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  • Christine Chumbler
    Opposition Bashes Govt Over Hunger Situation The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe) February 20, 2006 Posted to the web February 20, 2006 Kondwani Magombo Lilongwe
    Message 1 of 1046 , Feb 22, 2006
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      Opposition Bashes Govt Over Hunger Situation

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      February 20, 2006
      Posted to the web February 20, 2006

      Kondwani Magombo

      The Malawi Congress Party (MCP) MP for Lilongwe City Central Constituency, Boniface Kadzamira has challenged the government on the way it has handled the hunger situation in the country, alleging the Bingu wa Mutharika administration has failed to address the problem.

      Kadzamira said in an interview with The Chronicle that the government promised the nation in March 2005 that maize would be in abundance in the country by July 2005 but he said this has not been the case and that people are still starving because there is no grain in the ADMARC depots. "The truth as to why the government doesn't want Parliament to meet is that it is afraid of being exposed on how it has failed to handle the hunger situation in terms of relief food and distribution and the fertilizer subsidy programme. "The government knows it will be at pains to explain why many areas haven't started receiving relief maize despite the huge allocation of MK5.2 billion Parliament made," Kadzamira said.

      On the fertilizer programme, Kadzamira said he would want the government to explain why the coupons are in the hands of vendors whom he said buy and sell the essential farm input right at the gate of Smallholder Farmers Fertilizer Revolving Fund of Malawi (SFFRFM) at high price. "These are some of the issues we wanted to raise in parliament and there is no better time than this when the problem is at its peak.

      Besides, Parliament and hunger have respective budgets approved by the House," he said.

      But the Minister of Agriculture Uladi Mussa said in an interview that maize was coming into the country and that his ministry was doing all it could to ensure that there is a large supply of it in the country.

      Mussa described the opposition's remarks as being unfair. "We gave tenders to companies to supply us with maize and as I am speaking to you now we have received 8 000 metric tons and we are getting more from Tanzania and South Africa," Mussa said and added, "We are expecting 31,000 thousand metric tons for commercial and 56 000 tons for relief." The Minister stressed that by the third week of February over 15 000 tons would have arrived in the country.

      But the MCP President John Tembo again challenged the criteria the government is using in distributing maize in the country "There is no maize in the central region ask them (government) why is maize found in some districts and not other districts? What criteria are they using? What they are doing is playing with people's lives. You don't play with people's lives!" Tembo was quoted as saying in an exclusive interview with The Chronicle reporter in the issue of 6-12 February 2006.

      Institute for Policy Interaction (IPI), Executive Director, Rafiq Hajat, who described the withholding of the sitting, especially at this time when there is a lot of burning issues to table, as a violation of the constitution. "There is no reason government can give for delaying Parliament sitting. There is a special provision for Parliament which is drawn from the Protected Funds as per clearly stipulated in section 183 subsection 3c of the Constitution," he said in a separate interview, adding that there is a lot of issues like the hunger situation and the MTL sale that gives more ground for the august House to meet as soon as possible.

      The government spokesperson Patricia Kaliati was quoted in The Nation of Friday, 3 February 2006 as saying that the government would rather use the MK56mil allocated for Parliament to purchase maize for the ordinary people.

      But in an interview with The Chronicle, Kaliati said if people find it a priority for the House to convene, there was no problem. "What I am saying is that people should weigh the two, Parliament and hunger. If they feel Parliament it is a priority at this point in time, fair and good - let the House meet," she said, and added, "it is all up to the Speaker, why should I speak on his behalf?"


      Kwacha Depreciation to Push Fuel Prices Up

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      February 20, 2006
      Posted to the web February 20, 2006

      Charles Chisi

      Consumers should brace for more tough times ahead as the recent Kwacha depreciation is likely to push fuel prices up, an economic expert has warned.

