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  • Christine Chumbler
    Parliament to Decide On Third Term Bid UN Integrated Regional Information Networks May 30, 2002 Posted to the web May 30, 2002 President Bakili Muluzi of
    Message 1 of 1046 , May 30, 2002
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      Parliament to Decide On Third Term Bid

      UN Integrated Regional Information Networks

      May 30, 2002
      Posted to the web May 30, 2002

      President Bakili Muluzi of Malawi has banned all demonstrations related to his possible bid for a third term in office in 2004.

      Tension is building in Malawi between pro-ruling party supporters and religious organisations, human rights groups and NGOs who have thrown their weight against any attempt to amend the constitution to allow Muluzi to run again. Critics of the government's unofficial campaign, have threatened protest action to persuade Muluzi not to stand again.

      "As commander-in-chief of the armed forces, as commander-in-chief of the police services, I have the obligation to protect the people of this country. I will not allow anarchy in this county," Muluzi told a public rally on Tuesday in announcing his ban on demonstrations either for or against a constitutional amendment.

      "We can clearly see history repeating itself here. It was people surrounding Kamuzu Banda who made him life president and today, it is again people surrounding Muluzi pressing for the third term even when the move is unconstitutional," said Seodi White, Director for Women in Law in Southern Africa (WILSA).

      Muluzi has maintained an official silence on whether he intends to run for a third term. Justice Minister and Attorney General Henry Phoya recently said that the third term issue would not be on the government's agenda when parliament meets on Friday.

      However, state radio reported on Wednesday that a private member's bill to amend Section 83 of the constitution limiting presidential tenure would be introduced.

      The bill is to be moved by Khwauli Msiska of the Alliance for Democracy (AFORD), an opposition party that two weeks ago declared during a controversial convention in the northern city of Mzuzu that it would not support any amendment to section 83.

      Although Muluzi, 60, has not publically commented on the issue other than saying he would defer to parliament, the ruling United Democratic Front (UDF) has launched a number of public rallies around the country at which party officials have lobbied for a third term.

      Chiefs have also been drafted into the campaign. Last week, more than 100 chiefs who were put up in hotels, at the tax-payers expense, requested that Muluzi should stand again.

      A week before they had visited Muluzi at the official Sanjika Palace in Blantyre, he had ordered a 25 percent pay rise for all of them with effect from June 2002. Traditional chiefs in Malawi are on the government's payroll.

      But the Catholic and Presbyterian churches, with more than seven million followers, have spoken out against any constitutional change that would allow Muluzi to stand after his current second term expires.

      The Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP), established under the Episcopal Conference of Malawi, said the third term issue had created confusion, fear and division among Malawians and that scarce resources were being wasted to promote the third term agenda.

      "We judge that the third term contradicts the common good, because it seeks the interests of only a few. We would like to put it on record, therefore, that we as CCJP say an absolute no to a third term," a statement said.

      The Council for Non-Governmental Organisations in Malawi (CONGOMA) said in a statement that the reasons for limiting the tenure of office for the office of the presidency to two five-year terms "are still as valid today as they were during the formulation of the constitution".

      The organisation said: "In the case of the intended amendment of Section 83 (3) of the Republic of Malawi, direct participation of the citizens of this country through a referendum is a better option to a parliamentary debate because proceedings in parliament, have recently shown tendencies towards serving personal and party interests, rather than national and democratic interests of ordinary Malawians."

      The UDF has 92 seats in the 193-member parliament, well short of the two-thirds majority needed for constitutional amendments. However, the two major opposition parties - the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and AFORD - are split. Both have factions that are working with the government.


      Sexy Billboards Get Citizens Hot Under the Collar

      African Eye News Service (Nelspruit)

      May 29, 2002
      Posted to the web May 29, 2002

      Brian Ligomeka

      The sight of a scantily clad woman on Malawi billboards has aroused hot debate amongst the country's censorship board and its clergy.

      The near naked image is being used by a reproductive health non-governmental organisation (NGO) to promote condoms but the country's censorship board complains that Aids can't be fought by promoting casual sex.

      "The condom was introduced cautiously but now we have the Playboy magazine approach dropped in the midst of Malawi's urban and rural population," said censor officer Jeffrey Kanyinji.

      He said complaints from religious groups had prompted the censorship board to write to the NGO, Population Services International (PSI) and ask them to remove the offending adverts.

      Altogether 20 churches signed a petition that said: "Enticing the population to sex to promote the sale of condoms is like happily dousing us with petrol for the sake of promoting fire extinguishers".

      They claim the PSI has offended the community it sought to protect.

      "The sexy image employed achieves two effects - seducing the mind, thus creating a craving for sex as well as offering a solution in latex," the petition said.

      One of the signatories, Youth Net and Counselling (Yoneco) has asked the PSI to adhere to the country's cultural values.

      PSI deputy director Jones Katangwe acknowledged receiving the letter from the censorship board and declined to comment.


      Britain plants seeds of hope in Malawi

      Britain will be a major sponsor of this year's programme to distribute free
      maize seeds and fertiliser to farmers in famine-hit Malawi, Agriculture
      Minister Aleke Banda said on Wednesday.

