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  • Christine Chumbler
    Following on Dan s message about Madagascar, I d be happy to post news stories about that situation as well. I ve been following it since I travelled there
    Message 1 of 1046 , Apr 10, 2002
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      Following on Dan's message about Madagascar, I'd be happy to post news stories about that situation as well. I've been following it since I travelled there post-COS, but wasn't sure if others would be interested. I'll post a story about it today (below), but will only continue if people say they want more. In the meantime, more Malawi...
      UN Team Here to Assess Food Crisis
      Daily Times (Blantyre)
      April 9, 2002
      Posted to the web April 9, 2002
      Mabvuto Banda
      Blantyre
      A World Food Programme (WFP) team is in the country to assess the food crisis, worsened by sluggish donor response to government appeals for help.
      WFP Information Officer Ausius Kachali said from Lilongwe yesterday the team is in the country to assess and look for ways to address the situation.
      Last month the WFP said it needs to raise K315 million (US$4.2 million) to feed an estimated 255,000 people in Malawi and 8,000 refugees trickling in from the DR Congo and Burundi.
      Minister of Agriculture Aleke Banda said yesterday the visit by the UN team is a positive response to the president's appeal for aid.
      "Several other organisations have sent missions and this one is one of those to try to asses the situation and find out how they can assist us," Banda said.
      Malawi, among southern African states described by the WFP as having a major food crisis on the horizon, is the only country which has not yet received confirmed contributions for its emergency operations.
      However, WFP has already raised K112.2 million (US$1.5m) and channelled food aid from other operations.
      In January, the food agency increased rations in its nutritional rehabilitation units in all the country's major hospitals where mothers and children are flocking for help.
      In the same month, the British Government pledged K100 million (£1 million sterling) for food aid.
      The WFP in a press statement last month observed that in some parts of Malawi, people were selling goats and other belongings at give-away prices to enable them to buy maize.
      The agency urgently requires 145,866 tons of food to ward off an imminent break in food supplies, particularly for people in southern Africa.
      In neighbouring Zambia, WFP is feeding 1.3 million people hit by drought and floods last year, but the country has received only 40 percent of the US$19 million it needs.
      And in Zimbabwe, food aid distribution re-started on March 20 after a lull during the election period. Only 30 percent of the US$60 million required have been received.
      *****
      Ministry Defends Amendment of Employment Act
      Daily Times (Blantyre)
      April 9, 2002
      Posted to the web April 9, 2002
      Anthony Kasunda
      Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training yesterday defended the amendment of section 35(2) of the Employment Act, saying workers misinterpreted the old act and demand to be paid twice by employers.
      Secretary for Labour Martin Mononga said yesterday the amendment of the Act is just a clarification.
      Mononga, who acknowledged receipt of Malawi Congress of Trade Unions (MCTU) letter demanding immediate suspension of the new act, said in the past employees who qualified for pension also demanded severance allowance.
      "There is no question of suspending the act. I think what is important is to come to a round-table discussion and listen to the concerns and proposals," he said.
      He explained that severance allowance is only applicable when an employee has been retrenched or dismissed and had served for a period of more than a year.
      "It's unfortunate that employees misinterpreted the act and demanded to be paid in double-pension and severance allowance," he said, adding that the aim of the clarification was to make the conditions of the allowance clear to all employees.
      According to the new act, employees who have served not less than one year but not exceeding 10 years are paid a severance allowance amounting to two week's wages for every completed year.
      It further says four weeks' wages for each completed year will be paid to employees who have served for not less than 10 years continously.
      Mononga dismissed claims by MCTU that under the amended act only senior staff will enjoy the allowance, not their juniors.
      He, however, was not sure whether the ministry consultated the union before making the change.
      MCTU President Ken Williams Mhango on Friday said the union was against the amendment since it will deny a section of employees severance allowance at the expiry of their service.
