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  • Christine Chumbler
    Several Arrests After Death During Violence UN Integrated Regional Information Network (Nairobi) April 10, 2001 Posted to the web April 10, 2001 President
    Message 1 of 1046 , Apr 11, 2001
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      Several Arrests After Death During

      UN Integrated Regional
      Information Network (Nairobi)
      April 10, 2001
      Posted to the web April 10, 2001

      President Bakili Muluzi of Malawi has strongly condemned
      political violence which resulted in the death of one person
      in Blantyre's rural east constituency on Sunday, reports
      said on Monday.

      PANA quoted the president's press secretary, Wille
      Zingani as saying that "functionaries" of the opposition
      Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and National Democratic
      Alliance (NDA) were to blame for the unrest. Zingani said
      the functionaries "teamed up with their supporters to
      disrupt a campaign meeting" which was scheduled to be
      addressed by leaders of the ruling United Democratic
      Front (UDF) leaders at Chiweta Full Primary school in the
      constituency. Reports said the president had instructed
      the police to investigate the matter and arrest anyone
      involved in the killing.

      Police in Blantyre on Monday arrested an official of the
      main opposition MCP. Levison Mlauzi, an MCP
      parliamentary by-election candidate was arrested late on
      Sunday with five other opposition supporters. Police
      spokesman Oliver Soko told PANA that those arrested
      were yet to be formally charged in court because
      investigation into circumstances surrounding the unrest
      was still under way. The Blantyre rural east constituency
      fell vacant following the death of its MP, Iqbal Lambat last
      year. The by-elections are scheduled for 24 April.

      Presidential affairs minister Dumbo Lemani, who is also
      UDF director general, told journalists that he feared there
      would be massive voter apathy on election day as people
      will be scared to go out to vote. The Electoral
      Commission's press officer, Fergus Lipenga, said the
      commission summoned all its members to a crisis
      meeting in Blantyre late Monday to discuss the violence.


      Opposition Reacts to Muluzi's Allegations

      Panafrican News Agency
      April 10, 2001
      Posted to the web April 10, 2001

      Dakar, Senegal

      The opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) Tuesday
      refuted President Bakili Muluzi's allegations that the MCP
      was responsible for the death of a UDF supporter who
      was fatally wounded at a public rally in a Blantyre rural east
      constituency last Sunday.

      Muluzi, who is also chairman of the ruling United
      Democratic Front (UDF), alleged on Monday that MCP
      members ambushed and disrupted a UDF rally in the
      area, stabbing and beating up officials.

      "We regard this impromptu statement [from Muluzi] as a
      deliberate move to misinform the nation and hide UDF
      evils of terror and intimidation which the ruling party has
      always employed to win by-elections," said MCP
      chairman Gwanda Chakuamba in a statement.

      "The truth of the matter," he added, "is that the MCP
      organised a rally in the Chiweta area and made prior
      notification to the Electoral Commission and the police as

      Chakuamba, who said he was to officially launch the
      campaign and formally introduce the MCP candidate,
      affirmed that there was no indication whatsoever, that the
      UDF had a meeting in the area.

      "At around midday while MCP officials were preparing for
      the rally, a Blantyre City Council vehicle carrying UDF
      thugs chanting UDF slogans was seen advancing towards
      the prepared venue of the MCP rally," he recounted.

      "They (thugs) set ablaze a white Toyota Hilux belonging to
      Mr Hodgeson Kambiya, MCP south regional organising
      secretary, among other casualties."

      Chakuamba said the thugs, led by one Evans Makata and
      UDF by-election candidate Henry Dama Phoya, came
      looking for the MCP candidate Levison Mlauzi.

      "They were carrying gallons of petrol and pangas, chanting
      that they wanted to kill our candidate," he reported.

      Chakuamba dismissed as "baseless, unfortunate and
      unfounded," President Muluzi's claim that the UDF militant
      died in the hands of a pressure group comprising the
      MCP, the Alliance for Democracy and the National
      Democratic Alliance (NDA).

      According to Chakuamba, the "unidentified UDF thug was
      mistakenly hit in the head by fellow UDF thugs as he was
      returning from the commotion."

      The opposition leader insisted that "it is the very UDF top
      officials who are at the centre of political violence in the
      country," adding "what is surprising is that these very
      people are now turning around to claim innocence and
      preach that they are the champions of democracy."

      He noted that the incident was but among many, recalling
      that in another by-election in the central Malawi district of
      Kasungu, he (Chakuamba) and another MCP official were
      "almost killed by the very UDF thugs who seemingly are
      above the law."

      He cited yet another incident in Dowa East and Dedza
      West constituencies in central Malawi, in which "MCP
      candidates were beaten and houses of MCP loyalists set

      Concluding, Chakuamba said "we therefore strongly
      condemn the State President's failed attempt to tarnish
      the image of the MCP and NDA, and call on the law
      enforcers and the Electoral Commission to take
      appropriate action against the identified UDF thugs,
      particularly Mr Evans Makata and UDF candidate Phoya."

      The Sunday violence left UDF supporter and market
      vendor Duncan Kanjuchi dead.

      Muluzi has ordered the police to swiftly investigate the
      incident and arrest those found responsible for the

      The police have since swung in arresting six MCP
      supporters, including Mlauzi, who was the MCP candidate
      for the by-election.


