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  • Christine Chumbler
    Govt. Failing to Give National Audit Office Autonomy The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe) January 25, 2006 Posted to the web January 25, 2006 GREGORY GONDWE
    Message 1 of 1046 , Jan 27, 2006
      Govt. Failing to Give National Audit Office Autonomy

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      January 25, 2006
      Posted to the web January 25, 2006

      GREGORY GONDWE
      Lilongwe

      The Malawi Government is failing to make the National Audit Office an autonomous and independent body in line with the Lima Declaration. As a result, the body is not sufficiently functional to assist in the 'zero-tolerance on corruption' campaign.

      The Auditor General Henry Kalingonda said the NAO, a member of the International Organisation of Supreme Audit Institutions (INTOSAI), is currently organisationally, operationally and entirely financially dependent on Government. "The result is that the NAO is unable to contribute as effective to the goals of good governance, accountability, transparency and sound public sector financial management as we would like," concurred Einar Gorrissen, NAO's Long-Term Advisor.

      Gorrisen was addressing the media during a computer presentation ceremony to NAO from the Office of the Auditor General of Norway when he said, by granting NAO necessary independent in accordance with the Lima Declaration of 1977 and core principles of Supreme Audit Institutions (SAI) independence 'the people of Malawi would be ensured of better and more effective control of the way taxpayers and donors money is spent'. "This in turn would be an important factor in ensuring future economic growth and development in Malawi," he said.

      However Malawi is not fully compliant on the two international declarations.

      When quizzed on the issue Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe challenged The Chronicle to have a look at the Malawi Audit Act, insisting that they cannot just make it look for its own funding. "It has to be funded by government," he said.

      But when told that all NAO was looking for was to get an allocation in the budget through parliament Gondwe said Treasury looked for and supplied money to everyone, including to parliament. "So, they can't run too far away from us," he said effectively declaring government's inability to create independence for the watchdog body or willingness to do so.

      Ironically, he insisted that NAO was 'independent' because Government does not fiddle with its operations. "We don't tell them what to do but we find money for them," he said.

      Gorrisen insisted that studies carried out in Sweden and the UK indicate that investing in a strong and multidisciplinary National Audit Office saves the state considerable amounts of money through detection of fraud, corruption and poor financial management besides acting like a deterrent to future misuse of public funds.

      Section 5 part 1 of the Lima Declaration among other things states that a 'Supreme Audit Institution can accomplish its tasks objectively and effectively only if it is independent of the audited entity and are protected against outside influence.

      It further states that the SAI must have political, operational, organisational and financial independence that must be anchored in any legislation on it.

      Gorrisen said in order for NAO of Malawi to be in compliance with the two above proclamations it must be free from political pressure from the executive. "It must have freedom to carry out the audits it deems appropriate with undue interference; it must have unlimited access to all documents it deems appropriate, be independent of the civil service and thus be free to determine its own personnel policy," he said. "This must include the selection, recruitment, training, remuneration, promotion, discipline and dismissal of staff," he added.

      He indicates that NAO also needs to have access to reasonable human, material and financial resources necessary to conduct tasks independently and effectively as well as be able to prepare its own budgets, as it deems appropriate and submit it directly to parliament for approval.

      NAO also needs parliament to be responsible for ensuring sufficient financing of the organisation and to also have it's financing outside the control of the executive, as is currently the case with its dependence on Treasury. "Unfortunately," said Gorrisen, "despite being in compliance with some of these conditions, there are a number of conditions which we are not in compliance with." He said both the Public Audit Act 2003, and the country's constitution governs the operational responsibilities of the NAO and does not include any clauses guaranteeing NAO independence. "Additionally, the NAO is still part of the civil service whereas most, if not all other oversight bodies in Malawi have received their organisational independence," he said. "Furthermore, the NAO is not financially independent. We lack financial resources to carry out our job effectively and the actual financing of our institution is controlled by the executive," he added.

