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Re: [ujeni] news

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  • James Werle
    Hey Dudley, how s it going? Zim does appear from the outside to be going down. I haven t heard of anyone going there recently but I m sure if you don t hang
    Message 1 of 1046 , Apr 30 1:30 PM
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      Hey Dudley,  how's it going?
       
      Zim does appear from the outside to be going down.  I haven't heard of anyone going there recently but I'm sure if you don't hang out on occupied farms and walk around with cash in harare at night or, you know, do stuff like that, chances are nothing "major domo" would happen to you.  I did read this thing that the fuel shortage has caused a major domo collapse of the vic falls tourism industry (the countires flag ship #1 visited tourist site as we all know).  Why don't they promote Zim tourism to US people as paint ball PLUS (kind of like milk plus).  Instead you go to an occupied farm and run around with a AK 47 trying to dodge real bullets and ex-war veteran guerillas with long pointed black beards and evil in their eye.  I bet Johnson would do it?  By the way, speaking of AK-47s, did you know there is a place outside of Saigon where the VC let you shoot ALL of the weapons from the Vietnam war as long as you like for like 5 bucks.  Not a bad price. 
       
      I don't know if PC  is still in Zim.  I'm guessing not. 
       
      James Werle
       
      ----- Original Message -----
      Sent: Monday, April 30, 2001 12:19 PM
      Subject: Re: [ujeni] news

      Is Peace Corps still in Zimbabwe.  Has anyone traveled or heard of anyone
      traveling to Zim?  I am just wondering if it is as bad there as the news
      makes it out to be.

