Malawi News Online (37) - 11/06/97

Malawi News Online (37) - 11/06/97

In this edition:


Power, water cuts become order of the day


1. Zomba Central hospital on brink of collapse

2. University in the red

3. Opposition earns Muluzi wrath after illness rumours

4. Muluzi ÎembarrassedÌ over gun-totting minister

5. Judge's ruling upheld by Supreme court

6. Malawi handicrafts for Europe

7. Pastor fears for his life

8. Parliamentarians trade insults over fisheries bill

9. Murder suspects worry family

Feature: Power, water cuts become order of the day

Ben Chande was surprised this other week when after knocking off from work, he went home and found that there was both running water and power in the house. Not a common phenomenon in Malawi these days.

People throughout the country, and mostly urban dwellers, usually have no power supply and water in their houses in spite of having a big lake and perennial rivers. This lake covers one third or 40,044sq kilometres, of the country's total area which is 118,484 sq metres.

The Shire River, Lake Malawi's outlet and the countryÌs largest river, is also the source of water supply for Malawi's main commercial city Blantyre as well as the country's source of hydro-electric power supply.

But the water flow in the Shire has been dwindling due to the lowering of water level. As a result, the power utility supply company, Escom, is unable to generate enough power to meet demand. ''There is not enough water (in the Shire) to move the power generating machines to generate enough electricity. Until the river flow improves, there is little we can do other than load-shedding power supply,'' said acting chief executive of Escom, Overtown Mandalasi. He said Escom had lost as much as 45 megawatts due to the reduced flow of the Shire.

He also said power generating machines at Nkula and Tedzani, with a total generating capacity of 215 megawatts, generate enough power when water in the Shire is flowing at 170 cubic metres per second or more. He said in the first week of October the flow was 165 cubic metres per second and then dropped to the current rate of 134 cubic metres per second in the fourth week of October. Mandalasi said that apart from rationing power at home, the situation has resulted in the cutting off of supplies to the Zambian border towns of Lundazi and Chomo. The two towns receive power from Malawi under an accord from the Southern Africa Development Community.

Mandalasi said that meanwhile, Escom is looking for alternative sources of power such as diesel-powered machines, coal-fired generators and gas turbines. But these, he said, require money and time. He said the commission intends to procure two gas generators which will each produce 10 megawatts by early next year. The generators will cost a total of K540 million (US$3.2 million).

Saying that drought and the resultant drop in water and power levels will damage the environment, he said Escom was also looking into ways and means of maintaining required water levels in the Shire from an environmental point of view. Mandalasi attributes the drop in water levels to the cutting down of trees along the Shire's bank which has left the catchment areas bare leading to siltation. Escom also intends to remove the sand and silt that have accumulated at the intake point at Nkula which have reduced the volume of the reservoir by as much as 1.5 million cubic metres which has in turn reduced hydro-electricity generation capacity.

While power shedding is as a result of reduced generation, Blantyre Water Board says it was rationing water in most parts of the city of Blantyre and other areas that are supplied with pumps driven by Escom power, due to power rationing.

1. Zomba Central hospital on brink of collapse

Zomba Central Hospital, one of the country's oldest hospitals, is said to be on the brink of collapse because of a critical shortage of clinical and nursing staff and other essentials.

The hospital's senior medical superintendent, Dr. Biswick Mwale, said recently there were not enough medical workers at the hospital to cater for the ever rising numbers of both in- and outpatients. ''With a skeleton staff it is very difficult to attend even to seriously-ill patients,'' Mwale said. He added that with the ever growing number of patients, the money allocated to the hospital is not enough to run its services and this, he said, resulted in a shortage of drugs and other necessities.

The doctor said that to overcome the problem, the hospital is considering opening a paying ward so that the hospital could generate 80 percent of the funds it needs for its survival. ''It is a surprise that a big hospital like this one has no paying ward where patients who demand privacy can be treated,'' he said.

Mwale appealed to individuals, companies and organisations to rescue the hospital from the verge of collapse. ''We have more than once appealed for assistance but our pleas have fallen on deaf ears,'' he said. Mwale said the responsibility of assisting the hospital was not government's alone. Recently, the charity, Friends of Zomba Central Hospital, which aims to promote good health services at the hospital by providing equipment, donated assorted items including delivery mattresses, scanning jelly and bandages. Sections which are in a particularly poor state are paediatric, nursery, TB and maternity wards.

2. University in the red

The University of Malawi may be forced to close unless the government gives it K77.5 million (US$4.6 million) (US$ 1 = MK17) needed to run the institution up to March 31, 1998. Acting Finance Officer Yafet Malunga said recently in a telephone interview from Zomba that the institution needs the K77.5 million, which is part of government's 1997/98 budget of K375 million, for the University of Malawi. Malunga said there ''are a lot of implications which would adversely affect the university if the government fails to give us the K77.5 million we have asked for.'' He added: ''Closing the institution is one such implication because we cannot operate without money.''

