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  • Christine Chumbler
    Malawi Sees Maize Surplus, Eyes Exports LUSAKA, July 26 (Reuters) - Malawi recorded a bumper maize crop of 2.5 million tonnes in the year to June after reaping
    Message 1 of 1046 , Jul 26, 2000
      Malawi Sees Maize Surplus, Eyes Exports

      LUSAKA, July 26 (Reuters) - Malawi recorded a bumper maize crop of 2.5
      million tonnes in the year to June after reaping the benefits of a scheme launched
      to help small farmers two years ago, industry officials said on Wednesday.

      Malawi harvested 2.5 million tonnes of white mill maize in the year to June,
      compared to 2.25 million tonnes the previous year.

      Both years' harvests are well above the country's annual requirements of 1.7
      million tonnes, agriculture ministry officials said by telephone from the Malawi
      capital of Lilongwe.

      The government credits a "Starter Pack Scheme" it launched for new farmers
      two years ago for the good maize crop. Some 2.8 million small farmers were
      given free seed, fertilisers, pesticides and technical support.

      Foriegn donors have criticised the scheme for cultivating a culture of handouts,
      but local officials say the plan has had good results, which have spilled over to
      other areas. Farmers produced 2.78 million tonnes of cassava in 1999/2000
      compared to 0.89 million tonnes in 1998/99.

      Malawi and South Africa are the only southern African countries that produce a
      significant maize surplus, according to the Zimbabwe-based Southern Africa
      Development Community (SADC) Regional Famine Early Warning Unit.

      Bina Kakusa, deputy manager of the strategic state-owned Food Reserve
      Agency (FRA) in Malawi, said exports of Malawi's surplus had already begun
      with the sale of 20,000 tonnes of white maize to Kenya, whose maize crop has
      been affected by bad weather.

      The FRA had also received enquiries about maize exports to neighbouring
      Zimbabwe and hoped a deal could be reached later this year.

      "We have received enquiries from Zimbabwe but a final deal has not been
      agreed," he told Reuters from Lilongwe.

      Zimbabwe's Commercial Farmers' Union (CFU) has said the country has
      sufficient maize stocks for its 12.5 million people, although farming continues to
      be disrupted by militants who have occupied farms since February.

      Kakusa would not say what price the Kenyans were paying for Malawi's maize.
      But export costs were higher than to South Africa or Namibia because
      landlocked Malawi had to transport the maize to Mozambique's port of Beira
      for shipment.


      Malawi Makes Up For Teachers Killed By AIDS

      African Eye News Service (South Africa)
      July 25, 2000
      by Hobbs Gama

      LILONGWE (Malawi) - The Malawi government has announced an accelerated
      teacher training programme after it was revealed that the country had lost at least
      52 000 teachers to the Aids epidemic.

      Education Minister Cassim Chilumpha, responding to a United Nations Children 's
      Fund (Unicef) report on the heavy toll of Aids-related deaths among teachers in
      sub-Saharan Africa, said drastic steps were needed to make up for the loss.

      The Unicef report, launched last week in South Africa as part of the 13th
      International Aids Conference, said education was the sector worst affected by the
      Aids epidemic.

      "The loss of teachers is serious; we will have to make sure we maintain a good
      capacity of teachers," said Chilumpha.

      The minister said teacher training would be accelerated at the Malawi Counselling
      and Guidance Centre for Africa, and Aids awareness programmes would be

      Another concern was the growing number of orphans who were dropping out of
      school after they lost their parents to Aids.

      Chilumpha said the Ministry of Education, together with Ministry of Health and
      Population Services and the Ministry of Gender, Youth and Community Services,
      had recently finalised a strategy to provide community-based care for Aids orphans
      and to make sure they continued with their education.

      "Schooling is disrupted when teachers are absent from classes due to illness,
      death or when a decreasing numbers of teachers have to take large classes," said
      the Unicef report.

      It recorded that 860 000 children in sub-Saharan Africa had lost their teachers to
      Aids by last year, with Kenya, South Africa and Nigeria the hardest hit.


      Malawi's Fish Exports Drop By 100%

      African Eye News Service (South Africa)
      July 25, 2000
      by Raphael Mweninguwe

      BLANTYRE (Malawi) - Over fishing in Malawi's Lake Malawi and Shire River has
      seen a 100% drop in the country's fish exports in 20 years.

      The German-funded National Aquatic Resource Management Programme says
      Malawi exported 2 000 tonnes of freshwater fish in 1980, but that this dropped to
      just 3 tonnes in 1999 and zero last year.

