President Appoints New Cabinet of National Unity Malawi Standard (Blantyre) March 9, 2003 Posted to the web April 9, 2003 Tusekele Mwanyongo Blantyre In whatMessage 1 of 1046 , Apr 10, 2003View SourcePresident Appoints New Cabinet of National Unity
Malawi Standard (Blantyre)
March 9, 2003
Posted to the web April 9, 2003
In what Malawian political analysts has described as a total commitment
to the promotion of genuine democracy, national balance, development and
national unity, Malawi President Bakili Muluzi has appointed a new
cabinet comprising members of the ruling United Democratic Front (UDF)
and the opposition Alliance for Democracy (Aford).
Secretary to the President and Cabinet, Alfred Upindi told journalists
on Wednesday when he announced the new cabinet at the Central Office of
Information in Blantyre that apart from his Constitutional power to
appoint cabinet ministers, President Bakili Muluzi took into
consideration the need to have a cabinet comprising of men and women
from different political groups and geographical areas.
"The President does not want to appoint all ministers from one district
or region. He has to ensure a national balance and unity," Upindi said.
President Bakili Muluzi in his new cabinet has appointed opposition
Aford President Chakufwa Chihana as second Vice President and Minister
of Agriculture, Irrigation and Food Security.
Other Aford MPs in the cabinet include Chipimpha Mughogho who has been
appointed Minister Without Portfolio; Wallace Chiume who becomes
Tourism, Parks and Wildlife Minister. James Luwe is the new Deputy
Minister of Water Development, while Khwauli Msiska is now Deputy
Minister of Economic Planning and Development.
Some faces from the previous cabinet are missing on the new line up.
They include former Agriculture and Irrigation Minister Aleke Banda,
former Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Henry Phoya, Natural
Resources and Environmental Affairs Minister, Harry Thomson, Sports
Minister Moses Dossi and Deputy Minister of Home Affairs, Minister
Samuel Kaphuka, among others.
SPC Upindi parried away speculations that the President might have left
out Banda and Thomson because they expressed interest to run for the UDF
as a 2004 Presidential candidate. He said that the President also
dropped Dossi who had not harboured any Presidential ambitions.
"The President has powers vested in him by the Constitution, in
sections 92 and 94 to appoint anyone into the cabinet. He is not obliged
to say why he has hired or left out a particular individual," he said.
Meanwhile President Bakili Muluzi has appointed new Minister of Lands,
Physical Planning and Surveys Thengo Maloya as government chief whip,
with Minister of Housing Kaliyoma Phumisa as his deputy. In addition,
the State President who is number one supporter of women's empowerment
has appointed the country's first woman banker, Mrs Mary Nkosi, as
Deputy Governor of the Reserve Bank of Malawi true to his wish to give
qualified women opportunity to be leaders.
Below is the line up of the cabinet:
1 President and Commander -in-Chief of the Armed Forces- His Excellency
Dr. Bakili Muluzi.
2 Vice-President and Minister of Privatization - Right Honourable
3 2nd Vice President and Minister of Agriculture, irrigation and Food
Security - Rt Hon. Chakufwa Chihana, M.P.
4. Minister of Economic Planning and Development - Honourable Dr. Bingu
5. Attorney General - Hon. Peter Fachi, Sc.
6. Minister of State in the President's Office, Special Duties -
Honourable Patrick B. Mbewe, MP 7. Minister of Commerce and Industry -
Honourable Sam Mpasu, M.P.
8. Minister of Defence - Honourable Rodwell T.C. Munyenyembe 9.
Minister of Water Development - Honourable Rev. Dr. Dumbo Lemani, M.P.
10. Minister of Education, Science and Technology - Honourable Dr.
George Nga Mtafu, M.P.
11. Minister of Finance - Hounarable Friday Jumbe.
12. Minister of Housing - Honourable S.D. Kaliyoma Phumisa M.P.
13. Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation - Hon.
Lilian Patel, M.P.
