Monday, July 16, 2007

Maize export to leave Malawi hungry

. No trace of last year’s 400,000 mt

By Rex Chikoko

There is no mechanism to monitor the export of maize to neighbouring countries, a development that could leave the country without maize for local consumption during the lean period, Malawi News has found out.

The situation is compounded by the fact that government and Admarc have not yet started buying maize from farmers to keep for local consumption three months after harvest.

The delay by Government and Admarc to start buying the crop has given private traders leeway to buy off the crop from the farmers at a price lower than government’s recommended K17/kg, which they are exporting to Zimbabwe and Swaziland. In the two countries, maize is said to be selling at minimum price of K32/kg.

Malawi is said to have a surplus of 1.3 million metric tonnes of maize, on top of last year’s 400,000 metric tonnes. But Admarc has exported all its stocks to Zimbabwe while the National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA) has got only 90,000 metric tonnes in stock for emergency only, our source close to NFRA has said.

The source revealed that since the lift of the ban on maize export three months ago, over 100,000 metric tonnes of maize have already been exported to Zimbabwe and some stocks and that some of it has found its way to Swaziland.

The source said the exporting of maize is threatening the country’s food security as there is no mechanism to police the exporting exercise.

“[For example], one wonders: where is the 400,000 metric tonnes surplus we had last year. If anything, the country has got only 90,000 metric tonnes and this maize is strictly for emergency use,” he said.

Asked who is keeping the 400,000 metric tonnes from last year’s harvest which President Bingu wa Mutharika has been talking about, our source who is close to NFRA said no one knows where it is. The source said it is not safe to conclude the maize is with the farmers.

The source said before the lift of the ban to export maize Admarc had 25,000 metric tonnes in stock but it has since exported over 39,000 metric tonnes and is expected to export 11,000 metric tonnes more to meet its 50,000 metric tonnes tender allocation.

Malawi News investigations discovered that an average of 3,000 metric tonnes of maize leaves the country through Mwanza boarder alone on a daily basis and it is believed that the figure is bigger considering that it is not only Mwanza border which is being used as an outlet.

Agriculture Parliamentary Committee chairperson Vitus Dzoole Mwale said the country is heading for disaster, as government has not taken heed of his committee’s recommendation to reserve enough food for the country.

Dzoole Mwale said while on the ground it is believed that there is surplus of the staple food, in reality the country does not have enough reserves since Admarc has not yet started restocking.

“We asked government to declare maize a protected crop so that it can easily regulate the purchase and selling of the commodity but nothing has happened. We have seen private traders dictating the selling of the crop and unfortunately poor farmers are not benefiting from the sales,” he said.

Dzoole Mwale said government would not have any excuse for not buying maize from the farmers since the money for the exercise was already allocated.

“We are heading for a repeat of 2001,” he said.

Mwale blamed government for allowing private traders to buy straight from the farmers saying there is no regulation and monitoring of the purchase of maize which is likely to be abused by some traders.

Admarc Chief Executive Charles Matabwa refused to talk to Malawi News on Thursday.

But Agriculture Ministry Principal Secretary Patrick Kabambe said the ban on maize export was not fully really lifted and that government was regulating the private traders who are exporting maize.

“The ban was lifted temporarily and it is not every private trader who is allowed to export maize. Those allowed have to seek permission from NFRA before exporting,” he said.

He said the Immigration Department at the border posts was responsible for monitoring maize export licenses.

He also said NFRA and Admarc will soon start buying maize from the farmers.

Kabambe challenged that the country has got enough maize and that what Admarc was selling was last year’s stock, saying: “We have to sell it off because if we are not going to sell off some maize, the price on the market will crash.”

He also disputed reports that some maize was going to Swaziland, saying while the Swazi government approached Malawi to buy its maize, no agreement has been signed between the two countries.

Kabambe also said government has been encouraging farmers to keep enough maize for consumption in their homes.

