- Muluzi faces arrest
by Gedion Munthali, 08 April 2006 - 04:26:20
Former Head of State Bakili Muluzi is expected to be arrested once he comes back from the United Kingdom if the current sitting of the National Assembly passes the Money Laundering and Proceeds of Dangerous Crimes Bill, Weekend Nation can reveal.
A senior government lawyer said on Wednesday the current law was limiting government agencies to move on Muluzi on some matters they have against him.
"If that bill passes into law it will give these agencies more leverage to move," said the lawyer. "His arrest is quite obvious."
"I am not saying this law is meant for him, or government had him in mind when bringing the piece of legislation to the National Assembly but it will simply catch up with him on some issues," explained the lawyer. "In fact, this bill has been on the shelve since Muluzi's time as head of state. It is only now that it will be deliberated on."
The lawyer cited the case where Muluzi is accused of pocketing about K1.4 billion public funds as one of the issues where the Money Laundering and Proceeds from Dangerous Crimes act is needed.
"Of course, some of the delays in the issues have been caused by the complexity of the investigations but the absence of this law has been quite an impediment to act," said the lawyer.
Director of Public Prosecutions Ishmael Wadi said he could not comment on the issue because he did not have information relating to the issues in question.
"Maybe the ACB would have the information," said Wadi.
We tried to contact ACB Director Gustav Kaliwo but his phone went answered for a couple of days this week. However, ACB spokesperson Egritta Ndala is on record as having said in January this year the Money Laundering act would really assist the bureau to corner Muluzi on the K1.4 billion issue.
"The bureau will be analysing the totality of the evidence in accordance with the Corrupt Practices Act. However, the Money Laundering Act would be helpful in such cases if it was in place," said Ndala.
ACB, covered by heavily armed policemen, early this year simultaneously raided Muluzi's residences*BCA Hill in Limbe, Area 43 in Lilongwe and Kapoloma in Machinga*and confiscated assorted items including computers, bank cheques and bank instructions. Kaliwo said the bureau was looking for information relating to the K1.4 billion from foreign donors and local private firms which Muluzi is suspected to have deposited in a personal account while serving as state president.
Kaliwo said ACB made the move after Muluzi obtained a court injunction stopping his appearance at ACB offices where he was expected to account for transactions he had with the Republic of China, Libya, the Kingdom of Morocco and some foreign organisations.
Two weeks ago Kaliwo said a British expert had finished analysing data on the confiscated computers and that ACB was just waiting for Muluzi to explain a few loose ends to the issue.
UDF deputy publicity secretary Mary Kaphwereza Banda, reacting to the development, accused President Bingu wa Mutharika of using ACB to harass and embarrass the former head of state. Kaliwo dismissed Kaphwereza Banda's sentiments as "senseless".
"Those are senseless statements," he said. "Searches are routine exercises. Even Muluzi presided over the search of the first head of state, the late Kamuzu Banda, was he harassing him then?"
But the K1.4 billion issue is only one of the cases for which Muluzi may end up in jail. ACB also wants the former president to answer for abuse of office for letting off the hook Shabir Suleman, a business person who was serving a five-year jail term for attempting to bribe Judge Maxon Mkandawire with K1 million. Suleman was convicted in March 2004.
A highly placed source confided in the Weekend Nation, investigations were already concluded and a report was already written which includes letters which Muluzi wrote to facilitate the release of Suleman who is reportedly in Dubai.
"I think what is remaining is for the ACB to arrest Muluzi and charge him with abuse of office," said the source. "This would have already happened if Muluzi had not left the country for medical attention in the United Kingdom."
Deputy Commissioner of Prisons McDonald Chaona confirmed that Muluzi pardoned Suleman on May 13, 2004, 11 days before he left office.
"Suleman's brother wrote a letter to Muluzi on May 13, informing him that Suleman had been sick ever since he went to prison. The former President then directed that Suleman should be released and taken out of the country for treatment," said Chaona.
He said Muluzi signed the pardon order between May 16 and 17 May, 2004. This was just a day before the general elections which were scheduled to take place on May 18 but were later pushed to May 20.
ACB is also probing Muluzi on how he built the multi-million Keza Office Park in Blantyre which has since been sold to a petroleum products firm, Petroda.
Kaliwo was quoted on Monday this week as having said that investigations were at a very advanced stage.
