Thursday, October 23, 2008

Journalist assaulted

Malawi Police, on October 22, 2008 assaulted a Zodiak Broadcasting Station (ZBS) journalist Emmanuel Chibwana. Chibwana, in the company of a colleague, met his fate after Police overheard him saying why they were busy arresting and assaulting people found wearing camouflage gear and doing nothing on shop owners who publicly sell the outfits.

The comment irked the police who accused his of obstructive police officer on duty and detained a Chilomoni resident. However the matter was changed and Chibwana was later charged of putting on military apparel.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

UNDP withholds MEC’s K10m

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is yet to release about K10 million to Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) which the commission borrowed from government to purchase registration materials, Malawi News has established.

The UN agency is said to be asking for receipts for purchases made during the procurement of the registration materials and also mode of selecting the suppliers, a thing--according to sources within MEC and UNDP, has said the Commission is failing to provide the needed information.

UNDP set aside about K5 billion (US$ 28.9 million) under Democratic Governance Support for Electoral Reforms and Elections in Malawi which among other things included the provision of funding to the MEC for the procurement of electoral materials and implementation of activities.

A source at UNDP said MEC went ahead to source money from government to purchase the registration when the Commission thought UNDP was taking time to effect the identification of the suppliers.

“There was an understanding that UNDP will pay back the money which MEC got from government. We are committed to pay back the money to Malawi government through MEC and what we are asking them are receipts and procedures followed for us to effect payment,” said the source.

In October 2007 UNDP advertised for interested companies to supply materials for the registration exercise but the advert did not attract the intended response and due to the time limit MEC went ahead to identify suppliers and procure materials using government money.

In April 2008 Malawi Electoral Commission, through Malawi government, made a payment of about K10 million to an Australian company which won the supply tender on understanding that UNDP would reimburse the money to Malawi Government.

But Malawi News source at MEC said UNDP has expressed reluctance to pay the money to MEC in the absence of receipts and also is asking the Commission to outline the procedures followed to identify the contractors if they are in line with UNDP procurement procedures.

MEC Chairperson Anastasia Msosa admitted there were some delays of payment because of things to do with procurement but said discussions were underway and she was optimistic that the UN agency will pay the money.

“There are issues regarding procurement but I am sure they are going to be resolved and money will be paid. UNDP has already given us part of the money for other activities and this issue will be resolved,” she said.

The UNDP provides financial support to MEC for planning and implementing a focused programme across the country which among them includes implementing the civic and voter education activities with the support from accredited civil society organizations.

UNDP is also expected to provide support for actual conduct of elections.
When contacted for comment Sam Alfandika Project Coordinator for the UNDP Support to electoral reforms and elections in Malawi programme said he was at Mec in Blantyre and offered provide Malawi News with necessary information a thing he never did. Alfandika could not pick his phone as we went to press.

Msosa fate known in 2 weeks time

The future of Malawi Electoral Commission chairperson Anastasia Msosa would be known in two weeks time as the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) has finally made its recommendations to the president.
Secretary of the Commission George Mandiwa said there was no rush to announce the JSC recommendations since the current MEC chairperson still has days in her contract.

“We will announce in two weeks time the recommendations made to the president.
We should appreciate that the current chairperson contract is still in place,” he said.
Mandiwa was tightlipped on the recommendations saying it would affect the outcome from the appointing authority.

JSC was expected to make a recommendation as to who would replace or renew Msosa’s contract at the MEC.

Responding to the question of her future at Mec Msosa said issues of contract were personal and that she still has days in her contract refusing to speculate about her future.

“Lets discuss the issues at hand about registration,” she said.

However former president Bakili Muluzi recently said he would preferred Msosa’s contract to be renewed citing time limit as the reason for his preference to maintain Msosa at the helm of the Commission.

But one political analyst Rafik Hajat was recently quoted in the media as saying it was important that a new person should be appointed to the position saying there were other judges who can ably handle elections like Msosa.

“Msosa is a capable woman and has handled elections well, but it would be imperative if a new person is appointed to the position,” he said.

Msosa was the chairperson who oversaw the first multiparty general election in 1994 she was however reappointed 10 years later to lead the commission for the second time.