But Immigration Department press officer Pudensiana Makalamba said she was not aware if her department was given the mandate to monitor the export of maize.

During 2000/01 growing season, Malawi realized a surplus of over 200,000 metric tonnes which was sold to Kenya by the UDF-led government in anticipation that the stocks would be replenished from the following year’s harvests. The development left over one million people without food and government was forced to import maize.

An interview with Dausi, Ex MCP vice President

Main opposition Malawi Congress Party second vice president Nicholas Dausi resigned from the party last Sunday. Malawi News reporter Rex Chikoko sought Mr Dausi’s explanation on why he left the party which he has been loyal to for a long time and his political future in DPP. Excerpts:

Your leaving MCP has attracted different opinions some say it was long overdue while others say it is a biggest betrayal of a party which you have served with loyalty. What is your take on this?

I think, people have a right to express their opinion but my leaving MCP is purely on a matter of principle. After carefully thinking and discreet decision I arrived at a very critical and thoughtfulness. Having seen the present trends on how MCP is treading, in most cases when we have acted against the wishes of the people. For example MCP has only just lost three members of Parliament, yet the party is in the fore front refusing to pass the budget at the expense of people’s lives just because of three MPs, whose interest and whose battle were we fighting for? MCP is being used as pawns in a game of poker. MCP must know that it hinges on the ideals, philosophy and the legacy of the late Dr Kamuzu Banda, he first and foremost encouraged development, unity and hard work. These are being propagated at the moment by Dr Bingu wa Mutharika and his DPP. The other thing is the past 10 years of UDF rule, the MCP went through terrible victimization, arresting Dr Kamuzu Banda, expropriating his properties his names were erased it is unfortunate that the leadership of MCP chose to still be associated with such kinds of political friends. Dr Bingu wa Mutharika has restored all what was erased and that sanity is prevailing now. I think it was right and proper for me, a man who cherishes discipline and loyalty and the man who love Kamuzu to leave MCP and join DPP. I would follow anyone who respects Kamuzu regardless the party belongs to.

You have been fighting DPP since its inception and suddenly you have changed heart what would you expect people to make out of this sudden change?

What really broke the Camel’s back was that…well let’s talk about the present situation; you know certain revolutionist of Guinea Bissau once said ‘we must always do things within the context of our time’. Now what are the context issues of our time politically? There are two important issues, the first one is a national budget the second one is section 65, nobody is against all these issues but in life there shall always be priorities and the first priority, in my view, is that let the national budget pass because it is for the common good of the people. While section 65 has to be applied I believe you cannot forsake the national budget, I think it was political suicide and the fact that it was moved by president of MCP, who would have been the leader in propagating the virtues of Kamuzu and that were national development, hard working and self-reliance and discipline, I said I think I need to part ways.
The other thing is the bishops who wrote a statement regarding the political situation in the country saying while section 65 is there, let’s prioritize the budget. I was a publicity secretary of the party and I was told to respond to the bishops statement. I think I cannot do that because I am a staunch follower of the church’s magisterial teachings. MCP in 1992 after the lantern letter had a bad relationship with the Catholic Church, but over the years the church has been advising the political leaders. I think I would not have gone against my conscious to speak against the church, so I said I cannot take it anymore I would rather be used on other things but definitely not against the church.

You expressed happiness when the Supreme Court ruled on the validity of Section 65. Do you still hold the same opinion now that you have changed sides?

What we are saying is that there are two issues, the national budget which was already presented by the Minister of Finance, and even honourable [John] Tembo, honourable Aleke Banda, honourable [George] Nga Mtafu described it as a pro-poor budget, that means it will benefit the poor Malawians. So we are saying first and foremost let us pass the budget, the other things will follow in their order of priority. We are not saying no to section 65, it is a constitutional provision which is valid. But you cannot halt the whole development just because you want to get rid of people. By the way MCP has only three people who left party, these people have never insulted honourable Tembo and for MCP to be at the forefront of wanting to remove these people while others have lost over 30 MPs and yet they are in the background. What is it? Are we being used?