      The Auditor General Henry Kalingonda said because of a lack of independence the NAO is failing to create its own remuneration structure. This has resulted in failing to retain staff who leave NAO to seek greener pastures elsewhere, leaving the office in dire straits and greater constraints. "The ideal is that we are supposed to have 300 auditors; but over the years we have had problems. In fact since that number was put on paper we have never had even 200," he said adding: "The maximum we have had at any given time was about 150 auditors and this was some time back".

      Kalingonda said their situation was further compounded when government froze any new employment for five years as around this time retirements, deaths and resignations reduced the human resource at the NAO, which impacted considerably on its operations.

      He said from last year's figure of 110, the office has now only 70 auditors who are expected to serve between three to four thousand clients.

      *****

      No Funds Yet for Chipembere Highway Project

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      January 25, 2006
      Posted to the web January 25, 2006

      Charles Chisi
      Lilongwe

      The problem of traffic congestion on Chipembere Highway in Blantyre appears to have no end in sight, as government has not yet released much needed funds to upgrade the road, The Chronicle has learnt.

      Blantyre City Assembly announced early last year that it would upgrade the section between the Clock tower roundabout and the Chichiri roundabout into a dual carriageway to ease traffic congestion being experienced on the road by drivers.

      An official in the Assembly who sought anonymity said in an interview recently the project proposal was already submitted to government for approval and funding "This project does not wholly belong to us," said the source adding: "It's a chain - government is also involved because the highway forms part of the M1 road that runs between Chitipa and Nsanje. Once the proposal is approved, the government will have to help fund it. In fact, we are involved because the project falls within our jurisdiction." He however asked motorists regularly plying this road to exercise patience, as anything to do with government takes long due to issues of procedure.

      The official could, however, not tell how much the project is expected to cost saying a feasibility study has not yet been undertaken to determine that. "We have not yet carried out a feasibility study to determine that. In fact we are far away from determining that," he said.

      However, when contacted for its comment, government through the National Roads Authority NRA expressed ignorance on the project "I am not aware of this particular project," Portia Kajanga, NRA's Public Relations Officer said. "It is not there on the list of 2006/2007 budgeted projects. Maybe the project proposal is somewhere else, apart from here. If it was here, I would have known about it," she added.

      Her Blantyre based Director of Planning was also unaware of the project when contacted before referring this reporter to the Blantyre City authorities for an explanation as to where the proposal was submitted.

      Efforts to talk to the authorities proved futile as the phone call could not be answered.

      The Chipembere Highway project is part of the 1999 Urban Structure Plan that would have seen some roads in the city being rehabilitated.

      Kenyatta Drive has already benefited from this plan.

      A journey from Blantyre to Limbe could take as much as thirty minutes during peak hours instead of the usual ten, a development that forces some motorists to use detour routes of Kenyatta Drive and Johnstone Road.

