- Excitement As Court Rejects President's Ban On
African Church Information Service
November 4, 2002
Posted to the web November 2, 2002
A time bomb seems to have been set between proponents and critics of a
proposal to amend the Constitution to allow the Malawian president to
for a third five-year term following a ruling by the High Court that
have a constitutional right to stage peaceful demonstrations against
The ruling overturned the directive by President Bakili Muluzi against
demonstrations for or against proposals by his government to lift
restrictions on his term of office.
The court at its sitting on October 22, made the ruling in response to
case filed by the civil society headed by the Episcopal Conference of
Malawi and the Malawi Council of Churches against a directive by
that no one should demonstrate for or against the Bill to extend the
presidential term after his mandatory two five-year terms expire in
In his ruling, Justice Edward Twea said the citizens of the country had
right to demonstrate in a free environment and that it was the duty of
police to provide protection to citizens participating in such
Muluzi, in his directive made repeatedly at public rallies, warned
intended to demonstrate against the tabling of the Bill of serious
The president predicted trouble if demonstrations were allowed, saying
such a situation could degenerate into chaos, and that the army and
police would not sit idle and watch.
Earlier, in September, Muluzi challenged would-be demonstrators,
accusing unnamed organisations which he said were trying to incite
university students and street vendors to stage demonstrations against
Addressing a mass rally in the populous Ndirande township in Blantyre,
which he described as the Democratic Republic of Ndirande, Muluzi in a
highly charged speech, accused those contemplating to demonstrate
against the issue including church leaders of trying to intimidate
of parliament and infringing upon their constitutional rights as
representatives of their constituents.
The issue attracted more opposition through statements and press
statements issued by the Church, human rights organisations and the
society, urging parliamentarians to refrain from being intimidated and
say "no" if the Bill was tabled in parliament.
In a special broadcast to the nation on October 15, Muluzi urged
parliamentarians to concentrate on "crucial issues affecting the
such as widespread hunger, HIV/AIDS rather than the presidential term
Critics maintained that the message had no substance as it did not
indicate whether the controversial Bill would be tabled or not.
Justice Minister and Attorney General Henry Phoya who was expected to
present the Bill in parliament, said he too was going by the
directive that other matters should be given more preference than the
At least three senior members from the ruling United Democratic Front
UDF have challenged the proposed Bill. They are Jan Sonke, a Malawian
citizen of Dutch descent who represents Blantyre Kabula constituency
Joe Manduwa of Mwanza East constituency.
The two nearly lost their seats in parliament when the Speaker Sam
Mpasu declared their seats vacant on claims that they crossed the floor
publicly declaring their opposition to the Bill and attending a meeting
newly formed Forum for the Defence of the Constitution FDC whose main
aim is to fight against changing the Constitution to suit individual
Sonke and Manduwa were saved by a court injunction filed on their
by former Cabinet Minister Kassim Chilumpha who is a practicing
To compound it all, prominent figures from the Opposition who voted in
favour of the Bill which flopped in parliament last July, have reversed
The first Bill sought to remove all limits on presidential tenure. This
drew wide criticism because for all practical purposes it meant
Muluzi as the second life president for Malawi after Dr Hastings
Banda, now deceased, who ruled Malawi with an iron fist for over 30
Interestingly, Malawians are now applauding Banda's regime for
discipline in the Malawi society which, they say, led to economic
prosperity. This vindicates Banda's assertion before his death that
he died, his spirit would continue to rule this country.
Among the most notable is Opposition Malawi Congress Party vice
president John Tembo who despite voting "yes" for the failed Bill, has
sworn never again to support an amendment to the Constitution to open
the way for Muluzi to run again.
Human rights groups have welcomed the ruling by the court that people
have a basic freedom to express their opinions through peaceful
demonstrations as guaranteed in the country's Constitution.
Olen Mwalubunju, an executive member of the Malawi Human Rights
Consultative Committee, an umbrella body of human rights movements in
the country said:
"The Constitution of the country provides a right to freedom of
No one, not even the president, has the power to stop people from
expressing themselves in matters of national concern".
Catholic priests of the archdiocese of Blantyre asked members of
parliament to desist from accepting favours from the ruling United
Democratic Front to support the bid for a presidential third term.
