- Thousands displaced in
Thousands of people in central and northern
Malawi have been forced from their homes by
A government official said crops and livestock
have also been destroyed after the river
Dzongwe burst its banks following a week of
Malawi is already facing severe food shortages
and the flooding has further hampered the
A railway line and an important road bridge
have been washed away in the past two
The government is attempting to import maize,
Malawi's staple food, but correspondents say
that only a relatively small amount has arrived
in the country, forcing the authorities to ration
'Malawi corruption' halts
By Raphael Tenthani in Blantyre
The Danish embassy in the Malawi capital,
Lilongwe, has said Copenhagen's decision to
withdraw all its development aid to Malawi with
immediate effect has been prompted by
Malawi's corruption and political intolerance.
In a strongly-worded
statement issued in the
Danish Charge D'Affaires
Finn Skadkaer Pedersen
said "a weak
Malawi since 1995 has
made it difficult to
Mr Pedersen said corruption and misuse of
Danish and other donor money has become a
"markedly increased issue".
He also said political intolerance by the ruling
United Democratic Front (UDF) of President
Bakili Muluzi as witnessed by
politically-motivated violence and what he
termed as "systematic intimidation of the
opposition" has made it difficult for Denmark to
continue assisting Malawi.
Recent ruling UDF-initiated attempts to
intimidate judges in Parliament did not help
matters, he said.
"On this background, the Danish government
has decided no longer to include Malawi in its
list of programme countries and to phase out
DANIDA's support to development and
environment programmes in Malawi," Mr
"This means no new Danish development or
environmental programmes or projects will be
initiated in Malawi."
Government is yet to
officially comment on
the withdrawal of the
Danish aid but already
hundreds of jobs are on
Mr Ted Nandolo,
executive director of
Organisations - an
umbrella group for
NGOs in Malawi, says
Malawi NGOs will suffer.
Malawian NGOs, including environmental and
good governance projects, get a chunk of its
operating funds from Denmark.
Mr Nandolo said that all civil society groups in
Malawi have petitioned Copenhagen to reverse
Sympathy for Malawians has been expressed
by other Danish quarters.
Ms Elsebeth Krogh,
secretary general of
NGO Churches Emergency Aid in
Denmark, told Danish
press it was shocking
for Copenhagen to cut
aid to Malawi, one of
the poorest countries in
"It's shocking and undue to cut development
aid this drastically," she said.
Denmark's move comes just a week after
President Bakili Muluzi lashed out at donors,
accusing them of meddling in African politics by
using their aid money to influence political
trends on the continent.
Recently, at a public he told Malawians that
western nations have no right to tell African
governments how to govern their countries.
"We are poor yes but we are a sovereign state
and nobody should teach me how to run this
country," he told Malawians at a recent public
Relations between Denmark and Malawi soured
late last year when Copenhagen was forced to
recall its outspoken Danish ambassador to the
country Orla Bakdal after an audit report he
instituted, on how Danish money was being
spent, revealed some anomalies.
In 1999 Denmark gave $18 million in aid to
Malawi, a poor southern African nation of 10
million people. $87 million had been earmarked
for the four-year period ending in 2004.
Mugabe evades EU
Three Tsvangirai supporters died last week
The European Union has said that one or two
election observers have been let into
Zimbabwe ahead of the 9-10 March poll.
The EU had warned that unless observers were
allowed to deploy over the week-end,
sanctions such as a travel ban would be
imposed on President Robert Mugabe and his
Last week, the
pressure from the UK to
suspend Zimbabwe and
also said it would send
The opposition Movement for Democratic
Change said that three of its activists had
been murdered and another four abducted in
the past week in pre-election violence.
"There has been no attempt to prevent us
deploying some of the individuals who will take
part in the core team," European Commission
spokeswoman Emma Udwin told a news
conference. "So there is no need to take a
decision on sanctions."
The EU hopes to have 150 observers in place
before the elections.
After earlier saying that no foreign observers
would be allowed, Zimbabwe relented and
invited representatives from several
However, Mr Mugabe said that British citizens
would not be allowed and both the EU and the
Commonwealth have agreed not include any
Britons in their teams.
Mr Mugabe says that
the former colonial
power is trying to
remove him from power
because of his plans to
Rejecting calls for
Zimbabwe to be
general Don McKinnon
said that the most
important thing was to
get observers into the
country, to help ensure
that the elections
would be free and fair.
MDC secretary general Welshman Ncube said
that the latest fatality was Tichaona
Katsamudanga who died on Monday after an
attack last month.
The man who will contest the March elections
against Mr Mugabe on Sunday urged his
supporters not to respond to the violence.
"I know there are those among us clamouring
for revenge. I want to tell you that we cannot
afford that," he said.
