- Malawi: Cities Without Slums to Change the Face of Malawi
The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)
May 8, 2006
Posted to the web May 8, 2006
Welcome to Mgona Township, a slum perched at a distance of about 12 kilometres North of the capital, Lilongwe.
It is a rainy Monday morning, January 9, 2006. Jimmy Khaiya and his family of six have been awake since 3 am, the time the rain has started because their house leaks heavily. It has been raining cats and dogs for the past 48 hours and there is growing fear that their grass thatched and mud bricked tiny house might collapse anytime due to a big crack that has developed on the back wall.
As for the toilet and bathroom, forget about them. They have collapsed already and as an interim measure, they have resorted to the use of their maize garden as a toilet and bathroom provided nobody sees them.
A good gesture indeed for cholera outbreak. As it appears, they have to brace for a more tough time as the rains have no end in sight, according to the dark dense clouds that have mercilessly covered the atmosphere.
It promises to be another hurricane Katrina if not hurricane Mgona.
But Jimmy's wife, Memory, has to defy the hostile weather to fetch water at a kiosk located about half a kilometre away. She has to prepare a warm bath for her husband and her three school-going children due to the cold weather.
When she gets there, she ends up disappointed for water has run dry because of a broken pipe nearby. There is no alternative, they will have to go without the bath but breakfast is possible because of a small amount of water stored in a pot, she thinks as she walks home.
Jimmy understands the problem and as an alternative he cleans his face with a face towel while she proceeds to make fire to prepare breakfast.
But as she picks up the pot of water, she is irked to see three dead rats inside that had drowned in their attempt to find some food. When Jimmy sees them, he nearly vomits as a wave of nausea rises up his throat and eventually makes up his mind not to take the breakfast at all.
He finally leaves while accusing the government for his predicament this day. While complaining, he unknowingly steps on a very slippery ground and falls, rendering his clothes dirty. He continues with his curse on the government for this misfortune while proceeding with his journey to Kanengo where he works as a labourer at a Tobacco factory.
If a tarmac road is expensive, at least a gravel road would do, he thinks.
All this is simply an insight of Mgona Township, arguably the most densely populated location in Lilongwe. It is simply an eye sore to describe it best. Most of its houses are shabby and almost dilapidated, providing a good habitat for the stubborn rats that proudly runs from one house to another as if they are at a funfair.
The paths are always water lodged due to drainage problem while the decomposing garbage along its sides provides unbearably bad smell to any visitor in the area. Due to this, houseflies are all over in Mgona Township, home to the famous Ntonjani and Kachasu beers.
To Jimmy Khaiya and his family, their miseries will soon be over, thanks to a Government of Malawi-UN-HABITAT joint initiative to get rid of the slums in the country in a programme called cities without slums.
According to cities without slums project document released by the UN-HABITAT, nowhere is urban poverty more visible than in the proliferation of slums, informal and/or unplanned settlements. Such settlements accommodate 40-60 percent of the total urban population in the sub-region, often on less than 10 percent of the total municipal land. People living, and often working in such settlements lack adequate shelter and basic infrastructure such as water, sanitation and access roads. In many instances, they are not recognised as residents of the city and are at risk of random eviction.
Lack of security of tenure is the common characteristic of such settlements. Unemployment is often very high and workers in the informal sector lack opportunities for credit and training for skills to realise full productive capacity. One out of three persons lives on less than a dollar a day.
In comparison with Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Sub-Saharan Africa, the Sub-Region (excluding South Africa) ranks extremely low on per capita income ($800) and on the Human Development Index (0.400)4 Furthermore and making living conditions worse, the sub-region is hit hard by HIV/AIDS. One in ten persons presently lives with the virus.
The average person born in 1999 in the Sub-Region can expect to live to the age of 47, substantially lower than in the least developed countries (52) and Latin America, East Asia and Pacific (70) The Republic of Malawi, according to the document, shares all the characteristics of other countries in the region with regard to the human settlements field as outlined above. In fact, the situation is even more pronounced, with an urban population of only 8 percent in 1975, increasing to 15percent in 2000, and projected to reach 24 percent by 2020.
