- Female Genital Mutilation: Being Conducted on the Quiet with Young Girls Exposed to Infections and to HIV
The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)
February 13, 2006
Posted to the web February 13, 2006
The culture of silence and secrecy surround-ing some traditional practices could make the fight against the HIV epidemic more difficult.
Often these traditional practices are carried out on young people who are at the age of puberty, and the initiation is intended to prepare them for adulthood.
When those who have been initiated are asked what happens at the initiation ceremonies, the reply is often that the young people are taught how to take care of themselves, how to show respect for elders, obtain good manners as well as how to take care of the family.
To a large extent this is true, but some of the practices carried out during the initiations are not openly discussed with just anyone and are generally kept as a closely guarded secret.
In order to make sure that young people who are not ready for initiation and others who have not gone through the initiation ceremonies are unable to know what goes on during the initiations, the young initiates are removed from their homes and taken to a place prepared for the occasion outside the village, under the instruction and watchful eye of a counselor.
It has been reported that initiation ceremonies for girls are more complex and detailed than for boys. Initiation ceremonies for girls are also more widespread.
Research carried out by the Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) has revealed that in some parts of the southern region Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is very quietly happening.
Shrouded in secrecy, the practice continues to take place and exposes girls to HIV infection without any challenge because no one will talk about it.
Girls in some parts of Mulanje in the Southern Region have been undergoing FGM during initiation with the practice going almost unnoticed because of the secrecy surrounding the practice.
The practice, that involves the pinching off of the tip (clitoris) of the girl's private parts, is conducted during the ceremony by the Namkungwi (elderly woman counselor and instructor).
Using her fingernails to remove the organ, the part is pinch and severed by the namkungwi under conditions that are not sterile or hygienic.
Using a basin of water to wash her hands after each removal, she moves from one girl to the next, exposing the girls to different kinds of infections, including HIV.
Apart from the pain and risk of chronic infection that can lead to infertility, a girl can bled profusely and suffer server anemia.
The risk of HIV infection can be high during the time when the young girls are bleeding and wounds are exposed. Some of the girls, although young, are already sexually active. Working from one girl to the next in the way it is done could spread HIV infection should any one of them have contracted the virus.
The possibility of a young girls being HIV positive because of Mother to Child Transmission (MTCT) could also lead to other initiates being exposed.
There is also the risk of infection being passed on to the girls if the namkungwi herself is infected with HIV and her bodily fluids which can carry the virus comes into contact with her hand and, inadvertently to the girls wounds during this time.
Speaking about the practice to some women around the Thyolo and Mulanji areas, it seems obvious that FGM is practiced at some initiation ceremonies although they will not say if it is practiced in their own village.
Nankhoma says she is aware of the practice, but it does not happen to the girls that go for initiation in her village: "I hear that it is being practiced by some people in some other villages but that does not happen where I live," she says.
Belita has also heard about the practice, but she too says it does not happen in her village. "We hear that the namkungwi chosen to carry out the cutting will grow her nails on her forefinger and thumb in anticipation of the work she is to do." Asked if she knows any namkungwi who does this kind of initiation, Bettie responds: "No I don't know it's a very well kept secret among the namkungwi and nobody asks or knows them unless you become one of them through another kind of initiation." Every one spoken to acknowledge that they are aware of the practice but deny that they or anyone they know is involved in the practice.
The secrecy and silence surrounding the FGM makes it very difficult to talk to those actually involved.
The result is that people have come to believe that FGM is not that widely practiced in this country.
The fact is that, even if it is only a few people who practice FGM, the risk of HIV infection cannot be overlooked and the challenges faced to stop the epidemic could be increased if the practice remains underground and those carrying it out not informed about the dangers of spreading HIV and their contribution to it.
Teachers Blame Commission for Delayed Allowances
The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)
February 14, 2006
Posted to the web February 14, 2006
Teachers in the country have blamed the Teacher Service Commission (TSC), education department and the Malawi National Examination Board (MANEB) for delaying their examination invigilation allowances. This is contrary to earlier media reports that they had already been given their dues.
