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  • Christine Chumbler
    Ministers allowances up by 50 percent by Edwin Nyirongo, 23 February 2006 - 07:35:55 Government has increased subsistence allowances for cabinet ministers by
    Message 1 of 1046 , Feb 23, 2006
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      Ministers allowances up by 50 percent
      by Edwin Nyirongo, 23 February 2006 - 07:35:55
      Government has increased subsistence allowances for cabinet ministers by 50 percent effective this month, a move the opposition and civil society have described as unjustifiable.
      Ministers will now be receiving K15,000 per day from K10,000.
      Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe justified the increase saying the cost of accommodation and food have gone up and ministers were struggling to survive a night.
      "The increase is necessary because hotels have raised tariffs and ministers who go to Blantyre have got to use their own extra money in order to survive a night," he said.
      Gondwe also said the total increase is less than K1 million per month and would have no effect on the budget.
      Asked why government did not wait until the hunger that has currently affected the country is over to implement the change, the Finance Minister said the ministers have to travel even during this time of hunger.
      "You see, even now during the time of hunger, people have to travel to do their work outside their working places so waiting for the hunger to finish is not fine," he said.
      On why others like civil servants and Parliament have had their allowances not increased, Gondwe said government is also looking into their plight.
      Malawi Economic and Justice Network (Mejn) acting executive Director Mabvuto Bamusi said the increase is unjustifiable because it was not budgeted for.
      "The Public Finance Management Act should be complied with. It states clearly that any increase should be budgeted for and I doubt if that
      happened," he said.
      Bamusi said cabinet ministers are taking advantage of their authority to award themselves allowance increases when they know that there is hunger and that no one can stop them from doing it.
      He said Mejn is not restricting ministers from travelling but that movements should be supported by available resources.
      United Democratic Front (UDF) leader in the house George Mtafu said government should raise allowances for everyone.
      "If government says food and hotels have gone up, then they should raise allowances for everyone because they also sleep in the same hotels and eat the same food," he said.
      Mtafu said the executive is always finding excuses when they want to do things, citing the postponement of Parliament due to hunger. He wondered if the hunger is not affecting money that the ministers will get.
      Aford publicity secretary Norman Nyirenda accused government of being dishonest in arguing that the total increase is little. He said any money is needed in a poor country like Malawi.
      Nyirenda wondered why government is increasing allowances for ministers when it is saying there is no money for Parliament and civil servants because it is buying food for the people.
      "They talk about pulling up socks. Should we say this word is for other people and not ministers? They should know that this government is running on people's sympathy and if the sympathy runs out, it will go," he said.

      *****

      Bingu stops construction of Parliament
      by Mabvuto Banda, 23 February 2006 - 09:16:56
      President Bingu wa Mutharika has ordered an immediate audit on the construction of the K4 billion Parliament building in the capital city Lilongwe after he quizzed Henry Mussa, the minister in charge of the project, to explain how phase one of the project has already cost K72 million.
      Investigations reveal that the President summoned the Minister of Transport and Public Works to State House to explain how earthworks on a 66,000 square metre area could cost so much. Cabinet also asked him to explain the expenditure, sources disclosed.
      Mussa confirmed Wednesday that phase one has been halted and an audit has been instituted by the President and the Cabinet to explain how the work that has been done could cost K72 million.
      "I also insisted that we do have this audit so that we clear the mist and find out what really happened," said Mussa.
      "Just like anybody else this is taxpayers' money and there has to be transparency because K72 million is a lot of money*The nation needs to know and more so Cabinet wanted to know how levelling and cutting trees could cost that much," Mussa said.
      He said the problem is that most people do not understand the difference between civil engineering and clearing of a thick forest for a farm.
      "The work being done on this area is civil engineering work which involves cutting of trees, clearing the site, excavation of top soil, importing gravel soils, formation of building platform, car parking and road levels to engineers specification," Mussa explained.
      He said out of 10 bidders for Phase One, K72 million was the lowest bid and the highest bidder was K499 million.
      A report on the details of Phase One also shows that the lowest bidder was Plem Construction at K72 million, followed by Deco Limited bidding for K81 million and Terrastone Limited who pegged their bid at K90 million.
      The highest bidder, according to the report, was Chaser Construction & Engineering at K499 million. Other notable companies that bade for Phase One were Shire Limited whose bid was K113 million and Mota Engil at K132 million.
      Director of Public Procurement Bright Mangulama yesterday said a public tender was done on the construction of Parliament "and everything was handled as per regulations."
      Government is financing the project that started in December last year, with a billion kwacha contribution from the sale of MTL and K270 million from the Taiwanese government.
      President Mutharika decided to move into the $100 million New State House last year which housed Parliament chambers.
      Phase One of the project is due for completion in May this year.

