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  • Christine Chumbler
    Malawian Amb. Kandiero Presents Credentials at White House Washington, DC (U.S. Department Of State, February 7, 2000) - Speech By H.E. Mr. Tony Kandiero On
    Message 1 of 1046 , Feb 8, 2000
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      Malawian Amb. Kandiero Presents Credentials at White
      House

      Washington, DC (U.S. Department Of State, February 7, 2000) - Speech By
      H.E. Mr. Tony Kandiero On The Occasion Of The Presentation Of Credentials
      To President Bill Clinton Of The United States Of America

      Mr. President,

      It is with a deep sense of joy and humility that I stand before you, Mr. President,
      to present the Letter of Recall of my predecessor, and my own Letter of
      Credence by which my President, His Excellency Dr. Bakili Muluzi, accredits
      me as Malawi's Ambassador to your great country, the United States of
      America.

      This is a very auspicious occasion indeed. Permit me, therefore, on behalf of my
      own President, His Excellency Dr. Bakili Muluzi, to convey to you, Mr.
      President, personally, and through you, to the Government and the people of the
      United States of America; warm and fraternal greetings as well as the very best
      wishes for your good health and the continued prosperity for the people of the
      United States of America.

      Mr. President, when the people of Malawi spoke unequivocally that they wanted
      an end to the one-party dictatorship and oppression, in the 1994 free and fair
      Presidential and Parliamentary Elections, we recognized that this was a turning
      point in our desire to build a better tomorrow for all Malawians. We also
      realized that Malawi can only prosper in a free and democratic society, which
      respects human rights and the rule of law, anchored in a work ethic that
      embraces a spirit of hard work within a private sector-led market economy.

      The vast majority of the people of Malawi spoke again recently, Mr. President.
      On 15th June, 1999; Malawians re-elected His Excellency Dr. Bakili Muluzi as
      President of the Republic of Malawi in yet another free and fair Presidential and
      Parliamentary Election. It is the wish of my Head of State, Government and the
      people of Malawi that I convey to you, Mr. President, the Government and
      people of the United States of America, our very sincere and deep sense of
      gratitude for the invaluable technical, financial and moral support you gave us
      during our fight against repression and one-party dictatorship, in 1994; and
      during last year's Presidential and Parliamentary Elections.

      Perhaps our greatest challenge now is to consolidate our young democracy as
      we simultaneously struggle to achieve a stable economy in which public policies
      will yield our stated goal of poverty eradication. We are under no illusion as to
      the enormity and complexity of our mission.

      Malawi is agonizing daily to fight against abject poverty, hunger, disease,
      corruption, ignorance, HIV/AIDS and crime, among many challenges.
      Nevertheless, Malawians are determined to make every effort to meet these
      multiple challenges. In this difficult task, we take comfort in the knowledge that
      you, Mr. President, and the people of this great country, have a proud and long
      history of supporting genuine democratic systems the world over. You, Mr.
      President, and the people of the United States of America helped us to achieve a
      genuine democracy; now we need a push to assist us consolidate our young
      democracy so that we can create an environment that will lift Malawi from a den
      of abject poverty onto a platform of a prosperous nation. We are determined to
      work hard to achieve this status, with your help, Mr. President.

      It is against this background that I consider it a great personal challenge, honor
      and rare privilege to be asked to serve as my country's Ambassador to this great
      and beautiful country. I give you my solemn assurance, Mr. President, that I will
      spare no effort in my relentless endeavor to further strengthen the warm and
      cordial relations which happily exist between our two countries.

      Personally, I will do everything in my power to promote and enhance our
      bilateral relations for the mutual benefit of our two countries and peoples. I will
      seek out American investors and take them to my country to invest in Malawi. I
      will encourage American tourists to consider Malawi for their holidays. In all my
      efforts to perform my duties, I look forward very much to the support and
      guidance from you, Mr. President, your Government and the people of the
      United States of America.

      Thank you, Mr. President, for your kind attention.

      The PRESIDENT'S REPLY TO The REMARKS OF The NEWLY
      APPOINTED AMBASSADOR OF The REPUBLIC OF MALAWI UPON
      The OCCASION OF The PRESENTATION OF HIS LETTER OF
      CREDENCE

      Mr. Ambassador:

      It gives me great pleasure to accept your Letter of Credence from President
      Muluzi, which establishes you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
      of the Republic of Malawi to the United States of America, and I acknowledge
      the Letter of Recall of your distinguished predecessor. Thank You for your
      greetings on behalf of the government and the people of Malawi. I extend a
      warm welcome to you and your family as you begin your assignment in
      Washington.

      Malawi and the United States have enjoyed good relations for a long time,
      marked by our countries' similar views on a number of important issues, such as
      efforts towards achieving economic and political stability in southern Africa.
      Malawi is a valuable member of the Southern African Development Community
      (SADC), an organization working for greater cooperation and economic
      development in the region. The United States works closely with SADC, which
      is playing a vital role in unlocking the potential of southern Africa.

      There is no finer example of our two countries' mutually beneficial relationship
      than the success of the African Crisis Response Initiative (ACRI) in Malawi.
      Malawi was one of the first countries to participate in ACRI, a U.S. program to
      eventually train 12,000 military personnel from various African nations for
      peacekeeping and humanitarian assistance operations on the continent. You can
      take pride that Malawian troops have excelled in ACRI field exercises and
      training sessions. Together, the United States and Malawi are working to
      strengthen the skills of African militaries for fostering peace and humanitarian
      activity on the continent.

