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  • Christine Chumbler
    New Government System to Reveal Fraud The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe) January 31, 2006 Posted to the web January 31, 2006 Gregory Gondwe Lilongwe The
    Message 1 of 1046 , Feb 1, 2006
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      New Government System to Reveal Fraud

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      January 31, 2006
      Posted to the web January 31, 2006

      Gregory Gondwe
      Lilongwe

      The recently introduced Central Payment System which some civil servants blame for delaying some important government operations has been hailed by Government as the final solution to stem corruption and fraud in the government financial system.

      Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe said in an exclusive interview with The Chronicle that if the Government had a centralised system already in place, incidents like the one where the former secretary to the Treasury Milton Kutengule opened an account where he was the sole signatory would not have happened. "No! We would not have had so and so opening an account; such and such an account being run in a different way than is normal," said Gondwe who further said incidences like that would not happen again because the accounts are only those which the Accountant General is administering. "He is the only one who writes cheques and the only one who maintains payment accounts and that's the reason we instituted the Central Payment System because there were too many loopholes around," he said.

      A senior civil servant in government confided to The Chronicle that despite that being in place many government operations have now stalled because the Central Payment System was opened in haste. "Small jobs like repairing government vehicles are taking us as long as three weeks when it used to only take us three days with the old system," lamented the government official.

      Deputy Auditor General Sam Gomani agreed in a separate interview that indeed in the initial stages of the Central Payment System there has been some teething problems particularly on the delays in making out cheques for payment. "This is normal in any new system when there is a change, there is always problems within the change. As time goes by these problems will be eliminated," said Gomani.

      Gondwe, who said any system could have some setbacks concurred with this saying it is not possible to start a system that is hundred percent right. "There will be disadvantages probably," he said. He said that no one had yet approached him about any delay problems but conceded that during the early days, problems would be expected to arise. "What you should do though is to look at a comprehensive analysis and discover if the advantages outweigh disadvantages, and if that is so you move ahead," said Gondwe. "The most important thing in the country, is that we exercise expenditure control; we have to reduce fraud; we have to be very sure that everybody is working according to the regulations and you will find that the Central Payment System helps us a lot to achieve these objectives." Gomani said the current system which started in December is a very good system because expenditures cannot be made anyhow and that it has built in mechanisms that can arrest some malpractices in terms of officers manipulating accounts figures, creating ghost workers, or officers coming up with all those tricks that they have been playing with the old system.

      Controls, from the initiation of the expenditures up to the point of payment have been instituted.

      He said this was the case shortly after independence right up to the seventies and eighties and at that time things worked extremely well until the Government started giving accounts and cheque writing to everybody. This, he said resulted in rampant corruption. "We will perfect it;" Gondwe assured, "but we just have to carry on if we are going to contribute towards the elimination of corruption in this country." Gomani said there was a cut off point when they started the system, which was established in November. He said people should not fear that what had been misappropriated in the transactions that happened during the old system would easily be hidden.

      He said, retrogressively, the old system would easily be audited because the Auditor Generals' office has the information available in all ministries and departments. "Currently we audit using procedure from the old system. We haven't yet started auditing using the new system. It's hardly three months old so there shouldn't be any fear that perhaps we will burry the old issues and leave them there," he said, adding: "We are likely to unveil quite a number of issues related to malpractices from the old system".

      *****

      National Registration to Protect Children

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      January 31, 2006
      Posted to the web January 31, 2006

      Happy Saka
      Lilongwe

      Children in Malawi will soon realize their dream of a country free from child labour, child trafficking, forced early marriages, property grabbing and other child abuses, thanks to the National Registration and Identification System (NRIS) which the Government is planning to introduce. "The registration will act as a contract between government and Malawians, children in particular, which will make government to legally fulfill certain obligations to its people," says Martin Nkuta, Child Rights Advisor at Plan Malawi.

      Nkuta said, the state has an obligation to respect, protect and fulfill rights, which he says include the provision of education and health facilities. He, however, said children in the country can only enjoy such favour if they are identified as citizens of the country saying this can only be legally done by the NRIS.