      Malawi Economic Justice Network (MEJN) acting national director, Mabvuto Bamusi in an interview Wednesday said the depreciation of the Kwacha against major currencies is a catalyst to an increase in fuel prices. "Fuel is charged in dollars and if our currency is losing value to it then it means we have to cough a lot more of the local currency to meet the cost. This scenario will in turn have an impact on fuel prices," said Bamusi.

      Bamusi said even in the absence of the currency failure, there is a possibility that fuel prices might go up because the Petroleum Pricing Committee (PPC) has always argued that fuel prices in the country are too low to march with importation costs. "Fuel prices can go up any time regardless of the Kwacha failure because PPC has argued that the current prices are too low to march with importation costs. This depreciation will just provide a loophole for that," he said.

      Petroleum Importers Limited General Manager, Robert Mdeza concurred with Bamusi's sentiments saying it would be very difficult to operate under the current fuel prices because importation costs have gone up due to the Kwacha depreciation.

      He said the Petroleum pricing committee met last week to review fuel prices in the wake of the Kwacha depreciation and the proposal was submitted to Government for its approval. "It's obvious that fuel prices might go up," said Mdeza. "We can not maintain the same prices when the Kwacha has slumped to K131 against a Dollar. This will be a very unhealthy environment for business," he added.

      Efforts to talk to PPC Chairman, Chancellor Kaferapanjira proved futile as he was reportedly abroad.

      Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe, too, could not be reached for comment when The Chronicle wanted to find out government's position on the PPC's proposal.

      Fuel prices went up by an average 4.54% in November last year, a development the Consumer Association of Malawi (CAMA) described as regrettable as it would push the cost of living in the short and medium term.


      Opposition Plots Grand 2009 Coalition

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      February 20, 2006
      Posted to the web February 20, 2006

      Arnold Mnelemba

      Major opposition parties in the country are strategising to form a grand opposition coalition in a bid to oust President Bingu wa Mutharika and his Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) at the ballot box in 2009.

      Opposition officials say the parties involved are, the Malawi Congress Party (MCP), the United Democratic Front (UDF), Alliance for Democracy (AFORD) and the New Republican Party (NRP).

      UDF National Organising Secretary Morris Kachimbwinda confirmed this at a constituency committee meeting that took place at Lilongwe City South West constituency last weekend.

      Kachimbwinda told a meeting of all UDF supporters that UDF is out of government but not down as some people are saying.

      Kachimbwinda told the UDF supporters that he thinks former President Bakili Muluzi will be the right candidate to lead the coalition. "As you may recall, Muluzi was in MCP and faced a lot of oppression from Kamuzu Banda, and he survived. This time, Mutharika is causing a lot of problems to him but he will still survive until 2009 general elections,' said Kachimbwinda.

      Kachimbwinda said Muluzi cannot quit active politics because, he said party supporters would like him to lead the party for as long as he is alive.

      MCP President John Tembo was non committal on the issue of a grand coalition when asked; saying 2009 was still far away to start thinking of coalitions.

      MCP publicity secretary Nicholas Dausi said: "We have not talked to any party for a coalition; our party goes by what we discuss at party meetings and not what someone is saying somewhere. It is but very early to start talking about 2009 election, let us wait until we get there," said Dausi.

      Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) publicist Hetherwick Ntaba said his party would still win the 2009 general election even if parties form coalitions.

      UDF spokesperson Sam Mpasu contradicted Kachimbwinda on the party's presidential candidate, saying a party convention will elect the candidate.


      Sanitation Policy to Help Achieving MDGs

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      February 20, 2006
      Posted to the web February 20, 2006

      Gregory Gondwe

      Government says the National Sanitation Policy currently being drawn up will help government achieve some the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) upon completion mid this year.