The opposition fears that once budget is passed, government will adjourn parliament indefinitely and subsequently section 65 will not be discussed. What is your take on this argument?

I do not discuss matters that are before the court.

The reasons that you have presented for your departure are political. Is there no provision in political parties that such kind of differences would have been sorted out within the party system?

I leave it to Malawians to judge. Dr Peter Chiona, the first vice president left MCP, Hon Kate Kainja, the Secretary General left MCP, Hon [Bintony] Kutsaila left MCP, Ted Kalebe also left the MCP, definitely there must be something, somewhere, wrong.

What are your expectations from DPP from now till the 2009 general elections? What role do you expect to serve the government, the president, Are you looking for a position or something?

Not necessarily looking for a position. A tooth paste tube if pressed at the middle, it will come out but the best way is to start at the bottom. Dr Kamuzu Banda, in 1993 during a National Executive meeting, once said in politics there is no hurry. There so many brilliant people in DPP those that have built the party. I have just joined the party and you do not expect a new comer to say you are all not this and that and I am this no! I will support Dr Bingu wa Mutharika and DPP to my best of my ability.

There is a strong belief from other commentators that you would like to contest as MP for your area. That means you will have to compete with Hon. Davies Katsonga. Now that you belong to the same party, have the two of you compromised on who should be the candidate or how do you intend to handle the matter?

The advantage of democracy is that people are the best judges than yourself and the other thing is that Hon Davis Katsonga is a relation to me and would not want to drag a family war into the street. I think everything has its own logic and too early to start speculating. I have great respect for Hon Katsonga. Let’s respect other peoples positions.

Several times you have been quoted as denouncing political prostitution within political parties, how would you describe your move to DPP?

I have never used the word political prostitution, it does not auger well with Christian morality. I have been saying nomadic politicians, wandering politicians. I have moved and I think it is my constitutional right. I think it was right and proper to leave MCP and join somebody who subscribes to Kamuzu’s ideologies.

What are your regrets for having been in MCP ?

Certainly nothing. The only thing that holds MCP together is Kamuzu’s legacy. I am missing nothing in MCP. What people must know is that not everybody in MCP loves Kamuzu. I have so many examples of people who have Kamuzu’s badge on their lap everyday but they do not love Kamuzu I do not want to say more.

Do you think MCP is missing anything by your defection?

They have described my move as good riddance. It has been traditional that when one leaves a party trading of bad words follows I do not want to engage in that. I wish MCP all the best God should bless them.

Who are the notable names that are remaining in MCP in the Southern region now that you have left the party?

The regional treasure has left as well…mmm! All I can say is that I only remember one name, Mai Dinala I think she is the only member remaining in the southern region

Monday, July 9, 2007

This is how sanitation situation in Malawi schools has reached. A school girl intering on of the toilet at one of the primary schools in Mchinji district which lies about 100 km away from Malawi capital city, Lilongwe.
It is believed that the problem of sanitation has increased the droprate of girls in school.
AG to challenge
Mussa injunction
By Rex Chikoko

The office of the Attorney General (AG) has set the wheels rolling to challenge an injunction obtained against the Speaker of Parliament not to act on section 65. The AG has confirmed.

UDF Member of Parliament for Zomba Central, Yunus Mussa, who is a deputy minister in the DPP-led government, obtained an injunction restraining the Speaker of National Assembly Louis Chimango from declaring seats of MPs, deemed to have crossed the floor, vacant.

AG Justice Jane Ansah said she was preparing to challenge Mussa’s injunction as the Chief Legal Advisor to government. She is also the Speaker’s legal advisor.

“We are dealing with the matter on behalf on the Speaker. We are going to challenge the injunction, we are only waiting for the courts to set the dates,” she said.