      Overall fish landings dropped by 10 000 tonnes, from 78 000 tonnes in the 80s to
      68 000 tonnes in 1998.

      The management programme's principal advisor, Dr Uwe Scholz, criticised
      Malawi's government in the report for not enforcing the new Fisheries Act adopted
      in 1997.

      The Act empowers communities to confiscate fishing nets and forbids fishermen
      from trawling within 1.8 kilometres of shores.

      One commercial fisherman, Ismael Ajida, who owns six boats and whose nets
      were confiscated, accused certain politicians of illegally trawling for fish.

      "Government is well aware that most of the fish resources are being depleted
      because some influential people in government use trawlers in areas where they
      are not supposed to," he alleges.

      He said confiscating nets from the poor, only made them poorer.

      Over 63% of the 11 million Malawians live below the poverty line. Over 200 000
      Malawians are either directly or indirectly employed in the fishing industry and
      depend on it for survival.

      Ajida said the confiscation of his nets threatened the livelihood of 150 of his

      "Are people going to understand? Why is government not sitting down with us and
      negotiate these issues properly?"

      A suggestion that the private sector invests in fish farming and aquaculture to
      boost production has not been met with enthusiasm.

      Investors in the country say they are not ready to take up the challenge because of
      the high cost of establishing and running such a business venture.

      The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that the fish intake per person
      be 13kg a year and Malawi only produces 9kg per person per year.

      But since the National Aquatic Resource Management Programme was introduced
      four years ago, several projects have been introduced aimed at increasing the
      production of fish in the country.

      There has seen an increase in certain fish species but the country's most favoured
      fish Chambo (tilapia rendalli) remains illusive.


      Wrangle Over Malawi's Main Internet Domain

      Panafrican News Agency
      July 25, 2000

      BLANTYRE, Malawi (PANA) - The Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority,
      a body set aside by an Act of Parliament in 1999, is battling to repossess the
      national Internet domain it claims has been hijacked by a British-South African

      The authority says the British-South African Chris-Cope Morgan registered the
      national domain - '.mw' - in the name of his private company, InterACESS, but left
      the country in 1998 without leaving a word on it.

      Since then no Internet Service Provider in Malawi has been able to connect
      customers to the domain - '.mw' - said to be the most powerful in the country.

      "He (Morgan) took advantage of our ignorance and registered the domain in his
      name because the Malawi Posts and Telecommunications did not see the
      importance of the Internet in the country. He hijacked it," the authority said in a

      Its director general, Evans Namanja, said the regulatory authority has since
      engaged a US-based Internet Assigned Numbers Authority to help it repossess the

      But Morgan denied ever having hijacked the 'mw' domain.

      "(The domain) is available to everyone in the country, there are no restrictions, I am
      surprised Malawians have adopted the impression that the domain was hijacked,"
      he said.

      That notwithstanding Internet Service Providers in Malawi say the missing '.mw'
      domain is affecting Internet service provision in Malawi.

      Peter Mpinganjira, an entrepreneur who wanted to launch Malawi's third Internet
      Service Provider - Web and Internet Service Solutions - 14 July, said he has had to
      delay the launching because he could not establish the domain's administrator.

      He said after failing to trace the administrator of the '.mw' domain he had to look for
      alternatives and would now connect to a less powerful domain, 'malawi.com',
      belonging to another Internet administrator, Dr. Saulos Nyirenda, who runs his own
      Internet Service Provider called SDNP.

      "Malawi has only one top-level domain ('.mw') but since a foreigner hijacked it we
      have to resort to smaller private domains like 'malawi.com' and 'malawi.net (owned
      by Malawi's first Internet Service Provider, MalawiNet)," Mpinganjira said.

      '.mw' is hosted in the United States by Tarsus.com.


      Ruling Party Divided Over Muluzi's Alleged Third Term

      Panafrican News Agency
      July 25, 2000
      by Raphael Tenthani

      BLANTYRE, Malawi (PANA) - Sharp differences have emerged within Malawi's
      ruling United Democratic Front over suggestions that President Bakili Muluzi has
      thrown the party in turmoil leading to serious consequences.

      Billionaire businessman James Makhumula Nkhoma has been dismissed as
      treasurer general of the party in what party insiders say is the culmination of a
      long-running power struggle.

      In a scantly worded statement, the party says Makhumula, a flashy business guru
      who likes driving himself in his long expensive Cadillac sporting a cowboy hat, has
      been dismissed in the interest of the party.

      But party sources say Makhumula was thrown out for disagreeing with some party
      stalwarts who want Muluzi to run for a third term.

