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  • Christine Chumbler
    Food Shortages Affecting Large Parts of Malawi UN Integrated Regional Information Network September 6, 2001 Posted to the web September 6, 2001 World Vision
    Message 1 of 1046 , Sep 7, 2001
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      Food Shortages Affecting Large Parts of

      UN Integrated Regional
      Information Network
      September 6, 2001
      Posted to the web September 6, 2001

      World Vision International (WVI) said on Wednesday that
      food shortages were affecting large parts of Malawi. "So
      far we know of districts in the north, south and central parts
      of the country that have been affected by these food
      shortages," Elton Ntwana, the Relief and Rehabilitation
      Manager for WVI in Malawi told IRIN. "At the moment there
      is very little maize on the commercial market and what little
      there is is very expensive, so people are really struggling
      to feed themselves. We do know that the Malawian
      government has put in an emergency order of 150,000 mt
      to South Africa to help relieve the shortages."

      WVI said in its latest food assessment of Malawi that the
      food shortages were brought on by a severe drought and
      the resulting poor harvests in large parts of the country.
      Harvesting in Malawi is normally done between late June
      and early September. "We have requested our people and
      partners in the field to send us information on the nutritional
      status of people in their areas. So we are working on trying
      to get a more accurate idea of the nutritional status of the
      population. But the food security situation is very very bad,"
      Ntwana said. "We have heard of acute hunger in some of
      the districts where we have our area development

      Ntwana said that it was not
      possible to say how many
      people have been affected.
      "We are looking at a very
      large area, but until we get
      more information we can not
      say how many people."


      Wildlife playground displaces

      FIONA MACLEOD, Johannesburg | Friday

      WHILE delegates debate environmental racism at the Durban
      racism conference, a few kilometres north a row is brewing over a
      classic case of poor communities being displaced to make way
      for an elitist wildlife playground.
      A group of rich South Africans has bought into the Vilanculos
      Coastal Wildlife Sanctuary, a multimillion-rand development
      planned for Que-wene in southern Mozambique. It will see about
      18 long-established communities with at least 1 000 members
      removed, and deprive a larger community of access to their
      natural resources.
      Environmentalists working in the area say the development is
      going ahead without a proper environmental impact assessment
      (EIA), which in terms of Mozambican law should place social
      impacts at the top of the agenda. They argue that it appears the
      project is being fast-tracked because Mozambican Minister of
      Environment John Kachamila is a 23% shareholder in the
      "According to current legislation all developmental projects have
      to be preceded by an EIA, with prime consideration being the
      concerns of the populace living in the vicinity. This social scoping
      exercise is paramount in establishing what social and financial
      benefits will be derived in terms of poverty alleviation, especially in
      a country described by the World Bank as the poorest in the
      world," says environmental consultant Paul Dutton.
      "The fact that the minister is a declared shareholder raises the
      obvious question of who are the actual perpetrators or supporters
      of environmental racism worldwide."
      The term "environmental racism" was developed in the United
      States 21 years ago to describe discrimination suffered by the
      poor, black or ethnic groups by corporate polluters, military
      regimes and governments.
      At Quewene the people who will be moved are mostly illiterate
      subsistence fishermen and small farmers eking an existence in
      an area with no jobs.
      Because of the rich natural habitat and tropical climate, Dutton
      describes them as "some of the healthiest people I have come
      across in Mozambique".
      The project they are making way for is being sold to selected
      investors who will own 50 private residential sites in a 35 000ha
      wildlife and marine reserve. At least 27 of these $100 000 sites
      have already been sold and the developers expect to sell the rest
      by the end of the year.
      Hotels and lodges with 100 beds have been allocated. The plan is
      to introduce a wide spectrum of wildlife, which will be enclosed by
      a game fence isolating about 70km of the coastline.
      Antonio Reina, director of the Endangered Wildlife Trust in
      Mozambique, sent a memo to the developers a month ago raising
      concerns about equity in access to natural resources. He
      supports tourism development in the country, but it must have
      huge social development benefits.
      "The biggest problem is the exclusivity of this project," Reina
      says. "The main owners are going to be rich whites, against poor
      blacks. That is something we don't want."
      Chiefs and other community representatives recently informed the
      regional administrator they would not move to make way for the
      project. Provincial authorities are dismayed that the government in
      Maputo is allowing it to proceed without the necessary EIA being
      carried out.
      But the developers, who include South African wildlife and leisure
      development veterans, say they are not aware of any unhappiness
      among the Quewene communities. They ascribe the "shocking"
      criticisms to jealousy from environmental organisations.
      The Vilanculos sanctuary was initiated by Trevor Jordan, who has
      developed high-profile private ecotourism destinations in South
      Africa in the past 25 years, and a former director of JCI Projects,
      Hugh Brown. "Lampies" Lamprecht, retired director of nature
      conservation in the former Transvaal, is the natural resources
      The developers argue they will introduce infrastructure, a school,
      clinic, training and hundreds of jobs to an area in a state of
      decline. They are setting up a trust for the Quewene community
      in which all the proceeds from the wildlife utilisation and donations
      will be pooled.
      The area is a biodiversity treasure land, with rare cycads and
      endangered marine species like dugongs and leatherback turtles.
      The developers say it needs to be protected against commercial
      fishing operators and unsustainable slash-and-burn agriculture.
      "We are setting up a low-impact, high-value conservation project,"
      says Lamprecht. "This is one of the top biodiversity hot spots in
      A social impact survey is being conducted and a detailed
      document outlining impacts of the project will be submitted to the
      Mozambican government "within weeks".
      He says sites have already been sold on the basis that the
      project has been approved in principle by the government. The
      government has given the developers a 99-year leasehold on the
      land and accepted their written agreement with the communities.
      "Any suggestion that minister Kachamila would bend the rules is
      totally wrong. We brought him on board because he already had a
      concession in the area, and his interest is openly declared.
      "Whenever the project is discussed in Parliament, he excuses
      himself," says Lamprecht.
      The Mozambican Ministry of Environment had not replied to
      inquiries by the time the Mail & Guardian went to press.


