- Parliament expels
By Raphael Tenthani in Blantyre
Seven opposition politicians in Malawi have lost
their parliamentary seats for ostensibly
violating a controversial section of the
Among them are a former senior minister Brown
Mpinganjira, and his wife Lizzie, who were
expelled from the ruling United Democratic
Front last year and have since formed the
National Democratic Alliance pressure group.
Under the constitution,
MPs are forbidden from
with parties or political
groupings, other than
the party they
The pressure group has
managed to garner
some support from the UDF stronghold of the
southern region, and analysts say the move to
ban some of them was designed to undermine
The debate on the issue in parliament on
Wednesday followed the circulation of a letter
by two MPs, one ruling party and another
opposition, to the speaker, asking him to
declare their seats vacant because they had
left their origin party.
During the heated exchange it was argued that
five of the disaffected MPs were voted in as
ruling party representatives and as they have
now joined groupings whose objectives, it is
claimed, are political in nature, they have
forfeited claims to their seats.
The other banned
president of the
Congress Party of
Hastings Banda was
The letter accused Mr
and his right-hand
man, the outspoken
Heatherwick Ntaba, of
forming an alliance with
the third largest group
in parliament and taking senior positions within
But when the Speaker allowed the debate to
go ahead despite the absence of the seven
accused MPs, even senior ruling UDF MPs
protested, saying it was unfair.
The leader of the house said rules of natural
justice demand that the seven be heard before
any action was taken against them.
One opposition member wondered why only Mr.
Chakuamba and Dr Ntaba were being singled
Loveness Gondwe said that if the motion was
not vindictive, then all other MPs in the
alliance should also have their seats declared
But the speaker curtailed the debate, saying
his decision was final.
Also banned from parliament is the tycoon and
former financier of the ruling party, James
Makhumula, who left the party early this year
Both Mr Mpinganjira
and Dr Ntaba told the
BBC they would fight
both legally and
politically to regain
Mr Mpinganjira said he
knew all along that the
introduction of the
had been targeted at
The move to dismiss
the seven MPs has already drawn wide-spread
condemnation among civil society and the
Their expulsion would trigger a round of by-
Zambian election date
remains a mystery
By the BBC's Richard Lee in Zambia
After months of increasingly feverish
speculation, Zambians still have no clear idea
when their elections will take place.
Although many people now believe that the
polls - for president, parliament and local
government - will be held in early December,
constitutionally they could be delayed until
Only the outgoing
Chiluba, knows the
exact date and he is
keeping it very close to
"The speculation is that elections are likely to
come at the beginning of December," said the
chairman of the Electoral Commission, Judge
Bobby Bwalya. "But we don't know the actual
date. That is only known by the president."
President Chiluba recently flew off to attend
the 5th United Nations General Assembly in
New York. The session starts on 10 November,
which means he will not be able to return to
Zambia and call the election until after that
This would delay the elections until at least
the second week of December.
A four week gap generally follows the
announcement to allow 11 days for the
nomination process and at least two weeks for
printers to print ballot papers.
Lusaka taxi-driver, Mshik Phiri, is completely in
the dark about the elections. "I have no idea
when they will take place," he said. "I thought
that they would be in October. The date is
impossible to predict."
Many political analysts had also assumed that
the president would call an early election to
take advantage of the divided nature of the
opposition and the fact that a number of
opposition parties had only recently been
A snap poll would have given them little time
to raise sufficient funds for the campaign,
increasing the ruling Movement for Multi-Party
Democracy's chances of re-election. It would
also have avoided the logistical problems
created by the long rains that are due to start
within the next few weeks.
leader of the opposition
United Party for
believes that the
election has been
President Chiluba is
confused about the
best possible date.
"He is still trying to
gauge the chances of
MMD winning," said Masoka. "Initially, he
considered a snap election to take the
opposition by surprise. Then he decided to
delay it in order to develop his presidential
candidate, Levy Mwanawasa, to an acceptable
level. I think the president is at sixes and
sevens at the moment. We just don't know
what he has up his sleeve."
With all the MMD's campaign material
emblazoned with the year 2001, indications are
that the election will be held in December. All
the opposition parties are certainly gearing up
for that with most of them having already
finalised their list of candidates.
But the intense secrecy surrounding the date
is breeding frustration among voters.
"Everyone wants their chance to vote," said
Ndovu Christopher, a freelance photographer.
"People are getting increasingly frustrated by
the lack of information. All this secrecy could
cost the MMD votes."
have also attacked the
president's handling of
"It is ridiculous that the
election date continues
to be a mystery," said
Godfrey Miyanda, leader
of the Heritage Party.
"If elected, we
undertake to enshrine in
law the month and period when future
elections should be held."
