Rightists, Gov t Officials Seek to Put End to Political Violence African Church Information Service April 14, 2003 Posted to the web April 14, 2003 HamiltonMessage 1 of 1046 , Apr 15, 2003View SourceRightists, Gov't Officials Seek to Put End to Political Violence
African Church Information Service
April 14, 2003
Posted to the web April 14, 2003
Top government officials met with human rights activists in Lilongwe
recently to try and come up with a national plan of action that would
promote human rights in Malawi.
The meeting, which brought together principal secretaries, heads of
government departments as well as human rights activists, examined how
to integrate into government policy, a plan that had been drawn up by
Malawi Human Rights Commission.
Deputy secretary to the president and cabinet, Michael Kamphambe
Nkhoma, expressed concern that citizens of Malawi were still not
enjoying some fundamental rights.
The discussions came against a background of political violence in the
country. For the past year, youths belonging to the ruling United
Democratic Front (UDF) were blamed for widespread political violence.
Opposition groups were in the forefront in condemning violent acts of a
group called Young Democrats . But the main opposition league, Malawi
Congress Party (MCP), seems to be taking over the scenario and engaging
in political violence within its own ranks.
Recently, MCP deputy regional chairman for the south, Nicholas Dausi,
was roughed up by men believed to be loyalists of the party's president,
The incident occurred at the party's regional headquarters in
Blantyre,where Chakuamba was expected to address Southern Region
delegates in preparation for a convention scheduled for April 29.
Commenting on the incident, Dausi said the party's youth wing was
intimidating and suppressing members who did not support Chakuamba.
Anti-Aids Crusaders Launch Clampdown On Brothels
African Church Information Service
April 14, 2003
Posted to the web April 14, 2003
Alarmed by increasing HIV-prevalence, campaigners against AIDS have
embarked on an aggressive exercise to shut down brothels sprouting in
major cities and urban centres in Malawi.
The country is among others in southern Africa hard-hit by the
Two million of the 10 million population are carrying the virus,
according to recent figures from the National AIDS Commission (NAC).
Ministry of Gender, Youth and Community Affairs commissioned a survey
that established brothels to be among factors aiding quick spread of the
Brothel owners, who have since been threatened with prosecution, were
found to be recruiting tender girls to "serve customers", cashing the
fee which rarely went to the girls.
One of the anti-AIDS groups involved is Active Youth Initiative for
Social Enhancement (AYISE). The director, Marcel Chisi, said they
collaborated with local HIV awareness committees in Blantyre, where
seven brothels have been closed in an operation that is earmarked to go
"We appreciated information by the media that alerted us on the HIV
situation in urban centres. Now that we have confronted them (brothel
owners), they fear the legal penalty," said Chisi.
AYISE is one of the youth organisations lobbying government and donors
to establish as many vocational facilities to discourage the youth and
women from loitering and resorting to drugs, alcoholism and commercial
Two years ago, President Bakili Muluzi ordered the police to arrest all
prostitutes and people earning their living through commercial sex. The
act prompted criticism from women associations, who charged that the
exercise was discriminatory as it targeted mostly women.
The police have since slackened their clampdown on women at night.
However public relations officer of police, George Chikowi, was quoted
recently saying the operation was on.
"Prostitution is illegal according to the penal code. We shall
therefore continue with the exercise," Chikowi asserted.
Calm Returns to Dowa But Strange Beast is Still At Large
African Church Information Service
April 14, 2003
Posted to the web April 14, 2003
Officials in Dowa town say an unidentified beast that killed three
people and injured 16 others several weeks ago is still at large, but
the situation has normalised.
According to Dowa District Commissioner, Charles Kalemba, game rangers
who are still patrolling the area captured a baby hyena, suggesting that
the marauding beast could either have been a female hyena that had just
given birth, or a rabid one.
Kalemba accused the press of drumming up the issue, saying the beast
had attacked the area on a single night, and not as reported by the
media that there were persistent attacks.
The beast had terrorised villages of Toto, Kalinda, Mbonyela, and
Chatambalala, under Traditional Authority Chiwere, displacing over 4,000
people, who sought refuge at nearby schools and government offices for a
period of about two weeks. (see AANA Bulletin No. 11/03, of March 24
,features section). The people have since returned to their homes.
Cassava Promotion Initiative
UN Integrated Regional Information Networks
April 14, 2003
Posted to the web April 14, 2003
The UN Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) has established five
cassava nurseries in Malawi in an initiative to enhance food security,
crop diversification and income generation.
Maize is the staple diet of Malawi, as in much of Southern Africa, but
the crop is dependent on the correct amount of rainfall at the right
time, unlike the hardier cassava which is drought resistant.
Over the last five years, the government has sought to diversify crop
production by encouraging cassava, a traditional crop in parts of the
country. "But the major problem was accessing cassava seed, so we're
trying to establish a seed production capacity," FAO Country
Representative, Louise Setshwaelo, told IRIN.
Cassava cuttings are provided to selected farmers who produce either a
cassava crop for the market, or seeds to boost local cassava seed
production. Controlled conditions in the 60 hectares of nurseries aim to
ensure that the cuttings are clear of disease, Setshwaelo explained.
The project, sponsored by the Swedish government, is run in
collaboration with FAO and the NGOs Initiative for Development and
Equity in African Agriculture, and the Southern African Roots and Crops
Maize production in Malawi was hit by two consecutive droughts in 2001
and 2002 that led to widespread food shortages.
The tiny kingdom with the big cabinet
Felix Mponda | Blantyre
15 April 2003 08:36
Just a year before he leaves office, Malawi President Bakili Muluzi has
broken all records and appointed the tiny southern African country's
largest cabinet in 39 years of independence.
