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  • Christine Chumbler
    Malawi: Govt Bars Chilumpha The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe) April 3, 2006 Posted to the web April 3, 2006 Dickson Kashoti Lilongwe The government has issued
    Message 1 of 1046 , Apr 4 6:06 AM
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      Malawi: Govt Bars Chilumpha

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      April 3, 2006
      Posted to the web April 3, 2006

      Dickson Kashoti
      Lilongwe

      The government has issued orders that Vice President Cassim Chilumpha should not attend the opening ceremony of parliament tomorrow, saying the pending judicial review case in the High Court of Malawi in Blantyre which he is fighting against his constructive resignation from the post of vice president.

      Sources in the office of the Vice President confirmed that Parliament invited Chilumpha to attend the opening ceremony but the government has since cancelled the invitation.

      The sources said Chilumpha accepted the invitation but could not attend after the government issued the order.

      Personal Assistant to the Speaker, Henry Kamala, who was responsible for handling invitations of very very important people (VVIP) officials, said the list of invited people comes from the department of public events through parliament to the Office of the President and Cabinet for approval if it is a state function. "It is difficult this time for me to know whether Chilumpha will attend or not because the list of invitees comes from the Public Events department. We access it (the list) from there and we can change nothing because the list is sent to the OPC. The list is always guided by the protocol of government structure and setting," he said.

      But Kamala could not confirm the invitation of Chilumpha.

      Minister of Information and Tourism Patricia Kaliati said the government has a right as to who should be invited during presidential functions. "Why should the vice president be invited? Is he an MP? In what capacity should the government invite him? We are tired of commenting about Chilumpha? Why can't you ask me about sales of tobacco?" wondered Kaliati.

      The State House has since issued a press release which says Mutharika is gravely concerned by attempts by Chilumpha to "mislead the general public that there is reconciliation taking place between them." "The position of the government on his constructive resignation still remains as that communicated to him in the president's letter dated 8th February 2006. Furthermore, there is nothing special in him moving to Lilongwe since this has been a presidential directive which Dr. Cassim Chilumpha had disobeyed ever since His Excellency Dr. Bingu wa Mutharika took over leadership of the country," says the press release.

      The press release, signed by the State House Press Officer Chikumbutso Mtumodzi says Dr. Chilumpha is strongly advised to refrain from attending presidential functions because there is no way he can drag his president to court and still expect society to treat him as a loyal and respectful deputy.

      The Vice President's spokesperson Horace Nyaka refused to comment on the issue.

      Meanwhile, media reports indicate that the vice president has hired George Bizos, former South African president Nelson Mandela's lawyer to represent him in his constructive resignation case against government slated for hearing on April 7, 2006.

      *****

      Malawi: The Hidden Costs of Deforestation

      UN Integrated Regional Information Networks

      April 3, 2006
      Posted to the web April 3, 2006

      Johannesburg

      The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has raised the alarm over the disappearance of forests throughout Africa, warning that despite the establishment of sound national forestry policies, implementation remains weak.

      "Africa suffered a net loss of forests exceeding nine million acres [3.6 million hectares] per year between 2000 and 2005," FAO said in a statement released after the African Forestry and Wildlife Commission meeting in Maputo, Mozambique, last week.

      With a net rate of loss second only to South America's, the continent leads the world in the frequency of forest fires, "mainly due to the traditional practice of using fire for conversion of forest to agriculture or grassland," the statement observed.

      According to Peter Lowe, Forest Conservation Officer at the FAO Regional Office for Africa, "some 60 percent of the world's burnt area is caused by African fires. In a typical year, about seven percent of the continent burns, with some countries experiencing figures three to four times that average".

      "Within Africa, the countries of Southern Africa contributed over one-quarter of the African loss. FAO estimates that Southern Africa lost over one million hectares of forest annually [between 2000 and 2005]," he noted.

      Lowe said the forces driving deforestation - population growth reliant on wood fuel and non-intensive agriculture - were accelerating, and "foresters cannot keep pace".

      With food insecurity an increasing problem in Southern Africa, more and more people are relying on woodlands to serve their basic needs, to act as a safety net when harvests fail and to earn cash. "This has been exacerbated by the return of sick people suffering HIV/AIDS to rural areas, who are too weak to cultivate."

