- Unscrupulous Traders Cash in On Maize Shortage
African Eye News Service (Nelspruit)
January 4, 2002
Posted to the web January 4, 2002
By Brian Ligomeka
The Malawian government this week banned unscrupulous traders from selling maize at inflated prices to take advantage of the country's critical maize shortage.
Some traders have boosted prices from the government's recommended price of US$13 per 50kg bag, to a whopping US$20.
The price of maize has risen sharply from US$5 per 50kg bag in July last year to the current government recommended price of US$13 after heavy rains and flooding devastated crops early in the year.
The country was left with a maize shortfall of 15 000 tonnes.
The National Food Reserve Agency has been importing maize from South Africa and selling it to private traders so that the staple food can reach rural areas where thousands of people have been hardest hit by the maize shortage.
But reports by the Ministry of Agriculture indicate that traders have failed to get the maize to remote areas and have also taken advantage of the shortage to hike prices to US$20 per bag.
The sale of maize has been handed over to the state-controlled agriculture produce buying and marketing enterprise, Agriculture and Development Marketing Corporation (ADMARC), which has outlets throughout the country.
Two weeks ago students from the University of Malawi protested against the price increase resulting in clashes between students and the police and the closure of the university.
Mwanawasa wins breathing space
Some of the losing opposition parties - which initially rejected the election results as
fraudulent - have endorsed Mwanawasa as president
As Zambia's disgruntled opposition leaders on Friday pressed on with a
campaign to nullify the results of last week's controversial general elections,
other Zambians appear to have opted for a more impassive wait-and-see
Analysts said the financial and equity markets had been quiet during the week and
were likely to remain restrained until the country's economic and political direction
became clearer. "The market is expected to remain calm and thin as players wait to
hear the policies of the new government," Citibank Zambia said in a treasury market
The slowdown in economic activity was apparent in Lusaka earlier this week, when
the central business district closed as opposition supporters took to the streets to
challenge the narrow electoral victory of President Levy Mwanawasa and his
Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) in 27 December general elections.
By Friday, the turmoil that followed the polls had died down. Some of the 10 losing
opposition parties - which initially rejected the election results as fraudulent - had
endorsed Mwanawasa as president, and Lusaka residents returned to their normal
"Generally, people think it is too early to make any judgements. They would rather
wait and see what the composition of the budget will be, and the breakdown of the
budget, which will give an indication of the government's priorities," Fred Mutesa, a
lecturer at the University of Zambia's department of development studies, told IRIN.
"The composition of the cabinet will also tell us whether Mwanawasa is his own man,
or a stooge of [former president] Frederick Chiluba," he added.
Mwanawasa is expected to name his cabinet either on Sunday or Monday.
There is a general perception that Chiluba, who remains the head of the ruling MMD
and who handpicked Mwanawasa as the party's presidential candidate, will control
the new president and effectively continue to run the country.
Chiluba, however, has said he plans to relinquish the party presidency and retire from
active politics to set up an institute for the development of democracy in Africa.
Chiluba, a former trade union leader, ruled Zambia from 1991.
Meanwhile, Mwanawasa's recent pronouncements suggest that
he intends to be his own man. Policy statements that he made
before and after his election suggest that he plans a populist
reversal of aspects of a far-reaching structural adjustment
programme that was the cornerstone of Chiluba's economic
Mwanawasa said in a television interview broadcast on Thursday that his government
would review the country's investment policies to stop unscrupulous foreign investors
from plundering the economy. "We want investors who will start building permanent
structures like factories. The Investment Centre will have to play a pivotal role in this.
I have always said that Zambia is not for sale," he said.
Earlier, during his electoral campaign, Mwanawasa pledged to reintroduce exchange
controls to protect the Kwacha. He also said he would review the privatisation
programme, which saw the sale of over 200 state-run enterprises and which -
together with a public service reform programme - cost the country some 300 000
jobs in the 1990s.
The country's leading economic lobby groups, including the Zambia National Farmers
Union and the Zambia Association of Manufacturers - whose members have borne
the brunt of economic liberalisation - would welcome Mwanawasa's populist
economic policies. The two organisations blame the economy's decade-long slump
on liberalisation, which they say allowed Zambia's wealthier neighbours to dump their
products while keeping their own markets closed.