      Dan


      >From: "Christine Chumbler" <cchumble@...>
      >Reply-To: ujeni@yahoogroups.com
      >To: shelley.milstein@...,ujeni@yahoogroups.com, seanconchar@...
      >Subject: [ujeni] news
      >Date: Mon, 30 Apr 2001 10:50:40 -0400
      >
      >Ruling Party Tops Council By-Elections
      >
      >Panafrican News Agency (Dakar)
      >April 26, 2001
      >Posted to the web April 26, 2001
      >
      >Blantyre, Malawi
      >
      >Malawi's ruling United Democratic Front (UDF) has won 10 of
      >the 21 wards in Tuesday's local government by-election.
      >
      >Chief Elections Officer of the Malawi Electoral Commission
      >George Chimwaza said Thursday that the second opposition
      >Alliance for Democracy (AFORD) of former trade unionist
      >Chakufwa Chihana won seven wards while the main opposition
      >Malawi Congress Party (MCP) only managed to get only one.
      >Two wards went to independent candidates, he said.
      >
      >Chimwaza, however, said results of one ward in the central
      >district of Kasungu have been withheld pending investigations
      >into what he termed "serious irregularities."
      >
      >"We are suspecting fraud because there is no way voter turn-
      >out can surpass the figures we have on the roll," he said.
      >
      >Lipenga said just like the 21 November 2000 local government
      >elections where voter turnout was a dismal 14.7 per cent,
      >turnout in the 24 April re-run was equally low at 17.7 per cent.
      >
      >The results means the ruling UDF still controls local
      >government affairs with 621 of the 861 councillors. AFORD has
      >127 councillors while the MCP has 82.
      >
      >The National Independence Party (NIP) of former UDF MP and
      >deputy speaker of Parliament Arthur Makhalira, has one
      >councillor while independent councillors control 29 wards.
      >
      >The local government by-elections were initially planned to hold
      >concurrently with a crucial parliamentary by-election in a rural
      >constituency outside Blantyre, where lawyer Henry Dama Phoya
      >is standing on a UDF ticket against businessman Levison
      >Mlauzi of the MCP.
      >
      >But the parliamentary re-run was stayed following political
      >violence on 8 April between UDF and MCP supporters that left
      >one UDF cadre dead.
      >
      >*****
      >
      >Church Alleges Muzzling By Malawian
      >Government
      >
      >Panafrican News Agency (Dakar)
      >April 29, 2001
      >Posted to the web April 29, 2001
      >
      >Blantyre, Malawi
      >
      >In a letter read Sunday in parishes across Malawi, the Church
      >of Central African Presbyterian (CCAP) has said its members
      >were under threats after they read a previous pastoral circular
      >highly critical of the ruling establishment.
      >
      >The letter further complained that in some cases CCAP
      >Christians in districts affected by the recent flooding have been
      >denied relief items as punishment for the pastoral letter.
      >
      >The church also alleges that some influential pastors and
      >elders had been approached and enticed with money to
      >discredit the pastoral letter as the work of politicians.
      >
      >President Bakili Muluzi has, however, taken a rather conciliatory
      >stance on the palaver.
      >
      >He told a rally in Blantyre earlier Saturday and a church service
      >in the southern town of Balaka Sunday, that he has instructed
      >officials to respond diplomatically to concerns raised in the
      >letter.
      >
      >"We are all not perfect, we makes mistakes. My government
      >accepts criticism from anybody," he said.
      >
      >Meanwhile, leaders of the Christian Council of Malawi
      >(Protestant) and the Episcopal Conference of Malawi (Roman
      >Catholic) have hinted they would meet in the week ahead to
      >discuss how to strengthen their cooperation against what they
      >called social ills.
      >
      >*****
      >
      >8 Quizzed Over Estate Scandal
      >
      >Panafrican News Agency (Dakar)
      >April 29, 2001
      >Posted to the web April 29, 2001
      >
      >Blantyre, Malawi
      >
      >Malawi police are investigating eight employees of the
      >Administrator General's Office over the disappearance of
      >hundreds of thousands of dollars belonging to dead people.
      >
      >The fraud was uncovered following an inquiry ordered by
      >Justice Minister and Attorney General Peter Fachi last May,
      >after some widows complained that they got nothing from the
      >estates left behind by their late husbands.
      >
      >The inquiry discovered alleged loopholes in the administration
      >of the estates, making it easy for unscrupulous officials to cash
      >cheques meant for dependants of the deceased.
      >
      >According to a report from the probe, "proper cash books were
      >last maintained in 1997.
      >
      >It also said that some 46 million Malawi Kwacha (about 575, 000
      >US dollars) was undistributed for two years, raising suspicion of
      >intended diversion.
      >
      >Many beneficiaries, who daily besiege the Administrator's Office
      >for claims have also alleged that officials demand bribes from
      >claimants.
      >
      >The report further noted that there were no records for the 20
      >million Kwacha (about 250,000 US dollars) disbursed between
      >1998 and 2000 from the dead men's estates.
      >
      >The Weekend Nation Saturday reported a case of how
      >beneficiaries were swindled.
      >
      >It involved one Alina Makunganya, whose husband, an
      >employee of a security firm, died last year.
      >
      >The weekly reported that money in the estate the man left
