- Malawi's forests go up in smoke, thanks to smokers
Felix Mponda | Blantyre, Malawi
19 April 2006 11:59
Malawi's forests are vanishing, victims of the world's taste for cigarettes and the eternal search by local people for wood for cooking and heating.
The small country holds Southern Africa's melancholy record for deforestation: 2,8% of the forest cover vanishes each year, experts say.
"We have to react, now," said Daulos Mauambeta, director of the nation's society for the protection of wildlife and the environment, one of the signatories of a letter sent to the government in February urging it to halt the destruction of woodlands.
Between 1972 and 1992, he says, Malawi lost 2,5-million hectares of natural and cultivated forest.
The government admits it has a battle on its hands to save the trees that produce the ebony, which transformed into souvenirs, leaves in the suitcases of tourists.
Mahogany and the national tree, the Mulanje cedar, are also menaced.
"Malawi could lose its battle against deforestation if no serious action is taken," said Sabina Manda, an expert working at the ministry of mines, resources and the environment.
"Trees are chopped down to make charcoal and provide firewood by local people who cannot afford electricity."
Of Malawi's 12-million people only eight percent have electricity at home and 60% live below the poverty level.
"Most of the seven forest reserves in the south have been devastated," said Manda.
Every year some 50 000ha of forest go up in smoke, as trees are turned into charcoal for cooking and heating, said Mauambeta.
Those at Mwanza and Liwonde in the south near the border with Mozambique are thinned out by local farmers who clear the land for their crops.
Tobacco, which accounts for 70% of the country's foreign exchange, is another factor.
Each year more than 40 000 tonnes of leaves are treated and each tonne requires large quantities of wood for the curing process.
"There are indeed deforestation problems with the tobacco industry, but we are taking action," said Felix Mkumba, executive secretary of the Malawi Tobacco Association (Tama).
Tama hands out every year thousands of saplings to farmers, but, says Mkumba, small producers concentrate on subsistence crops rather than planting trees.
Tobacco-grower Mailosi Phiri said that local people were aware of the dangers of deforestation but were too poor to give priority to the environment over their own survival.
"The government should stop criticising us for deforesting and suggest solutions for us to survive without cutting down trees," said Phiri, who farms in Zombia, 70km from the economic capital Blantyre.
Mauambeta says the government should draw up a special planting programme.
Environmentalist bodies want the manufacture of charcoal banned and alternative energy sources developed.
Malawi plants each year about 30-million trees, but, said Manda,"most ... do not survive because people do not know how to take care of them." - AFP
Malawi: More Clashes With Vendors, 33 Arrested
UN Integrated Regional Information Networks
April 19, 2006
Posted to the web April 19, 2006
Malawian police fired teargas on Wednesday, the second time this week, in clashes with informal traders protesting their removal from urban centres.
Most shops in Malawi's three main cities had remained shut for the second day in anticipation of further unrest. In the renewed violence, 33 vendors were arrested.
Police managed to disperse protesting traders in the capital, Lilongwe, but the situation in the commercial centre of Blantyre was a lot more tense. News agencies reported that as police destroyed makeshift stalls in the southern city, vendors threw stones at them and smashed shop windows.
On Monday there were battles between the police and street vendors in both Lilongwe and Blantyre, ahead of a Tuesday deadline for them to vacate urban centres, which had been extended from 15 April.
The government wants the traders to move to permanent flea markets on the outskirts of Lilongwe, Blantyre and the northern town of Mzuzu, and has made it clear that it would not hesitate to use force to ensure that the deadline was observed.
"I will make sure that all vendors are moved from the streets by 19 April - this is a government that does not believe in failure," said George Chaponda, minister of local government and rural development.
Mavuto Banda, a correspondent for a national daily newspaper, the Malawi Nation, told IRIN earlier on Wednesday that heavily armed police were patrolling the main business streets in the three urban centres. "Some of the vendors have moved to the new premises, but most remain unhappy, and one cannot rule out the possibility of more protests."
Vendors complain that the flea markets are located away from the city centres, where most of their customers are. Evans Chibwana, secretary of the Vendors Association of Malawi, told journalists that the new premises could not accommodate all of them. Lilongwe city officials said they had registered 7,000 vendors for 500 trading spots.