"Maybe the only problem we may have is to repossess the property because it got sold off but let us see how we will cross the bridge once we reach there."
Lucius feels betrayed
by Isaac Masingati, 09 April 2006 - 06:39:25
Local music icon Lucius Banda's political career hangs by a thread. An idol of the music loving masses and proponents of liberty of the individual in a democracy for over a decade, today he sees the same society looking at him with disdain.
The musician turned politician who made a mark with his hit song Mabala in 1993, is a sad and disappointed person. He feels betrayed by people he alleges to have helped propel into power during the 2004 parliamentary and presidential elections.
Like breaking the silence that has hang over his huge stature since he moved the motion for procedures of impeaching the president in Parliament in June 2005, Lucius, told Nation on Sunday: "I must not lie to you. I feel like a raped woman."
Lucius who has been adoringly referred to as Soldier or fighter for the voiceless masses due to his liberation music, today takes his seat in the luxurious Parliament at the New State House, not sure whether tomorrow he would still recline in one of those posh and comfortable seats. His fears emanate from the ongoing court case in which he is accused of cheating over possession of a school certificate, in order to contest in the 2004 elections.
The state alleges that Soldier forged a Form 4 certificate, which he presented to the Electoral Commission to enable him contest in the 2004 parliamentary elections. It has consequently dragged the hefty musician * but one with the ability to bounce on stage with the ease of a lightweight boxer when performing * to Zomba magistrate court to answer charges over this accusation.
The matter is attracting nation-wide interest. A stand that could have, probably, made him a people's hero seems to have boomeranged and become a source of derision.
At the peak of his music career in the 90's, Lucius was overwhelmingly voted Nation Publication's Man of the Year in 1997. This was the time when his songs soothed not only the souls of millions of peasants in this country, but also tried to heal the wounds of many who have suffered various injustices in this country *including detention without trial.
Bellowing out liberation songs for starving and unjustly treated masses, Lucius' poise could not miss the watchful eye of Bakili Muluzi, then President of the country. Muluzi often roped him in on foreign trips that took them to various overseas countries including the Vatican.
It was not surprising, therefore, that come 2004 Lucius and his Zembani Band were the main attractions and weapon of destruction with which to detonate political opponents in the last general elections. To show outright loyalty to the United Democratic Front (UDF), Lucius composed and recorded a special song that he titled Yellow .
This song arguably became the most played number on state radio MBC and Television Malawi. Two years down the line today, Lucius' Yellow is hardly heard on the national radio. The only place one is likely to hear it is on juke boxes at drinking joints.
"I am now being despised. My songs have been banned on MBC and I am being dragged to court after all that I did for Bingu," he claims.
Lucius says he can no longer hide his frustrations and the pain he feels when one considers how he was ridiculed by people for that song "when everyone was against Bingu. It was not easy but look where I am*like a despised woman" after being raped.
Lucius and his dancing crew performed at various fora, singing his voice out to encourage people to push the UDF party and its presidential candidate Bingu wa Mutharika into power. The music and wriggles of the suggestively dancing 'girls' did their magic * Mutharika was elected President to replace Atcheya (Bakili Muluzi) in a very closely contested election.
The honeymoon and partying for fun loving members of the UDF seemed to have ended there and then. When Mutharika took oath of office, he surprised many with his vow to wipe out corruption in the land. He was also going to appoint people into lofty positions on merit and not because of services rendered him during the campaign period.
Since those pronouncements an apparent acrimonious relationship prevailed between the incumbent President and the party that supported him. This worsened when Mutharika openly dumped the UDF last year to form the Democratic Progressive Party.
Casting the dice
In June 2005 when the House met, tension between President Bingu wa Mutharika and his foes had reached fever pitch. All over the country talk was premised on the intentions of members of the house to move an impeachment procedures motion in order to oust and silence this 'ungrateful' son who does not know how to thank elders when they elevate him to kingship.
The near impossible task of the cat to 'bail the country' out of what legislators perceived to have been a political fiasco by moving the impeachment procedures motion, willingly or unwillingly, fell on Lucius.
Straight from a visit outside the country and adorned in an expensive * almost cut to fit * cream looking suit, Lucius cast the dice in the House. He moved the motion to the applause of the UDF and combined forces of the Malawi Congress Party and Aford members of the House.