      "For the mass of urban and rural poor, the real issues are food, health and survival - this year, not for future generations. Their livelihoods are directly linked to the use and small-scale commercialisation of forest products, such as firewood, forest foods, game meat and medicines," he pointed out.

      The consequences tend to snowball. Forest cover contributes indirectly to agricultural production through soil fertilisation, effective soil hydrology, stream flow moderation and soil erosion control, and "long-term degradation or disappearance of forests has an inevitable effect on the productivity of extensive agricultural systems, which most rural folk rely on", Lowe said.

      In Malawi, one of the Southern African countries hardest hit by drought, particularly in the highly populated south, "the concern is very real - satellite images have shown that deforestation is one of our biggest problems," Samuel Kamoto, Advocacy, Environmental Education and Communication Director at the Wildlife and Environmental Society of Malawi told IRIN.

      "Malawi has an agro-based economy: land degradation reduces productivity but also affects the fisheries industry, as water washes more silt into the lake [Lake Malawi]. The use of wood as a source of fuel in Malawi is very high: clearing the forests will result in an energy problem - the price of wood is constantly going up," he said.

      Tourism was "another important sector that suffers from deforestation - wild life is already on the decline, particularly the animals that attract tourists", Kamoto commented.

      Malawi has a forestry policy and a forestry act. But there was a trade-off between livelihoods [such as hunting and poaching] and wildlife conservation, Lowe explained. As forests reduced in size, there was more contact between wildlife and rural people, leading to crop damage, injury and death. This placed wildlife under political scrutiny, which could bring culling and restriction of troublesome species.

      "Over the last five years we have seen 2.8 percent deforestation [in Malawi] every year. We know that it is an issue that can be addressed, but we will need a concerted effort," he said.

      According to FAO, there has been some improvement. "More than half of African countries have established new forestry policies and laws over the past 15 years, and two-thirds now have an active national forestry management programme in place." But lack of financing and ineffective national institutions meant "implementation and enforcement of these measures remains weak".

      "In Malawi the dependency on charcoal is the biggest problem," Kamoto said. "It is illegal to make unless sustainable resources are used, but because these are not available, you can't enforce the law. People will have to be given alternatives, particularly for fuel, such as using paraffin and biogas instead of relying only on wood or charcoal."

      [aside: Sam Kamoto was my counterpart.]

      *****

      Malawi: Age Might Bar Mutharika

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      April 3, 2006
      Posted to the web April 3, 2006

      Gregory Gondwe
      Lilongwe

      Submissions that seek to introduce 75 years as maximum age limit for presidential aspirants at the just ended Constitutional Review Conference in Lilongwe might bar the 74-year-old President Bingu wa Mutharika who has indicated his intensions to contest in the next presidential election in 2009.

      Although many participants to the conference are of the view that this submission be adopted, some people said they will fight up to the end to make sure that this has not been taken aboard.

      President Mutharika pleaded with the conference no to amend the Constitution in order to deal with or punish an individual or a system of the society. "This is fundamental because the moment this principle is lost, the sanctity of the Constitution would become eroded and lose its power to bind our nation together," said Mutharika.

      Malawi, which has been dogged by a constitutional crisis that has paralysed the whole system of governance due to constitutional loopholes as acknowledged by Mutharika and his Justice Minister Henry Phoya during the opening of the Conference last Tuesday, is currently considering a number of constitutional submissions made on the executive.

      The conference is trying to provide remedies to the governance crisis, which has continuously pitted the executive in protracted war with the legislature over presidential legitimacy and the president's lack of constitutional power to dismiss his vice even in the face of a standoff, as is the case in Malawi among others.

      The submissions made so far, intends to make constitution stipulation on the academic qualifications for nomination or election of the President, level of majority for electing the president, the size of the cabinet which the popular number has appeared to be 20 and that the presidency must seek parliamentary approval for additional.

      People want the constitution to spell out on what should happen when a president-elect dies; what should determine the party of government, whether the president should be allowed to resign from the party that sponsored him or her into office like the incumbent Mutharika did and who should become acting president in the absence of the incumbent.

