- Food Crisis Set to Worsen
UN Integrated Regional Information Networks
March 3, 2002
Posted to the web March 3, 2002
Malawi is currently facing a critical food shortage, but according to the World Food Programme (WFP), an even worse disaster could be on the way with April's harvest expected to be sharply down.
President Bakili Muluzi declared a national disaster on Wednesday, and made an urgent appeal for food aid as officials warned that 70 percent of the country's 10 million people were at risk of starvation. He said that food shortages had reached critical proportions, especially in rural areas.
"The reports are really bad," WFP Country Director Adama Diop-Faye told IRIN. "The only problem is you can't prove people died from hunger but I'm sure the deaths we're recording are hunger-related one way or another."
She said at some distribution sites, people had not eaten for days and consumed WFP's high-protein corn-soya blend rations as soon as they were handed out. She added that anecdotal evidence suggested there are large numbers of kwashiorkor (extreme malnutrition) cases. Theft of food rations was also a concern for hungry villagers, who have begun to band together for protection at the distribution points.
The government has said it needs an estimated US $21.6m to avoid disaster, but has secured only US $1.6m.
WFP has in-country stocks of 798 mt of maize to feed 10,000 targeted households in 10 districts as an immediate response. But Diop-Faye acknowledged that this was only one-third of what was needed.
In response to the crisis, WFP is now buying 1,500 mt of maize on the local market - at highly inflated prices. An additional eight districts will be covered, and an estimated total of 200,000 people fed.
"Even with that intervention we are not solving the problem because more people are suffering from food shortages each day," Diop-Faye said.
Malawi's crisis is a combination of several factors, the WFP Country Director said. Flooding in early 2001 led to food shortages in several parts of the country, especially the densely populated south. Donor cutbacks in support for a farm input assistance programme that provided seeds and fertiliser to vulnerable families, and the government's decision to sell-off some of its national food reserve, also worsened the current situation.
Prices for the staple maize have rocketed by as much as 400 percent - well beyond the means of most Malawians.
Meanwhile, although the government has banned the sale of green maize, farmers are harvesting early - both to defeat crop thefts and to make some income. But early harvesting, combined with destructive rains at the beginning of the year in 15 of Malawi's 27 districts, means that another poor agricultural season is in store for Malawi.
The maize harvest, which begins in April, was expected to come in at 1.9 million mt. But production has now been reassessed to 1.5 million mt. National demand is 2.2 million mt.
"Donors should look beyond this current crisis as it is going to be worse next year," warned Diop-Faye.
Cholera Kills 175 Persons
African Eye News Service (Nelspruit)
March 4, 2002
Posted to the web March 4, 2002
More than 175 people have died of cholera in just one week in Malawi and the number is expected to rise because of a lack of drugs in government hospitals, health authorities warned at the weekend.
The water borne disease has affected about 10 000 people countrywide, especially along the popular tourism attraction, Lake Malawi, since the onset of the rainy season in November last year.
The overall picture is likely to be grimmer, however, since the current figures are based on only 16 of the country's 27 administrative districts.
Data from the 11 other districts is not available.
Chief health education officer Jonathan Nkhoma said initial reports indicate that as of February 28, 175 deaths were recorded.
Lakeshore districts were worst hit, with Mngochi topping the number of cases with 1 547 cholera patients and 35 deaths.
Another badly hit lakeshore district is Machinga where 24 people out 716 cholera patients have died.
Malawi's main cities have also been hit by cholera. Blantyre and the capital of Lilongwe have recorded 14 deaths each. Altogether 979 cases have been reported in Lilongwe and 1 139 cases in Blantyre.
Nkhoma advised people to seek immediate medical attention if they started vomiting, suffered profuse, watery diarrhea and had cramps.
"People must make sure they drink treated water and wash their hands with soap or ash before preparing or eating food. That way we will control the cholera outbreak," he said.
Cholera drug supplies are rapidly diminishing.
A circular from Blantyre District Health Office has been sent to all health centres in the district advising management to use the drug, Ringer's Lactate, sparingly, because it was running out.
Medicins Sans Frontieres and World Vision International have since offered to provide the drug.
Clinics have also been advised to use drugs like Doxycycline and Nalidixin Acid on only very critical cases. Most clinics are relying on oral rehydration salts.
Commonwealth leaders have said no action is
to be taken against Zimbabwe before
presidential elections later this week.
Under a deal reached at talks in Australia, the
leaders agreed to set up a three-member
committee to decide possible action, based on
the findings of the group's election observers
deployed in the country.