Amongst the group of teachers complaining about the development are teachers from Lilongwe Rural West and those from Lilongwe Central West divisions who have accused their District Education Managers (DEM) of a lack of transparency on MANEB JCE and MSCE 2005 invigilation and supervision allowances that they say have not been honored to date.
Among other things, the teachers are claiming that they were not paid in full and that the little they got was based on "ill information" as most of them were supposed to be paid as commuting officers, but they were paid as residential officers. "Imagine, I was assigned to invigilate at Malingunde, 24 km away from my school and transport was costing me K150 everyday. The exams ran from 10 October to 3 November 2005 but what I got back for transport allowance at the end of the whole exercise was K110 only, instead of K150 x 11 days," explained one of the teachers from Likuni Girls Secondary School.
He added that there were several other irregularities namely; residential officers were mistakenly paid as commuters; the invigilators and supervisors were also supposed to get extra payment for the extra MSCE examination period, i.e. from 29 October to 2 November 2005.
The teachers said they had been forwarding their claims in writing to their respective DEM offices but the latter, they said, had always pushed the blame on MANEB.
The Lilongwe Rural West DEM officer, Mr. Hausi, acknowledged the problem but said the teachers were being impatient. He, however, dismissed as a lie the claims that the teachers did not get their allowances for practical exams. "They are lying," he charged: "They got their practical allowances in full. On the residential and commuting problem, it is all their own fault because they were identified as commuters but they, on their own, chose to be residing at the centers. "These teachers' main problem is impatience. They applied for the settlement of their claims and we told them we are liaising with MANEB to see how we can best sort the matter out, and that's what we are doing." said Hausi.
The Malawi National Examination Board (MANEB) too acknowledged the matter two weeks ago but, again, said the problem was with the teachers' submission. "The mistake was in the teachers' submission, however, we have liaised with the DEMs and the teachers will get their dues next week" the Board's Executive Director, Mathews Matemba," said.
Matemba, however, distanced the Board from any involvement in the payment of the Practical exams allowances saying it is the DEM office's responsibility.
However, the teachers had not yet received their dues as we went to press last Saturday.
MCP District Chairman Defends Majoni
The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)
February 14, 2006
Posted to the web February 14, 2006
Malawi Congress Party (MCP) Lilongwe District Chairman Gideon Kawela has described as 'untrue', allegations that the party's Central Region Chairman Betson Majoni has brought confusion in the party.
Kawela was reacting to an allegation by MCP Member of Parliament for Lilongwe North East Ted Kalebe recently that Majoni was brewing trouble in his constituency and antagonizing party colleagues.
He said if indeed Majoni was a confusionist as was being said, the party would not have scooped almost all the parliamentary seats in the Central Region. "We attribute our success in the 2004 general elections to the hardworking spirit of Majoni as Regional Chairman with the support of our President John Tembo. If he was a confusionist we would not have performed like that," said Kawela The District Chairman said Majoni was an experienced politician elected to his present position from branch level and it is therefore not true that he was an appointee as Kalebe claimed.
Kawela said he was aware that such allegations were coming from people who do not wish the party well.
He, however, challenged the accusers saying that MCP, guided by Kamuzu's four corner stones, which are Unity, Obedience, Loyalty and Discipline, will remain a powerful political party in the country.
Kawela also warned those who organize meetings without the knowledge of the District Committee saying this is providing a platform to bring confusion in the party. He however declined to mention the culprits. "MCP has a policy that whoever wants to organize a meeting has to consult the District Committee to obtain its blessings. If anyone acts against this policy then, I'm afraid he is not true to our party," he said Kalebe has been at the centre of the turmoil in MCP politics since last month when party president John Tembo accused him, alongside Lilongwe Nsinja North MP Bintony Kutsaira of bringing confusion in the party through their dealings with the Centre for Multiparty Democracy (CMD) Meanwhile Tembo has removed the two from the CMD and has replaced them with loyalists, Lilongwe City South East MP Respicious Dzanjalimodzi and the party's Deputy Administrative Secretary, Potipher Chidaya.
RBM to mint K5, K10 coins
by Taonga Sabola, 14 February 2006 - 05:27:53
The Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM) on Monday unveiled plans to introduce into circulation K5 and K10 coins before the end of this year.