The nasty, uncontrollable debate that ensued led to the death of the then Speaker of Parliament, Rodwell Munyenyembe.
The country generally was horrified by the conduct of the honourable men and women who represent them in Parliament. In Zomba the vociferous students at Chancellor College were upset by the apparent indignity displayed by legislators.
The students took to the streets in protest. In strong terms they denounced Atcheya, advising him to retire from active politics, leader of the opposition in the House John Tembo, who they viewed as nursing ambitions to assume the presidency should the incumbent be removed and Soldier for being the mover of the famous or infamous motion, depending on your side of the political divide.
As this drama unfolded starting in the House, later spilling out to the streets, the stylish and quick witted Attorney General, Ralph Kasambara and his entire state prosecution apparatus watched in earnest. With the rare swiftness of an attacking viper, the government agents reacted and sent chills throughout the country with the announcement that they were dragging Lucius to court.
Reason: the man allegedly had cheated during the elections that he possessed a school certificate. What sounded like a joke at first is today reality. The country waits with bated breath for the outcome.
Lucius insists that he moved the impeachment procedures motion because he was convinced it was necessary. "The party (UDF) explained to me and so did many other learned people considering that I am not a law expert."
He says it is a pity he is being harassed through the courts now and the President called it "tit for tat".
With a laugh he adds: " I don't deserve the tit because I did not do the tat. I did not move the motion for his impeachment."
However, government denies that Lucius is being prosecuted on political grounds. It maintains that his trial has nothing to do with politics but the rule of law. Information Minister Patricia Kaliati said soon after his arrest last year that there was nothing political in the Lucius arrest. "All he needs to do is prove his innocence in a court of law."
State broadcaster also parries away the allegation that it has banned his music. Spokesperson Edith Tsirizani says the accusation is baseless.
"Music on MBC is demand driven. If his songs are not being played it means no one is requesting it. It could also mean he is losing popularity and he should not blame MBC for that," Tsirizani says.
The question hanging over the minds of many is: Could he have been better off without nursing political ambitions or is this his destiny?
Thyolo road stirs waters
by Bright Sonani, 09 April 2006 - 06:43:35
A major road project earmarked to link Thyolo and Bangula that comes up for discussion in Parliament this session, has been welcomed by both political players and civil society with caution.
The overall feeling, though, is that once the project comes up for discussion it should be endorsed and implemented. But legislators say they will carefully watch and see which area would be next to benefit from government's multi-million kwacha development programme.
The project perked at a cost of US$13,852,000 (approximately K2 billion), is among the 14 government bills over which the Minister of Finance, Goodall Gondwe, will seek authority from the House to borrow money from the Kuwait Fund for Arabic Economic Development.
Should the bill pass, and one does not see why it shouldn't apart from the usual politicking in the House, it will be the first big project to be initiated by President Bingu wa Mutharika's government. His Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), today claims to be a ruling entity with over 70 members in the House.
Leader of the United Democratic Front (UDF) in the House George Mtafu says since this is the first DPP initiated project, giving it precedence over other old projects [that have not yet taken off the ground] would arouse suspicion because Thyolo happens to be the home of the incumbent President.
Mtafu notes that due to human nature and knowing that Thyolo is the home of the President, it might arouse feelings among ordinary people and even in the House that it is being implemented before other road projects because of the link to the head of the executive.
The parliamentarian from Likoma hopes that other roads would also be in line for construction since government has promised to table about 12 bills.
Nation on Sunday, however, has established that the Thyolo-Bangula Road bill is the only road project that is up for discussion during this sitting.
"Pertinently the Karonga-Chitipa Road comes to mind because this * has been talked about for more than four years now. It is a very important road and we as a party [are] keen to get it constructed," he says.
Sounding concerned about development projects in general, Mtafu wishes to see government moving away from favouring projects like this one when there are older ones which have been promised funding. "I think we should first take up older ones* move with them and then take on new ones."
Government should be cautious with the project especially considering that apart from the Shire-Zambezi Waterway project, this road project is currently the only DPP initiated programme.
"The Shire-Zambezi Waterway project is * old history. Kamuzu Banda did not find much advantage in it [and thus preferred] the rail transport through Mocambique to the sea," he observes.
Like in an after thought, he quips: "Unfortunately all the projects being talked about are over runs from the UDF government."
