- 'Hold Local Polls Now'
The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)
February 28, 2006
Posted to the web February 28, 2006
ARNOLD MNELEMBA AND MORRIS MVINYO
Opposition parties and political commentators in the country have accused the government of lying to the Commonwealth and other international donors when it says that Local Government Elections will be held this year, saying President Bingu wa Mutharika and his administration have already decided to defer the polls to 2009. This, they say is underhanded, undemocratic and certainly unconstitutional.
The Malawi Congress Party (MCP) President John Tembo warned the government about its failure to hold the local government elections this year, saying that this is a gross violation of the Constitution. "We are very worried as a party when we hear news that government is dilly-dallying on the issue of funding Local Government Elections. They should know that failure to do that will be a violation of the constitution. We must have the elections immediately," said Tembo.
Rafiq Hajat, Executive Director for the Institute for Policy Interaction (IPI) shared Tembo's sentiments saying that as Malawi is striving to implement the decentralisation process, it is imperative that government releases funding for the elections as it is the right of the people of the country to have councillors to help run government. "Whether the government wants it or not, local government elections must be held this year because it is a Constitutional matter and government should not dare playing around with the Constitution because it is our Bible," he said.
He urged the Mutharika administration to respect the Constitution by holding Local Government Elections as soon as possible to give power to the people.
Hajat asked Malawians to stand firmly against the government's attempts to abrogate on their constitutional duty when they attempt to withhold the election this year.
Recently, Minister of Local Government and Rural Development George Chaponda told the Secretary General of the Commonwealth Local Government Forum (CLGF) Carl Wright that the Local Government Elections would indeed be held this year.
Responding to Chaponda's assurance, Wright said: "It is heartening to learn that the government of Malawi intends to proceed with local government elections later this year. "Democratically elected local councillors have a key role to play in development and in realising the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). They are also critical to the democratic process. Following elections, the CLGF looks forward to working with its members in Malawi in helping the realisation of the Commonwealth Aberdeen Agenda for the promotion of local democracy and good governance." In an interview with The Chronicle later, Chaponda refused to shed any light on the matter regarding firm dates and a calendar of events for the elections, arguing that he is not the appropriate person to comment on it.
Surprisingly for a Minister responsible for ensuring the operations of local governance Chaponda insisted that government would still carry on with its programmes with or without councillors.
Reports in the local media last week said the government has again failed to provide funding for these essential elections scheduled for September this year.
The Nation newspaper quoted acting Secretary to Treasury Patrick Kabambe as saying that the government failed to fund the elections, which were expected to be launched tomorrow, 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," Kabambe was quoted as saying.
However, the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) was taken aback by this saying the commission worked out a budget as advised by and informed of the government.
The MEC spokesperson Fegus Lipenga said he could not understand how government, which gave the appropriate guidelines, including suggestions on the size of the budget, are now turning around and accusing the MEC of asking for too much money.
In an interview, Lipenga pointed a finger at the opposition for shooting down the proposal for the Tripartite Elections Bill in 2004 which could have allowed the commission to hold the local government elections alongside the presidential and parliamentary polls that year. "As you may recall, we proposed that we have tripartite elections but other parties thought it was an opportunity for rigging that we are bringing it back. Our problem was that we brought the issue too close to election time. But we believe we now have ample time to bring it back and we will sure do so. That is why we say a constitutional review is important now," said Lipenga.
In the budget for the 2005/06, Parliament approved the sum of K2.3 billion for the Local Government Elections, but latter it was scaled down to only K251 million for preliminary activities such as office equipment, fax machines, consumables, assembly related costs amongst many, according to Lipenga.
He further said that the commission furnish the government with a cash flow statement to enable it to fund the sum of K480m, which is composed of K251 m from government, and K229 m from donors.
Asked what the government has done with the K2.3 billion in the budget meant for local assembly elections, Lipenga said that government indicated that the money was reallocated to purchase the staple food, maize. "Surprisingly even the maize spoken of is in short supply throughout the country causing untold difficulties for the population," said a disgruntled citizen who wished anonymity adding, I this is what government has done with the money why are we now paying up to K3,000 per 50kg bag of maize. Something is wrong somewhere. " This state of affairs is raising speculation that, once again government is only withholding funding from democratic related subventions because it is reluctant to share power with local authorities as democracy and the constitution demands.
The Constitution in Chapter 14 Section 146 requires, as part of the democratic system recognised, practiced and espoused in Malawi that there be Local Authorities to, among other tasks consolidate and promote local democratic institutions and participation of citizens at grassroots level. The authority shall be responsible for the representation of the people whom they have jurisdiction over, especially for their welfare.
Local Authorities were dissolved after their mandate expired in 2004.
The nation has had no local representation for almost two years leaving much of the decision making to Chief Executives and Town Clerks, a situation that leaves room for abuse. The donor community have attempted to get the nation on track but has so far met with resistance from the Executive and from Central Government.