      >behind, had already been paid out to claimants, who could not
      >be traced by either the Administrator General's Office or the
      >security firm.
      >
      >Administrator General Benard Makwinja, blamed some of the
      >problems on shortage of staff.
      >
      >He was quoted as saying that the 22 staff in his office, including
      >the eight on interdiction, were handling 19,000 cases.
      >
      >The official also indicated that the lack of National identity cards
      >hindered the smooth operation of the scheme.
      >
      >*****
      >
      >Floods Force Grain Estimates Down 25 Per
      >Cent
      >
      >Panafrican News Agency (Dakar)
      >April 26, 2001
      >Posted to the web April 26, 2001
      >
      >Blantyre, Malawi
      >
      >Malawi would this year experience a 25 per cent drop in grain
      >yields as a result of devastating floods in 13 of the country's 27
      >districts.
      >
      >The ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development says
      >grain yield would also drop in some districts because of an
      >outbreak of armyworms.
      >
      >Agricultural extension and technical services controller Charles
      >Matabwa said the floods washed away of crops like the staple
      >food maize.
      >
      >In other cases submerged crops, most of which had already
      >reached maturing stages, simply rotted away after staying
      >under water for too long.
      >
      >"Further problems would come from isolated draught in some
      >areas of [the southern district of] Machinga, besides
      >post-harvest losses," Matabwa said.
      >
      >Districts like Salima experienced an unprecedented outbreak of
      >armyworms.
      >
      >According to programme officer for Salima Rural Development
      >Programme Nevison Nhlongo, army worms attacked at least
      >5,000 hectares of crop fields leaving most maize and rice fields
      >bare.
      >
      >Also in Salima rampaging herds of hippopotami destroyed an
      >additional 600 hectares of maize and rice fields.
      >
      >All these natural calamities combined, Malawi's grain prospects
      >do not look too good, Agriculture ministry officials fear, noting
      >that the country requires at least 2.3 million maize - to meet
      >demand.
      >
      >Devastating floods that peaked in February have largely
      >receded and the 350,000 people displaced by the deluge have
      >started returning to their flooded villages.
      >
      >*****
      >
      >Zimbabwe veteran
      >               denies threats
      >
      >               Hunzvi says the reports are damaging to the
      >               government
      >               The leader of Zimbabwe's so-called war
      >               veterans, Chenjerai Hunzvi, has denied that he
      >               threatened to attack foreign embassies and aid
      >               agencies.
      >
      >               He said a report published on Thursday in the
      >               Financial Gazette, which quoted him as saying
      >               that foreign organisations would be the next
      >               target for his supporters, was not true and had
      >               damaged his reputation.
      >
      >               Mr Hunzvi, whose
      >               movement spearheaded
      >               the illegal invasion of
      >               white-owned farms,
      >               told Zimbabwean state
      >               television that his group
      >               could not be seen to be
      >               terrorising foreign
      >               embassies.
      >
      >               His reported threats led to condemnation from
      >               Western powers and calls for the rule of law to
      >               be upheld in Zimbabwe.
      >
      >               The European Union expressed concern over
      >               the issue and called on President Robert
      >               Mugabe's to heed the Vienna Convention,
      >               which stipulates that host countries should
      >               provide full security for diplomatic missions and
      >               personnel.
      >
      >               Government warning
      >
      >               Embassies tightened security, while several aid
      >               agencies have closed their offices in Harare
      >               and pulled out families of expatriate staff.
      >
      >               The Zimbabwean Government had already
      >               warned that could not guarantee the safety of
      >               diplomats and aid workers who, in its words,
      >               became involved in local politics.
      >
      >               Correspondents say
      >               that the rule of law has
      >               steadily collapsed in
      >               Zimbabwe, with farm
      >               invasions and attacks
      >               on white farmers
      >               spreading to all-out
      >               violence and
      >               intimidation against
      >               anyone who opposes
      >               Mr Mugabe's rule.
      >
      >               President Mugabe's
      >               ruling Zanu-PF party
      >               has accused Britain,
      >               the United States and the EU of backing the
      >               opposition Movement for Democratic Change
      >               (MDC).
      >
      >               The government advised that aid workers who
      >               allowed themselves to "indulge in partisan
      >               political work" would not be helped if they got
      >               into trouble.
      >
      >
      >
      >
      >Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to http://docs.yahoo.com/info/terms/
      >
      >