      *****

      Court refuses Mpasu freedom
      by Zainah Liwanda , 27 January 2006 - 05:14:01
      The Principal Resident Magistrate's Court in Lilongwe on Thursday dismissed an application by the opposition United Democratic Front (UDF) spokesperson Sam Mpasu to set him free.
      Mpasu's lawyer John Gift Mwakhwawa argued in his preliminary objection to Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) Ishmael Wadi's opening statement at the start of trial that Mpasu cannot be charged as a public servant because the Constitutional Amendment Act No 13 of 2001 that made ministers public servants was enforced after the alleged crime was committed in 1994.
      But Principal Resident Magistrate Chifundo Kachale ruled that Section 95 of the Penal Code is a legitimate expression of the constitutional expectation that even holders of political offices should be accountable.
      "It needs no repetition that laws must be read in the most reasonable manner. It would, in my view, be odd to propose that prior to Constitutional Amendment No 13 of 2001, ministers were not amenable to such proceedings as are currently pursued in this trial by the office of the DPP," said Kachale.
      The magistrate further said the court was also satisfied that the penal code envisaged a minister as a person employed in the public service, and that his or her appointment and removal are governed by the terms of Sections 94(1) and 95(2) of the Constitution.
      But Mwakhwawa had earlier argued that Supreme Court rulings in appeal case No. 20 of 1995 between the President and Speaker of the National Assembly and R.B Kachere and appeal case No 32 of 1997 between Fred Nseula and the Attorney General showed that the minister's office was not a public office.
      Earlier, Matthews Chizondi, a senior State Advocate, quashed Mwakhwawa's submissions, saying nowhere in the charges was Mpasu referred to as a public officer.
      He also argued that Mpasu can be prosecuted under Section 4(a) of the Penal Code which says a person employed in the public service means holding any of the following offices or performing the duty, whether as deputy or otherwise.
      Wadi in his opening statement said in August 1994, the registration exercise of the free Primary Education showed that 3.2 million students had enrolled and the planning section and not the minister was mandated to assess and purchase the required needs.
      The state prosecutor said the planning section recommended the purchasing of eight million notebooks and pencils.
      He said Dzuka Publishing Company indicated that they could supply the required notebooks within two months.
      But according to Wadi, the notebooks were needed within a month, hence the planning section recommended the purchase of three million exercise books for one term only.
      He said on August 26, 1994, the Central Tender Board sought an approval of the Minister of Finance for the Ministry of Education to purchase teaching and learning materials worth K8, 400,000 from Fieldyork International Limited which was not granted.
      Wadi said the formal procurement procedure was overshadowed by "a short-cut, negligent and unacceptable mode of purchase by way of an ultravires directive by the minister to purchase a specified quantity of exercise books at an unknown price from a company identified by himself."
      After Kachale's ruling that the prosecution can go ahead with its witnesses, Wadi indicated that Mwakhwawa had said he was not feeling well and therefore, seeking an adjournment,
      Mwakhwawa himself echoed Wadi's statement, saying he had developed a fever.
      But Wadi requested the court that he just introduces the first state witness, Sam Safuli, former PS for Education who has been to court for the second time ready to testify but failed due to adjournments.
      Court documents filed by the DPP show that Mpasu between August and September 1994, as Education Minister, abused his office by doing an arbitrary act of concluding arrangements for the supply of notebooks and pencils with Fieldyork International, a British-based firm.
      He is also accused of giving instructions to controlling officers in the ministry to fax confidential reports to the British firm on three occasions.
      The case has since been adjourned to Monday.

      *****

      Govt snubs lecturers' proposal on salaries
      by Olivia Kumwenda, 27 January 2006 - 06:05:03
      Government has directed that the University of Malawi (Unima) academic staff should get a 60 percent salary increment and a 30 percent pay rise for non-academic staff, it has been learnt.
      The development comes despite the staff's demand that the proposed increment, which was presented to the lecturers last week, be revised.
      Bernard Thole, a representative of Unima Academic Staff and Welfare Committee, said Thursday they were supposed to meet Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe on Wednesday to discuss the changes to the proposed increment but the meeting did not take place.
      "The minister issued a directive that the offer the Treasury had offered earlier is final and there is nothing that can be done," said Thole.
      He said the changes the staff wanted include that the salaries be reviewed again in July 2006, and that the non-academic staff should also get a 60 percent pay rise.
      Thole said as of Thursday, the staff had not agreed on what to do saying the representatives will hold meetings first at college levels then later at the university level.
      "But, as Polytechnic Academic staff, we have noted the directive which at first was an offer but the way forward will be known tomorrow [today] after the meetings," he explained.
      Chancellor College Academic Staff Union president Jessy Kabwila-Kapasula said Thursday she had just heard of the directive as she was away and the staff were yet to discuss the way forward.
      "The real position will be known tomorrow [today]," she said.
      Gondwe could not be reached for comment.
      The staff have been asking for a 500 percent salary increment after a consultant hired by government recommended a 1,000 percent pay rise to bring the lecturers' salaries in line with their counterparts in the region.
      The lecturers have also been threatening to go on strike if their demands are not met.
      But the strike was put on hold last week following discussions between government and lecturers on the proposed increment.