      Irrigation and Water Development Minister Sidik Mia told a regional conference recently that drew together about sixteen countries from Eastern and Southern Africa which were trying to put in place better standards of school sanitation. "The Malawi Government through my Ministry has initiated the process of developing the National Sanitation Policy, which will assist Government to address the challenges, which this subsector is facing," he said, adding: "School sanitation will comprehensively be articulated and be part of this policy...We are all aspiring to reaching the Millennium Development Goals, which we all have attested to." Speaking at the same function, UNICEF Resident Representative Aida Girma said Water; Sanitation and hygiene promotion interventions are very critical components in achieving the Millennium Development Goals. "The action identified at the various levels are those that will contribute to the achievement of Millennium Development Goal 2 on universal primary education, MDG3 on gender equality in education, and MGD7 on environmental sustainability," said Girma.

      She said in January 2005, more than 100 ministers and other senior officials from eight developing countries and international and non-governmental organisation gathered in Oxford to discuss barriers to education related to water and sanitation.

      Girma said in order to ensure that by 2015 all schools receive a basic package of water, sanitation and hygiene education, participants identified several actions at various levels. "Delivering this package in an efficient, effective and sustainable manner requires close collaboration between education, environment and health sectors, at all levels. It also means addressing gender gaps and disparity between rich and poor," said Girma.

      The Water Minister said the theme of the regional meeting "Scaling up School Sanitation and Hygiene Education- with quality" is particularly important for Malawi because at less than 30% for improved sanitation facilities, the national coverage of sanitation services is still low. "Government is trying to enhance its efforts to strengthen and promote school sanitation and hygiene education. The initiative in Malawi started with pilot projects in Nkhatabay and Kasungu districts," he said.

      Mia said these activities have been scaled up to now twelve districts covering about 10 schools. "It is pleasing to note that with collaborative efforts donors such as DFID and UNICEF the initiative is likely to cover 900 schools in 22 districts," he said.

      Mia observed that school sanitation and hygiene education enhances and strengthens retention rates at schools particularly for the girls. "Secondly, it makes the child understand what expected of him/her as he/she grows, as this becomes part of their behaviour," said Mia.

      The strategic actions, which will emanate from this workshop, will go along way in addressing obstacles and challenges facing the sanitation and hygiene education in our countries.


      WFP Predicts Bumper Harvest

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      February 20, 2006
      Posted to the web February 20, 2006

      Gregory Gondwe

      The World Food Programme (WFP) Executive Director Tim Morris who made a three day official visit to Malawi to ascertain the hunger situaation and humanitarian assistance has predicted a bumper yield this year. "As you look outside, you can see that everyone is quite optimistic about what the harvest might look like. Over the next few months this has the potential to be a very substantial harvest for Malawi," said Morris to the media before departure at the Kamuzu International Airport in Lilongwe.

      He acknowledged that Malawi has had a very tough weather conditions in the past years which has brought about famine but said the good news is that during the current farming season there is good rains and people are optimistic. "The WFP together with the group of NGOs and DFID our friends from the unity working with the government have managed pipelines over the last several months that have essentially provided food to about 4.8 million people who were required food assistance," said Morris. "The good news is that by and large food has been made available to barely everyone in the country who was in need; a major loss of life and famine has been avoided," he added.

      A former Member of Rumphi District Local Assembly, who was councillor for Bumba Ward Elizabeth Gondwe, however, said it was not true to say that maize has virtually reached all who were in need. "As I am talking to you right now, we are sleeping on empty stomachs not necessarily because we have no money but we cannot access maize," she said "you cannot expect the ADMARC depot here to carter for all the multitude that gathers here every time they hear the maize has arrived." She warned that there could be a major loss of life if alternative means will not be identified.

      Morris said the country need to set its sight into the future to establish better approach to end the seemingly perennial drought conditions.

      He said under the strong leadership and advocacy and responsibility in the government to look at the long time issues of water and sanitation, irrigation and food security as well as agricultural development both in the context of feeding population and as an economic development tool the country can achieve this. "I am very impressed with government commitment and extraordinary plans to irrigate many more acres over the next year, which is a fundamental investment in the basic agriculture infrastructure, and it is so credibly important, and it will be powerful forever," he declared.