      Mhango blamed the Ministry of Labour for ignoring consultations before tampering with the Act.
      He said he suspected another centre was consulted and he expressed concern that labour issues were looked into in a hurry.
      Congress for Malawi Trade Unions (Comatu) President Thomas Banda yesterday also distanced his union from the organisations which the Ministry claimed to have consulted before making the changes.
      *****
      Dausi Granted Bail
      Daily Times (Blantyre)
      April 9, 2002
      Posted to the web April 9, 2002
      Frank Namangale
      Blantyre
      THE High Court in Blantyre yesterday granted bail to MCP spokesman Nicholas Dausi after a lower court refused him on grounds that police were still investigating his case.
      Defence lawyer Viva Nyimba appealed for bail at the High Court for Dausi who was arrested last week and charged with conspiracy to defeat justice in the 1994 Mwanza murders case.
      Nyimba told Journalists that Judge William Hanjahanja, who heard the appeal for bail application in his chambers, observed that the nature of the charge was bailable.
      "He also observed that the State failed to show that the accused can tamper with evidence if granted bail.
      "Bail has been granted on conditions that the accused surrenders all travel documents, [does] not to leave Blantyre without informing police, pays a bail bond of K20,000 cash, reports to police once a week every Friday and should have two sureties and each to pay K75,000 bond but not cash," Nyimba explained.
      Hanjahanja, added Nyimba, saidthe bail conditions are reviewable after three months.
      Senior State Advocate Chifundo Kalaile, who represented the State, objected to the bail on basis that investigations were still under way.
      But Nyimba said police just wanted to put Dausi in custody as a pre-trial punishment, challenging that there is no way the State is going to proceed with the case.
      "We had a similar case (Mwanza murders) in 1994 where several witnesses testified, including former police officers who confessed to have killed those politicians, and accused persons were acquitted. Does it mean those aquitted are going to be brought into this case again?" wondered Nyimba.
      Dausi was arrested when he apologised to the nation for MCP atrocities, including the killing of four politicians in 1983, a plot to assassinate Catholic Bishops and beating up chiefs in Mzuzu in 1971.
      *****
      Zim Farmers Cash in On Blantyre Tobacco
      Daily Times (Blantyre)
      April 9, 2002
      Posted to the web April 9, 2002
      Thomas Chafunya
      Blantyre
      ZIMBABWEAN commercial farmers, faced with low tobacco output in their country, are reported to be buying Malawi burley tobacco at higher prices at the borders.
      Some growers at Limbe Auction Floors yesterday complained the Zimbabwean buyers were offering higher prices-US$1.80/kg (K130/kg)-free from deductable levies and taxes.
      The revelation comes hot on the heels of a National Smallholder Farmers' Association of Malawi (Nasfam) warning that government will lose millions in taxes, levies and fees if it does not check the cross-border trade in tobacco.
      "My friends have moved their tobacco into Mozambique where white farmers from Zimbabwe are buying it at very good prices," Kelly Mankhusu, a commercial farmer at Mayaka in Zomba, said yesterday.
      He said selling the leaf across the border was lucrative because no levies and taxes were deducted from the payments made, unlike at the auction floors where almost 35 percent of the total sales go to levies, taxes and fees.
      Another grower from Namwera in Mangochi, Marko Maulana, said soon after government authorised direct exports of tobacco, merchants from Mozambique were buying tobacco right at the farms and selling it to Zimbabwean farmers in Mozambique.
      "Farmers started selling their tobacco long way back before the auction floors opened. That is the surest way to get their retains," he said.
      He said it was not clear whether the tobacco comes back into the country later for processing or it is exported elsewhere by the Zimbabweans for processing.
      But Godfrey Chapola, general manager of Tobacco Control Commission (TCC), said yesterday the commission has not received any reports of Zimbabwean commercial farmers buying Malawi tobacco across the borders.
      "All I know is that cross-border tobacco exports are going on but I don't know if it is the Zimbabweans buying because I have not been there," he said.
      Albert Kamulaga, president of Tobacco Association of Malawi (Tama)-representative body of tobacco growers in the country-dismissed the claims as untrue.
      "Its not true. Zimbabwe grows flue-cured tobacco and there is no way the farmers there could come and get burley from Malawian farmers," he said.