Divorcing the orphanage centre syndrome

At every corner, at every junction in most districts in the country there is an orphanage centre. It is said that the country has over 1 million children orphaned at different ages mostly of them due to the HIV and Aids pandemic which has ravaged the country’s citizens the past 23 years.

As a quick response to the emerging problem of orphans orphanage centres sprouted almost everywhere in the country. It is fashionable for every church, every Jim and Jack opening an orphanage centre with a sounding number of its occupants as a sign of good will.

Good will it is, however the intervention has its own shortfalls surpassing the strength. Apart from some unscrupulous benefactors cashing on the less fortunate children’s misery, there are other disadvantages surrounding the orphanage centre system.

However, a Blantyre based Safe Hope has come up with a greenhorn way of addressing or looking at the problem of orphans and orphanages. The Safe House is a family of nine people with a mother and eight children.

The children of ages between nine and 15 are not of the same mother neither they are of the same father but nevertheless they are brothers since they now share the mother.

Located in the suburb area of CI in Blantyre eight children, the first entrant to the home, reside with a woman they call a mother and of course the motherly love they get from the woman they call mother.

The woman claims the children, all of them graduating from the streets of Blantyre mastering begging, she loves them like her own children. The woman, Lefa Mahonga said it was not easy to keep children under one roof who have spent their life living in the street.

“During the first weeks, they have been fighting among themselves, these children had harsh life in the street and two of them were practising witchcraft, but with patience and motherly love they have changed to become good children,” she said.
Mahonga said she is partially blind following the spell the two witches casted on her in their earlier days at the Safe Home when they were still practising witchcraft.

“I have forgiven them,” she said.

She said she managed to transform the children from delinquency, which they were to school going God fearing children.

One of the children, now attaining secondary education at one of the private schools in Blantyre Boniface Chitsulo, 17, described life in the street as harsh and abusive.
Chitsulo said street life is a dangerous world as children, male and female, are sexually molested, forced to participate in dangerous activities like stealing by either the watchmen guarding shops or gangs that terrorise people, all these in the name of protection.

“Young boys are being molested homosexually. I am glad that I left the street. I look at my new home as a real home with my mother and brothers,” he said.

The Safe Home system would be described as a perfect intervention on rehabilitating children who have been in the street as it gives them the needed family love, sense of belonging and values, according to the Social Welfare Officer Judith Zulu.

Zulu said most of the orphanage centres spouted, purportedly, trying to assist orphans or less fortunate children have missing vital components in their quest to rehabilitate the children.

“Orphanage Centres are more like boarding schools where children are just bundled together in one place; there are specific attentions to particular children’s needs, no family love and values. This does not help much in terms of making the children good citizens,” she said.

Most of the time, Zulu said many orphanage centres concentrate on the physical needs of the children than their spiritual, moral and emotional needs.

“The safe home is best model because children are given a home not a house for shelter.

The Safe Home was founded four years ago with the aim of giving street children and orphans a normal home and proper education.

The Founder Audrey Mwala said the Home is run by a board which source money from the well wishers and money which she realise leasing her house for wedding photo sessions.

She said she decided to establish a home not an orphanage with the aim of giving children a real family values and encourage them to be able to create relationships with other people.

“We face two challenges feeding the children as well as modelling them to become good citizens. These children, while looking innocent when begging in the street, are very angry and in dire need of behaviour change,” she said.

Mwala said so far she is satisfied with what the children are turning to be, now that all of them are at school with two doing their secondary education.

“We look forward to open a village with each home having not more than eight children, the idea is to encourage them to realise and understand brotherhood,” she said.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Shire valley getting out of flooding problem