The average annual urban population growth rate is currently 4.63 percent (2000-2005), and is expected to increase to 4.79 percent (2015-2020). The current projected annual urban population increase of 86,000(2000-2005, compared to 172,000 in rural areas), is thus expected to increase to 174,000 by 2015-2020 (compared to 196,000 in rural areas). In terms of human development and economic performance, Malawi is ranked below average compared with other countries in the sub-region. "The cities without slums sub-regional programme for Eastern and Southern Africa is an initiative that aims to contribute to the realisation of the Millennium Development Goal, "cities without slums," by working with Governments and other Habitat Agenda partners to improve conditions of people living and working in informal and /or unplanned settlements in selected cities of the sub-region," reads the document.
This is why after consultations and a mission by UN-HABITAT to Malawi, a memorandum of understanding was signed on 31December 2004 between UN-HABITAT and the Malawi government on the implementation of cities without slums sub-regional programme for Eastern and Southern Africa in Malawi.
An exploratory mission to Lilongwe and Blantyre between June 20 and June 23, 2004 confirmed the usefulness and appropriateness of undertaking the first step of the implementation of the cities without slums sub-regional programme in Malawi in the city of Blantyre.
The exploration found the city of Blantyre as highly urbanised with urban poverty more visible than in Lilongwe. The goal of this initiative in Blantyre is therefore to assist the Blantyre City Assembly (BCA) and the Malawi government to build/strengthen its approach for upgrading unplanned settlements and improve living conditions of populations in those settlements and to replicate this initiative also in other cities in Malawi.
The budget of the inception phase of this initiative is US$60,000 (UN-HABITAT contribution) and US$20,000 (Blantyre City Assembly contribution) for the period between March 1 and August 31, 2005. "To achieve this goal, existing knowledge and experience regarding urban development and upgrading of unplanned settlements in Malawi particularly related to the situation in Blantyre will fully be utilized. "The experiences from the implementation of the UNDP supported Urban Agenda 21 in Blantyre on pilot basis between 1997 and 1999 and the UNICEF supported Ndirande Informal Settlement Area Based Project between 1996 and 1999 will be fully analysed and utilized. In this connection, specific attention will be placed on supporting, coordination and cooperation with relevant stakeholders," the document adds.
According to Wellington Mitole, Blantyre City Assembly Cities Without Slums Project coordinator, the ultimate beneficiaries will be the populations living in unplanned settlements in the city, particularly the lowest income groups and other vulnerable and disadvantaged groups (including women and children) whose living and housing conditions will be improved. "Priority, however, will be given to Mbayani unplanned settlements," says Mitole, adding "This is because it is on the edge of the Blantyre City Centre and it is the fastest growing informal settlement in Blantyre characterised by, as are other such settlements, insecure tenure and a deficiency in basic services." Mitole says Mbayani will act as a trial township whose lessons will be used in the implementation of the project in other townships like Ndirande, Bangwe-Ntopwa, Bangwe-BCA, Sigerege, Nancholi, Manase and Che Mussa.
It is hoped that the cities without slums programme, once completed will create cities that are conducive enough to human settlement by making them fully-fledged with basic infrastructures such as access roads, water and sanitation in line with the Millennium Development Goals.
As for Jimmy Khaiya and his family, they will have to wait a little bit for from Blantyre, the project will replicate in Lilongwe to get rid of all the slums including Mgona to make the capital city a better place to live in.
Malawi: Expert Warns Reserve Bank On Exchange Rate Overvaluation
The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)
May 8, 2006
Posted to the web May 8, 2006
An economic expert has warned the Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM) against maintaining an overvalued exchange rate, saying this impacts negatively on the performance of the private sector.
Simon Oosterman, Systems Advisor for National Smallholder Farmers' Association of Malawi (NASFAM) made the observation during a paper presentation on exchange rate management and devaluation-past and present, by RBM Governor Victor Mbewe in Lilongwe recently.
He said maintaining an overvalued exchange rate has "very serious" implications on the private sector, which in turn affects economic growth in the end.
He cited failure of exporters to receive their full benefit of their export sales, foreign exchange hoarding, shortage of foreign exchange that reduces the efficiency of trade as some of the examples.
