sick and orphans, further, to those who are infected; their job is made easier because they use sprayers weighing 5 kgs. This weight is light, even for a child to manage. This means that even those who are sick can work in the garden," he said.

      Florence Ganizani of group village headman Kasumbu, T/A Chiseka, a beneficiary of the project commended ARCOD for the project saying under the project, people in the rural areas are able to produce cooking oil and bread.

      These things Ganizani said helps them to be financially stable. "We were told how we can make cooking oil from groundnuts and how we can make bread flour from soya beans. We are selling these things and our lives are now being transformed," she said.

      The project, according to project officer Chimkwende has so far helped over 500 farmers and will run for 3 years.

      He stressed the probability of the project being extended to other parts of the country.

      *****

      Give Back Muluzi's Money, MPs Tell Tembo

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      January 24, 2006
      Posted to the web January 24, 2006

      GREGORY GONDWE
      Lilongwe

      Thirty-nine Members of Parliament of the main opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) have told their party president John Tembo to return any money he may have received from the former State President Bakili Muluzi for him to support impeachment attempts on State President Bingu wa Mutharika. "If you have pocketed some money from Muluzi as you did during the Open Term Bill, please 'Kabwezeni' (give it back). You (Tembo) are not going to be president of Malawi through impeachment process. You should read the constitution carefully before deciding to support Muluzi blindly," says the MPs in a letter dated December 8, 2005 addressed to Tembo.

      The MPs advise Tembo that that voting to impeach Bingu is tantamount to allowing Muluzi back in through Chilumpha who will take over to continue to manipulate and further destroy the country. "Everyone who understands the power struggles in Malawi knows that the only reason UDF is gunning for Bingu's impeachment is that he quit their party and prevented them from playing a central role in destroying our country further," say the MPs before querying: "Does that concern us as MCP?" Other than impeachment, the MPs suggest that as parliamentarians they need to focus on ways to put into place mechanisms that would prevent the president and other government officials from abusing their power by, among other things misusing public resources. "If President Bingu wa Mutharika is using government resources to build and run his party, then he must stop this nonsense immediately," warns the MPs in the letter which The Chronicle has sourced.

      The MPs who are accusing Tembo over welding too much power warns him to slow down lest he be faced with a revolution that could unseat him. "You Honourable Tembo must be reminded that absolute power intoxicates its holder [and] intoxicated leaders forget to plug loopholes, which they take to be simple and take the oppressed for granted." "Yet there are these seemingly 'diminutive' acts that sometimes stand out to trigger off a 'silent movement' and later bulge out into an 'insurmountable revolution. Neglecting of your MPs voice would one day, not far from now, bring the 'revolution trigger'. You are so obsessed with dirty political tactics, that without them you would be finished," read the letter in part.

      The MPs also warn Tembo not to force himself on people by trying to wipe out the presence of the party's life President, the late Dr, Hastings Kamuzu Banda.

      The MPs expressed shock that while President Mutharika is trying to restore the name of Kamuzu, Tembo intends to erase Kamuzu's face on party clothes and replace it with his own portrait. Tembo is said to have made these suggestions at a public rally he addressed in Area 25 towards the end of last year.

      *****

      DPP Denies Buying MPs for K30,000 Each

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      January 24, 2006
      Posted to the web January 24, 2006

      GREGORY GONDWE
      Lilongwe

      Confusion exists in political circles with some Members of Parliament from the opposition claiming that the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) of President Bingu wa Mutharika is offering them a mere MK30,000 to join the party. DPP has, meanwhile, dismissed this as untrue.

      One of the MPs approached with the offer is Gerald Mponda of the Blantyre South West Constituency who said the money was very little and demeaning to his stature and position in society. "I can't be bought with that kind of money," he declared.

      He claimed that he was approached by a number of DPP officials but was not at liberty to disclose their identities.

      DPP Vice President Uladi Mussa who is also Agriculture and Food Security Minister said policies, not money is what DPP is using to coax MPs into working with the ruling party. "Is K30 thousand worth anything for it to buy a Member of Parliament?" wondered Mussa.