There have been philosophies, as solutions to the perennial lower Shire flooding problems; some people have said there was a need for deity intervention, some have consulted ancestors —the mbona thing—others thought the noble intervention was build dams along the problematic rivers. These are all efforts to stop rivers from overflowing and causing floods. Lower Shire has been a high risk area for floods since time in memorial.
Government has its own official position to the solution of the flooding problems: Those in high risk area ought to move to places which are of low risks or upland. To every philosophy or argument there are pros and the cons, so too are these proposed solutions.
For the affected they have their own arguments why they can not move upland, they claim, they have got their fertile gardens on those risk area, the culturists would extend the arguments to the fact that their fore parents were buried there so they can not leave the dead alone, a plausible argument to the believers, so it may sound.
However, the most obvious truth, of late, is that there has been a growing donor fatigue to the lower shire perennial flooding and its subsequent assistance requirement. Some donors entertain the feeling that people, in the lower shire valley, deliberately put themselves on the risk line or vulnerability to ensure that they get freebies in the event of ‘disaster’.
In Holland the Dutch managed to build villages, town and cities below the sea levels, those who cares would remember the dykes, and in Israel and in so many places of the world, they claimed land. This signifies that there is a solution to every problem.
It has been proved that the phenomenon lower shire floods would be reduced to a thing of the past. For the past two years at least there have no flooding at the Nsanje boma and some other places within the risk area.
It is not by cheer luck that there was no flooding at Nsanje boma, which has been a customary in the past; it was actually some people’s efforts that have made a difference. Rivers of life a developmental organisation within the Evalengical church took the initiative to arrest the problem through its disaster risk programme.
Through the programme and working hand in hand with the affected people, the church have mitigated the flooding problem by diverting, digging and building walls in the problematic rivers. And the results have been excellent.
Over 67 families that left for the high areas have come back to reclaim their land as the issue of flood is no longer a problem. The organisation redirected Mwanalundu River, dug out and plant elephant grass along Nyafisi river in TA Malemia and Tengani areas in Nsanje districts, saving at least 8000 families in 27 villages from floods.
The organisation is now in Pangeti and Kachere villages in TA Tengani’s area where the villages has undertaken an exercise of building a wall (a dyke) along Chibwibwi river which mostly affects the two villages when it busts its banks.
“We have been facing flooding problem a thing which reduced people from my village to perennial beggars because we could harvest anything. It was really dangerous because in some instances water would come while people are fast asleep,” said Pangeti.
Pangeti said when the officials from River of Life approached his village with several initiatives that would assist the villagers to avert the perennial flooding, he lobbied his villagers to take an interest in the initiatives.
“There are several intervention taking place, we will plant trees behind the ‘dykes’ that are going to be built trying to solidify the wall. We are also making sure that we should avoid wanton deforestation,” he said.
River of Life Supervisor in Nsanje district, Dyson Mtayamanja said his organisation introduced three initative in the areas as part of sustainable programme.
“We introduced the manufacturing of Mbaula that would use only 20 percent of the needed firewood in a normal circumstance, this initiative is designed to reduce the deforestation, the second intiative is the building of walls along the problematic rivers as well as introducing the irrigation farming as one way of ensuring that people in the areas are food secured,” he said.
About 20 people are trained the manufacturing of mbaula and 29 farmers are in irrigation farming.
River of Life Programme Manager Dingiswayo Jere said the new concept has helped to reduce flooding problem in the lower shire at the same time making sure that people are food secured.
Jere said his organisation efforts does not contradict government’s official stand that people in high risk areas should move to upland but said there were some areas which would be rehabilitated without necessarily moving people other areas.
“Moving people to upland would be seen, in some cases, as mere shifting of the problem. At their new place people will start cutting down trees creating a problem similar to the one they are running away from.
“In some areas, like in area of T.A. Nyachikadza, there isn’t much that can be done apart from asking people to move upland, but in other areas the story would be different,” he said.
Jere said his organisation strives at bringing to normal life of the people that are affected hence the introduction of irrigation farming,” he said.
Group village headman Kachere said the introduction of irrigation scheme has brought some dignity to the villagers because the past year the villagers did not beg for food despite that the village was hit by floods.
“We have enough food,” he s aid.
Kachere assured the organisation that his subject are prepared to take part in the building of the wall along Chibwibwi river and they have already started looking for ‘appropriate’ stones that would be used to build the wall.
“We are told it is not every stone that would be used to build the wall, we need rough stones and we have the right type of stones about 30 kilometres away, we are going to get the stones from there,” he said.
If the building of walls, digging out the problematic rivers would be a solution to the perennial flooding in the lower shire, the areas would become the country’s bread basket due to its good soil and its prospect to irrigation.