14. Minister of Lands, Physical Planning and Surveys - Honourable
Thengo Maloya, M.P.
15. Minister of Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs -
Honourable Uladi Mussa, M.P.
16. Minister of State in the President's Office Responsible for
Presidential Affairs - Honourable Dr. Ken Lipenga, M.P.
17. Minister of State in the President's Office Responsible for
Statutory Corporations - Honourable Bob Khamisa, M.P.
18. Minister of Health and Population - Honourable Yusuf Mwawa, M.P 19.
Minister of Transport and Public Works - Honourable Clement Stambuli,
20. Minister of State in the President's Office Responsible for
HIV/AIDS Programmes - Honourable Mrs Mary Kaphwereza Banda, M.P.
21. Minister of Home Affairs and Internal Security - Honourable Monjeza
22. Minister of Gender and Community Services - Honourable Mrs. Alice
23. Minister of Labour and Vocational Training - Honourable Lee Mlanga,
24. Minister of State in the President's Office Responsible for Persons
with Disabilities - Honourable Miss Susan Chitimbe.
25. Minister of Justice - Honourable Paul Maulidi, M.P.
26. Minister of Information - Honourable Bernard Chisale, M.P.
27. Minister of State in the President's Office Responsible for Poverty
and Disaster Management - Honourable Ludoviko Shati, M.P.
28. Minister of Sports, Youth and Culture - Honourable Henderson
29. Minister of Tourism, National Parks and Wildlife - Honourable
Wallace Chiume, M.P.
30. Minister of State for Local Government and District Administration
- Honourable Chipimpha Mughogho, M.P.
DEPUTY MINISTERS 1. Deputy Minister of Finance - Honourable Phillip
2. Deputy Minister of Education, Science and Technology - Hon. Lyana
Lexa Tambala, M.P.
3. Deputy Minister in the President's Office Responsible for National
Public Events - Honourable Patricia Kaliyati, M.P.
4. Deputy Minister of Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs - Hon
Martha Nasho, M.P.
5. Deputy Minister of Health and Population - Honourable Mrs. Elizabeth
6. Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation -
Honourable Henry Chimunthu Banda, M.P.
7. Deputy Minister of Transport and Public Works - Honourable James
8. Deputy Minister of Lands, Physical Planning and Surveys - Honourable
Hobbson D. Mailosi, M.P.
9. Deputy Minister of Home Affairs and Internal Security - Honourable
Andrew Chioza, M.P.
10. Deputy Minister of Commerce and Industry - Hon Tarsizio Yetala,
11. Deputy Minister for Local Government and District Administration -
Honourable H. Midiani, M.P.
12. Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Food Security
Honourable Henry Mussa, M.P.
13. Deputy Minister of Water Development - Honourable J.K. Luwe, M.P.
14. Deputy Minister of Tourism, National Parks and Wildlife -
Honourable Fides S. Chisesele, M.P.
15. Deputy Minister of Economic Planning and Development - Honourable
Khwauli Msiska, M.P.
Chiluba appeals to have case heard in higher court
10 April 2003 12:26
In a second attempt to have his trial for theft heard in a higher
court, former Zambian president, Frederick Chiluba filed an appeal on
Thursday in the country's Supreme Court.
The appeal follows the failure last week of another appeal by Chiluba
in the High Court which ordered he be tried, as planned, in a
magistrates court for allegedly stealing millions of dollars while in
"We feel the judge misdirected himself in law on all grounds," said his
lawyer Robert Simeza.
Chiluba's trial on 65 counts of theft was scheduled to have started on
Court documents show the main charge against him is the theft of
15-billion kwacha ($3-million) in cash from the Zambia National
Commercial Bank in Lusaka.
Among seven others facing connected charges are bank officials and
former government aides, among them Chiluba's former intelligence chief,
Chiluba is suspected of giving relatives and associates public money
funneled through a London bank account used by Zambia's intelligence
service. He has also been implicated in a corrupt arms deal with Congo
involving $20-million in missing state funds.
