- Jail for former Malawi minister
Former Malawi Education Minister Yusuf Mwawa has been sentenced to five years in jail for fraud and corruption.
He is the first official convicted since President Bingu wa Mutharika launched an anti-corruption campaign.
He was sacked last year after being accused of using $1,500 of public funds to pay expenses for his wedding at a hotel in Blantyre.
His wife, Diana, burst into tears when the sentence was read out. The court was packed with his supporters.
His conviction last month means he loses his seat in parliament, which he won on the ticket of the former ruling United Democratic Front (UDF).
His lawyer said he would appeal and had already repaid the money.
He collapsed in prison last week following a bout of hypertension and diabetes.
The BBC's Raphael Tenthani in Blantyre says Mwawa looked calm as the sentence was announced.
President Mutharika has left the UDF, saying the party did not support his drive against corruption.
Tensions Rise on Veep Replacement
The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)
February 13, 2006
Posted to the web February 13, 2006
Gregory Gondwe & Arnold Mnelemba
The "Firing" of Vice President Cassim Chilumpha from his position has created an internal battle for his position between three potential candidates to fill the vacant position. This has caused tensions in the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) between senior party members who harbour ambitions for the Vice Presidency.
The Veep's sacking has coincided with growing anxiety that has gripped the party over who would be the Presidential running mate for the 2009 DPP Presidential candidate State President Bingu wa Mutharika. The general feeling is that whoever is appointed Vice-President now will be well placed to be the running mate then.
DPP Secretary General Joyce Banda who is also Gender, Child Welfare and Community Service Minister, Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe and Agriculture and Food Security Minister Uladi Mussa are hotly poised to contest for the post of the Presidential running mate according to highly ranked officials in the party who has indicated that the three could replace Chilumpha. The development also puts to rest the doubts on whether President Mutharika will contest in 2009.
An impeccable source disclosed to The Chronicle in confidence that tensions have stricken the party as top party gurus are striving to be in favour with the State President whom our source says is favouring the DPP Secretary General Joyce Banda in a bid to coax women to support him as the beginning of attaining 30 percent of women participation in top positions. "I can confirm to you that despite our politicians saying that 2009 is far away, they have already started jockeying for position towards the 2009 general elections. The State President held two meetings with DPP officials and had been holding equally big meetings with cabinet ministers, most of whom are potential candidates in various positions to map the party's way forward. "A lot of things are discussed, some of which I cannot tell you, but be informed that the battle for the presidential running mate is so tight and three big people including Joyce Banda, Uladi Mussa, and Goodall Gondwe are fighting for the position," said the source.
Joyce Banda said in an interview that it was not possible to suggest that she will be the party's running mate. "We haven't even conducted a convention. I am not even the party's vice president and how do you expect me to be the running mate when I am just a mere interim Secretary General who would possibly not even be holding a position after convention," she said.
However, DPP Vice President Uladi Mussa, who is strategically placed for the appointment to the position, disagreed with Banda saying it is a presidential prerogative on the choice of a running mate and it is a non-starter for other people to start dreaming of becoming the presidential running mate now. He suggested that it was too early insisting that the position is not contestable. "It is the prerogative of the president to choose a presidential running mate for himself and not any other person in the party," insisted Mussa suggesting that the matter cannot be decided at a convention.
He added that there is no provision in the party's constitution for party members to choose a presidential running mate through a convention or whatsoever forum but the presidential candidate alone has the mandate to select his own candidate. In this case, he said that Mutharika himself would make the selection. "Yes I can tell you that it is not automatic for vice president of the party to be the presidential running mate, but it is a decision that will be made by the presidential candidate who, in our case is Bingu wa Mutharika. It can be a mistake to choose a presidential running mate at a convention because we can choose someone who may not be loyal or obedient to the president," said Mussa.
He said that the running mate issue has resurrected now because a few people are just trying to campaign for the position. Our source further said that a portion of party members are in support of Uladi Mussa, while a bunch of members is of the opinion that the vice president is not an automatic presidential candidate and they may opt for Goodall Gondwe while other party faithfuls, including the president would like Joyce Banda to be the running mate in a bid to win women support and promotion of gender balance.