      *****

      Muluzi's operation successful
      by Gedion Munthali, 27 January 2006 - 05:37:14
      Former President Bakili Muluzi went through a successful two-hour operation in a London hospital on Wednesday which revealed that four areas on his spinal cord had displaced disks, his son Atupele said Thursday.
      Atupele said in interview it was good his father opted to go for the operation because he would not have known the extent of the problem he started experiencing in 2001.
      "The Former President went through a successful operation on Wednesday. It was a major operation. Actually, the problem was in four places. It has been rectified, and he is now recuperating," said Atupele. "Surely it was not a bad choice."
      According to the young Muluzi, disks in the spinal cord had moved and were touching on the nerves of the nervous system, causing pain in areas affected by them.
      He could not tell when Muluzi senior, who is the national chairman of the UDF, would be out of hospital.
      "That will depend on doctors' recommendations," Atupele said.
      Atupele said on Tuesday that his father developed the problem in 2001 due to sitting regularly in a car at his age.
      "The problem started due to his posture when seated, given his age. It became worse during the 2004 elections when he always in a car travelling during the campaign," said Atupele.
      "All this time he has been taking pain killers. But they reacted and gave him a rash. If you seen him recently you might have noticed that. So he stopped taking them, and decided to go for an operation," he said.
      Muluzi left Malawi two weeks ago to receive medical attention, according to UDF spokesman Sam Mpasu, on his leg.
      "He has had that problem for sometime. He has problems to stand for a long time," said Mpasu.
      Last week reports indicated that Muluzi had sought permission from President Bingu wa Mutharika to extend his stay in the United Kingdom from six weeks to three months.
      According to Information and Tourism Minister Patricia Kaliati, government will spend about K6.5 million on him in air tickets, medical bills and allowances.
      President Bingu wa Mutharika on Wednesday wished Muluzi a successful operation and a quick recovery.