      *****

      Govt for increased youth services
      by Isaac Masingati, 23 February 2006 - 08:20:10
      Government has asked reproductive health provider Banja La Mtsogolo to scale up its services to the youth for Malawi to achieve economic growth.
      Minister of economic planning and development David Faiti said this when he visited Banja La Mtsogolo youth drop-in-centres in Blantyre on Saturday.
      Faiti said the youth constitute 60 percent of the country's population and as such they have significant influence on the country's current development and the future.
      He therefore said it was important that NGOs, international partners and government ensure that the youth are provided with sexual and reproductive health information to reduce diseases and deaths among them.
      Faiti commended the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) for funding Banja La Mtsogolo to set up centres where the youth learn about reproductive health issues and participate in extracurricula activities.
      "This prevents the youths from enganging in risky sexual activities that also prevent them from contributing significantly to the economic development of our country," said Faiti.
      UNFPA country representative Esperance Fundira said HIV and Aids infection rate is highest among youths aged between 15 and 24 which raises the need to scale services that are targeted at youth reproductive health.
      Fundira said it was encouraging that girls are patronising drop-in centres and are actively participating in activities. He added that girls are six times more vulnerable to HIV and Aids than their male peers.
      "There is need to create a safe environment for our youths through income generating activities and addressing issues of stigma and wrong perception about condoms," said Fundira.
      BLM programme manager Walker Jiyani said his organisation was considering expanding its drop-in centre programme from the current 19 districts to the rest of the country.

      *****

      M'mbelwa warns chiefs on Mardef services
      by Francis Tayanjah-Phiri , 23 February 2006 - 08:19:12
      Mzimba's paramount Chief, Inkosi ya Makosi M'mbelwa, has vowed to punish any chief associated with charging fees for processing Malawi Rural Development Fund (Mardef) forms.
      M'mbelwa's warning comes amid allegations that some village heads and chiefs were demanding K500 for any form they process. The Mardef procedure demands that any application form bears an official stamp and signature of a chief.
      "No chief should charge anything for those forms. Stamping of those forms is part of a service chiefs are supposed to provide to their subjects and they should not take advantage of that to reap where they did not sow," said M'mbelwa, addressing a Mzimba District Stakeholders' Development meeting last Friday.
      Mzimba West parliamentarian Loveness Gondwe expressed concern during the forum that some chiefs allegedly demanded K500 tokens to process the loan forms. She said it was sad that very poor villagers were failing to access the loan facility because chiefs were demanding such money.
      In response, M'mbelwa said he had taken note of the allegations and warned all chiefs in the district to desist from penalizing poor villagers that way.
      "Actually if facilities such as Mardef are properly administered and many people have their poverty alleviated, it would be you chiefs who would benefit because your villages would be transformed. It will also be you chiefs who would take the credit if your people access the loans," said M'mbelwa.
      He said as paramount chief he would not hesitate to punish anyone involved in the said allegations, saying the facility was put in place to uplift the livelihoods of the poor.
      Gondwe said in an interview she had moved around many places in the district where villagers had expressed concern that some chiefs were demanding money for any form they process. She said she was amused that the paramount chief had taken up the concern and hoped that the practice would immediately be stopped.