BLM Distributes 20,000 Female Condoms
The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)
February 28, 2006
Posted to the web February 28, 2006
Sexual reproductive and healthcare providers Banja Lamtsogolo (BLM) are this year expected to distribute 20,000 female condoms to young women to protect them from sexually transmitted diseases and unplanned pregnancies, officials have disclosed.
BLM's Community Outreach Manager Clement Naunje told The Chronicle in an interview recently in Blantyre that the condoms would be distributed through youth community based distribution agents (YCBDAs) located in the country's three regions.
He said BLM has already trained 20 young people who will be sent to some districts to teach their fellow youths on how to use the female condoms. "These twenty young people will assist us in distributing the condoms and we have the full confidence that the condoms will reduce sexually transmitted diseases including HIV/AIDS," he said.
Naunje said it is high time young women in the country were empowered and advised on how to make their own decision. "It is our wish to have a better Malawi in the near future, that's why we are trying our best to empower young people and provide them with good information about sexual and reproductive health issues so that they should be able to know how their bodies operate," he said.
According to Naunje, the female condoms have been introduced to protect the women, saying with only male condoms in circulation; women were vulnerable if their partners refused to put on the condom.
He also said most young women are forced to have unprotected sex which he says is one of the factors which has contributed a lot to the high increase of sexual and transmitted diseases. "It has always been difficult for young ladies in Malawi to have the courage of telling a man to put on a condom whenever they are having sex, but this time around they will have a chance to protect themselves. "The female condoms are good and women can put on and walk with this condom for about ten minutes before the time of sex without any problems," said Naunje.
The project has been funded by UNFPA.
This is not the first time for BLM to distribute the condoms. In 2003, BLM distributed 5,000 female condoms.
BLM's objective is to improve the reproductive health of women, men and adolescents in rural and urban areas of the country through the increased utilization of services for family planning and prevention and treatment of sexual Transmitted diseases (STIs) and HIV/AIDS, according to information from the organisation.
Regulate Commercial Sex, Says Civil Rights Activists
The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)
February 28, 2006
Posted to the web February 28, 2006
Civil rights activists and commercial sex workers in the country have called for stakeholders in the fight against HIV/AIDS to consider formation of a regulation body to protect commercial sex workers from all sorts of injustices that may eventually lead to an increased spread of the killer pandemic.
Emmie Chirwa, a civil rights activist working for Right for All Non Governmental Organisation (NGO) based in Blantyre said it is imperative that commercial sex be regulated, saying prostitutes are facing a lot of problems that force them to catch the deadly virus.
Chirwa said some men demand sex without condoms, thereby exposing the commercial sex workers from HIV and AIDS.
"Most of the commercial sex workers venture into this work because of poverty and other reasons and it is very unfair to let them be subjected to sorts of problems that can make them catch the deadly virus and die fast. The issue here is that most of these commercial sex workers are facing a lot of problems but have no where to complain because whatever transaction they carry is regarded as illegal," said Chirwa.
A commercial sex worker only identified as Josephine operating from a pub at Sun City, Biwi in Lilongwe said commercial sex workers feel offended when clients demand sex without condoms because this may easily lead them catching the virus.
"Sometimes we have clients who demand plain sex by force and we have no where to complain because when we go to police, they will tell us that we are harlots and our cases die like that. Furthermore, some police officers demand free sex from us when we complain of unfair treatment accorded to us by some cruel clients, this is unfair and we need a regulatory body," she said.
She pointed out that not all commercial sex workers made an independent and willing decision to vie for that trade, saying some fell into the trap of commercial sexing after losing parents or after facing problems beyond their control.
Bingu Gives Up On Malewezi
The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)
February 28, 2006
Posted to the web February 28, 2006
President Bingu wa Mutharika, who earlier on reportedly earmarked former Vice President Justin Malewezi for vice presidency, is said to have given up on the idea as the cabinet encouraged him to pick Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe should the courts rule in favour of the government in the Cassim Chilumpha case.
Mutharika fired Chilumpha this month as vice president of the republic and Chilumpha is challenging the dismissal in the High Court of Malawi.
Sources told The Chronicle that Mutharika secretly met Malewezi to offer him the vice presidency.
The sources disclosed that Mutharika resolved to talk to Malewezi after Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) national governing council rejected names from the party. "The president held talks with Malewezi because he is looking for someone from the central region and the proposed names in DPP from the central region were of Uladi Mussa and Hetherwick Ntaba but members refused the names and opted for Goodall Gondwe and Joyce Banda who are from the north and south respectively, but the president is looking for someone from the central region hence the proposal to talk to Malewezi," said the source.
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) spokesperson Ntaba could not deny nor confirm the development, saying if there were talks between the two, it is not a matter of public consumption.
He described the reports as mere speculation.
On the other hand, Malewezi denied having met Mutharika on the issue and refused to comment because, he said, he has no knowledge of the issue.