      *****

      Bingu to resume crop inspection
      by Bright Sonani, 27 January 2006 - 05:26:07
      President Bingu wa Mutharika will from this year re-launch crop inspection tours which used to be the country's first head of state Kamuzu Banda's trade mark in his 31-year reign.
      But members of the civil society have warned that although the crop inspection tours are vital in encouraging agriculture, Mutharika should be cautious and not take advantage of the tours to promote his Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) using government resources.
      Agriculture Minister Uladi Mussa in an interview Thursday confirmed that plans were underway to have the President conduct the crop inspection tours to assess the impact of the subsidised fertiliser programme.
      "The President mentioned it, the programme was discussed but we are yet to come up with the details. We want to come up with a programme determining where the tours would start. By next week, it's when we would have the whole information," said Mussa.
      The Agriculture minister said apart from the crop inspection tours, his ministry was also planning to reintroduce farmers' clubs across the country as also a way of boosting agriculture.
      Mussa said government realised that the clubs were a best way to have smallholder farmers work in groups and share ideas.
      He also said working in groups will ease the burden that individual farmers go through to access loans and farm inputs since there would be easy management in disbursing the loans.
      "The problem with the previous administration was that they condemned everything that was started by Kamuzu, whether it was good or bad. We even stopped the crop inspection tours which was one way of encouraging small holder farmers," he said.
      Mussa said by March this year, all Extension Planning Areas (EPAs) would start setting up the clubs in readiness for the next planting season.
      When approached to comment whether the tour was budgeted for, Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe said Thursday he would only comment today as he was attending the funeral of Auditor General Henry Kalongonda in Phalombe in the Southern Region of the country..
      Kamuzu launched the crop inspection tours as a means of encouraging farmers and assess the crop situation in the country. But after sometime the former head of state and his Malawi Congress Party (MCP) started using the tours as a political platform and also as a means of fundraising for the party through contribution in form of presents given to the former leader wherever he went.
      Institute for Policy Interaction Executive Director Rafik Hajat said although the crop inspection tours are necessary as they inspire the farmers, Mutharika should strive to draw a line between his party and government to avoid using government resources in the promotion of DPP.
      Hajat also observed that the cost of these tours are exorbitant and tend to drain government resources.
      "In those days, crop inspection were also used to strengthen political party stronghold and also to get presents. These tours did not only create a burden on the national economy but also to the villagers who were contributing these presents," he said.
      Hajat also said such tours also mean that there is lack of confidence in the Minister of Agriculture.
      "The job is for the minister. Are we saying that the minister is not doing his job?" he wondered.
      Malawi Economic Justice Network (Mejn) acting Executive Director Mabvuto Bamusi said as civil society they agree that there was need to monitor any development project at the higher executive level since it's one way of fulfilling the vision of turning Malawi into a net exporter from a predominantly consuming nation.
      "However, we believe that the definition of crop inspection tours has to be revisited," he said.
      Bamusi said to improve the impact of the tours, the focus should not only be on maize, but should also look at a range of crops that would account to the gross domestic product (GDP).
      "We should also not restrict to rain-fed crops but extend the tours to irrigation-fed crops as well. By revising the tours, the President would remove any perception that he would want to take advantage of government resources to build the DPP," he said.
      "The danger is that there is a thin line between the DPP and government and he might end up abusing government resources by allocating a great proportion of the tours to talk on DPP while he takes a small proportion to talk about the crops," added Bamusi.
      Mutharika has openly said he would walk in Kamuzu's foot steps and soon after taking over the presidency, he reinstalled the former leader's name in government institution which the UDF government removed.
      Recently, he reintroduced government scholarships for primary school pupils selected to start Form One at Kamuzu Academy, a school founded by Kamuzu.

      *****

      PVHO employees down tools
      by Henry Chilobwe, 27 January 2006 - 06:14:34
      Employees at the Plant and Vehicle Hire Organisation (PVHO) headquarters in Blantyre, the commercial city, on Tuesday downed their tools and went on a sit-in to demand their salary arrears that have accumulated since June 2003.
      PVHO Workers Union Chairperson Humphreys Gondwe said the employees will not resume duties unless they get their money.
      The Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training, through a circular of 20th June 2003, revised the minimum salaries for artisans and other skilled workers across the board in all government departments.
      Gondwe suspected foul play over the issue saying it was surprising that artisans in other ministries such as the Ministry of Agriculture have been receiving the new salaries since August 2004.
      He explained that the union had taken up the issue with management but accused the administrators of growing cold feet which prompted them to seek legal redress through the office of the ombudsman.
      "What surprises us is that our fellow tradesmen and artisans who work in the ministry of Agriculture and other government departments got their money a long time ago. When we want to engage our management staff there is nothing tangible that comes out from the discussion so we have put our feet down until we get the our arrears," said Gondwe.
      Spot checks revealed that it was business as usual at Lilongwe, Mzuzu and Zomba PVHO offices.
      Gondwe said the union did not involve workers in PVHO's other offices as they are a minority and hoped that the go-slow action in Blantyre alone would produce the intended result.
      PVHO managers in Blantyre were reported out of office and could not be reached for comment.
      Both Secretary and Minister for Transport and Public Works could also not be on their mobile phones.


      *****

      Zim govt to 'close the net' on journalists

      Harare, Zimbabwe

      27 January 2006 11:21

      Zimbabwe's National Security Minister, Didymus Mutasa, has warned that "the net will soon close in" on journalists he claims are threatening national security, a state-controlled newspaper reported on Friday.