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    • Christine Chumbler
      ADB firm on Karonga-Chitipa road contract by Zainah Liwanda, 22 May 2006 - 06:09:17 The African Development Bank (ADB) has again rejected a proposal by
      Message 1046 of 1046 , May 22, 2006
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        ADB firm on Karonga-Chitipa road contract

        by Zainah Liwanda, 22 May 2006 - 06:09:17

        The African Development Bank (ADB) has again rejected a proposal by government to look for another contractor instead of China Hunan Construction to construct of the long awaited Karonga/Chitipa road.

        China Hunan from Mainland China won the bid which was approved by the ADB but government later wanted to award the contract to a Portuguese firm, Mota Engil, the second lowest bidder, claiming China Hunan's bid was unrealistically low and that the company had very little experience in Africa.

        Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe confirmed on Sunday the ADB rejected the proposal at a meeting held between the bank and Malawi government in Tunisia last week.

        The Malawi government wanted the Tunisia meeting to authorise it to get another contractor for the road, said Gondwe.

        "They did not allow us to look for another contractor because of their regulations. But we are about to get another alternative for Karonga/Chitipa and I would be surprised if it does not start before end June," said Gondwe.

        The minister explained that the bank insisted that regardless of the unrealistic cost estimates, China Hunan should be allowed to go ahead with the construction.

        But Gondwe could not give further details about the alternatives, arguing there are still a few loose ends to tighten up before disclosing it.

        The problem with China Hunan, according to Gondwe, is that it would require more money to meet the total cost of the project.

        This paper reported last week that government met Taiwanese representatives where they offered to fund the road if the ADB continued to reject its favoured contractor, Mota Engil.

        Gondwe could neither confirm nor deny the reports on the Taiwanese offer, saying government was looking at a number of ways to handle the issue.

        According to Gondwe, the China Hunan's bid was 24 percent lower than the consulting engineers' estimates of K7.9 billion and 34 percent below the second lowest bidder.

        President Bingu wa Mutharika laid a foundation stone for the construction of the road this year ahead of a crucial byelection in Chitipa in December last year.

        The President's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) won the Chitipa Wenya constituency by-election that fell vacant following the collapse and subsequent death of Speaker of Parliament Rodwell Munyenyembe who belonged to the UDF.

        Last week, police and the District Commissioner (DC) for Chitipa stopped a rally that was aimed at soliciting people's views about development projects in the district.

        The meeting, which was reportedly organised by Concerned Citizens of Chitipa, was among other things also supposed to tackle the controversial Karonga/Chitipa road.

        The project failed to start off in 2000 when a contract for an initial loan of US$17 million and US$15 million from the Taiwanese government was signed, with some quarters claiming the Bakili Muluzi administration diverted the money to another road.

        *****

        Chihana operated on

        by Edwin Nyirongo, 22 May 2006 - 06:32:31

        Alliance for Democracy (Aford) president Chakufwa Chihana, who is in South Africa receiving treatment, had a brain operation on Friday at Garden City Clinic, family and party officials confirmed on Sunday.

        Aford national chairman Chipimpha Mughogho said he was told by the family members that Chihana had a successful operation on Friday and was put in an intensive care unit.

        Mughogho said Chihana, who initially complained of headache, was found with a brain tumour which South African doctors removed.

        Mzimba West MP Loveness Gondwe said Aford boss condition was stable.

        "Hon. Chihana had a major operation and after that he was put in the intensive care unit but his condition is stable. I do not know where he was operated on but it had something to do with the skull," she said.

        Deputy Information Minister John Bande referred the matter to the Health Minister Hetherwick Ntaba who was reported to be in Geneva, Switzerland.

        Aford publicity secretary Norman Nyirenda said when Chihana's situation got worse, the family alerted the Office of the President and Cabinet who took him to Mwaiwathu Private Hospital.

        "The doctors at Mwaiwathu advised that he should be sent to South Africa and they even identified the doctor for him," he said.

        He said the costs are being met by the Malawi government, contradicting his earlier statement that his boss covered the cost.

        Mughogho is now in charge of the party.

        Gondwe will be a busy person when Parliament starts meeting on June 6 as she is the only Aford MP remaining.

        *****

        Pillane proposes presidential age limit

        by Emmanuel Muwamba , 22 May 2006 - 06:34:13

        A member of the DPP National Governing Council Abdul Pillane on Saturday urged members of political parties and the civil society to put an upper age limit in the Constitution for presidential candidates.