The BBC's diplomatic
Mason says it was a
between countries like
Britain and Australia,
which had pushed for
and others like Tanzania
and Namibia opposing
any discussion at all.
In its first reaction, Zimbabwe's opposition
Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) said it
was totally dissatisfied with the deal as there
was no question the election could be free or
UK Prime Minister Tony Blair said the leaders
ought to have gone further.
The troika is made up of Nigerian President
Olusegun Obasanjo, his South African
counterpart Thabo Mbeki, and Australian Prime
Minister John Howard.
Analysts say President Robert Mugabe is likely
to be pleased with the deal as Nigeria and
South Africa have in the past opposed
sanctions on Harare.
A statement from
the summit in
suspension", if the poll is not free or
Australian Prime Minister John
Howard said it had not been easy to
reach a deal which was a "quick, sure
and fair mechanism".
"I think it's a credible outcome for the
Commonwealth," he added.
Significantly, Zimbabwe had been
party to the agreement, President
Obasanjo told the BBC.
"Frankly, and without any feeling of
'oh, I have lost out or I have won',
there's no winner, no loser. The
consensus agreement we have
reached, we are all the better for it,"
Mr Obasanjo said.
But Mr Blair said the summit ought to
have gone all the way.
"The case for
now I think is very
plain," Mr Blair said.
stance as "disgraceful"
when he made an
at the summit.
himself has reportedly called on Mr Blair to
keep his "pink nose" out of Zimbabwe's affairs.
Despite the summit's condemnation of violence
in the run-up to the election, the statement
refrained from blaming Mr Mugabe or his
Zanu-PF party for it.
MDC spokeswoman Sekai Holland told the BBC
the opposition was disappointed - it had hoped
for action not words as Mr Mugabe had flouted
all previous agreements and instituted a regime
of violence against opposition members and
Zimbabwe rivals square
up in Harare
The two contenders in Zimbabwe's bitter
electoral battle have been in the capital,
Harare, delivering their last major addresses
before next weekend's presidential poll.
Thousands flocked to rival rallies in support of
President Robert Mugabe and Morgan
Tsvangirai, leader of the opposition Movement
for Democratic Change (MDC).
political violence in
recent weeks, the
passed off relatively
At the meeting of
in Australia, Canadian
Prime Minister Jean
Chretien said that any
punitive action which
they may take against
Zimbabwe would not
happen until after the
Mr Mugabe addressed about 7,000 Zanu-PF
supporters at a sports field in the Mbare
He urged the crowd to vote peacefully in the
9-10 March poll and said there would be no
He denounced Mr Tsvangirai - his most serious
challenger in 22 years of power - dismissing
him as a stooge of white and Western
"All of you gathered here can see that whites
want us to be their slaves and they are now
closing shops and factories to throw you
blacks into the streets so that you can turn
against the government," he said.
With the country facing economic crisis, he
called for loyalty, despite conceding that his
Zanu-PF party had made some mistakes.
"We appreciate that
we went wrong at one
point or another, but
we are in a process of
correcting. A mother
would not divorce her
there is nothing to
estimated 10,000 MDC
sang and cheered as
addressed them at Zimbabwe Grounds, the site
of Mr Mugabe's inauguration as prime minister
Mr Tsvangirai criticised Mr Mugabe's
programme of forced and often violent
occupations of white-owned farms, which has
thrown the country into political crisis.
"Everyone in Zimbabwe wants land reform to
proceed, but it must proceed on an equitable
and transparent basis so we can ensure
continued productivity," he said
He told the crowd that the MDC intended to
embark on a process of national healing, rather
He told the crowd that "cultural diversity"
would be the dynamism of the country should
he gain power, and promised to promote racial
At a large rally on Saturday in the southern
city of Bulawayo, Mr Mugabe said that his
policy of reconciliation with the country's
former white rulers after independence had
been an error.
A few miles away, Mr Tsvangirai told
thousands of opposition supporters that they
should not fear intimidation during the vote.
South African election monitors in Zimbabwe
say conditions for the vote are neither ideal
The head of the 50-strong South African
observer mission, Sam Motsuenyane, released
a statement saying that conditions prevailed
for the elections to reflect the true will of
At the heads of government summit in Coolum,
Queensland, informal talks over the Zimbabwe
issue were held after sharp divisions between
member states became apparent.
Mr Chretien said there would be a consensus
on Zimbabwe but "everybody agrees that
nothing will happen before the election".