      The submissions also wanted the constitution to empower the president to fire his vice as the recent political experience in Malawi.

      Some participants observed that the present scenario is a repetition of what ensued in the first half of 2004 when former first Vice President Justin Malewezi decided to part ways with his party and distanced himself from the presidency of Bakili Muluzi.

      Boniface Dulani, Political and Administration Lecturer at the University of Malawi observed during a presentation of his paper at the conference on Thursday that it was crucial to scrutinise the loopholes of executive branch of government.

      The paper called 'a Comparative Study of the Constitution Chapter on the Executive in Malawi with Five other Constitutions' looked at the countries of South Africa, Zambia, Federal Republic of Nigeria, the United States and the Republic of Kenya.

      *****

      Malawi: Constitutional Review Wants National Anthem Improved

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      April 3, 2006
      Posted to the web April 3, 2006

      Gregory Gondwe
      Lilongwe

      Participants and contributors to last week's Constitutional Review Conference have proposed that some areas in the country's National Anthem must be changed in order to be consistent with the current political, economic and social scenario.

      The matter, which came to the attention of the conference during the presentation by Rafiq Hajat of the Institute for Policy Interaction (IPI) received support from Kamuzu Chibambo, a lawyer who is also People's Transformation Party (PETRA) president.

      Chibambo protested that Malawians have been singing about hunger, disease and envy for 40 years and proposed that these words be removed or replaced from the National Anthem. "What I know is usually what I affirm and what I affirm controls me therefore we must not let hunger, disease and envy control us. We need to address this issue because we must move on," he said.

      Hajat who was presenting a paper entitled ' A Constitutional Fortress: Mirage or Miraculously Possible?" started by saying that some words in the National Anthem like where it talked of leaders must be replaced with people. "The conference could perhaps consider amending our National Anthem to say, "Bless our people - each and every one" instead of "Bless our Leaders," he said to the applause of the participants.

      He said once a person has become a leader then it means he has already been blessed and therefore if the conference wanted to maintain the leader in the National Anthem then it must be 'Guide' our leader and not 'Bless'.

      If the submissions on the changing of the National Anthem shall take effect, it will be the first time that it has been changed since the adoption of the anthem in 1964 when composer the late Michael Sauka emerged the best of the composers at the time.

      Sauka died a poor man, because he did not recieve got no royalties on the National Anthem prompting his relatives to press on Government to assist his widow.

      *****

      Malawi: Dispondency Dogs UDF, MCP

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      April 3, 2006
      Posted to the web April 3, 2006

      Arnold Mnelemba
      Lilongwe

      A Looming crisis is gradually threatening the stability of major opposition parties, the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and the United Democratic Front (UDF) due to power struggles prior to the parties' conventions.

      Political scientists have warned the two parties to be aware of a looming crisis and asked the leaders of the parties to take measures in order to resolve the problems in a systematic way.

      Boniface Dulani, a political scientist at Chancellor College said the two parties risk facing crisis due to their failure to address problems. "If you imagine, there are over five people fighting for the presidency, what will these people do if they fail to win the positions they are contesting for in their parties? Enmity will be created and it will be very difficult for losers to support a winner because as I am talking, I heard camps have already started in the parties if media reports are something to go by," said Dulani.

      However, MCP President John Tembo and UDF spokesperson Sam Mpasu differed with Dulani. They said everything is under control in the parties and there cannot be any crisis because people are free to exercise their democratic freedoms.

      Tembo said that he only have reports about some members of parliament who claim to be against him standing as a 2009 presidential candidate because they want shadow finance minister Raspicious Dzanjalimodzi.

      He said no person has personally shown interest to vie for any positions in the party. "I am not compelled to comment on something I do not know, in fact, I did not receive the letter myself from these so called 39 or 45 MPs rebelling against Tembo, otherwise another MP showed me the letter and I only read it in newspapers that they are planning to remove me as leader of opposition in parliament. I was elected on the position of the leader of opposition and I can be removed. There is no problem, let us wait and see who will get the last laugh," said Tembo.

      UDF spokesperson Sam Mpasu said what people are doing in UDF by expressing interest to contest for various positions in the party is exercising their constitutional and human rights. "There is nothing wrong for anyone to contest for any position in the party and there will be no problems after that,' said Mpasu.

