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  • Christine Chumbler
    Muluzi Unsure Of Seeking New Term The Nation (Nairobi) June 14, 2002 Posted to the web June 13, 2002 Janis Kanguru Johanessburg Malawi President Bakili Muluzi
    Message 1 of 1046 , Jun 14, 2002
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      Muluzi Unsure Of Seeking New Term
      The Nation (Nairobi)
      June 14, 2002
      Posted to the web June 13, 2002
      Janis Kanguru
      Malawi President Bakili Muluzi has proclaimed that he is no dictator and that has no idea whether he would seek a new term in 2004.
      In an interview with the Nation, Mr Muluzi is currently on his 's said that told the Nation in South Africa anthat he also did not know whether he would make himself available as a candidate in presidential elections in 2004 ö final five-year term.
      Civic and religious groups in Malawi have branded Mr Muluzi a dictator for trying to silence dissent against a high-profile campaign by his supporters to change the Constitution so he can stay in power indefinitely.
      Mr Muluzi told the Nation he had only "advised" against demonstrations, because he was concerned about security in his country.
      "It is a question of security. I did not ban demonstrations either by my supporters or those opposed to a change in the Constitution. I only advised against it because of security implications. I act in the interest of my people. I am no dictator," President Muluzi added.
      He denied claims that he was corrupt or that he condoned corruption in his administration, arguing that he had differences only with Denmark that led to the downgrading of Copenhagen's mission in Lilongwe, and his recalling of his ambassador in Denmark.
      Britain, he said, had halted aid to his country because his programme with the International Monetary Fund still lay in the balance.
      The IMF says Malawi has a poor record of implementation of programmes, but Mr Muluzi said the IMF's problem was that it was persistently changing aid conditionalities.
      He stressed that attempts to change the Constitution in Malawi had no parallel in the failed bid by former Zambian President Frederick Chiluba to stick to power last year. He added that in Malawi, there was a movement to change the Constitution well before the elections and he would not necessarily be the beneficiary of the change.
      The influential Roman Catholic Church and civil society groups plan to stage massive demonstrations in Malawi against the plan to change the law to suit Mr Muluzi's appetite for power.
      "My party will have to ask me whether I am available to stand for president. We have not come to that stage so I do not know whether in fact I will be available," he said, adding that he was a democrat who believed in the right of his people to make a wise decision.
      Mr Muluzi rose to power in landmark 1994 pluralist elections, ousting founding president Kamuzu Banda, who had ruled the country since independence from Britain in 1964.
      Last year, Mr Muluzi ousted from the ruling United Democratic Front party politicians seen as possible presidential contenders, including former Transport Minister Brown Mpinganjira. Early this year, he ejected flamboyant and popular Finance Minister, Professor Matthews Chikaonda from the Cabinet without giving any reasons.
      Prof Chikaonda, an ex-university economics professor and central bank governor, is still considered a possible successor to Mr Muluzi.
      Mr Muluzi is among African leaders who back a controversial so-called "Peer Review" mechanism, under the continent's economic recovery plan dubbed New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD).
      Under Peer review, a committee of five to seven distinguished men and women who will either be retired judges or retired heads of state will examine political and economic governance performance by African countries.
      Subjection to the Peer Review mechanism is voluntary but it will enable African leaders to examine developments on the continent and try to help where problems are emerging.
      Under Peer Review, Mr Muluzi would come under scrutiny over the plans to change the Constitution so he can stay in office. Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa and Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe could also be quizzed over flawed elections in their countries in the past six months.
      Mr Muluzi, current chairman of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) said under Nepad, Africa was committed to speaking with one voice, and would follow its words with action.
      He is backed on the issue by Mozambique's President Joaquim Chissano, who says: "What is going to change is the attitude of the leadership in Africa."
      Lilongwe's 'Worstever' Famine
      The NEWS (Monrovia)
      June 13, 2002
      Posted to the web June 13, 2002
      For Chief Dzobwe, the traditional leader of a small cluster of settlements outside the central tobacco heartland of Kasungu, some 100 kilometers north of the capital, Lilongwe, this year's famine is historic.
      "I was a young boy in 1949," the year old former miner says, "but this year's famine reminds me of the one we had then."
      "We did not think things would be this bad," Malawian Vice President Justin Malewezi said.
      "The difference is that while in 1949 we could walk long distances to find food," says the chief, who claims he lost two to three of his villagers a week at the height of the famine between January and March, "there is now nowhere to go to find food."
      BBC's Raphael Tenthani Kasungu, where officially more than 100 people starved to death by March, is the worst affected of Malawi's 27 districts.
      But government officials say the picture is just as bleak in other parts of the country.
      Vice President Justin Malewezi says warning signs that there was an impending famine started flashing as early as August last year when it was noted that the country, which requires at least 1.8 million tonnes of the staple crop, maize, per year to feed its 11 million people, had a deficit of 400,000 tonnes.
      "But we did not think things would be this bad," he admits.
      Indeed the government's belated admission that a human catastrophe is looming in the country has caught donors unprepared.
      A senior World Food Programme official says it was difficult to convince rich governments to release emergency funds for Malawi without the government acknowledging there was a famine. Maize from grain warehouses has been in short supply.
      When the government finally did, more than seven million people, or three quarters of the country's population, were on the verge of starvation.
      Lessons may have been learnt because, this year, although the entire maize crop has not yet been stored in granaries, the government has already asked for help.
      The ministry of agriculture has published crop estimates, saying Malawi is set to record a 600,000 tonne deficit.
      Secretary for Agriculture Ellard Malindi says the current lull in the famine is only temporary as people are currently eating maize grown in their gardens. But most farming families do not harvest enough maize.
      People queuing for maize rations at an aid agency site in Salima
      He says the government is therefore urging rich countries and aid agencies to assist the country with emergency food aid if a human catastrophe is to be averted.
      The call for food aid, made when President Bakili Muluzi declared a state of national disaster in February, has received a lukewarm response from donors, fueling fears that the crisis will continue. Malawi needs at least $21.6m to avert a human catastrophe. But so far less than $5m have come through.
      Mr Malindi says a number of factors, including heavy rains in some areas and prolonged dry spells in others, have led to a drop in the harvest of maize.
      He says other reasons for the drop in maize production include floods, as well as rampaging elephants and hippos, which have destroyed large tracts of crop fields in a number of lakeshore districts, especially in the southern district of Mangochi.
      "If we don't handle the food crisis well, it will be difficult to convince people to vote for us." Mekkie Mtewa, a Mangochi Member of parliament said.
      The United Nations Development Programme, UNDP, says that between January and April, UN agencies spent at least $2m on emergency food aid for vulnerable groups in 19 of the country's 27 districts.
      UNDP representative Zahra Nuru says UN experts are currently assessing the situation to release more aid.
      Malawi's former colonial master, Britain, has so far also released £2.6m of food aid for 255,000 households.
      A number of church organizations have come in to help, but the scale of the disaster is just too great.
      Some donors say the donor fatigue is due in particular to the fact that last year's maize reserves where mismanaged.
      Some of these stocks were sold to Kenya despite warnings that a famine was looming.
      But Ellard Malindi, the Secretary for Agriculture, says the government sold the maize to Kenya because it had reached the end of its shelflife.
      The country's Anti Corruption Bureau is still investigating the controversial sale to check whether there was any corruption involved.
      The food crisis has also affected the country's social strata.
      In hospitals, the orthopaedic wards are full of amputees who received mob justice after being caught stealing.
      "It was pumpkin leaves that we survived on" Anifa Matebule, an eyewitness said. School attendance has also dropped significantly.
      President Bakili Muluzi has again assured Malawians that the government will make free food available to the most vulnerable.
      But Anifa, who is also a grandmother in the southern tea growing district of Thyolo, says she has heard it all before. She lost a daughter and a grandchild to the famine.
      "In January the government said we would get free maize, but it was pumpkin leaves that we survived on," she says, brandishing a ration card for a World Food Programme food distribution exercise which she says has come too late.
      Mekkie Mtewa, the MP for Mangochi, who has just been dismissed as deputy agriculture minister for revealing that senior politicians were hoarding maize in order to sell it at higher prices, says the famine may be a political barometer.
      Those without money beg outside department stores correspondents reported.
      "2004 (when the next general elections will take place) is not too far so if we don't handle the food crisis well, it will be difficult to convince people to vote for us," he says.
      But in Kasungu, Chief Dzombe says he has no time for the politics of 2004. Having buried two of his teenage nephews, what he needs is for the politicians of today to deliver.
      "The crops have failed again this year and, if we don't get help, we will perish," he says.


