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  • Christine Chumbler
    Police impound truckloads of government drugs by Jack McBrams, 22 March 2006 - 05:27:19 As the country s hospitals continue to suffer severe drug shortages,
    Message 1 of 1046 , Mar 22, 2006
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      Police impound truckloads of government drugs
      by Jack McBrams, 22 March 2006 - 05:27:19
      As the country's hospitals continue to suffer severe drug shortages, Police on Tuesday morning seized eight Land Rover loads of medical drugs and hospital equipment from a house at Blantyre's Mthandizi Township in Bangwe.
      Bangwe Police Officer-in-Charge Senior Superintendent Christopher Chiwanda said his police officers conducted a secret operation at 0030hrs GMT after receiving a tip from "someone in the community".
      "We did not find the owner of the house but we arrested three watchmen who were guarding it and recovered drugs that took us eight trips to transport in our vans," he said.
      Chiwanda said the Police will launch an investigation, starting with the interrogation of three watchmen: George Dickson, 19, of Kumwembe Village in Ngabu; Chiyembekezo Kuntembwe, 17, of Ndakwera Village in Chikwawa and Max Severe, 21, of Nyamula Village, T/A Tengani in Nsanje.
      Chiwanda explained that among the drugs and equipment recovered were Ampicillin, Bruffen, Anti-Retrovirals (ARVs), gloves, syringes, plaster of Paris (POP) bandages, 37 weighing scales, wheelchairs and X-ray developers.
      Some cartons containing the drugs and equipment were clearly marked "Central Medical Stores, Lilongwe, Malawi."
      "This is murder... They are killing innocent people who should be accessing these drugs and equipment in the hospitals," Chiwanda noted, adding it was sad that some people were stealing POP material when desperate others were being turned away in public hospitals due to lack of them.
      A visit to the house in in the company of Limbe Police Public Relations Officer Chifundo Chibwezo revealed that the house, currently still under construction, was only using two of the seven rooms to store the consignment.
      Asked whether they had established who the owner of the house was or where the drugs came from, Chibwezo said:
      "We do not know anything as of now because we have not started our investigations yet. We will launch investigations and that is what we would want to establish*for how long this has been going on and how these drugs ended up here but it is apparent that this is his [house owner's] business and that it has been going on for a while."
      The PRO said the Police are grateful for the tip which led to the recovery of the drugs and equipment whose value could be in millions of kwacha.
      Principal Secretary for Health Wesley Sangala said his ministry was also investigating the issue.
      "We have heard and we are investigating. So let's wait and see until the investigations are over," he said, adding that security at all government medical stores is very good.
      "We don't know where the drugs came from. They could have been hijacked, they could have come from a warehouse and they were meant for us but were hijacked or they could be Unicef drugs*Unicef distributes some ARVs," he said.
      Contacted for comment, Deputy Pharmacist at the Blantyre Medical Stores Lot Kayuni said he had heard about the seizure in Bangwe but he could not comment further as the Medicines, Pharmacy and Poisons Board had taken over the issue.
      Kayuni, who claimed that the Medical Stores had good security to curb any theft of government medicines, could not say how the drugs and equipment got out of government hands.
      "The person who was found with the drugs is the one who can tell us where he got them, otherwise we can only speculate," he said.

      *****

      Mhen asks govt to find alternative resources
      by Tadala Makata Kakwesa, 22 March 2006 - 07:05:37
      The Malawi Health Equity Network (Mhen) has advised government to find alternative sources of funding on infrastructure development to operationalise projects that have stayed a long time without being implemented.
      The health economic watchdog noted in a report that government has this year allocated over K706 million for various projects, some of which have been carried over from one fiscal year to another but said the projects are being considered as new projects.
      "Nonetheless work on many of these projects has not started. While we appreciate that some of the projects are donor funded, people expect government to put in some contingency plans so that when donors fail to honour their promises government can take ownership of the projects rather than wait forever," Mhen said.
      The network gave an example of the Libyan government that pledged to construct the Blantyre hospital during the Muluzi administration but nothing tangible has happened apart from reports that work on the project would start.
      "Similarly, it is not known when construction of new hospital in Dowa and Nkhotakota will start," said Mhen.
      But Minister of Health and Population Heatherwick Ntaba said it was impossible for government to find alternative sources since the country is already going through serious financial constraints.
      "I don't see the point of saying that. The network and other bodies can also do better by assisting government. They are friends and colleagues who are able to approach donors," said Ntaba.
      He gave an example of an initiative going on in Blantyre where the private sector is constructing a private cancer centre using their own resources.
      Mhen also commended government for increasing this year's national budget on the health sector with the aim of improving the working conditions of the health sector.
      It noted that a large component of this year's budget was allocated to recurrent budget, which includes personal emoluments and other recurrent activities.
      The report indicates that the total recurrent budget has gone up to K6.9 billion from K4.8 billion during the previous financial year, signifying an increase of K2.1 billion.
      "The budget increase is a reflection of an attempt to motivate and retain health workers who have been complaining about poor working conditions," read the report.