      Information reaching the Chronicle indicates that Vice President Cassim Chilumpha, former National Democratic Alliance (NDA) President Brown Mpinganjira, Friday Jumbe, George Ntafu, Moses Dossi, and Sam Mpasu are eagerly fighting for top most positions in a bid to climb to the driving seat of the party.

      Both Mpinganjira and Chilumpha said they cannot be bitter after losing.

      Mpinganjira said he is in UDF because that is the party that made his name and he will work to ensure that the once mighty party regains its lost glory.

      Chilumpha said he has been loyal to the party and whatever happens, he will still remain a loyal member of the UDF.

      A cross section of members of parliament and district governors for the former ruling party, the United Democratic Front (UDF) in the Southern and central regions are said to be favouring former National Democratic Alliance (NDA) leader Brown Mpinganjira for the presidency of the party.

      The sources said Mpinganjira is favoured because they feel he is most popular in the highly populated areas of Mulanje, Thyolo, Chiradzulu, Zomba and Mangochi which have the highest voters in the country. "But Cassim Chilumpha has the blessings of some party members for his loyalty to the party, Mpinganjira was favoured by members of parliament while some mentioned contestants submitted themselves to the people," he said.

      Our source stated the some quarters of the party proposed that Chilumpha should be the President so that he should become an automatic presidential candidate with Jumbe as Vice President so that he should be elevated to be presidential running-mate.

      Leader of UDF in parliament George Ntafu said he has not yet started campaigning for the post of vice chairman of the party although he has already showed interest to contest. "What we have done in the party is to have elections in all positions at the convention. We will elect everyone starting from a Chairman to a Committee Member. We have created the post of a Chairman and Vice, President of the party and his two deputies all of who will be eligible to be voted on the post of a presidential candidate in 2008 prior to 2009 elections," said Ntafu.

      Mpinganjira, on the other hand said he was approached by people to contest for the post of president. "Let us wait for the convention to come, I am told people are campaigning but I believe it is high time that people are looking for a mature leader who can rebuild the once stronger party. We can do that and everything is possible," said Mpinganjira.

      Chilumpha could not be reached for comment but some sources close to him disclosed that the Bakili Muluzi Third Term crusaders are the architects of Chilumpha's campaign team in the central region.

      *****

      Southern Africa: Malawi-Mozambique Power Interconnection On Course

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      April 3, 2006
      Posted to the web April 3, 2006

      Charles Chisi
      Lilongwe

      Malawi will by the end of next year tap power from Zambezi in Mozambique following a power sharing memorandum of understanding the two governments signed in 1998, Minister of Economic Planning and Development, David Faiti has disclosed.

      Faiti said this at a press conference he addressed alongside Deputy Minister of Mines, Natural Resources and Environment, Jimmy Banda in Lilongwe recently.

      He observed that Malawi was lagging behind in industrialisation because her power generation capacity is not enough to accelerate industrial growth. "Power is the key to industrialisation. Many industrialised nations have used power to trigger development and Malawi should do the same to achieve a substantial industrialisation," he said.

      He said the Malawi-Mozambique power interconnection, which is a concept under the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) will provide a back-up to the country's power plants whose power generation capacity is not enough to meet the ever-increasing demand for electricity in the country.

      The Minister said because of this, government had found it imperative to rehabilitate Tedzani power station to enhance its power generation capacity.

      Faiti said increasing access to electricity would also provide a long-term solution to deforestation; a problem government is fighting hard to address.

      Making his comment, the deputy minister of mines, natural resources and environment, Jimmy Banda said government had also banked its hopes on the Japanese funded rural electrification programme expected to enter phase four shortly. "We have identified 240 sites as beneficiaries of phase four of the rural electrification project," said Banda. "This, coupled with the Mozambique-Malawi power interconnection will make us realise our dream of accelerating electricity accessibility levels in the country currently hovering at around 7%" According to Electricity Supply Commission of Malawi (ESCOM) acting Chief Executive, Kandi Padambo, the power sharing agreement will see Malawi importing between 50 and 100 Megawatts from Zambezi in Mozambique.