Monday, February 4, 2008

New voters' roll on card

starts in April

The Malawi Electoral Commission will compile a new voters roll for the 2009 elections, an exercise that will start in April and be completed in December, Mec has said.
MEC spokesperson Fegus Lipenga said the exercise would start early and expected to finish in December to give the Commission enough time to correct the mistakes which would be incurred during the registration exercise.
Lipenga said Mec has decided to discard the old voters roll the country has used for over a decade because it has a lot of anomalies.
"The MEC is not cleaning up the voters roll. The voters roll used during the 2004 elections will be discarded because it had so many problems," he said.
Lipenga said among other things that in the old voters' roll a lot of names were either missing or mispelt and that there was just a lot of incorrect information which would be difficult to rectify.
"We have started early to give ourselves enough time to rid the voter’s roll of the mistakes made during registration and we expect the voters' roll to be ready by the end of the year," he said.
United Democratic Front (UDF) and Alliance for Democracy (Aford) welcomed the development while Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) said they would consult Mec to appreciate the need for the exercise. Aford
UDF newly-appointed spokesperson Mary Kaphwereza Banda said the issue of voters' roll has nothing to do with political parties.
"UDF is aware of the impending new voters roll but this issue is about the country as a whole, and not political parties," she said. She hoped the exercise will be done smoothly.
DPP Publicity Secretary Nicholas Dausi said although the party has not been approached on the issue, his party expects Mec to come up with convincing reasons for discarding the old voters' roll.
"We have not been consulted and we will tell them our opinion once they consult us," said Dausi.
Deputy Publicity Secretary of Aford Kingsley Jere said said the idea is good but warned MEC to expedite the exercise so that the commission is not caught up in a mix of so many other activities that MEC has line up.
But Executive Director of Malawi Watch Billy Banda expressed surprise at the development saying what MEC wants to do contradicts what the organization has proposed in the election law amendment bill.
"In the amendment bill they are asking government to reduce the number of days for registration from 14 days to seven days. If that bill is passed are they going to finish the new registration within seven days?" Banda queried.
He said MEC should be mindful that the country does not have a register for national identity adding that discarding the voters' roll would give an opportunity to some unscrupulous illegal foreigners to legitimize their stay in the country by registering as Malawians.
"At least with an old voters roll, they have a starting point but starting a new one will be brewing trouble. Do they have resources and capacity to check who is an eligible Malawian voter? At least with the old roll they would be able to check older people who are not registered and determine whether one is a Malawian. There is room for rigging here," he said.

Ex-cop questions justice at Ombudsman

Former policeman Hardie Makwerero has questioned the justice delivery system at Ombudsman saying his case, number OMB/BT/C/40/99, has been at the inquiry stage for nine years despite numerous reminders to the body to expedite it.
Makwerero complained to the Ombudsman that he was unfairly dismissed in 1998 by the Malawi Police Service after serving the service for about five years. The former Constable who was stationed at Limbe Police Station said his services were terminated through a radio message.
Makwerero claims the only reason he suspects might have led to his firing was absenteeism. But he said the service has not told him about that up to now. He said he reported the matter to Malawi Carer in 1998 who referred the issue to Office of the Ombudsman.
He said on several occasions the case has been closed at the Ombudsman office without giving him any reason for the action, and also the police, eight times has failed to appear before the ombudsman despite that letters of inviting them to attend the hearing were sent in all the occasion.
"What saddens and worries me is that the Ombudsman has not made progress on the case following the Malawi Police Service failure to attend hearing after being invited for the hearing for eight times since 2002," he said.
He said the Ombudsman's office on January 9, 2008 dispatched the ninth invitation to the Malawi Police Service to attend the inquiry but he said he was worried that there has been no response so far about whether they will attend or not.
Makwerero claims his services were terminated by word of mouth and he never received a letter of termination to justify the firing.
Spokesperson of the office of the Ombudsman Trustone Sabwera said he was aware of the case, saying the file case indicates that the inquiry on the matter had not been concluded. But he said could not say what was delaying the conclusion of the case.
He however said he was surprised that the case has taken unnecessarily so long saying all cases reported to the Ombudsman in 1999 were concluded.
"The case file in question indicated that the case is at inquiry stage, it is really a cause of concern that it has delayed so long. It is a very sad development. I will know the actual position of the case when I talk to the Ombudsman himself," he said.
National Police headquarter spokesperson Willie Mwaluka said they could not trace the letters from the Office of the Ombudsman on the case involving Makwerero.