      *****

      MCP to support FDC
      by Edwin Nyirongo, 22 March 2006 - 07:04:48
      The opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) says it will support the re-launched Forum for the Defence of the Constitution (FDC) if its objective is to fight for the upholding of the constitution in the country.
      But government says it is not worried about the MCP's move, saying its members have the right to association.
      FDC, a body comprising religious leaders, NGOs and political parties was formed during former president Bakili Muluzi's second term of office to fight his overtures to continue ruling after the expiry of his constitutional two terms.
      The forum became dormant after the third term and open term bills were defeated but was re-launched at Grace Bandawe Conference Centre in Blantyre on Saturday.
      MCP vice president Nicholas Dausi said the party will not only support the FDC but all NGOs that are campaigning for the restoration of the rule of the law, adding that everyone has the obligation to see that the country is disciplined.
      "We do not want to be seen to be supporting one organisation just for the sake of doing it but we will support any person or organisation that fights for the protection of the constitution," he said.
      Asked to mention the constitutional violations that have taken place in the country, Dausi cited the delay in conducting local government elections, disobeying court orders and failure to call parliament in time by government among others.
      Rev. Daniel Gunya, Blantyre Synod General Secretary said last month concerns about the violation of the constitution by the Mutharika administration necessitated the revival of the FDC.
      "There are a number of constitutional violations by this administration which go unchallenged. The dismissal of the vice president is one of them. Others would have come up if this indictment took place. Therefore the Forum is being revived to resist them," he was quoted as saying.
      But government spokesperson Patricia Kaliati said the FDC has been revived because of Cassim Chilumpha's issue and wondered if there is any other function for the grouping.
      Kaliati wondered why the MCP could come and support the grouping now when its president John Tembo worked against it during Bakili Muluzi's administration.
      "The FDC was formed when Muluzi wanted the third and open terms but Hon. Tembo ignored it and voted for the bills. Why is he supporting it now?" she questioned.
      Kaliati said government is aware that some people are trying to threaten it so that they could be bought cars and furniture in order to be silenced. She said the Bingu administration cannot do that.
      The information minister called for the public to pray for Gunya whom she claimed is behind the FDC ,saying she suspecting that he is being led by Satan.
      "I wonder if Rev. Gunya is still a man of God because he is saying a lot of things within a short time. How can he say civil society leaders should not be included in the boards when they have the responsibility to check what is happening there? I think Malawians should pray for him," she said.
      A press realease by the FDC describes it as an independent non-partisan and non-profit organisation that works for the defence of the Constitution of the republic, advocates and promotes human rights, good governance and respect of the rule of law.

      *****

      Malawi gets $4m from new donors
      by Olivia Kumwenda, 22 March 2006 - 07:03:22
      World Food Programme (WFP) Malawi has for the past three months been given $4.3 million from various new donors to assist in the agency's general feeding, refugee and HIV and Aids programmes in the country, it has been learnt.
      For the general feeding programmes, the first time donors include Iceland which gave $94,787, Liechtenstein which donated $19,380 and Luxembourg which has given $176,471.
      Monaco donated $36,276, Rayne Trust Private Foundation gave about $43,478 and Turkey assisted with $100,000.
      Greece has also made its first contribution to WFP Malawi of $35,503 in support of the agency's refugee programme in the country, while Algeria and Israel renewed their support by contributing $1.2 million and $16,666 respectively to WFP's school feeding programme.
      Algeria has contributed $2.3 million to WFP's general feeding programmes, while Spain has contributed $292,398 for HIV and Aids activities.
      Accepting the donations Tuesday, WFP Country Director Dom Scalpelli said it is encouraging when new donors support WFP activities in Malawi and donors from the past come back to help during critical times.
      "These contributions will go a long way towards supporting the country's most vulnerable people through their most difficult times," said Scalpelli.
      He continue: "We are equally grateful to the Government of Malawi and our regular donors for their continued support and confidence in our operations which has enabled us to save lives and promote longer-term sustainable development."
      Other donors include African Development Bank, Belgium, Ireland, Republic of South Africa, European Union, Norway, United Kingdom's Department for International Development (DFID) and the United States.
      WFP is currently feeding 2.2 million Malawians out of an estimated 4.9 million food insecure people across the country.