        Pillane was addressing members of political parties and civil society in Liwonde during a two-day follow up workshop to the National Conference on the Review of Constitution held in March in Lilongwe.

        "My view is that (an upper) age limit should be at 75. We have to give a chance to younger people to lead because in circumstance, when you age you become forgetful especially when sickly," said Pillane. "Overall, chances should be given to young people."

        But UDF secretary general Kennedy Makwangwala, whose party members agitated for the age limit during presentations, played the issue down.

        "I feel there is no logic to have an upper age limit for presidential candidates. If someone is 90 or 80 I don't know how that can influence the electorate not to vote for someone who is younger, I don't see any logic behind that," said Makwangwala.

        MCP participants at the workshop also vehemently objected to the proposal.

        MCP vice president Nicholas Dausi in an interview said: "There is no constitution in Africa which stipulates an upper age limit. So it would be strange in Malawi to have an upper age limit for presidential candidates."

        MDP President Kamlepo Kalua also opposed the need to have an upper age limit.

        "If we have personalities in mind that we want to discriminate against then it is unfortunate. The constitution we want to build is a guiding document for future generations and it should not bar certain individuals on the basis of grudges," he said.

        The Malawi Law Constitution Issues Paper of March 2006 says several submissions that were received put an upper presidential age limit in the Constitution.

        "It is argued that it is common sense that mental knowledge faculties tend to fail with age. As regards what the actual age limit should be the submissions are far from being agreed. The range is from 60 years to 80 years," read submissions in the Issues Paper.

        On whether MPs should double as ministers, Kalua said this should be the case.

        Makwangwala also said it is not right for MPs to serve as ministers because the Legislature, another arm of government, is reduced while the Executive branch is beefed up from another arm of government.

        "There is no separation of powers when MPs double as ministers," said Makwangwala.

        But Pillane said there is no problem for MPs to work as ministers as well, saying MPs are elected by the President.

        "One can serve both posts. There have been no problems before for people to double," said Pillane.

        The Centre for Multiparty Democracy funded the workshop through the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy.

        The objective was to come up with a collective position on the Issues Paper which will be presented to the Special Law Commission that will be constituted soon.

        *****

        Mussa hails new driving licence

        by Zainah Liwanda, 22 May 2006 - 06:58:52

        Transport and Public Works Minister Henry Mussa last week said the design of the Malawi-Sadc driving licence would guard against forgery and ensure that only skilled and legitimate drivers of particular vehicles are licensed.

        Mussa was speaking at the official launch of the licences in Lilongwe where he announced that traffic police would from July enforce speed limits and sober driving using Breathalysers which his ministry is in the process of procuring.

        The minister said financial constraints are the reason for the delay in procuring the equipment but assured that by July they would be available.

        "With the new equipment, the days of those who believe in the thrill of drink and driving are numbered," warned Mussa.

        Mussa added that with the new licence, government is optimistic that the country's roads would be safe.

        Acting Director of Road Traffic James Chirwa said the features that distinguish the new from the old licences are the Malawi national flag and a ghost image of the driver's photograph, among others.

        Those with old licences, according to Chirwa, are expected to get the new ones after the expiry of the former.

        *****

        UDF demands investigation on Kasambara

        by Rabecca Theu, 22 May 2006 - 06:30:46

        The United Democratic Front (UDF) has asked government to investigate Ralph Kasambara on allegations of abuse of office while he was attorney general.

        UDF publicity secretary Sam Mpasu told the press Sunday that the party is neither amused or saddened by the removal of the former AG but asked government to institute investigations on Kasambara.

        "Beyond the removal of the Attorney General, we now urge President Mutharika to institute investigation against Mr Kasambara into allegations that have made rounds in the public domain during the recent past. These include: Mrs Helen Singh and SS Rent-a-Car; SGS and ITS saga; ...........the use of Malawi Police Service in the arrest of three Chronicle journalists and the handling of Mrs Rubina Kawonga," said Mpasu.