. Buying maize from local traders
at K1,700/50kg bag, reselling at K1,500

Government has suspended maize exports to Zimbabwe and has redirected the commodity to Admarc depots in an effort to address the maize shortage threatening some parts of the country.
Last week Government issued an order to the Grain Traders Association, through the National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA), to stop sending the commodity to Zimbabwe. The order which Malawi News has seen said Admarc vehicles would instead be collecting the maize from the traders to its depots.
The Zimbabwe deal is shy of 117,000 metric tonnes to conclude the initial 400,000 metric tonnes which Malawi was expected to deliver in a period of 10 months starting April last year.
But NFRA General Manager Edward Sawerengera said his organization was not buying maize for Admarc saying Admarc has enough maize to feed the nation.
"We are still honouring the Zimbabwe deal," he said but when he was told that Malawi News had seen the documents confirming the suspension of exports, Sawerengera wondered saying: "Do you have a problem with that?"

In Blantyre the latest delivery of maize amounting to over 100 metric tonnes to Admarc depot at Charterland in Limbe was made on Monday. The maize was from Chenyumbu Trading in Chileka, belonging to grain trader Geoffrey Sadyaluanda, according to a delivery note with an NFRA letterhead.
At a meeting held in Lilongwe in December last year and attended by officials from Ministries of Finance and Agriculture, NFRA and Admarc, it was agreed that government should release between K400 million to K800 million to Admarc through NFRA.
"Government would not have funded Admarc directly that is why NFRA was involved. Government knew in December that the country was running out of maize," he said.
Apart from redirecting the commodity from Chenyumbu, NFRA has also redirected maize from Mlambe Traders and Central African Produce, according to a source at the NFRA office in Blantyre.
The source said the directive was made following a recommendation from the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture which recently assessed the country's levels of the staple during a tour.
Chairman of the Agriculture Parliamentary Committee Vitus Dzoole Mwale said following their tour across the country, the committee discovered that hunger was looming in the country and advised government to move maize from Admarc and NFRA warehouses to the districts where people are facing hunger.
"We visited almost all the districts in the country and according to what people were telling us we realized that hunger is looming," said Dzoole Mwale.
In an interview on Thursday Sadyalunda, who is also a member of the Board of Trustees for the Grain Traders Association, confirmed the suspension of the sale to Zimbabwe saying Admarc vehicles wee now ferrying the grain meant for Zimbabwe, to the organisation's warehouses.
Sadyalunda said the new arrangement would not affect their sales as government, through NFRA, still buys the grain at the same price of K34 per kilogramme.
Admarc is selling the same maize at K30 per kilogramme meaning that Government is making a loss of more than K4 per kilogramme or K200 per 50kg bag, when transportation and storage costs are factored in.
Admarc has of late been rationing maize in its depots in Blantyre and some other parts of the country due to shortage of the commodity, but the organization says there is no shortage of maize in thee country. It says rationing is aimed to stop unscrupulous business people from buying in bulk.
People in Blantyre are not allowed to buy more than 50 kilogrammes from the Admarc depots. On the parallel market maize is selling up to K2,000 per bag of 50 kilogrammes.
Sadyalunda said the rationing of maize, and Admarc’s purchase of the commodity from the private traders, was a sign that the levels of the grain in the country have gone down and that it is difficult to source maize from the farmers.
Ministry of Agriculture Principal Secretary Patrick Kabambe said he has called for a meeting with NFRA officials to explain what was happening.
Admarc did not respond to our questionnaire sent to them on Wednesday, but the organisations' Chief Executive Officer Charles Matabwa told MBC yesterday that there is enough maize in the country to last up to the next harvest.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Mpasu about UDF