Anderson Masoka added his weight to the
"Politicians should give the Zambian people
adequate warning about the date so that they
can make up their minds," he said.
"It is the Zambian people on whose behalf we
are running this country and if we try to short
change them then we are being dishonest. And
that is exactly what Chiluba is doing."
It is clear that the president is keeping the
date under wraps to try and boost his party's
hopes. But the government dismisses
accusations that he is confused or that he is
doing anything underhand.
"All over the commonwealth leaders keep the
election date secret and that is the position in
Zambia," said Vernon Mwanga, Minister of
Information and Broadcasting. "Setting the
election date is solely the prerogative of the
parliament last Friday,
many observers had
expected the president
to make an
He did not but the
is still sure that a
decision is imminent.
"I believe the president is likely to announce
the date at any time," predicted Judge Bwalya.
"Especially now, after the end of the short
But President Chiluba has long been known as
someone who likes to spring surprises and he
appears happy to keep everyone in suspense
for at least a little longer.
Zim police arrest editor of sole
Harare | Thursday
THE editor-in-chief of Zimbabwe's only private daily newspaper,
The Daily News, and the former head of the paper's parent
company, were on Thursday picked by Harare police for
questioning, the editor and other sources said.
The paper has been fiercely critical of Zimbabwe President Robert
Geoff Nyarota and Wilf Mbanga, the founding CEO of the
Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe (ANZ), were picked up from
their homes early on Thursday by plain clothes police.
Contacted on his mobile phone, Nyarota confirmed he had been
picked up and was in the middle of being questioned at the police
criminal investigations office, but would not give details.
It could not be immediately established what charges they faced,
but a state-run daily, the Herald this week reported that the ANZ
flouted investment and exchange control regulations.
ANZ has denied the allegations as "malicious falsehood by those
bent on undermining the operations or integrity of ANZ".
Police have said they are investigating the circumstances under
which the ANZ was awarded an operating licence.
The mass circulation Daily News, the country's sole independent
daily paper, was launched in March 1999 and has frequently
come under fire.
Its printing press was destroyed by a bomb blast in January and
its offices were rocked by a blast in April last year.
Its editors and reporters have been arrested on various charges,
and a plot to kill Nyarota failed last year after the would-be
assassin lost his nerve.
The paper, along with independent weeklies in Zimbabwe, has
come under repeated threats from Mugabe's backers since the
opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) won nearly
half the country's parliamentary seats in watershed elections in
June last year. In other developments in the beleaguered nation,
an opinion poll has revealed that most voters favour opposition
leader Morgan Tsvangirai over Mugabe ahead of presidential
elections next year.
The survey by the independent Target Research agency found
52,9% of those questioned saying they would vote for Tsvangirai,
against 47,1% for Mugabe, who faces the biggest challenge of his
But 20% of the polled voters remained undecided, saying their
choice would be influenced by the country's economic situation.
The poll, commissioned by the weekly Financial Gazette, was
conducted in August and September among a nationally
representative population of 3 013 voters.
The most important issue for the Zimbabwean voter is the
deepening economic crisis characterised by inflation above 80%,
unemployment of more than 60% and critical shortages of foreign
Most of the respondents who expressed their intention to vote for
Tsvangirai were from the Harare area and districts of western
Matabeleland North and South provinces.
The poll showed that Mugabe still enjoys support in his traditional
rural strongholds of Mashonaland and Masvingo provinces.
Analysts say Mugabe, who came to power in 1980 on a wave of
popular support after leading a guerrilla war against white-minority
rule, has used the land reform card to try to step up his support in
the rural countryside.
Mugabe says the controversial land reforms to take land from a
small population of whites, who own some 70% of prime farmland,
and give it to millions of landless blacks -- is meant to correct
colonial imbalances. Mugabe faces possibly the greatest
challenge to his rule in the race against Tsvangirai, leader of the
Movement for Democratic Change, and opposition figures have
openly worried he will use intimidation to stay in power.
The Financial Gazette said researchers who conducted the recent
were harassed by pro-government supporters, officials and local
leaders during their field work.
In several cases, interviewers were assaulted, arrested by police
and some had their cash and completed questionnaires
confiscated by pro-government youths on suspicion they were
members of the opposition, according to the weekly. - AFP, Sapa
The Zimbabwean way of
A shortage of burial space in Harare is forcing
practically minded Zimbabweans to reserve
their final resting place with cash down in
The capital has been struggling with the lack
of final resting places and getting a decent
burial is becoming increasingly difficult.
Out of Harare's seven
cemeteries, five are full
and have closed their
gates to business.
Space at the remainder
is at a premium.
The shortage means
only 30 minutes can be
spent on each burial
service in the
The high number of deaths of paupers has also
added to the problem. In Harare's cemeteries,
about 35 people are buried each day.