RBM spokesperson Henry Mathanga said the move has become necessary to contain the problem of deterioration of K5 and K10 banknotes which are the most frequently used notes in circulation.
"We noted that most K5 and K10 notes that are being used are very dirty and they deteriorate over a period of time," said Mathanga.
He also said the decision to have coins will help the country to save foreign exchange used to print the banknotes in other countries.
"We have been losing a lot of money through printing the notes time and again as we would like to have only clean notes in circulation," said Mathanga.
He could, however, not give the exact date when the coins will come into circulation saying everything will depend on the people responsible for making the coins.
The introduction of K5 and K10 coins will come at a time when most Malawians' love with coins has diminished.
Nowadays people rarely use coins to buy things and they are only used for giving out change for purchased items.
In May 2004, the central bank issued a statement warning commercial banks and some traders that refusing to trade in coin denominations is illegal under the Reserve Bank Act.
Reacting to the RBM statement, commercial banks*through the Bankers Association of Malawi*challenged the central bank to produce evidence to substantiate its accusations.
Economic commentator Kondwani Mlilima said the introduction of K5 and K10 coins will activate the use of coins amongst Malawians as they will now be able to buy something with the coins.
Former RBM Governor Elias Ngalande, who issued the statement warning traders against refusing coin transactions, said in June 2004 that the country still needs coin denominations for transactions until government changes its policy on coins.
Kwacha depreciates by 6%
by Frank Phiri, 15 February 2006 - 06:16:02
The Malawi kwacha has since January to Tuesday depreciated by 6.25 percent against the US dollar as high demand continues to outstrip supply on the forex market amid low official reserves, currency traders have confirmed.
The traders said they expected the local currency to continue weakening until the start of tobacco sales at the auction floors.
Tobacco revenue accounts for about 70 percent of the country's total foreign exchange earnings.
"We expect the kwacha to continue depreciating, but this will be at a slower rate as compared to the previous 20 days or so," said Lusekelo Kaoloka, vice president for the Dealers Association of Malawi (Deama)*a professional grouping of financial market players.
Kaoloka estimated that the kwacha had cumulatively depreciated by 5.9 percent as of Friday before wobbling further to 6.25 percent at noon on Tuesday.
She said demand for foreign currency remains high on the market amid low supplies due to inadequate inflows since tobacco sales are off season.
The Tobacco Control Commission (TCC) on Tuesday indicated that a decision to open the auction floors would be made on Wednesday when final estimates are due from the fields.
In recent years, the floors have opened earlier to cushion the local currency from further shocks.
Published minutes of the 52nd meeting of the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) indicated on Monday that gross official reserves had fallen to US$122 million or two-months of import cover on January 25 from US$154.3 million in December.
The current import cover falls below the required minimum of three months.
MPC indicated that net foreign assets (NFA) of the Reserve Bank of Malawi are within their target of K5.2 billion (about US$40.32 million) by K50.3 million (about US$390,000).
The NFA is one of the targets to be fulfilled under the International Monetary Fund's Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF) lending arrangement with government.
Forex dealers quoted the kwacha as trading at 131.5222 (middle rate) to the dollar as of Tuesday morning.
Muluzi, agent ordered to pay Finance Bank K93 million
by Olivia Kumwenda, 15 February 2006 - 06:36:13
The High Court in Blantyre on Friday ordered that Atupele Properties Limited owned by former President Bakili Muluzi and Knight Frank Limited, agents of the company, to pay K93 million (about US $715,000) to the closed Finance Bank, courts records have indicated.
The money is a repayment of a debt incurred when Atupele Properties got a K50 million (about US $385,000) loan from the bank in 2004 and the amount has over the years increased due to interest.
Finance Bank sued the defendants last month demanding payment of the money and got an injunction restraining Knight Frank from paying any other persons except secured creditors before the bank is paid.
The records show that the Friday court order came after both parties through their lawyers agreed on terms to settle the matter.
"By consent of the parties hereto it is ordered and directed that the order for injunction obtained on the 30th January 2006 herein be and is hereby discharged and vacated," reads the consent order delivered by Judge George Chimasula Phiri.