Chiluba has denied the allegations.
He was arrested in February after the Supreme Court ruled that his past
immunity from prosecution should not be restored. The investigation into
his conduct while in office was sparked by his own hand-picked
successor, Levy Mwanawasa.
Chiluba, a former bus conductor and trade union organiser, was Zambia's
first democratically chosen president. He came to office in 1991 and
served two five-year terms.
Zambia is one of the poorest countries in southern Africa. - Sapa-AP
Report adds to Mugabe's isolation
10 April 2003 07:46
Robert Mugabe's government has committed severe human rights abuses
against the opposition party, has actively repressed the press and the
judiciary and is largely responsible for the famine that is currently
gripping Zimbabwe, according to a Commonwealth report distributed to
heads of government this week.
The Guardian has obtained a copy of the confidential report by Don
McKinnon, the Commonwealth secretary general, which says Zimbabwe has
suffered significant "deterioration" in its political, economic and
social spheres. It blames Mugabe's land seizures for the nationwide
"The harassment of opposition and civil society leaders and activists
continues," the report says. "There have also been several cases of
harassment of the press and the judiciary. Legislation prejudicial to
freedom of speech, the press and association remains on the statute
The report, which was commissioned in March 2002 when Zimbabwe was
first suspended from the Commonwealth, categorically refutes assertions
made last month by Thabo Mbeki, the president of South Africa, and
Nigeria's leader, Olusegun Obasanjo, that the situation in Zimbabwe had
improved. It will make it increasingly difficult for the two African
leaders to gain support from Commonwealth members for the lifting of
The report is designed to convince Commonwealth leaders that Zimbabwe's
suspension should continue until the heads of government meet in Nigeria
The findings are also expected to fuel the demand for the Commonwealth
to send a team to Zimbabwe to investigate state-sponsored violence
against the Movement for Democratic Change, the main opposition party.
The report was only issued after Mugabe repeatedly evaded McKinnon's at
tempts to speak to him. "All efforts by the secretary general, direct
and indirect, to engage in dialogue with President Mugabe have been
rebuffed," said the report.
McKinnon stuck to the findings of Commonwealth observer groups that the
parliamentary elections of 2000 and the presidential election of 2002
had not been free and fair and had been marred by violence.
Turning to Zimbabwe's land controversy, McKinnon emphasised that "there
has never been any doubt about the need for land reform in Zimbabwe, a
fact which I have repeatedly acknowledged publicly". He adds: "There is
clearly a moral case for the United Kingdom to contribute towards
transparent, equitable and sustainable land reform in Zimbabwe." But he
found that the Mugabe government's controversial and often violent land
seizures had not been supportable.
The report endorsed the findings of the United Nations Development
Project that the land programme had been "chaotic" and "the cause of
much political, economic and social instability".
Although the Mugabe government has stated repeatedly that the land
seizures ended in August 2002, the report finds that compulsory
acquisitions continued until March 2003.
"Reports have continued of a disproportionate number of the best farms
being allocated to leading members of the ruling elite, including
members of government and senior members of the security services and
their families," McKinnon states.
The report also blames land seizures for causing the famine that is
gripping two-thirds of Zimbabwe's 12-million people. The Mugabe
government is also criticised for "conclusive evidence of the
politicisation of food assistance".
"Regrettably, to date there has been no positive response by Zimbabwe
to the [Commonwealth's] call for political dialogue and national
reconciliation," the report says.
"The depressing situation offers even more grounds for the government
of Zimbabwe to change course and to engage in meaningful dialogue with
# A Zimbabwe government official jumped from a third-floor window to
escape being beaten by angry women war veterans demanding ownership
papers for land they seized from white farmers, police said yesterday.
