- 74 MPs join government
by Bright Sonani, 05 April 2006 - 05:17:13
Speaker of Parliament Louis Chimango on Tuesday registered 74 MPs sitting on government side during the opening session of the House while the United Democratic Front (UDF) had 30 and Malawi Congress Party (MCP) chalked about 60.
Among those on government's right hand side of the Speaker include Thyolo South MP Mcjay Salijeni, Zomba Likangala's Calista Chimombo, Ntcheu North-East's Michael Sato and Chikwawa North MP Alfeyo Gobede while the rest were independent members.
When Mutharika came into the House it was only the government side that stood up and clapped hands for the President while the opposition side just looked on and throughout the two hours speech the opposition remained silent while the government applauded.
Only Fodger Nyirongo, MP for Mzimba Luwelezi on the opposition side could be seen clapping hands and applauding along the government side.
Notable names missing in the House were PPM's Aleke Banda and Mark Katsonga; UDF's Clement Chiwaya, Bertha Masiku and Clement Stambuli and Aford President Chakufwa Chihana.
Former Vice-President Justin Malewezi was in the House and sat on the opposition side on the front row in the MCP benches where several independents and smaller parties have also been shifted to pave way for the UDF which is now sitting where the independents were based.
The mover of the controversial motion on the impeachment of Mutharika, Mangochi Malombe MP Maxwell Milanzi snubbed government side when he refused to take up a seat reserved for him on the government side and opted for the UDF benches.
Milanzi could not immediately comment on why he decided to sit on the opposition side while his name was appearing on the government side of the sitting plan. But UDF leader in the House George Mtafu said the MP was one of those protesting for being put on a wrong side.
"What I know is that some MPs are actually protesting because they were not consulted before the changes were made. Honourable Milanzi is one of them. He has said that he is still UDF," said Mtafu.
He said even the party was not informed about the changes.
"We have just seen a few names of our members sitting. What was supposed to be done is that the MPs were supposed to write the Speaker and the party on their intention to change sides. We are only expecting the Speaker to explain because that has to be explained," said Mtafu.
He however said the party was not bitter about the changes, saying: "It was us who requested the changes, we are not shocked or taken unawares. It is only good and proper for us to sit that way.
"And we are not shaken with those MPs who have gone to the government side because these are people from us, we talk to them and they talk to us. We know what they are standing for in the House."
Mtafu said the real reason that government was delaying Parliament was to use that time to go around and buy MPs.
He claimed most of the MPs have been 'bought' by money or a promise for development in their areas.
Mtafu said even those MPs still with UDF were "approached, spoken to but refused because they have been purified and tempered nicely like a piece of metal."
He, therefore, said one of the issues coming on the floor when the House resumes sitting today (Wednesday) would be to push that there should be special funding allocated through assemblies to all constituencies to ensure that there is equity in development regardless of political party leaning.
Milanzi, who is currently answering charges of cheating the Electoral Commission after he stood for the 2004 elections despite being a convict, surprised the nation when he suddenly announced that he has withdrawn the impeachment motion against Mutharika amid allegations that it was in exchange for his freedom and that he was been wooed to join government.
Clerk of Parliament Matilda Katopola Tuesday said she could not comment much since the sitting plan was done by the Speaker's office.
"Whatever is on the sitting plan is what the political parties requested on how they would want to sit in the House. That is all I can say," she said.
Leader of Government business in the House Henry Chimunthu Banda could not immediately comment on the sitting plan as he was said to be in a meeting soon after the opening session but last week he was quoted to have said that the government side is expected to have more than 80 members.
Meanwhile, it is not yet clear whether or not the MPs who have moved to the government's side in the House have crossed the floor (and thus lost their seats) as stipulated by Section 65 of the Constitution. The Speaker, enforcer of the Section, can also not implement the clause as State President Bingu wa Mutharika has referred the matter to the courts for an opinion.
The Constitutional Court recently advised the President on procedures for referring matters to the courts in the light of his request on Section 65, and Mutharika is yet to move on the matter.
[a source in this piece might be familiar to some...]
Malawi: Diet Diversification Answer to Food Insecurity
UN Integrated Regional Information Networks
April 4, 2006
Posted to the web April 4, 2006
Food insecurity in Malawi can be overcome if people's high dependency on maize is reduced, according to a World Food Programme (WFP) study.
The aim of the study was to explore alternative sources of food in the aftermath of one of the country's worst maize shortages in a decade. "Food in Malawi has always meant maize - we wanted to expose Malawians to other forms of food," explained Stacia Nordin, a sustainable food and nutrition security consultant, who contributed to the research.
The survey, conducted over a period of nine months last year, involved 4,000 people in four districts around the country. WFP suggested two approaches: encouraging communities, schools, health centres and households to grow alternative crops; educating community members, students and patients about nutrition and preparing alternative foods to improve diets.