      *****

      Mtingwi denies lying under oath
      by Olivia Kumwenda, 22 March 2006 - 05:33:03
      Former Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) Commissioner-General Enerst Mtingwi on Tuesday pleaded not guilty to three counts of perjury after he allegedly lied under oath.
      Mtingwi is a defence witness in a case where the MRA wants the High Court to interpret whether former president Bakili Muluzi should pay duty for about 86 vehicles he reportedly purchased duty-free under the Presidents (Salaries and Benefits) Act of 1994 when he was in power.
      According to the charge sheet, Mtingwi faces three perjury counts all of which are contrary to Section 101 as read with Section 104 of the Penal Code.
      The particulars of the first count are that on February 28, 2006, having been lawfully sworn as a witness, Mtingwi wilfully made a statement"which he knew to be false".
      Mtingwi reportedly told the court that he was not personally aware whether or not the Minister of Finance acted on his recommendation of July 27, 2004 that Muluzi be allowed to purchase a Land Rover pick-up duty free.
      The second and third counts allege that Mtingwi on February 27, 2006 and on or about November 30, 2005, as a witness and in an affidavit respectively, made false statements that in January 2004, upon being approached by CFAO Malawi Limited regarding the company's liability for surtax on the vehicles sold to Muluzi as President of the Republic of Malawi, he consulted with a Mr. Mzungu and Mpango.
      The case appeared for hearing Tuesday at the Blantyre Magistrate Court where Mtingwi denied all the charges.
      But the matter could not continue after Mtingwi's lawyer Fred Chipembere made several applications to the court including that the case the stayed because the State did not produce High Court records where Mtingwi is alleged to have made the statements.
      But Primrose Chimwaza from the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions argued that there is no law which says the court records should be the first thing to be introduced in court.
      "Just because it's not here now, it does not mean it won't be here later. In fact, the State was going to file the notice of court records at the end of the proceedings today," said Chimwaza.
      Chipembere also applied to the court for a clarification on his client's movement and permission for his client to access his personal files at MRA.
      "There is an issue of consultation in the matter and that can only descend after the accused has access to his personal files from February 1, 2001 to October 28, 2004," said Chipembere.
      In his ruling, Senior Resident Magistrate Magawa Makhalira said a stay order is not proper in the case but adjourned the matter and gave the State 21 days to produces the court records where the statements are alleged to have been made.
      Makhalira also said Mtingwi can have access to his files at MRA and that he is free to go wherever he wants as long as he shows up for court proceedings on specified dates.

      *****

      K2.5m fraud at Mzuni
      by Mabvuto Banda, 22 March 2006 - 05:28:42
      The Mzuzu University has taken to task its Assistant Finance Officer to account for K2.5 million project money he earlier agreed was irregularly transacted, The Nation has learnt.
      The money, meant for the Secondary School Teacher Improvement Programme (SSTIP), was allegedly banked in the personal account of Assistant Finance Officer J.B.Simkoko.
      Both Vice-Chancellor Prof Peter Mwanza and Registrar Reginald Mushani could not be reached for comment Tuesday as they were said to be in meetings.
      But a letter in our possession dated March 20 written by Mwanza ordered Simkoko to surrender the money by Monday noon, but did not specify what would happen if the deadline was not met.
      "You are aware that we discussed the matter about a payment made to yourself on SSTIP Bank Account cheque number 457 of March 7, 2006, amounting to MK2.5 million without a list of recipients.
      "You agreed that the transaction was an abnormal one and required regularising as soon as possible. I therefore request that you produce the cash first so that it can be disbursed only upon receipt of the approved required list of recipients from the Project Coordinator," wrote Mwanza.
      College insiders claim the issue goes right up and may unearth more of what has happened to several other projects.

      *****

      Police nab alleged Chamba seller
      by Francis Tayanjah-Phiri, 21 March 2006 - 07:04:10
      A 42-year-old man was arrested after a police raid to his house yielded approximately four hundred twists and a pail full of Indian hemp in lakeshore district of Nkhotakota on Thursday.
      Nkhotakota police spokesperson Laban Makalani confirmed the incident, saying the owner of the house was in police custody.
      "Our officers in the early hours of Thursday raided the house of Bubakali Chunga at Makuta Village, T/A Malengachanzi. They found 394 twists of [Indian hemp] and a pail full of the loose Indian hemp," said Makalani.
      He said the raid was organised after some members of the Community Policing Forum in the area tipped police that Chunga was selling hemp in their locality. Chunga works as a Laundry Assistant at Nkhotakota District Hospital, according to Makalani.
      "We decided to embark on the operation early hours of today, and upon entering Chunga's house, our CID officers found some few twists in a cup on a table. A thorough search later led the officers to a heap of grass that hid the pail of hemp just outside the house, and another heap of 394 twists somewhere inside the house," said Makalani.
      Chunga, he said, was already slapped with the charge of being found in possession of Indian hemp and was in custody waiting to appear before court.
      "The Indian hemp is being sent to Chitedze Research Station for official confirmation as required by law," said Makalani.
      He said the police were very impressed with the way community policing forums were working in the district, a thing that had assisted the police officers to arrest those selling, exporting and growing hemp.
      In a related development, Nkhotakota First Grade Magistrate on Wednesday convicted Amidu Malombe, and sentenced him to 30 months imprisonment with hard labour, for being found in possession of 17 kilograms of Indian hemp.
      Passing judgement, First Grade Magistrate Fred Juma Chilowetsa, said offences involving Indian hemp were serious in nature and attracted heavy penalties.
      He said Malombe had only been slapped with the 30 months IHL because he had considered his mitigation factors.
      In mitigation, Milombe (27), said court should be lenient with him because he suffers from a heart attack and had several family obligations.

