Malawi News Online (21) - 12/19/96

Malawi News Online (21) - 12/19/96


A fortnightly update of news from Malawi

Edition No: 21 19 December 1996

MALAWI NEWS ONLINE is written by Malawian journalists in Malawi and brings you the news from their point of view. It is assembled and edited in Denmark by South Africa Contact, the former anti-apartheid movement, publishers of i'Afrika, a quarterly magazine on Southern Africa.

The fortnightly news updates from Malawi are provided by our established network of journalists in Southern Africa. They will be followed, in the not too distant future, by individual news updates covering other Southern African countries, ZAMBIA NEWS ONLINE being the latest.

MALAWI NEWS ONLINE is brought to you by a co-operation between South Africa Contact and Inform, the leading alternative information network in Denmark.


In this week's edition: Feature: PUBLISHER ZEROES IN ON HIV/AIDS EDUCATION

Macmillan International, renowned for their popular fiction series, Pacesetters, have hit on a brilliant idea: they want to help Malawian children avoid HIV infection through a new series that warns school children on the dangers of the killer disease, AIDS.

Titled Macmillan AIDS Awareness, the book publishing company wants the series to reach each and every child that is able to read. "We are trying to adapt these for Malawi but we can't do so unless there is a lot of interest in the material," said Anthony Chirwa, the company's sales executive. The series were first mooted in South Africa by Macmillan Boleswa who published 18 titles in 1992, all of them children's novels which focused on the scourge, which, up to now, has no cure. Chirwa said Macmillan in Kenya, Swaziland and Zambia have already adapted the series for children.

Malawi has 4,156 reported cases of AIDS at September 1966, bringing up to 46,022 the cumulative total cases since the disease was first reported in Malawi in 1985. Over 85% of AIDS cases are in people 15-49 years of age. And over 90% of cases are in the age range 15-64 which represents the country's work force. The National AIDS Control Programme (NACP), says that there is no reliable information on the numbers of people who are dying due to AIDS. "We believe that a lot of deaths due to AIDS have occurred," said NACP Valuation and Monitoring Officer, Dr Owen Kaluwa. He said that conservative estimates put the cumulative figure of AIDS deaths close to 200,000 since 1985, adding that the high numbers of AIDS deaths might be contributing to the levelling off of the HIV prevalence.

The Macmillan adaptation will entail changing the text, illustrations, names of places and of people to put them in a local context so that readers can identify with the books. Chirwa said Malawian children need to focus more on the deadly disease, citing a radio soap opera 'Tinkanena', aired in the vernacular on the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation. He said what the soap opera does is exactly what the books are trying to achieve. The soap opera focuses on normal daily lives of boys and girls and how they can unsuspectingly catch AIDS. Chirwa said the Zambian adaptation used other key players like the national curriculum development centre, and he suggested that they may also used the Ministry of Education, Malawi Institute of Education and the AIDS Secretariat in adapting the series for Malawi use.

Up to four non-governmental organisations have shown interest in buying copies for schools in their project areas and Macmillan Malawi are hoping the education ministry will also show interest so that the new series reaches as many children as possible.

The World Bank - one of the main financial backers of Malawi's tough economic reforms - estimates that 2 million Malawians will be infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, by the year 2010. In a report that paints a gloomy picture of the economic and labour implications, the Bank says that about 350,000 will be orphaned by the same year. The report say Malawi currently has 225,000 cases, including those with HIV where this has not yet developed into full-blown AIDS, which the World Bank says is putting a daunting challenge to the country's resources. Real GDP will decrease by 10% by the year 2010 because of the devastating effects of the AIDS virus.

In the report it says 'the epidemic will also have a negative impact on the per capita income and the productivity and growth of the labour in the country'. It also says the epidemic will reduce the economy's capital-to-labour ration from a real GDP of K3.1 billion (about $207 million) without AIDS to about K2.8 billion in 2010.

The bank recommends that the impoverished Malawi requires the development of a comprehensive health project to ensure effectiveness and community participation to reverse the trend. Such a project, it said, would attempt to improve appalling social living conditions, supply adequate drugs and intensify education about the disease through traditional channels and health facilities.

However, in the absence of a donor for such a project, or while Malawi waits to identify funding for the project, it could save thousands of lives from the scourge if it fully supported the move taken by Macmillan.



The judiciary came under sharp attack December 17, from UDF deputies. They accused it of not being independent and leaking court rulings before they were passed.

Foreign Affairs Minister George Mtafu, in his support to a supplementary report to review conditions of service in the judiciary, said while judges were more scholarly than other academicians serving the government they lacked wisdom in their judgement. He referred specifically to the High Court ruling on the Mwanza murder case in which former President Dr Banda and other senior MCP officials were acquitted.

Among the issues under review is the retiring age of magistrates from the mandatory age of 70. ''If you are increasing their age, it's bad for our democracy because the older the judges get, the less wise they become,'' he said.

Physical Planning Minister, Peter Fachi, also accused the judiciary of not being independent. ''High Court judges have leaked out judgements and rulings long before passing them out as was the case with the granting of bail to MCP Treasurer General John Tembo,'' he said and asked: ''Why were supporters organised on the day he was granted bail?'' Tembo said attacking the judiciary was a clear political manoeuvre by the UDF to deter the judiciary from doing their job.


Opposition parties currently boycotting parliament have taken the Speaker of the National Assembly to court for the unconstitutional sitting of parliament. MCP's Publicity Secretary Hetherwick Ntaba and Aford's Legal Advisor, Bazuka Mhango, said on December 17 they had teamed up with UDF's breakaway MP, Rolf Patel, to challenge the government's deliberate moves to frustrate the democratic process. ''My hope is that the issue will be resolved by the High Court before Christmas'' he said. Parliament has been sitting since December 9 without the required two thirds majority.