But Ansah would not divulge her line of defence after being asked how she would advise two arms of government, the Executive and the Legislature, who are at loggerheads over the ruling on Section 65.

Members of Parliament from the opposition benches believe Mussa’s injunction was initiated by MPs on the government side.

“There is no conflict. Mussa is an individual who has obtained an injunction against government, that is, the office of the Speaker and I am challenging the injunction along those lines. I am not looking at the political side of the whole issue. I am a professional. I must do my job professionally,” she said.

A source within the AG’s office said after deliberating on the issue, the office of the AG realised that it was imperative to challenge the injunction since it was obtained in a hurry.

“There was nothing wrong with obtaining the injunction but it would have been done after the Speaker has acted on the issues so the Office of the AG will challenge along those lines,” said the source.

Leader of the House Henry Chimunthu Banda said he saw nothing wrong for the AG to challenge the injunction since Mussa obtained the injunction in his own capacity.

“It was not government that obtained the injunction. In this case, the AG has to represent the Speaker,” he said.

But MCP spokesperson in the house Ishmael Chafukira insisted it was government that initiated the injunction, insinuating that Mussa was used by government
…Opposition pressurising Judiciary
By Rex Chikoko
Parliament got it all wrong to suspend budget deliberations because of its failure to discuss issues about Section 65 which are in court, Malawi Law Society (MLS) and Chancellor College Dean of Law have said.

On July 3, 2007, Parliament indefinitely suspended deliberations on the 2007/08 budget following an impasse between government and the opposition on what to prioritise between passing the budget and implementing the ruling on Section 65 which the Supreme Court validated on June 22.

Following the ruling, Speaker Louis Chimango petitioned 41 MPs whom he deemed to have been affected by the ruling, some of them Cabinet Ministers.

But Deputy Minister of Persons with Disabilities and the Elderly and MP for Zomba Central Yunus Mussa obtained an injunction restraining the Speaker from declaring their seats vacant.

DPP also petitioned the Speaker to declare vacant his own seat for joining an organization that was political in nature, as well as those of UDF MPs for moving from the government side of the House to the opposition.

MLS spokesperson Chimwemwe Kalua said it is was not unusual for Parliament to continue deliberations in the House while the Speaker is under injunction.

Kalua said by forcing the Speaker to act on an issue which was in court, the opposition MPs were indirectly putting pressure on the Judiciary.

“The Judiciary has to work independently. They should not receive pressure from any quarter. By giving the Speaker an ultimatum, they are actually interfering with matters of the Judiciary.

“The Speaker can do nothing until the order is vacated. Right now, the hands of the Speaker are tied and it is wrong to put the budget session at ransom,” he said.

He said issues of legal nature have no time frame, saying the MPs should know that the House has a duty over national affairs.

Kalua also took a swipe at Malawi Congress Party (MCP) for threatening to fire the Speaker from the party for allegedly being biased towards government in his conduct.

“In Parliament the Speaker should serve the interest of all political parties regardless of the party he belonged to. The Speaker must promote honest and proper debate. MCP is wrong to threaten the Speaker,” he said.

Agreeing with Kalua, Dean of Law at Chancellor College Charles Mhango said in a separate interview Parliament was wrong to prioritise political interests before those of the country.

Mhango said MPs, who had sufficient interest in the matter, would have joined the case as friends of the court other than pressuring the Speaker to act on an issue, which was in court.

“The right to seek an injunction is a legitimate right and every person has it. It was wrong to prioritise political interests,” he said.

But MCP insisted that it will only return to Parliament when the injunction, which was obtained against the Speaker, has been removed.

MCP spokesperson in Parliament Ishmael Chafukira said his party already stated its conditions to resume budget discussions, saying it was up to government to act on them.

“The head of National Assembly has been paralysed. How would you expect him to preside over the budget when he has an injunction on his head? If the injunction is removed MCP is ready to pass the budget even today,” he said.