      He argued that an MP gets MK8 thousand per day as sitting allowance and their salaries are above K100 thousand per month so it is senseless for one to suggest that MPs can really be bought with that little money. "In fact, the MPs who are not willing to either join DPP or work with the government will find problems; not with the government but with their constituents who are happy with government's performance and don't want to be left behind in development," he said.

      Mussa said Government has lined up a number of policies like the agricultural policy, the public works programme and the re-establishment of ADMARC depots. All this, he said is attracting the people and the MPs to the DPP, not enticement with money.

      *****

      Dire inflation forecast for Zimbabwe

      Harare, Zimbabwe

      25 January 2006 02:37

      Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) Governor Gideon Gono on Tuesday forecast the country's inflation to hit 800% in March, but said the key rate would drop to 230% by year-end.

      In his monetary policy review statement for the last quarter of 2005, Gono said inflationary pressures are expected to remain high in the crisis-hit Southern African nation, peaking in about two months' time before going on a downward spiral around midyear.

      Inflation, labelled Zimbabwe's number-one enemy by President Robert Mugabe, at the moment stands at 585,8%, one of the highest such rates in the world.

      Gono said: "Inflationary pressures are expected to remain high during the first quarter of the year with the pick expected to come in March 2006. We expect an inflation pick of between 700% and 800%. June inflation is expected to decline to below 500% before coming down to close the year 2006 at the revised rate of between 200% and 230%."

      The RBZ governor said the major inflation drivers over the past 12 months were high monetary supply growth, growth in budget expenditure, foreign-currency shortages and price distortions, especially in fuel pricing.

      But Gono, who was tasked by Mugabe to lead efforts to revive Zimbabwe's crumbling economy, said the country's economic problems are also because of widespread corruption at all levels of society, which he said is crippling all efforts to resuscitate the economy.

      He said: "Talk of gold and other precious minerals, there is corruption; talk of fuel distribution, there is corruption; talk of agricultural inputs, talk of distribution of national funds, there is corruption; talk of export and import invoicing, there is corruption.

      "If we do not stamp out this growing cancer, especially among people in positions of authority and influence ... if we do not stamp out the indiscipline as we go about our business, we will soon discover too late, though, that policy formulation and implementation, monitoring and decisions will be based on self-interests, racial overtones, regional and tribal considerations at the expense of national interests."

      Zimbabwe's severe economic crisis has created conditions for corruption and black-market trading to flourish. Mugabe in 2004 launched a campaign to root out graft, but critics said the anti-corruption campaign was an attempt to divert attention from the country's deepening economic crisis as it left out officials from his ruling Zanu-PF party.

      Gono said the RBZ will in the period ahead tighten money supply to reduce money supply growth and called on the government and line ministries to adhere strictly to budget. But he also announced plans to introduce a new and high-denomination bearer cheque of Z$50 000 at the beginning of next month.

      Bearer cheques, introduced at the height of money shortages in Zimbabwe three years ago, function as normal currency although they are not real money, and the RBZ has always promised to phase them out at some point. The highest-value bearer-cheque denomination currently is Z$20 000.

      Gono, who has substantially liberalised the exchange rate since taking over in 2003, appears to be moving to control the interbank market for foreign currency partially by controlling percentage movements in the exchange rate.

      He said the exchange-rate adjustments will be triggered at varying allowable margins based on actual volume traded in the market on a particular day.

      Gono also raised with immediate effect the amount that locals can take out of the country to Z$5-million from Z$300 000. -- ZimOnline

      *****

      Crocs starve to death on Zim tourism CEO's farm

      Johannesburg, South Africa

      25 January 2006 07:03

      At least 12 crocodiles have starved to death on a farm in Serui, Zimbabwe, while another 258 are close to dying, that country's Herald newspaper reported on Wednesday.

      It said the reptiles had been without food since November last year.

      Some of the four-year-old crocodiles, which were kept in four dry ponds, showed signs of serious skin damage because of extended exposure to the sun.

      Malham Farm was allocated to Zimbabwe Tourism Authority chief executive officer Karikoga Kaseke on November 3 last year. He confirmed this on Tuesday, but said he could not move in without an official offer letter.

      "I was shown the farm early in December but I have not received an offer letter yet. I had placed some guards there but later withdrew their services."

      Officials from the Parks and Wildlife Management Authority and Zimbabwe National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ZNSPCA) rescued the surviving crocodiles on Tuesday.

