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.