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  • Christine Chumbler
    Irin Focus On Land Reform Proposals UN Integrated Regional Information Networks December 5, 2001 Posted to the web December 5, 2001 This report does not
    Message 1 of 1046 , Dec 6, 2001
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      Irin Focus On Land Reform Proposals

      UN Integrated Regional Information Networks
      December 5, 2001
      Posted to the web December 5, 2001
      This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations
      Recently released government land reform proposals, which prohibit the foreign ownership of land, have received a cautious welcome in Malawi.
      Like its southern African neighbours, Malawi is under great pressure to empower its impoverished, mainly rural population. Like its neighbours it is looking at the ownership of land as one way of doing this.
      In a draft policy released in September, the Ministry of Lands said it aimed, among other things, to "remove most of the pressing land problems that have created tenure insecurity and undermined speedy and transparent land transactions in Malawi".
      "In many cases," according to the draft policy, "the inadequacies of existing laws, delays in land administration, arbitrary applications of the public interest criteria, constraining inheritance laws and uncertainty regarding the strategies for dealing with land pressure have all operated to discourage needed investments and the nation's ability to eliminate poverty and pursue social harmony.
      "Fundamental measures and processes contained in this National Land Policy will equip Malawi to minimise, if not eliminate the most constraining land problems and bring progress and prosperity to all."
      The policy, covering a wide range of issues from ownership to inheritance laws, and from land use to the development of customary land, has generally been welcomed. However, its prohibition of foreign land ownership has raised some questions.
      Harry Potter, of the British government's Department for International Development (DFID) summed up the common view when he told IRIN on Wednesday: "Obviously the devil will be in the detail."
      According to the policy, which has been passed by a cabinet committee but has not yet gone through parliament, non-citizens were to be prevented from acquiring new land from 1 September 2001.
      "Non-citizens will no longer be allowed to acquire or transfer title to any new freehold estate not previously owned and legally registered to a non-citizen prior to 1 September 2001," the policy says.
      "Non-citizens currently in possession of freehold estates in Malawi will, in seven years following the coming into effect of this policy, obtain Malawian citizenship in order to retain their free ownership. Failure to naturalise will automatically trigger expropriation procedures, which will cause title to the land in question to be converted to a renewable leasehold contract with the reversion to the state.
      "Subject to the existing transfer laws, non-citizens already in possession of registered freehold assets of publicly traded corporations shall be permitted to transfer such assets to other non-citizens only when deemed necessary to preserve the investment value of publicly traded companies."
      Importantly, though, the policy commits the government to buying land and the improvements to it at commercial rates.
      Thengo Maloya, Malawi's Minister of Lands, told IRIN on Tuesday that the policy had not yet come into effect.
      "We have not frozen foreign ownership from 1 September," he said. According to Maloya, wide consultation preceded the draft and its intention was to ensure that Malawians were involved in the development of the country. He also said that if foreign companies had local shareholders they would be able to own land in the country. No limits would be placed on foreign shareholders, he added.
      "It will depend on the company and the Malawian. We would not like to undervalue a company. We will not insist on percentages. What we are really saying is that Malawians must begin to participate in the economic activities of their own country," said Maloya. He added that foreigners (individuals and companies) who had long-term leases would not lose their benefits.
      According to the policy: "Only citizens will be permitted the privilege of owning freehold title in Malawi. Non-citizens interested in such a long-term stake (freehold in perpetuity) in Malawi should be willing to pledge their wholehearted allegiance to Malawi by becoming citizens. Otherwise, access to land for non-citizens will be construed as purely for residential and investment purposes and an appropriate leasehold term determined, guided by investment and industry profit requirements."
      It goes on to say that with the exception of some types of investments, such as mining, forestry and some perennial tree crops such as tea, "most leasehold terms for industrial and commercial investment purposes throughout the world generally are for less than 50 years, with renewal clauses allowed. For that purpose, the standard leasehold term for land leased to non-citizens for investment purposes in Malawi will also be for a renewable term of 50 years or less".
      Malawi's land pressures have contributed to increasing poverty in recent years. With a population of about 9.8 million in 1998, government statistics indicate a density of 170 inhabitants per square kilometre - one of the highest densities in Africa.
      Landlocked, with an agricultural economy that accounts for over 40 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), the majority of Malawians live in the central and southern regions of the country. And with Lake Malawi covering almost 20 percent of the country, according to the draft policy: "Malawi has a total of 11.8 million hectares, of which 9.8 million is land. Agricultural estates occupy 1.2 million hectares and the area potentially available for agriculture by small farmers is approximately 4.5 million hectares after adjusting for wetlands, steep slopes and traditional protected areas."
      According to the government's National Statistics Office (NSO), about 55 percent of smallholder farmers in Malawi have less than one hectare of cultivable land, which does not meet their basic needs. As a result, says the NSO, "more than half of the population lives below the poverty line of US $140 per capita income per year.
      "In absolute terms, the poverty of the country is predominantly rural and is reflected in the below average social indicators. The illiteracy rate is about 56 percent for the overall population. Malnutrition is widespread, and the child mortality rate at 238 per 1000 is among the highest in the world," says the NSO.
      Rafiq Hajat, director of the Institute for Policy Interaction, told IRIN the draft policy raised many questions. "There really isn't that much of a problem in the policy. The major problem is in what it does not say," he said. For example, there was concern that banks could withdraw loans once ownership was changed from freehold to leasehold. The majority of Malawi's tea, coffee, sugar and tobacco estates are foreign-owned.
      Hajat said the country's constitution did not limit the ownership of land to citizens only. "There is definitely an infringement of a constitutional right. Section 28 of the constitution of Malawi says that every person shall be able to acquire property alone or in association with others. Subsection 2 of the same section says no person shall be arbitrarily deprived of property," he said.
      He also pointed to possible administrative problems. "The land policy does not address a major bottleneck in the land-based economy here. The Land Act, in section 24, states that the government must be told of all transfers of land. It says the minister should approve or reject the transfer of land within 30 days. It does not say that if this does not happen in 30 days, the land should be transferred by default. Some transfers at the moment take up to 18 months to get approval," he said.
      He also warned that if the process was not well managed, the policies could lead to high inflation rates, lower productivity, a general deterioration of the infrastructure and an eventual decline in the economy. The draft policy, he said, had already had a negative impact on land prices. He also said that foreigners were already having their applications for land transfers turned down.
      Daziona Chaponda, an economist with the World Bank in Malawi, told IRIN that the policy was still being debated widely in the country. He said while there was some concern, large commercial estate owners were more "interested in the security of tenure and a guarantee that the law would prevail in guiding whatever transactions take place".
      This concern, it seems, will determine the amount of resistance the Malawian government will receive when it finally drafts a bill to go before its parliament. At the forefront of everyone's minds, meanwhile, is Zimbabwe, whose land reform programme has contributed to the country's serious and dramatic economic decline.
      "There have been some concerns, but as long as the discussion is going on in an open way, and it has been encouraging how discussions have taken place so far, then it should be fine," said Potter.