Goodall Gondwe, when approached on the issue of his candidature described the story as interesting, saying it does not make any sense that his name could be proposed, considering that he has just joined the political fray. He said, all things withstanding, he would be willing to serve the nation in any position he would be entrusted with. "You know what? I have just joined these people in the political circle. How do you expect me to be entrusted with such a big responsibility? I have not heard about it, I am hearing it for the first time from you. Although I am happy to serve my country in the current position as I am, I am ready to serve in any capacity, given a chance," said Gondwe Underground campaigning for the positions, according to our sources has already started and some officials who are optimistic of winning the position through a convention have started calling for an urgent convention. Reports indicate that there are no immediate plans for the party to hold a convention.
The sources indicated that Mutharika has not yet clearly spelt out his position on whether he was really contesting in the 2009 elections or not. "In the event that he is limited by some unforeseeable state of affairs Mutharika is likely going to settle for Joyce Banda as the DPP's presidential candidate. If that should happen her running mate could be Goodall Gondwe," said the source.
Joyce Banda, MP for Zomba Malosa in the southern region has been spending most of her time in Nkhata Bay where her husband, former Chief Justice Richard Banda comes from. Analysts have said that it would be very difficult for Mutharika to appoint another person from the south as his running mate unless Banda is seen to be settling in the north.
Mutharika himself comes from the south.
Should the President insist on fielding a woman as his running mate then he would have to look to the central or northern regions for a candidate. This would give opportunity for the likes of Kate Kainja and Marjorie Ngaunje.
The DPP constitution provides that the president, his vice and second vice must come from all three regions of the country. Additionally it also allows for Mutharika to appoint freely from the ranks of the party.
Ministers Scrap Ahead of Cabinet Reshuffle
The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)
February 13, 2006
Posted to the web February 13, 2006
Hostilities and uncertainty is said to be building up in President Bingu wa Mutharika's cabinet with the in fighting reaching serious level amongst some cabinet ministers ahead of an imminent cabinet reshuffle, The Chronicle has established.
The reshuffle, to take effect before parliament sits in April will effectively take on board some opposition Members of Parliament who have joined Mutharika's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
A highly placed source told The Chronicle that the pending reshuffle has also fuelled disagreements, which have been broiling in the cabinet for some time.
Information Minister Patricia Kaliati and Gender, Child Welfare and Community Services Minister Joyce Banda, who are said to be at each other and not seeing eye to eye said in separate interviews that the disagreements were not of either's own making. "If there is anything she has against me then I don't know about it," said Banda, "I have just arrived from the Garden City Clinic in South Africa and I am just coming out of a cabinet meeting where I was together with honourable Kaliati. How can one say I am fighting with her - for what?" wondered Banda who described the claims as a gender related issue.
She said she is 17 years older than Kaliati and has been working with other women for the past 32 years. She said has never been involved in fighting against a fellow woman. "I don't work in order to fight with anyone, and if they have grudges against me - that's their problem. All I know is that we must work as disciples of the cabinet which is aiming at achieving one goal as missionaries," she said but could not out rightly confirm or dismiss the disagreements that are evident.
Patricia Kaliati, when asked about the issue of a cabinet reshuffle, she said it was the president's prerogative to retain her in the cabinet or not, insisting that she is doing is what she was advised to do. "Whoever is telling you about my shortfalls is wasting their time because I am here to do this job and to do it well. I want to promise you that I will perform it as I have always done, even when I was Deputy Public Events Minister in Dr Muluzi's Government," she declared.
She said she knows that some people and the media did not wish her well from the onset as they expected her to fail to deliver as they said she is only a STD 8 graduate who could not handle a cabinet portfolio as huge as that of Information and Tourism. "Now I believe I am doing the job and you are complaining," she said.
She declared that whoever is fighting her is afraid of her abilities and advised that they need not to because all ministers are in cabinet for a reason.