Aford walked out of parliament in July this year in protest against President Bakili Muluzi's appointment of its MPs into the cabinet after the end of the party's coalition with the ruling UDF. MCP MPs walked out in solidarity with Aford on a matter of principle, saying the UDF was buying members of the opposition in the House in order to get a majority membership through an undemocratic process.

Ntaba and Mhango lashed out at the UDF for trying frustrate mediation efforts on the issue by an independent body, the Malawi Institute of Democratic and Economic Affairs (MIDEA). Midea had offered to broker planned inter party talks to resolve the issue which UDF failed to attend.


Some ruling UDF MPs want to propose an amendment to the law which stipulates that the President can only serve two terms.

Wanting to take advantage of the absence of the opposition, some UDF MPs met last week in Zomba where parliament is sitting and proposed to move a motion in parliament increasing the number of terms from two to three.

Presently, any law can be changed except for one on the impeachment of a president and extension of the state of emergency.


University students will on December 19 march to Parliament Building in Zomba, south Malawi, to petition the Speaker of the National Assembly in a bid to force parliament, which is sitting, to intervene and accelerate resumption of their studies. Studies at the colleges were disrupted in mid 1996, due to a strike by lecturers demanding an increase in their salaries. Lecturers at the Polytechnic and Chancellor, the two biggest constituent colleges of the University of Malawi, refused to administer end of year examinations. Students feel that while lecturers are using them as pawns in the tug-of-war between the lecturers and the University Council on the one hand, government on the other hand seems unable to resolve the issue.

In the wake of the continuing impasse in the talks between the lecturers and the council, President Bakili Muluzi, who is Chancellor of the University, appointed a new council but the students feel the new council is not performing as it should.


Civil servants are set to start an indefinite sit-in on December 23 following government's failure to meet their demands for more pay. Civil Servants Trade Union president Thomas Banda said on December 17 that a strike was the only alternative left as all efforts of his union to resolve the matter amicably with the government seem to have failed. ''The 21 days ultimatum to government expires on December 20 ... and by Monday (December 23) all civil servants in Blantyre will gather at the Upper Stadium,'' he said. He said the strike would be indefinite.

Among the demands are salary increments, introduction of transport and risk allowances, revision of leave grants, and subsistence allowances. Banda said he regretted that the two years during which his union has been negotiating with government had yielded nothing. He also cautioned that government would bear the full cost of whatever damage arose from the strike.


Malawi's enrolment rate of 1 in 25 children of secondary school going age is the lowest in Africa, Education Minister, Donton Mkandawire said December 17.

Answering a question in parliament on how the government plans to distribute the 250 secondary schools it plans to build, Mkandawire said because of the lowest enrolment in the whole of Africa, there was a need to revolutionise education plans so as to increase the 4% to 15%. Mkandawire said this would only be achieved if the government built 250 secondary schools.

He however said the country should aim at putting six out of every 10 secondary students in school. On distribution of the schools, Mkandawire said selection of sites has been left in the hands of the local communities through the District Development Committees.


Government will soon bring in stiff legislation aimed at curbing theft of government property. Theft is believed to be most rampant in government hospitals.

Officially opening the K136 million ( $9 million ) German funded hospital in his home district of Machinga, south Malawi, on December 15, Muluzi warned that once the legislation was in effect, culprits would be dealt with. He said it was sad that although the new hospital had been given enough drugs, equipment and linen, people would soon start complaining of shortage of the items due to theft. He condemned the malpractice, saying it would make Malawi, already plagued by malnutrition and a high mortality rate remain poor.

He lamented that out of the country's 12 million people, only 30% of them had access to health facilities within a three kilometres radius.


Girls who do not repeat a class in secondary school would have their school fees paid for them in all government and grant aided secondary schools and distance education centres from next school calendar year. Deputy Education Minister, Robson Makhuwila, told Parliament on December 15, that the Girls Attainment in Basic Literacy and Education (Gable) funded by USAID, would meet costs through a girls scholarships scheme.

Makhuwila was replying to a question from MP for Thyolo East, south Malawi, Bob Khamisa, who asked the ministry to consider helping needy pupils who get selected to secondary schools but do not report for classes due to lack of school fees.


Member of Parliament for Chiradzulu North, in south Malawi, George Njala (UDF) died at a South African hospital on December 15 after a long illness.

Njala's death brings to 12 the number of MPs who have died in office since the country's transition to multi-party politics in 1994, and to seven, the number of vacant seats in the National Assembly.

The Speaker's Office announced on December 18, the remains of the late Njala will be flown home on December 19 and will be laid to rest on December 20. Njala is survived by his wife and nine children.


Thousands of grief stricken Malawians on December 15 paid their last respects to late Charles Severe, a popular radio and stage dramatist, who died on December 14, after a short illness following meningitis. He was 48.

Severe was buried in his home town of Mulanje, south Malawi. He will best be remembered as a radio drama series producer for Pamajiga and Sewere la Sabataino. He was also director of a popular vernacular theatre group, Kwathu and chairman of the Drama Association of Malawi. He is survived by his wife and seven children.


The Japanese government on December 17 provided Malawi with a grant of K786 million (about $52 million) for fiscal restructuring, deregulation programme and debt relief. The grant is expected to be used for purchasing equipment for the University of Malawi and for the Anti-Corruption Bureau.

Japan has pledged continued assistance to Malawi to boost the social and economic development of the country.


From: (Africa_news Network) Subject: Malawi News Online #21 Date: 29 Dec 1996 05:36:59 GMT Message-Id: <>

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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