Malunga said that although the shortfall is K155 million, the university is only asking for K77.5 million because half of the fiscal year has already elapsed. He said the university submitted a K375 million budget for 1997/98 but government only released K220 million. Malunga said the university has been unable to pay ''a lot of creditors'' and to administer first-year entrance exams, among other problems.

He also said the university is unable to pay monthly house rents, retirement benefits and maintenance bills as well as passages for expatriate staff. Added Malunga: ''The university also has an outstanding order of essential books and periodicals which it cannot make because of lack of funds. There is also a problem of students' book allowances which we cannot meet.''

Besides this, Malunga said, the university owes academic staff about K10 million in salary arrears, a situation exacerbated by the salary hike announced earlier this year. ''Government is once again yet to give the university this money to pay the arrears,'' he said.

Vice Chancellor Brown Chimphamba accompanied by University Registrar Anaclet Chipeta, Malunga and the principals of the five constituent colleges, submitted the university's concerns to the government, represented by Finance Secretary George Mkondiwa and Ministry of Education officials. Chimphamba said in an earlier interview that the ministry pledged to refer the university's submission to Treasury.

3. Opposition earns Muluzi wrath after illness rumours

The opposition ''Malawi Congress Party papers'' earned the wrath of state president Bakili Muluzi on his return from UK last week, for what he described as their exaggeration of his loss of voice while on the overseas tour. Without pinpointing which paper he was referring to Muluzi poured scorn on the standard and practice of journalism in the country which factors he said forced him to talk at the airport as failure to do so would send false alarms across the country like 'he had landed being carried on a mat'.

Speaking with a hoarse voice during a restricted press briefing at Lilongwe International Airport, Muluzi was at pains to justify his inability to speak during the many functions he attended in Edinburgh where he attended the Commonwealth heads of government meeting, and in London where he received an honorary doctorate in political science from the University of Glasgow.

Muluzi said he was worried about the manner in which the newspapers reported on what he described as 'minor' illness and thereby shocking the people with the illness. ''The way in which my illness was reported was as if I came back home in a wheel chair,'' Muluzi, who had to ask his personal doctor Charles Kahumbe to explain his illness in an effort to clear the alleged disinformation allegedly spread by opposition newspapers, said he had been advised by doctors not to speak for three weeks as the main medication for his illness.

Kahumbe said that due to the many rallies the president addressed in various parts of the country before he left the country for Scotland via Egypt and Saudi Arabia, his voice organ developed an abrasion as a result of which he developed a hoarse voice. He said physicians then advised the president not to hold public meetings for three weeks as the main medication.

Kahumbe said this condition was not strange among politicians, who in other countries, are trained on how to use their voice to avoid the kind of situation that Muluzi experienced. However, MCP's publicity secretary James Chimera disputed Kahumbe's explanation saying he was surprised that Muluzi never developed a hoarse voice during the marathon campaign rallies he addressed from 1992 to 1994.

''This period was the time for him to lose his voice. But all these accusations and mixed statements show that the government is trying to hide something from the public,'' he said. Chimera, however, wished the president a quick recovery, saying his party did not want to compete with an invalid in 1999.

4. Muluzi ÎembarrassedÌ over gun-totting minister

President Bakili Muluzi is reported to have been very embarrassed and annoyed by the recent alleged attempt by energy and mining minister, Dumbo Lemani, to enter parliament with a loaded pistol. A source, who is a staunch supporter and defender of the UDF government, said the president is totally embarrassed by what the minister did while he was away in the United Kingdom.

The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the incident had put the president in an awkward position and dilemma regarding the direction that his party and government are taking. Lemani was quoted by a daily some two weeks ago as having attempted to enter parliament with a loaded pistol which was, however, intercepted by metal detectors at the entrance. But Lemani disputes this allegation saying it was false and claims he handed the gun to police voluntarily and before any security apparatus at the entrance raised an alarm.

UDF chief whip Sam Mpasu told the house that Lemani had told him that he surrendered the gun to police on his own, disputing the allegation that it was intercepted by police as reported in the press. When the daily newspaper carried the story about the gun, the speaker of the national assembly demanded that Lemani should make a statement the following day over the motive behind carrying the dangerous weapon into the house. Lemani left the country for Vancouver, Canada, the same day he was expected to make the statement leaving members gaping with wonder. The issue was, however, delegated to a parliamentary committee.