A police official told Reuters that the acting administrator for
Mashonaland West province had been injured and admitted to hospital
after being assaulted with wooden clubs and an iron bar in his office in
Chinhoyi. - Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2003
ADB firm on Karonga-Chitipa road contract by Zainah Liwanda, 22 May 2006 - 06:09:17 The African Development Bank (ADB) has again rejected a proposal byMessage 1046 of 1046 , May 22, 2006View Source
ADB firm on Karonga-Chitipa road contract
by Zainah Liwanda, 22 May 2006 - 06:09:17
The African Development Bank (ADB) has again rejected a proposal by government to look for another contractor instead of China Hunan Construction to construct of the long awaited Karonga/Chitipa road.
China Hunan from Mainland China won the bid which was approved by the ADB but government later wanted to award the contract to a Portuguese firm, Mota Engil, the second lowest bidder, claiming China Hunan's bid was unrealistically low and that the company had very little experience in Africa.
Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe confirmed on Sunday the ADB rejected the proposal at a meeting held between the bank and Malawi government in Tunisia last week.
The Malawi government wanted the Tunisia meeting to authorise it to get another contractor for the road, said Gondwe.
"They did not allow us to look for another contractor because of their regulations. But we are about to get another alternative for Karonga/Chitipa and I would be surprised if it does not start before end June," said Gondwe.
The minister explained that the bank insisted that regardless of the unrealistic cost estimates, China Hunan should be allowed to go ahead with the construction.
But Gondwe could not give further details about the alternatives, arguing there are still a few loose ends to tighten up before disclosing it.
The problem with China Hunan, according to Gondwe, is that it would require more money to meet the total cost of the project.
This paper reported last week that government met Taiwanese representatives where they offered to fund the road if the ADB continued to reject its favoured contractor, Mota Engil.
Gondwe could neither confirm nor deny the reports on the Taiwanese offer, saying government was looking at a number of ways to handle the issue.
According to Gondwe, the China Hunan's bid was 24 percent lower than the consulting engineers' estimates of K7.9 billion and 34 percent below the second lowest bidder.
President Bingu wa Mutharika laid a foundation stone for the construction of the road this year ahead of a crucial byelection in Chitipa in December last year.
The President's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) won the Chitipa Wenya constituency by-election that fell vacant following the collapse and subsequent death of Speaker of Parliament Rodwell Munyenyembe who belonged to the UDF.
Last week, police and the District Commissioner (DC) for Chitipa stopped a rally that was aimed at soliciting people's views about development projects in the district.
The meeting, which was reportedly organised by Concerned Citizens of Chitipa, was among other things also supposed to tackle the controversial Karonga/Chitipa road.
The project failed to start off in 2000 when a contract for an initial loan of US$17 million and US$15 million from the Taiwanese government was signed, with some quarters claiming the Bakili Muluzi administration diverted the money to another road.
Chihana operated on
by Edwin Nyirongo, 22 May 2006 - 06:32:31
Alliance for Democracy (Aford) president Chakufwa Chihana, who is in South Africa receiving treatment, had a brain operation on Friday at Garden City Clinic, family and party officials confirmed on Sunday.
Aford national chairman Chipimpha Mughogho said he was told by the family members that Chihana had a successful operation on Friday and was put in an intensive care unit.
Mughogho said Chihana, who initially complained of headache, was found with a brain tumour which South African doctors removed.
Mzimba West MP Loveness Gondwe said Aford boss condition was stable.
"Hon. Chihana had a major operation and after that he was put in the intensive care unit but his condition is stable. I do not know where he was operated on but it had something to do with the skull," she said.
Deputy Information Minister John Bande referred the matter to the Health Minister Hetherwick Ntaba who was reported to be in Geneva, Switzerland.
Aford publicity secretary Norman Nyirenda said when Chihana's situation got worse, the family alerted the Office of the President and Cabinet who took him to Mwaiwathu Private Hospital.
"The doctors at Mwaiwathu advised that he should be sent to South Africa and they even identified the doctor for him," he said.
He said the costs are being met by the Malawi government, contradicting his earlier statement that his boss covered the cost.
Mughogho is now in charge of the party.