Schools and other members of the community were also encouraged to include alternative sources of carbohydrates, such as potatoes instead of maize, and other food groups like fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, oil and fats in their daily diet, said Nordin. Subsistence farmers were motivated to grow vegetables and other sources of carbohydrates, like indigenous varieties of potatoes, not only as the source of a well-balanced meal, but also of income.
Vitamin and mineral deficiencies resulting from unbalanced diets retard intellectual development, compromise immune systems, cause birth defects and affect the working capacity of adults. According to a 2004 joint study by the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), the World Health Organisation, the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), the Development Bank of Southern Africa and the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition, these deficiencies were costing Malawi more than one percent of its annual gross domestic product in lost productivity.
According to the joint study, more than half the children aged below six were living with vitamin A deficiency, which affects the immune system. "With high levels of HIV/AIDS prevalence in Malawi, access to a nutritionally balanced diet is critical," Nordin pointed out.
The results of the WFP study were "incredible", she added. Participants were encouraged to make their own decisions about improving food and nutrition security, and came up with workable dietary plans. The findings have been produced in the form of a manual, 'Low-Input Food and nutrition Security: Growing and Eating More using Less', which has become part of the UN agency's diet diversification programme and will be implemented in all Malawi's schools.
Meanwhile, the UK-based development agency, Oxfam GB, has blamed the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for the shortage of maize. In a statement the agency claimed that the financial institutions were forcing the government to commercialise ADMRAC, the state grain marketer, which impacted on its ability to deliver subsidised maize and fertiliser.
Many NGOs believed that World Bank and IMF assistance to Malawi was conditioned upon progress made in restructuring ADMARC. "One of the key institutions that farmers have looked to for support when buying maize or fertilizer is ... ADMARC. Even though commercialisation of ADMARC ... was announced in 2002, the institution's social marketing functions - and thereby its potential to support the most vulnerable members of society - have still not been determined," said Oxfam.
ADMARC was in urgent need of "restructuring of its management to bring about renewed purpose, commitment and accountability to match the intentions of government to serve the poor", the development agency suggested. Malpractices and shortage of maize stocks had prevented ADMARC from supplying farmers, who have been unable to source seeds from private traders because of high prices.
IMF country resident representative Thomas Baunsgaard denied that the financial institution had exerted any influence on the government to commercialise ADMARC.
Malawi: MPs Want Speedy Central Medical Stores Restructuring
The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)
April 3, 2006
Posted to the web April 3, 2006
Members of parliament who sit on the Health and Population Committee have asked the government to speed up the restructuring of Central Medical Stores as a measure of controlling the rampant drug theft.
Austin Tukula, the deputy chairman of the committee said that Central Medical Stores, which keeps government drugs would turn into a trust once the restructuring process, encouraged by donors, is over. "We are concerned, not only because of the drug theft but by the quality of drugs people are given. Something must be done to improve the situation," he said.
He added: "As members of parliament we must support the government to speed up the approval of this policy the government should review the distribution process of drugs. Drugs are being stolen because the system is very porous." He said even donors are pressing the government to turn Central Medical Stores into a trust.
Central Medical Stores officials were last week summoned at the meeting which took place at Lingadzi Inn in Lilongwe where they told the MPs what they are doing to control drug theft.
Tukula said Parliament's Health and Population Committee has a mandate to ensure that the government is implementing its Health budget well. "One of the functions of the committee is to monitor the health budget.
We pass the budget and we play our Constitutional oversight role. Since we passed the budget last year, we have not been given the chance to monitor the Ministry of Health budget," he said.
He said the committee could not meet because of lack of funding.
Meanwhile, a parliamentary task force of four members of parliament are on a six day tour of district hospitals and Central Medical Stores to assess how drugs end up in the hands of thieves.
The task force members are Tukula, Lilongwe City West MP Robert Bondo, Gertrude Nyamkandawire and Benjamin Banda. "The findings of this tour will be presented in Parliament," said Tukula.
Malawi: MEJN Supports Tobacco Price Fixing
The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)
April 3, 2006
Posted to the web April 3, 2006
Malawi Economic Justice Network (MEJN) says it supports the minimum price for tobacco fixed by President Bingu wa Mutharika but warns against further delays in commencement of the sales due to price disagreements, saying this will adversely affect the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rate.
Mutharika, during the official opening of the tobacco selling season, fixed the minimum price for tobacco at $1.10 per kilogramme and $1.70 per kilogramme for the top most grades.
MEJN acting National Coordinator, Mabvuto Bamusi said in an interview Thursday government has a duty to protect subsistence farmers from exploitation by tobacco buyers. "As civil society, we feel the state must intervene on issues of economy and after pumping a lot in tobacco farming this year through the subsidised fertiliser it is obvious that they (government) expect good returns from it. It is therefore suicidal to sell the leaf at give away prices," said Bamusi.
Bamusi, however, attributed the disagreements in tobacco prices to liberalisation. "All this is happening because our economy is too liberalised. This should be food for thought for government to revisit the liberalisation policy to make it an effective poverty reduction tool where buyers are not supposed to dictate prices," he said.