The signs that all was not well between the two senior ministers came to the fore last month. They both convened press briefings at the same time but at different venues. They both expected Television Malawi (TVM), which has one camera to cover them both.
Kaliati who was conducting the briefing together with Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe and Agriculture and Food Security Minister Uladi Mussa convened the press conference at the Central Office of Information (COI) is said to have angrily threatened to fire the TV crew when the meeting waited for them for a long time.
In an interview, she said this was just a misunderstanding on the part of the others (Banda and Justice Minister Henry Duncan Phoya) who were being covered by Malawi Television at the Ministry of Justice offices because the Lilongwe bureau has a single camera.
But Banda said she has a whole plate before her and cannot waste time squabbling with another woman. "I have been the one encouraging her as my younger sister and I don't think there is anything I have against her," she said. "When the cabinet reshuffle comes, no one knows, not even the cabinet ministers themselves; we are taken by surprise. So there is no way we can fight over this," she added.
The source told The Chronicle that the Banda/Kaliati wrangle is just the tip of the iceberg and there is too much animosity and in fighting, a situation, which has been compounded by the pending cabinet reshuffle which is worrying some ministers who are suspecting that they could be casualties.
Amongst some of the MPs who have indicated that they are happy to work within the DPP government are formerly of MCP Rogers Sithole Kasungu North North East, independent Nkhatabay MP Simon Vuwa Kaunda, Republican Party MP for Chikwawa West Gertrude Kamange Phiri, Second Deputy Speaker and Independent MP Jones Vincent Chingola and Chikwawa North formerly MP for Republican Party MP Alfeo Gobede amongst others.
MCP, UDF, Govt Clash Over Fertilizer Subsidy Ownership
The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)
February 13, 2006
Posted to the web February 13, 2006
The main opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP), the United Democratic Front (UDF), and the government have exchanged bitter words with each claiming to be the architects of the Fertiliser Subsidy Programme.
Opposition parties have insisted that they initiated the programme and claim that President Bingu wa Mutharika has turned the initiative into a campaign tool for enticing members from opposition parties to join his Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
MCP President John Tembo said in an exclusive interview that he is aggravated by the President's inexorable use of the fertiliser subsidy as a campaign tool for winning membership for his DPP from opposition parties when the opposition were, in the true sense the advocates of the universal fertiliser subsidy which he said government was initially against. "What Bingu is doing is criminal. I am totally against people abusing a system which was approved by parliament, that's criminal. If anybody tries to divert the procedure for the provision of fertiliser subsidy and distribution, that's criminal, no matter how high that person is," said Tembo.
Tembo said it is totally untrue that Mutharika started the universal fertiliser subsidy initiative saying it was MCP that did, and him in particular.
He further said that he was only doing it for the common good while fulfilling his obligation of serving people in the rural masses as leader of opposition in parliament as well as a parliamentarian. "I will tell you the truth, but if you want to prove it, you can check the Hansard. It is the Malawi Congress Party, and its me personally who started this current universal fertiliser subsidy - not Bingu, clearly not. Bingu and Muluzi announced in Mangochi in 2002 or 2003 that they were to provide for a fertiliser subsidy and they even announced the price at K1,400 for a 50kg bag, Did it happen during that time? "As a result, fertiliser was selling at two thousand and something.
They failed completely and this is why we moved a motion for universal fertiliser subsidy. I am disappointed now that parliament, having agreed and approved the motion, is finding that government is doing something completely different," Tembo said.
However, government spokesperson Patricia Kaliati said Tembo is missing the point, saying he cannot be the right person to start universal fertiliser subsidy because his party is not ruling the country. "How can Tembo say he is the founder of universal subsidy as if he is parliament himself? Bingu raised the issue at a cabinet meeting and came up with the prices that are being implemented. It is sad to note that some politicians are trying to politicise the issue that is assisting a lot of people in the country," said Kaliati.