Member of Parliament for Chitipa North, Nick Masebo, is a pot of bitterness waiting to explode. An active member of the Northern Region MPs' Forum, Masebo says he has no problems with this project going to the President's district.
"But most projects of this nature should not be concentrated only in the central and southern regions," he expresses his worries.
He feels it is fitting that a district where the President comes from should have a good road infrastructure and network. The only borne of contention as far as he is concerned is the lack of similar projects in his area.
The legislator says as representatives of people from constituencies in the north they are shocked to learn that even the Karonga-Chitipa Road is in the doldrums, without government coming out in the open to explain what is going on.
He describes the major existing link between the centre and north as a disjointed lake shore road that is not comparable to both lake shore and upland road networks existing in the centre and south.
Masebo finds it imperative for government to display a determination for encouraging equal distribution of development programmes in the country by first ensuring that the north has a good road network. To this effect he sees urgent need to connect the north to the other two regions by constructing a good road that should link Jenda to Chitipa through Edingeni, Rumphi, Nyika and Nthalire.
Parliament to set date for local govt elections
by Nation Reporter, 10 April 2006 - 08:24:44
Government is under pressure from the opposition to set dates for local government elections and is working tirelessly to amend the Constitution in the current sitting of Parliament to extend the calendar from May to end of the year.
Responding to a request from the opposition in Parliament that the old councillors should be recalled to work until such a time when government was ready for the elections.
Local Government Minister George Chaponda said in an interview that Section 147 (5) will have to be amended to legalise any further delays.
According to the Constitution, local government elections are supposed to take place in the third week of May in the year following general elections of the National Assembly, and local government authorities shall stand dissolved on the 20th of March in the fifth year of their election.
Chaponda said his ministry will be finalising documentation for the amendment and have it submitted to Parliament through the Ministry of Justice.
He said government did not want to hold the local government elections at a time millions of Malawians were facing critical food shortage.
"We thought it wise to use the funds allocated for the elections to buy maize to alleviate the suffering of an estimated 4.8 million Malawians," said Chaponda.
Chaponda said it was not true that development work had suffered since councillors were dissolved last year because members of parliament were also responsible for ensuring that district assemblies carry on with business until new councillors are elected.
"The problem at hand is that many MPs don't bother to attend District Development Committee meetings even when they are invited to make a contribution," he said.
President Bingu wa Mutharika's administration has been criticised by opposition, civil society and donors for keeping local government elections on hold for over a year.
Married women more vulnerable to HIV/Aids
by Bright Sonani, 10 April 2006 - 08:17:36
Cultural beliefs, abuse and marginalisation of women in the country is making more married women vulnerable to the HIV and Aids pandemic.
Former Vice-president and Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Health and HIV and Aids Justin Malewezi made the observation in an interview this week
A recent research by the Crime and Justice Statistical Division of the National Statistics Office also shows that various violent acts and abuse against women by their partners put them at a risk of contracting the virus.
Malewezi said due to cultural beliefs and a feeling by married couples that they are safe from the virus put married women at a 'very' high risk of getting the virus through family bedrooms.
He said lack of economic empowerment and a feeling of insecurity hinder women from asking their husbands to use condoms even when they suspect that the husband was straying.
"A woman was brought up not to question the husband and to be submissive and to save their marriage. They do not question anything. Secondly, it is very difficult for women to suggest the use of condoms for fear of the husband turning against her, accusing her of going out with somebody," he said.
Malewezi also said scientifically it has been proved that the use of condoms helps in curbing the spread of HIV.
"However, there are two problems; that is, the condom must be used properly and consistently. Most people fail on these two. I personally advocate for a holistic approach because they are several ways we can prevent the spread of HIV including availability of treatment," he said.
Malewezi explained that treatment reduces the passing on of the virus.
"If one is on ARVs the speed of passing on the virus even without a condom is reduced by 75 per cent because the treatment reduces the viral load in the patient," he said.
Malewezi also said availability of ARVs encourages more people to go for testing as most of them have hope that after testing and they are found positive, they would be put on treatment thereby reducing chances of them spreading the virus.
A recent survey by the Crime and Justice Statistical Division of the National Statistics Office funded by DFID's Malawi Safety, Security and Access to Justice programme reveals that 49 percent of women in the country have experienced some form of abuse from their partners which, among several evils, exposes them to the virus.