The BBC's diplomatic correspondent, Barnaby
Mason, said the disagreement looked at times
like a black-white divide for the 54-nation
Zimbabwe Militants Aid Mugabe's Policy
By Dina Kraft
Associated Press Writer
Sunday, March 3, 2002; 1:22 PM
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa ** President Robert Mugabe calls them loyal war veterans, patriotic
Zimbabweans who have risen up spontaneously to fight those who would betray the revolution that brought
Most other Zimbabweans see them as violent foot soldiers in a state-sponsored war on their own countrymen
part of an effort by Mugabe to crush his political opponents before next weekend's presidential election.
Often escorted by a protective phalanx of police, militants have firebombed opposition party offices and
white-owned farms. They have attacked homes and businesses. They allegedly have killed, kidnapped, tortured
or simply beaten those seen as Mugabe's opponents.
Few militants have been arrested. Fewer have been prosecuted. And some have been rewarded handsomely by
an increasingly unpopular and autocratic president who is facing his severest political test against the opposition
Movement for Democratic Change in the March 9-10 election.
"They are doing exactly what (Mugabe) wants. Every day of violence is more votes lost for the MDC," said Shari
Eppel, an official with the Amani Trust, a Zimbabwean human rights group.
In fiery speeches, the president has encouraged and defended his shock troops. After parliamentary elections in
2000, he gave a blanket amnesty to those who waged a violent intimidation campaign against opposition groups.
"This is a betrayal of what we fought for," said Wilfred Mhanda, a former officer in the high command of the
liberation army that ended white rule in 1980.
"We fought most importantly for freedom and social justice and there is no political freedom right now," said
Mhanda, director of the Zimbabwe Liberation Platform, a group of war veterans that lobbies for good
governance and human rights.
Joseph Chinotimba, who describes himself as a field commander of the pro-Mugabe militants, denied in a
telephone interview that the militants have done anything wrong.
"We are totally peaceful," said Chinotimba, who accused the MDC and its presidential candidate, Morgan
Tsvangirai, of being behind the political violence sweeping the country.
However, Chinotimba himself has led violent raids on farms, and he has been charged with the attempted murder
of a female neighbor he accused of supporting the opposition. He also was convicted of possessing an illegal
firearm, but remains free pending appeal.
He once stormed the Supreme Court yelling, "Kill the judges." With no interference from police guards, he
entered the chambers of Chief Justice Anthony Gubbay, whose court had begun striking down as unconstitutional
new laws aimed at strengthening Mugabe's hold on power, and threatened him.
Gubbay, who had been appointed by Mugabe, resigned after the government said it would not protect him.
Chinotimba calls Gubbay "an agent of Ian Smith," who was the defiant leader of the minority white government in
the nation then called Rhodesia.
But it was Mugabe who appointed Gubbay chief justice.
Mugabe rewarded Chinotimba with a large farm.
The militants say they are helping redistribute white-owned farms to landless blacks. But many farms have gone to
ruling party lawmakers, Mugabe's ministers and loyalists like Chinotimba.
Five years ago, after their pension fund was drained by corrupt officials, war veterans took to the streets to
demand Mugabe's resignation. He gave them a huge payout financed by planned new taxes. When court rulings
and strikes destroyed the tax plan, the payouts helped sink the economy, taking Mugabe's popularity with it.
Over the past two years, ruling party militants led by the war veterans have attacked opposition supporters all
over the country. They occupied hundreds of white-owned farms, burned the houses of black farm workers and
then used the land as bases for intimidating the country's rural voters, human rights activists say.
More than 100 people have been killed. Human rights organizations say nearly all the dead have been black
Foreign governments have pressed Mugabe to restore the rule of law. The president promised he would, but the
violence has escalated, with dozens killed in February.
Many of the militants are far too young to have had any role in the nation's liberation war. Yet nearly all call
themselves war veterans.
"Mugabe is taking advantage of the war vets and our youth," Mhanda said.
Most of the militants hope that like Chinotimba they will be rewarded for unswerving loyalty.
Mugabe has called his campaign a new liberation fight and told his supporters to "wage war" on the opposition.
At youth militia training camps, the younger recruits are indoctrinated by war veterans in what they are told is their
generation's battle against imperialism and foreign influence, human rights groups say.
The rhetoric "gives young people the feeling that they are taking part in a war ... an ideological linkage to our
forefathers fighting colonial occupation," said Brian Kagoro, a human rights lawyer.
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