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.