The survey said the commonest abuse against women include sexual, emotional, physical violence as well as financial abuse.
The study shows that 35 percent of women experienced some form of sexual abuse while about 11 percent reported being forced to have sex against their will.
According to the survey, 68 percent of women who have been sexually abused have never told anyone about their experience.
Employ us, Bunda students tell govt
by Felix Malamula, 10 April 2006 - 07:58:44
Bunda College of Agriculture students have said they are disappointed that the Ministry of Agriculture has stopped employing them after graduation.
Speaking during the college's field day on Saturday, Bunda College Students' Union President George Mtengowadula complained that for two years the ministry has not been employing graduates from the college, forcing many into the streets.
"There was a time when government allocated Bunda students places in various departments of the Ministry of Agriculture even before finishing the first semester of the final year. But today, most of the graduates are teaching, not because they are happy, but [they] have nowhere to go," lamented Mtengowadula.
College Principal George Kanyama Phiri echoed Mtengowadula's remarks, saying the number of graduates being employed by the ministry has been diminishing each passing year.
"In the past you were employing our students, but now you are not. For example, in 2001 the employment rate of our graduates in your ministry went down to 21 percent. This should not be the case," said Kanyama Phiri.
But Minister of Agriculture Uladi Mussa, who was guest of honour, said it was not true that the ministry stopped employing the students, but that the number might be reduced because most of the graduates do not stay long with the ministry.
He said many students opted to join local and international non-government organisations (NGOs) because of attractive packages.
"The problem is most of them demand a lot of money which unfortunately government cannot afford. They need to stay longer because this is their country and in fact there are a lot of opportunities for them like further studies," said Mussa.
He assured the students that government would discuss with the students and college authorities on the forward.
Government in general faces a challenge of failing to retain graduates from the universities of Malawi and Mzuzu because of low salaries and other benefits which force the graduates to opt for greener pastures elsewhere.
University of Malawi Vice-Chancellor Zimani Kadzamira commended Bunda for organising field days, saying they demonstrate new farming technologies.
"As a university we need to provide solutions to problems affecting our country and as the field day has shown, Bunda as a constituent college is playing that role of providing solutions," said Kadzamira.
Organised under the theme: "Bunda College for Food Security and Sustainable Livelihoods", the students displayed a number of technologies like water harvesting, new bean varieties, clothing and textiles, food processing, aquaculture and livestock enterprises.
Police intensify search for human parts syndicate
by Willie Zingani, 10 April 2006 - 07:54:57
Police Headquarters in Lilongwe have launched a country-wide search to uncover what is believed to be an established syndicate of murderers dealing in ritual killings for money.
Police Public Relations Officer Willie Mwaluka confirmed on Sunday that following last week's arrests of four suspects: Leonard Ganizani, Felix Maganga and Jackson Chisepo on allegations of being found with human private parts at a Lilongwe hotel and an accomplice Sumaili Daudi, police investigators are working day and night to unearth ring leaders.
Daudi (27) from Mchepa Village, Traditional Authority Kauma in Dedza was also arrested on Thursday on suspicion that he murdered Batson Makondetsa (42), removed his private parts before dumping his body in a river at Lumbadzi.
Mwaluka said police are aware that the gruesome practices cannot be the work of one person, but an organised group that has killed many innocent people not only in the main urban areas of Blantyre, Lilongwe, Mzuzu, but all over the country.
"It is everybody's guess that this is not small business, it involves a cross-section of people. Who knows, maybe some local tycoons, that's why we want to get down to the root of the matter," said Mwaluka.
The Police PRO said there is no doubt that the syndicate would entice some criminals in rural areas to kill people and sell the human parts to the key dealers.
"We appeal to the general public to report any strange indications to the nearest police station," said Mwaluka. "Are you in doubt with the dealings of a particular person within your vicinity? Don't hesitate to tip the police, you could be the next victim."
He said apart from the latest arrests in Lilongwe, police have within one month brought to book a man in Dedza and two from Lilongwe's Mtandire suburb for killing a boy and an adult respectively. He said in both cases the victims had their private parts removed.
Mwaluka said in one incident a traditional doctor was netted on suspicion that he used human parts as rituals to make businessmen become more prosperous.