      *****

      Food distribution extended to end April
      by Emmanuel Muwamba, 21 March 2006 - 07:03:15
      The Department for Poverty and Disaster Management Affairs on Thursday announced that it will extend the distribution of relief food in 14 districts up to April end.
      In a statement released on Friday, the Department says " In a meeting of the Joint Task Force on food security, Government, donors, WFP and NGO partners confirmed that food distribution would continue in 14 districts throughout because of the prevailing situation in these districts."
      The statement says the targeted districts are Chitipa, Karonga, Rumphi and Mzimba in the North, Kasungu, Ntchisi, Dowa, Salima, Lilongwe, Mchinji and Dedza in the Centre and Phalombe, Machinga and Nsanje in the South.
      The most vulnerable districts are said to be in the Northern Region as well as Kasungu, says the report, adding that these areas will receive a full ration of maize, pulses and oil to compensate for the late harvest.
      The statement observes that the vulnerable in the centre and south will also receive food aid in April in those areas affected by late rainfall onset that delayed planting and consequently harvesting.
      "The districts in the Central and Southern regions which have seen high malnutrition rates will also be targeted as will be the areas which have been affected by heavy rainfall and floods," reads the statement.
      Commissioner for the Department Meria Nowa Phiri says the April distribution must go ahead to ensure that families have a smooth transition from consumption of relief food to their own harvest.
      Nowa Phiri notes: "Maize prices have remained relatively high in many parts of the country, meaning that a disproportionate number large of people, especially those that are not receiving food aid, are finding it increasingly difficult to purchase enough food with the limited financial resources."
      The country last year experienced the worst drought where about five million people faced starvation.

      *****

      Mutharika, tobacco buyers fail to agree on pricing
      by Tadala Makata Kakwesa, 21 March 2006 - 06:47:24
      President Bingu wa Mutharika Monday met tobacco buyers to discuss tobacco prices but the two parties failed to reach consensus on setting minimum prices in advance.
      The meeting, held at the New State House in Lilongwe, attracted stakeholders from the tobacco industry as well as government officials.
      Mutharika announced on Sunday during a press briefing that government has from this year decided to be posting minimum prices and buyers will not be allowed to go below the set minimums.
      "Starting from this year, we will be posting prices in advance. This is done deliberately to make sure that our farmers benefit something from the fruits of their labour. We'll make sure that this is not taken out of this country and enjoyed by somebody else," said Mutharika on his arrival from Japan.
      But Tobacco Exporters Association of Malawi (Team) Vice-President Alastair Craik told the press after the meeting with the President that a conclusion has not yet been reached and that it will be difficult for the buyers to make a commitment on the tobacco prices.
      Craik said Mutharika asked the buyers to make a commitment on prices that they will pay this year and said the issue was still under discussion.
      "For now we are still discussing the issue. We haven't given him a firm commitment yet. I think it's going to be very difficult because we have to consult with our principals, but we would like to believe that demand will control the price," said Craik.
      He refused to call the meeting a deadlock, saying there will be further discussion on the issue where a meaningful outcome is expected by Wednesday before the tobacco sales start in Lilongwe on Thursday.
      When asked whether it is possible for government to post prices depending on tobacco quality without the involvement of the buyers, Craik said there was need for the two to work together and cooperate, saying one cannot work without the other.
      "We need to be aware that the tobacco is sold on an open auction and we have to overcome the difficulties of posting a price on an auction system where the price is determined by demand," he said.
      But Minister of Agriculture and Food Security Uladi Mussa said government feels the issue has been concluded in principle.
      "We were asking them to be reasonable with their prices on tobacco. Last year's average price of tobacco was 90 cent per kilogramme. Therefore, we feel we must know what the minimum price for this year is," said Mussa.
      "We know that our economy is liberalised, but we feel we have to know what the minimum price is, we want that tobacco subsidy programme should not go to the tobacco buyers, it should go to the smallholder farmers in order to eradicate the poverty of farmers," said Mussa.
      The President's announcement comes against a background of allegations that tobacco buyers fix prices through a cartel.
    • 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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