      Analysis: Zimbabwe
      peace or hot air?

      By the BBC's former Zimbabwe
      correspondent, Joseph Winter

      The true significance of the Abuja deal will only
      become apparent after weeks if not months.

      This is not the first time in the 18-month crisis
      that Zimbabwe's Government has agreed to
      abide by principles such as the rule of law - in
      fact, Harare has maintained that it has never
      stopped respecting the law.

      Ministers have also
      previously said that
      those illegally
      occupying land would
      be moved to farms
      which the state has
      already acquired and
      yet the violence and
      intimidation has
      continued, sometimes
      after a brief lull.

      One early indication will
      be word from President
      Robert Mugabe - the
      man who really calls
      the shots in Harare.

      It is not unknown for him to directly over-rule
      his subordinates, including his Vice-President,
      Joseph Msika - so he might proudly declare in a
      few days' time that he never signed up to

      Key strategy

      The violence and intimidation that have
      accompanied the invasion of white-owned
      farms are widely acknowledged to have
      ensured the narrow victory of Mr Mugabe's
      Zanu-PF party in the June 2000 parliamentary

      With his toughest presidential elections looming
      in April 2002, it would be a huge surprise if Mr
      Mugabe suddenly dropped the strategy he had
      been banking on to give him another six years
      in power.

      If those elections are
      peaceful and
      conducted fairly,
      opposition leader
      Morgan Tsvangirai
      would be expected to

      But if this U-turn has
      received approval from
      on high, there is also
      the chance that it
      could be a ploy to
      avoid the
      embarrassment of
      Zimbabwe being
      suspended from the Commonwealth at next
      month's Brisbane meeting.

      And normal service would resume straight

      Or, maybe it is genuine.

      Bad name

      It could be that Mr Mugabe has been told in no
      uncertain terms by Nigeria's President Olusegun
      Obasanjo to stop the violence which was
      giving the whole of Africa a bad name.

      This was the message from Nigeria's foreign
      minister at the opening of the Abuja talks.

      Recently, Zimbabwe's
      southern African
      neighbours were
      surprisingly forthright in
      expressing their
      concern about the
      spill-over effects of
      what they admitted
      was a "crisis".

      Led by South Africa's
      President Thabo Mbeki,
      they arrive in Harare
      next Monday to carry
      on where the
      Commonwealth has left
      off in Abuja.

      Mr Mugabe says that his land reform
      programme is merely the end of the process of
      decolonising Zimbabwe.

      Economic destruction

      If his African neighbours refuse to accept this
      argument, it becomes more difficult to pose as
      the champion of African nationalism.