      They were taken them for feeding and treatment at Pangula Farm near Chikurubi Maximum Prison.

      Workers at the farm said the crocodiles' last meal was baby chicken.

      ZNSPCA regional inspector Jimmy Zuze said his organisation became aware of the matter after a worker called to say the reptiles were dying of hunger.

      After his attempts to meet Kaseke proved futile, he wrote him a letter.

      "Nothing came out of the warning letter until we informed Parks and Wildlife Management Authority about the issue," said Zuze.

      Parks spokesperson Edward Mbewe said the authority was checking land records to establish who actually owned the farm so that the Parks and Wildlife Management Act could be invoked. - Sapa
    • Christine Chumbler
      ADB firm on Karonga-Chitipa road contract by Zainah Liwanda, 22 May 2006 - 06:09:17 The African Development Bank (ADB) has again rejected a proposal by
      Message 1046 of 1046 , May 22, 2006
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        ADB firm on Karonga-Chitipa road contract

        by Zainah Liwanda, 22 May 2006 - 06:09:17

        The African Development Bank (ADB) has again rejected a proposal by government to look for another contractor instead of China Hunan Construction to construct of the long awaited Karonga/Chitipa road.

        China Hunan from Mainland China won the bid which was approved by the ADB but government later wanted to award the contract to a Portuguese firm, Mota Engil, the second lowest bidder, claiming China Hunan's bid was unrealistically low and that the company had very little experience in Africa.

        Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe confirmed on Sunday the ADB rejected the proposal at a meeting held between the bank and Malawi government in Tunisia last week.

        The Malawi government wanted the Tunisia meeting to authorise it to get another contractor for the road, said Gondwe.

        "They did not allow us to look for another contractor because of their regulations. But we are about to get another alternative for Karonga/Chitipa and I would be surprised if it does not start before end June," said Gondwe.

        The minister explained that the bank insisted that regardless of the unrealistic cost estimates, China Hunan should be allowed to go ahead with the construction.

        But Gondwe could not give further details about the alternatives, arguing there are still a few loose ends to tighten up before disclosing it.

        The problem with China Hunan, according to Gondwe, is that it would require more money to meet the total cost of the project.

        This paper reported last week that government met Taiwanese representatives where they offered to fund the road if the ADB continued to reject its favoured contractor, Mota Engil.

        Gondwe could neither confirm nor deny the reports on the Taiwanese offer, saying government was looking at a number of ways to handle the issue.

        According to Gondwe, the China Hunan's bid was 24 percent lower than the consulting engineers' estimates of K7.9 billion and 34 percent below the second lowest bidder.

        President Bingu wa Mutharika laid a foundation stone for the construction of the road this year ahead of a crucial byelection in Chitipa in December last year.

        The President's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) won the Chitipa Wenya constituency by-election that fell vacant following the collapse and subsequent death of Speaker of Parliament Rodwell Munyenyembe who belonged to the UDF.

        Last week, police and the District Commissioner (DC) for Chitipa stopped a rally that was aimed at soliciting people's views about development projects in the district.

        The meeting, which was reportedly organised by Concerned Citizens of Chitipa, was among other things also supposed to tackle the controversial Karonga/Chitipa road.

        The project failed to start off in 2000 when a contract for an initial loan of US$17 million and US$15 million from the Taiwanese government was signed, with some quarters claiming the Bakili Muluzi administration diverted the money to another road.

        *****

        Chihana operated on

        by Edwin Nyirongo, 22 May 2006 - 06:32:31

        Alliance for Democracy (Aford) president Chakufwa Chihana, who is in South Africa receiving treatment, had a brain operation on Friday at Garden City Clinic, family and party officials confirmed on Sunday.

        Aford national chairman Chipimpha Mughogho said he was told by the family members that Chihana had a successful operation on Friday and was put in an intensive care unit.

        Mughogho said Chihana, who initially complained of headache, was found with a brain tumour which South African doctors removed.

        Mzimba West MP Loveness Gondwe said Aford boss condition was stable.

        "Hon. Chihana had a major operation and after that he was put in the intensive care unit but his condition is stable. I do not know where he was operated on but it had something to do with the skull," she said.