Oosterman noted that exporters are effectively paying at the market rate for their imported goods and then only receiving the official rate for their exports, a difference of 10-15 percent. "Importers, including the government are benefiting from the difference between the official rate and the market rate. If they had to buy forex at the market rate, their import costs in Malawi Kwacha would increase," said Oosterman, adding that government and importers that are able to get forex through the official channels are effectively being subsidised by exporters.
The NASFAM official therefore said the current exchange rate policy is not pro poor as the majority of the poor are unable to buy most of the imported consumer goods.
He suggested that the Malawi Kwacha should be allowed to find its market value and preferably be somewhat undervalued to compensate for the distorting structural impact of large donor inflows.
But Mbewe attributed the problem to the country's narrow export base, impact of droughts, market failure and reduced donor inflows in the recent years. "Fundamentally, the economy's narrow export base means that the demand for foreign exchange exceeds its supply, by far. This in turn has serious ramifications on the functioning of and the management of exchange rate system in the country," said Mbewe.
He said this limits the flexibility of the central bank to adopt an optimal exchange rate policy and interferes with the price discovery function of the foreign exchange market. "Thus, functioning of a flexible exchange rate regime has persistently been haunted by ratchet exchange rate depreciation and excessive market speculation and hence lately the fear of floating," he added.
He, however, said the Reserve Bank is implementing a managed float system to mitigate the problem and would revert to a fully market based system as suggested by Oosterman when conditions are right.
Farmers split over Zimbabwe's land offer
Moyiga Nduru | Johannesburg, South Africa
08 May 2006 11:59
Recent moves by the Zimbabwean government to allow white farmers whose land was confiscated to resume farming have drawn a variety of responses.
"They killed people; they threw them out of their farms, they destroyed the economy. Now they want us to rescue them," says Gerry Whitehead, whose land was seized in 2002.
However, Doug Taylor-Freeme -- president of the predominantly white Commercial Farmers' Union (CFU) -- says there appears to be "a conducive environment to progress with this matter".
In a statement issued last month inviting farmers to apply for land, he says the CFU feels "the timing [is] right to build up a database and forward submissions of all those farmers who may wish to consider the option of applying for land".
Flora Buka, the minister of state for special affairs responsible for land, land reform and resettlement, confirmed to the state-controlled Herald daily last month that all Zimbabweans -- including white commercial farmers -- can apply for land. So far, she said, 500 white farmers have done so.
According to a 2005 report by Justice for Agriculture, an NGO based in the Zimbabwean capital of Harare, the number of white commercial farmers active in Zimbabwe is estimated to be less than 500. This is down from about 4 300 at the end of 2000, notes the document, The Zimbabwean Farming Crisis.
From the early months of 2000, veterans of Zimbabwe's 1970s war of independence and other militants spearheaded occupation of white-owned farms to rectify racial imbalances in land ownership that dated back to the colonial era. These invasions later crystallised into an accelerated land-redistribution programme under which millions of hectares were confiscated.
The farm invasions began in the run-up to the 2000 parliamentary elections, the first poll in which the ruling Zanu-PF faced a credible opposition challenge. This sparked allegations that the invasions were a government-sponsored ploy to use the emotive land issue to shore up support for the poll. The 2000 election was further marred by human rights abuses and alleged ballot rigging -- as was a presidential poll in 2002.
In its report, Justice for Agriculture states that a number of Zimbabwean farmers have since sought their fortunes elsewhere in the region: 35 to 45 in Mozambique, 130 to 150 in Zambia and about 50 in Malawi. Others left for South Africa and Botswana; 12 to 15 had even travelled to Nigeria.
Joseph Made, Zimbabwe's Minister of Agriculture, denies that the government's land offer amounts to an admission that the reform programme has failed.
However, the Justice for Agriculture report paints a different picture. "Once farms have been taken over by the government hierarchy they tend to fall apart quickly. It's like a game of musical chairs: as one is destroyed, they move on to the next," it says.
"There is no security of tenure -- no recognised leases, so tenure was not bankable or transferable for tillage and inputs and they [resettled households] were totally dependent on the state. And there is virtually no seed, maize or fertiliser supplied."
In addition, there are allegations that certain properties have been taken over by leading Zanu-PF officials and other influential figures, rather than landless persons.
Once considered the breadbasket of Southern Africa, Zimbabwe now faces acute food shortages -- something attributed in part to drought, and the effects of accelerated land reform. More than four million of the country's estimated 13-million people require food aid, according to the United Nations World Food Programme.