Banda reported that "in some instances the new premises are, indeed, very small."
The informal traders took their battle to the High Court two weeks ago, seeking an order to restrain the government from going ahead, but the court referred the matter back to the vendors, asking them to prepare their application properly.
Across the country more than 30,000 street vendors have been affected by the evacuation drive - this week's protest action against relocation is the second this year. In street battles during February an informal trader was shot at and 40 were arrested.
More than five million people are in need of food aid in Malawi, which last year faced its worst drought in a decade. Official sources said the humanitarian situation had forced the administration to give the vendors time to move.
Three years ago, in an attempt to tackle hygiene issues and petty crime on city streets, the government built flea markets in Blantyre and Lilongwe, and encouraged traders to move.
Street vendors were supported during former president Bakili Muluzi's tenure because they were seen as a popular vote bank.
Parliament adjourns prematurely
by Juliet Chimwaga, 20 April 2006 - 05:16:26
Opposition Wednesday afternoon forced Parliament to adjourn prematurely barely an hour into proceedings following a query by some members on a bill that was not circulated before tabling.
The Bill on Roads Authority (No. 19 of 2005) gazetted in November last year attracted a hot debate which led to an abrupt adjournment immediately after the House passed another on International Fund for Agriculture Development loan of US$8 million carried over from Tuesday.
MPs on the opposition side interrupted First Deputy Speaker Esther Chilenje as she was about to declare tabling of the Roads Authority Bill.
Mzimba West MP Loveness Gondwe said it was illegal for a bill to be tabled before being circulated to the members of the House.
"Why doesn't the minister adhere to it? We need to have a waiver before we start debating on that bill," queried Gondwe.
But Minister of Justice Henry Phoya objected to Gondwe's argument, saying the crucial element had to do with the publication of the bill.
"I think the bill has complied to regulation so it is all right to go on with it," said Phoya.
But Gondwe accused government of being "irresponsible and negligent" by not allowing members to consult their constituencies before tackling important matters.
"You failed to give us the copies of the bill which was gazetted long time ago, thereby flouting Standing Order 116," she argued. "This should be put in records of this House."
Leader of opposition John Tembo also said there was disorder in the House, adding that members should be mindful that Parliament was earlier curtailed in order to wrap such things. Therefore, he said, the House should not condone such procedures.
Leader of UDF business in the House George Nga Mtafu concurred with other opposition MPs, quoting the Standing Order which states that the minister responsible shall publish the bill and deliver enough copies to all members of the House 28 days before the bill is tabled.
"The government is therefore using tricks so that we should pass bills just like that," said Mtafu. "I think that is not proper. This is a government of waivers."
But leader of government business in the House Henry Chimunthu Banda insisted that the bill should be discussed considering "the magnitude of the money at stake."
Banda later suggested the Bill should be put on hold pending consultations and that the House should go for an early 30 minute break and resume for the Minister of Finance to make a presentation of Mid-Year Review of the 2005-2006 Budget.
But Tembo rejected Banda's suggestion, insisting that the House should just dismiss the proceedings till this morning.
"I don't know why we can go on with the presentation before the proposed motion is dealt with," argued Tembo, who drew support from the whole opposition side to adjourn the House to Thursday.
The issue went out of hand forcing the Speaker to rule that the House should be adjourned prematurely.
No bail for Goba
by Olivia Kumwenda, 20 April 2006 - 05:11:50
The Dalton Road Magistrates' Court in Limbe on Wednesday denied Henry Bashir Hassan Goba and four others bail. They were arrested last month in connection with assorted medical equipment and drugs police seized from warehouses in Blantyre.
The four others include Anthony Weche, two pharmacy assistants from Mulanje District Hospital Prince Winga and Kenneth Kazando and Stanford Miyango, a pharmacy assistant from Chiradzulu District Hospital.
However, the court granted bail to Christina Mwinjiwa, a pharmacy assistant from Chiradzulu District Hospital as she is nursing an 8 month-old-baby.