        Deputy Information Minister John Bande referred the matter to the Health Minister Hetherwick Ntaba who was reported to be in Geneva, Switzerland.

        Aford publicity secretary Norman Nyirenda said when Chihana's situation got worse, the family alerted the Office of the President and Cabinet who took him to Mwaiwathu Private Hospital.

        "The doctors at Mwaiwathu advised that he should be sent to South Africa and they even identified the doctor for him," he said.

        He said the costs are being met by the Malawi government, contradicting his earlier statement that his boss covered the cost.

        Mughogho is now in charge of the party.

        Gondwe will be a busy person when Parliament starts meeting on June 6 as she is the only Aford MP remaining.

        *****

        Pillane proposes presidential age limit

        by Emmanuel Muwamba , 22 May 2006 - 06:34:13

        A member of the DPP National Governing Council Abdul Pillane on Saturday urged members of political parties and the civil society to put an upper age limit in the Constitution for presidential candidates.

        Pillane was addressing members of political parties and civil society in Liwonde during a two-day follow up workshop to the National Conference on the Review of Constitution held in March in Lilongwe.

        "My view is that (an upper) age limit should be at 75. We have to give a chance to younger people to lead because in circumstance, when you age you become forgetful especially when sickly," said Pillane. "Overall, chances should be given to young people."

        But UDF secretary general Kennedy Makwangwala, whose party members agitated for the age limit during presentations, played the issue down.

        "I feel there is no logic to have an upper age limit for presidential candidates. If someone is 90 or 80 I don't know how that can influence the electorate not to vote for someone who is younger, I don't see any logic behind that," said Makwangwala.

        MCP participants at the workshop also vehemently objected to the proposal.

        MCP vice president Nicholas Dausi in an interview said: "There is no constitution in Africa which stipulates an upper age limit. So it would be strange in Malawi to have an upper age limit for presidential candidates."

        MDP President Kamlepo Kalua also opposed the need to have an upper age limit.

        "If we have personalities in mind that we want to discriminate against then it is unfortunate. The constitution we want to build is a guiding document for future generations and it should not bar certain individuals on the basis of grudges," he said.

        The Malawi Law Constitution Issues Paper of March 2006 says several submissions that were received put an upper presidential age limit in the Constitution.

        "It is argued that it is common sense that mental knowledge faculties tend to fail with age. As regards what the actual age limit should be the submissions are far from being agreed. The range is from 60 years to 80 years," read submissions in the Issues Paper.

        On whether MPs should double as ministers, Kalua said this should be the case.

        Makwangwala also said it is not right for MPs to serve as ministers because the Legislature, another arm of government, is reduced while the Executive branch is beefed up from another arm of government.

        "There is no separation of powers when MPs double as ministers," said Makwangwala.

        But Pillane said there is no problem for MPs to work as ministers as well, saying MPs are elected by the President.

        "One can serve both posts. There have been no problems before for people to double," said Pillane.

        The Centre for Multiparty Democracy funded the workshop through the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy.

        The objective was to come up with a collective position on the Issues Paper which will be presented to the Special Law Commission that will be constituted soon.

        *****

        Mussa hails new driving licence

        by Zainah Liwanda, 22 May 2006 - 06:58:52

        Transport and Public Works Minister Henry Mussa last week said the design of the Malawi-Sadc driving licence would guard against forgery and ensure that only skilled and legitimate drivers of particular vehicles are licensed.

        Mussa was speaking at the official launch of the licences in Lilongwe where he announced that traffic police would from July enforce speed limits and sober driving using Breathalysers which his ministry is in the process of procuring.

        The minister said financial constraints are the reason for the delay in procuring the equipment but assured that by July they would be available.

        "With the new equipment, the days of those who believe in the thrill of drink and driving are numbered," warned Mussa.

        Mussa added that with the new licence, government is optimistic that the country's roads would be safe.

        Acting Director of Road Traffic James Chirwa said the features that distinguish the new from the old licences are the Malawi national flag and a ghost image of the driver's photograph, among others.

        Those with old licences, according to Chirwa, are expected to get the new ones after the expiry of the former.

        *****

        UDF demands investigation on Kasambara

        by Rabecca Theu, 22 May 2006 - 06:30:46

        The United Democratic Front (UDF) has asked government to investigate Ralph Kasambara on allegations of abuse of office while he was attorney general.