      *****

      Bazuka says few Malawians benefit from water resourses
      by Felix Malamula, 23 February 2006 - 08:17:11
      The Minister of Lands, Physical Planning and Surveys Bazuka Mhango says Malawi has large water bodies like Lake Malawi but only few Malawians benefit from the resources.
      Speaking during a reception he hosted in honour of the delegation from the International Hydrographic Organisation (IHO) in Lilongwe on Monday, Mhango said it is important that all Malawians benefit from the water resources.
      "Large communities of Malawians depend on the waters but those around the lakes are benefiting the most," said Mhango.
      He said this is why government is coming up with the Shire/Zambezi Water Way project, so that every Malawian uses the waters adequately for the country's development.
      "The Shire/Zambezi Waterway would help improve our economy since Malawi is a landlocked country, which continues to burden us with high transport expenses," he explained.
      Mhango then asked the IHO to help the country in capacity building of its human resources, saying capacity building is key to development.
      In response, IHO vice chair for Capacity Building committee Captain Mike Barritt said the Shire-Zambezi Water Way project needs a lot of commitment on the part of the country and Mozambique if it is to materialise.
      "The project is a viable one but it needs the commitment of the two countries. We will be visiting Mozambique this week and we will assess the commitment that the country has on the project," said Barritt.
      IHO is an organisation that mostly deals with countries bounded by oceans and seas but Barritt said the organisation is also interested in inland waters.
      "IHO has done more on oceanic countries but we have a lot to learn on inland waters," he said before inviting Malawi to join the organisation.

      *****

      Mpasu case adjourned
      by Zainah Liwanda, 23 February 2006 - 07:45:57
      The Lilongwe Magistrate's Court on Wednesday adjourned to next month a case in which former Education Minister Sam Mpasu is alleged to have irregularly awarded a contract to Fieldyork International to supply exercise books because the fourth state witness, Vincent Mapesi Gondwe, could not be traced.
      The case which was supposed to run from Monday to Friday has since been slated for 4-6 April following a request by Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) Ishmael Wadi to allow the state to trace the witness and bring him to court to testify.
      "Your worship, we were expecting Mr. Vincent Mapesi Gondwe from Rumphi, but he hasn't shown up and I do not think he will show up. The means of communication was through police but I would like to think he was unable to come," said Wadi. "Despite the matter having been set for the whole week, I would pray that the matter be adjourned to allow the state find its witness and bring him to court to testify."
      Principal Magistrate Chifundo Kachale then adjourned the case to next month.
      In an interview later Wadi said he had not met Gondwe since he was earmarked as a state witness but that police investigators had got in touch with him because where he lives there is no phone and they rely on radio call messages.
      But Wadi said even former secretary to the Central Tender Board Tony Wochi, who testified as second state witness in the morning, did not have any means of communications but the police traced him.
      "The police managed to communicate to warn Mr. Wochi to come, so that's why I was certain Gondwe would come, but probably the message did not get him," he added.
      Earlier, Wochi had told the court that he sent all requests from the Ministry of Education which included a tender by Dzuka Publishing Company to supply exercise books and that from Fieldyork but because all of the requests exceeded K480,000, there were referred to Ministry of Finance.
      But he said the other requests were approved but he was not sure whether or not the Fieldyork request was approved.
      But during cross-examination by Mpasu's lawyer, John Gift Mwakhwawa, Wochi was asked if he remembered each and everything that happened considering that the incident happened over a decade ago. Wochi said after being interviewed by the commission of inquiry, it gave him food for thought, that one day the issue would resurface, adding that he took down some notes.
      But the examination was not short of drama. Mwakhwawa asked Wochi whether he had problems with word expressions.
      In response, Wochi said he had problems with words used by lawyers, but not the ordinary English vocabulary, setting the court into laughter.
      In the afternoon, former Principal Secretary (Two) in the Ministry of Education Hanna Kawalewale told the court that Mpasu had given Kawalewale's secretary the draft report of the commission of inquiry to fax to Fieldyork.
      Kawalewale, who is currently PS in the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture, further said she landed on the report by accident and agreed with PS (One) Samuel Safuli to send it to the Secretary to the President and Cabinet Alfred Upindi.
      She too echoed Safuli's earlier testimony that a chance was not given to local suppliers despite having been assured that they had the materials.
      Mwakhwawa asked the court to review Mpasu's bail conditions arguing that with his position the rule that he should report to Limbe Police each time he wanted to go out of Limbe was cumbersome. The court agreed.

