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  • Christine Chumbler
    Ex-Minister Arrested for Plotting to Bomb National Radio BLANTYRE, Malawi (PANA) (Panafrican News Agency, March 7, 2000) - Malawi s former deputy finance
    Message 1 of 1046 , Mar 9, 2000
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      Ex-Minister Arrested for Plotting to Bomb National Radio

      BLANTYRE, Malawi (PANA) (Panafrican News Agency, March 7, 2000) -
      Malawi's former deputy finance minister Fred Nseula, and an accomplice, will
      appear in court this week following an alleged plot to bomb the state-run radio
      station of the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation.

      Police spokesman Oliver Soko told PANA Tuesday that Nseula and an
      accomplice, a freelance disc-jockey named Aaron Sakala, were arrested at their
      rendezvous in Blantyre last Wednesday.

      "Nseula and Sakala are now on bail but we will take them to court this week
      after completing our investigations," he said.

      Soko said the two men will be charged with conspiracy to commit a felony.

      Details of the alleged plot are as murky as they are confusing. A reconstruction
      of the plot by police investigators, according to Soko, showed that Sakala was
      to go to MBC's head office in Blantyre at an appointed date ostensibly to buy
      airtime for a show and while in the building he was to place a bomb at a
      designated spot.

      Meanwhile, Nseula was to telephone the MBC Director General Wilson
      Pankuku to warn him of the bomb, while at the same time Sakala would throw a
      fire-cracker to scare off occupants in the broadcasting house.

      It was not immediately clear whether Nseula genuinely wanted to plant the bomb
      or this was merely a publicity stunt.

      Nseula, who also once served as a legislator for the ruling United Democratic
      Front (UDF) party, genuinely needs heroics to catapult himself back into favour
      of the ruling elite.

      The political star of the youthful happy-go-lucky politician waned as fast as it
      arose. He joined politics during the wave of the new multiparty democracy in
      1993 with a small but now-defunct Malawi National Democratic Party
      (MNDP).

      His rise to fame was on the premise of being at the right place at the right time.
      As secretary general of the MNDP, he chaired the then multiparty transitional
      body called the National Consultative Council (NCC) which oversaw
      democratic changes in Malawi.

      His term coincided with dramatic changes in Malawi as the army waged a mini-
      war against the then para- military wing of the then ruling Malawi Congress Party
      called the Malawi Young Pioneers.

      The government of Hastings Kamuzu Banda was paralysed during the three-day
      skirmishes that saw the MYP's fire-power battered. As chair of the NCC,
      Nseula was virtually a de-facto ruler of Malawi.

      The then opposition UDF noticed his potential and co-opted him into its rank
      and file. President Bakili Muluzi made him deputy finance minister in his first
      cabinet soon after taking power in 1994.

      But a year later, Nseula was seen fraternising too much with the opposition
      MCP for his colleagues' comfort. He also made critical public statements against
      the UDF.

      Muluzi dropped him from his cabinet and Nseula resigned from the UDF soon
      after this. Nseula later reclaimed his membership in the party but was never given
      any position.

      Observers said the bomb scare was a ploy for him to get attention since his
      heroics by alerting the MBC would have painted him as having saved the lives of
      the 300 people working at the station.

      But Soko said police did not take lightly the bomb threats.

      MBC has of late annoyed several listeners for its blatant bias towards the ruling
      UDF.

      A number of media-monitoring organisations, including Article 19 of London, the
      Media Institute of Southern Africa and the Media Council of Malawi, have
      officially complained that MBC cuts out alternative views by barring opposition
      parties from the public airwaves.

      However Nseula, by many accounts, is an unlikely hero to that cause.

      *****

      Malawian Pilots Unsung Heroes of Mozambique Floods

      BEIRA, Mozambique, March 7 (Reuters) - There were no television cameras
      on hand when pilots from Malawi's tiny air force flew daily rescue sorties in the
      flooded Save River basin last week, but more than 1,000 Mozambicans owe
      them their lives.

      Dramatic television images of desperate Mozambicans being plucked from trees
      and rooftops triggered an international aid effort for the flood-devastated nation.

      But while the South Africans flew their dangerous missions from Maputo into the
      flooded Limpopo River valley, two helicopters of the Malawi Air Force and a
      third chartered by them from South Africa were performing similar miracles from
      Beira some 600 km (370 miles) to the north.

      "It was sometimes risky but we had to save lives," Major Augustine Masamba
      told Reuters. "You have to save people before you can feed them. You can't
      feed dead people."

      The southern regions in the low-lying Limpopo delta was one of the areas most
      severely affected by Mozambique's worst floods in living memory, and seven
      South African helicopters were dedicated to rescue efforts there.

      Further north and out of the glare of television spotlights, the job fell largely to
      Malawi's Air Force.

      With only three helicopters -- two Malawian and a civilian one chartered from
      South Africa -- Masamba and his team of 15 pilots swept through
      Mozambique's Sofala, Inhambane, Gaza and Manica. provinces, plucking
      desperate people off trees and rooftops.