"I refuse to grant bail to the first five accused persons but I grant bail to the sixth accused person [Mwinjiwa] as she is nursing a child and the prison environment is not safe for the child," ruled Senior Resident Magistrate Kingsley Mlungu.
Mlungu said he had not granted bail to the other five because, although the offences are misdemeanours, the quantity involved was huge and involved millions of Kwacha.
Goba and Weche face counts of being found in possession of goods valued at about K80 million "reasonably suspected" to be stolen or unlawfully obtained and failing to give satisfactory account of the same contrary to Section 329 of the Penal Code and operating a wholesale pharmacy without permit and illegal possession of medical drugs contrary to Section 35 (3) of the Pharmacy, Medicines and Poisons Board Act.
Winga, Kazando, Miyango and Mwinjiwa each face two counts of theft by public servant contrary to Section 278 as read with 283 (1) of the Penal Code or an alternative count of negligence by public servant contrary to Section 284 of the Penal Code.
The four are said to have failed to account for assorted medical equipment under their control valued at K1,467,789.32 (for Winga and Kazando) and K1, 337, 661.61 (for Miyango and Mwinjiwa).
Prior to the ruling on the bail application, which was made last week, the State paraded its first witness Lucy Nyirenda, a senior assistant drug inspector at the Pharmacy, Medicines and Poisons Board.
Nyirenda told the court that the board got a tip from "concerned citizens" that someone was operating illegal wholesale pharmacies and when the board raided the warehouses it was discovered that they belonged to Goba.
"We also got a tip last year that a company known as Polychem was operating illegally as it was not registered with the board and we went there and seized the drugs. The company belonged to Goba and he was advised to make his business legal by registering with the board," said Nyirenda
She said Goba then showed interest to license his business and he asked to be given regulations on how to operate a pharmaceutical wholesale.
"We didn't hear anything from him until we were informed again that the illegal business is still going on and we were informed of extra warehouses," Nyirenda told the court.
She said among the drugs found at the warehouses were for HIV and Aids patients which are required to be kept in a well ventilated room and sold only by a qualified pharmacist who is licensed which, she said, was not the case in the situation.
The case has since been adjourned to 2nd May 2006 for the defence team to cross-examine Nyirenda.
Chiefs want crisis centres
by Edwin Nyirongo, 20 April 2006 - 05:55:39
Chiefs from Mzimba have called on government to establish crisis centers for resolving domestic violence issues.
The chiefs said this on Monday when the Ministry of Gender, Child Welfare and Community Services held a sensitization campaign in the district on violence against women and children.
Inkosi Mtwalo said violence is on the increase in villages and there is need for a place where victims should be kept before they are reconciled with their relatives.
"With people selling tobacco now, many women come to us complaining that their husbands have chased them away, or that they have been denied a share of the money. We have to keep them for sometime until their issues are resolved," said Mtwalo.
He said the crisis centres should have a house to cater for a reasonable number of women and girls.
Inkosi Chindi concurred with Mtwalo and in addition asked government to make a provision for food for the victims saying sometimes the number is so big that a chief alone cannot feed.
The chiefs also agreed that people from victim support units should be involved in counselling and resolving some of the conflicts.
Additionally the chiefs asked government to consider the different tribal and cultural values in the country when formulating laws on domestic violence.
"What you should know is that different people have different cultures in the country. We therefore ask you to come up with laws that would be acceptable to all cultures in the country," said Inkosi Chindi.
Gender and Child Welfare principal secretary Andrina Mchiela said the sensitization campaign has come about after the country has experienced increased violence against women and young girls.
"Women and children are being subjected to all sorts of abuse ranging from defilement, incest, child labour, prostitution and body parts selling, rape and other forms of violence. These abuses must stop because they affect a child's normal growth and development," she said.
Mchiela noted that most traditional leaders are not aware which cases need the attention of police and other law enforcement agencies.
She said her ministry is still implementing the National Campaign Against Child Abuse with the aim of empowering the communities in taking action on issues affecting women and children.
Chiefs, religious leaders demand probe on road
by Mabvuto Banda, 20 April 2006 - 05:13:14
Chiefs and religious leaders in Chitipa want an investigation into how a decision was arrived at to change the initial Chinese company identified to work on the Chitipa-Karonga Road to another after President Bingu wa Mutharika performed a construction ground-breaking ceremony and assured the people that money was sourced for work to begin.