        UDF publicity secretary Sam Mpasu told the press Sunday that the party is neither amused or saddened by the removal of the former AG but asked government to institute investigations on Kasambara.

        "Beyond the removal of the Attorney General, we now urge President Mutharika to institute investigation against Mr Kasambara into allegations that have made rounds in the public domain during the recent past. These include: Mrs Helen Singh and SS Rent-a-Car; SGS and ITS saga; ...........the use of Malawi Police Service in the arrest of three Chronicle journalists and the handling of Mrs Rubina Kawonga," said Mpasu.

        Mpasu also accused Kasambara of awarding government contracts to Lawson and Company where he was a senior partner.

        "We urge government to thoroughly investigate the former AG. We also ask government to cautiously select the new AG ," said Mpasu, who was accompanied by the party's Secretary General Kennedy Makwangwala, leader of the party in Parliament George Mtafu, chief whip Leonard Mangulama and a member of the executive Hophmally Makande.

        But Minister of Information Patricia Kaliati said UDF should give offer its advice to the Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB).

        "They should advise bodies like the Anti-Corruption Bureau to conduct the investigations and why are they saying this now? Is it because Kasambara has been fired? This is not a personal issue. If they have other pressing issues they should just say so. These arguments should have come up earlier on when the said cases were happening," she said.

        Kasambara asked UDF to proceed with the mission of urging government to investigate him.

        "They can do their job. Everyone has a right to lobby for anything they want in the country. UDF has a right to do that, let them go ahead," he said.

        Kasambara was relieved of his duties as AG by the President last week. Government has not given reasons behind the removal.

        *****

        Zambia: Malawians Grab Zambian Land

        The Times of Zambia (Ndola)

        May 18, 2006

        Posted to the web May 19, 2006

        Andrew Lungu

         

        MALAWIANS who have encroached on both the 'no-man's' and part of the Zambian land at the Mwami border in Eastern Province have plucked out some beacons that were used in the demarcation of the border.

        The Malawians are now using the beacons as stools in their newly-established villages on Zambian land.

        Eastern Province Minister, Boniface Nkhata, said in Chipata yesterday that if the situation was not controlled urgently, Zambia would lose huge tracts of land to Malawians migrating into Zambian in large numbers.

        A check at the Zambia-Malawi border showed a number of beacons had been vandalised and new structures constructed on the 'no man's' land and a large portion of Zambian land.

        Mr Nkhata said the trend extended to many parts of the province bordering the two countries.

        "A large portion of Zambian land has been taken up by the Malawians starting from the Chama boundary up to the Mwami border.

        "The weighbridge at the Mwami border was initially in Zambia from the time both countries gained independence from Britain, but now the bridge is on Malawian soil," Mr Nkhata said.

        The minister, who is former Chama District Commissioner, said there was similar encroachment in Lundazi and Chama districts where Zambia shares a boundary with Malawi.

        He said a Malawian farmer identified as Mr Mfune had cultivated 71.5 hectares on Zambian land and employed about 265 Malawian workers.

        "Khombe Farm in Chama district in Kanyerere's area, along the Muyombe road which leads to Northern Province where this Malawian farmer has cultivated a vast land is on the Zambian territory," he said.

        Workers on the farm admitted that they were farming on Zambian soil but could not go back to Malawi because the land in that country was inadequate for cultivation.

        Mr Nkhata appealed to the ministry of Lands to urgently release money for the demarcation of the Zambia-Malawi border to avoid further land disputes between the two countries.

        Meanwhile, the Immigration Department in Livingstone has arrested a couple and another man, all Zimbabweans, for working in Zambia without permits.

        They were arrested at Gwembe village yesterday where they worked for Into Africa, a tour operating company that provides bush dinners and breakfast.

        According to the Immigration Department in Livingstone, the trio entered Zambia through the Victoria Falls border as visitors but decided to work for the company illegally.

        Last week, immigration officers arrested 10 Zimbabwean traders and six Ethiopians for entering and staying in Zambia illegally.

        The Zimbabwean traders were warned and cautioned and later released.

        The Ethiopians were arrested at Konje Guest House when they ran out of money to proceed to Botswana.