      He said the international donor community has provided enough resources to see that the 19 million people who were in risk of hunger and serious food insecurity across the Southern Africa. "The donor community has by and large been very generous and done its job; we have received much of what we need," he said.

      Nonetheless, Morris added that they still need some additional help but to cover up some shortfalls.

      He said out of the initial budget of some where between $350 and $400 million there are still some needs of about $60 million y.

      He said the situation has turned out this way because WFP have special needs in Zambia to feed 72, 000 refugees from Angola and the Congo. "We've had to cut the rations in half, much like the plight of orphans the plight of refugees is very very serious, and it helps to cut rations because we don't have enough resources available," he said.

      Malawi was hardest hit by hunger as Morris said in Zambia food aid was targeting slightly more than a million people while 835, 000 people in Mozambique, 111 000 people needy children and orphans in Namibia, 245, 000 people in Lesotho and slightly the same number of people in Swaziland needed humanitarian assistance.


      Tembo Shoots Down Proposal

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      February 20, 2006
      Posted to the web February 20, 2006

      Arnold Mnelemba

      Malawi Congress Party (MCP) President John Tembo has brushed aside calls from the party's Members of Parliament (MPs) urging him to start grooming MCP shadow Finance Minister and MP for Lilongwe City South West Raspicious Dzanjalimodzi for his successor in a bid to strengthen the party as part of strategising prior to 2009 general elections.

      Tembo said in an exclusive interview with The Chronicle that he has no capacity to groom Dzanjalimodzi for his successor on basis that the party's constitution does not provide for that process.

      The MCP president confirmed to have received the letter from MCP members but fervidly refused to take action on that saying he has no mandate to do so and that he will not at all cost groom Dzanjalimodzi. "We do not have a provision in MCP constitution for anybody to groom somebody to succeed him, we don't. The people, membership of the party throughout the country is responsible for choosing leaders. I think you are young, during a convention in Zomba, Ngwazi Dr. Kamuzu Banda responded to rumours like that when some people were saying he was grooming Mama to succeed him, he said 'am I a fool to groom anybody, I will never groom anybody, the responsibility of choosing leaders in this country lies in you through a convention. That's what he told us," said Tembo.

      He added, "Who am I to change what Ngwazi said, I will groom nobody, no!" Tembo warned all members of the party against being hypocritical saying it will only be wise and proper for them to quit the party than fooling people that they are MCP while in true sense they are members of Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). "I would like to tell all MPs to come out clear and quit the party like Sithole has done if they want to go. It is not good for them to be pretending, they should stop pretending," said Tembo.

      Recently, a caucus of concerned MCP MPs wrote a strongly worded letter asking their president John Tembo that he needs to make way for a successor that would bring the party back to winning form.

      In the letter, the MPs urged Tembo to start grooming Dzanjalimodzi as the party's candidate in the 2009 presidential elections because he (Tembo) is incapable of winning.

      The disgruntled MCP members stressed in the letter that they are of the opinion that Tembo took over the leadership of the party from the backdoor saying he lacks leadership skills, the reason they attributed Kamuzu Banda's 'wise' decision to sideline Tembo and anoint the New Republican Party (NRP) president Gwanda Chakuamba as his successor. In 1997 at a party convention in Mzuzu Chakuamba beat Tembo in the elections there and went on to repeat the feat again in several challenges that Tembo insisted on.


      CRECCOM Introduces PSSP Project in Dowa

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      February 20, 2006
      Posted to the web February 20, 2006

      Happy Saka

      Creative Center for Community Mobilization (CRECCOM), one of the non-profitable organisations which aims at improving the standard of education in the country is set to launch an education project in Dowa to reduce the high school drop-out rate in the district.

      Deputy Chief of Party of American Institute for Research, Cassandra Jessee, told The Chronicle in an interview that the project, Primary School Support Project (PSSP) would assist to boost up the standard of education in the district.

      Jessee said the new project is expected to cover 233 schools in all 13-education zones in Dowa district.