      He said among other things the NRIS will help in reducing child deaths from preventable diseases, which he says also occur due to ineffective systems of birth registration.

      Observes Nkuta: "For example, the information provided for in birth statistics can be effectively used to assist government's ability to estimate how many doses of vaccine must be prepared and how many medical personnel should be allocated to carry out the vaccinations." The education system is also expected to benefit from NRIS. Through the information generated from the exercise like, on size, gender and age of the child population, government will be able to effectively plan for child education like the recruitment and training and the required number of teachers as well as in estimating the funds to ensure that there are enough primary and secondary schools.

      Among the social child abuses that children are facing due to the absence of NRIS, include forced early marriages. Parents are often able to get away with such practices since it is legally impossible to come up with the age of a person without a legal birth certificate. "In addition, unknown numbers of HIV/AIDS orphans are being denied their right to inherit parental property because they do not have a birth certificate providing legal proof of their identity and family ties," said Nkuta.

      Apart from protecting the children NRIS will also help in the provision of on-line verification of bio-data information for stakeholders such as banks, government departments like Education, Health, Police, Immigration, Malawi Electoral Commission, among others for positive identification and socio-economic planning and development purposes.

      This will assist in the provision of administration and general support to national registration and identification services.

      Peter Chitedze, Coordinator of National Registration in the Ministry of Home Affairs and National Security calls on all Malawians, especially Members of Parliament to work together with the Ministry of Home Affairs and Internal Security to make sure that the National Registration Bill, 2005 is passed by Parliament and that the system is put in place for the registration of all the births of children in Malawi.

      The National Registration Bill has already been approved by cabinet.

      The Bill, when enacted into law will introduce universal and compulsory registration of births and deaths in Malawi.

      Malawi does not have a National Registration and Identification System in place since independence in 1964. The Births and Deaths Act (Chapter 24:01 of Laws of Malawi) of 1904 makes registration of births, marriages and deaths optional for the indigenous Africans and only makes it compulsory for Europeans and those who are expatriates in Malawi.

      *****

      Bakili Muluzi Snubs Thomson Take-Over

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      January 31, 2006
      Posted to the web January 31, 2006

      Arnold Mnelemba
      Lilongwe

      United Democratic Front (UDF) Chairperson Bakili Muluzi once again imposed his will on the party by snubbing a unanimous verdict by the party's National Executive Committee (NEC) that senior NEC member Harry Thomson take over the chairmanship of the party. Instead, he imposed Vice President Cassim Chilumpha as the acting chairperson, The Chronicle has established.

      The verdict, which was passed through a voting process, was reached when Thomson scooped more votes than Chilumpha and the third contestant, Kaphwiti Banda during the party's NEC meeting that was chaired by Bakili Muluzi himself, who is also the former head of state.

      A highly confidential source in the UDF disclosed to The Chronicle that the UDF meet ended prematurely because of Muluzi's refusal to endorse Thomson who appears to be more popular that Chilumpha. "We agreed to elect an interim chairperson who would steer the party from now, up to the time that we conduct our convention because we were considering the fact that Muluzi indicated he would soon retire from active politics and was also going to Britain on holiday," said the source.

      The party was forced to take the action after six former SADC heads of state, led by the former South African President Nelson Mandela urged Muluzi to leave local partisan politics and join regional peace mediation efforts. Additionally, Muluzi's absence from Malawi on medical grounds would necessitate that another leaders be mandated to hold the position, albeit in an acting capacity.

      Our source disclosed that Muluzi argued during the NEC meeting that he would not take Thomson to be the Interim Chairperson because his allegiance to the party was not steady. He then opted for Chilumpha to hold the position, whom he said has remained very loyal to the party and its leadership.

      NEC members who attended the meeting confirmed this development in separate interviews.