In a March 2006 report, the Harare branch of the United States-funded Famine Early Warning Network says Zimbabwe's overall food security situation will remain critical this year due to poor harvests.
"With generally normal to above normal rainfall in the 2005/06 [period], preliminary indications of maize production this year are for improved production compared to last year's harvest of 550 000 tonnes, but well below the 1990s average, and well below national consumption requirements," the report observes.
The situation is compounded by HIV/Aids, which has undermined agricultural production; according to the UN Children's Fund, HIV prevalence in Zimbabwe stands at just more than 20%.
The farm seizures have played a part in Zimbabwe's economic decline, which has resulted in acute shortages of fuel, other basic commodities -- and the foreign exchange needed to buy seed, fertiliser and agricultural equipment. Triple-digit inflation has become the order of the day: according to official statistics, inflation rose to 913,6% in March from 782% the previous month.
Daniel Molokele, head of the Johannesburg-based Zimbabwe Combined Civil Society Organisation, sees cause for optimism in the government's latest overtures.
"They are now accepting that they made a big blunder by chasing the white farmers away," he says. The organisation is an umbrella body for non-governmental groups.
But, Whitehead says that instead of taking up the land offer, Zimbabweans should "work hard until this government disappears".
He urges farmers to wait until they can negotiate with a caretaker administration tasked with organising an internationally supervised election to return Zimbabwe to the rule of law.
"Three of my farm workers were shot dead in 2002. There was an attempt to shoot me too, that night," he recalls. "As far as I am concerned, I will get my farm back when this government goes."
Initially, farmers whose properties were seized went to court to challenge the legality of the exercise, but the government ultimately changed the law to accommodate confiscations. Many acts of violence on farms have never been investigated.
Under the new land policy, farmers will get 99-year leases.
"It would require at least four years for commercial farming to have an impact on Zimbabwe," a farmer who requested anonymity says, citing the need for new roads to be built on the farms, piped water to be restored and electricity poles to be erected.
"Once that's done; you have other challenges. Farmers will need fertiliser, irrigation equipment and chemicals -- [the] shops [that provide these] have all closed."
What worries Whitehead more is the lack of trust between farmers and the government: "There have been broken promises. The government has reneged on all its promises -- we can't trust it."
Racially charged debates about land ownership are also taking place in South Africa and Namibia, where there are growing pressures to expropriate land from white farmers and distribute it to landless blacks.
In South Africa, the government wants to put 30% of farmland confiscated under apartheid in black hands by 2014 -- but land campaigners say this process is moving too slowly. So far, the government has distributed just less than 4% of the intended amount of land to blacks.
Namibia's government plans to resettle about 250 000 landless persons, and has started expropriating white-owned farms as part of this initiative. -- IPS
Zimbabwe govt warns resettled farmers
Johannesburg, South Africa
09 May 2006 09:46
Resettled farmers in Zimbabwe have been warned that the government will repossess farms that are not being fully utilised, Harare's Herald newspaper reported on Tuesday.
Its website quoted Mashonaland East provincial Governor Ray Kaukonde as saying: "We will not hesitate to remove farmers who are not utilising water in the dams and mechanised equipment in the production of wheat."
He said a considerable number of farmers in the province were allocated properties endowed with dams, boreholes and agricultural equipment, which they are not utilising to benefit the nation.
Mashonaland East aims to plant at least 15 000ha of winter wheat, an increase of 5 000ha from last season's target.
"We want all our farmers to produce because we want to avoid importing wheat. Reliance on imports means we will forever be importing inflation," Kaukonde said.
He noted that the government's land-reform programme could have benefited the wrong people.
Kaukonde also bemoaned the virtual collapse of the beef industry in the province, saying the Cold Storage Company abattoir in Marondera is lying idle because farmers are not selling their cattle for slaughter.
"We want to resuscitate the industry in the traditional beef-cattle districts of Hwedza and Chikomba. Farmers should take advantage of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe support scheme on livestock restocking," he said. -- Sapa
Zim unemployment stands 'only at 9%'
09 May 2006 10:51
Zimbabwe state bureaucrats on Monday said unemployment in the country stood at a comfortable 9% as late as 2004, totally rejecting independent estimates that joblessness surpassed the 50% mark several years ago and is at present anything above 70%.