      Flood Update

      UN Integrated Regional
      Information Network (Nairobi)
      April 10, 2001
      Posted to the web April 10, 2001

      The level of the Zambezi River was slowly falling at all the
      measuring stations, OCHA said in its latest Mozambique
      update on Tuesday. It added that levels of the Buzi and the
      Save rivers were also reducing. "For the coming days, no
      exceptional rain is foreseen in the downstream area of the
      Zambezi River, indicating that the situation continues to be
      improving. However, localized showers could occur in
      Sofala and Tete provinces in the afternoons and evenings.
      Rain and thundershowers are expected over high ground
      in the northern provinces of Niassa, Nampula and Cabo
      Delgado," OCHA noted.

      According to OCHA the Director of the National Institute
      for Disaster Management (INGC) stated last week that
      humanitarian operations in the flood-affected areas would
      have to continue for at least one month more. It added that
      an immunisation campaign was continuing in the
      accommodation centres. "Children under five receive
      measles vaccine and everyone in the centre is targeted for
      meningitis immunisation. Pregnant women receive
      anti-tetanus vaccines," said OCHA.

      OCHA added that the International Federation of the Red
      Cross (IFRC) reported that 52.1 percent of its US $2.9
      million appeal had been covered. It said that 23 percent of
      the total appeal had been received in cash and 29.1
      percent in goods and services. "The governments of
      Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany,
      Italy, Japan, Morocco, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain,
      Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States have
      pledged or provided cash and/or in-kind contributions
      bilaterally or through NGOs or the UN system. As of 9
      April, OCHA recorded US $12 million," the update said.

      Meanwhile in Malawi, more than 330,000 people have
      been displaced and 59 people lost their lives in 13 of
      Malawi's 27 districts during the recent heavy rains and
      floods, OCHA said in its latest update on Tuesday. It
      added that a joint FAO/WFP food assessment mission
      which was completed on 19 March estimated the crop
      damage at between 10 and 80 percent and the total crop
      affected area at 41,706 hectares.

      OCHA said the government of Botswana had 16 motor
      boats for flood relief operations and that to date, the
      governments of Botswana, Canada, China, Germany,
      Norway, Sweden and the United States had pledged or
      provided cash and or in-kind contributions bilaterally or
      through NGOs or the UN system. As of 9 April, OCHA
      recorded US $424,379 in donor contributions.


      Sorting Out Border Confusion

      Panafrican News Agency
      April 11, 2001
      Posted to the web April 11, 2001

      Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania

      Tanzania and Malawi have resolved to reinforce the banks
      of River Songwe, which runs across their common border,
      in a bid to check recurrent friction among inhabitants on
      both sides, press reports said Wednesday.

      River Songwe alters its course each time heavy rains
      occur, creating confusion as to the limits of national
      borders among locals along its banks in Tanzania and

      Representatives from the two countries last week signed
      an agreement in Mbeya, southern Tanzania, in which they
      resolved to mutually canalise the river to avoid future

      Permanent Secretary at the ministry of Lands and Human
      Settlement Development Salome Sijaona, represented
      Tanzania while Anna Kawalewale signed for the
      government of Malawi.

      Formerly, the river meandered deep into Malawi and
      Tanzania following a heavy downpour of rain and caused

      Because of this, concern has been rising over the need to
      clearly determine the exact borderlines as they existed in
      pre-Independence times.

      Recently, Tanzania and Malawi have been seeking foreign
      assistance to undertake a technical study that would help
      demarcate a permanent common frontier.


      Founding Members Quit Opposition

      Panafrican News Agency
      April 11, 2001
      Posted to the web April 11, 2001

      Blantyre, Malawi

      At least three key founding members of the newly
      established opposition National Democratic Alliance
      (NDA) in Malawi have decamped to join the ruling United
      Democratic Front (UDF) of President Bakili Muluzi.

      Two days after NDA's southern region provincial
      commissioner Winston Sakwata quit the alliance, interim
      campaign director Ken Msonda and his deputy, George
      Dilla, Wednesday said they too were bailing out.

      Msonda and Dilla said they were quitting the pressure
      group to rejoin the UDF because of bad administration in
      the NDA.

      They accused founding leader Brown Mpinganjira of not
      equitably sharing money business people were donating
      to the group.

      "We even fail to support our families while you spend
      money on whisky almost everyday," the deserters wrote in
      a letter to Mpinganjira, adding "there are always funds
      available for whisky but nothing for the maintenance of the
      campaign team."

      Observers reckon the departure of vocal Msonda, a gifted
      orator known to work up crowds, would be a big blow to
      the pressure group, at time when it needed to sell its
      agenda to the masses.

      Reacting to the desertions, Mpinganjira laughed them off,
      saying he was aware that the ruling establishment had set
      aside huge sums of money to buy off opposition bigwigs.

      "I am aware that many MPs from the opposition have been
      approached and many of those with weak financial base
      would sure fall for the money," he said.

      He intimated that the NDA's loose alliance with the
      opposition MCP and AFORD had completely finished the
      ruling UDF's gains in the opposition strongholds of the
      central and northern regions.

      Even Presidential Affairs minister and UDF secretary
      general Dumbo Lembo was equally derisive of those
      currently crossing the carpet, calling them opportunists.

      "Now that they have discovered that there is no money in
      the NDA they have started coming back to the UDF," he
    • 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.


        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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