But Bamusi said further delays in commencement of the sales will adversely affect GDP growth rate this year. "Tobacco contributes about 30 percent to the GDP and therefore delays in commencement of the sales because of price disagreements will determine GDP growth rate this year," he said.
The economic watch dog added that the delays will also affect forex inflows expected to provide a cushion for the stability of the local currency. "We are just coming from a lean period when our forex reserves had run dry. Delays in the sales will have an impact on the strength of our currency against major currencies," he said.
Bamusi further said the delays will negatively affect the levels of employment as 70 percent of Malawians are directly or indirectly employed by the tobacco industry.
He, however, advised government to ensure more room for discussion with the buyers so that all stakeholders benefit from the sales.
Malawi: BLM Says Manyuchi Winning Hearts of Many
The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)
April 3, 2006
Posted to the web April 3, 2006
The country's major healthcare providers in sexual and reproductive health, Banja La Mtsogolo (BLM) says Manyuchi condoms are still winning the hearts of many in Malawi.
BLM's External Relations and Marketing Manager George Macheka told The Chronicle in a telephone interview on Thursday last week that there is a good response from the market and said many people in the country, including the youths are now able to use the condoms.
Macheka said Banja La Mtsogolo is proud to see that many people in the country including those living in rural areas have now realised the importance of using the condoms. "There is a good response from the market and the demand is also very high. At the moment you can imagine that we have so far sold two million condoms and this is a clear indication that people are using our product which is good as well for their protection against sexually transmitted diseases. We are also very happy that BLM has managed to provide sexual reproductive heath care services through out the country," said Macheka Macheka added: "It is good that even University students are also using the Manyuchi condoms, because we some times run out of the product in most of our selling centres which are close to the universities or colleges," he said.
According to Macheka, Manyuchi condoms, which are being manufactured in Malaysia and imported by BLM, were introduced in the country on September7, 2004.
British Department for International Development (DFID) commended Banja La Mtsogolo recently for its work through projects like health in prisons (HIP), community outreach and youth component.
Health advisor for DFID, Julia Kemp told one of the local daily papers that her organisation is pleased that BLM has succeeded in providing high quality services to the public.
Kemp said BLM has achieved a lot in sexual and reproductive health services not only in its clinics but also in out reach services such as reaching out to young people both in urban and rural communities.
Malawi: NAC Warns NGOs Over Misuse of Grants
The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)
April 3, 2006
Posted to the web April 3, 2006
The National Aids Commission (NAC) has warned non-governmental organisations in the country against misusing grants provided by NAC.
The executive director of the National AIDS Commission, Dr Biswick Mwale told The Chronicle in an interview recently that some officials who run non-governmental organisations use grants from NAC for personal things. "We have received information that there are some greedy leaders in some non governmental organisations who are failing to conduct some HIV/ADS activities because they run out of financial assistance because they use the money for their own personal benefit. "Let me warn those leaders that NAC will not tolerate such type of behaviour, the funding that are given to community based organisations or any organisation which is tackling issues about HIV/AIDS is not for them, but its for the people who are living with HIV/AIDS, or those who want to know information about HIV/AIDS," said Mwale.
Mwale said now time has come for NGO leaders to fight tooth and nail in fighting the HIV/AIDS pandemic rather wasting their time in squandering the money. "Leaders should make sure that what ever they are doing in issues of HIV/AIDS, they should be serious all the time and they must tell people the truth about the dangers of HIV/AIDS.
This is not the time that leaders should be busy sharing allowances at any small function in their area but, it is now time to forge ahead in disseminating information about HIV/AIDS," he said.
Chairperson of the Malawi partnership forum on HIV/AIDS executive Committee, Justin Malewezi said it is sad to note that as more money is being poured into HIV/AIDS organisations, rural communities do not have access to basic services such as medical care, drugs, nutrition, transport and other support services. "Obviously the money and the services are not reaching the women and men, girls and boys in the local villages and something must be done to make sure that these NGOs are really doing their job. "We all know that NAC is funding them very well, so its our duty to make sure that they are serving the general public not using the funding money for their personal living ," said Malewezi.
He further said the HIV/AIDS pandemic continues to spread and worsen and has reached a crisis point with almost all households completely overwhelmed.
He said the AIDS impact continue s to extend beyond those who have contracted the virus.
He also said the productive sectors are incapacitated, skilled personnel in key public sectors such as education and health is dangerously depleted and AIDS has negatively impacted on agriculture and food security. "Now is the time to move out comfort zones and treat HIV/AIDS as crisis and stop treating it as business as usual. The HIV/AIDS business is business unusual and it must not be treated with kid gloves," he said.
Malawi: Minister Asks UNFPA for More Support On Reproductive Health
The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)
April 3, 2006
Posted to the web April 3, 2006
The Minister of Economic Planning and Development, David Faiti, has asked the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) to continue supporting the government in sexual and reproductive health activities in Malawi.
Faiti said this recently at Banja La Mtsogolo Head Office after he visited two youth drop in centres, Midima and Lunzu in Blantyre.