      UDF spokesperson Sam Mpasu confirmed that Harry Thomson, Kaphwiti Banda and Cassim Chilumpha were the three nominated people who contested for the post of the Acting Chairperson but was quick to quash reports that Thomson emerged the winner. He said that the NEC decided that Chilumpha is to be Acting Chairperson on the basis that he is the State Vice President. "I can confirm to you that it is not true that Thomson won the election but his name and that of Kaphwiti Banda were proposed for the post. The NEC decided to make Chilumpha Acting Chairperson for the party," said Mpasu.

      In a related development, the National Executive member for UDF Brown Mpinganjira said in an interview last week that some top politicians in the party are imposing decisions on party members, a thing he said is not healthy for Malawi's democracy.

      He said, it does not mean that he intends to quit the UDF if he expresses his opinion openly but he insisted he is only adding input in the form of constructive criticism intended at rebuilding the party.

      He insisted that each party must have some reformers. "That is why I will tell you the truth; there are valid reasons why people are defecting from the party. It means there is something wrong and we must not burry our heads in the sand. We need to accept the problems and map an effective way forward that disregards other party official's wishes, who are fond of imposing views and decisions on the people." The UDF is known to be a party that encouraged the exploitation of the people by imposing candidates on them. This brought on the practice of independents, which often beat the party's candidate in the elections.

      Mpinganjira intimated that the UDF has more than sufficient time to strategise in readiness for the 2009 general elections and win, especially if the propensity to be undemocratic is addressed.

      *****

      Malawi Gets Us$ 21.44 Million Grant for Health Sector Programme

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      January 31, 2006
      Posted to the web January 31, 2006

      Lilongwe

      The African Development Bank (AfDB) Group and the government of Malawi have signed a 15-million (about 21.44 million US dollars) grant agreement to finance programs in the country's health sector.

      The Bank's acting Vice President in charge of West and Central Operations, Mr. Mohammed Gharbi and Malawi's Ambassador to Egypt, Mr. Yahaya M'Madi, signed the agreement in Tunis on Monday last week.

      The Board of Directors of the African Development Fund (ADF), the concessional window of the AfDB approved the grant in November 2005, to help the county finance the programme.

      Speaking at the ceremony, Mr. Gharbi said the programme is intended to accelerate the reduction of maternal and newborn mortality and morbidity in Malawi. "The Bank is committed to harmonizing most of the activities of this programme with (the) Government and other development partners' support to the health sector." In his statement, the Malawian envoy said the agreement marked yet another milestone in the relations between the Bank and Malawi, adding: "We do not take this gesture for granted. The Government of the Republic of Malawi would, therefore like to assure you that this assistance will be used for the intended purpose and will go a long way in addressing the identified problems".

      The objective of the programme is to establish, through a Sector Wide Approach (SWAp) arrangement involving five other international development agencies, an effective and efficient health care delivery system that is responsive to the needs of the people, especially vulnerable groups such as the poor, women and children.

      The ADF Support will finance strategies to accelerate reduction of maternal and infant mortality through the following programmes: l Human Resources l Pharmaceutical and Medical Supplies l Essential Basic Equipment l Facilities Development l Routine Operations at Service Delivery Level l Central Operations, Policy and Systems Development The programme is complementary to the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy, which gives utmost attention to the needs of the poor.

      The total cost of financing the Programme of Work (2004 - 2010) for the SWAp is USD 735.00 million.

      The Bank Group operations in Malawi started in 1969. To date, the Group's cumulative commitment in the country stands at 574 million UA (US$ 820.4 million) in 74 operations.

      *****

      Opposition Reacts to Bingu's Reconciliation Overtone

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      January 31, 2006
      Posted to the web January 31, 2006

      Gregory Gondwe
      Lilongwe

      The main opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and the United Democratic Front (UDF) have separately reacted to reconciliation overtones in President Mutharika's New Year national address. The parties insist that pre-conditions do not auger well for any reconciliation and peace.

      State President Dr. Bingu wa Mutharika placed conditions on the two camps if there was to be discussion between them that would lead to reconciliation in a speech broadcast to the nation on New Year's eve.