Section 83 (3) of the constitution of the Republic Malawi stipulates: "The President, the Vice President and the Second Vice President may serve in their respective capacities a maximum of two consecutive terms, but when a person is elected or appointed to fill a vacancy in the office of President or Vice President, the period between that election or appointment and the next election of the president shall not be regarded as a term." A prominent practicing lawyer in Lilongwe said according to the provision of the section in mention, Malewezi is eligible to serve for another term if elected because he said the constitution is clear that if appointed to fill a vacant position, it may not be regarded as if he is serving another term.
Malewezi insisted that he is a retired Vice President and is apparently happy serving the government as an MP. "I am in government now because I am a Member of Parliament (MP) and it could be out of question for someone to ask if I may be free to join and serve government," said Malewezi.
US Trains Malawi Soldiers
The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)
February 28, 2006
Posted to the web February 28, 2006
The Government of the United States of America (US) through its Department of State African Contingency Operations Training and Assistance (ACOTA) program is training 950 Malawi Defence Force (MDF) soldiers drawn from all units' country wide in Salima.
The three-week training which wounded up last Thursday has been described by the US government as the largest military training exercise the US has ever conducted in Malawi.
Tyler Sparks who is Political and Military Officer in the Malawi's US Embassy said the three week training represents an investment of nearly $450, 000 in training for Malawi's armed forces. "In addition, we will also provide a trainee support package for the MDF in the near future which will consist of essential non-lethal items such as uniforms, boots and canteens" he said. "I am very pleased at the level of cooperation between our governments that this training represents, and I am convinced that it will lead to an even greater regional stature for Malawi as it increases its share of peacekeeping responsibilities," he added.
MDF Commanding Officer of this special contingency of the ACOTA Battalion Lieutenant Colonel Vincent Nundwe said during a familiarisation exercise for the media and Members of Parliament who sit on the Parliamentary Defence and Security Committee that some of the soldiers would be deployed to peace keeping missions soon.
During the tour, ACOTA Lead Analyst Paul Thomas who is heading a team of 20 US trainers acknowledged the professionalism of Malawian soldiers displayed during the training which he described as beyond their initial expectation.
He the training is designed to tone down the usual training referred to as Chapter 6 which is for combating and offensive and defensive tactics to one referred in military language as Chapter 7 which is a concept of peace keeping.
The training consisted on how to occupy defensive positions, handling and manning ambush, reconnaissance, as well as manning checkpoints.
Sparks said the USA Government is pleased to support the Malawi Defence Force in its pursuit of continuing training for its soldiers. "Malawi is increasing its participation in international peace-keeping missions, such as the current mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which is commendable. With this increased involvement abroad, the Malawi Defence Forces need soldiers with solid skills in all aspects of peace-keeping duties," he explained. "It is my hope that the African Contingency program will help MDF prepare for even greater involvement in international peacekeeping," he added.
He said in 2006 the program will cost $30 million throughout Africa on training and non-lethal equipment.
ACOTA program which is managed by the US's Africa Bureau, to enhance the capacity of African partner nations to effectively participate in multinational peace support operations (PSO) has so far trained over 26, 000 peacekeepers from thirteen African nations.
Since the program's inception in 1997, ACOTA and its predecessor program, the African Crisis Response Initiative (ACRI), has provided field training for African peacekeepers plus command and staff training and exercises for battalion, brigade, and multinational force headquarters personnel.
A statement from the US embassy says the ACOTA program provides limited equipment packages to enhance indigenous training capacity and equip trainees; expanded equipping activities are available under Global Peace Operations Initiative (GPOI) funding. "ACOTA seeks to complement and support EU, NATO, French, British, Belgian, Portuguese and other allied peacekeeping training efforts, welcoming their participation for training events," reads the statement in part.
ACOTA partners Benin, Botswana, Ethiopia, Gabon, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and Zambia have sent contingents to varied missions such as Sudan, Sierra Leone, DR Congo, and Cote d'voire, Liberia, Burundi, Kosovo and Beirut.
The plight of Malawi's child brides
Alexandra Zavis | Chiringani, Malawi
01 March 2006 12:40
Innat Edson didn't think it would end this way. Last year, she was making wedding plans. Now, at just 15, she is back at her mother's cramped, dingy house, nursing a fussing baby her former fiancé refuses to acknowledge is his.
Here, and in isolated villages and crumbling cities across the most destitute continent, girls younger than 14 are finding boyfriends and getting married in a bid to escape the empty bellies, numbing work and overwhelming tedium of poverty.
Encouraged by their parents, many marry much older men who they hope can give them a better life. Often, they are disappointed.
"Poverty is the cancer in our society," says Joyce Banda, Malawi's Minister of Gender, Child Welfare and Community Services. "More girls are marrying young -- not out of choice, but because they have no choice."
No figures are available because such marriages usually happen in secret. Banda and some aid groups, though, assert they are becoming more common, citing anecdotal evidence.
The legal age for marriage is 16 in Malawi, but girls as young as 14 can marry with their parents' consent. The government is proposing increasing this minimum to 18, but has had little luck enforcing its existing laws. Some elders see nothing wrong with allowing an 11-year-old to wed a man in his 30s.
"When they are exposed, we find that the young girls are so brainwashed they don't see anything wrong, and their parents are willing participants," Banda says.