      I want to mention another important and serious area of cooperation between
      our two countries. Much of Africa is suffering under the scourge of HIV/AIDS,
      and Malawi has not been spared.

      There are no easy solutions to combating HIV/AIDS, but political will and
      resources are essential. Malawi has committed both. The comprehensive
      national strategic plan to address HIV/AIDS announced last fall is crucial in
      trying to reverse the course of the disease. The United States applauds President
      Muluzi's support for the plan and, significantly, his pledge to monitor personally
      its implementation. Let me assure you that this country, through programs
      sponsored or run by the United States Agency for International Development,
      will continue to work with the people of Malawi to fight HIV/AIDS. I wish to
      add that in addition to our ongoing efforts in numerous countries, the United
      States is committed to focusing international attention on this massive problem
      that has far more than just health or economic ramifications.

      Just as Malawi has dealt forthrightly with fighting HIV/AIDS, it has dealt with
      political conflict in a commendable manner. While the dispute over the results of
      the 1999 national elections may be unsettling to the people of Malawi, handling
      the matter via the court system is an admirable example of employing the tools of
      democracy. We urge that the peaceful approach to this issue continue,
      regardless of the court's final decision.

      Mr. Ambassador, our countries have cooperated on a range of issues
      throughout the years. We look forward to working productively and closely with
      you and your embassy on all aspects of U.S.-Malawi relations.

      Again, it gives me great pleasure to welcome you as Malawi's ambassador, and
      I wish you every success in fulfilling your agenda here in Washington.

      *****

      Malawi First Female Recruits Doing Well

      Afrika News Network (Copenhagen)
      February 7, 2000

      Blantyre - A few weeks ago, when one of the 65 women recruits undergoing
      training in the Malawi Army at the Malawi Armed Forces College in Salima, central
      Malawi, asked to sit for examinations in Blantyre, she never returned. It later
      transpired to the Army officials that the recruit actually picked a job with a hotel in
      Blantyre. She had trained in catering.

      A few days later, another recruit said she could not continue with the training
      because she was expecting. She also left to take up her former job as a
      secondary school teacher. Army officials said there was no proof that she was
      expectant as she refused to take a pregnancy test.

      The departure of the two recruits from the military college set the rumour mill in
      motion to the effect that almost a third of the recruits have dropped the training
      while the rest are also on the brink of absconding.

      But on January 30, 2000, the 63 recruits will be entering their ninth week of the
      six-month course as the first army cadets. The training started on December 6,
      1999.

      "We haven't had serious problems with them," says Army spokesman Lt. Col.
      Mclyyod Chidzalo. He says stories that most of the recruits had run away were
      mere fibs, adding that morale is high among the recruits and that they are all
      enthusiastic to learn. He admits his office too has been inundated with phone calls
      from members of the general public inquiring about stories that the recruits are
      running away.

      But Chidzalo says the two are the only ones that have left.

      According to Chidzalo, 65 trainees aged between 18 and 25 reported for training
      out of the 68 successful applicants from the 160 who were shortlisted out of 4,000
      applicants.

      Government wants to recruit 35 women soldiers out of every 500 men. All the
      recruits will become private soldiers upon the completion of their course, according
      to Chidzalo.

      A "Nation" reporter who recently chatted with some of the women in training said
      he found them in high spirits. They looked happy, determined and fit.

      The training programme includes map reading, tactics, drills, and physical
      exercises. The cadets are said to have had problems with physical fitness during
      the first days of their training when they used to have swollen ankles or suffer from
      pneumonia after training, according to officer-in-charge of the recruits Captain
      Kondwani Kalino.

      The recruits are also said to have a good relationship with their instructors.

      Speaking when he opened the training on December 7, 1999 Army Commander,
      Lt. Gen Joseph Chimbayo warned the instructors against harassing the recruits
      but also cautioned the recruits that they should not expect preferential treatment.

      There are two female and one male Zambian instructors helping locals.

      "I believe you have been sensitised on your rights, you should not accept any
      requests for special favours from instructors as this will result in your dismissal,"
      Chimbayo warned on the opening day. He told them that military work demands
      self-determination and a high level of discipline.

      For purposes of the training, the recruits had to cut their hair, but they will be
      allowed to grow it after graduation. The training ends in May.

      None of the recruits will be involved in combat, unless the situation demands
      otherwise. This has incensed gender activists, among them Reen Kachere and
      Seodi White, who say they want the women to do more than sit in offices or look
      after patients. The two women activists are executive director for the Advancement
      of Women in Malawi and Director for Women and Law in Southern Africa,
      respectively.

      "It is a welcome development to have women in the Army but what use is it if they
      are not involved in combat? We would love to see them fighting alongside their
      male counterparts," says Kachere.

      But Chidzalo is dismayed by the activists' demands saying they are ignorant of the
      subject matter. He says not involving the women in combat does not mean
      preventing them from doing most of the things that male soldiers do.

      "I feel these women don't know what they are saying. When we say 'combat' we
      mean fighting neck-to-neck with an enemy, and that is what we don't want to
      involve them in until such a time when it will become necessary to do so," he
      says.

      Among the recruits are nurses, primary school teachers and technicians all of
      whom will be based at Kamuzu Barracks (Army Headquarters) in Lilongwe where a
      hostel is being built for them. Later, more hostels will be built in other barracks in
      the country for their accommodation.
    • Christine Chumbler
      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
      Message 1046 of 1046 , May 22, 2006
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        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

        Andrew Lungu

         

        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

        Harare, Zimbabwe

        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.

        Opposition protests

        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.

        Crackdown

        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

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