"When we come to power we will pursue a
policy of reconciliation because that is the only
way to build a country."
On Friday, Mr Mugabe opened his campaign,
blaming the violence on the opposition.
"We don't condone violence, but I'm not saying
you should fold your hands if you are
provoked," he said.
Mugabe opponent enters
Tsvangirai urged supporters to brave election violence
Zimbabwe opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai
has launched his presidential election campaign
with a call to oust President Robert Mugabe
and return the country to the rule of law.
Mr Tsvangirai, who heads the Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC), was greeted with
thunderous cheers at his first rally since
entering the race, in the eastern border town
Police had set up
roadblocks outside the
town and conducted
document checks on
MDC supporters on their
way to the rally. Some
were turned away.
The rally came as international election
observers prepared to enter Zimbabwe, amid
optimism that Mr Mugabe would meet a
European Union deadline for allowing its
representatives into the country.
The EU has promised to impose sanctions on
leading officials of the ruling Zanu-PF party on
Wednesday if the Sunday deadline is not met.
Mr Tsvangirai warned his supporters that
Zanu-PF would try to rig the election and
called on them to turn out in large numbers.
"There is anarchy in
our country," he said.
"It will be finished on
11 March if you choose
At the same time, he
warned against a
campaign of revenge
on Zanu-PF if he was
elected and pledged to
set up a government of
"We ask you to brave
Zanu-PF's campaign of violence," he said.
Mr Tsvangirai also promised more orderly land
reform than exists under Mr Mugabe's
controversial redistribution programme.
"We want a land reform programme that
benefits the whole country, that recognises
that farming is a commercial venture and not
just about pieces of land for peasants," he
Rise in violence
Mr Mugabe launched his campaign on
Saturday, for what are likely to be the most
fiercely contested elections since the
country's independence in 1980.
Human rights groups have reported a sharp
increase in political violence in recent weeks.
Domestic and international critics say a raft of
recent legislation curbing civil liberties -
including a stringent new media bill passed
during the week - is indicative of President
Mugabe's determination to stay in power
whatever the cost.
Zanu-PF - more than just
By BBC News Online's Joseph Winter
People close to President Robert Mugabe say
that he is the only person capable of holding
the ruling Zanu-PF party together.
This is because it is not - contrary to what
many assume - a homogenous grouping happy
merely to act as a vehicle for Mr Mugabe to
stay in power as long as he wants.
Like political parties throughout the world, it is
riven by ideology, method, ethnicity and,
above all, personal ambition.
For at least a decade, Zanu-PF heavyweights
have been vying with each other to take over
when the 77-year-old steps down.
But Mr Mugabe has so far managed to play
them off against each other and remain on
During the debate on the controversial media
bill, some of these internal tensions came to
Ruling party MP Eddison
Zvobgo said the
original bill was "the
most calculated and
determined assault on
our liberties guaranteed
by the constitution".
Using his influential
position as chairman of
the parliamentary legal
lawyer succeeded in
delaying its passage by two weeks and
wringing some minor concessions from the
Unlike others, Mr Zvobgo has never hidden his
ambition to succeed Mr Mugabe.
One of his closest allies, Dzikamai Mavhaire,
then a Zanu-PF MP, told parliament in 1997
that "the president should go". He lost his
senior position in the party, as have other
Zvobgo allies in his home area of Masvingo.
Mr Zvobgo himself was sacked from the
cabinet in 2000 and then also lost his place in
the Zanu-PF politburo.
With the Movement for Democratic Change
proving itself to be a credible challenger, Mr
Mugabe felt he had to be able to focus his
energies on the opposition, without being
worried about which of his supposed allies
might be stabbing him in the back.
But Mr Zvobgo is not alone.
Just after the 2000 party congress decided
that Mr Mugabe would be its candidate for
these elections, I met a depressed Zanu-PF
MP complaining of a missed opportunity to "get
rid of the old man".
So why hadn't he spoken up during the
congress? "The place was crawling with war
veterans," came the reply.
These so-called "young Turks" do exist but
they are not ready to take the risk of openly
defying Mr Mugabe.
They know that doing so at the moment would
certainly mean internal discipline - losing their
seats on the political gravy train - and possibly
While some oppose Mr Mugabe on personal
grounds or because they feel his star is
waning, others have ideological differences or
feel that the use of violence is wrong.
On several occasions,
ministers and even the
announced that illegal
would cease, only for
the president to
Mr Mugabe has spent
his political life
espousing socialism. He
is currently imposing
price controls on a variety of staple foods and
taking land from rich whites to give to poor
But his Finance Minister, Simba Makoni, is a
firm believer in the free market.
He once said that Zimbabwe needs the rest of
the world but the rest of the world does not
need Zimbabwe - something his fiercely proud
president would never admit.