      Malawi's constitution limits a president to two-five-year terms but in the wake of
      growing power struggle some party officials are campaigning for Muluzi to run for a
      third term.

      "Muluzi is the only unifying factor in the UDF so the majority in the executive has
      endorsed that he should run again," Dumbo Lemania, a close aide of Muluzi told
      PANA Tuesday.

      Lemani has been saying openly for a long time that the UDF has no one apart from
      Muluzi who can lead the party.

      "We have endorsed Muluzi whether some people like it or not; if some people think
      they can be president they are being disloyal to the party," he said.

      But the party's publicity secretary, Cassim Chilumpha said Lemani's views are
      personal and do not represent the thinking of the party executive.

      "The issue has never been discusses because we feel 2004 is a long way away,"
      he observed.

      Chilumpha, who is education minister, said Muluzi himself has never brought up
      the issue. He insisted that even if Muluzi wants to run for a third term, the party
      cannot put the issue under wraps since a referendum would be required to change
      the constitutional clause that limits the presidential term.

      But UDF insiders say the party has been meeting secretly to endorse Muluzi's
      third term.

      Billionaire Makhumula is said to be leading a faction that opposes Muluzi's third
      term, and threatened to resign over the issue several times.

      Meanwhile, the troubles in the opposition Malawi Congress Party has yet to be

      Party supporters in its stronghold in the central region have issued a statement
      saying the MCP president, Gwanda Chakuamba, should not be dismissed for
      allegedly mismanaging party property.

      Chakuamba loyalists, who deny the charges, accuse the party's vice president,
      John Tembo, of sponsoring what they call a gang of confusionists in the party.


      Zimbabwe Farm Strike Spreads

      By Angus Shaw
      Associated Press Writer
      Tuesday, July 25, 2000; 6:03 p.m. EDT

      HARARE, Zimbabwe ** At least 230 white farmers quit working and
      businessmen in a provincial town shut down stores Tuesday in the country's
      biggest action so far to protest a breakdown in law and order, farm union
      officials said.

      Farm strikes will likely spread across the country unless the government
      stops violence and intimidation by illegal occupiers claiming rights to more
      than 1,600 white-owned farms, said Tim Henwood, head of the Commercial
      Farmers Union. Nationwide stoppages would bring the already suffering
      economy closer to a complete collapse.

      President Robert Mugabe has described illegal farm occupations as a
      justified demonstration against unfair land ownership by the nation's 4,000
      white farmers. The white farmers own about a third of the productive land,
      where 2 million workers and their families live.

      As Tuesday's stoppage took hold in and around the town of Karoi, 125 miles
      northwest of Harare, the union said a local farmer was assaulted by about
      50 ruling party militants and veterans of the bush war that ended white rule
      in 1980.

      The farmer, David Brand, was hospitalized with extensive injuries, including
      a suspected broken jaw, after the militants beat and kicked him. Neighbors
      evacuated his wife and baby and an elderly couple from a nearby farm
      cottage, said Chris Shepherd, a union spokesman.

      "It's impossible to go on like this. The government must do something before
      we start up again," Shepherd said.

      Farmers who closed some businesses submitted a list of demands to police,
      including the removal of the district police chief in Karoi, whom they accuse
      of fanning tensions.

      Farm and civic leaders were also hiring lawyers to sue the police chief,
      known only as Chief Superintendent Mabunda, for allegedly assaulting a
      farmer's wife at the police station Tuesday.

      Mabunda was unavailable for comment, officers at his police station said.

      Shepherd said witnesses reported Mabunda struck the woman in the face,
      pushed his finger up her nose and used obscene language while she was
      being jostled by four other officers. Mabunda allegedly told a crowd outside
      that he would fight the district's whites, declaring: "we'll give you war."

      The woman, whose family asked that she not be identified, was being
      treated for shock.

      About 170 farms in Karoi and 60 in neighboring Tengwe district, where
      tobacco and corn is grown, began shutting down their operations Tuesday,
      Shepherd said.

      The farmers union, meanwhile, filed a High Court application in Harare for
      a judicial order to force police, war veterans' leaders and Mugabe to act
      against law breakers on farms.

      The government has ignored two previous High Court orders.

      The work stoppage came a day after a sixth member of Zimbabwe's
      embattled white farming community was found beaten to death south of
      Harare following an apparent robbery attempt. Neighbors blamed the killing
      on an upsurge in crime triggered by illegal farms occupations in their district.

      Authorities have made no arrests in the killings of the six farmers, Henwood
      said. The first was committed in March.
    • 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

        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.


        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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