- Malawi: Judges Demand 400 Percent Pay Increase
The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)
April 10, 2006
Posted to the web April 10, 2006
High Court of Malawi and Supreme Court judges are demanding a 400 per cent salary and benefits increase to meet the escalating cost of living but government says the demands are unjustifiable and unrealistic.
Sources in the judiciary told The Chronicle that the judges and top government officials have been meeting in Blantyre and Mangochi in a bid to settle the issue amicably as the judges are threatening to strike should government fail to meet their demands.
Currently the judges receive over K300,000 a month in salary and other benefits. Should government accept their demands, the judges will now be receiving over K1.2 million per month. "The judges want their housing allowance to double so that it is K100,000 and other benefits to go up as well, which the government just cannot afford. But the government is still negotiating with them," said the source.
The source said that it is surprising that the judges are asking for a 400 percent pay and benefits hike when the government automatically increases their salaries every three years.
The source said the government has asked the judges to wait for next year's budget because, raising the salaries and benefits now would negatively affect the 2005/2006 budget which parliament already passed last year.
High Court of Malawi and Supreme Court of Appeal Registrar Sylvester Kalembera said he is not aware that the judges are demanding a pay and benefits hike. "We have had internal meetings yes, but not to do with what you are talking about. It is not true that the judges are asking for salary increases, I have not heard about that," said Kalembera.
Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Henry Phoya also said he was not aware that the judges are demanding the salary and benefits increase. "I am in government. I have not heard anything. I am sorry, I cannot help you because what you are saying is not true," said Phoya.
Asked if the government would effect the 400 per cent salary and benefits increase if demanded by judges, Phoya answered: "They have not demanded this. My comment would only come if they make such a demand." But our source said a high powered government delegation has been meeting the judges the whole of last week to resolve the issue amicably. "The judges are demanding a 400 per cent salary increase, this is true," our source insisted when contacted again to tell him that both the Registrar of the High Court of Malawi and Supreme Court of Appeal and the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs have denied that the judges are demanding a hefty salary hike.
In 2005, the judges went on strike to press government to buy them good vehicles, arguing that the executive was driving better vehicles than themselves.
The government gave in to the demands and they called off the strike.
Our source said judges are supposed to be paid well to avoid corruption in the judiciary.
Malawi has over 10 judges for both the High Court of Malawi and the Supreme Court of Appeal.
Malawi: Probe Education Scam, Tembo Says
The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)
April 10, 2006
Posted to the web April 10, 2006
Leader of opposition in Parliament John Tembo has ordered government to immediately investigate the Ministry of Education which he said has been hit by fraud and corruption scandals of late.
Tembo's call in Parliament on Thursday follows revelations in The Chronicle newspaper dated March 20-26 which said government is losing millions of kwacha through a scam by unscrupulous public officers in the Ministry of Education.
The newspaper said the forged terminal benefits to the tune of K23 million, has followed on from a previous, yet unresolved case where the infamous K187 million contract scam in the Ministry of Education is yet to be concluded that involves advance payment for unfinished contracts to build government schools throughout the country.
Tembo said he has noted with sadness that for the past months, the use of public resources in government ministries and departments and statutory corporations are still open to political interference leading to flout in administrative processes and procedures. "Media reports reveal that millions of Kwacha was siphoned off in the ministry of Education. There was a K187 million scam, there was another, and I have also heard of a K23million scam in the ministry of Education recently, can you investigate this," said Tembo.
Tembo said that there are what he called fiscal pressures on the economy despite reports on the contrary.
The MCP President said despite that the national public expenditure and financial management framework is anchored on sound legal framework, the practice on the ground is still characterised by window dressing, non-compliance to rules and regulations, and that there is deficiency of punitive action against those who do not comply. "I will still give an example of the Ministry of Education. What is happening in the Ministry of Education clearly shows that the ministry is still facing immense problems and action has to be taken urgently. "This tells us that should the trend continue, we might not meet certain performance criteria targets in the current economic programme with our partners, and we may lose the trust that our partners may have gained," Tembo said.