Early marriage takes girls out of school and forces them into motherhood before they are biologically ready, contributing to some of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world. About 1 800 mothers died for every 100 000 deliveries in 2003, the last year for which figures are available. The practice can also expose girls to HIV/Aids before they are equipped to protect themselves.
The deadly pandemic has left thousands of Malawian children to fend for themselves in a country gripped by perpetual food shortages.
Innat's mother has been in and out of hospital for three years with an illness the family does not name. Her father drinks heavily and provides little for his six children. Innat dropped out of school in 7th grade to work as a maid in Blantyre -- a three-hour walk down a winding, rutted road. But the job didn't pay much, and she continued to struggle.
"I had no money to buy soap or lotion for my body, so I thought the only way was to find a boyfriend to take care of my needs," explains the sad, wide-eyed girl.
Her 13-year-old sister, Isme, escaped home by marrying a painter. So when a young man from their village proposed, Innat thought her problems were solved. When she fell pregnant, he deserted her.
Soon after, a trader came looking to buy charcoal. He too proposed, and she agreed. "I was just thinking about my baby," she says.
Eventually, however, the man returned to the city.
"He said he would come back for me," she says, her eyes welling up, "but he never did." Some 30 to 40 girls drop out every year from the local primary school, where English lessons are taught on a blackboard nailed to a tree. Some leave to help at home, but most get married, says deputy headmaster James Kampira.
Primary school is free, but high school costs around 3 500 kwacha (about $27) a term -- more than many families earn a month.
If there is a choice, they usually give the extra schooling to sons. Just 15% of Malawian girls finish high school, compared with 26% of boys, according to government figures.
Some girls are pressed into marriage for the sake of a dowry, or because their parents have too many mouths to feed. But many enter willingly into unions that give them a kind of status.
Elube Matebule traded a cracked mud-and-thatch home for a brick house with a tin roof when she married her 22-year-old boyfriend, Edwin, last August.
"Life was difficult at home. There wasn't enough food, there weren't enough clothes, there wasn't enough money. But in marriage, I have those things," says Elube, a shy, giggly girl in a torn, white blouse, who says she is 18, but looks barely 14.
Marriage wasn't quite the escape she'd hoped for. Every day the girl who once dreamed of being a nurse is up at dawn to work in her new family's maize field. In the afternoon, she cooks for her husband, his parents and two brothers. Only then can she relax before the work starts again.
"I am very disappointed," she says, sitting on a step, twisting a blade of grass.
The average age of sexual debut is just 12, according to government research. In a few traditional communities, girls are forced to have sex with older men as part of rites initiating them into adulthood. But most have their first experience with a friend or relative.
Girls who have lost one or both parents to HIV/Aids are especially vulnerable to exploitation. In cities like Blantyre, it is not unusual for them to have several "boyfriends" who support them, according to the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) in Malawi. This in turn exposes them to the risk of infection with HIV, the virus that causes Aids.
Some older men will marry young girls after their wives die of HIV/Aids because they believe sex with a virgin will "cleanse" them, says Banda. It is also traditional in some cultures for a man to marry his wife's younger sister if she dies.
The government and Unicef campaign against such practices and hope raising the legal age for marriage will alert people to the dangers.
Others, however, worry the proposed law will leave pregnant teens without even the option of marriage.
Innat has no idea how to fend for two-month-old Crispin. "I wish I had money so I could raise goats to put him through school," she says wistfully. "I see no future for any of us." -- Sapa-AFP
Zimbabwe says it can't remove every white farmer
02 March 2006 11:18
Zimbabwe's vice-president has said the country's remaining white farmers would be spared eviction if they toed the line and respected the law, local media reported on Thursday.
"We cannot remove every white man in this country," Vice-President Joseph Msika was quoted as telling a farmers' rally.
"If you think it's possible, that will not happen. We will respect those white people who respect our laws and want to live with us," the private Daily Mirror newspaper quoted him as saying.
The state-owned Herald further quoted Msika as saying: "We cannot remove every white farmer because it's stupidity. That is shooting yourself in the foot."
No more than 600 white farmers remain in Zimbabwe following controversial land reforms which saw the eviction of at least 4 000 of their peers to pave the way for land redistribution to poor blacks.
Msika also lashed out at lazy black farmers who invaded white farms and seized properties and then failed to produce anything.
"Some of you when you take these farms, you don't make use of them," The Herald quoted Msika as saying.
"Don't just evict someone who is farming productively because they are of a different race."
Msika's statements came weeks after Land Minister Didymus Mutasa said no white farmers were "farming legally" and urged them to seek permission from the government to continue work after constitutional reforms barred dispossesed farmers from seeking legal recourse.
Msika attacked new farmers for their heavy dependence on government handouts.
"We don't want to build a nation of beggars," Msika said, urging the farmers to "cultivate the land".
Zimbabwe's land reforms, which began often violently in 2000 after the rejection in a referendum on a government-sponsored draft Constitution, have seen about 4 000 white farmers lose their properties.