      *****

      Jailed former minister suffers stroke
      by Zainah Liwanda, 23 February 2006 - 07:39:42
      Former Education Minister Yusuf Mwawa, who is currently serving a five-year jail sentence at Maula Prison in the capital city of Lilongwe, was admitted to the city's major referral Kamuzu Central Hospital (KCH) on Monday after suffering a stroke.
      Mwawa's re-admission came a week after he was discharged from the same hospital, having suffered from diabetes and high blood pressure.
      KCH director Damson Kathyola and Mwawa's lawyer Gift Nankhuni confirmed the admission in separate interviews Wednesday.
      But Kathyola declined to say what Mwawa, who was member of Parliament for Balaka Central East constituency, was suffering from, arguing that the hospital is not obliged to reveal the medical status of patients.
      "Yes, he has been admitted, but as regards what he is suffering from, I am not obliged to reveal the medical details of our clients," said Kathyola.
      Nankhuni said his client was diagnosed with stroke.
      "He was admitted on Monday after being diagnosed with a stroke," said Nankhuni.
      But the lawyer said he was yet to file the appeal documents to the High Court against Mwawa's conviction and sentence.
      He said his client's illness was not reason for the delay but that there were a few issues that were being sorted out. He did not elaborate.
      Mwawa was last week sentenced to five years imprisonment with hard labour for theft, forgery, misuse of public office and uttering a false document by the Magistrate's Court in Lilongwe.
      He was slapped with two years IHL on the count of misuse of public office, nine months for theft, five years forgery and another five years for uttering a false document.
      Senior Resident Magistrate Mzondi Mvula said all the sentences will run concurrently.
      The former minister was punished for using K160,550 from the Ministry of Education's Special Client Account to fund his wedding reception in March last year at Mount Soche Hotel in Blantyre.

      *****

      Government fails to fund local polls
      by Isaac Masingati, 23 February 2006 - 07:37:16
      Government has again failed to provide funding for Local Government Elections scheduled for September this year, casting a shadow of doubt on the prospects of the polls this year.
      Acting secretary to Treasury Patrick Kabambe said Wednesday government has failed to fund the elections which were expected to be launched Tuesday because the electoral body was asking for too much money.
      "We went through their calendar of events and the money they asked for and we discovered that what they requested was beyond our expectation. We could not meet the budget," said Kabambe but could not shed more light because he was handing over his office as he is moving to the Ministry of Agriculture..
      But the news has shocked the Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec) who have asked government to come into the open and declare its position.
      Mec spokesperson Fegus Lipenga said he could not understand how government, which gave guidelines including suggestions on the size of the budget, could turn around and accuse it of asking for too much money.
      "Treasury should come out in the open here and tell us whether we should close the books and wait for 2009 instead of playing hide and seek," said Lipenga.
      He said the behaviour of government was confusing and disappointing because of failure to keep its word.
      Lipenga said Treasury in a letter dated 11th January 2006 and signed by Mrs Banda asked the commission to prepare a cashflow of K480m to kick start the activities.
      "We did exactly that and how can they say we are demanding too much," charged Lipenga.
      Lipenga said government's unpredictable behaviour was pushing the commission into a tight situation because everyone was blaming the electoral body for the failure.
      He said international organisations, interested candidates and the civil society were calling his office every day for information about the elections.
      Civil society has expressed its concern over the delays by Mec to conduct the polls as required by the Constitution claiming the assemblies were operating illegally.
      The Local Government Act states that local government elections must be held in the third week of May in the year following that of the general elections of the National Assembly.
      The last general elections in the country were held in June 2004.