UDF publicity secretary Sam Mpasu has been at loggerheads with his party as he has been accused of airing his views, most of the time, not necessarily of the party, Malawi News reporter Rex Chikoko met Mpasu sought his views on his party’s stand against him: Excerpt:

You have saying that there in no democracy in UDF would you elaborate on that statement?
I have not actually put it in so many words but the people who have published a notice, an advertisement in the Daily Times calling themselves members of the UDF taskforce have raised that issue especially in relations to the forth coming convention and I have looked at it not on the basis of the messenger but on the basis of the message. I think the earlier we realize as members of the UDF that Malawians has very expectations from the UDF than from any other party, the better. Say this because they UDF boosts about and take credit for having brought democracy in the country and that it is a party of democracy. Democracy has got two attributes; the availability of choice and the availability of voice. People are used to be given a choice; people are used to be given a voice, so people expect the UDF of the 1992-93s to continue being a part of the people, where people were free to choose freely. So when these Task Force people made that arrangement, I was stunned when some of my colleagues said they were not members of the UDF, said no that is a mistake, we should look at the message not the messenger, even the statement had come from nonmembers we have taken them into account.

Your sentiments have put you in a collision course and you are not also contradicting your party’s National Chairman Bakili Muluzi position on this issue, what would you say now?
This is exactly what I am saying that it is a mistake for us to look at the messenger not at the message, that statement I made, made some of them into believing that actually I am a sympathizer or a secret supporter of the task force and I beg to differ I salute my principle. It is a disastrous mistake for UDF into believing that it should be taking criticisms from its only elected officials, only from its members because when the elections come, we should realize that not only our members would put us into government, it is members of the electorate who were not necessary UDF who can put us into government by voting for us.

What was the agenda of the UDF meeting which the issue of your possible suspension was discussed?
Basically there was nothing concerning me on the agenda, but I was very surprised that the chairman of the media committee, Mr Joseph Kubwalo, said he was to give a report on media committee and suddenly the report he gave was that his was failing to do its work because every time they want to discuss something they find that it was already in the media so he asked the committee to help him to find a solution and then I found myself to be at the centre of discussion. I thought it was ridiculous, that statement was based on ignorance because the work of the spokesperson is different to the work of the media committee. A spokesperson does not raise his own questions, he answer the questions on the spot, he must be quick in his head and on his feet, where as a media committee person is the one who sets the agenda, they would say look; lets go and shoot holes into the economic policies, shoot holes into Bingu political policies, shoot holes into the food security policies, so you prepare press statements or press conference, there you got plenty of time to consult. I do not think it is possible that I get a call from a reporter and all please can you phone me in two weeks time I want to consult my colleagues. This is total ignorance.
It was said that your fate will be known once the National Chairman is back from United Kingdom, have you been communicated to now that the National Chairman is back?
They did not say that. They said they would make a recommendation to the National Executive Committee, so my fate would known when the National Executive Committee meet.
Bakili Muluzi alluded to the effect that the Task Force is the work of government, what would be your take on this statement?
The statement, unfortunately is focusing on the messenger not the message, I do not thing it should really matter who is saying what, what it should matter is what is being said and in this respect I am glad that the party responded to the message by saying ‘sorry the fielding of presidential candidate is limited to the national chairman anyone else wants to compete should be free to do so’ this is the message they would have said long time ago, we seem to waste time in looking at who is saying what, what we should look at is; is that relevant to our situation.

There were about four members Friday Jumbe, Brown Mpinganjira Cassim Chilumpha and yourself who shown interest to contest as presidential candidates, with the above statement are not contesting?
First of all I must remind you that UDF party in this country that it establish its credentials as a party of democracy and millions of Malawians in the rural areas believes that they are not free to move about, free to worship, free to write what they want, free to do any business because of the UDF, so the principle of democracy is a pillar of the UDF, that any time Malawians should expect UDF to remain a pillar of democracy, they don’t expect that from other parties, they expect democracy from UDF. So the public has been making a serous mistake into believing that there were only four people who were aspiring to be presidential candidates to the UDF, there are many more who would like to try, it is their rights, if for Dr Muluzi express interest to contest again, where were over 10 I could count on my figure tips, we had honorable [Moses] Dossi, Dr [George Nga] Ntafu and many others, so it is a mistake to believe there were just four who would like to try to exercise their rights. The point is, it is not just the right but will they have democratic environment within the UDF, are they going to be able to chat up the district governors, the regional governors because if you are to contest on that position you need to campaign.