Project Aims to 'Drought-Proof' Villages
UN Integrated Regional Information Networks
November 1, 2002
Posted to the web November 1, 2002
[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United
Efforts to mitigate the impact of erratic rainfall on agricultural
drought-prone southern Malawi have begun to bear fruit.
Through the provision of 80 simple treadle pumps, which cost about US
$27 each, World Vision has been able to use the donations of 3,000
Australian families to lessen the impact of drought on the southern
The pedal-powered pumps allow for irrigation farming during the dry
season or when rainfall is insufficient for crops. This allows for the
cultivation of winter crops on land that was previously barren during
Southern Malawi's districts have been particularly hard-hit by drought
floods and World Vision Malawi now assists nearly all of these
Aid agencies estimate that about 3.2 million Malawians are currently
with hunger due to regional food shortages.
One of the beneficiaries of the treadle pump project is 58-year-old
"Now things are working for me," Chilomo said. He boasted that he
now comfortably support his family of three with the yields from his
"Last year I got three bags of maize ... I eat from here all the time.
can't complain about hunger since I secured the treadle pump. All I
now is a granary. But I can assure you that I don't complain about
he said while showing off his field of maize, bananas, cassava and
The Australian families donate US $90 each year through World Vision -
the money is used to assist 3,000 children and their families in 35
in Mlolo. This has enabled the community at Mlolo to virtually
Mlolo has a population of 23,000 and is situated in the Nsanje
some 90-km south-east of Blantyre, Malawi's commercial capital.
Weston Kasinje, World Vision programme manager for Mlolo, told IRIN
there was a commitment to fund the project through to 2010.
"One of the conditions is that the children must be in school. If you
in school, you cannot be in the programme," he said.
The most vulnerable families - such as female-headed households and
those affected by HIV/AIDS - also received supplementary food
Another Mlolo resident benefiting from the NGO's intervention is
26-year-old Violet Tembo, Chilomo's niece, who previously had to borrow
treadle pump from her uncle. This year she has her own treadle pump,
courtesy of the project.
"I dug my own well for two days. Now you can see this green maize. I
expect hunger in the days ahead," Tembo said. She grows rice, cassava
and sweet potato.
Marion Chindongo, World Vision regional manager for southern Malawi,
said: "For years, the community has survived on handouts from the
government or NGOs. And that, from our perspective, is not
The NGO was also assisting the farmers to produce seed.
"For the first time in the Mlolo community, farmers received money for
themselves because they had grown seed," she added.
"On average, each farmer received US $267 [from seed sales]. I think it
a breakthrough for the southern region of Malawi," said Layton Vasulu,
NGOs former agricultural supervisor at Mlolo.
The project also aims to change the mind-set that certain crops could
be grown in certain areas and at specific times.
New food crops such as rice, potatoes, sorghum, millet, beans and
groundnuts have been introduced.
These crops provide three main benefits: they produce high yields,
quickly and make better use of limited water so they are less
Chindongo said World Vision was working with the Malawi government to
duplicate the success in Mlolo in other areas.
Zambia Leader's Brother Found Dead
The Associated Press
Saturday, November 2, 2002; 6:59 PM
PRETORIA, South Africa –– The
brother of Zambian President Levy
Mwanawasa was found dead
Saturday in a hotel room in
Pretoria, police said.
Rex Mwanawasa, 43, had no
visible wounds on his body and the
cause of death was under
investigation, police spokeswoman
Mary Martins-Engelbrecht said.
Mwanawasa's body was discovered in his bed at the
Best Western Pretoria
Hotel about 10 a.m. by his cousin Remmy Mukosa, who
owns the hotel,
The door to Mwanawasa's room had been unlocked. He
had last been seen
alive about 4 a.m., police said.
"It looked like he died in his sleep," Mukosa said.
Mwanawasa, a sales manager for a Zambian company,
arrived in South
Africa on Thursday on private business.
His brother took office in December and has been
conducting a campaign to
investigate corruption in his predecessor's
Fuel shortages give Mugabe 'stomach
Zimbabwe's economy lurched into new crisis on Friday
as the country's
currency fell 60% in a week and its once
world-leading tobacco industry
appeared to be heading for oblivion.