His understanding and belief in the global
economy was intended to persuade
international donors to resume their aid,
suspended because of concerns over
corruption and the land reform programme.
But they knew that real power was
concentrated in Mr Mugabe's hands and that
however amenable and well-meaning his
finance minister was, the president viewed the
world through different eyes.
While Mr Makoni is well-respected outside
Zanu-PF, the man currently best-placed to
succeed Mr Mugabe is Emmerson Mnangagwa,
the speaker of parliament.
He was state security
minister in the early
1980s, when the army
killed thousands of Mr
Some see his hand
behind the current
campaign of violence
But many Ndebeles
with bitter memories of the 1980s, even within
Zanu-PF, would not welcome him becoming
When the Mugabe era does finally come to an
end, it will not spell the end of Zanu-PF.
But the divisions and personal rivalries which
are largely being suppressed for the moment
will come to the fore and it may not be a
Moyo accused of embezzling
Johannesburg | Monday
ZIMBABWEAN Information Minister Jonathan Moyo is facing the
ire of two South African organisations and a United States-based
aid agency for allegedly embezzling millions of rands.
Moyo stands accused of absconding with R100 000 belonging to
the television production company, Endemol, headed by
President Thabo Mbeki's brother, Moeletsi.
Moeletsi Mbeki confirmed the reports to Sapa, saying Endemol
was considering co-operation with other claimants.
He said they might attach and sell Moyo's luxury home in
Saxonwold, Johannesburg, to raise the money he owed them.
A Sunday Times newspaper report said Moyo was also facing
legal action from the University of the Witwatersrand for allegedly
disappearing with part of a R100-million research grant.
Derek Swemmer, the Registrar of the university said the media
report was misleading,and that the amount "involved is far less
than R1 million".
Swemmer said in a statement that Moyo was employed by the
university as a researcher in January 1998 on a three-year
"Without the knowledge of the university, he accepted an
appointment in the Zimbabwean government in mid-1999. He left
the university abruptly in 2000 when it became clear that he was
not undertaking the research which formed the basis of his
association with Wits, but was instead involved in electioneering
at the time of the last general election in Zimbabwe. Any claim
the university may have against Moyo would arise out of the
performance of his obligations to the university, as he continued
to receive a salary until his resignation. The amount involved is far
less than R1-million and is the university's own funds, not Trust
Funds and is nothing like the massive sum reported by The
Moyo is also being sued by the United States aid agency, Ford
Foundation, for an alleged illegal transfer of R1-million from its
Kenyan office to a trust in South Africa.
Asked for comment on the allegations, Moyo, who this week
pushed through Zimbabwe's draconian media laws, told the
Sunday Times: "I do not speak to the apartheid press."
Meanwhile, Mugabe threatened to punish gay groups at a
weekend campaign rally for his re-election, saying Britain was
angry at him for his stance against homosexuality.
Mugabe said British Prime Minister Tony Blair should "expose"
his cabinet as full of gays before criticising Zimbabwe, according
to the official Ziana news agency.
"I have people who are married in my cabinet. He has
homosexuals and they make John marry Joseph and let Mary get
married to Rosemary," Mugabe told thousands of people at a rally
in the rural district of Wedza on Saturday.
"We are saying they do not know biology because even dogs and
pigs know biology. We can form clubs, but we will never have
homosexual clubs. In fact, we will punish them," he said.
Attacks on Britain are staples of Mugabe's speeches, especially
as the former colonial power has moved toward imposing
sanctions on his regime over his increasingly autocratic rule
ahead of the March 9-10 presidential election.
Mugabe forced through parliament tough new security and press
laws last month, even as the opposition and rights groups
accused pro-government militants of stepping up attacks on
people who oppose him.
The 77-year-old president, who has ruled since independence in
1980, is struggling for his political survival against a tough
challenge from former labour leader Morgan Tsvangirai.
International criticism of Mugabe's increasingly autocratic rule has
stepped up during the last month, as his government has
muscled through parliament a raft of legislation curbing civil
EU foreign ministers last Monday gave Zimbabwe until Sunday to
accept observers for the polls or face sanctions, including a
suspension of EU aid, as well as travel bans and the freezing of
assets for Mugabe and 20 others in his inner circle.
But the Zimbabwe government made no statement on the matter
on Sunday, and EU officials in Brussels and Madrid were
unavailable for comment as to when the deadline would expire.
On Thursday Zimbabwean Foreign Minister Stan Mudenge said
the European Union had no right to demand that Harare accept
EU observers at the polls.
Mugabe has invited several organisations to send observers
including the EU and the Commonwealth, but he specifically
excluded Britain from joining their teams.
Mugabe also said the EU could come only as part of a joint
delegation with the Africa, Caribbean and Pacific countries, which
the ACP would lead. - AFP
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