The leaders met on April 4, 2006 following a Nation story that revealed that construction has stalled because of government's last minute decision to change contractors.
Mutharika laid a foundation stone for the Karonga/Chitipa road in December, a day before the bye-election in the district and announced that the money had been released by the African Development Bank (ADB).
But that was not true. According to Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe, the ADB would be making a decision this week on whether to allow government change to Mota-Engil, the second lowest bidder and not China Hunan Construction which had earlier won the tender.
"To tell us that the lowest bidder who was chosen cannot do a good job clearly indicates that the people who sat to select the contractor may have been corrupt and therefore deserve to be probed and subsequently prosecuted," says a statement signed by chiefs, civil society and religious leader.
China Hunan was the lowest bidder in the contract with K5.3 billion while Mota-Engil come second best with a K7.9 billion bid followed by an Italian company.
Information Minister and government spokesperson Patricia Kaliati on Wednesday assured the people of Chitipa that the road is going to be constructed no matter what is said.
"It's fair and good if they [the leaders] blame the UDF and MCP for failing to give them the road but not President Mutharika*Whether they are being sent to say what they are saying we will still construct the road after the rains stop," she said.
"The people of Chitipa should also know that it is not only their road which government is trying to work on. There are many other projects," Kaliati said.
Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe insists that government wants another company with a realistic budget to avoid a repeat of the Golomoti-Salima Road that was abandoned by contractors who won the contract because their bid was the lowest.
In the statement, the leaders accuse Mutharika of cheating them by going ahead with the ground-breaking ceremony when he knew that the ADB had not released any funds for the road.
"The Office of the President and Cabinet should have advised the President that it was premature to conduct the ground-breaking ceremony before the funds are in*Otherwise the ceremony was a dummy with no significance at all," reads the statement.
It says failure by Mutharika's administration, and former presidents Muluzi and late Dr Banda to construct the Karonga-Chitipa Road are a manifestation of how majority rule exploits the minority.
"We feel this is a clear manifestation of how governments of majority rule can exploit, marginalise and ridicule the minority. This is contrary to the principle of majority rule and minority rights," reads the statement in part.
Mugabe's threats 'betray panic'
Mail & Guardian Online reporter and ZimOnline
20 April 2006 08:59
Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe is threatening the opposition with "fire and death" if it dares call street protests against his government, but analysts say the veteran leader is showing signs of panicking at a time when his main challenger, Morgan Tsvangirai, seems to have ridden through a split in the opposition ranks.
Mugabe, addressing an independence celebration audience this week, took time to warn his opponents against mounting Ukrainian-style street protests to overthrow his government, which critics blame for plunging Zimbabwe into a deep recession since 1999.
In an apparent reference to opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Tsvangirai, who has in the past week held rallies to drum up support for his party's mass-protest plans, Mugabe said the opposition is "playing with fire" and that the country's security forces are ready to deal mercilessly with street demonstrations.
"I think there is an indication that the government is quite scared because they know people are suffering," John Makumbe, political commentator and Mugabe critic, told independent news provider ZimOnline.
"Mugabe is trying to intimidate people so they cannot go on to the streets, but people are very angry with the state of the country and the government is afraid they might agree with the MDC's position," added Makumbe.
Officials in Mugabe's government say they are worried about any planned protests, which they say will destabilise a country battling its worst economic crisis since independence in 1980. They added that they are working to thwart any attempt "to breach the country's peace and security".
A senior government official who declined to be named said on Wednesday: "This is an issue that we continue to review often, but there is no doubt that the feeling here is one of anxiety and as such the government will naturally respond accordingly to any threat to the country's peace and security."
Senior army and police officers have said that the country's security forces have been put on high alert and have since the Easter holidays intensified anti-public-riot drills to keep them in shape to quell any MDC-led protests.
The police have in the past week also used Israeli-sourced anti-riot water-cannon trucks in the drills, according to a senior inspector at the police's Morris Depot in Harare, where some of the drills have taken place.