At the same time, President Robert Mugabe gave an
into his anxiety over the country's parlous economic
state when the state
media quoted him as saying that the country's fuel
shortages gave him
He said he would reverse his policy of exclusive
state monopoly on the
import of fuel and said he would henceforth allow
private companies to
import fuel -- a change for which private oil
companies have been pleading
"We crack our heads on importing fuel and have
reports every Tuesday
about how much fuel we have in the country," the
quoted him as saying.
"And what do we do? We call in the multinational oil
companies. They sell
and make profits. Government does not make any
"Twenty-two years in government, 22 years of playing
this game of foolery.
They don't suffer from the headaches and stomach
aches I suffer from," he
"They must import fuel and not wait for government
to do it for them."
Observers said the week's developments were the
signs of new pressures
tearing at the country's once-robust economy, after
nearly three years of
disastrous economic mismanagement and political
The country's thriving commercial agricultural
industry has been virtually
destroyed by Mugabe's policy of forcing white
farmers off their land, while
the repression of political opponents has served to
switch off Western
financial and donor support.
Fuel shortages, the first sign of the country's hard
currency problems, began
in December 1999 when the state-owned National Oil
Zimbabwe failed to meet payments on arrears to
international oil companies
for fuel supplies.
Persistent shortages have been relieved in the last
18 months by
easy-terms credit from Libya's Muammar Gadaffi.
However, the Zimbabwe Independent newspaper, quoting
sources, reported on Friday that no Libyan fuel had
been delivered for the
last six weeks because of Zimbabwe's failure to meet
Supplies were being sustained by the recent
reopening of credit lines with
Kuwaiti suppliers, the newspaper said.
The collapse of the national currency accelerated
sharply this week, with
currency traders reporting today that one dollar on
the semi-official "parallel"
market would fetch 1 500 Zimbabwe dollars, against
one dollar to 950
Zimbabwe dollars at the end of last week.er too
The implication of allowing fuel companies to import
and retail to the public
at the current levels of the dollar did not appear
to have been realised by
Mugabe, fuel industry sources said.
NOCZIM runs at an enormous loss, paying for fuel
with hard currency, but
then selling it for Zimbabwe dollars 76/litre, a
price fixed by the government
since June last year and now worth five US cents.
"We've now got the cheapest fuel in the world
because of the government's
ridiculous policies," said a fuel industry
"If private companies brought it in and charged at
the price they bought it for,
Zimbabweans would suddenly find themselves paying
about 20 times as
much as they do now."
Foreign currency traders said the dramatic slump in
the currency's value
was a result of NOCZIM buying hard currency on the
parallel market to try
and pay for fuel deliveries.
"They need huge amounts of hard cash to keep us in
fuel, and they're in
competition for it with the rest of the market,"
said one banker.
The situation is expected to worsen sharply with the
end yesterday of the
six-month auction sales of the country's tobacco
crop, Zimbabwe's most
vital export commodity.
"Tobacco has kept the forex dribbling in. Now it's
stopped, we're in for a
rough time," the banker said.
Until three years ago, Zimbabwe shared with Brazil
the position of the
biggest tobacco exporter in the world. Growers on
the country's embattled
white-owned commercial farms produced 162-million kg
of tobacco, earning
As a result of the constant harassment of farmers,
output has been
shrinking steadily since 1999 when they produced
During the last three months, police and Mugabe's
militias have carried out
a campaign of mass evictions of farmers, and there
are now an estimated
350 commercial growers left, out of about 1 500 this
time last year.
The Zimbabwe Tobacco Association estimates that
output next year will fall
by over 50% to only 75-million kg.
"Even that figure is questionable," said Pat
Devenish, managing director of
Tobacco Sales Floors, the largest auction company.
"The effect of the land seizures has been huge."
However, the major European and American cigarette
are Zimbabwe's biggest customers, are expected to
continue to buy from
Zimbabwe again next year, despite the low forecast
"They have indicated they will be tolerating a
shortage for one year,"
"It took us decades to build up a reputation as a
reliable, high-quality leaf
producer. If we have another short crop after next
year, we will go back to
being a 'catch market' where they buy occasionally,
only if it's a really good
crop or the price is very weak.
"If that happens and they pull out, it will be a
catastrophe." - Sapa
Zimbabwe dollar plunges
on black market
The Zimbabwean dollar has lost nearly half its
value on the black market over the past two
weeks, pushed down by the need of oil
importers to pay off their foreign debts.