         

        *****

        Zim unions, MDC still plan anti-govt protests

        Harare, Zimbabwe

        22 May 2006 11:51

        Zimbabwe's biggest labour federation on Saturday threatened to call massive demonstrations against the government over poor salaries and worsening living conditions for workers in the country.

        The threats are ratcheting up pressure against President Robert Mugabe's government after similar threats by the biggest opposition party in the country, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), about two months ago.

        Speaking at the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) conference on Saturday, the labour body's president, Lovemore Matombo, said the powerful union wants the government to award workers salaries that match the country's ever-rising inflation.

        "I can assure you we will stage massive demonstrations to force them [employers] to award workers minimum salaries that tally with the poverty datum line," said Matombo.

        Matombo did not say when exactly the ZCTU would order workers to strike.

        Opposition protests

        Meanwhile, the MDC on Sunday said it will push ahead with plans for anti-government protests, saying victory in a key by-election at the weekend was a "sign the electorate supported its policies", including democratic mass resistance.

        A spokesperson of the main faction of the splintered MDC, Nelson Chamisa, said victory over Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF and a rival MDC faction in a Saturday by-election in Harare's Budiriro constituency is a sign Zimbabweans still have confidence in party leader Morgan Tsvangirai and his policies.

        Tsvangirai, the founding leader of the MDC, heads the main rump of the opposition party whose candidate, Emmanuel Chisvuure, polled 7 949 votes to win the Budiriro House of Assembly seat.

        Gabriel Chaibva of the other faction of the MDC, led by prominent academic Arthur Mutambara, garnered 504 votes while Zanu-PF's Jeremiah Bvirindi polled 3 961 votes.

        "This election showed that the electorate still has confidence in the MDC [Tsvangirai-led] leadership and its policies," Chamisa told independent news service ZimOnline.

        He added: "We will now move to consolidate our position * we still believe in mass protests. Until we have attained our goals we see no reason why we should abandon [plans for protests]."

        Tsvangirai has threatened to call mass protests this winter against Mugabe and his government. He says the mass protests, whose date he is still to name, are meant to force Mugabe to relinquish power to a government of national unity to be tasked to write a new and democratic Constitution that would ensure free and fair elections held under international supervision.

        Mugabe and his government, who had hoped for victory in Budiriro to show they were recapturing urban support from a splintered MDC, have not taken idly the opposition's threats to call mass protests, with the veteran president warning Tsvangirai he would be "dicing with death" if he ever attempted to instigate a Ukraine-style popular revolt in Zimbabwe.

        Crackdown

        In a fresh crackdown against dissension, the police last week arrested several church and civic leaders for organising public prayers and marches to mark last year's controversial home-demolition exercise by the government.

        The police also banned the marches and prayers, fearing they could easily turn into mass protests against Mugabe and his government.

        However, the marches went ahead in the second-largest city of Bulawayo after organisers had obtained a court order barring the police from stopping the march.

        Political analysts say although Zimbabweans have largely been cowed by Mugabe's tactics of routinely deploying riot police and the military to crush street protests, worsening hunger and poverty are fanning public anger that Tsvangirai -- with proper planning and organisation -- could easily manipulate.

        Zimbabwe is in the grip of a severe six-year old economic crisis that has seen inflation breaching the 1 000% barrier. Last year, the World Bank said Zimbabwe's economic crisis was unprecedented for a country not at war.

        The MDC and major Western governments blame Mugabe for wrecking the country's economy, which was one of the strongest in Africa at independence from Britain 26 years ago.

        Mugabe denies the charge blaming the crisis on sabotage by Britain and her allies after he seized white-owned farms for redistribution to landless blacks six years ago.

        The Harare authorities recently hiked salaries for civil servants, with the lowest-paid soldier now earning about Z$27-million while the lowest-paid school teacher now takes home about Z$33-million.

        But the salaries are still way below the poverty datum line, which the government's Consumer Council of Zimbabwe says now stands at a staggering Z$42-million a month for an average family of six.

        The Zimbabwe government often accuses the ZCTU, a strong ally of the MDC, of pushing a political agenda to remove Mugabe from power.

        Meanwhile, Matombo and Lucia Matibenga retained their posts as president and first vice-president respectively during the ZCTU congress that ended on Saturday. -- ZimOnline

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