      Mozambique's political minnows feel the

      13 June 2002 13:09

      Small opposition parties in Mozambique have complained that they are
      being deliberately squeezed from parliament by the country's two major
      political forces, the ruling Frelimo and ex-rebel Renamo, which want to
      maintain a political duopoly.

      Political parties need to garner a minimum of five percent of votes cast
      nationally in legislative elections to secure seats in Mozambique's
      parliament, according to laws approved by the two main parties in 1992.

      "This is only aimed at suffocating smaller parties and that is not
      democracy," said Yacub Sibindy, leader of the Mozambique Independent
      Party (Pimo).

      "We are pressing for a reduction of the threshold from five percent to two or
      even one percent," Sibindy said, adding that the Mozambique National
      Resistance (Renamo) was scared of small opposition parties.

      "Renamo wants this barrier in order to keep smaller parties away from it,"
      said Sibindy.

      In the last elections in December 1999, won by President Joaquim
      Chissano's Mozambique Liberation Front (Frelimo), Renamo took part as a
      multi-party coalition, taking 117 seats to Frelimo?s 133.

      Sibindy said that in an effort to guarantee its interests are maintained,
      Renamo convinced 10 small parties to join forces with it, but ultimately it is
      Renamo which dominates the coalition and gives orders.

      However, Lutero Simango, of the National Convention Party (PCN) argues
      that simply reducing the five percent threshold would not help solve the
      problem but encourage the proliferation of more political parties in the

      "We would find a political party in every corner of the country", Simango

      There are currently more than 10 Mozambican opposition parties without
      representation in parliament. - Sapa
    • 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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