In its 2004 Labour Force Surveyreleased in Harare, the Central Statistical Office (CSO) said 87% of the employable age group of 15 years and above was economically active, leaving only 9% without a job during the period under review.
The government data agency said: "Population age 15 years and above, considered to be the working age population, accounted for 60% of the population.
"Out of the population age 15 years and above, 87% was economically active. Using the broad definition of unemployment, 9% was unemployed."
The 9% that was economically inactive or unemployed represented 529 000 people, most of them youths, according to the CSO.
The CSO said unemployment was highest among youths with a high-school education and residing in urban areas.
The total population for the 2004 labour survey was estimated at 10,8-million compared with the 11,6-million people counted in the 2002 population census, which suggests the CSO may have factored in the hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans who leave the country every year in search of jobs in neighbouring countries or overseas.
While many professionals leave their jobs to seek better paying posts abroad, many ordinary Zimbabweans leave simply because they cannot find formal employment in an economy that in the past seven years has experienced the world's worst recession outside a war zone.
At least three million Zimbabweans are said to be living and working outside the country and will certainly be among multitudes of people, including many economic experts, who will find the CSO's unemployment figures hard to buy.
The CSO said of the 5,1-million people that were employed in 2004, 196 000 were in time-related underemployment.
Time-related under-employment in the survey was defined as all those employed persons aged 15 years and above, involuntarily working less than 40 hours a week, who were seeking or available for additional work during the one-week reference period.
The CSO said that 193 000 persons were at least once retrenched from a previous job in the period 1995 to May 2004.
Information from the survey will be used to formulate policies on employment, human resources development strategies, macroeconomic monitoring, income support and social programmes.
Once one of Africa's best prospects of economic success, Zimbabwe has grappled a severe economic and food crisis since 2000, which critics blame on repression and wrong policies by President Robert Mugabe, such as his farm-seizure programme that destabilised the mainstay agricultural sector.
Zimbabwe's crisis has manifested itself through acute shortages of foreign currency, fuel and food, while the rate of inflation is above 900% with economic analysts predicting the key rate to shoot beyond 1 000% when figures for April are announced on Wednesday. -- ZimOnline
Trapped in a web of his own making
Jonathan Moyo: COMMENT
08 May 2006 11:59
With less than 21 months to go before the expiry of his disputed presidential tenure, President Robert Mugabe last month got his beleaguered Zanu-PF government to launch yet another economic recovery plan called "National Economic Development Priority Programme" (NEDPP) in a bid to revive Zimbabwe's collapsed economy.
With less than 21 months to go before the expiry of his disputed presidential tenure, President Robert Mugabe last month got his beleaguered Zanu-PF government to launch yet another economic recovery plan called "National Economic Development Priority Programme" (NEDPP) in a bid to revive Zimbabwe's collapsed economy. This new programme is ill-fated not only because it is too similar to its failed predecessors, but also because it does not address the core of Zimbabwe's deepening crisis: Zanu-PF's triple trap and its consequences, which have left Mugabe like a spider trapped in its own web.
The triple trap is defined by the combined crippling effect of Mugabe's failure to make way for a successor, Zimbabwe's growing international isolation and its collapsed economy.
The Zanu-PF government says the NEDPP seeks to redress Zimbabwe's economic malaise, particularly the critical shortage of forex and galloping inflation. It wants to raise US$2,5-billion mainly from the sale of failing state enterprises, reducing inflation and stimulating between 1% and 2% economic growth over the next six to eight months in an economy that has consistently registered negative economic growth over the past six years, during which it has shrunk by more than 35%. The Zanu-PF architects of the NEDPP are in denial, as shown by their failure to see that the prevailing hyperinflation and forex shortages are symptoms of a much more serious problem.
Today nothing meaningful in Zimbabwe is traded or done through the formal economy. This is one of the reasons why, in May last year, the Zanu-PF government, led by the Central Intelligence Organisation, destroyed the livelihood or homes of 18% of the population in a futile attempt to force them back into the collapsed formal economy.