Gondwe will be a busy person when Parliament starts meeting on June 6 as she is the only Aford MP remaining.
Pillane proposes presidential age limit
by Emmanuel Muwamba , 22 May 2006 - 06:34:13
A member of the DPP National Governing Council Abdul Pillane on Saturday urged members of political parties and the civil society to put an upper age limit in the Constitution for presidential candidates.
Pillane was addressing members of political parties and civil society in Liwonde during a two-day follow up workshop to the National Conference on the Review of Constitution held in March in Lilongwe.
"My view is that (an upper) age limit should be at 75. We have to give a chance to younger people to lead because in circumstance, when you age you become forgetful especially when sickly," said Pillane. "Overall, chances should be given to young people."
But UDF secretary general Kennedy Makwangwala, whose party members agitated for the age limit during presentations, played the issue down.
"I feel there is no logic to have an upper age limit for presidential candidates. If someone is 90 or 80 I don't know how that can influence the electorate not to vote for someone who is younger, I don't see any logic behind that," said Makwangwala.
MCP participants at the workshop also vehemently objected to the proposal.
MCP vice president Nicholas Dausi in an interview said: "There is no constitution in Africa which stipulates an upper age limit. So it would be strange in Malawi to have an upper age limit for presidential candidates."
MDP President Kamlepo Kalua also opposed the need to have an upper age limit.
"If we have personalities in mind that we want to discriminate against then it is unfortunate. The constitution we want to build is a guiding document for future generations and it should not bar certain individuals on the basis of grudges," he said.
The Malawi Law Constitution Issues Paper of March 2006 says several submissions that were received put an upper presidential age limit in the Constitution.
"It is argued that it is common sense that mental knowledge faculties tend to fail with age. As regards what the actual age limit should be the submissions are far from being agreed. The range is from 60 years to 80 years," read submissions in the Issues Paper.
On whether MPs should double as ministers, Kalua said this should be the case.
Makwangwala also said it is not right for MPs to serve as ministers because the Legislature, another arm of government, is reduced while the Executive branch is beefed up from another arm of government.
"There is no separation of powers when MPs double as ministers," said Makwangwala.
But Pillane said there is no problem for MPs to work as ministers as well, saying MPs are elected by the President.
"One can serve both posts. There have been no problems before for people to double," said Pillane.
The Centre for Multiparty Democracy funded the workshop through the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy.
The objective was to come up with a collective position on the Issues Paper which will be presented to the Special Law Commission that will be constituted soon.
Mussa hails new driving licence
by Zainah Liwanda, 22 May 2006 - 06:58:52
Transport and Public Works Minister Henry Mussa last week said the design of the Malawi-Sadc driving licence would guard against forgery and ensure that only skilled and legitimate drivers of particular vehicles are licensed.
Mussa was speaking at the official launch of the licences in Lilongwe where he announced that traffic police would from July enforce speed limits and sober driving using Breathalysers which his ministry is in the process of procuring.
The minister said financial constraints are the reason for the delay in procuring the equipment but assured that by July they would be available.
"With the new equipment, the days of those who believe in the thrill of drink and driving are numbered," warned Mussa.
Mussa added that with the new licence, government is optimistic that the country's roads would be safe.
Acting Director of Road Traffic James Chirwa said the features that distinguish the new from the old licences are the Malawi national flag and a ghost image of the driver's photograph, among others.
Those with old licences, according to Chirwa, are expected to get the new ones after the expiry of the former.
UDF demands investigation on Kasambara
by Rabecca Theu, 22 May 2006 - 06:30:46
The United Democratic Front (UDF) has asked government to investigate Ralph Kasambara on allegations of abuse of office while he was attorney general.
UDF publicity secretary Sam Mpasu told the press Sunday that the party is neither amused or saddened by the removal of the former AG but asked government to institute investigations on Kasambara.
