Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

news

Expand Messages
  • Christine Chumbler
    German Firm Signs Aids Drug Agreement With Malawi Panafrican News Agency (Dakar) May 21, 2001 Posted to the web May 21, 2001 Raphael Tenthani Blantyre, Malawi
    Message 1 of 1046 , May 21, 2001
    • 0 Attachment
      German Firm Signs Aids Drug Agreement
      With Malawi

      Panafrican News Agency
      (Dakar)
      May 21, 2001
      Posted to the web May 21, 2001

      Raphael Tenthani
      Blantyre, Malawi

      The Malawi government has approved that the AIDS drug
      Nevirapine should be administered free of charge to
      HIV-positive pregnant women in the country.

      Wesley Sangala, Chief Technical Advisor in the Ministry of
      Health, told PANA the government in April signed the
      agreement with a German pharmaceutical company,
      Boehringer Ingelheim, which will be supplying Nevirapine
      free of charge. The cabinet has just approved the
      agreement, he added.

      Sangala, who refused to disclose other aspects of the
      agreement, said HIV-positive pregnant women will be put
      on the Nevirapine dosage during both ante- and post-natal
      periods.

      "This will be free," he said.

      Sangala said administration of the drug would begin in
      November and the agreement will run for five years.

      He said a two-year trial period of the drug showed a
      significant drop in mother-to-child transmission. The study
      showed that women on the drug had only a 30 percent risk
      of transmitting the disease to their babies while the risk for
      the rest was almost at 100 percent, he said.

      About 10 percent of pregnant women in the rural areas
      tested HIV-positive at ante-natal clinics while 30 percent of
      urban women are found to be carrying the virus that leads
      to AIDS, according to Sangala.

      Available statistics from the National AIDS Control
      Programme showed that at least 40,000 under-five
      children have HIV.

      Sangala said while the mothers could not be rid of HIV
      with Nevirapine, the drug reduced viral load - the amount
      of the virus in their system - thereby increasing chances of
      a longer life.

      Although government introduced a subsidised AIDS drug
      cocktail scheme in selected hospitals last year, many
      Malawians living with HIV still find them very expensive.

      For instance, a three-drug cocktail costs 10,000 kwacha
      (about 132 US dollars) in government hospitals and
      30,000 (about 395 US dollars) in private clinics.

      According to the Ministry of Health, only 30 patients are
      buying the cocktails at Blantyre's main hospital, the Queen
      Elizabeth Central, while only 50 are buying the drugs in the
      capital, Lilongwe. And one patient in the northern city of
      Mzuzu is buying the drugs.

      Sangala said the government was currently discussing
      with a number of pharmaceutical companies to consider
      lowering AIDS drugs further.

      *****

      IMF Official Rejects Role of 'Scapegoat'
      for Malawi's Woes

      UN Integrated Regional
      Information Network (Nairobi)
      May 19, 2001
      Posted to the web May 19, 2001

      An IMF official on Friday struck back at what he called "a
      tendency in Malawi to scapegoat the IMF and the donor
      community for problems which are of the country's own
      making", AFP reported.

      "We believe that Malawi, its people and its leaders are
      capable of finding their solutions and dictating their
      destiny," Thomas Gibson, the IMF resident representative
      in Malawi, wrote in a local daily paper.

      Gibson was reacting to a report in the 'Nation' newspaper
      which attacked the IMF for opposing salary reforms in the
      civil service, Gibson said Malawi faces the dilemma of
      striking a balance between the country's many needs and
      available resources. He warned the country against
      reliance on inflationary sources of funding from local banks
      and from abroad in an effort to bridge the gap between
      expenditure and income.

      *****

      South Africa Deports 43 Malawians

      Panafrican News Agency
      (Dakar)
      May 18, 2001
      Posted to the web May 18, 2001

      Raphael Tenthani
      Blantyre, Malawi

      Forty-three Malawians deported from South Africa arrived
      home amid emotional scenes Friday at Chileka Airport in
      Blantyre.

      A chartered South African plane dropped the 43 at the
      airport.

      Malawi Immigration Department Spokesman Hudson
      Mankhwala told journalists the group was rounded up from
      South African streets and townships in a swoop that
      began over the weekend.

      "They were thrown into prison cells ready for today's
      deportation," he said.

      Mankhwala said that all the deportees either did not have
      valid work permits or valid travel documents.

      The group filed through the immigration desks as a mere
      formality since most of them did not have luggage or valid
      travel documents for inspection.

      Immigration officials were on hand to facilitate their entry
      into the country and enquire why and how they were
      deported, according to Mankhwala.

      A middle-aged man, who still had his overalls and a mine
      protection helmet on, told PANA he was coming from an
      afternoon shift in a mine when police stopped him and
      demanded papers.

      "Since I showed them none, I was arrested despite my
      protesting," he said.

      Yet another was barefoot, having been arrested while
      relaxing outside a home where he was working as a
      handyman.

      But the most striking story was that of an ageing man who
      left Malawi for the mines of South Africa a long time ago
      that he was not even aware that Malawi had changed
      names from Nyasaland to Malawi in 1964.