Are you contesting?
Not necessary, I have said the issue of presidential candidature is a matter an individual ought to make his own mind.

The meeting took place when Muluzi was not around and in most cases Chilumpha become the acting national Chairman, was he consulted when the meeting was taking place?
Dr Chilumpha is not the vice chairman of UDF and was not consulted on the fate of my position as the publicity secretary and he did not attend the meeting that was discussing me. If you remember, for over three years not UDF has been handcapped in the sense that the position of the vice national chairman, who should come from the central region, has been vacant, the second vice national chairman, who should come from the north has been vacant, so here is a situation where only Dr Muluzi is at the top of the party and is not been helped by the two key people, and we are going into a convention, the convention is raising many other issues which threatens to make the convention not a smooth one but a bumpy one and we can not afford that with only 14 months to go to elections. On 20 March 2009 parliament will be dissolved automatically there after every party will be on its own, we can not afford to be divided now.

Talking of division, is UDF divided are there two camps in the party?
I would not say it is the question of two camps or three or whether the party is divided or not but what we are saying is that we in UDF we have got certain values we hold, a kind of a party we want to see, a kind of a political party we want to develop and win the confidence of Malawians, if we get a situation where someone says you belong Chilumpha’s camp, or you belong to Muluzi camp, or to Mpasu, Mpinganijra or Jumbe’s camp that is a disaster, there should not be any camps. If any one is interested, let them be interested but don’t divide the party into camps, our members see themselves as UDF first not belonging to this camp or that camp.

When is the party holding its convention?
A decision has not been made, we were waiting for the national executive committee to meet and decision would be made now that the national chairman has come back from Britain.

Government ponders on tripartite elections

Government says it is discussing the possibility of pushing for a bill in parliament to accommodate tripartite elections, minister Justice and Constitution Affairs Henry Phoya said.

Malawi is yet to hold the Local Government Elections which were due two years ago and in 14 months time the country is expected to hold presidential and Parliamentary elections.

Political establishments have been calling for the tripartite elections to ease the pressure of holding two elections within two years.

Phoya said government was discussing the issue but said it has not come up with a position yet.

“The discussions have not been crystallize yet, but it is government’s responsibility to formulate such kind of bills,” he said.

Phoya said in so far as it is becoming increasingly clear that Local Government elections cannot possibly be held before May 2009, Government would seem to share the view that tripartite elections represent the most practical solution to the current situation.

“If we can have a duly constituted Electoral Commission before the end of the first quarter of this year, at the latest, I do not see why we cannot hold orderly and internationally accepted elections, be they
tripartite or otherwise, in 2009,” he said.

Phoya said the major advantage of having tripartite elections is, obviously, the potential to make a huge saving in terms of expenses on the part of Government and those who normally assist us with such expenses.

“On the minus side, some commentators have cited the difficulties that some of our less than literate voting populace would have in distinguishing and identifying all three candidates of their choice at a given polling

“In my view, this argument appears to grossly underestimate the natural intelligence of some of our people, even in the rural areas, and I do not fully subscribe to it,” he said.

However Institute of Policy Interaction (IPI) Executive Director Rafik Hajat said while he would go for the tripartite elections there were a number of issues that has to be considered before parliament would endorse the idea.

Hajat warned government to tread carefully because tripartite elections would be a pre-requisite for a huge mess, if the situation leading to the country’s general elections in 2009 would not change.

“We have to look at the capacity of electoral commission, the independence of the commission. We need to put very strong registrations on use of public resources,” he said.

IPI is one of the institutions that have been propagating for the tripartite elections. According to Hajat parliament has not reacted to the draft bill that were presented to the legal committee of the house that high light important issues to considered before switching to tripartite elections.

“There is no enough time for the civic education, for the new voter roll and campaigning for the president, member of parliaments and counselor would be too much and theme would be fanatic,” he said.

Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec) spokesperson Fegus Lipenga, was quoted in the press that Mec would be able to handle tripartite elections if parliament would pass the bill.