"Beyond the removal of the Attorney General, we now urge President Mutharika to institute investigation against Mr Kasambara into allegations that have made rounds in the public domain during the recent past. These include: Mrs Helen Singh and SS Rent-a-Car; SGS and ITS saga; ...........the use of Malawi Police Service in the arrest of three Chronicle journalists and the handling of Mrs Rubina Kawonga," said Mpasu.
Mpasu also accused Kasambara of awarding government contracts to Lawson and Company where he was a senior partner.
"We urge government to thoroughly investigate the former AG. We also ask government to cautiously select the new AG ," said Mpasu, who was accompanied by the party's Secretary General Kennedy Makwangwala, leader of the party in Parliament George Mtafu, chief whip Leonard Mangulama and a member of the executive Hophmally Makande.
But Minister of Information Patricia Kaliati said UDF should give offer its advice to the Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB).
"They should advise bodies like the Anti-Corruption Bureau to conduct the investigations and why are they saying this now? Is it because Kasambara has been fired? This is not a personal issue. If they have other pressing issues they should just say so. These arguments should have come up earlier on when the said cases were happening," she said.
Kasambara asked UDF to proceed with the mission of urging government to investigate him.
"They can do their job. Everyone has a right to lobby for anything they want in the country. UDF has a right to do that, let them go ahead," he said.
Kasambara was relieved of his duties as AG by the President last week. Government has not given reasons behind the removal.
Zambia: Malawians Grab Zambian Land
The Times of Zambia (Ndola)
May 18, 2006
Posted to the web May 19, 2006
MALAWIANS who have encroached on both the 'no-man's' and part of the Zambian land at the Mwami border in Eastern Province have plucked out some beacons that were used in the demarcation of the border.
The Malawians are now using the beacons as stools in their newly-established villages on Zambian land.
Eastern Province Minister, Boniface Nkhata, said in Chipata yesterday that if the situation was not controlled urgently, Zambia would lose huge tracts of land to Malawians migrating into Zambian in large numbers.
A check at the Zambia-Malawi border showed a number of beacons had been vandalised and new structures constructed on the 'no man's' land and a large portion of Zambian land.
Mr Nkhata said the trend extended to many parts of the province bordering the two countries.
"A large portion of Zambian land has been taken up by the Malawians starting from the Chama boundary up to the Mwami border.
"The weighbridge at the Mwami border was initially in Zambia from the time both countries gained independence from Britain, but now the bridge is on Malawian soil," Mr Nkhata said.
The minister, who is former Chama District Commissioner, said there was similar encroachment in Lundazi and Chama districts where Zambia shares a boundary with Malawi.
He said a Malawian farmer identified as Mr Mfune had cultivated 71.5 hectares on Zambian land and employed about 265 Malawian workers.
"Khombe Farm in Chama district in Kanyerere's area, along the Muyombe road which leads to Northern Province where this Malawian farmer has cultivated a vast land is on the Zambian territory," he said.
Workers on the farm admitted that they were farming on Zambian soil but could not go back to Malawi because the land in that country was inadequate for cultivation.
Mr Nkhata appealed to the ministry of Lands to urgently release money for the demarcation of the Zambia-Malawi border to avoid further land disputes between the two countries.
Meanwhile, the Immigration Department in Livingstone has arrested a couple and another man, all Zimbabweans, for working in Zambia without permits.
They were arrested at Gwembe village yesterday where they worked for Into Africa, a tour operating company that provides bush dinners and breakfast.
According to the Immigration Department in Livingstone, the trio entered Zambia through the Victoria Falls border as visitors but decided to work for the company illegally.
Last week, immigration officers arrested 10 Zimbabwean traders and six Ethiopians for entering and staying in Zambia illegally.
The Zimbabwean traders were warned and cautioned and later released.
The Ethiopians were arrested at Konje Guest House when they ran out of money to proceed to Botswana.
Zim unions, MDC still plan anti-govt protests
22 May 2006 11:51
Zimbabwe's biggest labour federation on Saturday threatened to call massive demonstrations against the government over poor salaries and worsening living conditions for workers in the country.