Malawi: Malawi Invests in Irrigation to Boost Food Security
Southern African News Features (Harare)
April 11, 2006
Posted to the web April 11, 2006
Hit by successive lean agricultural seasons, Malawi has launched an irrigation drive with the support of the African Development Bank (ADB) and non-governmental organisation, ActionAid Malawi.
ADB has given the Malawian government a grant of US$4.1 million for the Small Holder Irrigation Programme (SHIP).
The funds will be used to buy motorised and treadle pumps to be given to farmers, who will also receive water tanks and pipes to move water from streams.
One motorised pump can irrigate 22 to 30 hectares per day and government hopes to boost the agriculture activity through this investment.
Only 62,000 hectares of Malawi's land is under irrigation and the target is to increase this to 83,000 hectares.
The farmers will group themselves into schemes and government will provide the requirements without any condition.
Minister of Irrigation and Water Development, Sidik Mia, said irrigation will mitigate the adverse effects of drought and food insecurity in the country.
Government statistics show that 40 percent of the population in Malawi lives under conditions of extreme poverty mainly blamed on World Bank and International Monetary Fund-backed structural adjustment programmes in the early 1990s and natural causes like drought.
Mia handed the first pumps to farmers at Mgulula, Makande irrigation schemes in Thyolo district in southern Malawi on 5 April.
He also presented one irrigation pump each to Limbuli, Bafuta, Chimwemwe and Nang'ona irrigation schemes.
He challenged the farmers to engage in commercial farming using irrigation technology so that they produce enough to feed their families and sell the surplus.
Like several other countries in the Southern African Development Community (SADC), Malawi has been experiencing successive dry seasons in the past few years, leading to acute shortages of food.
The country has had to rely on intra-regional trade and humanitarian assistance to meet the shortfall between actual output and annual consumption needs.
The irrigation programme is in line with provisions of the 2004 SADC Dar es Salaam Declaration under which member states undertook to, among other things, invest heavily in irrigation infrastructure, increase food production and establish a regional food reserve.
SADC member states agreed to allocate at least 10 percent of their annual national budgets to agriculture and irrigation was given priority. sardc.net
Malawi: Youths Fight HIV/Aids Through Vocational Skills
The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)
April 10, 2006
Posted to the web April 10, 2006
It is 1:30 in the afternoon and Andrew Tsamba* has just knocked off from school. He quickly rushes home to have the day's meal. He then decides to spend the remaining time relaxing with his friends who are habitual skirt chasers.
At first Andrew resists the pressure to join the bandwagon but as the saying goes, birds of the same feathers flock together, he finally gives in and gradually falls victim.
One day he meets a friend who introduces him to a certain youth grouping right in the Capital City. There, he is warned about dangers of having multiple sexual partners.
Today Andrew has completely changed, he has not only passed his exams well at school but he also proudly posses a testimonial after completing computer packages in excel, word and publisher, thanks to St. Peters Youth Organisation.
Situated in Area 23 in Lilongwe, the organisation, formed in 1998 has taken up the challenge in the fight against HIV/AIDS by offering vocational skills in computing as well as tailoring techniques. "We want to empower youths to participate in different programmes to make them busy, and at the same time protect them from the deadly HIV/AIDS," says Paul Chanza, Publicity Secretary of the organisation.
He says the government, some time back introduced Technical Entrepreneurial Vocational Education and Training (TEVET) where youths are registered to be equipped with technical and vocational skills to make them self reliant. But very few find it difficult to be short-listed for the courses. "This is the reason why we had to come in to give government a hand," said Chanza.