      But again, both Mr Mbeki and Mr Obasanjo
      have already privately told their Zimbabwean
      counterpart to restrain his supporters, to no

      The other possibility is that enough senior
      figures in Zanu-PF have plucked up the
      courage to tell Mr Mugabe that he is
      destroying Zimbabwe's economy - which is
      neither in the country's nor the party's

      While he is by far the most powerful figure in
      his party and government, if he felt isolated
      within the top echelons of Zanu-PF, as well as
      internationally, he would have little choice but
      to climb down.


      Text of Zimbabwe

      Self-styled war veterans have held the country hostage
      Zimbabwe has agreed at a Commonwealth
      meeting to end all illegal occupations of
      white-owned farmland and return the
      country to the rule of law, in return for
      financial assistance.

      The following is the text of the agreement,
      in full, as presented by the Nigerian
      Government and signed by all parties.

      The meeting recognised that as a result of
      historical injustices, the current land ownership
      and distribution needed to be rectified in a
      transparent and equitable manner. It also
      agreed on the following:

      Land is at the core of the crisis in
      Zimbabwe and cannot be separated from
      other issues of concern to the
      Commonwealth such as the rule of law,
      respect for human rights, democracy and
      the economy. A programme of land
      reform is, therefore, crucial to the
      resolution of the problem

      Such a programme of land reform must
      be implemented in a fair, just and
      sustainable manner, in the interest of all
      the people of Zimbabwe, within the law
      and constitution of Zimbabwe

      The crisis in Zimbabwe also has political
      and rule of law implications which must
      be addressed holistically and
      concurrently. The situation in Zimbabwe
      poses a threat to the socio-economic
      stability of the entire sub-region and the
      continent at large

      The need to avoid a division within the
      Commonwealth, especially at the
      forthcoming CHOGM [Commonwealth
      Heads of Government Meeting] in
      Brisbane, Australia, over the situation in

      The orderly implementation of the land
      reform can only be meaningful and
      sustainable if carried out with due regard
      to human rights, rule of law,
      transparency and democratic principles.
      The commitment of the government of
      Zimbabwe is therefore crucial to this

      The committee recognises the need for the
      adoption of confidence-building measures to
      ensure the implementation of the conclusions
      of the meeting. In this regard, the meeting
      welcomed assurances given by the Zimbabwe
      delegation as follows:

      Commitment to the Harare
      Commonwealth Declaration and the
      Millbrook Commonwealth Action
      Programme on the Harare Declaration
      There will be no further occupation of
      farm lands

      To speed up the process by which farms
      that do not meet set criteria are

      For farms that are not designated,
      occupiers would be moved to legally
      acquired lands

      Acceleration of discussions with the
      UNDP [United Nations Development
      Programme] with a view to reaching
      agreement as quickly as possible

      Commitment to restore the rule of law to
      the process of land reform programme
      Invitation by the foreign minister to the
      committee to visit Zimbabwe.

      The meeting agreed, in the overall context of
      the statement, that the way forward is for
      Zimbabwe's international partners

      to engage constructively with the UNDP
      and the government of Zimbabwe in
      pursuing an effective and sustainable
      land reform programme on the basis of
      the UNDP proposals of December 2000
      to respond positively to any request from
      the government of Zimbabwe in support
      of the electoral process

      to continue to contribute to poverty
      reduction programmes for the benefit of
      the people of Zimbabwe and that those
      partners present (Australia, Canada and
      United Kingdom) would actively pursue
      these objectives.

      The meeting also welcomed the re-affirmation
      of the United Kingdom's commitment to a
      significant financial contribution to such a land
      reform programme and its undertaking to
      encourage other international donors to do the
    • Christine Chumbler
      ADB firm on Karonga-Chitipa road contract by Zainah Liwanda, 22 May 2006 - 06:09:17 The African Development Bank (ADB) has again rejected a proposal by
      Message 1046 of 1046 , May 22, 2006
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        ADB firm on Karonga-Chitipa road contract

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


        Chihana operated on

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

        Mughogho is now in charge of the party.

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


        Pillane proposes presidential age limit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


        Mussa hails new driving licence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


        UDF demands investigation on Kasambara

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


        Zambia: Malawians Grab Zambian Land

        The Times of Zambia (Ndola)

        May 18, 2006

        Posted to the web May 19, 2006

        Andrew Lungu


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

        The Zimbabwean traders were warned and cautioned and later released.

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



        Zim unions, MDC still plan anti-govt protests

        Harare, Zimbabwe

        22 May 2006 11:51

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

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

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

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

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

        Opposition protests

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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