The order continued to say that the vacation of the injunction is on condition that Knight Frank makes an interim payment of K50 million (US $385,000) to the bank forthwith and that the balance of K43 million ( about US $330,000) be paid by Atupele properties in full not later than 30th August, 2006.
The records also indicate that the matter, where lawyers Dick Chagwamnjira and David Kanyenda were representing the plaintiff and defendants respectively, has since been stayed.
According to an affidavit filed by Chagwamnjira both Atupele Properties and Knight Frank are liable for the debt as Atupele Properties is a principal debtor and Knight Frank is an agent who offered professional advice on which the bank relied upon.
The affidavit indicate that when Atupele Properties failed to pay the debt which was called upon, the agents (Knight Frank) promised payment through the sale of Keza Office Park, one of Muluzi's properties.
"Until now the money has not been paid and despite the promise by the 2nd defendant that once Keza Office Park has been sold they will clear the whole debt, the 2nd defendant are now refusing to pay the sums as promised," partly reads the affidavit filed last month.
The consent order granted on Friday put to rest a matter where the bank was suing Muluzi, his wife Shanil and brother Friday on the same issue.
VSO Malawi gets 8 new volunteers
by Leonard Sharra, 15 February 2006 - 07:03:17
The number of Voluntary Services Oversees (VSO) volunteers working in Malawi has now reached 94 following the coming in of eight new volunteers, who are expected to assist in the fields of health, education, Information and Communication Technology (ICT), HIV and Aids and other fields.
The new volunteers arrived in the country on February 5 before going for a five-day orientation workshop at Riverside Hotel in Lilongwe.
On Thursday evening, VSO hosted a dinner for the volunteers alongside their front-line managers and other stakeholders at the Hotel.
Speaking during the dinner, VSO Malawi director Jill Healey expressed hope that the visitors would find their two-year stay in Malawi enjoyable, as has been the case with their predecessors.
"Most of the volunteers who have been to Malawi have gone back home with fond memories and we hope it will be the same with this group. It is not easy for somebody to adapt to a new environment but we expect Malawians to give these people all the support they will need," said Healey.
The volunteers are from United Kingdom, America, Germany and Holland. According to Healey, most of them are experts in health and HIV and Aids fields.
"We agreed with the Department for International Development (DFID) and the Health Ministry that we should bring in more health experts because of the acute shortage of health personnel in the country," said Healey.
Yvonne OpdeWeegn from Holland, who will be working as HIV and Aids programme advisor at Transport and General Workers Union in Blantyre said she was excited to be in Malawi.
"It will be an exciting experience and I am eager to learn about Malawi and its people," she said.
Chihana accuses Mutharika for firing Chilumpha
by Chester Nyirongo, 15 February 2006 - 06:37:29
Aford President Chakufwa Chihana has bashed President Bingu Mutharika for firing Vice President Cassim Chilumpha saying both were elected on the same ticket during 2004 elections and none had the mandate to sack the other.
The Aford leader expressed his concern Sunday during a rally the party held at Katoto Freedom Park. Chihana said the President should have talked with his Vice before making the decision.
"Go and tell everybody that the (Republican) Constitution does not mandate the President to fire his Vice as it is done in Kenya. The two (Mutharika and Chilumpha) were both elected on one ticket as president and running mate hence none can fire the other.
"If I were the vice president, I would call a press conference the day after receiving the letter of dismissal announcing that I have also fired him (the president), because the Constitution is very clear on pages 42, 43 and 44 that the President cannot remove his vice," Chihana told people present at the rally.
At the rally, Chihana refuted media reports that he had resigned from party politics.
"How could someone in Lilongwe know about my resignation when my family and party members have never had discussions on the matter?" he asked.
He said when time for his resignation comes, he would officially inform his party and that after his resignation he would request the party to make him an advisor just as party national chairman Chipimpha Mughogho is.
Also speaking during the rally, the party's second vice president Beatrice Mwale claimed the budget to be formulated for 2006/07 has not included any developmental issues of the Northern Region.
She said because the region has very little representation in the National Assembly. According to her, if the region strengthened Aford in parliament just like the Centre does with MCP, the region (North) could equally be considered in terms of development.
The rally was attended by senior party officials from all the three regions of Malawi.