He said youths should learn to have a vision in life and learn some skills while young, so as to make them self reliant in future. "It's very hard to cope with life these days and if you want a brighter future start preparing now," he said, adding, "Do not spend your precious time doing nothing. Come join us as we work together in the fight against HIV/AIDS." However, Chanza said the organisation is facing a number of challenges in their quest to eradicate the pandemic, citing operational costs such as monthly rentals and inadequate learning materials. "We do not have the required expertise. We do not have sufficient equipment because the number of youths joining us has greatly increased," he said.
The organisation's Social Director Dave Chatanga asked the government and well-wishers to help identify partners to run the project. "We feel these programmes we are providing are very important to the youth and the country as a whole. We urge partners, both local and international to come up and help Malawi's youth," he said.
He then advised his fellow youth to abstain from pre-marital sex and concentrate on studies, saying, "Your time will come. If you rush you will die." St. Peters Youth Organisation operates in T/A Tsabango and has over 100 registered members. To become a member, a young person has to pay a monthly contribution of K100 (US$0.75c).
Malawi: Lilongwe Vendors Defy Govt Order
The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)
April 10, 2006
Posted to the web April 10, 2006
As days draw closer to April 15, 2006, the deadline for street vendors in the country to move to designated flea markets, vendors in Lilongwe say they are not relocating to Tsoka Flea Market, vowing to stay put at their respective business places.
Speaking in an interview with The Chronicle, the Chairman for Lilongwe Street Vendors Association, Grant Phiri, stressed that the vendors are not shaken and neither are they going any where under whatever circumstances. "We are not shaken and we are not moving out. We hope to come to the negotiation table with the City Assembly before the deadline and we still hope to come up with a solution," Phiri said.
Phiri's remarks, however, are contrary to what the Lilongwe City Assembly's Administrative Officer, Paul Malunga, said in an interview that there has been a tremendous response from the vendors and that the Assembly had registered 5000 vendors. "We have had a very good response and we were forced to close on Friday, March 31, 2006, after we had registered five thousand vendors," Malunga said, adding, "the problem is that the vendors are misleading each other. Some are in the forefront encouraging their friends not to go and register while they sneak and register themselves," he said.
Malunga added that the operation of clearing the vendors from the streets would be very systematic and he stressed that nothing would stop the Assembly and government from carrying out the operation. "Believe me, the contingent put in place by the government and the Assembly to undertake the operation is competitive and with the strategies we have put in place, we do not expect any fracas during the operation," the officer said.
The vendors association chairman, however, expressed ignorance on the registration of the 5000 vendors and said if some had indeed, they were not street vendors because he said the real ones would not have done that without his knowledge. "I am hearing it from you that some have registered. But even if they said 10,000 have registered, it wouldn't mean anything to us because they are mere vendors and not street vendors," he said, adding, "to identify real street vendors the Assembly could have liaised with the association and have a list of the actual vendors." The Association's publicity secretary, Edward Time, concurred with his chairperson saying the Assembly's task in registering the said vendors was vain. "The whole task the Assembly has undertaken in registering the said vendors is vain. What criteria did they use to establish whether the vendors were real street vendors or not. It is only through our Association that real vendors could be identified," said Time.
On whether the vendors had engaged a lawyer to pursue their case with the Assembly as per recent media reports, the Lilongwe Street Vendors Association Chairman said the lawyer they had engaged was there to merely assist the Association on legal matters. "You know the Association has become of age now and just like any other association or organisation we have a lawyer who provide us with legal advise on several things including how best to run the association," Phiri said.
Meanwhile the vendors are organising to have interdenominational prayers on a day yet to be announced to ask for God's intervention. The prayers, Phiri said, would be held in Zomba, Blantyre, Limbe, Lilongwe and in several other places.
Commenting on whether the shunned Tsoka Flea Market Park would accommodate the 5000 registered vendors, Lilongwe City Assembly's Administration office said some of the vendors would be allocated to township markets in areas of 13, 25, 23, Kawale, Kanengo and many more.
Meanwhile, the Assembly has cleared the land behind the market in a bid to accommodate more vendors.