"Maybe at first people thought such dealings had to do with mortuary attendants, but now we all know that innocent people are being hunted like animals. Therefore, we must join hands to track down all the culprits," he said.
Members of Parliament, currently meeting at the New State House last Friday, commended the police for arresting the four suspects after Home Affairs Minister Anne Kachikho told the House that the private parts dealers were in custody.
The four suspects have been charged with ritual murder and killings for money and will be taken to court after investigations are over.
Tanzania police phones revealed
Tanzania's police chief has ordered the publication of all senior policemen's phone numbers, including his own, in an effort to tackle a growing crime wave.
Inspector General Said Mwema gave out the office, home and mobile numbers of the country's 26 regional officers.
He ordered the policemen to keep their mobiles constantly switched on to boost communication with crime witnesses.
The move comes three months after police launched a shoot-to-kill policy in order to crack down on criminals.
"We want the public to be in contact with senior police officers all the time," Mr Mwema said in a statement.
"I have also directed police officers that they should not switch off mobile phones and ensure that they remain available 24 hours a day," the statement said.
Mr Mwema said the direct link between the public and regional police commanders would help reduce the crime.
Tanzania has recently seen a string of increasingly daring daylight armed robberies and bank heists that often led to shoot-outs between police and attackers, particularly in the commercial capital, Dar es Salaam.
Last week, gold bars worth $1.8m were stolen by robbers who threw a grenade at a plane onto which they were being loaded, the police said.
POLICEMEN'S MOBILE NUMBERS
Insp Gen Said Mwema - (+255) 0744785557
Dar es Salaam: Alfred Tibaigana - 0744420565
Dodoma: Omari Mganga - 0748597597
Kilimanjaro: Venance Tossia - 0744016150
Arusha: Matei Basilio - 0744267032
Mwanza: Stephen Zelothe - 0744022999
Zanzibar: Mijini Magharibi- 0777417952
Coast: Ali Mbilikira - 0748345235
Tsvangirai tells Mugabe to step down
10 April 2006 08:54
Zimbabwe opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai on Sunday called on President Robert Mugabe to step down to pave way for a transitional government that should lead to the writing of a new Constitution and fresh elections to be supervised by the international community.
Tsvangirai, who again vowed to lead Zimbabweans in street protests to force Mugabe to accept democracy even if it could lead to his own death, was speaking at a rally at Bulawayo's White City stadium.
The rally, attended by more than 5 000 supporters, was the fourth the opposition leader has held in major cities in the last two weeks to mobilise Zimbabweans for mass anti-government protests whose date he has not yet announced.
"Mugabe should step down and let a transitional government lead the process of [writing] a new Constitution that would lead to internationally supervised elections in the country," said Tsvangirai, castigating the government for unilaterally changing Zimbabwe's Constitution in the past.
Among other changes to the country's fundamental law, the government last year amended the Constitution to virtually nationalise all farmland by banning citizens from contesting in court seizure of their land by the state.
The government also changed the Constitution to create a House of Senate, opposed by Tsvangirai and critics who say it is a waste of resources and only meant to extend Mugabe's patronage network.
Tsvangirai, who leads the main faction of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party after the party split into two last year, accuses Mugabe and his ruling Zanu-PF party of rigging elections since 2000 to retain power.
He says the veteran Zimbabwean leader has during the same period ruined the country's economy through controversial policies such as his seizure of white farmland that destabilised the mainstay agricultural sector and knocked down food production by about 60% leaving the once food self-sufficient country dependent on food aid.
Mugabe denies ruining the economy or stealing elections and has in the past strongly rejected suggestions that the United Nations or any other international body should supervise elections in Zimbabwe.
He has also banned the United States and European Union states from observing polls in Zimbabwe accusing them of bias against Zanu-PF. But the Zimbabwean leader has welcomed election observer missions from Africa and other developing nations that are friendly to Harare.
Mugabe has also warned Tsvangirai against calling street protests, saying the opposition leader would be dicing with death if he tried to instigate popular revolt against the government.
A defiant Tsvangirai told the cheering crowd at White City that he remained committed to mass action despite Mugabe's warning.
He said: "If it means Tsvangirai should die in order to free this country then let me die because there is no easy struggle where people do not die and I say I am prepared to die for Zimbabwe." - ZimOnline
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