        Mpasu also accused Kasambara of awarding government contracts to Lawson and Company where he was a senior partner.

        "We urge government to thoroughly investigate the former AG. We also ask government to cautiously select the new AG ," said Mpasu, who was accompanied by the party's Secretary General Kennedy Makwangwala, leader of the party in Parliament George Mtafu, chief whip Leonard Mangulama and a member of the executive Hophmally Makande.

        But Minister of Information Patricia Kaliati said UDF should give offer its advice to the Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB).

        "They should advise bodies like the Anti-Corruption Bureau to conduct the investigations and why are they saying this now? Is it because Kasambara has been fired? This is not a personal issue. If they have other pressing issues they should just say so. These arguments should have come up earlier on when the said cases were happening," she said.

        Kasambara asked UDF to proceed with the mission of urging government to investigate him.

        "They can do their job. Everyone has a right to lobby for anything they want in the country. UDF has a right to do that, let them go ahead," he said.

        Kasambara was relieved of his duties as AG by the President last week. Government has not given reasons behind the removal.

        *****

        Zambia: Malawians Grab Zambian Land

        The Times of Zambia (Ndola)

        May 18, 2006

        Posted to the web May 19, 2006

        Andrew Lungu

         

        MALAWIANS who have encroached on both the 'no-man's' and part of the Zambian land at the Mwami border in Eastern Province have plucked out some beacons that were used in the demarcation of the border.

        The Malawians are now using the beacons as stools in their newly-established villages on Zambian land.

        Eastern Province Minister, Boniface Nkhata, said in Chipata yesterday that if the situation was not controlled urgently, Zambia would lose huge tracts of land to Malawians migrating into Zambian in large numbers.

        A check at the Zambia-Malawi border showed a number of beacons had been vandalised and new structures constructed on the 'no man's' land and a large portion of Zambian land.

        Mr Nkhata said the trend extended to many parts of the province bordering the two countries.

        "A large portion of Zambian land has been taken up by the Malawians starting from the Chama boundary up to the Mwami border.

        "The weighbridge at the Mwami border was initially in Zambia from the time both countries gained independence from Britain, but now the bridge is on Malawian soil," Mr Nkhata said.

        The minister, who is former Chama District Commissioner, said there was similar encroachment in Lundazi and Chama districts where Zambia shares a boundary with Malawi.

        He said a Malawian farmer identified as Mr Mfune had cultivated 71.5 hectares on Zambian land and employed about 265 Malawian workers.

        "Khombe Farm in Chama district in Kanyerere's area, along the Muyombe road which leads to Northern Province where this Malawian farmer has cultivated a vast land is on the Zambian territory," he said.

        Workers on the farm admitted that they were farming on Zambian soil but could not go back to Malawi because the land in that country was inadequate for cultivation.

        Mr Nkhata appealed to the ministry of Lands to urgently release money for the demarcation of the Zambia-Malawi border to avoid further land disputes between the two countries.

        Meanwhile, the Immigration Department in Livingstone has arrested a couple and another man, all Zimbabweans, for working in Zambia without permits.

        They were arrested at Gwembe village yesterday where they worked for Into Africa, a tour operating company that provides bush dinners and breakfast.

        According to the Immigration Department in Livingstone, the trio entered Zambia through the Victoria Falls border as visitors but decided to work for the company illegally.

        Last week, immigration officers arrested 10 Zimbabwean traders and six Ethiopians for entering and staying in Zambia illegally.

        The Zimbabwean traders were warned and cautioned and later released.

        The Ethiopians were arrested at Konje Guest House when they ran out of money to proceed to Botswana.

         

        *****

        Zim unions, MDC still plan anti-govt protests

        Harare, Zimbabwe

        22 May 2006 11:51

        Zimbabwe's biggest labour federation on Saturday threatened to call massive demonstrations against the government over poor salaries and worsening living conditions for workers in the country.

        The threats are ratcheting up pressure against President Robert Mugabe's government after similar threats by the biggest opposition party in the country, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), about two months ago.