      Currently Escom has four power generation plants namely Kapichira with a power generation capacity of 64.8 Megawatts, Wovwe with 4.5Megawatts, Nkula A and B with 124 Megawatts and Tedzani 1 2 and 3 with 106.7 Megawatts.

      *****

      Malawi: Teaching And Learning Materials Scam Costs the Taxpayer K891m

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      April 3, 2006
      Posted to the web April 3, 2006

      Morris Mvinyo
      Lilongwe

      The Ministry of Education has lost a further K891.3 million through the process of teaching and learning materials procurement.

      Deliberately the Ministry left tenders for supply of Teaching and Learning Materials open ended so that it becomes difficult to reconcile what has been received against what is being paid for.

      The other day, a Ministry of Education Official in the capacity of Director of Planning in responding to the issue of "Teaching and Learning Materials" said, "Things are not alright. We are paying people for nothing because a lot of money is spent on funeral arrangements and money for other engagements like book purchasing is being used to arrange for burial of teachers and other staff workers in the Ministry because of HIV/AIDS." (The Chronicle Vol. 13 No 598 27 March- 2 April, 2006).

      On the same issue, the Deputy Principal Secretary, Fletcher Zenengeya said "Some suppliers had long term contracts and were just supplying without a cut off point. I don't know why it was like this. So, we are paying the arrears." (The Daily Times, Wednesday, March 29, 2006).

      A highly placed source said," These two statements, from the same Ministry are contradictory. It is true that the Ministry has been paying suppliers on the understanding that they were still supplying Teaching and Learning Materials, but whether they were delivering is a matter for the Supplies Division of the Ministry." When Limbani Nsapato, the Coalition Director of Civil Society Coalition for Quality Basic Education(CSCQBE) was contacted on the issue he said, "Our report for 2004/5 noted the inconsistencies in the Ministry's responses on this matter. The Ministry needs to be transparent if they have to avoid speculations." Another highly placed source confided to the Chronicle saying, "Treasury has been funding the Ministry every year for Teaching and Learning Materials. That these are not available in the schools can only be explained by either falsified delivery information for payment purposes or diversion of the bought materials to other than the intended use.

      However there is also need to find out who the suppliers are because it is possible that these may not be at arms length transactions." He further said, "The inconsistencies are meant to gloss over the missing funds, as the payment issue is one that is closely authorised by very top officials of the Ministry. What the government may have lost could be more than the K891.3 Million as reported by CSCQBE." The feeling is that the Ministry is mature for auditing and enquiries by competent bodies outside the government as there is more than meets the eye.

      *****

      Malawi: Parliament to Amend Land Related Laws

      The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)

      April 3, 2006
      Posted to the web April 3, 2006

      Charles Chisi
      Lilongwe

      Parliament is expected to amend various land laws that deal with land administration and management to make them conform to the proposed new land law, Minister of Lands, Housing and Surveys, Bazuka Mhango has said.

      Briefing the press on the status of the work of the Special Law Commission (SLC) on the review of land related laws and the formulation of the new land law at the Ministry's conference room last Monday, Mhango said the commission had found it necessary for parliament to amend the laws to enable a smooth implementation of the new land law.

      The affected laws are; Forest Act, Public Roads Act, Malawi Housing Corporation Act and the Investment Promotion Act. "We have to amend these Acts to make them conform to the proposed new land law to ensure its smooth implementation. Even though they are not within the mandate of the Ministry responsible for land matters, they nevertheless touch on issues of land administration and management," he said.

      Mhango said the commission had also made substantive and comprehensive recommendations for the amendments of laws that directly govern land administration and management in the country namely the Land Act, the Registered Land Act, the Town and Country Planning Act, the Land Surveys Act, the Land Acquisition Act and the Deeds Registration Act.

      He said the purpose of this is to ensure that the objectives of the National Land Policy are translated into law for implementation purposes. "The National Land Policy wants to promote tenure reforms that guarantee security and instil confidence and fairness in land transactions and to establish a modern land registration system for delivering land services to all among other objectives," said Mhango.

      The Minister added that the commission had made various recommendations touching on authorities to administer and manage land, dispute settlements regarding customary land and other issues all aimed at coming up with an enabling law to implement the aspirations of the National Land Policy.