Malawi: Do-Gooders Help to Pave the Road to Malawian Hell
Business Day (Johannesburg)
April 10, 2006
Posted to the web April 10, 2006
STANDING in the customs and immigration queue at Lilongwe airport in Malawi, I was struck by the counter marked for "diplomats and international organisations".
There was some debate among the lesser mortals in the common or garden "visitors" queue as to what counted as an international organisation, and why the majority of us did not qualify seeing as we were involved in crossborder business.
But, of course, it is the queue reserved for, among others, Malawi's real power brokers -- donors and representatives of foreign countries providing much of their funding. These are the people who bring "free" advice, money and, occasionally, food.
Beyond the airport their presence is felt in the sheer numbers of top-of-the-range four-wheel drive vehicles that ply the quiet streets of Lilongwe. The top hotels are full of donor-run workshops. The flights in and out of the country are packed with Malawians heading to international conferences, new donor representatives coming in or old hands heading off to another "basket-case" posting, and international nongovernmental organisations rushing in to help Africans, building their funding on the back of Malawi's woes.
Malawi has become an "AIDS stopover" along with Botswana and other countries in the region as students from universities in the developed world travel around Africa to study the problem first hand.
The more international donors and others pump money into Malawi, the less it is able to get on its feet.
Donor funding provides more than 40% of budgetary support and 80% of Malawi's development budget. Millions of dollars have been poured into the country for years and yet Malawi remains near the bottom of United Nations Human Development Index.
The government, to an extent, contributes to the country's impoverishment via this dependency. Officials complain donor schemes are not implemented effectively because they are not owned by government. But where are the government's schemes? Where is its determination to do the right thing regardless of donor pressures?
The private sector, already weak, is hamstrung by too little policy support and the effect on the market of donor activities, particularly in agriculture.
Nonetheless, the government of Bingu wa Mutharika seems to be some sort of force for good, reforming policies, pushing the performance of public servants and trying to clean up the mess left by president Bakili Muluzi. It is well placed to take advantage of the shift in approach by donors from one of prescription to one of consultation.
But much of the damage has been done. It will take time for the mindset to change, on both sides.
It took some time for the country to recover from the strong government control of every facet of life experienced under the dictatorship of Kamuzu Banda, the first post-independence leader. Although his policy of self-sufficiency was largely achieved, entrepreneurial drive and individual creativity was stifled in the process, leaving the country unprepared for integration into regional processes, let alone globalisation.
His successor, Muluzi, left a legacy of corruption and inefficiency. While on some levels he is an inspiration -- a village boy who worked his way up to the top job in the land -- many Malawians wish they had had a better-quality leader in this crucial post-Banda period. In a year of emergency feeding programmes and massive imports of staple food, Malawians remember Banda's focus on self-reliance.
A Malawian working for a donor organisation told me: "At least Kamuzu taught us how to fish. Now we have lost our fishing skills and until we relearn them, we will continue to be dependent on handouts."
The donor community has loomed large over Malawi for decades -- and there are no exist strategies. In fact, budgetary assistance is increasing. As a result, there is no motivation for the government to become more self-sufficient and no pressure for donors to start working themselves out of a job. Of course, the donors mean well but there are other issues to consider.
Last year the donors suspended their budgetary support because of the Muluzi administration's corruption and wasteful spending. But instead of finding ways to kick-start sustainable, long-term growth, the government implemented emergency funding mechanisms, such as radical income tax increases, to hold the line until the donors could be courted back, all in the knowledge that if their people starved, the international community would move in with food aid.
Malawians have become hostage to the "do-gooders" of the world. It is time to take their welfare into their own hands. It is not a question of survival. It is a matter of self-respect.
Games is director of Africa @ Work.
Zim minister says MDC may 'pay dearly'
11 April 2006 03:52
Zimbabwe State Security Minister Didymus Mutasa on Tuesday ratcheted up pressure against the opposition, threatening to "use guns" to thwart anti-government protests and warning opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai he will pay with his life if he called such protests.
