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  • Christine Chumbler
    The Rich Scramble for President s Memorabilia Panafrican News Agency (Dakar) May 5, 2001 Posted to the web May 5, 2001 Raphael Tenthani Blantyre, Malawi
    Message 1 of 1046 , May 7, 2001
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      The Rich Scramble for President's
      Memorabilia

      Panafrican News Agency
      (Dakar)
      May 5, 2001
      Posted to the web May 5, 2001

      Raphael Tenthani
      Blantyre, Malawi

      Malawians with deep pockets from Friday night until early
      Saturday morning sampled both the culinary and fashion
      tastes of the country's first family at a charity dinner held at
      Sanjika Palace in Blantyre.

      The fund-raising dinner which President Bakili Muluzi and
      wife Patricia Shanil organised was meant to raise money
      for the Freedom Foundation whose founder and patron is
      the president's wife.

      According Angela Nazombe, Shanil's personal assistant,
      the first family hoped to raise at least five million kwacha
      (63,000 US dollars) for the foundation whose core aim is
      to take care of orphans and other underprivileged people
      in society.

      But hours before the dinner, all the 250 seats in the dining
      hall were sold out and the targeted five million kwacha was
      surpassed by 500,000 kwacha.

      Chairman of the fund-raiser, businessman Brian Bowler,
      told PANA Saturday it will be days before the actual figure
      is known because more donations were still reaching the
      fund-raisers.

      "We are still receiving envelopes," he said.

      Apart from the dinner, for which partakers needed to part
      with 20,000 kwacha (252 US dollars) each, the first family
      also auctioned off a collection of their personal effects.

      Up for grabs were two of the president's wristwatches - a
      sparkling Omega and a black Rado, 24 shirts, a pair of
      sunglasses and a Stetson hat.

      Finance minister Mathews Chikaonda coughed up 20,000
      kwacha for one of his boss' shirts. Another big buyer was
      MP Salim Bagus who paid 15,000 kwacha for the
      president's Stetson hat.

      Muluzi's Omega went for 50,000 kwacha (630 US dollars).

      Shanil also sold 12 metres of clothing material, one sari
      dress, a fur coat, two evening handbags, a glittering gold
      and emerald-embroidered necklace and a big leather
      handbag.

      Ministers' and business magnets' wives scrambled for the
      items.

      But the most expensive 'item' up for grabs at the auction
      was not the meal or any piece of the executive
      memorabilia from the first family's collection. The chance
      to sit next to the president at the gala was the most
      expensive item.

      A Blantyre business magnate, H.M. Shawa, had to part
      with 400,000 kwacha (5,041 US dollars) to be seated at
      the high table to have a small talk with the first family and
      be able to partake - at first hand - Muluzi's trademark
      humour.

      Josephine, wife of Malawi's top customs official Ernest
      Mtingwi, coughed up 260,000 kwacha (3,277 US dollars)
      to sit next to the first lady.

      People from all walks of life, including ministers,
      diplomats, MPs and business people graced the dinner.

      The opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) vice
      president John Tembo, although he did not make it to the
      dinner, sent in his 20,000 kwacha for which he got special
      mention.

      The three course meal, dubbed Freedom Foundation
      Surprise, included Sanjika home-made soup, fillets of
      Malawi's favourite tilapia fish locally known as the chambo,
      and an array of wild vegetables.

      Muluzi, looking resplendent in a yellow (his party's colour)
      jacket, was beaming with glee as he thanked those who
      donated generously.

      He said while the diners could afford three square meals a
      day, several other disadvantaged Malawians like orphans,
      widows and the aged cannot afford even a meal a day.

      He said that his wife set up the foundation in 1999 to look
      after those people, especially Malawi's growing number of
      orphans - currently estimated at 300,000 - due to the
      HIV/AIDS pandemic.

      The foundation also seeks to empower poor rural women
      and other less-privileged sections of society like the aged.

      *****

      Thugs Attack Opposition Officials in
      Muluzi's Home District

      Panafrican News Agency
      (Dakar)
      May 6, 2001
      Posted to the web May 6, 2001

      Blantyre, Malawi

      Police are searching for a group of thugs who on Saturday
      attacked functionaries of the opposition National
      Democratic Alliance (NDA) pressure group at Machinga,
      about 100 km east of Blantyre.

      The NDA officials were attacked while travelling in a van
      from which they used loudspeakers to announce a public
      rally to be addressed Sunday by NDA's leader and former
      cabinet minister Brown Mpinganjira.

      Their attackers, believed to be supporters of the ruling
      United Democratic Front (UDF) of President Bakili Muluzi,
      came in a lorry and forced the van to stop.

      The thugs injured three of the NDA officials, two of them
      seriously, and set the van on fire before escaping.
      Machinga is the home district of President Muluzi.

      Constable Paul Banda of Machinga police post told
      PANA Sunday that police were looking for a group of
      young men who attacked the NDA people. He could not
      confirm whether the police were looking for specific UDF
      officials or supporters.

      "We have opened a file, investigations are on, so I can't
      tell, but we will make arrests," he said.

      The injured people could not recognise any of their
      attackers. "They don't seem to be from here, so they didn't
      recognise anybody," Banda said.

      A nurse at St. Luke Hospital at Chilema Anglican Mission,
      some 20 km from the scene of the incident, confirmed the
      hospital had received the Machinga casualties. She said
      two of the injured were in critical condition.

      "They are still receiving treatment here," she said, adding
      that one of the victims was caughing blood and the other
      one who sustained deep cuts on the forehead had his
      wounds stitched.