Mec is rocked in political turmoil where opposition political parties drugged president to court over the appointment of Commissioners for the commission.

President Bingu wa Mutharika appointed, eight commissioners to replace those, whose term had expired but opposition UDF and MCP took the issue to court saying they were not consulted.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Libya cut government out of hospital project

Malawi government has no idea on the progress of Al-Ghaddaf hospital, a district hospital, being built at Kameza in Blantyre as the Libyan government, the financer of the project, has put government officials out of the picture.

Libyan government stopped working hand in hand with government officials when disagreements ensued over the size of the hospital as Malawi government insisted that the hospital should follow the standards of districts hospitals in the country while the Libyan government wanted something smaller, a 100 bed block.

Principal Secretaries in the Ministry of Health and Foreign Affairs said the Libyan government started controlling the operation of the construction of the hospital from their base in Tripoli and Malawi government has no idea as to what was happening at the moment.

Ministry of Health PS Chris Kang’ombe said last time his ministry had discussions, on the hospital issue, with the Libyan envoy was when they were disputing the size of the hospital at Kameza, as the Libyan government wanted to build something smaller than the accepted standards of a district hospitals in Malawi.

“We agreed that they are going to visit Chiradzulo hospital to ascertain the standards of district hospitals in Malawi. Since then there have never come back to us and we know nothing as to what is happening at the site,” he said.

Kang’ombe said the Libyan government was implementing the project on their own at their base in Tripoli and Malawi government has not been involved.

“They have their man who oversees the project,” he said.

Malawi News visit to the site discovered that workers of the construction company City Builders, subcontracted to build the hospital, were sent packing on December 14, 2007 with no word as to when they were expected to return to the site of construction.

The site of the hospital has been abandoned with buildings that are supposed to be hospital wards at knee high level, an assimilatory block at a window high level and a brick fence surrounding the areas.

“The activity that has been taking place in the past months was the rehabilitating of the fence that fell at the on set of the rain season, nothing really on the actual building was happening,” said one of the people on the ground.

An official from the City Building a Mr. J Ngoma refused to comment on the progress of the project and also as to when they were expected to return to the site referring Malawi News to a Libyan who is supposed to be the overseer of the project.

Recently reports indicated that Malawi government asked the Libyan government to close its mission in Lilongwe as it was believed that it was no longer necessary.

PS in the ministry of Foreign Affairs Ben Mbewe said Libyan government has been difficult to deal with as they normally do things at their own time and pace.

“In a normal circumstance a project like building a hospital could be given three years to complete but it is now five year, we know very little as to what they were doing.

“People from Libya keep on coming in and out of the country but nothing is showing on the ground, we keep on giving visas for these people,” Mbewe said.

Mbewe said the current position of the relationship between Malawi and Libya would not be a stumbling block for the implementation of the hospital saying the project would have been through by now in a normal diplomatic aid saying: “We have been suffering a diplomatic norm with Libya government.”

A Malawian interpreter for the Libyan project overseer, Daudi Kaluma said he was not sure whether the Libyan representative was still in the country as he has not be in touch with him for some time.

Kaluma also refused to discuss the position of the Libyan government on the issue saying he would not do that without permission from the Libyan representative.

One of political commentators Billy Banda observed that the relationship between Malawi and Libyan governments started at a wrong footing during its inception as it was more of political relationship that administrative.

“Somebody has to answer as to what is happening now because diplomatic decisions are made on behalf of Malawians. There is more to the diplomatic relationship between Malawi and Libyan. It is all political,” he said.
Malawi set up diplomatic ties with Libya government in 2001 during the reign of former President Bakili Muluzi, who often said Malawi would benefit from co-operation with Libya.
Libyan leader Colonel Muarmar Ghaddafi, in 2002 when he visited the country, pledged to build a multi-million hospital for the Blantyre district among other things, however, five years down the line unnoticeable activities are taking place at the site.

Ghaddafi also pledged to donate fertilizer and 100 truckers to Malawi government; however the said fertilizer never arrived in the country and the unknown number of tractors arrived in the country only last year according to the foreign affairs PS Mbewe.