UDF spokesperson Sam Mpasu totally disagreed with Kaliati saying the MCP deserves to be given credit for strongly advocating for the universal fertiliser subsidy. "Bingu and his cabinet feared a Budget shoot down because MCP made it clear that they were not going to support the Budget if a universal fertiliser subsidy was not incorporated in it. That really is why government bowed in the end. It is unfair for government to be using the initiative as a campaign tool for their DPP. That is broad daylight robbery," said Mpasu.
Both Tembo and Mutharika have been telling people in their respective public rallies that they are the architects of the universal fertiliser subsidy that has attempted to make the farm input affordable for Malawi's subsistence farmers. Opposition parties also accuse government of abusing the facility by discriminating against some people claiming the distribution and availability is based on regional and political affiliation to the DPP.
Kits to Ensure Safe Delivery as Women Fail to Visit Health Facilities
The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)
February 13, 2006
Posted to the web February 13, 2006
Studies conducted in different parts of the country have revealed that the prevalence rate of anaemia in pregnant mothers is on the increase with some expectant women failing to make visit to health facilities because of weakness caused by poor nutrition due to the reigning hunger crisis, United Nations Food and Population Agency (UNFPA) representative Esparance Fundira has said.
Fundira said this in Lilongwe when she graced a handover ceremony of Reproductive Health kits to health workers in Balaka, Chikwawa, Chiradzulu, Machinga, Mwanza, Mulanje, Nsanje, Phalombe, Thyolo, and Zomba intended to assist them in providing quality Reproductive Health services.
Fundira said the current food shortage will have negative effects on pregnant women as some would find it difficult to travel health facilities while in labour for delivery because of being too weak due to insufficient nutrition. "The delivery kits will be used at both health centre and district level in addressing problems faced by mothers during delivery. Research also reveals that the prevalence of anaemia in pregnant mothers increases and some mothers are not able to visit health facilities because of weakness due to hunger. We are also aware that during such a period there are increased cases of rape, hence we are providing post rape kits for emergency contraception," said Fundira.
She encouraged the Traditional Birth Attendants (TBA's) to be prepared to assist women who are unable to reach health facilities to deliver. "We are encouraging skilled attendants at birth during such times when pregnant women may be too weak to travel to the health facility for delivery hence we have also provided clean delivery kits for TBS's so that they can provide a clean and safe delivery at community level." Fundira added Fundira said UNFPA's objectives are to ensure that women and young people are protected from sexually transmitted diseases and HIV infection, women deliver in a clean and safe environment and that sexual exploitation is prevented.
However, UNFPA according to Fundira has a mountain to climb in as far as realising and achieving its objectives is concerned as studies conducted in different parts of the world reveal that during humanitarian crisis there is always an increase in number of women and girls who sell sex as means of obtaining food, an increase in sexually transmitted diseases, teenage pregnancies, abortions and gender based violence.
UNFPA donated the reproductive health kit costing to about K12million and so far, equipment amounting to about K4million has already arrived in the country. The next consignment of equipment is expected to arrive next month.
Fundira emphasised her institution's commitment to working with government in both provision of financial and technical support as required.
Minister of Health Hetherwick Ntaba was the guest of honour at the handover ceremony and commended UNFPA for the support which he said has come at the right and appropriate time.
Ntaba said UNFPA's gesture will go along way in assisting government achieve the ambition of a safe and health Malawi.
UDF fears for Chilumpha life
by Zainah Liwanda, 13 February 2006 - 05:19:21
The United Democratic Front (UDF) has said it would hold government responsible for anything that would happen to Vice President Cassim Chilumpha following the withdrawal of his security detail.
UDF spokesperson Sam Mpasu said in an interview Sunday that by withdrawing Chilumpha's security, government was putting the VP's life at risk.
"We hope they have not done that to kill him. You cannot remove security without putting somebody's life in danger. If government is going to be in contempt of court, then God help this country," said Mpasu.
Mpasu's remarks come in the wake of reports that government has defied a High Court order by failing to restore Chilumpha's security and staff removed after President Bingu wa Mutharika fired the VP last Thursday.