Presidential press secretary, Alaudin Osman, said he was not aware of the president's feelings on the issue because he did not accompany him on his recent trips abroad. Meanwhile, police have said the gun issue was a delicate one and they cannot comment on it. ''What I can say is that according to our records, the minister is licensed to own a gun but I cannot tell you what actually happened at parliament,ÌÌ police spokesman, Oliver Soko, said in an interview. Deputy Inspector General of police, Kennedy Chirambo, also refused to shed more light on the incident beyond what Soko had said.

Deputy clerk of parliament, Fahad Assani, said that the issue will be discussed in a week's time by the parliamentary committee.

5. Judge's ruling upheld by Supreme court

Former Mwanza North MP Fred Nseula has formerly withdrawn his appeal from the Supreme Court against High Court Judge Dunstain Mwaungulu's ruling that members of parliament should not double as cabinet ministers.

''We have been served with the notice of withdrawal of the appeal by Nseula's lawyers, Fachi Chirwa & Company. The case is now over. Mwaungulu's ruling will now be implemented,'' said Bazuka Mhango a lawyer representing the second respondent, the Malawi Congress Party in the case.

Mwaungulu ruled in October that Nseula, who had been fighting to regain his Mwanza North seat, ceased to be an MP at the time he was appointed deputy minister in 1995. Mwaungulu said the constitution of the republic of Malawi does not allow anyone to hold two public offices.

The ruling meant that 35 cabinet ministers and their deputies in the UDF government will lose their seats in parliament and that fresh by-elections will have to be held. ''We will fight on until everyone lives within the rules of law and that all court orders are obeyed. The ministers must respect the ruling. If they persist we will do anything even if it means jailing them,'' said Mhango.

6. Malawi handicrafts for Europe

The Germany government, through its technical co-operation agency (GTZ), has embarked on a special programme to promote Malawi's handicraft exports to Europe. The programme is being implemented through the GTZ sponsored Advisory Service for Private Business (ASPB) facility at the Malawi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI).

Currently, a consultant from GTZ's international trade arm -- Protrade, Jerry Bedu-Addo, is in Malawi to meet handicraft producers and traders in the country and obtain first hand information on handicrafts that could be of interest on the European market.

"Handicraft are in demand in Europe since people there no longer make things by hand. Africa maintains its unique position in handicraft," said Bedu-Addo, a Ghanaian. By promoting handicraft trade and exports, Bedu-Addo said jobs will be created in the rural areas where the handicraft are produced. However, both Malawi and other African countries have been exporting handicrafts to Europe for the past few years, but quality and pricing have been hindering factors the products have met with, in the rather sophisticated European market.

The GTZ programme aims at assisting handicraft producers and traders in product development to meet the standard requirements in Europe. "We are going to assist handicraft traders in product design, pricing and marketing techniques through training programmes we will conduct with the Chamber," said Bedu-Addo. He said GTZ will also sponsor the handicraft exporters to trade fairs in Europe, particularly Germany, where they can exhibit and market their products.

7. Pastor fears for his life

A Seventh Day Adventist man of God, Pastor Mackson Mwale, says he fears for his life following threats he has been receiving from a group of men believed to be friends of a man he handed over to police for allegedly swindling him out of some money after he sold the pastor fake gold.

Pastor Mwale who is director of Voice of Prophecy Bible School based at South Lake Field in Blantyre said in an interview on November 13 that he was recently approached by two men, one of whom identified himself as Austin Khama, who offered to sell the pastor a tablet of gold.

According to the pastor, the two men told him they had originally intended to sell the gold to their usual customers, some white teachers at St Andrews Secondary School for K18,000, but who at that time were away at the lake. Since the two men were in urgent need of money, with one of them who claimed he was from Mozambique and expected to leave for home in the afternoon of that same day, they had decided to sell the "gold" piece to anyone who would give them K5,000, said Mwale.

The unsuspecting pastor, thinking this was a God sent gift and an answer to his prayers, became overjoyed with the prospect of raking off a lucrative profit from the re-sale of the stone and decided to buy it. He paid K2,500 on the spot and arranged to settle the balance with one of the two men the following day. However, the pastor had the shock of his life after he had made enquiries from friends who informed him that the "gold stone" he had purchased was in fact a useless stone.

Mwale said the following day, the other man phoned and told him he had acquired a bigger piece of ''gold'' and wanted to sell it to him at a give away price. ''I told him to come so that I could fix him,'' Mwale said, adding that the same man came with another friend. He said he told them that the stone he had bought from him was not gold and demanded they return his money and that he would be reporting them to the police.

While tat the police station, the pastor received a call that some seven men had besieged his office saying they were looking for him but the men run away when police arrived. However, one of the men has been phoning the pastor telling him that his life was in danger unless their friend was released soon. Pastor Mwale, 64, says since the threats started his entire family was living in fear of being harmed by the gang.