      Banda said the $28-million scheme, to be introduced before the rains start
      in October, will target $2,8-million farmers and is expected to yield
      2,5-million tons of maize, slightly more than the national requirement.

      He said the scheme had been steadily trimmed -- from three million
      beneficiaries in 1999 to one million last year ? over fears that Malawi would
      become dependent on handouts, but that donors had decided to re-launch it
      in view of the current famine.

      The southern African country is experiencing its worst hunger crisis in 50

      "The hunger this year has convinced donors to agree to start supporting us
      in implementing a fully-fledged 'starter-pack' scheme," Banda said.

      The government hopes the programme will enable the farmers to increase
      their production five-fold. This will be the fifth time, since 1998, that
      government and donors will have tried to avert food shortages by giving
      farmers free inputs.

      Malawi produced more than two-million tons of maize in 1999, a national
      record after free inputs were given to three million farmers.

      Food security is a pressing issue in Malawi. Despite a huge fresh water
      supply in Lake Malawi, fields have little irrigation and most farming is done
      on a small-scale level.

      President Bakili Muluzi has declared the country in a state of national
      disaster and asked for $21-million in international assistance for food relief.

      Up to 76% of Malawians lack food and more than 300 people are reported to
      have died of hunger this year. - Sapa-AFP


      Zambia bans maize exports

      The Zambian government has banned with immediate effect the exportation
      of maize, the country's staple food, due to the current food shortages
      caused by famine, an official said on Tuesday.

      "Exports of maize have been banned until the food situation gets back to
      normal," Agriculture Minister Mundia Sikatana said.

      About 1,2-million Zambians out of a population of 10-million are living in
      starvation after their crop was either washed away by floods or scorched by
      an unrelenting drought that hit the southern country last year.

      The Zambian government said it requires at least 200 000 metric tons of
      relief food to avert hunger that has affected mainly the southern and western
      parts of the country.

      "We are doing everything possible to avert this hunger. That is why we have
      imposed a ban on all maize exports," Sikatana said.

      Zambia is among several southern African countries hit by famine. -


      Journalists back in
      Zimbabwe court

      The case will indicate the extent of Mugabe's control on
      the press

      By the BBC's Alastair Leithead

      A court in Zimbabwe has set trial dates for two
      journalists charged under the country's
      controversial Press and Media Law.

      Andrew Meldrum of the British newspaper, The
      Guardian, and Lloyd Mudiwa of Zimbabwe's
      Daily News are accused of having abused
      journalistic privilege.

      Their trials will begin on separate dates in

      They were arrested in connection with a story
      alleging that supporters of President Mugabe's
      governing Zanu-PF party had murdered a

      Setting a precedent

      The story was later found to be

      If convicted, they face up to two years in jail.

      If the trial goes ahead, it will set a precedent
      for the laws which critics say are aimed at
      stifling free speech and suppressing dissent
      against the government.

      Both Andrew Meldrum
      and Lloyd Mudiwa
      were arrested after
      they published a story
      about a woman
      allegedly beheaded by
      Zanu-PF supporters.

      The report provoked a
      shocked reaction
      across the country
      but, when the Daily
      News investigated the
      story further, it found
      there were
      inaccuracies and

      The two journalists were charged under
      Zimbabwe Government's draconian Access to
      Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

      Other journalists also charged under the act
      will be waiting to see how the trial is handled,
      as it is an indicator of how determined the
      government is to influence the press in


      Mugabe launches CD
      charm offensive

      President Mugabe wants to restore his country's image
      Zimbabwe has launched a marketing campaign
      in an attempt to improve its image, tarnished
      by years of political and economic difficulties.

      An interactive programme has been put
      together that provides "a factual and
      authoritative exposition... of what Zimbabwe
      really is", President Robert Mugabe said.

      He was speaking at the
      launch of a CD-ROM
      sponsored by the United
      Nations Development
      Programme, which was
      attended by foreign
      diplomats, business
      leaders and tourism

      The Zimbabwean leader said his country had
      been treated unfairly by the world media, in
      particular over its land reform programme.

      "Over the past four years or so, the
      government and leadership have been
      subjected to a persistent and malicious media
      onslaught because we have seriously made
      attempts at correcting and redressing past
      colonial injustices, notably the skewed land
      distribution and ownership patterns.


      "Never in modern history has a country and its
      leadership received as many column inches of
      print and many hours of television as
      Zimbabwe," the Zimbabwean head of state

      However, in spite of the bad press, Mr Mugabe
      said more people worldwide had come to know
      about Zimbabwe in recent years.

      "Our challenge is to transform negative
      perceptions of Zimbabwe into positive
      outcomes," he said.

      Land invasions led by
      self-styled liberation
      war veterans on
      white-owned farms
      have attracted
      international attention
      over the past two

      The loss of production
      caused by the land
      occupation, coupled
      with a regional
      drought, means that
      750,000 people are
      facing starvation in the worst affected rural

      In March, Mr Mugabe was declared the winner
      of presidential elections, which the opposition
      and the Commonwealth said were unfair and
      marred by violence.
    • 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.


        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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