High Court registrar Sylvester Kalembera said it was up to the aggrieved party to file a complaint and the court will determine whether or not government was in contempt.
Attorney General Ralph Kasambara was quoted in the media on Sunday saying the court did not say that Chilumpha was still VP, but rather stopped government from removing him from his office, a thing he said they did not do.
Mutharika said in his letter to Chilumpha that the VP had not been attending cabinet meetings as required and publicly criticised the same government he is part of. The President also said Chilumpha defied an order that all government officials should relocate from Blantyre to Lilongwe.
But Mpasu dismissed the allegations, accusing government of using cabinet as a forum for discussing Mutharika's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) issues, wondering whether government expected the VP to attend such meetings.
"We do not agree that the VP has not been working. How do you work when your budget has been cut? When you go to a cabinet meeting and instead of discussing national matters, you are discussing party matters and castigating others," he added.
Asked why it was only the VP who had complained about the budget cut yet Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe is on record to have said different government departments would experience budget cuts, Mpasu said a VP is not like an ordinary minister because he needs security wherever he goes.
Mpasu said their lawyers would look at the possibility of filling a contempt of court complaint.
But government spokesperson Patricia Kaliati dismissed Mpasu's claims wondering why Chilumpha never complained to government or even went to court if his work was affected because of inadequate funding.
Kaliati said government was complying with his voluntary resignation, stressing Chilumpha is no longer entitled to state security.
"If they want to do something to him, let them go ahead, but as government we do not see why we can have those motives. Why can't he go and occupy the house in Lilongwe. Where has he been all this time? I thought he said he would not respond to issues in the press. Today he needs you, the press? Those are lame excuses. If he had problems, there are right forums to present such problems," said Kaliati.
The government spin doctor also accused UDF of failing to advise Chilumpha to carry out national engagements rather than concentrating on party work, adding the VP was being paid by taxpayers and not the party.
Kaliati also wondered how Chilumpha presided over the election of a UDF shadow cabinet yet he was the country's Second Citizen, saying he should have recused himself.
Commenting on assertions that government discussed party issues in cabinet, Kaliati said it was not correct because the cabinet comprises of ministers from various parties such as UDF and Republican Party (RP). She challenged Chilumpha to produce evidence on his claims.
'The UDF contributed to his failure. They watched him fall and today they are pretending they like him. Chilumpha must know these people are fighting for the position of chairperson in the party. He has been drawing a monthly salary of K400,000 [about $3,000} for eleven months for doing nothing. Is that fair to the poor people who pay tax?" wondered Kaliati.
Kamuzu family rejects open viewing of his body
by Zainah Liwanda, 13 February 2006 - 05:55:23
The family of the former Head of State late Hastings Kamuzu Banda has rejected government's proposal to have a mechanical option of lifting up the body of the country's first president for viewing, arguing the move is not in conformity with Malawian culture.
Kamuzu's family member, Ken Kandodo, confirmed the development in interview on Sunday. He said instead the mausoleum would have a tomb with a big portrait of Banda.
According to Kandodo, following the family's rejection of the proposal, the current design has been made in such away that the tomb would be upstairs and a chamber for family members and VIP's downstairs.
"Sometime back there was talk that they wanted to have a mechanical option whereby the body would be lifted up and down, but that was turned down by the family. The family said this is not in conformity with our culture," said Kandodo.
He added that the current design puts the tomb upstairs and besides it a portrait of the late president while below that is a chamber for family members and VIPs.
Kandodo, who is also a member of the construction committee of the mausoleum, said discussions for the official opening are still underway.
Last week a visit to the family in Kasungu by government officials failed at the last minute because the ministers were busy in a meeting.
Various media houses were contacted to accompany the ministers to Kasungu but were told the trip had been concealed at the eleventh hour.
Banda said the family did not know why government wanted to meet them because the meeting was cancelled.
Youths Sports and Culture Minister Jaffalie Mussa was quoted in The Nation recently, saying that the mausoleum would be opened soon.