He said UNFPA support to Malawi has made tremendous progress in the area of population and health, particularly in sexual and reproductive health, as well as collection of population related data in form of survey and dissemination.
He said the results have shown that the country has experienced great improvement in terms of reduction of morbidity and morality and also in the area of family planning which has led to attainment of high quality, infant, under five and maternal mortality rates have declined tremendously. "You might wish to be informed that recent surveys show that Malawi's fertility, infant, under five and maternal mortality rates have declined. HIV prevalence, contraceptive prevalence rate has also increased tremendously from 7 percent to 26 percent and this really shows there is a great improvement of sexual and reproductive health issues in Malawi," he said.
The Minister also hailed Banja La Mtsogolo for its role and intervention that the organisation has shown by carrying out different activities mainly targeting the youth in sexual and reproductive health and sexually transmitted diseases. "These achievements demonstrates positive commitment and support made by UNFPA and the government of Malawi has made use of assistance in an effective manner which has led the reproductive health being a success story in the country, so let me take this opportunity to ask UNFPA to continue supporting sexual and reproductive health issues in Malawi," he said Faiti also pointed out that young people are future leaders therefore it is the duty of the government to shape them into responsible and productive people and in different activities including issues of sexual and transmitted diseases. "I should take this occasion to express my support to the success of the programmes that are being carried by Banja La Mtsogolo and I will try all I can to see that your projects get due attention from my colleagues in terms of allocating adequate finances for effective implementation, so that at the end of it, you achieve your goals as well as Millennium Development Goals," said Faiti.
Banja Lamtsogolo is one of non governmental organisation which receives funding from UNFPA.
Govt distributes motorised pumps to irrigation schemes
by Emmanuel Muwamba, 05 April 2006 - 06:24:51
Government has started distributing motorised pumps to farmers that are in irrigation schemes, saying if fully utilised irrigation farming will mitigate the adverse effects of food insecurity in the country.
Minister for Irrigation and Water Development Sidik Mia made the remarks at Mgulula Irrigation Scheme in Thyolo on Thursday when he inspected a dam before he handed over pumps to the scheme and another to Makande Irrigation Scheme.
He also presented to Limbuli, Bafuta, Chimwemwe and Nang'ona irrigation schemes one pump each.
Mia said government bought 500 motorised pumps worth US$3 million (about K405m) and has 15,000 treadle pumps ready for distribution to people that are ready to venture into irrigation farming. He said one motorised pump can irrigate 22 to 30 hectares per day.
The minister said currently only 62,000 hectares of land is being irrigated, saying government would like to see an increase to 83,000 hectares which will mean yielding about 400,000 tonnes of food.
He challenged the farmers to engage in commercial farming using irrigation methods so that they are able to sell their produce to ease their poverty.
Mgulula and Makande irrigation schemes are benefiting 18 and 30 households, respectively.
Mgulula Irrigation Scheme Chairperson Christopher Charlie requested the minister to help them rehabilitate their dam whose banks had burst so that they are able to harvest more water for irrigation.
He said the people in the past used to draw water from the dam using watering cans but noted that the system was not viable enough because it caused fatigue.
Veep wants compensation
by Olivia Kumwenda, 05 April 2006 - 05:46:32
Vice-President Cassim Chilumpha has asked the High Court in Blantyre to order government to compensate him for suffering, humiliation and trauma following the announcement that he had constructively resigned from office, court records have shown.
The request has been made in an affidavit by Chilumpha filed on Monday in support of judicial review proceedings on his "constructive resignation" expected to start on Friday.
"I pray before this Honourable Court for an order that requires His Excellency the President and the respondents to compensate me by way of damages for the loss, suffering, humiliation and trauma they caused me and my family by their actions and public pronouncements against me following the President's letter of 8th February, 2006 that I had resigned from the position of Vice-President of this country," partly reads the affidavit.
The case, which has Chilumpha as the applicant, includes as respondents the Office of President and Cabinet (OPC), the Chief Secretary for President, the Chief Secretary for Public Service and the Attorney-General.
Chilumpha also indicated in the affidavit that the court should declare null and void and quash the Cabinet decision and the President's purported acceptance of his alleged resignation.
On government's accusation that Chilumpha was not attending Cabinet meetings, an affidavit filed by OPC Chief Secretary Bright Msaka on 14th March, 2006 indicates that notices on Cabinet meetings including their agendas were being sent to Chilumpha including the one where the issue on his constructive resignation was discussed.
"I am satisfied that the applicant was duly notified and was fully aware that the Cabinet meetings of 2nd February and 7th February 2006 would discuss matters pertaining to the applicant's relationship with the government but the applicant did not attend the meetings nor did he inform the President of his inability to attend the Cabinet meetings or the reasons for such failure," partly reads Msaka's affidavit.
Msaka also argues that the reduction in financial allocation to the VP's office cannot be the reason for Chilumpha's unexplained absences from Cabinet meetings because the reductions were done months after Chilumpha started absenting himself from the meetings.
