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  • Christine Chumbler
    Malawi revives third term debate The government plans to try once more to change the constitution to allow President Bakili Muluzi to remain in office, the
    Message 1 of 1046 , Sep 11, 2002
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      Malawi revives third
      term debate

      The government plans to try once more to
      change the constitution to allow President
      Bakili Muluzi to remain in office, the attorney
      general has said.

      In July, parliament narrowly defeated a bill
      ending a limit on the presidential term of office.

      The controversial proposals
      earlier led to political
      violence, strains between
      the government and the
      judiciary and caused
      divisions among religious
      leaders.

      Christian leaders came out against a third
      term, while some Muslim groups supported it.

      Mr Muluzi is a Muslim. Over 75% of Malawians
      are Christian.

      The next presidential elections are due in
      2004.

      National referendum

      Attorney General Henry Dama Phoya said that
      despite the uproar, many Malawians wanted
      the president to remain in office.

      "We can't escape the fact that people still
      want Dr Muluzi," he said.

      The new bill, to be introduced next month,
      would allow presidents three terms of office,
      which could be extended following a national
      referendum, he said.

      Currently they can only serve two terms.

      Constitutional amendments require a
      two-thirds majority in parliament. Mr Muluzi's
      United Democratic Front (UDF) has 101 out of
      193 seats.

      In July, the bill failed by just three votes,
      despite being introduced by the opposition
      Aford party.

      Observers say that one reason for the
      opposition to allowing a third presidential term
      was Malawi's history of dictatorship under
      Hastings Kamuzu Banda.

      Dr Banda had himself declared Life President
      and was in office as prime minister and then
      president for 30 years.

      Mr Muluzi defeated Mr Banda in the 1994
      elections.

      The BBC's Raphael Tenthani in Malawi says
      that the president has already said that, under
      pressure from his family and especially his
      children, he is going to retire after 2004.

      *****

      Political Tensions Rise

      UN Integrated Regional Information Networks
      September 10, 2002
      Posted to the web September 10, 2002

      Blantyre

      Two people have been killed and leading members of a lobby group
      opposed to a third term for President Bakili Muluzi have either been
      arrested, or face arrest, as political tensions rise in Malawi.

      Behind the crisis is a failed attempt in July to change the
      constitution to
      allow Muluzi to run for a third term of office. The lobby group the
      National
      Democratic Alliance (NDA), and human rights NGOs and churches,
      oppose a third term for Muluzi.

      Police Inspector-General Joseph Aironi said the NDA's leader, Brown
      Mpinganjira, faced arrest in connection with the murder of a ruling
      United
      Democratic Front (UDF) member after clashes between supporters of the
      NDA and UDF two weeks ago in Mulanje, 60-km east of Blantyre.

      Mpinganjira allegedly fled Malawi after being implicated, Aironi said.

      "Out of the investigations we are carrying out, some members of the
      NDA
      have mentioned the honourable [Brown] Mpinganjira. It is reported that
      it
      was the very same day we started our inquiries he left the country.
      And
      this has been confirmed by the airport at Chileka [Blantyre]," Aironi
      said in
      an interview with local radio.

      "In this case, Mpinganjira's behaviour shows that he had foresight into
      what
      was going to happen," said Aironi, and added that the police, assisted
      by
      Interpol, would track him down and arrest him as an accomplice to
      murder.

      Mpinganjira, a former senior minister in the UDF government, has been
      in
      and out of prison on charges of corruption and treason, which the
      courts
      have dismissed.

      Viva Nyimba, a lawyer for the NDA, alleged that there was a
      state-sponsored campaign aimed at discrediting the organisation.

      Nyimba said the NDA had written to the Malawi Human Rights
      Commission (MHRC), asking it to investigate allegations of violence
      against its supporters, one of whom was allegedly killed by shots fired
      by
      police.

      Mpinganjira recently escaped an attack on his motorcade. Several
      opposition members of parliament and chiefs, who have opposed the
      third
      term bid, have allegedly been assaulted by militant ruling party
      youths.

      MHRC executive secretary Emiliana Tembo told IRIN that the commission
      had received the NDA's complaint, and would investigate the
      allegations.

      A report would be made public once investigations were completed.

      Two weeks ago Muluzi warned the NDA to register as a political party
      within 14 days, or face a ban for inciting violence in the country.

      "[The] NDA was formed on the premise that we are going to fight
      against
      the third term bid. Until and unless that matter is finished, we'll not
      register
      because it means we have not finished our business," an NDA
      spokesman, Ian Kanyuka, told reporters in the southern city of
      Blantyre.

      Police plans to arrest Mpinganjira, Kanyuka said, were an attempt to
      shift
      the focus from the third term issue.

      Two weeks ago, Minister of Justice Henry Phoya said the government
      would table a bill again proposing to amend the constitution to allow
      Muluzi
      to run for a third and final term of five years, when parliament sits
      in
      October.

      A similar private member's bill failed by three votes in July this
      year.

      To amend the constitution the ruling UDF, with 96 seats in the
      193-seat
      parliament, needs the support of members of the opposition to attain a
      two-thirds majority.