      In his address, Mutharika said he was ready to talk to any members of the opposition whose agenda is to move forward with the development of the nation. "I am ready to listen to them if they have legitimate concerns. I am even ready to forgive them," he said without elaborating before attaching a series of conditions to any would-be negotiation talks. "In order to create a more favourable environmental for fruitful dialogue, the opposition must unconditionally withdraw the impeachment from the agenda of parliament," he said.

      He said in the last sitting of parliament the country witnessed the attempts by some political heavy weights to use parliament to settle personal scores and to remove the legitimately elected government through unconstitutional means.

      Ironically, in the same breath he declared he was not afraid of being impeached. "In that regard, I will not approach any such dialogue from a position of weakness or desperation. I am not weak and certainly not desperate," he said.

      But the UDF Chief Whip in the Legislative Assembly Leonard Mangulima voiced concern with the path that Mutharika is attempting to take towards reconciliation. "I do not think preconditions for negotiations should be put in the newspapers or whatever," said Mangulama.

      He said the issues raised are of national importance. If there is need for negotiations there is always a right way to negotiate. "If the president feels people have to negotiate then he has to initiate the process and it is until you've spoken to each other that you can agree or disagree with the points which one puts across," he said.

      MCP Spokesperson Nicolas Dausi said his party has nothing to reconcile with Mutharika because it has completely nothing against him. "We only told him that he is presiding over a chair that was stolen from the Malawi Congress Party," he said.

      Asked if this was not a sufficiently contentious issue for MCP to refuse to engage in dialogue Dausi said the issue was now water under the bridge since the courts dismissed the MCP challenge on the elections.

      He said although some MCP MPs were advocating for Mutharika's impeachment they were only doing so in their personal capacities, insisting that from the beginning MCP had nothing against Mutharika.

      Mutharika whose party has now made inroads in parliament with the six seats it grabbed in the December by elections said his DPP government is resolved and determined to move away from politics of acrimony and retribution. "We are moving towards great tolerance and understanding of those who oppose us. My government is determined to continue to exercise patience, tolerance and understanding of those in opposition whose definition of democracy is different from our own," he said.

      *****

      MASAF Geared to Fight Corruption

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      January 31, 2006
      Posted to the web January 31, 2006

      Arnold Mnelemba
      Lilongwe

      As a way of curbing corruption and fraud in the implementation of development projects that benefit poor Malawians in remote areas, the Malawi Social Action Fund (MASAF) has entered into a working relationship with the Ant-Corruption Bureau (ACB) by signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that aims at ensuring transparency and accountability at all levels of service delivery.

      MASAF Acting Director General, Lameck Phiri said in Lilongwe that MASAF, as a government institution mandated to contribute towards poverty reduction through the provision of resources directly to the communities and Local Assemblies, will see to it that transparency is achieved in implementing initiatives in five development service packages of health, education, water and sanitation as well as transport and food security.

      For this to be achieved, Phiri said MASAF is required to ensure that all project operations are conducted in a transparent and accountable manner at all levels of project implementation. "Transparency is supposed to be achieved at community level, District Assembly level, and at national level including at the MASAF Management Unit. For this purpose, MASAF instituted a zero tolerance policy to fraud and corruption at all levels of project implementation. This is in line with current government policy and we applaud His. Excellency, Dr. Bingu wa Mutharika for the great political will he is providing to the nation to fight fraud and corruption in our society," Phiri said adding, "It is in the light of this that we are here witnessing the signing ceremony of the working relation between MASAF and the ACB." He noted that this working relationship will help MASAF to improve in practices of managing ethics by mainstreaming matters of ethics in plans of operation; applying standards of managing ethics as agreed by the ACB from time to time and minimise duplication of effort and waste of resources through a coordinated approach to ethics management.

      ACB Director Gustav Kaliwo said the agreement will go a long way in trying to assist government to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that he said are intended at eliminating poverty, especially amongst third world countries in which Malawi falls.

      He said that it is sad that some noble causes that are designed to benefit poor Malawians like the MASF 3 project are sometimes derailed because of corruption. "Corruption has been known to exist in organizations themselves and in the interface between the organization and the private sector.

      Corruption is therefore one of the biggest threats to development.