On Chilumpha's alleged defiance to move to Lilongwe, Msaka said the VP was informed by his Principal Secretary Beaton Munthali that his Area 12 residence was ready in November 2005 but Chilumpha failed to occupy it.
"That by a letter dated 5th January 2006, shown to me and marked exhibit BM 9, the President instructed and required of the Applicant to move to and reside in Lilongwe. The applicant failed to comply with the President's instruction and requirement," reads the affidavit.
But in response, Chilumpha has argued that he was not aware of Cabinet meetings because notices were not given directly to his Mudi office but his office in Lilongwe.
"I was not present to (and was not invited to) the meeting in which Cabinet took that 'unanimous decision.' In fact, the respondents have failed to show that they ever gave me notice of that meeting," argues Chilumpha.
On his Area 12 residence, Chilumpha says the house was only ready for occupation in February 2006.
Meanwhile, Chilumpha has hired Nelson Mandela's lifelong lawyer and friend, George Bizos, and two British lawyers to represent him in the case.
But the three would be available after May 10, 2006 and one of Chilumpha's local lawyers, Fahad Assani, said his team will apply to have the case moved to next month.
Assani said the summary on the application will be made to the court on Friday.
EU increases aid by K225m
by Nation Reporter, 05 April 2006 - 06:21:19
The European Union has increased its financial support to the Malawi Blood Transfusion Service (MBTS) by 1.5m Euro (K225m). This brings the total funding for the project from 7.8 to 9.3 million Euro.
According to a press statement, the union has also extended the financing agreement with government from March 2007 to March 31, 2009.
"The increase of the financial assistance to support MBTS reflects the satisfaction of both the Malawi government and the EU delegation with regards to the current implementation of the project," reads part of the EU statement.
The extension of the project, says the statement, will allow for the building of three permanent blood transfusion centres in Lilongwe, Blantyre and Mzuzu in the next 18 to 20 months.
It will also allow for the continuation of technical assistance for the coming 12 months as well as support some of the running costs of MBTS to allow for a smooth handover of the project to the government of Malawi by March 2007.
The objective of the MBTS is to reduce the incidence of HIV and Aids and other diseases that are transmitted by blood and to ensure the appropriate use of blood.
The project was founded to develop a sustainable national blood transfusion service in the country and to provide adequate supplies of safe blood to meet the needs of all hospitals.
The MBTS has established two temporary blood transfusion centres in Lilongwe and Blantyre, and provided more than 97 percent of the present blood needs of the four central hospitals in the country.
The World Health Organisation has chosen the MBTS as a role model of blood transfusion services among the developing world, recognising its important contribution to the Malawi society.
Mzuni official 'cleared' from K2.5 scam
by Francis Tayanjah-Phiri, 04 April 2006 - 07:08:08
Mzuzu University's Assistant Registrar, Yonam Ngwira, has allegedly been cleared from the evidence that implicated him in the K2.5 million scam which has affected several high profile officials at the institution.
Ngwira, who was expected to be arrested on his arrival from the US on Thursday, had his statement recorded with the police early Friday. Prior to his arrival, police officials had indicated he would be nabbed, after some evidence implicated him to the scam.
"I have not been locked up as it was alleged; of course I went to police voluntarily this morning where my statement was recorded. I arrived late yesterday from US and I explained to police that I am not involved in those issues as alleged," said Ngwira in an interview.
Prior to his arrival, some top Mzuni officials had indicated Ngwira would travel from Kamuzu International Airport by police escort, which did not happen.
Police sources say Ngwira would alongside Jarvis Chimungu, a senior official at Mzuni accounts office, be used as state witnesses. The two were allegedly not involved in the real transaction that has led to the arrest of senior lecturer Francis Saiti and Assistant Finance Officer James Simkoko.
Saiti, who was together with Ngwira for a course in America was recalled prematurely last week, and arrested on arrival.
But police northern region prosecution head Happy Mkandawire and one of the principal investigators in the case, Justin Mkute, said it was too early to say who would be a witness in the case or not.
"We are still investigating and we are yet to find out who is connected or not, we are still weighing the evidence. Of course it is true that Ngwira is not arrested, we have recorded his statement and we can say he is on police bail," said Mkute.
However, a senior police officer said it was not right to say Ngwira was on bail because he was not arrested, and the evidence available had failed to link him as part of the team that stole the money.
Mkandawire said the prosecution would be ready to present its case, immediately investigations were over. The two officers also admitted that they were waiting for evidence one of the principal suspects, Professor Chimwenje, who was later reported dead in South Africa.
ADB firm on Karonga-Chitipa road contract
by Zainah Liwanda, 22 May 2006 - 06:09:17
The African Development Bank (ADB) has again rejected a proposal by government to look for another contractor instead of China Hunan Construction to construct of the long awaited Karonga/Chitipa road.
China Hunan from Mainland China won the bid which was approved by the ADB but government later wanted to award the contract to a Portuguese firm, Mota Engil, the second lowest bidder, claiming China Hunan's bid was unrealistically low and that the company had very little experience in Africa.
Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe confirmed on Sunday the ADB rejected the proposal at a meeting held between the bank and Malawi government in Tunisia last week.
The Malawi government wanted the Tunisia meeting to authorise it to get another contractor for the road, said Gondwe.
"They did not allow us to look for another contractor because of their regulations. But we are about to get another alternative for Karonga/Chitipa and I would be surprised if it does not start before end June," said Gondwe.
The minister explained that the bank insisted that regardless of the unrealistic cost estimates, China Hunan should be allowed to go ahead with the construction.
But Gondwe could not give further details about the alternatives, arguing there are still a few loose ends to tighten up before disclosing it.
The problem with China Hunan, according to Gondwe, is that it would require more money to meet the total cost of the project.
This paper reported last week that government met Taiwanese representatives where they offered to fund the road if the ADB continued to reject its favoured contractor, Mota Engil.
Gondwe could neither confirm nor deny the reports on the Taiwanese offer, saying government was looking at a number of ways to handle the issue.
According to Gondwe, the China Hunan's bid was 24 percent lower than the consulting engineers' estimates of K7.9 billion and 34 percent below the second lowest bidder.
President Bingu wa Mutharika laid a foundation stone for the construction of the road this year ahead of a crucial byelection in Chitipa in December last year.
The President's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) won the Chitipa Wenya constituency by-election that fell vacant following the collapse and subsequent death of Speaker of Parliament Rodwell Munyenyembe who belonged to the UDF.
Last week, police and the District Commissioner (DC) for Chitipa stopped a rally that was aimed at soliciting people's views about development projects in the district.
The meeting, which was reportedly organised by Concerned Citizens of Chitipa, was among other things also supposed to tackle the controversial Karonga/Chitipa road.
The project failed to start off in 2000 when a contract for an initial loan of US$17 million and US$15 million from the Taiwanese government was signed, with some quarters claiming the Bakili Muluzi administration diverted the money to another road.
Chihana operated on
by Edwin Nyirongo, 22 May 2006 - 06:32:31
Alliance for Democracy (Aford) president Chakufwa Chihana, who is in South Africa receiving treatment, had a brain operation on Friday at Garden City Clinic, family and party officials confirmed on Sunday.
Aford national chairman Chipimpha Mughogho said he was told by the family members that Chihana had a successful operation on Friday and was put in an intensive care unit.
Mughogho said Chihana, who initially complained of headache, was found with a brain tumour which South African doctors removed.
Mzimba West MP Loveness Gondwe said Aford boss condition was stable.
"Hon. Chihana had a major operation and after that he was put in the intensive care unit but his condition is stable. I do not know where he was operated on but it had something to do with the skull," she said.
Deputy Information Minister John Bande referred the matter to the Health Minister Hetherwick Ntaba who was reported to be in Geneva, Switzerland.
Aford publicity secretary Norman Nyirenda said when Chihana's situation got worse, the family alerted the Office of the President and Cabinet who took him to Mwaiwathu Private Hospital.
"The doctors at Mwaiwathu advised that he should be sent to South Africa and they even identified the doctor for him," he said.
He said the costs are being met by the Malawi government, contradicting his earlier statement that his boss covered the cost.
Mughogho is now in charge of the party.
Gondwe will be a busy person when Parliament starts meeting on June 6 as she is the only Aford MP remaining.
Pillane proposes presidential age limit
by Emmanuel Muwamba , 22 May 2006 - 06:34:13
A member of the DPP National Governing Council Abdul Pillane on Saturday urged members of political parties and the civil society to put an upper age limit in the Constitution for presidential candidates.
Pillane was addressing members of political parties and civil society in Liwonde during a two-day follow up workshop to the National Conference on the Review of Constitution held in March in Lilongwe.
"My view is that (an upper) age limit should be at 75. We have to give a chance to younger people to lead because in circumstance, when you age you become forgetful especially when sickly," said Pillane. "Overall, chances should be given to young people."
But UDF secretary general Kennedy Makwangwala, whose party members agitated for the age limit during presentations, played the issue down.
"I feel there is no logic to have an upper age limit for presidential candidates. If someone is 90 or 80 I don't know how that can influence the electorate not to vote for someone who is younger, I don't see any logic behind that," said Makwangwala.
MCP participants at the workshop also vehemently objected to the proposal.
MCP vice president Nicholas Dausi in an interview said: "There is no constitution in Africa which stipulates an upper age limit. So it would be strange in Malawi to have an upper age limit for presidential candidates."
MDP President Kamlepo Kalua also opposed the need to have an upper age limit.
"If we have personalities in mind that we want to discriminate against then it is unfortunate. The constitution we want to build is a guiding document for future generations and it should not bar certain individuals on the basis of grudges," he said.
The Malawi Law Constitution Issues Paper of March 2006 says several submissions that were received put an upper presidential age limit in the Constitution.
"It is argued that it is common sense that mental knowledge faculties tend to fail with age. As regards what the actual age limit should be the submissions are far from being agreed. The range is from 60 years to 80 years," read submissions in the Issues Paper.