      Meanwhile, the attack has angered NDA officials who
      accuse the police of bias. NDA legal advisor Viva Nyimba
      said the police were failing to arrest the attackers for fear
      of annoying the ruling elite.

      "They know who these thugs are," he said, insisting they
      could have arrested them immediately.

      But UDF secretary general Reidwillie Katenga Kaunda
      denied any knowledge of the incident, saying his party
      does not bar anybody from addressing a meeting
      anywhere in the country.

      While Machinga is regarded as a UDF fortress,
      Mpinganjira's foray in the district is seen as testing the
      waters of his own growing popularity before the next
      general elections, scheduled for 2004.

      *****

      Zimbabwe Agency Raided by Militants

      By Angus Shaw

      HARARE, Zimbabwe
      Ruling party-backed militants stormed the offices of aid agency CARE International and abducted its Canadian director for several hours.

      Dennis O'Brien said Saturday he had been released unharmed, but refused to give further information about his abduction the day before. Witnesses said that police called in by Canadian officials did nothing as O'Brien was forced into a car.

      Zimbabwe has been plagued by violence triggered by the illegal seizure of hundreds of white-owned farms across the country by ruling-party militants. President Robert Mugabe has described the occupations as a justified protest against unfair land ownership by the descendants of colonial-era British settlers.

      Over the past month, militant veterans of the bush war that led to independence have begun targeting aid agencies and businesses. They have stormed at least 20 mostly white-run companies, claiming to be mediating in labor disputes.

      Mugabe's ruling party has given its backing to the militants, and police have not prevented the attacks or arrested militants who have forced money from businessmen.

      A week ago, the head of a German aid agency was held hostage by militants demanding compensation for fired employees. After that attack, the government said it could not protect foreign embassies or agencies that supported its political opponents.

      CARE is one of the largest aid agencies in Zimbabwe, with a mostly Zimbabwean staff of about 120 working on poverty alleviation, health, nutrition, emergency relief programs.

      *****

      ZIM 'VETS' THREATEN
      HOSPITAL DIRECTOR
      MILITANT war veterans have
      threatened Zimbabwe's top private
      hospital for the second time in two
      weeks, forcing its managing
      director into hiding, hospital
      officials said Friday. The threats
      on managing director Malcolm
      Boyland came after the hospital
      last week made a Z$115
      000-dollar settlement with the war
      veterans over a six-year-old labor
      dispute involving 30 workers,
      Boyland said by telephone. The
      war veterans returned to the
      Avenues Clinic on Thursday
      demanding the reinstatement of
      the 30 people and the awarding of
      bonuses they would have received
      over the last six years, Boyland
      said. Fearing for his safety,
      Boyland said he took his family
      into hiding. The 187-bed hospital
      remains open. -AFP

      *****

      Key trial opens in
      Zimbabwe

      The trial may decide whether Mr Tsvangirai can run for
      president
      The trial has opened in Harare of Zimbabwe's
      main opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, on
      charges of encouraging the overthrow of
      President Mugabe's government.

      If convicted, Mr Tsvangirai - who was greeted
      by cheering supporters when he arrived at the
      High Court - faces life imprisonment and would
      be banned from standing as the candidate of
      the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in
      next year's presidential election.

      The trial is being seen as a key test of the
      country's democracy.

      Mr Tsvangirai's lawyers
      began by asking the
      judge to refer the
      whole matter to the
      Supreme Court.

      They argued that the
      charges were
      unconstitutional, and
      that the section of the
      Law and Order
      Maintenance Act under
      which he is being
      prosecuted
      contravenes the right
      to freedom of expression guaranteed by the
      Zimbabwean Constitution.

      The prosecution said Mr Tsvangirai's offence of
      calling for the violent removal of a lawfully
      elected president was of such a serious nature
      that it was covered by the act.

      But earlier, Mr Tsvangirai said in an interview
      wit the BBC: "The clause upon which I am
      being tried is totally irrelevant."

      And he said: "The words may have been
      careless, but certainly they were very
      appropriate at the time."

      After hearing the arguments, the judge retired
      to consider his ruling. The trial is expected to
      resume later on Monday.

      Opposition rally

      Mr Tsvangirai faces allegations of terrorism and
      sabotage.

      The charges follow a speech at an MDC rally
      last September, in which Mr Tsvangirai said Mr
      Mugabe could be removed from office by
      violent means if he did not go peacefully.

      Mr Tsvangirai later withdrew his statement. He
      has described the charges as politically
      motivated.

      "By fraud they would like to prevent me from
      contesting and from being the main competitor
      and main challenger to Mugabe," Mr Tsvangirai
      told Reuters news agency.

      "They realise I have built a credible base in the
      country and he [Mr Mugabe] stands no chance
      in a free and fair poll."

      Political impact

      If convicted and sentenced to more than six
      months in prison, the opposition leader would
      be barred from standing in the elections.

      The BBC's Craig Swann in Harare says that
      such a ban would be a major blow to the
      opposition, which lost narrowly to the ruling
      Zanu-PF party in last June's parliamentary
      elections.

      One of the defence lawyers said on Sunday
      the case "could be very drawn out".

      Last year's parliamentary elections were
      overshadowed by the deaths of at least 31
      people - mainly MDC supporters - and the
      violent seizure of white-owned farm land by
      self-styled war veterans.

      The pro-government militants have launched a
      campaign of intimidation against opposition
      groups and white landowners.
    • 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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