However, some economic analysts fear that a reversal of the economic reforms of the
1990s would lead to the flight of capital, and see drastic cuts in foreign direct
investment and lifeblood donor aid to the country.
"During the 1990s, when our economy was very open, we did not see much foreign
direct investment coming in. If we reverse the liberalisation programme now, I doubt
that we will see any investment coming in at all. Moreover, such reversals would
affect donor support to the country," Mutesa said.
Some analysts fear that may already be happening. They say the country's relations
with Western donors may have cooled following attacks by the new president on the
European Union, which he accused of "creating anarchy" in the country. Mwanawasa
charged in his inauguration speech that the EU had raised questions over the
conduct of the elections only because their favoured presidential candidate,
Anderson Mazoka of the opposition United Party for National Development (UPND)
Civil Society Initiative, a Lusaka-based civic society organisation, warned that
Mwanawasa's confrontational stance could see western donors cutting aid to the
"The Civil Society Initiative would like to advise some people not to pass unfounded
comments on the European Union in order to win sympathy from the general public,
but instead to make informed and factual statements. The country still needs donor
support even after the elections," the organisation's executive director, Beck Banda
There are also grave concerns about the leadership style that Mwanawasa, who
readily admits to be short-tempered, will adopt. The 53-year-old lawyer resigned as
Chiluba's first vice president in 1994 following a protracted row, played out in the
media, with the then minister without portfolio, Michael Sata.
He suffered virulent personal attacks in the run-up to the elections, when his
opponents nicknamed him "the cabbage", on account of his incoherent speech,
occasional memory lapses, and the widely held perception that he suffered brain
damage in a road accident in 1991.
However, Mwanawasa has made it clear since his inauguration that he will not
condone attacks on his person any longer. Noting that unlawful attempts to unseat
him amounted to treason, which calls for capital punishment, the president said he
would deal firmly with opposition leaders who led demonstrations to challenge his
authority and to those who insulted him.
His words have lead to a flurry of protests from civic leaders, who now fear that the
Mwanawasa years may see a return to the tough rule of former one-party state
president Kenneth Kaunda.
"His statements scared me. One would have expected that, in the aftermath of such
a bitterly contested election, his tone would have been more reconciliatory. His
stance will only polarise the country further," Mutesa said.
The church-backed Foundation for Democratic Process (FODEP) concurred. "Robust
debate, even with caustic and virulent language shall not be stifled in a democracy.
We, therefore, feel that the law pertaining to criminal defamation of the president
should be scrapped," FODEP president Alfred Chanda said.
"Those who feel that they have been defamed, including the president, can use civil
defamation law," he added.
Familiar look to Zambian
A new cabinet has been chosen by Zambia's
new President Levy Mwanawasa, following his
narrow victory in elections, marred by
allegations of vote-rigging.
Mr Mwanawasa, retired President Frederick
Chiluba's choice to succeed him, has tried to
distance himself from his predecessor's record,
promising to revive the economy and fight
But he has kept many familiar faces in his first
cabinet, which may revive accusations that he
is still being strongly influenced by Mr Chiluba.
Emmanuel Kasonde who
was President Chiluba's
first finance minister
when he was elected in
1991, returns to the
Katele Kalumba, who
was finance minister
under Mr Chiluba, is
now foreign minister,
and Enoch Kavindele
remains vice president.
Mr Mwanawasa will hold the defence portfolio
in the 19-member cabinet.
president, who was
sworn-in last week,
told MPs and his new
ministers that he would
not tolerate graft in his
"Ministers will have no
room for corruption or
personal interest. Any
betrayal of these ideals
will lead to us parting
company," he said.
However, the continuing controversy over the
bitterly fought election is refusing to die down.
The 53-year-old lawyer won less than 30% of
the vote in the 27 December, with both local
and international monitoring teams saying the
poll was flawed. The opposition has vowed to
bring its protests over the results to
parliament, where the ruling party are just
short of an overall majority.
It has until 16 January to lodge a legal appeal
against the official results, based on their
allegations of vote-rigging.