The construction of the K60 million (about $460,000) mausoleum for the country's first president raised mixed reactions with some quarters arguing it was not a pro poor expenditure while others said Banda needed a decent resting place for, among other reasons, steering the country to independence and economic prosperity.
Zim courts won't 'spring anyone into power', says judge
14 February 2006 09:49
A top Zimbabwean judge has said it is not the duty of the judiciary to spring anyone into political office, in what virtually amounts to a rebuke against opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai who has petitioned the courts to nullify President Robert Mugabe's 2002 re-election victory.
Tsvangirai, who lost by about 400 000 votes to Mugabe, wants the courts to overturn the election result and order a fresh ballot, arguing that the veteran president used violence and outright fraud to cheat him of victory.
But Justice Chinembiri Bhunu, a senior judge of Zimbabwe's High Court, said politicians should not relocate political battles into the courts, but should go to the people to canvass their support in order to win or retain political office.
"Let me warn those who want to use the courts to gain political power that it is not the duty of the courts to spring anyone into power or to maintain anyone in power," said Justice Bhunu on Monday, marking the opening of the High Court circuit in Masvingo.
He added: "Those wishing to do so should go to the people to garner support because it is the people who can give them such power and not the courts."
The judge said Zimbabwe's courts have acted with professionalism and independence in dealing with political disputes between Tsvangirai's opposition Movement for Democratic Change and Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF party. He said those criticising the bench are doing so to demonise Zimbabwe as punishment for Mugabe's seizure of white-owned land.
Zimbabwe's bench, reconstituted after Mugabe purged independent judges, has been criticised by, among others, the African Commission on Human and People's Rights for failure to defend the rights of ordinary citizens and political opponents of the government.
The courts' failure to resolve expeditiously Tsvangirai's petition against Mugabe's re-election three years ago as well as various other poll petitions by the opposition have often been cited as an example of the bench's unwillingness to rise up to its role as a neutral arbiter in cases seen as politically sensitive.
The refusal of the courts to grant orders sought by human rights lawyers to bar the government from evicting thousands of families during its controversial urban clean-up campaign last year has also been held as proof that the bench would rather avoid confrontation with the executive than stand up for the rights of defenceless citizens.
Tsvangirai's petition is now before the Supreme Court, the highest court in the country, after the opposition leader sought relief from the court, saying the High Court had inordinately delayed in finalising the matter three years after it was lodged. -- ZimOnline
Zimbabwe inflation soars to 613%
Angus Shaw | Harare, Zimbabwe
14 February 2006 02:26
Inflation in Zimbabwe soared to 613% in January, the state Central Statistical Office said on Tuesday.
Zimbabwe is suffering its worst economic crisis since independence from Britain in 1980, blamed largely on disruptions in the agriculture-based economy caused by years of drought and the often-violent seizure of thousands of white-owned commercial farms for redistribution to new black farmers.
Inflation hit a record 623% in early 2004. Last month, the central bank predicted it would reach 800% by March, the highest rate in the world.
Prices of food and nonalcoholic drinks have risen 785,5% since last January, the statistical office said in its monthly report. Non-food items are up an average 533%.
The highest price increases recorded during the year were for postal services, up 3 000%, bicycles, 2 687%, and medicines, 1 367%.
On a month-to-month basis, prices were up 27% over December.
An average family of five now needs a monthly income of at least 20-million Zimbabwe dollars ($202) to survive in reasonable conditions, including eight million Zimbabwe dollars ($80) for food, the report estimated.
But unemployment is running at 70%, and an estimated two million street vendors lost their livelihoods in a highly criticised slum clearance campaign last year that also targeted informal traders.
The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, the main labour federation, said very few workers earn more than five million Zimbabwe dollars ($52) a month despite intermittent increases in recent months that also helped fuel inflation.
Consumer organisations estimate real inflation in excess of 1 000%, citing inflated black market prices for scarce food and gasoline that are not factored into the official rate.