Mutasa, in charge of the government's spy Central Intelligence Organisation and probably the most powerful of President Mugabe's lieutenants, boasted that Mugabe and his ruling Zanu-PF party had "shed blood before" to free Zimbabwe from colonialism.
The security minister, who was responding to questions by ZimOnline on whether the government would permit peaceful protests by the opposition, said Tsvangirai and the MDC party would "pay dearly" if they tried to take to the streets against Mugabe's government.
Mutasa said: "Anyone, particularly Tsvangirai, who threatens peace and stability in this country will get capital punishment ... and we mean it. We maintain organs of national security such as the army to protect the stability and integrity of our country. They will be instructed to use all resources at their disposal, including guns [to stop protests]."
In a most chilling reminder to the opposition, Mutasa added: "We have shed blood before to achieve independence. So let no one be fooled that we will fold our arms while they [the opposition] cause mayhem and violence to remove democratically elected governments. They will pay, and pay dearly."
Tsvangirai, who says the MDC has lost faith in elections as a democratic tool to change the government because Mugabe always rigs polls, has vowed to call mass anti-government protests this winter to force the government to accept a new and democratic Constitution that would ensure free and fair polls.
The MDC leader last Sunday told thousands of supporters at a rally in Zimbabwe's second largest city of Bulawayo that he was ready to lead from the front in street protests to force Mugabe to accept democracy, even if it could lead to his own death.
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, the dates of which he has not yet announced.
Mutasa's outburst is the latest in a series of similarly strongly worded threats by the government against Tsvangirai and the MDC, with Mugabe having warned the opposition leader last month that he would be "dicing with death" if he tried to instigate a mass revolt against the government.
The security minister last month threatened to "physically eliminate" opposition leaders if they attempted to remove the government from power through mass protests.
Zimbabwe has been on edge since Tsvangirai and his MDC party resolved at a congress last month that they would no longer limit themselves to elections but would use what they called "people power" to pressure Mugabe to embrace democracy.
Political analysts say the MDC, which enjoys strong support in urban areas, is best placed to organise streets protests against the government. But they also caution that the opposition party is at the moment too weakened to confront the government and its army in the streets after it split into two rival political parties last year.
Besides the Tsvangirai-led MDC -- which is widely seen as the main rival to Mugabe and Zanu-PF -- there is another faction of the opposition party that is led by former student activist Arthur Mutambara.
Mugabe beefs up security forces
The Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) will this month recruit 5 000 more soldiers to beef up its numbers, slashed in the past few years by a significant 25% to between 30 000 and 35 000 fighting men and women.
Authoritative sources told ZimOnline the recruitment exercise -- which comes as the MDC prepares for mass anti-government protests in the winter -- is scheduled to take place on April 26 at centres in Mashonaland West province, Bulawayo, Mutare and Inkomo Barracks, near Harare.
Minister of Defence Sydney Sekeramayi refused to discuss the matter, referring questions to ZNA director of public relations, Lieutenant Colonel Simon Tsatsi. The colonel was on Monday unable to immediately respond to written questions sent to him at his request.
But senior officers at the army's KG VI headquarters said signals were sent out in the last two weeks to all barracks to prepare for the recruitments.
"The recruitment of ordinary soldiers will coincide with that of regular officer cadets to undergo an 18-month training programme at the Zimbabwe Military Academy in Gweru. The deadline for officer cadet training was last Wednesday," said a ZNA officer, who cannot not be named because he is not authorised to speak to the press.
The move to employ more soldiers -- which appears a reversal of the government's defence policy in recent years which has leaned more towards cutting back the ZNA -- follows threats by Mugabe to crush any mass protests against his government.
Mugabe, who has in the past deployed soldiers and police to crush streets protests, has told Tsvangirai that mass protests could lead to.
Political analyst and chairperson of the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) pro-democracy civic alliance Lovemore Madhuku said he was not surprised by reports of fresh moves to hire more soldiers, which he said was most probably meant to "intimidate citizens and fill them with fear".