      *****

      Soccer Star Fined for Smoking Hemp

      African Eye News Service (Nelspruit)
      December 5, 2001
      Posted to the web December 5, 2001
      Brian Ligomeka
      Blantyre, Malawi
      Malawian soccer star Kumbukani Lungu has been sentenced to two months in jail or a US$7 fine after being convicted of smoking marijuana.
      Lungu was caught puffing marijuana outside a retail shop in Malawi's colonial capital Zomba, about 20km from Blantyre.
      His team, Total Big Bullets, had just played against the Red Lions, which is the Zomba military soccer team, and won 3-1.
      A policeman caught him smoking at about 5:30pm and took to Zomba police station for questioning.
      Some twists of hemp found on him were taken to Bvumbwe research station where it was established that it was cannabis sativa and weighed 2.35 grams.
      The player pleaded guilty to charges of smoking and possessing hemp in the Zomba magistrate's court on Tuesday.
      Magistrate Davison Banda said possession of marijuana is a serious offence but considering that Lungu was a first offender and pleaded guilty to the charges, he would be given the option of a US$7.
      He paid the fine and was released. - African Eye News Service


      *****

      Maputo Savours Success of Home Sugar

      Business Day (Johannesburg)
      December 5, 2001
      Posted to the web December 5, 2001
      Nicola Jenvey
      The reconstruction and rehabilitation of the Mozambique sugar industry has now rendered that country self-sufficient in sugar and necessitated stricter import controls of the commodity.
      For the first time since the early 1970s, most of Mozambique's sugar estates have produced a crop in the current season and legal imports will now attract levies based on the world reference price for brown and refined sugar. The authorities have also tightened controls to restrict illegal imports.
      Any organisation that wants to import the commodity must present a pre-declaration certification to customs. On reaching the border post, the sugar is inspected by Intertec Testing Services to ensure it complies with the certification.
      Sugar arriving without the documentation is denied entry and a fine of 30% of the import value is levied on the importer.
      Intertec, an internationally recognised inspection agency, verifies products against invoices.
      Mozambique Sugar Association chairman David Gass said customs officials had already seized more than 1000 tons of smuggled sugar.
      Malawi and Tanzania also tightened their sugar imports recently, partly because of fluctuations in the Zimbabwean dollar and the existence of a parallel foreign exchange market in that country. The depreciation had reduced the price of sugar from Zimbabwe, and Gass said smugglers were moving the commodity across the borders.
      This is despite attempts by the Zimbabwean police and customs officials to prevent sugar trading to secure stocks in local shops.
      Gass said during this year's season, only the government-owned Buzi sugar estate in northern Mozambique did not produce a crop. The Sena mill operated for the first time since being closed down during the civil war that started in the 1970s and ended in 1994.


      *****

      Mozambican protesters
      beaten up

      Reports from Mozambique say police have
      beaten up demonstrators outside the
      parliament building in Maputo and arrested two
      of them.

      The protesters wanted to hand over a letter to
      legislators demanding the government should
      refund social security contributions they had
      paid while working in the former East Germany.

      The contracts were arranged under a
      cooperation deal between Mozambique and the
      former Communist government there.

      The workers lost their jobs after the collapse
      of the Berlin Wall, and have since then been
      demanding a refund.
    • Christine Chumbler
      ADB firm on Karonga-Chitipa road contract by Zainah Liwanda, 22 May 2006 - 06:09:17 The African Development Bank (ADB) has again rejected a proposal by
      Message 1046 of 1046 , May 22, 2006
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        ADB firm on Karonga-Chitipa road contract

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

        *****

        Chihana operated on

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

        Mughogho is now in charge of the party.

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

        *****

        Pillane proposes presidential age limit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

        *****

        Mussa hails new driving licence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

        *****

        UDF demands investigation on Kasambara

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

        *****

        Zambia: Malawians Grab Zambian Land

        The Times of Zambia (Ndola)

        May 18, 2006

        Posted to the web May 19, 2006

        Andrew Lungu

         

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

        The Zimbabwean traders were warned and cautioned and later released.

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

         

        *****

        Zim unions, MDC still plan anti-govt protests

        Harare, Zimbabwe

        22 May 2006 11:51

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

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

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

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

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

        Opposition protests

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

        Crackdown

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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