Critics say the majority of the beneficiaries of the land reforms lack farming skills and rely on government handouts.
They also blame the land reforms for the chronic food shortages in what was once Southern Africa's bread basket.
At least four million of Zimbabwe's 13-million people require food aid until the next harvest in May. - AFP
Zimbabwe's 'outsider' faction leader
Arthur Mutambara vowed to work for party unity
Arthur Mutambara, the new leader of one faction of the Movement for Democratic Change, has stepped into the furnace of Zimbabwean opposition politics essentially as an outsider.
That reality is being seen both as an advantage and as a disadvantage.
He is untainted by the ugly row that split the MDC late last year, but he will also have to work hard to gain a public profile in his home country.
Although he was a noted student leader in the late 1980s, his involvement in politics ended long before the MDC was founded.
Accepting the position, Mr Mutambara, 40, hinted it was time to move beyond the disagreement over participation in national Senate elections that prompted a split in the MDC last year.
[He is] an 'outsider' untainted by the struggles-within-the-struggle of opposition politics
Eldred Masunungure, political scientist
Mr Mutambara now heads the faction, previously led by secretary general Welshman Ncube, that favoured participation.
"My position was that the MDC should have boycotted those Senate elections," Mr Mutambara said.
"I guess then that makes me the Anti-Senate leader of the Pro-Senate MDC faction. How ridiculous can we get? That debate is now in the past, let us move on and unite our people."
He praised his rival-to-be - MDCs leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who was instrumental in setting up the party - as a national hero.
But he criticised Mr Tsvangirai for seeking to impose his views on other party leaders during the senate debate, and vowed he would always accept the decision of the majority.
While Mr Tsvangirai's supporters have claimed the faction now led by Mr Mutambara are being used by agents of President Mugabe, Mr Mutambara vowed to end the "misrule" of the ruling party.
Mr Mutambara's appointment has been greeted as a move that will help quell the accusations that the party is riven by ethnicity.
That view was given substance by last year's split, which set MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai - who comes from Zimbabwe's majority Shona group - against the rest of his party's top officials, from the Ndebele community.
He has a good history as a student leader but will need time to grow into the position of national leader
Brian Raftopoulos, political scientist
Political scientist Eldred Masunungure suggested that strategic thinking by Welshman Ncube and his colleagues had led to the emergence of Mr Mutambara as the most widely acceptable candidate.
"Both Ncube and [deputy chairman Gibson] Sibanda must have realised... that in Zimbabwe politics, and given the grip of ethnic consciousness, a Ndebele would have a very faint chance of making it to State House," Mr Masunungure wrote on the ZimOnline website.
"Both Ncube and Sibanda also deferred to an 'outsider' untainted by the struggles-within-the-struggle of opposition politics."
In Harare's extra-parliamentary political circles there has been a mixed reaction to the news of Mr Mutambara's arrival, Columbus Mavhunga of the National Constitutional Assembly told the BBC News website.
"There is not much known about him, besides him leading demonstrations as a student," Mr Mavhunga said. "He has been out of Zimbabwe for virtually 10 years."
"Some are happy since he's from the Shona tribe - but critics are saying he is just an academic."
Mr Mutambara's academic record is something admired even by his political detractors.
He holds a PhD from Oxford University in Robotics and Mechatronics, and held professorships in that field in several US institutions. He has published three books on engineering.
Tsvangirai maintains he is the only MDC leader
His CV is as impressive in the area of business as it is in science, including a post as professor of business strategy, and as a consultant with McKinsey and Company.
In the late 1980s, he rose to prominence at the University of Zimbabwe, leading the first anti-government student protests since independence.
The protests in 1988 and 1989 led to clashes with the police and Mr Mutambara's detention.
"He has a good history as a student leader but will need time to grow into the position of national leader," political scientist Brian Raftopoulos, told the Zimbabwe Independent newspaper.
But he added: "There is a lot of groundwork to be done to get him known after a long absence. Morgan [Tsvangirai] has an advantage because besides [President Robert] Mugabe, he is the only other leader with a national profile and appeal."
In contrast to the slanging-match that went on between the two MDC factions over participation in the Senate elections, Mr Tsvangirai has extended at least a cautious hand of friendship to Mr Mutambara.
"Prof Mutambara's comments are quite welcome and in sync with the aspirations of Mr Tsvangirai of bringing a new dispensation to the struggle for democracy," said Mr Tsvangirai's spokesman Nelson Chamisa.
But he also made it clear that Mr Tsvangirai is no closer to acknowledging the legitimacy of the rival faction's leadership.
"We are not aware of any other president other than Mr Tsvangirai."
ADB firm on Karonga-Chitipa road contract
by Zainah Liwanda, 22 May 2006 - 06:09:17
The African Development Bank (ADB) has again rejected a proposal by government to look for another contractor instead of China Hunan Construction to construct of the long awaited Karonga/Chitipa road.
China Hunan from Mainland China won the bid which was approved by the ADB but government later wanted to award the contract to a Portuguese firm, Mota Engil, the second lowest bidder, claiming China Hunan's bid was unrealistically low and that the company had very little experience in Africa.
Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe confirmed on Sunday the ADB rejected the proposal at a meeting held between the bank and Malawi government in Tunisia last week.
The Malawi government wanted the Tunisia meeting to authorise it to get another contractor for the road, said Gondwe.
"They did not allow us to look for another contractor because of their regulations. But we are about to get another alternative for Karonga/Chitipa and I would be surprised if it does not start before end June," said Gondwe.
The minister explained that the bank insisted that regardless of the unrealistic cost estimates, China Hunan should be allowed to go ahead with the construction.
But Gondwe could not give further details about the alternatives, arguing there are still a few loose ends to tighten up before disclosing it.
The problem with China Hunan, according to Gondwe, is that it would require more money to meet the total cost of the project.
This paper reported last week that government met Taiwanese representatives where they offered to fund the road if the ADB continued to reject its favoured contractor, Mota Engil.
Gondwe could neither confirm nor deny the reports on the Taiwanese offer, saying government was looking at a number of ways to handle the issue.
According to Gondwe, the China Hunan's bid was 24 percent lower than the consulting engineers' estimates of K7.9 billion and 34 percent below the second lowest bidder.
President Bingu wa Mutharika laid a foundation stone for the construction of the road this year ahead of a crucial byelection in Chitipa in December last year.
The President's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) won the Chitipa Wenya constituency by-election that fell vacant following the collapse and subsequent death of Speaker of Parliament Rodwell Munyenyembe who belonged to the UDF.
Last week, police and the District Commissioner (DC) for Chitipa stopped a rally that was aimed at soliciting people's views about development projects in the district.
The meeting, which was reportedly organised by Concerned Citizens of Chitipa, was among other things also supposed to tackle the controversial Karonga/Chitipa road.
The project failed to start off in 2000 when a contract for an initial loan of US$17 million and US$15 million from the Taiwanese government was signed, with some quarters claiming the Bakili Muluzi administration diverted the money to another road.
Chihana operated on
by Edwin Nyirongo, 22 May 2006 - 06:32:31
Alliance for Democracy (Aford) president Chakufwa Chihana, who is in South Africa receiving treatment, had a brain operation on Friday at Garden City Clinic, family and party officials confirmed on Sunday.
Aford national chairman Chipimpha Mughogho said he was told by the family members that Chihana had a successful operation on Friday and was put in an intensive care unit.
Mughogho said Chihana, who initially complained of headache, was found with a brain tumour which South African doctors removed.
Mzimba West MP Loveness Gondwe said Aford boss condition was stable.
"Hon. Chihana had a major operation and after that he was put in the intensive care unit but his condition is stable. I do not know where he was operated on but it had something to do with the skull," she said.
Deputy Information Minister John Bande referred the matter to the Health Minister Hetherwick Ntaba who was reported to be in Geneva, Switzerland.
Aford publicity secretary Norman Nyirenda said when Chihana's situation got worse, the family alerted the Office of the President and Cabinet who took him to Mwaiwathu Private Hospital.
"The doctors at Mwaiwathu advised that he should be sent to South Africa and they even identified the doctor for him," he said.
He said the costs are being met by the Malawi government, contradicting his earlier statement that his boss covered the cost.
Mughogho is now in charge of the party.
Gondwe will be a busy person when Parliament starts meeting on June 6 as she is the only Aford MP remaining.
Pillane proposes presidential age limit
by Emmanuel Muwamba , 22 May 2006 - 06:34:13
A member of the DPP National Governing Council Abdul Pillane on Saturday urged members of political parties and the civil society to put an upper age limit in the Constitution for presidential candidates.
Pillane was addressing members of political parties and civil society in Liwonde during a two-day follow up workshop to the National Conference on the Review of Constitution held in March in Lilongwe.
"My view is that (an upper) age limit should be at 75. We have to give a chance to younger people to lead because in circumstance, when you age you become forgetful especially when sickly," said Pillane. "Overall, chances should be given to young people."
But UDF secretary general Kennedy Makwangwala, whose party members agitated for the age limit during presentations, played the issue down.
"I feel there is no logic to have an upper age limit for presidential candidates. If someone is 90 or 80 I don't know how that can influence the electorate not to vote for someone who is younger, I don't see any logic behind that," said Makwangwala.
MCP participants at the workshop also vehemently objected to the proposal.
MCP vice president Nicholas Dausi in an interview said: "There is no constitution in Africa which stipulates an upper age limit. So it would be strange in Malawi to have an upper age limit for presidential candidates."
MDP President Kamlepo Kalua also opposed the need to have an upper age limit.
"If we have personalities in mind that we want to discriminate against then it is unfortunate. The constitution we want to build is a guiding document for future generations and it should not bar certain individuals on the basis of grudges," he said.
The Malawi Law Constitution Issues Paper of March 2006 says several submissions that were received put an upper presidential age limit in the Constitution.