The roots of the collapse of the formal economy in Zimbabwe go back to 1997 when the Zimbabwean dollar crashed after the government printed money to appease war veterans. But the real damage was done between 2000 and 2003 with farm invasions by some of the same veterans. The result was the institutionalisation of lawlessness, which not only broke down formal or legal structures in the economy but also destroyed property relations and rights and gave rise to the informal economy as a more predictable, secure and fairer trading market.
The NEDPP is ill fated because it is a formal fiction that does not address the informal reality. There cannot be any economic recovery without a comprehensive economic structural reform programme that specifically redresses the structural dislocations that happened in 1997 and went wild between 2000 and 2003.
The fact that the implementation of the NEDPP is overseen by the recently created National Security Council chaired by Mugabe and composed of his security yes-men guarantees that the programme will fail.
The disjuncture between the formal and informal economies in Zimbabwe has rendered the state bureaucracy impotent and this, in turn, has led to the policy paralysis in the government.
This is bad for the Zanu-PF government, but what is worse is that the collapse of the formal economy has happened at a time when the country is going through growing international isolation. One does not need to be a malcontent to see that exuberant portrayals of Mugabe as a hero committed to uplifting the downtrodden are becoming a hard sell, not just in Zimbabwe but internationally.
In diplomatic circles, especially at the United Nations, the African Union and the Southern African Development Community, Zimbabwe has moved from a divisive talking point to an object of pity. The international question now is when the economic meltdown will cause a political meltdown. Even in countries that the government has identified as friendly, such as Malaysia, India, China, Iran and Indonesia, there are indications that many have lost the enthusiasm either to do business or to help Mugabe because they have come to Harare and found a collapsed economy. Politicians are now seen as people who promise big things they cannot deliver because they are not in control of the situation.
The international consensus is that the country desperately needs political and economic change to a new constitutional dispensation with a comprehensive economic reform programme, supported by the international community.
The fact that the government has squandered many opportunities to deal with reform means that the international community has given up hope that Zanu-PF has the willingness and capacity to change. This also explains why Mugabe's misplaced talk about "building bridges" has had no diplomatic takers. This has become a second trap for the ruling elite. The fact that the NEDPP is silent on this international dimension demonstrates the irrelevance of the programme.
The biggest challenge facing the government, which is ignored by the NEDPP, is that Mugabe's stay in power is no longer welcome. Over the years Mugabe has used revolutionary propaganda to manipulate Zanu-PF's constitution, rules and procedures and to turn the party into his personal system for ruling unchallenged without identifying or making way for a successor. This is why Zanu-PF is now beyond reform.
In the past Mugabe has manipulated Zanu-PF systems to remain at the helm of the party and the government. He now wants to manipulate the Constitution again and has directed the drafting of a Constitutional Amendment Bill to enable him to extend his rule by at least two years.
Under this Bill Mugabe wants to use the confusion over his succession in Zanu-PF to secure an additional two years as president without having to face an election when his current term expires in March 2008. Mugabe wants to achieve this by directing that he should be elected by the House of Assembly and the Senate sitting together as an electoral college in March 2008.
Because he fears that he can no longer win a popular election given the effects of the collapsed economy and Zimbabwe's international isolation he, encouraged by the 1987 experience, would like be elected by Parliament, where his party has a technical two-thirds in the House of Assembly and a numerical two-thirds in the Senate. Therefore there would be no election because the outcome would be predetermined through the instruments of patronage and coercion.
When this proposal was first made last year by the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Patrick Chinamasa, it was presented as necessary in order to harmonise presidential and parliamentary elections to cut costs. The presumption then was that the intended beneficiary of the constitutional amendment would be Vice-President Joyce Mujuru. What was overlooked then is that Mugabe is ever-scheming and that the point of manipulating the party's constitution and procedures to get Mujuru undemocratically elevated over Emmerson Mnangagwa was that Mugabe wanted a weaker person. This person would not rise to the challenges of the presidency in terms of stature and capacity and he could elbow out under the pretext of managing divisions within Zanu-PF.
This leaves the party in a third trap, unable to deal with Mugabe's succession. Yet Mugabe has clearly outlived his usefulness. The fact that he does not want to be succeeded until 2010 shows that he does not have a clue about what's going on in the country from the standpoint of the triple trap that now bedevils Zanu-PF. Yet the writing is on the wall. When a spider is trapped in its own web, it dies.
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