The threats are ratcheting up pressure against President Robert Mugabe's government after similar threats by the biggest opposition party in the country, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), about two months ago.
Speaking at the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) conference on Saturday, the labour body's president, Lovemore Matombo, said the powerful union wants the government to award workers salaries that match the country's ever-rising inflation.
"I can assure you we will stage massive demonstrations to force them [employers] to award workers minimum salaries that tally with the poverty datum line," said Matombo.
Matombo did not say when exactly the ZCTU would order workers to strike.
Meanwhile, the MDC on Sunday said it will push ahead with plans for anti-government protests, saying victory in a key by-election at the weekend was a "sign the electorate supported its policies", including democratic mass resistance.
A spokesperson of the main faction of the splintered MDC, Nelson Chamisa, said victory over Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF and a rival MDC faction in a Saturday by-election in Harare's Budiriro constituency is a sign Zimbabweans still have confidence in party leader Morgan Tsvangirai and his policies.
Tsvangirai, the founding leader of the MDC, heads the main rump of the opposition party whose candidate, Emmanuel Chisvuure, polled 7 949 votes to win the Budiriro House of Assembly seat.
Gabriel Chaibva of the other faction of the MDC, led by prominent academic Arthur Mutambara, garnered 504 votes while Zanu-PF's Jeremiah Bvirindi polled 3 961 votes.
"This election showed that the electorate still has confidence in the MDC [Tsvangirai-led] leadership and its policies," Chamisa told independent news service ZimOnline.
He added: "We will now move to consolidate our position * we still believe in mass protests. Until we have attained our goals we see no reason why we should abandon [plans for protests]."
Tsvangirai has threatened to call mass protests this winter against Mugabe and his government. He says the mass protests, whose date he is still to name, are meant to force Mugabe to relinquish power to a government of national unity to be tasked to write a new and democratic Constitution that would ensure free and fair elections held under international supervision.
Mugabe and his government, who had hoped for victory in Budiriro to show they were recapturing urban support from a splintered MDC, have not taken idly the opposition's threats to call mass protests, with the veteran president warning Tsvangirai he would be "dicing with death" if he ever attempted to instigate a Ukraine-style popular revolt in Zimbabwe.
In a fresh crackdown against dissension, the police last week arrested several church and civic leaders for organising public prayers and marches to mark last year's controversial home-demolition exercise by the government.
The police also banned the marches and prayers, fearing they could easily turn into mass protests against Mugabe and his government.
However, the marches went ahead in the second-largest city of Bulawayo after organisers had obtained a court order barring the police from stopping the march.
Political analysts say although Zimbabweans have largely been cowed by Mugabe's tactics of routinely deploying riot police and the military to crush street protests, worsening hunger and poverty are fanning public anger that Tsvangirai -- with proper planning and organisation -- could easily manipulate.
Zimbabwe is in the grip of a severe six-year old economic crisis that has seen inflation breaching the 1 000% barrier. Last year, the World Bank said Zimbabwe's economic crisis was unprecedented for a country not at war.
The MDC and major Western governments blame Mugabe for wrecking the country's economy, which was one of the strongest in Africa at independence from Britain 26 years ago.
Mugabe denies the charge blaming the crisis on sabotage by Britain and her allies after he seized white-owned farms for redistribution to landless blacks six years ago.
The Harare authorities recently hiked salaries for civil servants, with the lowest-paid soldier now earning about Z$27-million while the lowest-paid school teacher now takes home about Z$33-million.
But the salaries are still way below the poverty datum line, which the government's Consumer Council of Zimbabwe says now stands at a staggering Z$42-million a month for an average family of six.
The Zimbabwe government often accuses the ZCTU, a strong ally of the MDC, of pushing a political agenda to remove Mugabe from power.
Meanwhile, Matombo and Lucia Matibenga retained their posts as president and first vice-president respectively during the ZCTU congress that ended on Saturday. -- ZimOnline