      When asked how soon the new law would come into being, Mhango was sceptical. "I can not tell you when because after this it has to be adopted by government first through the cabinet structure on legal and constitutional affairs before proceeding to the whole cabinet and finally parliament," he said.

      He also dispelled fears that the new land law might meet resistance from traditional authority leaders in its implementation saying an intensive awareness campaign has taken place to make them understand it.

      The new land law, according to the Minister, has been tailored in such a way as to benefit Malawians unlike the current law whose loopholes have given foreigners an upper hand in land acquisition in the country.

      *****

      Prisoners in Zim jails go naked

      Harare, Zimbabwe

      04 April 2006 08:46

      Prisoners in some of Zimbabwe's overcrowded jails have to stay naked because of a shortage of uniforms that highlights deteriorating conditions in prisons as the cash-strapped government struggles for resources to maintain the institutions, independent news provider ZimOnline has learnt.

      Prison officials and some former inmates say the Zimbabwe Prison Service (ZPS) is unable to provide adequate uniforms for the ever-increasing number of inmates, resulting in prisoners having to share the available uniforms.

      Inmates on remand and who will be attending court are the first priority to get uniforms, while those not going to court have to stay naked or use prison blankets to cover themselves, a senior official at Harare central prison said.

      Prisoners in Zimbabwe are banned from wearing their own clothes and must wear prison-issued uniforms.

      The prison official, who did not want to be named because he is not authorised to disclose such information to the press, said: "There is a serious shortage of uniforms for prisoners that they have to share.

      "Priority for uniforms is being given to suspects in remand prison who would be attending court. Some of the prisoners have to stay naked, but it's kind of rotational."

      A former prisoner at the notorious Chikurubi prison, just outside Harare, Elton Mandiro, said it is "most humiliating" when he and other inmates have to hang around the prison naked because there are no uniforms.

      Mandiro, who was released from Chikurubi last month, said: "We were told to remove our uniforms and hand them over so that the guys going to court appearances could wear them. We would stay naked or sometimes we would wrap those torn prison blankets, but then again they are not enough."

      ZPS commissioner Paradzai Zimondi was not available for comment on the matter, while Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa, under whose portfolio prisons fall, said he was not aware of the uniforms shortage and promised to investigate the claims that inmates sometimes had to stay naked.

      Chinamasa said the government has tried to ensure conditions in jails meet international standards, but admitted it has in some cases failed to do this because of lack of money.

      He said: "That's [prisoners staying naked] news to me. We try to provide dignified conditions for our prisoners according to international requirements. To a large extent we have managed, although in some cases funding affects us."

      The uniforms shortage is only one of several problems affecting the poorly funded state jails. There is also serious overcrowding with the more than 40 prisons holding more than 22 000 inmates, which is way above their designed carrying capacity of 16 000 prisoners.

      Overcrowding plus a shortage of medical drugs in prison hospitals has seen the spread of infectious diseases such as tuberculosis in prisons.

      Food is also in short supply with numerous reports in the past of inmates, for example at Chikurubi prison, going for months without running water or spending weeks on a diet of dirty cabbage soup and maize-meal porridge.

      A poor diet has resulted in a higher incidence of malnutrition-related illnesses among prisoners.

      In a confidential report to President Robert Mugabe last February, Zimondi said conditions in the country's prisons were so bad, with prisoners dying regularly, that every inmate was virtually on death row.

      Most of those dying in prison or just after being released were dying of treatable diseases, the country's chief jailer said in the report.

      Describing the mortality rate in prisons as a "cause for concern", Zimondi said at one of the country's jails, which he did not name in the report, 127 prisoners had died over a period of 12 months.

      The Law Society of Zimbabwe (LSZ) in 2004 described conditions in prisons as hazardous and said the country's jails were virtual death traps. The LSZ, the representative body for the legal profession in Zimbabwe, was speaking after touring prisons.

      The government is hard pressed for resources as it grapples an acute food shortage affecting a quarter of the 12-million Zimbabweans and a severe economic crisis that has spawned shortages of fuel, electricity and essential medical drugs, among other key commodities. -- ZimOnline
    • 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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