      Studies have shown that a rise in corruption levels results in a fall in economic development and that high levels of corruption affect the poor and the vulnerable, more than other sectors of society," said Kaliwo.

      In the MOU, Kaliwo said an agreement was reached that MASAF and ACB work together in information sharing, and in acting on reports of alleged acts of fraud and corruption under the many MASAF project.

      Minister of Local Government and Rural Development George Chaponda was the guest of honour at the signing ceremony that took place at Cresta Crossroads Hotel in Lilongwe.

      *****

      Zanzibar MPs scrap schoolgirl ban

      A three-decade law banning pregnant girls from attending school has been scrapped by MPs in Zanzibar.
      Under the ban, girls under 18 who became pregnant on the semi-autonomous Tanzanian islands had to drop out of school and could not return.

      Women's groups had been campaigning to abolish the law saying it infringed on the girls' human rights.

      The BBC's Ally Saleh in Zanzibar says it has been hailed as a landmark for the predominantly Muslim archipelago.

      This is one of a number of gender sensitive decisions Zanzibar has made in recent months, our correspondent says.

      Following elections last October, 30% of MPs are now women - the quota set by regional bodies - and there are four female ministers in Zanzibar's cabinet.

      The opposition Civic United Front staged a walkout during the parliamentary vote, saying it did not recognise the new government claiming electoral fraud.



      *****

      Condom taboo in Zanzibar hampers fight against Aids

      Stone Town, Zanzibar, Tanzania

      01 February 2006 02:05

      Campaigns to fight HIV/Aids often focus on the "ABC" strategy -- or Abstinence, Be faithful and use Condoms. However, on the ultra-conservative, predominantly Muslim island of Zanzibar, condoms remains taboo and is rarely incorporated into public awareness messages.

      "We believe that advocating the use of condoms is promoting illegal sex, mainly among the youth," said Fadhil Soraga, secretary at the office of Zanzibar's mufti, or senior Muslim scholar. "The proper campaign is A and B."

      While public talks or advertising campaigns about HIV/Aids in Zanzibar may advise people to "Abstain, Be faithful," these messages carefully omit condom use as way to prevent HIV/Aids.

      "We are always loud when mentioning the letters A and B, but we mumble when it comes to the C," said HIV/Aids activist Asha Hussein.

      In 2003, a United Nations-supported government survey on the main islands of Unguja and Pemba found HIV/Aids prevalence in the general population to be 0,6%.

      While the rate is relatively low compared to prevalence rates in the region -- mainland Tanzania, for example, has an HIV/Aids prevalence of 7% -- health officials nevertheless estimate that the rate is rising.

      Ameir Khamis, a government epidemiology and surveillance coordinator, estimated that about 8 000 Zanzibaris were currently living with HIV/Aids, up from 6 000 in 2002.

      Officials from Medicos Del Mundo (MDM), an international NGO working on HIV/Aids in Zanzibar, said they had to be careful in their campaign against the pandemic.

      "We're using many ways to deliver the message to stop the spread of Aids and other sexually transmitted diseases, but speaking about condoms in Zanzibar society is still very difficult," said Erene Casas, MDM project coordinator in Zanzibar.

      The European Union-supported MDM has been working to prevent the spread of HIV/Aids, mother-to-child transmission of HIV/Aids and sexually transmitted infections in Zanzibar since April 2002. It also organises activities to sensitise the population, especially young people, on safer sex.

      A moral issue
      "Community leaders -- including religious and civic leaders -- are not ready for the condom-use theory," Khamis said.

      A poster by the Zanzibar Aids Commission in Stone Town, the island's main town, reads: "Our culture is the best cure for HIV/Aids. Observe our culture and religion to stop the spread of the disease."

      Soraga, from the mufti's office, blamed the rise in the prevalence of HIV/Aids on the degeneration of morality on the island.

      "Despite repeated religious calls and the many seminars on HIV/Aids in Zanzibar, the number of HIV cases has been increasing because people do not want to change their behaviour," he said. "We must reform our behaviour, mainly by refraining from illegal sex."