On whether MPs should double as ministers, Kalua said this should be the case.
Makwangwala also said it is not right for MPs to serve as ministers because the Legislature, another arm of government, is reduced while the Executive branch is beefed up from another arm of government.
"There is no separation of powers when MPs double as ministers," said Makwangwala.
But Pillane said there is no problem for MPs to work as ministers as well, saying MPs are elected by the President.
"One can serve both posts. There have been no problems before for people to double," said Pillane.
The Centre for Multiparty Democracy funded the workshop through the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy.
The objective was to come up with a collective position on the Issues Paper which will be presented to the Special Law Commission that will be constituted soon.
Mussa hails new driving licence
by Zainah Liwanda, 22 May 2006 - 06:58:52
Transport and Public Works Minister Henry Mussa last week said the design of the Malawi-Sadc driving licence would guard against forgery and ensure that only skilled and legitimate drivers of particular vehicles are licensed.
Mussa was speaking at the official launch of the licences in Lilongwe where he announced that traffic police would from July enforce speed limits and sober driving using Breathalysers which his ministry is in the process of procuring.
The minister said financial constraints are the reason for the delay in procuring the equipment but assured that by July they would be available.
"With the new equipment, the days of those who believe in the thrill of drink and driving are numbered," warned Mussa.
Mussa added that with the new licence, government is optimistic that the country's roads would be safe.
Acting Director of Road Traffic James Chirwa said the features that distinguish the new from the old licences are the Malawi national flag and a ghost image of the driver's photograph, among others.
Those with old licences, according to Chirwa, are expected to get the new ones after the expiry of the former.
UDF demands investigation on Kasambara
by Rabecca Theu, 22 May 2006 - 06:30:46
The United Democratic Front (UDF) has asked government to investigate Ralph Kasambara on allegations of abuse of office while he was attorney general.
UDF publicity secretary Sam Mpasu told the press Sunday that the party is neither amused or saddened by the removal of the former AG but asked government to institute investigations on Kasambara.
"Beyond the removal of the Attorney General, we now urge President Mutharika to institute investigation against Mr Kasambara into allegations that have made rounds in the public domain during the recent past. These include: Mrs Helen Singh and SS Rent-a-Car; SGS and ITS saga; ...........the use of Malawi Police Service in the arrest of three Chronicle journalists and the handling of Mrs Rubina Kawonga," said Mpasu.
Mpasu also accused Kasambara of awarding government contracts to Lawson and Company where he was a senior partner.
"We urge government to thoroughly investigate the former AG. We also ask government to cautiously select the new AG ," said Mpasu, who was accompanied by the party's Secretary General Kennedy Makwangwala, leader of the party in Parliament George Mtafu, chief whip Leonard Mangulama and a member of the executive Hophmally Makande.
But Minister of Information Patricia Kaliati said UDF should give offer its advice to the Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB).
"They should advise bodies like the Anti-Corruption Bureau to conduct the investigations and why are they saying this now? Is it because Kasambara has been fired? This is not a personal issue. If they have other pressing issues they should just say so. These arguments should have come up earlier on when the said cases were happening," she said.
Kasambara asked UDF to proceed with the mission of urging government to investigate him.
"They can do their job. Everyone has a right to lobby for anything they want in the country. UDF has a right to do that, let them go ahead," he said.
Kasambara was relieved of his duties as AG by the President last week. Government has not given reasons behind the removal.
Zambia: Malawians Grab Zambian Land
The Times of Zambia (Ndola)
May 18, 2006
Posted to the web May 19, 2006
MALAWIANS who have encroached on both the 'no-man's' and part of the Zambian land at the Mwami border in Eastern Province have plucked out some beacons that were used in the demarcation of the border.
The Malawians are now using the beacons as stools in their newly-established villages on Zambian land.
Eastern Province Minister, Boniface Nkhata, said in Chipata yesterday that if the situation was not controlled urgently, Zambia would lose huge tracts of land to Malawians migrating into Zambian in large numbers.
A check at the Zambia-Malawi border showed a number of beacons had been vandalised and new structures constructed on the 'no man's' land and a large portion of Zambian land.
Mr Nkhata said the trend extended to many parts of the province bordering the two countries.
"A large portion of Zambian land has been taken up by the Malawians starting from the Chama boundary up to the Mwami border.
"The weighbridge at the Mwami border was initially in Zambia from the time both countries gained independence from Britain, but now the bridge is on Malawian soil," Mr Nkhata said.
The minister, who is former Chama District Commissioner, said there was similar encroachment in Lundazi and Chama districts where Zambia shares a boundary with Malawi.
He said a Malawian farmer identified as Mr Mfune had cultivated 71.5 hectares on Zambian land and employed about 265 Malawian workers.
"Khombe Farm in Chama district in Kanyerere's area, along the Muyombe road which leads to Northern Province where this Malawian farmer has cultivated a vast land is on the Zambian territory," he said.