Analysts say that despite Mugabe's sabre rattling, Tsvangirai's protest calls resonate with the majority, who are battling to eke out a living as Zimbabwe's economy sinks deeper despite official optimism.
The analysts say the economic crisis, marked by the highest inflation rate in the world at 913,6% and still edging higher, unemployment above 80% and shortages of foreign currency and fuel, is feeding into mass anger against the government and will play into the opposition's protest plans.
Many Zimbabweans are angry with Mugabe, who at independence was welcomed as a hero but is now reviled as he prevails over a country also grappling breaking sewerage systems, power and water cuts, uncollected garbage and deteriorating roads.
"For many people the pain is now intense; the pain has reached the bone," Makumbe said.
"Many people will now be persuaded that demonstrations are the only way to get themselves out of this quagmire," Eldred Masunungure, chairperson of the University of Zimbabwe's political-science department, added.
Mugabe seems to have dramatically raised the stakes against Tsvangirai by daring him to engage in the mass protests and, analysts say, with strong leadership and proper planning the demonstrations could be successful.
Said Masunungure: "The capacity to mobilise people is there and I think people are beginning to say, 'We are our own liberators and we have suffered enough.'"
Tsvangirai has refused to back down from the mass-protest threats, vowing to mobilise Zimbabweans to take to the streets to demand Mugabe paves the way for a transitional government that will be tasked with spearheading the writing of a new and democratic Constitution that would lead to free and fair elections under international supervision.
Mugabe will again be looking to his loyal security chiefs to marshal the country's security forces into crushing any dissent, although analysts say this could fail if a mass swell of public anger spills into the streets.
Zimbabwe's security forces have also been hit hard by the economic crisis, putting their loyalty to Mugabe into question. Zimbabwe Defence Forces chief Constantine Chiwenga has advised Mugabe to review security forces' salaries ahead of the MDC protests.
Tsvangirai has yet to name a date for protests, which could start small, and analysts say Mugabe's strategy could be to stifle any campaign before it takes off in the coming months.
'Threats will not derail plans'
MDC spokesperson Nelson Chamisa said on Wednesday that the MDC will go ahead with the protests despite Mugabe's threats.
"Mugabe's threats will not derail our plans. He is showing signs of dangerous levels of desperation. Instead of providing solutions to the many problems Zimbabweans are facing, Mugabe chooses to threaten, insult and terrorise the people to cow them into submission.
"Zimbabweans are sick and tired of a leadership that that pre-occupies itself with shadow boxing instead of finding remedies to the current crisis," said Chamisa.
Lovemore Madhuku, the chairperson of the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) civic group that is fighting for a new, democratic Constitution for Zimbabwe, dismissed Mugabe's threats, saying no one should take them seriously.
"His threats won't change anything. We will continue with our programmes until he [Mugabe] embraces democratic principles and a people-driven democratic Constitution.
"No one will take note of such comments because this has been the style of his government. The comments are calculated to intimidate the people in order to suppress demand for democratic rule," said Madhuku.
The NCA chairperson said Mugabe's threats against the opposition-led protests are a clear sign of paranoia within government circles. The NCA, churches, students and other civic groups have already endorsed plans by the MDC to stage the street demonstrations.
Meanwhile, the MDC on Wednesday announced the resignation of its national chairperson, Gift Chimanikire.
"Following the call by the party on April 14 2006 to all those in leadership positions who have developed cold feet or doubts about the efficacy of our values on non-violence, democracy, equality and respect for the dignity of every Zimbabwean, we hereby announce that Mr Gift Chimanikire ... handed in his letter of resignation from the position of national chairperson," the MDC said in a statement.
Chimanikire had been part of an MDC faction opposed to Tsvangirai's leadership that led to the MDC leader's suspension by a disciplinary committee, although the suspension was not enforced by the High Court.
"We wish him well. We continue to call upon any remaining members in similar situations to take this opportunity and resign. On our part, we remain resolute and unequivocally committed to the struggle for democracy and the betterment of all Zimbabweans. We continue to pledge our unwavering commitment to complete the struggle against the Mugabe dictatorship and to deliver a better life to all citizens."
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