      Asked where his home is, the old man answered:
      "Nyasaland Lilongwe." He was hardly aware that Lilongwe
      had succeeded the south-eastern town of Zomba as
      Malawi's new administrative capital since 1975.

      Most of the 43 said they had married South African
      women who, according to them, were not even aware they
      had been bundled off to Malawi.

      Once they were arrested, they said, they were taken
      straight to the prison cells. Only three of the 43 had some
      form of luggage and most of them had no money on them.

      Mankhwala said that the government's role ended at the
      airport. "Our role is to facilitate that they are in Malawi.
      Afterwards, it is up to them to trace their own homes," he
      said.

      The lucky few said they had relatives in Blantyre who may
      look after them or facilitate their trip to their home villages.
      But for those without relatives in the city the next few days
      will be a nightmare.

      Friday's deportees are just the latest in a series of
      deportations from South Africa since the late 1990s.

      South Africa, Africa's economic powerhouse, used to use
      a lot of immigrant labour from poor southern African
      states.

      Since 1994 South Africa has treated outsiders with
      xenophobia, with immigrant workers from the region
      bearing the brunt of it.

      *****

      Under threat from the
      war vets

      By our reporter in Harare

      SOS Children's Home director Ian Kluckow first
      knew the so-called war veterans were looking
      for him when three of them turned up at his
      office looking to see him.

      "The receptionist told them they had to make
      an appointment. This angered them. They
      said: 'Do you know who we are? We don't
      make appointments with Kluckow! You tell him
      to be here tomorrow!'"

      So began a week-long
      ordeal for yet another
      Zimbabwean boss at
      the hands of the
      so-called liberation war
      veterans who have
      been terrorising
      workers, managers and
      owners of companies
      and organisations for
      months with impunity.

      These ruling party supporters are intervening in
      labour disputes, supposedly on behalf of
      workers.

      Companies who have been operating within the
      labour laws of the country are nevertheless
      being targeted, their directors hauled off to
      ruling party headquarters for 're-education'
      with iron bars and fists, unless they part with
      huge sums of money.

      Minister of Home Affairs John Nkomo this week
      said it must end, but nobody believes it will.

      There is a widespread belief that only the
      president can end the violence, and that he
      does not want to.

      Orphanage

      Ian Kluckow was lucky.

      He is a white Zimbabwean (a favourite target
      for the war veterans) but heads a
      German/Austrian NGO, the SOS Children's
      Villages - the biggest privately-funded
      children's organisation in the world.

      The organisation runs
      three villages for
      orphans in Zimbabwe
      and was about to open
      a fourth.

      So Ian immediately
      contacted the Austrian
      high commissioner who
      made a high-level
      intervention with
      President Mugabe's
      government over the
      threat.

      Despite the
      ambassador's contacts, a bigger group - eight
      men - came to his offices three days later.
      They found the offices closed. Ian was at
      home under armed guard.

      "My stance was: I was not prepared to meet
      and discuss with them, or give legitimacy in
      any way to an illegitimate process. I certainly
      wasn't prepared to have donor money meant
      for children extorted from me, to settle a
      so-called labour issue and pay a thief who was
      lawfully dismissed," says the 58-year-old
      Zimbabwean.

      "All those children I care for - how could I
      capitulate and hand over their money? Also, I
      hate bullies; I had a bad experience with them
      at school. I didn't relish the thought of being
      beaten up, but I would have stood up to them
      and probably ended up in hospital like others
      have done."

      Friends advised him to leave the country.

      Encounter

      At first he slept badly, getting up in the night
      to investigate noises. "You feel abused when
      you know people are looking for you," he says.

      After a second visit by the eight men to his
      offices and a threat that they would start
      confiscating his organisation's vehicles, he felt
      even more apprehensive. Then he received a
      phone call from the man he knew was heading
      the whole operation, instructing him to meet
      them at a certain spot.

      "With my heart in my mouth, I went with a
      black co-director of our organisation to meet
      him," says Mr Kluckow.

      "He came in a double-cab with nine other
      people, which made me very nervous.

      "My co-director asked me: What will you do if
      they take you now?

      "I replied: The more they do to me, the worse
      it will be for Zimbabwe because I'm the head of
      a children's organisation."

      After waiting 20 minutes on opposite sides of
      the road, the SOS men were called across.

      "We crossed the road and shook hands. The
      man said: 'You will go back to your office. You
      will open tomorrow. You will have no problem.'"

      The office has re-opened, and sure enough,
      they have had no more problems.

      In fact, this week the organisation paid for
      eight-year-old Talent Saka and her mother to
      fly to South Africa for heart surgery.

      "She may end up at university like some of our
      children do," says Ian.

      "Certainly she has more hope than so many
      other abandoned children, left in cardboard
      boxes at the railway station or thrown down a
      lavatory."

      Plans for a fourth village will go ahead if the
      organisation is allowed to continue operating
      unhindered.

      That will substantially raise the number of
      children already provided for - 500 orphans and
      4,500 children being educated in SOS
      Children's Villages.
    • 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
      • 0 Attachment

        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

      Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.