      "It is sad to note that there is a crop of journalists who are selling the country to the enemy by writing falsehoods, with the intention of agitating violence in the country," Mutasa told the Manica Post, which is based in the eastern city of Mutare.

      "They should be warned that the net will soon close in on all those involved in these illegal activities," he added.

      His comments came days after six trustees of the independent Voice of the People (VOP) radio station were charged under Zimbabwe's tough broadcasting laws. Mutasa said VOP, which broadcasts its programmes into Zimbabwe via shortwave, was operating "illegally".

      "These are media houses that are churning out falsehoods on a daily basis about the country and government. We will not sit on our laurels and watch people undermining the country's security," he said.

      Zimbabwean authorities have had a testy relationship with the private media for several years.

      Shortly after his contested reelection in 2002, President Robert Mugabe signed the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act into law. Under the laws, foreign reporters are barred from working permanently in Zimbabwe, while local journalists must be licensed by a state commission.

      Dozens of reporters have been arrested and four private newspapers closed down. Critics have called for the repeal of the laws, but Mugabe's government says they are necessary to protect Zimbabwe against a hostile campaign by Western media.

      Mutasa told the Manica Post that reporters are "driven by the love for the United States dollars and British pounds, which they are paid by the foreign media houses to peddle lies".

      In a chilling warning, the newspaper said that although some of the journalists use pseudonyms, "government had since identified them from their closets". -- Sapa-dpa

      *****

      New plan to prevent 14m TB deaths

      Bill Ickes | Davos, Switzerland

      27 January 2006 12:46

      United States software tycoon Bill Gates, Britain and Nigeria unveiled an ambitious $56-billion plan at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Friday to prevent 14-million tuberculosis deaths over the next decade.

      Speaking at the launch, Gates committed to tripling his own foundation's funding against tuberculosis from $300-million to $900-million by 2015.

      "This is a very tough disease," Gates told a press conference, underscoring the importance and global ambition of the new programme. "I'm very excited to see it being created and I want to do everything I can to back it."

      Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, British Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown and Gates urged business and political leaders gathered in Davos to back the new programme.

      Brown said it is now time to deliver after global leaders pledged last year to help Africa fight chronic underdevelopment and disease.

      Obasanjo picked up on the theme, saying: "With little words of promises and pledges, Bill has shown the way, that this is the year of delivery." But, he added with a smile: "In my part of the world we always like things that are round. Why do you have to go short of $1-billion? It's easy to pronounce."

      Capacity
      Looking ahead, Brown said: "I believe that the issue is going to move from the support of individual programmes such as we are doing today to building the capacity of health-care systems in the countries that we are talking about."

      Presenting the programme, a World Economic Forum spokesperson said tuberculosis has afflicted humankind "since at least the days of the pharaohs" and is thought to have killed one billion people throughout history.

      The Global Plan to Stop Tuberculosis aims to increase access to control programmes and spur research on new ways to fight the disease, which was declared an emergency by 46 African countries last year.

      Brown said he has asked for the fight against tuberculosis -- a disease that kills 5 000 people daily -- to be put on the agenda of the Group of Eight (G8) industrialised countries at its next meeting in July.

      "I welcome the Gates Foundation's announcement," he said in a statement. "For far too long, world leaders have ignored the global tuberculosis epidemic, even as it causes millions of needless deaths each year."

      Cost
      Fully implementing the 10-year plan is estimated to cost $56-billion, of which $47-billion will be for control of the disease and $9-billion for research and development.

      Obasanjo said: "We hope the African Union will endorse this plan, and call upon African governments to commit their share of resources needed to implement it."

      According to Gates, the plan "makes a compelling case for greater investment in tuberculosis". The founder of US software giant Microsoft pressed others to match his tripling of funds for the new programme.

      "If we have the chance to save 14-million lives, and a clear plan to make it happen, we have an obligation to act," he said. -- Sapa-AFP
    • 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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