MP thanks Bingu for allowances
by Edwin Nyirongo, 15 February 2006 - 06:38:13
Member of Parliament for Nkhata Bay Central Symon Vuwa Kaunda on Sunday thanked president Bingu wa Mutharika for the allowances he got on a trip to Sudan which he claimed has benefited his people.
Vuwa said this when he distributed free maize to elderly people in his constituency at the boma.
"The president took me on a trip to Sudan and I was given allowances. It is with these allowances that I have bought the maize I am distributing now and the president should be commended," he said.
Kaunda explained that he has emulated the president by sharing the allowances with his people through buying maize for them.
He brushed aside compliments from people that there is no hunger in the district because people grow cassava.
"There is acute shortage of hunger [sic] in the district and many people sleep on empty stomachs. So to say that there is food in the district is being unfair because even cassava is affected when there is drought," he said.
The MP wondered how some districts like Mzimba and Nkhota-kota who also plant cassava have benefited from free food distribution saying this proved that even in such places there is hunger.
He said he decided to buy maize for the people because he could not just watch them, especially the elderly, die as they wait for maize from the government.
He also noted that old people can not withstand the pressure from the queue at Admarc depots when the maize arrives there.
Vuwa also took advantage of the meeting to campaign for the 2009 general elections telling the people to vote for him for MP and Bingu wa Mutharika for president.
"There are good things I and the president are doing in the constituency. And for continuity's sake I urge you to vote for me in the 2009 parliamentary election and president Bingu wa Mutharika in the presidential elections," he said.
The maize valued K100,000.00 ( US $760) and part of the money came from Crop Save.
Agriculturists discuss hunger eradication
by Lucas Bottoman , 15 February 2006 - 07:06:07
Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation has urged its staff in all eight Agricultural Development Divisions (ADDs) to prepare proposals for making Malawi a hunger free nation.
Speaking on Monday during the official opening of a day-long management meeting in Lilongwe, Minister of Agriculture and Irrigation Uladi Mussa said Malawi cannot afford facing food crises almost every year when it has good soils, human expertise and financial resources that can be used to solve food insecurity.
Mussa challenged the participants to believe that Malawi can have food reserves for over a year or two.
He said the most encouraging thing is that there is strong political will with agriculture being given the largest allocation in the 2006 budget.
"The objective of this meeting is to come up with proposals that will take Malawi out of food insecurity problem," said Mussa who encouraged agricultural experts to bring suggestions that will make a difference in the sector.
He said one of things to be discussed during the meeting was to ensure that the ministry promotes growing of crops suitable for particular areas.
Zimbabwean women protesters held
About 200 women are in police custody in the Zimbabwe capital, Harare, after a protest on Tuesday over food prices and human rights violations.
The march in Harare on Tuesday followed a similar protest in the second city, Bulawayo, on Monday, where 181 people were detained overnight.
The protests came as inflation hit 613% - the second highest rate in its history and the current world highest.
Zimbabwe's economy has been in sharp decline for more than six years.
'Restore our dignity'
Both marches were organised by the pressure group Women of Zimbabwe Arise (Woza).
Between 192 and 233 women demonstrators were arrested in Harare on Tuesday and remained in custody on Wednesday, Otto Saki of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights told the BBC News website by phone from Harare.
Several of them were reported to have babies with them as they were arrested.
The precise number was not clear since some women not involved in the protest were arrested at the same time, Mr Saki said.
"When some of the women were arrested and taken to the holding cells, some individuals were arrested on different charges - there was a joint operation that also netted vendors and some women alleged to be engaged in prostitution."
The 181 women arrested in Bulawayo on Monday were released when the attorney general declined to prosecute them, Mr Saki said.
Woza has tried to stage Valentine's Day protests since new security laws came into force in 2002, but its efforts had previously been thwarted by police.
Under the laws, public demonstrations require police clearance and unauthorised gatherings are frequently broken up.
Tuesday's protesters distributed red roses and Valentine's Day cards in central Harare.
"We were marching to say we want more than day-to-day survival," Woza spokeswoman Jenni Williams told AFP news agency.
"To coincide with Valentine's Day we were saying we want roses and the dignity they stand for and bread in the form of affordable food for everyone."
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