      She observed that Dowa is one of the districts in Malawi with a high number of school drop-outs, citing poor infrastructure and poor learning materials as the main contributing factor.

      She added that the project would improve the standard of primary education by providing good learning materials and would improve the teaching standard. "Our aim is to improve education here in Dowa district and we hope that this project will encourage more children to go back to school because most of primary schools will soon have enough learning materials," she said.

      Welcoming the new project, District Commissioner for Dowa, Felix Sapala said the project has come at a right time when people in the district have realized the importance of education.

      According to Jessee, one of the objectives of the project is to increase access to basic education and improve learning with special focus on orphans, vulnerable children, girls and children with special needs, and increase resources at primary school level.

      The project is funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and American Institute For Research (AIR), in partnership with Creative Center for Community Mobilization (CRECCOM).

      The project that started early January this year is expected to end in December 2008.


      Gondwe ready to serve as Veep
      by Mabvuto Banda, 22 February 2006 - 07:49:11
      Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe says he is ready to serve as Vice-President if President Bingu wa Mutharika appoints him to take over Cassim Chilumpha's position now contested in court.
      "Nobody has said that to me but the President is the one who brought me into politics. Every time he has asked me to do something for him, I have done it* If he wants me to serve in that capacity I would," Gondwe said Tuesday.
      Gondwe, a former World Bank economist, has been the mastermind behind the country's new aid package from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) after three years of suspension because of his strict fiscal measures.
      Three ministers revealed that cabinet debated last Thursday on who should be appointed acting Vice-President should need arise. Gondwe's name came up because of his track record.
      "But we could not agree because some of us felt that we should wait for the court decision on the injunction granted to Chilumpha and others wanted us to go ahead. [We] later resolved that we should wait for the court case," said one minister.
      Another minister who attended the Thursday meeting said another senior minister (name withheld) asked cabinet to consider concerns coming from the diplomatic community who are not happy with government's decision to ignore court orders.
      Attorney-General Ralph Kasambara on Tuesday dismissed assertions that cabinet met and discussed the appointment of Gondwe as the VP-designate. Kasambara also said it is not true that cabinet agreed to wait for the injunction to be lifted before Gondwe could assume the position.
      "It's not true that we have discussed that in cabinet*We don't have anyone in mind," he said.
      When asked why on Monday he asked Judge Anaclet Chipeta to vacate the injunction to allow government to appoint someone else, Kasambara insisted that government has no one in mind.
      "Our position is that we don't appoint anyone until the court removes the injunction and that does not mean there is someone," he said.
      Chilumpha has assembled about nine lawyers to prove that the President has no constitutional powers to fire him following Mutharika's move to accept his vice's "constructive resignation".
      The President, in a letter to Chilumpha, cited five grounds that led cabinet to construe that the veep had abandoned his duties and therefore resigned from his post.
      Chilumpha, on the other hand, argues in his court affidavits that he has evidence that the President was aware about his housing problem and that government victimised him by cutting his budget to stop him from attending cabinet and other state functions.
      According to the Constitution, the office of the Vice-President can only be vacant if the he/she dies, is incapacitated, dies or resigns.