It now takes between 1,400 and 1,600
Zimbabwean dollars to buy one US dollar, well
above a rate of 750 a fortnight ago. The
official exchange rate is 55 to the US dollar.
importers for the sharp
decline. The country
imports oil worth about
$360m (*231m) a
year, and oil traders
are currently buying
up all the dollars they
can get to settle their
This has weakened the
and will in turn force
up the prices of both imported goods and all
local products that depend on energy and
In a country where about half the population is
threatened with starvation, the added inflation
will be felt particularly hard. Annual inflation is
already running at nearly 140%.
Sharp drops in international aid, tourism to
Zimbabwe and exports to western countries
have all contributed to the dollar shortage.
Tobacco exports, once
Zimbabwe's top earner
of hard currency, have
collapsed following the
As a result Zimbabwe
has a thriving black
market for foreign currencies.
Even the government has tacitly acknowledged
that its exchange rate is removed from reality.
Key exporters such as miners, tobacco growers
and textile companies are offered rates well
above the official 55 to the US dollar, to
encourage them to repatriate their foreign
ADB firm on Karonga-Chitipa road contract
by Zainah Liwanda, 22 May 2006 - 06:09:17
The African Development Bank (ADB) has again rejected a proposal by government to look for another contractor instead of China Hunan Construction to construct of the long awaited Karonga/Chitipa road.
China Hunan from Mainland China won the bid which was approved by the ADB but government later wanted to award the contract to a Portuguese firm, Mota Engil, the second lowest bidder, claiming China Hunan's bid was unrealistically low and that the company had very little experience in Africa.
Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe confirmed on Sunday the ADB rejected the proposal at a meeting held between the bank and Malawi government in Tunisia last week.
The Malawi government wanted the Tunisia meeting to authorise it to get another contractor for the road, said Gondwe.
"They did not allow us to look for another contractor because of their regulations. But we are about to get another alternative for Karonga/Chitipa and I would be surprised if it does not start before end June," said Gondwe.
The minister explained that the bank insisted that regardless of the unrealistic cost estimates, China Hunan should be allowed to go ahead with the construction.
But Gondwe could not give further details about the alternatives, arguing there are still a few loose ends to tighten up before disclosing it.
The problem with China Hunan, according to Gondwe, is that it would require more money to meet the total cost of the project.
This paper reported last week that government met Taiwanese representatives where they offered to fund the road if the ADB continued to reject its favoured contractor, Mota Engil.
Gondwe could neither confirm nor deny the reports on the Taiwanese offer, saying government was looking at a number of ways to handle the issue.
According to Gondwe, the China Hunan's bid was 24 percent lower than the consulting engineers' estimates of K7.9 billion and 34 percent below the second lowest bidder.
President Bingu wa Mutharika laid a foundation stone for the construction of the road this year ahead of a crucial byelection in Chitipa in December last year.
The President's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) won the Chitipa Wenya constituency by-election that fell vacant following the collapse and subsequent death of Speaker of Parliament Rodwell Munyenyembe who belonged to the UDF.
Last week, police and the District Commissioner (DC) for Chitipa stopped a rally that was aimed at soliciting people's views about development projects in the district.
The meeting, which was reportedly organised by Concerned Citizens of Chitipa, was among other things also supposed to tackle the controversial Karonga/Chitipa road.
The project failed to start off in 2000 when a contract for an initial loan of US$17 million and US$15 million from the Taiwanese government was signed, with some quarters claiming the Bakili Muluzi administration diverted the money to another road.
Chihana operated on
by Edwin Nyirongo, 22 May 2006 - 06:32:31
Alliance for Democracy (Aford) president Chakufwa Chihana, who is in South Africa receiving treatment, had a brain operation on Friday at Garden City Clinic, family and party officials confirmed on Sunday.
Aford national chairman Chipimpha Mughogho said he was told by the family members that Chihana had a successful operation on Friday and was put in an intensive care unit.
Mughogho said Chihana, who initially complained of headache, was found with a brain tumour which South African doctors removed.
Mzimba West MP Loveness Gondwe said Aford boss condition was stable.
"Hon. Chihana had a major operation and after that he was put in the intensive care unit but his condition is stable. I do not know where he was operated on but it had something to do with the skull," she said.
Deputy Information Minister John Bande referred the matter to the Health Minister Hetherwick Ntaba who was reported to be in Geneva, Switzerland.