More than 300 paupers and infants are buried
each week and cremating them would save a
lot of space.
Given the lack of free land around Harare,
cremation would appear an ideal solution.
It is, however, taboo among black
Zimbabweans who constitute more than 95%
of the country's 13 million people.
According to a Harare
City Council official,
they are increasingly
encouraging people to
turn to cremation to
save on a lot of land
which is now
But black Zimbabweans
still prefer to bury their
departed six feet
By now, however, the
grave shortage ought to have meant that
cultural sensitivities or not, cremation is
increasingly appearing the only option, says
our Harare correspondent.
Cremation may be popular among the
estimated small population of Asian origin and
among some of the country's whites.
But according to an official in the Harare City
Council's amenities department, he has only
seen two blacks being cremated in the past 11
''I don't think there are
more than 10 black
people who have been
independence" in 1980,
''If you look at the
costs, in the end it's
cheaper to cremate
than bury because you won't have the costs
of buying a tombstone and maintaining the
It costs between US$23 and US$50 to book a
plot for up to 10 years, against US$81 for a
And according to a City of Harare amenities
official, if the person does not die within that
period, then he or she loses the place.
''It's not like we are encouraging you to die,
but after 10 years you have to pay for another
booking to show that you are still interested in
the place,'' he said.
HIV/Aids has played a role as one of the
grimmest of reapers. Government figures show
that more than 1,200 people die every week
because of the disease.
''It's better to burn than take up land which
could be used for other things,'' said the city
But talk of cremation riles traditionalists who
say it is "uncultural".
''We believe that a person's spirit will come
back and look after the departed's family,'' said
Zvomuya Gwindi, a traditional healer.
''So if you burn the dead body, you will anger
that spirit and it will come back as an unhappy
''In our culture we don't
do that and we have to
respect our culture and
stick to it. Burning is a
non-starter,'' the healer
But despite the horror
of traditionalists, at
least one Harare
resident is warming to
''Once you are dead you are dead. It's
unfortunate that in our culture we still believe
that one will come back after death,'' she said.
''I want to leave a bit of my ash with
everybody who loves me. I know it goes
against African culture, but that is what I
would want,'' she added.
'unrealistic' in Tanzania
Hands up who wants a better teacher
By Christine Otieno in Dar es Salaam
Gordius Mbuya, a father of five children, all of
school-going age, welcomes President
Benjamin Mkapa's decision to abolish primary
school fees from January 2002.
His son Barnabas is his middle child and is
currently in Standard Two at the local Oyster
Bay Primary School in Dar es Salaam.
ambitious plan to
education for all is also
causing him some
"It will mean that my
other children will have
a chance to go to
school which is great
news but we must
exercise caution here,"
"The government rolled this programme out in
the 1970s but could not follow it through.
There are many factors at stake here. First
and foremost can the government afford this
grand scheme of theirs?" he asks.
Others are sceptical about the new plan to
revise what is essentially a programme that
collapsed in the mid-1980s due to lack of
Teachers across the board are also worried
about how the programme will be paid for.
unveiled the plan last
week he noted the
importance of improving
In the past 15 years,
literacy levels in Tanzania have dropped
dramatically and illiteracy now stands at a
President Mkapa says: "Our goal is to have all
children in school by the year 2005, as well as
to improve the quality of education in primary
For Gordius Mbuya, this is all very well and
good. But he insists the government needs
more than just a five-year plan.
"We need more teachers, the quality of my
children's education is very important. It is not
enough to put an extra one million children in
school without providing enough teachers," he
"Not only should the
teachers be provided
but they should be able
to maintain a high
quality of teaching.
Right now the standard
of education here is
not the best."
These sentiments are
echoed by Pius Bogo, a
primary school teacher
for seven years.
"Okay, the government
says they will hire more teachers but what
they should look at is the teachers they have
now. Our salary is woefully inadequate. We are
very unmotivated in this field of work."
He said they were already overstretched by
the current number of pupils and did not know
how the system could cope with an extra
"I am not sure the government can pull this
off. But I hope they do, our education
standards are currently the lowest in East
It is partly due to these figures that the
government has been galvanised into action.
It has announced the
first steps by promising
to build 54,000 new
classrooms and recruit
9,000 new teachers for
Whether or not the
government can successfully run this
programme will depend on co-operation from
The scheme is going to depend on the
government providing text books, teachers and
running costs - as well as making up for the
lack of school fees.
While parents, through a committee, will be
asked to voluntarily donate money according
to their budgets for the building of classrooms
and teachers quarters whenever necessary.
Gordius says he will donate where he can but
financial restrictions will be a major stumbling
block for most parents.
Despite his concerns, he does apreciate the
"I am pleased they are trying, I certainly hope
they succeed for the sake of my children and
indeed all children."
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
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
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.
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