"It is argued that it is common sense that mental knowledge faculties tend to fail with age. As regards what the actual age limit should be the submissions are far from being agreed. The range is from 60 years to 80 years," read submissions in the Issues Paper.
On whether MPs should double as ministers, Kalua said this should be the case.
Makwangwala also said it is not right for MPs to serve as ministers because the Legislature, another arm of government, is reduced while the Executive branch is beefed up from another arm of government.
"There is no separation of powers when MPs double as ministers," said Makwangwala.
But Pillane said there is no problem for MPs to work as ministers as well, saying MPs are elected by the President.
"One can serve both posts. There have been no problems before for people to double," said Pillane.
The Centre for Multiparty Democracy funded the workshop through the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy.
The objective was to come up with a collective position on the Issues Paper which will be presented to the Special Law Commission that will be constituted soon.
Mussa hails new driving licence
by Zainah Liwanda, 22 May 2006 - 06:58:52
Transport and Public Works Minister Henry Mussa last week said the design of the Malawi-Sadc driving licence would guard against forgery and ensure that only skilled and legitimate drivers of particular vehicles are licensed.
Mussa was speaking at the official launch of the licences in Lilongwe where he announced that traffic police would from July enforce speed limits and sober driving using Breathalysers which his ministry is in the process of procuring.
The minister said financial constraints are the reason for the delay in procuring the equipment but assured that by July they would be available.
"With the new equipment, the days of those who believe in the thrill of drink and driving are numbered," warned Mussa.
Mussa added that with the new licence, government is optimistic that the country's roads would be safe.
Acting Director of Road Traffic James Chirwa said the features that distinguish the new from the old licences are the Malawi national flag and a ghost image of the driver's photograph, among others.
Those with old licences, according to Chirwa, are expected to get the new ones after the expiry of the former.
UDF demands investigation on Kasambara
by Rabecca Theu, 22 May 2006 - 06:30:46
The United Democratic Front (UDF) has asked government to investigate Ralph Kasambara on allegations of abuse of office while he was attorney general.
UDF publicity secretary Sam Mpasu told the press Sunday that the party is neither amused or saddened by the removal of the former AG but asked government to institute investigations on Kasambara.
"Beyond the removal of the Attorney General, we now urge President Mutharika to institute investigation against Mr Kasambara into allegations that have made rounds in the public domain during the recent past. These include: Mrs Helen Singh and SS Rent-a-Car; SGS and ITS saga; ...........the use of Malawi Police Service in the arrest of three Chronicle journalists and the handling of Mrs Rubina Kawonga," said Mpasu.
Mpasu also accused Kasambara of awarding government contracts to Lawson and Company where he was a senior partner.
"We urge government to thoroughly investigate the former AG. We also ask government to cautiously select the new AG ," said Mpasu, who was accompanied by the party's Secretary General Kennedy Makwangwala, leader of the party in Parliament George Mtafu, chief whip Leonard Mangulama and a member of the executive Hophmally Makande.
But Minister of Information Patricia Kaliati said UDF should give offer its advice to the Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB).
"They should advise bodies like the Anti-Corruption Bureau to conduct the investigations and why are they saying this now? Is it because Kasambara has been fired? This is not a personal issue. If they have other pressing issues they should just say so. These arguments should have come up earlier on when the said cases were happening," she said.
Kasambara asked UDF to proceed with the mission of urging government to investigate him.
"They can do their job. Everyone has a right to lobby for anything they want in the country. UDF has a right to do that, let them go ahead," he said.
Kasambara was relieved of his duties as AG by the President last week. Government has not given reasons behind the removal.
Zambia: Malawians Grab Zambian Land
The Times of Zambia (Ndola)
May 18, 2006
Posted to the web May 19, 2006
MALAWIANS who have encroached on both the 'no-man's' and part of the Zambian land at the Mwami border in Eastern Province have plucked out some beacons that were used in the demarcation of the border.
The Malawians are now using the beacons as stools in their newly-established villages on Zambian land.
Eastern Province Minister, Boniface Nkhata, said in Chipata yesterday that if the situation was not controlled urgently, Zambia would lose huge tracts of land to Malawians migrating into Zambian in large numbers.
A check at the Zambia-Malawi border showed a number of beacons had been vandalised and new structures constructed on the 'no man's' land and a large portion of Zambian land.
Mr Nkhata said the trend extended to many parts of the province bordering the two countries.
"A large portion of Zambian land has been taken up by the Malawians starting from the Chama boundary up to the Mwami border.
"The weighbridge at the Mwami border was initially in Zambia from the time both countries gained independence from Britain, but now the bridge is on Malawian soil," Mr Nkhata said.
The minister, who is former Chama District Commissioner, said there was similar encroachment in Lundazi and Chama districts where Zambia shares a boundary with Malawi.
He said a Malawian farmer identified as Mr Mfune had cultivated 71.5 hectares on Zambian land and employed about 265 Malawian workers.
"Khombe Farm in Chama district in Kanyerere's area, along the Muyombe road which leads to Northern Province where this Malawian farmer has cultivated a vast land is on the Zambian territory," he said.