      Without winches, rescue teams had to physically lift them off and haul them into
      hovering helicopters.

      Visibility was sometimes dangerously low as rains continued to lash the area,
      already ravaged by Cyclone Eline.

      RACE TO SAVE LIVES

      The Malawians rescued more than 1,200 people over the past week, and on
      Tuesday were continuing to evacuate the sick and the elderly from isolated areas
      to Beira where they could get medical care.

      "There was no-one here to save us except the Malawians and a private
      helicopter. If it wasn't for them we would be dead," said Francis Madira, who
      was airlifted after three days in a tree without food or water.

      Aid agencies in the area said the region was neglected at the height of the crisis
      at the beginning of last week.

      "The Malawians have been stretched but we hope things will improve as we're
      starting to see more helicopters," said Jerry Prinsloo, a member of Jesus Alive, a
      South African-based Christian organisation which has donated food to the Save
      region.

      Two German Puma helicopters and two cargo carriers joined the Malawians this
      week to ferry food and medical supplies to thousands of people needing
      emergency aid in the region, particularly in the devastated towns of Nova
      Mambone and Machanga on Mozambique's east coast.

      A World Food Programme cargo plane has also joined the relief effort, while
      British boats are plying the river assessing the situation and delivering supplies.
      American helicopters are expected in Beira on Wednesday to shore up the
      operations.

      *****

      Female Reporters Decry Male Chauvinism In Malawi

      Panafrican News Agency
      March 6, 2000
      by Raphael Tenthani

      Blantyre, Malawi (PANA) - Malawi's male-dominated workplace is a nightmare for
      female workers who often fall prey to their male boss's - and even male news
      source's - sexual advances.

      Random interviews in newsrooms with female journalists show that sexual
      harassment from both senior editors and male news sources stands in the way of
      their success.

      Pilirani Semu, an enterprising young journalist with The Nation daily, says ideally
      both female and male journalists are supposed to receive equal treatment in their
      work environment.

      "But this is not the case. Women journalists are harassed by both their male
      colleagues and news sources," she says.

      Semu, who once worked for the state-run Malawi Broadcasting Corporation radio,
      says this treatment militates against the women's success in the profession.

      Cheu Mita, the only other female journalist at The Nation, agrees with Semu,
      saying many female journalists leave the profession because of such harassment.

      Mita, who has five years experience in the profession, says men have a weakness
      they seem unable to put in check.

      "After a business chat, male sources always end up asking me for sexual favours,"
      she says.

      But most male journalists dismiss these claims, saying it is actually the male
      editors who are harassed.

      "It's a reality that we don't have that many good female journalists in Malawi," says
      Peter Kumwenda, a Lilongwe-based journalist. "We can actually count them by
      the fingers of one hand."

      Kumwenda, who publishes The Champion, says due to this deficiency, weak
      female journalists entice senior editors with their bodies to give their stories
      prominence.

      "Most editors fall for the charm and panel beat the women's otherwise mediocre
      stuff onto the front page," he observes.

      While it is true that in Malawi most senior journalists are male, analysts note this
      is a relic of the one-party system of government where journalism was too perilous
      a profession for anyone - let alone women - to dare tread.

      "Most women could not dare join the profession after hearing stories of detentions
      and even deaths like that of Mkwapatira Mhango (a critic of the then Malawi
      government who was petrol-bombed in his home together with eight members of
      his family in Lusaka)," says a senior journalist who himself is a graduate of the
      one-party prisons because of his work.

      This is why, says Stella Mhura, women journalists set up the Malawi Media
      Women Association (MAMWA) which she chairs to encourage more women to
      join the profession.

      "Our aim is to go to schools to encourage future female scribes," says Mhura.

      But she, too, feels women issues are not articulated enough in the media because
      of its being male-dominated. Correcting this, she says, is another challenge for
      MAMWA.

      But Alfred Mtonga, a senior journalist who is Editor-in-Chief of The Nation,
      contends that when determining which story is to make front page, gender is not
      considered.

      "We go for the strength of the story," he says.

      Mtonga says at the end of the day it is the reader who decides which one is a
      good story, gender bias or not.

      Back to the question of harassment in newsrooms, Penelope Paliani, who writes a
      column on gender issues in the weekly Malawi News, says male sources treat
      male and female journalists differently.

      "Male journalists are given stories on a silver platter but when it comes to females
      they are plodded for sex before they can release stories," she complains.

      Mita agrees, saying this makes female journalists to fail to make headway in
      investigating journalism.

      Kwangu Liwewe, a reporter with Television Malawi, views the whole subject
      differently. She says women journalists can avoid being harassed if only they are
      assertive and forthright.

      "Women should work hard and be assertive, only then can our male counterparts
      know we are not sex tools but partners in the profession," she says.
    • 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 8:06 AM
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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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