      Kamulaga, who last week branded as "illogical" government's decision to restrict sales of tobacco after liberalising production, said Zimbabweans have little interest in the burley leaf because their major export leaf type is flue-cured.
      Nasfam warned in a statement last week that government is losing millions in tax revenue and levies as cross-border tobacco trade continued to grow.
      "There is no argument that buyers across the borders (just across) may be providing attractive prices in Malawi kwacha. The real complaint should be why the buyers on our auction floors are providing less attractive pricess," Nasfam said.
      Official figures from TCC indicate that last year 6 million kilogrammes of tobacco were lost to Mozambique and Zambia in crossborder deals. Government's decision to liberalise tobacco exports is likely raise the figures this year.
      *****
      Arrested Madagascar suspect dies
      A man connected to the government of Madagascar's incumbent President Ratsiraka has died following his arrest by supporters of the self-declared president, Marc Ravalomanana. The man was among three supporters of President Didier Ratsiraka who were picked up on Tuesday in the capital, Antananarivo.
      Mr Ravalomanana, who controls the city, says that he won last December's elections outright but Mr Ratsiraka says a run-off should be held.
      Since January, the country has been split down the middle, with two governments, two capitals and a divided army.
      Kidnap plot
      The man who died, a former policeman named Gaby Rolland Rajaonarivelo, worked as a bodyguard for Mr Ratsiraka's Infrastructure Minister Herivelona Ramanantsoa.
      Mr Rajaonarivelo and the other two men arrested had been accused by the self-proclaimed government of plotting to kidnap Mr Ravalomanana's prime minister, Jacques Sylla.
      Mr Rajaonarivelo was picked up in a hotel in central Antananarivo late on Tuesday, and is said to have died from head injuries.
      The conflict between Madagascar's two rival presidents has turned increasingly violent in recent days. On Monday, one person was killed and several others wounded during a shooting incident in Antananarivo between supporters of Mr Ravalomanana and troops loyal to Mr Ratsiraka. The shooting occurred outside the home of Gerard Andrialemirovason, a senior aide to President Ratsiraka.
      Blockade
      On Sunday and Monday, houses belonging to several officials loyal to Mr Ratsiraka were looted and set on fire in the capital. This outbreak of violence followed a fiery speech by Mr Ravalomanana last Friday in which he called on his supporters to hunt down "terrorists".
      Supporters of Mr Ratsiraka based in their alternative capital of Tamatave have imposed an economic blockade on the capital and destroyed bridges along the main road. This has led to shortages of fuel and essential commodities in Antananarivo.

      For more background coverage on BBC, go to
      http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/world/africa/newsid_1920000/1920968.stm
    • Christine Chumbler
      ADB firm on Karonga-Chitipa road contract by Zainah Liwanda, 22 May 2006 - 06:09:17 The African Development Bank (ADB) has again rejected a proposal by
      Message 1046 of 1046 , May 22, 2006
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        ADB firm on Karonga-Chitipa road contract

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

        *****

        Chihana operated on

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

        Mughogho is now in charge of the party.

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

        *****

        Pillane proposes presidential age limit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

        *****

        Mussa hails new driving licence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

        *****

        UDF demands investigation on Kasambara

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

        *****

        Zambia: Malawians Grab Zambian Land

        The Times of Zambia (Ndola)

        May 18, 2006

        Posted to the web May 19, 2006

        Andrew Lungu

         

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

        The Zimbabwean traders were warned and cautioned and later released.

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

         

        *****

        Zim unions, MDC still plan anti-govt protests

        Harare, Zimbabwe

        22 May 2006 11:51

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

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

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

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

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

        Opposition protests

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

        Crackdown

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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