Workers on the farm admitted that they were farming on Zambian soil but could not go back to Malawi because the land in that country was inadequate for cultivation.
Mr Nkhata appealed to the ministry of Lands to urgently release money for the demarcation of the Zambia-Malawi border to avoid further land disputes between the two countries.
Meanwhile, the Immigration Department in Livingstone has arrested a couple and another man, all Zimbabweans, for working in Zambia without permits.
They were arrested at Gwembe village yesterday where they worked for Into Africa, a tour operating company that provides bush dinners and breakfast.
According to the Immigration Department in Livingstone, the trio entered Zambia through the Victoria Falls border as visitors but decided to work for the company illegally.
Last week, immigration officers arrested 10 Zimbabwean traders and six Ethiopians for entering and staying in Zambia illegally.
The Zimbabwean traders were warned and cautioned and later released.
The Ethiopians were arrested at Konje Guest House when they ran out of money to proceed to Botswana.
Zim unions, MDC still plan anti-govt protests
22 May 2006 11:51
Zimbabwe's biggest labour federation on Saturday threatened to call massive demonstrations against the government over poor salaries and worsening living conditions for workers in the country.
The threats are ratcheting up pressure against President Robert Mugabe's government after similar threats by the biggest opposition party in the country, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), about two months ago.
Speaking at the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) conference on Saturday, the labour body's president, Lovemore Matombo, said the powerful union wants the government to award workers salaries that match the country's ever-rising inflation.
"I can assure you we will stage massive demonstrations to force them [employers] to award workers minimum salaries that tally with the poverty datum line," said Matombo.
Matombo did not say when exactly the ZCTU would order workers to strike.
Meanwhile, the MDC on Sunday said it will push ahead with plans for anti-government protests, saying victory in a key by-election at the weekend was a "sign the electorate supported its policies", including democratic mass resistance.
A spokesperson of the main faction of the splintered MDC, Nelson Chamisa, said victory over Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF and a rival MDC faction in a Saturday by-election in Harare's Budiriro constituency is a sign Zimbabweans still have confidence in party leader Morgan Tsvangirai and his policies.
Tsvangirai, the founding leader of the MDC, heads the main rump of the opposition party whose candidate, Emmanuel Chisvuure, polled 7 949 votes to win the Budiriro House of Assembly seat.
Gabriel Chaibva of the other faction of the MDC, led by prominent academic Arthur Mutambara, garnered 504 votes while Zanu-PF's Jeremiah Bvirindi polled 3 961 votes.
"This election showed that the electorate still has confidence in the MDC [Tsvangirai-led] leadership and its policies," Chamisa told independent news service ZimOnline.
He added: "We will now move to consolidate our position * we still believe in mass protests. Until we have attained our goals we see no reason why we should abandon [plans for protests]."
Tsvangirai has threatened to call mass protests this winter against Mugabe and his government. He says the mass protests, whose date he is still to name, are meant to force Mugabe to relinquish power to a government of national unity to be tasked to write a new and democratic Constitution that would ensure free and fair elections held under international supervision.
Mugabe and his government, who had hoped for victory in Budiriro to show they were recapturing urban support from a splintered MDC, have not taken idly the opposition's threats to call mass protests, with the veteran president warning Tsvangirai he would be "dicing with death" if he ever attempted to instigate a Ukraine-style popular revolt in Zimbabwe.
In a fresh crackdown against dissension, the police last week arrested several church and civic leaders for organising public prayers and marches to mark last year's controversial home-demolition exercise by the government.
The police also banned the marches and prayers, fearing they could easily turn into mass protests against Mugabe and his government.
However, the marches went ahead in the second-largest city of Bulawayo after organisers had obtained a court order barring the police from stopping the march.
Political analysts say although Zimbabweans have largely been cowed by Mugabe's tactics of routinely deploying riot police and the military to crush street protests, worsening hunger and poverty are fanning public anger that Tsvangirai -- with proper planning and organisation -- could easily manipulate.
Zimbabwe is in the grip of a severe six-year old economic crisis that has seen inflation breaching the 1 000% barrier. Last year, the World Bank said Zimbabwe's economic crisis was unprecedented for a country not at war.
The MDC and major Western governments blame Mugabe for wrecking the country's economy, which was one of the strongest in Africa at independence from Britain 26 years ago.
Mugabe denies the charge blaming the crisis on sabotage by Britain and her allies after he seized white-owned farms for redistribution to landless blacks six years ago.
The Harare authorities recently hiked salaries for civil servants, with the lowest-paid soldier now earning about Z$27-million while the lowest-paid school teacher now takes home about Z$33-million.
But the salaries are still way below the poverty datum line, which the government's Consumer Council of Zimbabwe says now stands at a staggering Z$42-million a month for an average family of six.
The Zimbabwe government often accuses the ZCTU, a strong ally of the MDC, of pushing a political agenda to remove Mugabe from power.
Meanwhile, Matombo and Lucia Matibenga retained their posts as president and first vice-president respectively during the ZCTU congress that ended on Saturday. -- ZimOnline