President Chiluba, Zambia's leader since 1991,
stood down after protests prevented him
amending the constitution and running for a
But the opposition shot itself in the foot by not
fielding a joint candidate against Mr
forces' 'pay boost'
The reported pay rise comes ahead of elections
By the BBC's Alastair Leithead in South
Reports from Zimbabwe say members of the
country's uniformed forces, including the army
and police, are to receive a 100% pay rise.
The move comes ahead of presidential
elections, due within three months, and a new
bill which will give police sweeping powers to
control opposition electioneering.
The report in the
President Mugabe, who
is commander in chief
of the defence forces,
the pay increase.
Members of the civil
service in Zimbabwe
are poorly paid, and
Wayne Buzevegina said
he felt officers
deserved a pay rise.
"I'm not so sure as to the figures. We have
been under-paid for a long time and, if there
are any increases, they are due to these
He would not confirm the amount, but said he
expected the rise to be implemented next
The political implication lies in the timing of the
It is thought that raising morale within the
army, air force, police and prison services
could help maintain their loyalty to President
Mugabe as he faces the biggest threat to his
presidency in more than 20 years.
He has spoken of a real war on the opposition
party, which he says is a terrorist organisation.
Members of the War Veterans' Association,
who have been heavily involved in the violent
takeover of white farms, will also have their
allowances doubled, the paper reports.
And this is from the UK, but is probably comparable to attitudes here in the US...
UK 'sees poor as victims'
By Alex Kirby
BBC News Online environment
Most Britons have a negative and inaccurate
picture of people in developing countries, a
Overwhelmingly, they see the poor world in
terms of starving children with flies around
Yet more than half want a more complete
portrayal, showing the positives as well as the
The report says the mass media and charities
are blamed for promoting the victim image.
The report, The Live Aid Legacy: The
developing world through British eyes, is
published by VSO (Voluntary Service
Overseas), an international development
charity which works through volunteers.
It is based on interviews with more than a
thousand UK adults and visitors from
developing countries, conducted in late
The report found that:
80% of Britons are confident that the
developing world exists in a permanent
state of doom and disaster, "starving
children with flies around their eyes, too
weak to brush them off"
74% believe developing countries are by
definition inferior to us and "depend on
the money and knowledge of the West
while 81% say it is dangerous to
stereotype people from other cultures,
most respondents believe developing
countries "have the desire to change but
no ability to support that".
The researchers say the images of Live Aid,
famine and Western help in tackling it 16 years
ago, "have caught British imagination in a
VSO's chief executive,
Mark Goldring, said:
"The Live Aid images
that were once such a
force for good have
left a legacy that
hangs like a cloud over
our relationship with
the developing world.
"This research proves
that British people are
not only ready for
complex than the usual images of doom and
"They will also resent both development
agencies and the media if we don't promote a
more balanced world view."
Live Aid organiser Sir Bob Geldof said that as a
TV producer, he rejected the suggestion that
the public wanted more programmes on culture
in the developing world.
And he accused the writers of the VSO report
of using "highly emotive" language.
"What happens when you see another human
being in distress is a shared human-ness," he
told the BBC's Today programme.
"There's an innate sympathy, not a superiority
as the report says, that there but for the
grace of god."
James McGoldrick, a former volunteer, found on
his return to the UK that his friends assumed
he had been helping starving children.
"Live Aid images give no room for a two-way
process", he said. "They set up the assumption
that the only thing we can gain from
developing countries is the satisfaction of
The report says 55% of people surveyed said
they wanted more television that showed the
everyday life, culture and people of developing
It says this
assumptions of editors
schedulers, who don't
see such programmes
as ratings winners".
Paddy Coulter of the
himself a former
volunteer, told BBC
News Online: "Maybe
the penny will drop
that this is an
"The US wake-up call on 11 September, their
shock at finding that they could be so reviled,
shows how we've all forgotten to try to
understand other people's cultures.
"All we're left with is the bad news, with this
unrelenting decline in the quality of coverage
ordinary people are getting.
"It's a paradox - globalisation marches on, yet
we live in such an insular society."
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