      Experts differ on learning in mother tongue
      by Isaac Masingati, 22 February 2006 - 08:16:34
      Education experts have warned that if not properly handled, teaching children in their local languages as government proposes could affect pupils ability to grasp issues at a later stage.
      The comments came as Malawi joined the international community in commemorating the International Day for Mother Languages yesterday with reference to a government policy that lower primary school pupils should learn in their mother tongue.
      Teachers Union of Malawi (TUM) secretary general Lucien Chikadza said Malawi does not have a specific local language and telling people to learn in their mother languages could bring chaos.
      He said such a policy would end up in having teachers transferred to their places of birth and therefore resulting in poor distribution of human resources.
      "Are we saying every teacher should go where he comes from? What about those areas with many children but few teachers?" queried Chikhadza.
      Chikadza also said Chichewa, which is popularly used across the country, has a shallow vocabulary to reflect actual meanings of words and terms in English.
      Communications Director for the Creative Centre for Community Mobilisation (Creccom) * an NGO for quality basic education in the country * George Jobe said while it would be appropriate to teach children in their local languages as one of Creccom's surveys indicated, the policy had transition problems.
      Jobe said it would be difficult for pupils who were learning in Chichewa up to standard four to just switch to English in standard five.
      "Our worry is on transition mechanism. Unless the policy looks into this, we will have problems because the children will not have time to prepare," he said.
      Jobe said another problem would be on learning materials which would require to be re-written in local languages.
      He said if haphazardly done, the exercise would affect children negatively, saying children learn languages better at a younger age and introducing to them English at a later stage could deter their comprehension of the language.
      But director of inspectorate in the ministry of education Matilda Kabuye said government was sealing all loopholes to ensure proper implementation once the policy is ready.
      "That is why the policy is not yet out. We are looking into all those issues," said Kabuye.
      Kabuye said in the urban sector teachers would be allowed to sandwich a bit of English with a popular local language in the area, and that in rural areas teachers would do the same as pupils reach standard three to prepare the children for English in standard five.
      But she said the whole process would be costly because it would require special training of teachers and provision of specially produced learning and teaching materials.
      Malawi is working on a policy aimed at teaching children at lower primary school classes of standard one to four in their mother tongue.


      Zimbabwe police arrest 43 on Mugabe's birthday

      Harare, Zimbabwe

      22 February 2006 08:24

      Police in the Zimbabwean capital Harare arrested 43 demonstrators who tried to march to President Robert Mugabe's offices on his birthday to demand a new Constitution, local reports said.

      The 43, all members of the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA), were late on Tuesday being detained at Harare Central police station, said lawyer Alec Muchadehama.

      All but one of the detained are women, he said.

      "They [the police] have not advised them what charges they are likely to face," Muchadehama told Deutsche Presse-Agentur in a telephone interview. It would appear that the police are alleging that they were demonstrating illegally.

      Mugabe celebrated his 82nd birthday on Tuesday amid worsening economic hardships in Zimbabwe.

      In a statement, the NCA alleged that some of the demonstrators were beaten.

      The NCA has regularly staged anti-government marches in recent years, earning the group the wrath of the police and the authorities. Under tough security laws, all organisers of demonstrations are supposed to seek police clearance several days
      in advance.

      "The NCA would like to express its deep concern over the manner in which the police today brutally assaulted NCA female members who had demonstrated as President Mugabe was celebrating his 82nd birthday," said the group's chairperson Lovemore Madhuku.

      "The NCA will not be deterred by such intimidating tactics. We will not get out of the streets unless our goal is achieved," he added. Madhuku said the women had marched from a bus terminus towards Mugabe's offices to "tell him that they want a Constitution that protects, among other things, women's rights".

      There was no immediate confirmation of the arrests from the police. - Sapa-DPA
    • Christine Chumbler
      ADB firm on Karonga-Chitipa road contract by Zainah Liwanda, 22 May 2006 - 06:09:17 The African Development Bank (ADB) has again rejected a proposal by
      Message 1046 of 1046 , May 22, 2006
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        ADB firm on Karonga-Chitipa road contract

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


        Chihana operated on

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

        Mughogho is now in charge of the party.

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


        Pillane proposes presidential age limit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


        Mussa hails new driving licence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


        UDF demands investigation on Kasambara

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


        Zambia: Malawians Grab Zambian Land

        The Times of Zambia (Ndola)

        May 18, 2006

        Posted to the web May 19, 2006

        Andrew Lungu


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

        The Zimbabwean traders were warned and cautioned and later released.

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



        Zim unions, MDC still plan anti-govt protests

        Harare, Zimbabwe

        22 May 2006 11:51

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

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

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

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

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

        Opposition protests

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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