Madhuku, whose NCA campaigns for a new and democratic constitution for Zimbabwe, cautioned that Mugabe and his government were already prepared with or without recruiting more soldiers to deal with the threatened mass action.
He said: "Let's not be fooled because this regime is always prepared to deal with such issues as mass action. The regime is always talking tough." -- ZimOnline
Small-scale farms 'hijacked by army'
10 April 2006 03:59
Maize is being imported from South Africa to meet demand
The military has taken control of food production by small-scale farmers in parts of southern Zimbabwe, a rights NGO headed by church leaders claimed recently.
The Solidarity Peace Trust alleges that, under the guise of Operation Taguta/Sisuthi (eat well), launched last year to help revive the agriculture sector, army units have "hijacked" plots and maize harvests in the southern province of Matabeleland, leaving smallholder farmers with no income or food.
"The fact that they have taken away the farmers' food, which is rightfully theirs, produced by their hard labour, is a hugely immoral issue," said South African Anglican bishop of KwaZulu-Natal Rubin Phillip. Phillip chairs the trust, together with the Archbishop of Bulawayo, Pius Ncube.
Phillip visited Matabeleland last week with Bishop Kevin Dowling of Rustenburg to investigate the impact on rural communities of the deployment of the army. They released a report, and video interviews with some of the farmers at a press conference in Johannesburg.
The church leaders described the operation as "command agriculture" and claimed that soldiers seized early maize harvests on some farms and threatened to take produce that is due in the next few weeks. This, they said, is a violation of the Grain Marketing Board Act, which allows producers to keep output needed for household consumption. The trust has asked the Zimbabwean government to respect the rights of small-scale farmers.
"Plot-holders perceive that they are being treated as indentured labour, with no rights and no claim over the produce they have laboured all summer to produce," the report said.
Soldiers insist that only maize should be grown on plots and have destroyed vegetable gardens and fruit trees that supplement the incomes and diets of small-scale farmers in the lean season, said Dowling. "This destruction has turned plot-holders into paupers overnight."
Soldiers, whose knowledge of agriculture is limited, have spent more than a month tilling the land for the farmers. This delayed maize planting, the church leaders allege. In some cases, the farmers were unable to make use of the good rains this year -- "the best in 20 years" -- and some failed to plant at all, Dowling said.
One of the farmers interviewed claimed soldiers had threatened to beat him if he refused to obey them. Phillip said they had also received complaints of soldiers sexually abusing schoolgirls in some of the villages. "The presence of soldiers ... has disrupted the social fabric and left people angry and afraid," the report noted.
The church leaders claim that the army was deployed to rural areas ahead of the rural district elections in September. The plan, they said, was to take produce from the rural areas to ensure that the urban population was fed and thus prevent unrest over food shortages.
Minister of National Security Didymus Mutasa, who chairs the National Taskforce on Food Security, dismissed the allegations as "lies". He confirmed that the army had been deployed under Operation Taguta/Sisuthi to revive the agriculture sector. "They are going to help small-scale farmers till their land to grow maize -- they will also grow maize on other state-owned land in the country to boost our maize production. As you know, we do not have enough maize and we have to buy from South Africa, which is very expensive."
The maize is sold by the army, which deducts a share of the profit for its services, and the remainder is be given to the farmers, he explained.
News reports suggest that the government launched Operation Taguta/Sisuthi last year, but had been unable to raise the full United States $151-million required. Quoting a Zimbabwean parliamentary report, the privately-owned the Zimbabwe Independent said the initiative aimed to produce 2,3-million tons of maize.
However, despite a good rainy season, the national maize output is only expected to reach about two-thirds of the country's requirements, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.
Zimbabwe has experienced food shortages for the past four years, mainly as a result of erratic weather conditions, the impact of the chaotic land-reform programme and a lack of foreign currency to import inputs, such as fuel and fertiliser. -- Irin News Service
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