      Although the government and religious institutions are reluctant to promote condoms, their use is on the rise -- albeit silently -- mainly among youths.

      Ramadhani Hassan, MDM's local coordinator, confirmed that condom "consumption" had increased.

      "During the film and traditional festivals in June and July, we distributed more than 90 000 condoms free of charge," he said.

      "The statistics show that although it is illicit to talk about condoms in Zanzibar society, their utilisation has been increasing," he added.

      Stigma and discrimination
      Stigma and discrimination were barriers to the prevention, treatment and care of HIV/Aids patients in Zanzibar, Casas said. Many people living with the virus were reluctant to disclose their status, even when their employers encouraged them to seek out testing and counselling services.

      "These barriers are internalised so that people do not seek diagnostic or treatment services, or the means to protect themselves," she said.

      "The main causes of stigma involve incomplete knowledge, fear of death and disease, sexual norms, and lack of recognition of stigma," she said.

      The Zanzibar Association of People with HIV/Aids reported that HIV-positive people on the island faced physical and social isolation from family, friends and the community. Discrimination often extended to the workplace as well and hampered access to government services.

      The inability of women to negotiate condom use has also proved to be a barrier to preventing the spread of the virus.

      Hassan noted that a lack of confidence prevented many women from demanding that their partners use condoms, placing them at great risk. A 2003 government study showed that infection rates among women were three times higher than men.

      Casas said stigma limited the circulation of information about the epidemic and options for care, as well as communication within couples about the risks of contracting HIV/Aids.

      "I think we need to do everything possible to prevent the spread of HIV/Aids," she said. - Irin



      *****

      Zimbabwe: Living with hyperinflation

      The governor of Zimbabwe's reserve bank last week admitted that his country is in the grip of hyperinflation, with some economists predicting an inflation rate of 1,000% within two months.
      This week saw the introduction of a so-called "bearer cheque" worth 50,000 Zimbabwean dollars - 50 times the highest available banknote - but actually worth around half a US dollar and only enough to buy a loaf of bread.

      BBC World Service's Outlook programme spoke to five Zimbabweans, all of whom did not wish to be named, about what life is like living under rampant hyperinflation.


      THE TAXI DRIVER
      Now, we can hardly even look after our families.

      When we talk of inflation, almost everyone is being affected.

      It's as if our customers have left the country, because most of the people are walking in and out of town.

      It's now even worse when you try to increase the fares, because already people can't afford them.

      I buy five litres of petrol from the black market. This is normally 650,000 - 700,000.

      On a good trip, that five litres can raise 1 million - but additional costs leave around 250,000 - absolutely nothing.

      That is barely enough to feed yourself, let alone your family.

      It's like we are living hand-to-mouth.



      THE STUDENT
      When I go to withdraw my money, I have to wait around 30 minutes because there are so many people waiting.

      It's so difficult.

      Maybe you want 10 million but they only give you 2.8, because there is not enough at the bank.



      THE LECTURER

      It's a very strange environment.

      There are a lot of pay rises, but they are meaningless.

      They are always eroded the minute they give us the pay rise.

      Also, considering we have so much to pay - we have parents in the countryside, and we have families - it doesn't work.

      People are willing to lend money, but they are not willing to lend it for nothing. It's usually at a rate of 90 or 100%.

      Sometimes these are your relatives or people you work with, taking advantage of this.

      People are cannibalising each other.



      THE MOTHER
      Because my income hasn't risen as much as the prices in the shops, we have had to adjust quite a bit.

      The things that we buy - the groceries at home, the things we get for our two children - we have to buy immediately, as soon as we get the money.

      We know that if we wait a bit, the prices are going to go up again. If we wait another week, we will not be able to afford anything.

      People are taking the money out in suitcases or carrier bags.



      THE BUSINESSMAN
      I don't even know if I'll have a job at the end of the week, because there is so much uncertainty. There are so many companies closing down.

      It is quite interesting to see people going in banks with bags and sometimes even suitcases.

      You know that there are large amounts of money in there - which unfortunately are not going to buy much.
    • 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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