Workers on the farm admitted that they were farming on Zambian soil but could not go back to Malawi because the land in that country was inadequate for cultivation.
Mr Nkhata appealed to the ministry of Lands to urgently release money for the demarcation of the Zambia-Malawi border to avoid further land disputes between the two countries.
Meanwhile, the Immigration Department in Livingstone has arrested a couple and another man, all Zimbabweans, for working in Zambia without permits.
They were arrested at Gwembe village yesterday where they worked for Into Africa, a tour operating company that provides bush dinners and breakfast.
According to the Immigration Department in Livingstone, the trio entered Zambia through the Victoria Falls border as visitors but decided to work for the company illegally.
Last week, immigration officers arrested 10 Zimbabwean traders and six Ethiopians for entering and staying in Zambia illegally.
The Zimbabwean traders were warned and cautioned and later released.
The Ethiopians were arrested at Konje Guest House when they ran out of money to proceed to Botswana.
Zim unions, MDC still plan anti-govt protests
22 May 2006 11:51
Zimbabwe's biggest labour federation on Saturday threatened to call massive demonstrations against the government over poor salaries and worsening living conditions for workers in the country.
The threats are ratcheting up pressure against President Robert Mugabe's government after similar threats by the biggest opposition party in the country, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), about two months ago.
Speaking at the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) conference on Saturday, the labour body's president, Lovemore Matombo, said the powerful union wants the government to award workers salaries that match the country's ever-rising inflation.
"I can assure you we will stage massive demonstrations to force them [employers] to award workers minimum salaries that tally with the poverty datum line," said Matombo.
Matombo did not say when exactly the ZCTU would order workers to strike.
Meanwhile, the MDC on Sunday said it will push ahead with plans for anti-government protests, saying victory in a key by-election at the weekend was a "sign the electorate supported its policies", including democratic mass resistance.
A spokesperson of the main faction of the splintered MDC, Nelson Chamisa, said victory over Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF and a rival MDC faction in a Saturday by-election in Harare's Budiriro constituency is a sign Zimbabweans still have confidence in party leader Morgan Tsvangirai and his policies.
Tsvangirai, the founding leader of the MDC, heads the main rump of the opposition party whose candidate, Emmanuel Chisvuure, polled 7 949 votes to win the Budiriro House of Assembly seat.
Gabriel Chaibva of the other faction of the MDC, led by prominent academic Arthur Mutambara, garnered 504 votes while Zanu-PF's Jeremiah Bvirindi polled 3 961 votes.
"This election showed that the electorate still has confidence in the MDC [Tsvangirai-led] leadership and its policies," Chamisa told independent news service ZimOnline.
He added: "We will now move to consolidate our position * we still believe in mass protests. Until we have attained our goals we see no reason why we should abandon [plans for protests]."
Tsvangirai has threatened to call mass protests this winter against Mugabe and his government. He says the mass protests, whose date he is still to name, are meant to force Mugabe to relinquish power to a government of national unity to be tasked to write a new and democratic Constitution that would ensure free and fair elections held under international supervision.
Mugabe and his government, who had hoped for victory in Budiriro to show they were recapturing urban support from a splintered MDC, have not taken idly the opposition's threats to call mass protests, with the veteran president warning Tsvangirai he would be "dicing with death" if he ever attempted to instigate a Ukraine-style popular revolt in Zimbabwe.
In a fresh crackdown against dissension, the police last week arrested several church and civic leaders for organising public prayers and marches to mark last year's controversial home-demolition exercise by the government.
The police also banned the marches and prayers, fearing they could easily turn into mass protests against Mugabe and his government.
However, the marches went ahead in the second-largest city of Bulawayo after organisers had obtained a court order barring the police from stopping the march.
Political analysts say although Zimbabweans have largely been cowed by Mugabe's tactics of routinely deploying riot police and the military to crush street protests, worsening hunger and poverty are fanning public anger that Tsvangirai -- with proper planning and organisation -- could easily manipulate.
Zimbabwe is in the grip of a severe six-year old economic crisis that has seen inflation breaching the 1 000% barrier. Last year, the World Bank said Zimbabwe's economic crisis was unprecedented for a country not at war.
The MDC and major Western governments blame Mugabe for wrecking the country's economy, which was one of the strongest in Africa at independence from Britain 26 years ago.
Mugabe denies the charge blaming the crisis on sabotage by Britain and her allies after he seized white-owned farms for redistribution to landless blacks six years ago.
The Harare authorities recently hiked salaries for civil servants, with the lowest-paid soldier now earning about Z$27-million while the lowest-paid school teacher now takes home about Z$33-million.
But the salaries are still way below the poverty datum line, which the government's Consumer Council of Zimbabwe says now stands at a staggering Z$42-million a month for an average family of six.
The Zimbabwe government often accuses the ZCTU, a strong ally of the MDC, of pushing a political agenda to remove Mugabe from power.
Meanwhile, Matombo and Lucia Matibenga retained their posts as president and first vice-president respectively during the ZCTU congress that ended on Saturday. -- ZimOnline