      *****

      Authorities assess quake damage in Mozambique

      Jenni Evans and Antoinette Keyser | Johannesburg, South Africa

      23 February 2006 02:26

      The death toll in the powerful quake that hit Mozambique on Thursday morning was still uncertain by Thursday afternoon, with authorities still visiting rural areas to assess the impact there.

      "The provincial secretary is there to assess and we are expecting news in about two hours," Mozambique Red Cross Society secretary general Fernanda Teixeira said.

      "There was alarm, especially in the big cities where people slept in the street. There was damage to buildings in terms of broken glass and about 15 people were injured as they attempted to leave a building.

      "The only district that we are concerned about and trying to find out more is Espungabera in Manica. There are probably some people injured and some traditional houses destroyed," Teixeira said.

      Two deaths have been reported so far.

      The quake could be felt as far afield as Harare and Durban, with The Star reporting that Johannesburg's emergency services had also received quake-related calls.

      South Africa's Department of Foreign Affairs said initial reports indicated that no South Africans were harmed by the earthquake.

      "We have made contact with our embassy there and no South Africans are affected, as far as we are aware," spokesperson Ronnie Mamoepa said.

      The South African Council for Geosciences (SACG) said the quake registered 7,3 on the Richter scale in the Massangena area, according to local initial measurements. United States Geological Survey estimates put it higher, at 7,5.

      "A woman from Prestige Park in Pretoria phoned in to report that she had been woken up and the time that she gave was spot on, 12.20am," said Ian Saunders, of the SACG.

      He explained that the quake was not unusual for the region, situated on the East African rift system. At least three aftershocks have already been recorded.

      "The Earth's crust is in constant flux and new crust is being created," he explained. "The East African rift has been moving apart over millions of years. Fault lines forms the rift, and as it moves apart, you have stress relief and this forms the quake. It's a bit like pulling on two pieces of paper -- eventually it has to split somewhere."

      He said: "We have picked up quakes in that area before, but this is a serious one."

      Mozambican Gilbert Cochelane, who was staying at the Tivoli hotel in Beira, said just after 4am that a second earthquake, presumably an aftershock, hit the area at about 3am.

      "Everything started shaking again about 3am," Cochelane said. "No one is sleeping. The electricity is out, everything is in darkness, we are very scared."

      Another guest said: "It felt like being in a boat on heavy seas. Everything went wobbly. I looked at the air conditioner in my room and it was slightly skew. The floor also. But nothing fell."

      Mozambican authorities are still assessing injuries and damage, and have urged people not to go back into their buildings for fear of further aftershocks, news agencies on the scene reported. -- Sapa
    • Christine Chumbler
      ADB firm on Karonga-Chitipa road contract by Zainah Liwanda, 22 May 2006 - 06:09:17 The African Development Bank (ADB) has again rejected a proposal by
      Message 1046 of 1046 , May 22, 2006
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        ADB firm on Karonga-Chitipa road contract

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

        *****

        Chihana operated on

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

        Mughogho is now in charge of the party.

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

        *****

        Pillane proposes presidential age limit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

        *****

        Mussa hails new driving licence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

        *****

        UDF demands investigation on Kasambara

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

        *****

        Zambia: Malawians Grab Zambian Land

        The Times of Zambia (Ndola)

        May 18, 2006

        Posted to the web May 19, 2006

        Andrew Lungu

         

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

        The Zimbabwean traders were warned and cautioned and later released.

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

         

        *****

        Zim unions, MDC still plan anti-govt protests

        Harare, Zimbabwe

        22 May 2006 11:51

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

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

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

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

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

        Opposition protests

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

        Crackdown

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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