      Robson Chitengo of the Church of Central Africa Presbytery, said the
      church was totally against the idea of re-tabling the constitutional
      amendment bill.

      Muluzi has so far maintained an official silence on the third term
      issue. But
      his party leaders have used every public platform to announce that the
      people of Malawi wanted him to continue ruling the country.

      "It is sad that the head of state has not commented on such an
      important
      issue that is pivotal to the democratic future of this country,"
      Chitengo said.

      *****

      AIDS Awareness Focuses On Men At Work

      UN Integrated Regional Information Networks
      September 10, 2002
      Posted to the web September 10, 2002

      Blantyre

      10 September (IRIN) - AIDS activists in Malawi have launched a new
      awareness programme that targets men at their workplaces.

      "We have been targeting women in a society where men make decisions.
      If you want to reach more men, you have to go to their workplaces,"
      Jenni
      Mueller, the programme manager for development Aid from People to
      People, told IRIN.

      The workplace programme is intended to build institutional capacity for
      an
      effective response to the epidemic.

      "We're looking at developing policies that prevent managers from
      discriminating against employees who are infected with HIV. It
      protects
      both the employer and employee. You can already see people changing
      their behaviour if their managers support them because they have
      policies
      that support them," Mueller said.

      A new HIV/AIDS assessment study conducted by the government and the
      World Bank showed that the most affected sectors were education and
      health.

      Malawi's Vice President Justin Malewezi told IRIN: "We cannot lose any
      more time in responding to the challenges posed by HIV/AIDS. Probably
      one of the most important lessons to be learnt by all sectors is the
      consequence of inaction or complacency. There is need for all
      companies
      to take action now."

      More than one million Malawians are living with HIV/AIDS, with an
      estimated infection rate of 30 percent of the urban population between
      the
      ages of 14 and 45.

      Joseph Chaima, the coordinator for HIV/AIDS workplace education and
      policy for the NGO Project Hope, said one of the ways of getting the
      message across was by forming drama groups within companies.

      "The purpose is to provide HIV/AIDS information through plays," Chaima
      said, adding that the actors were expected to also spread the word
      within
      their communities.

      The high mobility of workers and migrant labour, both within Malawi
      and
      across its borders, was another causal factor in the spread of AIDS.

      "Many men have jobs where they have to travel. It's a big problem
      because
      they meet casual partners," Mueller said.

      A recent UN Development Programme report said that unprotected sex
      with multiple partners was fuelling the spread of the virus.

      "However, societal acceptance of multiple sex partners as an
      expression
      of male sexuality and masculinity limits behaviour change. In addition,
      sex
      with multiple partners is often unprotected due to the lack of access
      to
      condoms," the report said.

      Mueller said one of the priorities of the workplace programme was
      teaching people how to use condoms correctly.

      "We give them the skills to be able to use the condoms correctly until
      they
      feel comfortable even using it [condom] with one hand. If we can get
      them
      to use condoms not with their wives but with their girlfriends, that's
      a big
      achievement," she said.

      *****

      Zambia denies GM aid
      for refugees

      Zimbabwe and Zambia are hit by a region-wide crisis
      Zambia has denied reports from the World Food
      Programme (WFP) that it was allowing
      genetically modified food aid into the country
      for refugees.

      On Sunday, the head of the
      WFP, James Morris, told
      the BBC that GM foods
      were being used to feed
      about 130,000 refugees from
      Angola and Democratic
      Republic of Congo.

      Home Affairs Minister
      Lackson Mapushi told
      state television nearly
      7,000 tons of GM maize
      would be withdrawn from refugee camps and
      substituted with a non-GM variant.

      Around 2.5 million Zambians are facing famine
      after failed harvests but President Levy
      Mwanawasa has blocked GM food aid to feed
      them, calling it "poison".

      Exports threatened

      "The position of government rejecting GMF's
      was a national one which applies to all
      categories of persons living in Zambia," Mr
      Mapushi said.

      "This applies to all refugees, including those
      living in camps and receiving food aid from the
      WFP," the minister added.

      Neighbouring
      Zimbabwe, Malawi and
      Mozambique also have
      deep concerns that
      GM food aid could be
      used to grow new
      crops and so enter the
      local food chain.

      This could jeopardise
      exports to Europe,
      where GM food is less
      common than in the
      United States.

      But it is the US which
      has supplied most food aid for the WFP's
      appeal for southern Africa, where around 13
      million people risk starvation.

      And most US aid contains GM food.

      US officials deny that there is any risk involved
      with GM food and point out that it is eaten
      every day by millions of Americans.

      Food raid

      The other countries have now decided to
      accept GM aid provided it is first milled, so that
      it cannot be planted.

      And Mr Morris has urged Zambia to follow suit.

      "Without being able to use biotech GM
      commodities, it will be nearly impossible for us
      to meet the needs of the people of Zambia,"
      he said.

      Some Zambians disagree with the
      government's position.

      Hungry villagers recently raided a chief's
      palace and stole GM food, which the
      authorities were refusing to distribute.
    • 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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