The United Nations food agency distributed emergency supplies to three million
people in January and estimates five million will likely need help before the next harvests begin in April. Its experts noted many families survive on one meagre meal a day.
The value of the Zimbabwe currency has plummeted. In October, the Zimbabwe Reserve Bank abandoned a fixed exchange rate of Z$26 000 to the US dollar, allowing the rate to fall to 99 000-1. The central bank capped the rate at that level, pushing up black market currency exchanges to 160 000-1 this week.
By contrast, inflation in Zambia, once Zimbabwe's poor neighbour, is running at 12%. Neighbouring South Africa recorded single digit inflation last year. - Sapa-AP
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
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
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.
Meanwhile, the MDC on Sunday said it will push ahead with plans for anti-government protests, saying victory in a key by-election at the weekend was a "sign the electorate supported its policies", including democratic mass resistance.
A spokesperson of the main faction of the splintered MDC, Nelson Chamisa, said victory over Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF and a rival MDC faction in a Saturday by-election in Harare's Budiriro constituency is a sign Zimbabweans still have confidence in party leader Morgan Tsvangirai and his policies.
Tsvangirai, the founding leader of the MDC, heads the main rump of the opposition party whose candidate, Emmanuel Chisvuure, polled 7 949 votes to win the Budiriro House of Assembly seat.
Gabriel Chaibva of the other faction of the MDC, led by prominent academic Arthur Mutambara, garnered 504 votes while Zanu-PF's Jeremiah Bvirindi polled 3 961 votes.
"This election showed that the electorate still has confidence in the MDC [Tsvangirai-led] leadership and its policies," Chamisa told independent news service ZimOnline.
He added: "We will now move to consolidate our position * we still believe in mass protests. Until we have attained our goals we see no reason why we should abandon [plans for protests]."
Tsvangirai has threatened to call mass protests this winter against Mugabe and his government. He says the mass protests, whose date he is still to name, are meant to force Mugabe to relinquish power to a government of national unity to be tasked to write a new and democratic Constitution that would ensure free and fair elections held under international supervision.
Mugabe and his government, who had hoped for victory in Budiriro to show they were recapturing urban support from a splintered MDC, have not taken idly the opposition's threats to call mass protests, with the veteran president warning Tsvangirai he would be "dicing with death" if he ever attempted to instigate a Ukraine-style popular revolt in Zimbabwe.
In a fresh crackdown against dissension, the police last week arrested several church and civic leaders for organising public prayers and marches to mark last year's controversial home-demolition exercise by the government.
The police also banned the marches and prayers, fearing they could easily turn into mass protests against Mugabe and his government.
However, the marches went ahead in the second-largest city of Bulawayo after organisers had obtained a court order barring the police from stopping the march.
Political analysts say although Zimbabweans have largely been cowed by Mugabe's tactics of routinely deploying riot police and the military to crush street protests, worsening hunger and poverty are fanning public anger that Tsvangirai -- with proper planning and organisation -- could easily manipulate.
Zimbabwe is in the grip of a severe six-year old economic crisis that has seen inflation breaching the 1 000% barrier. Last year, the World Bank said Zimbabwe's economic crisis was unprecedented for a country not at war.
The MDC and major Western governments blame Mugabe for wrecking the country's economy, which was one of the strongest in Africa at independence from Britain 26 years ago.
Mugabe denies the charge blaming the crisis on sabotage by Britain and her allies after he seized white-owned farms for redistribution to landless blacks six years ago.
The Harare authorities recently hiked salaries for civil servants, with the lowest-paid soldier now earning about Z$27-million while the lowest-paid school teacher now takes home about Z$33-million.
But the salaries are still way below the poverty datum line, which the government's Consumer Council of Zimbabwe says now stands at a staggering Z$42-million a month for an average family of six.
The Zimbabwe government often accuses the ZCTU, a strong ally of the MDC, of pushing a political agenda to remove Mugabe from power.
Meanwhile, Matombo and Lucia Matibenga retained their posts as president and first vice-president respectively during the ZCTU congress that ended on Saturday. -- ZimOnline