Using absolute constitutional powers to appoint a 46-strong cabinet,
Muluzi last week more than doubled his predecessor's average size
Late dictator Kamuzu Banda's cabinets averaged 20.
But after Muluzi succeeded Banda in 1994, cabinets have been getting
bigger and bigger, angering critics and donors who argue that the tiny,
aid-dependent southern African country cannot afford a top-heavy
The country should be using the money it is paying out to sustain the
cabinet to reduce the rampant poverty which affects 65% of the
11-million people, argue critics.
A cabinet minister in Malawi earns an average $2 000 a month, and also
enjoys the luxury of a chauffeur-driven limousine.
Other critics worry that the new cabinet will adversely impact on the
budget, already on shaky ground after the International Monetary Fund
(IMF) and other donors withheld some $122-million in aid packages and
budget support over concerns about government overspending.
Muluzi has in the past dismissed criticism that he is unnecessarily
employing too many ministers, saying he wants to give "others a chance
to be ministers."
He also brushed aside suggestions by the World Bank to trim the
cabinet, saying: "I am not going to be dictated to by anyone as Malawi
does not have the largest cabinet in the world."
Without explanation, Muluzi last week fired veteran ministers Aleke
Banda and Harry Thomson.
Commentators believe they were sacked because they had ambitions for
the presidency when Muluzi ends his reign in May 2004, after 10 years in
Muluzi had controversially tried to amend Malawi's constitution to
allow himself to stand for a third five-year term.
But commentators said his recent endorsement of economist Bingu wa
Mutharika as the ruling United Democratic Front's (UDF) candidate in
next year's election was as good as a declaration that he would step
down as head of state at the end of his
constitutional two terms.
In his reshuffle, Muluzi also dropped sports and youth minister Moses
Dossi and justice minister Henry Phoya, but surpisingly appointed
controversial opposition leader Chakufwa Chihana as second vice
Chihana of the Alliance for Democracy (Aford) resigned from the same
position seven years ago after he nullified a coalition accord with the
He accused the Muluzi administration of lacking transparency and
governance as well as engaging in high level corruption. The position of
second vice president had been controversially created through a
constitional amendment to accommodate Chihana, whose party has a
stronghold in the north of the country.
Muluzi's new list of ministers has 30 full ministers and 16 junior
ministers and includes obscure portfolios such as presidential affairs
minister and special duties minister.
"I am a political technician," Muluzi had recently bragged at a rally.
US wants a regime change in Zimbabwe
15 April 2003 08:56
The United States is urging Zimbabwe's neighbours to step up pressure
on President Robert Mugabe to hand power to a transitional government to
pave the way for new elections, a senior State Department official said
"What we're telling them is there has to be a transitional government
in Zimbabwe that leads to a free and fair, internationally supervised
election," the official said.
"That is the goal, he stole the last one, we can't let that happen
again," the official said, referring to a widely condemned election last
March in which Mugabe won re-election.
"It has to be internationally supervised, open, transparent with an
electoral commission that works," the official told reporters on
condition of anonymity.
The official would not say whether Washington had gotten positive
reactions to its call from any specific country in the region, but said
generally the "neighbourhood" was increasingly aware of the problems
posed by Mugabe's rule.
"The neighbourhood -- meaning southern Africa -- is realising that this
is not going well, this is breaking bad," the official said. "The food
situation is going to get nothing but worse, the economic scene is
The official noted that Zimbabwe's economy was now crippled by
hyperinflation and an unemployment rate of 80% and that Zimbabweans were
fleeing their country in droves to become refugees in Botswana,
Mozambique, and South Africa.
In addition, the situation in Zimbabwe is hurting the economies of
other countries in the region as potential investors steer clear due to
fears about the spread of the crisis.
"The neighbourhood is starting to realise that there is a downside to
giving aid and protection to Comrade Bob," the official said, using a
derogatory nickname for Mugabe.
"There is stuff happening, there is stuff happening behind the scenes,"
the official added, declining to elaborate.
The United States has been a vociferous critic of Mugabe in recent
months and led a charge at the UN Human Rights Commission to condemn the
Harare government. - Sapa-AFP
Hollow words for Zimbabwean
A man in Zimbabwe has completed his attempt to enter the record books
by talking in public non-stop for 36 hours.
But Jonah Mungoshi's hopes of making it into the Guinness Book of
Records have been dashed.
Mungoshi has a lot to say
Jonah began speaking at 0900 GMT in the capital, Harare, on Friday and
finished on Saturday evening.
But when Jonah contacted Guinness to have his record attempt ratified
he received some bad news.
Guinness told him that since their last contact last year, when the
record stood at 26 hours, things had changed.
They told Jonah that an Indian man, Masanam Venu, spoke for 51 and a
half hours in January on "The fundamentals of chemistry".
Jonah admitted he was downcast at the news, but said he was not going
to give up now.
"Obviously I'm disappointed, but I'm proud of what I've managed to
achieve. I'm seriously considering another attempt."
Jonah, a 36-year-old, who works as a marketing manager for a bank, is
no stranger to competitive chat.
He finished third at a World Public Speaking Championship in Texas,
Straight after completing his long-winded feat at the weekend, Jonah
told the BBC that, although tired, he felt he could have carried on for
several more hours.
"There were moments when I spoke when I think I was actually asleep,"
"I was having lapses of concentration, but people would shout," he
He attempted to keep his audience awake as he talked his way through 18
Among the subjects he covered:
* Finances and the young
* Achieving extraordinary success
* Speed marketing
* Thought management.
Spectators seemed impressed at his stamina and the content - although
by the early hours of Saturday morning much of the audience was dozing
according to the BBC's Steve Vickers on the Network Africa programme.
Jonah closed his speech to loud applause, with the words: "Ladies and
Gentleman, the moment you have all been waiting for, I will now stop
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