        Speaking at the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) conference on Saturday, the labour body's president, Lovemore Matombo, said the powerful union wants the government to award workers salaries that match the country's ever-rising inflation.

        "I can assure you we will stage massive demonstrations to force them [employers] to award workers minimum salaries that tally with the poverty datum line," said Matombo.

        Matombo did not say when exactly the ZCTU would order workers to strike.

        Opposition protests

        Meanwhile, the MDC on Sunday said it will push ahead with plans for anti-government protests, saying victory in a key by-election at the weekend was a "sign the electorate supported its policies", including democratic mass resistance.

        A spokesperson of the main faction of the splintered MDC, Nelson Chamisa, said victory over Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF and a rival MDC faction in a Saturday by-election in Harare's Budiriro constituency is a sign Zimbabweans still have confidence in party leader Morgan Tsvangirai and his policies.

        Tsvangirai, the founding leader of the MDC, heads the main rump of the opposition party whose candidate, Emmanuel Chisvuure, polled 7 949 votes to win the Budiriro House of Assembly seat.

        Gabriel Chaibva of the other faction of the MDC, led by prominent academic Arthur Mutambara, garnered 504 votes while Zanu-PF's Jeremiah Bvirindi polled 3 961 votes.

        "This election showed that the electorate still has confidence in the MDC [Tsvangirai-led] leadership and its policies," Chamisa told independent news service ZimOnline.

        He added: "We will now move to consolidate our position * we still believe in mass protests. Until we have attained our goals we see no reason why we should abandon [plans for protests]."

        Tsvangirai has threatened to call mass protests this winter against Mugabe and his government. He says the mass protests, whose date he is still to name, are meant to force Mugabe to relinquish power to a government of national unity to be tasked to write a new and democratic Constitution that would ensure free and fair elections held under international supervision.

        Mugabe and his government, who had hoped for victory in Budiriro to show they were recapturing urban support from a splintered MDC, have not taken idly the opposition's threats to call mass protests, with the veteran president warning Tsvangirai he would be "dicing with death" if he ever attempted to instigate a Ukraine-style popular revolt in Zimbabwe.

        Crackdown

        In a fresh crackdown against dissension, the police last week arrested several church and civic leaders for organising public prayers and marches to mark last year's controversial home-demolition exercise by the government.

        The police also banned the marches and prayers, fearing they could easily turn into mass protests against Mugabe and his government.

        However, the marches went ahead in the second-largest city of Bulawayo after organisers had obtained a court order barring the police from stopping the march.

        Political analysts say although Zimbabweans have largely been cowed by Mugabe's tactics of routinely deploying riot police and the military to crush street protests, worsening hunger and poverty are fanning public anger that Tsvangirai -- with proper planning and organisation -- could easily manipulate.

        Zimbabwe is in the grip of a severe six-year old economic crisis that has seen inflation breaching the 1 000% barrier. Last year, the World Bank said Zimbabwe's economic crisis was unprecedented for a country not at war.

        The MDC and major Western governments blame Mugabe for wrecking the country's economy, which was one of the strongest in Africa at independence from Britain 26 years ago.

        Mugabe denies the charge blaming the crisis on sabotage by Britain and her allies after he seized white-owned farms for redistribution to landless blacks six years ago.

        The Harare authorities recently hiked salaries for civil servants, with the lowest-paid soldier now earning about Z$27-million while the lowest-paid school teacher now takes home about Z$33-million.

        But the salaries are still way below the poverty datum line, which the government's Consumer Council of Zimbabwe says now stands at a staggering Z$42-million a month for an average family of six.

        The Zimbabwe government often accuses the ZCTU, a strong ally of the MDC, of pushing a political agenda to remove Mugabe from power.

        Meanwhile, Matombo and Lucia Matibenga retained their posts as president and first vice-president respectively during the ZCTU congress that ended on Saturday. -- ZimOnline

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