He said it was not the opposition parties that sought an injunction against the Speaker adding that government holds the key for the way forward saying the opposition has already made so many concessions on the issue.

But Leader of the House Henry Chimunthu Banda said it was government’s wish to pass the budget as soon as possible and expected the opposition parties to see the merit of prioritising the budget over section 65.

Chimunthu Banda dismissing suggestions from some quarters that government should initiate dialogue on the matter, said the issue of priority was straightforward and that there was no need for dialogue.

“While I am not trivialising dialogue, but on this issue there is no need for it. This is an issue that would be resolved without engaging in dialogue. It is a question of prioritising things,” he said.

He said some of the demands of opposition MPs are fallacies since they are defying logic. He added: “There is no way they can claim that some MPs are not bona fide when no legitimate court has said so.

He also maintained that there was nothing government could do to coerce Yunus Mussa, to withdraw the injunction.

“He obtained an injunction in his personal capacity. I tried to convince him out of it but he refused, we cannot gag him. Besides he is a UDF Member of Parliament,” he said.

There is an impasse between government and the opposition members of Parliament in the House on what to prioritise between the national budget and section 65.

While government side insists that Parliament should first discuss the national budget, the opposition has put its foot down and opted for Section 65 which is expected to see MPs deemed to have violated the said section being expelled from the House.

The Speaker yesterday applied in the High Court in Lilongwe yesterday for an order to vacate the injunction.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Maneb in K3.5 m fraud

Two Malawi National Examinations Board (Maneb) staffs have been implicated in K3.526, 494 fraud that has been taking place at the Board the past three years. Maneb Special Audit Report revealed.

The Special Audit Report that was released on June 5, 2007 implicated several senior officisals in the Examination Department for colluding with Boadzulu Holiday Resort staff in Mangochi to defraud the Board.

The report, which was prepared by Mphatso Mponda, head of Special Audit at Malawi Institute of Management (MIM) assisted by Internal Auditor at Maneb Bernardo Thinison, discovered that Maneb officials have been inflating, colluding to accept inflated invoice, paying inflated bills and profiteering with the Boadzulu manager who has since been fired from the Resort.

For security reasons Maneb identified Boadzulu Lodge, a branch of Alexander Hotels Limited in Mangochi, as a safe place to host its workshops that included training, item-writing, editing and teacher briefing workshop.

“The fraud happened in a form of collusion between Maneb and Boadzulu staff during various workshops at the host’s premises.

“The Board Maneb lost at least K3,526 494 from such collusive fraud system,” read part of the report.

The report said the board in 2004 lost about K866,575, in 2005 the Board lost K389,164, in 2006 the Board lost K423, 670 while in 2007 the Board lost K1,847,085.

The Audit team uncovered a modus operandi where Maneb co-ordinators have been inducing Boadzulu manager to facilitate the malpractice at an attached deal consideration rate over the swindled funds on behalf of Maneb co-ordinators.

The Co-ordinators were also said to have inducing Accounts Officers [at Maneb] to pay for the botched invoices, even without countersigning contravening the Board’s internal control and accounting system.

The report also mentioned other Maneb personnel who knowingly or unknowingly played a role in scam but the charges would not stick because of they were directly involved.

“The audit team identify [names withheld] to be respondents in the primary to the accusations of committing or facilitating the occasion of fraud that led to the loss of at least K3,526,494.

“Second level of responsibility must be directed to the Finance Management Department (FMD) staff who, with their full competence and possessing technical knowledge of irregular invoices, went further to countersign the invoices and effect payment thereon. At times the payment was effected on wholly unsigned for invoices,” concluded the report.

Alexander Hotels Managing Director Alice Makawa admitted the firing of the Boadzulu manager but said she had no details on the reason why he was fired.

Maneb Executive Director Matthews Matemba told Malawi News that the Board commissioned an auditor to audit the institution on Boadzulu allegations but said he has not seen the said audit report.

“Yes we commissioned the audit,” he said.