A police officer at Blantyre Police Station, who earlier identified himself as Officer-In-Charge, but later refused to give his name, confirmed the incident but did not divulge more information because police were still investigating the issue.

8. Parliamentarians trade insults over fisheries bill

Parliamentarians from the opposition Malawi Congress Party and the government's United Democratic Front recently threw their dignity to the wind. It happened on 28 October when parliamentarians from both sides traded insults and accusations while discussing the fisheries conservation and management bill, forcing second deputy speaker Arthur Makhalira to order the minister responsible, Mayinga Mkandawire, to wind up the bill.

Contributions on the bill started on a good note earlier in the week but ended in pandemonium that was provoked by UDF MP for Chiradzulu West, Ken Magalasi Phiri. He stated said there had been a lot of fish in the countryÌs lakes during the MCP regime as opposed to now, because the fish had enough food then from human bodies killed by MCP cadres.

The remarks did not go down very well with Lilongwe South east MP, Dr Hetherwick Ntaba. Dr Ntaba said through the speaker that what Magalasi had said was not true but a deliberate move to provoke the MCP. He also said that it was ÎirrelevantÌ to the bill.

Magalasi, however, still maintained his stance which provoked another MCP MP from Lilongwe, Beston Majoni, who told Magalasi to stick to the bill and refrain from making provocative remarks.

As if what Magalasi had said was not enough to anger MCP members in the house, he then added more salt to an old wound when he told Majoni that he was a mere youth leaguer during the MCP regime and should, therefore, not comment on his remarks. At this juncture tempers started to rise from both Majoni and Magalasi.

ÏIf I was a mere youth leaguer, what has that to do with the bill? That is total rubbish,Ó fumed Majoni, pointing a finger at Magalasi. This remark prompted Magalasi to ask for an apology from Majoni, through the speaker, but Majoni refused to apologize saying he could only do so if the speaker first asked Magalasi to apologize for calling him a youth leaguer.

At this point MP for Karonga North, Greenwell Mwamondwe, sounding very concerned, rose on a point of order and told the speaker that if it had been him (Mwamondwe), doing what Magalsi had done, he would not have hesitated to throw him out of the house. Makhalira then declared that debate on the bill be curtailed and asked the minister responsible to wind it up. The bill has, however, now been passed.

9. Murder suspects worry family

Police in Mzuzu have finally managed to arrest seven people in connection with the macabre murder of a Mzimba sugar wholesaler, Anthony Chiwone Chitinyira Ngulube, on April 21 this year in April this year.

However, all the suspects have been released on bail and some of them are going about boasting to the deceased's family members that nothing would happen to them, with others intimidating the family for allegedly implicating them into the matter.

As if this was not enough cause for concern for the family, delay in prosecuting bailed suspects is worrying the family members who have said they live in fear with every day that passes because one of the suspects is a ÎjailbirdÌ who has previously been convicted twice on similar charges.

The decomposed and mutilated body of Ngulube was found in a bush near Mzimba on April 29, eight days after he had gone missing.

Five weeks after the murder, police from Mzuzu apprehended seven people in connection with Ngulube's death after Mzimba police had earlier dismissed the matter ''one of those incidents.ÌÌ The seven were later released on bail and nothing has since been heard of them.

Mwendera Ngulube, a brother to the deceased said in an interview that their family was worried about the delay in prosecuting the suspects some of whom go about boasting that there was nothing that the police would do to them. Mwendera expressed concern that the seven people have not been taken to court since they were granted bail. ''Nothing seems to be happening on this case and worse still, some of them are even intimidating us when we meet them in town,'' he said, from Mzimba.

However, when contacted, police in Mzuzu said their office had sent the file to the director of public prosecutions in Lilongwe who would take the suspects to court. An officer in the office of director of public prosecutors, who asked for anonymity, said they had received the file from the Northern region and they were making every effort to take the suspects to court. ''The file is in our office and a lawyer has been assigned to look into the matter, but one thing to remember is that everything has to be done according to procedure,'' adding that the case will begin as soon as investigations are over.

He said his office needed to establish whether it is murder or manslaughter before they can take suspects to court. He, however, said if family members were being intimidated they have the right to ask the police for help.

Deputy commissioner of police in Mzuzuz, Lawrence Chimwaza told The Star in September that four of those who were arrested and later given bail were the ones who had picked up a quarrel with the deceased over the price at which he sold his sugar.


From: (Africa_news Network) Date: Thu, 20 Nov 1997 14:00:41 +0100 Subject: Malawi News Online #37 Message-ID: <>

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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