Aford publicity secretary Norman Nyirenda said when Chihana's situation got worse, the family alerted the Office of the President and Cabinet who took him to Mwaiwathu Private Hospital.
"The doctors at Mwaiwathu advised that he should be sent to South Africa and they even identified the doctor for him," he said.
He said the costs are being met by the Malawi government, contradicting his earlier statement that his boss covered the cost.
Mughogho is now in charge of the party.
Gondwe will be a busy person when Parliament starts meeting on June 6 as she is the only Aford MP remaining.
Pillane proposes presidential age limit
by Emmanuel Muwamba , 22 May 2006 - 06:34:13
A member of the DPP National Governing Council Abdul Pillane on Saturday urged members of political parties and the civil society to put an upper age limit in the Constitution for presidential candidates.
Pillane was addressing members of political parties and civil society in Liwonde during a two-day follow up workshop to the National Conference on the Review of Constitution held in March in Lilongwe.
"My view is that (an upper) age limit should be at 75. We have to give a chance to younger people to lead because in circumstance, when you age you become forgetful especially when sickly," said Pillane. "Overall, chances should be given to young people."
But UDF secretary general Kennedy Makwangwala, whose party members agitated for the age limit during presentations, played the issue down.
"I feel there is no logic to have an upper age limit for presidential candidates. If someone is 90 or 80 I don't know how that can influence the electorate not to vote for someone who is younger, I don't see any logic behind that," said Makwangwala.
MCP participants at the workshop also vehemently objected to the proposal.
MCP vice president Nicholas Dausi in an interview said: "There is no constitution in Africa which stipulates an upper age limit. So it would be strange in Malawi to have an upper age limit for presidential candidates."
MDP President Kamlepo Kalua also opposed the need to have an upper age limit.
"If we have personalities in mind that we want to discriminate against then it is unfortunate. The constitution we want to build is a guiding document for future generations and it should not bar certain individuals on the basis of grudges," he said.
The Malawi Law Constitution Issues Paper of March 2006 says several submissions that were received put an upper presidential age limit in the Constitution.
"It is argued that it is common sense that mental knowledge faculties tend to fail with age. As regards what the actual age limit should be the submissions are far from being agreed. The range is from 60 years to 80 years," read submissions in the Issues Paper.
On whether MPs should double as ministers, Kalua said this should be the case.
Makwangwala also said it is not right for MPs to serve as ministers because the Legislature, another arm of government, is reduced while the Executive branch is beefed up from another arm of government.
"There is no separation of powers when MPs double as ministers," said Makwangwala.
But Pillane said there is no problem for MPs to work as ministers as well, saying MPs are elected by the President.
"One can serve both posts. There have been no problems before for people to double," said Pillane.
The Centre for Multiparty Democracy funded the workshop through the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy.
The objective was to come up with a collective position on the Issues Paper which will be presented to the Special Law Commission that will be constituted soon.
Mussa hails new driving licence
by Zainah Liwanda, 22 May 2006 - 06:58:52
Transport and Public Works Minister Henry Mussa last week said the design of the Malawi-Sadc driving licence would guard against forgery and ensure that only skilled and legitimate drivers of particular vehicles are licensed.
Mussa was speaking at the official launch of the licences in Lilongwe where he announced that traffic police would from July enforce speed limits and sober driving using Breathalysers which his ministry is in the process of procuring.
The minister said financial constraints are the reason for the delay in procuring the equipment but assured that by July they would be available.
"With the new equipment, the days of those who believe in the thrill of drink and driving are numbered," warned Mussa.
Mussa added that with the new licence, government is optimistic that the country's roads would be safe.
Acting Director of Road Traffic James Chirwa said the features that distinguish the new from the old licences are the Malawi national flag and a ghost image of the driver's photograph, among others.
Those with old licences, according to Chirwa, are expected to get the new ones after the expiry of the former.
UDF demands investigation on Kasambara
by Rabecca Theu, 22 May 2006 - 06:30:46
The United Democratic Front (UDF) has asked government to investigate Ralph Kasambara on allegations of abuse of office while he was attorney general.
UDF publicity secretary Sam Mpasu told the press Sunday that the party is neither amused or saddened by the removal of the former AG but asked government to institute investigations on Kasambara.
"Beyond the removal of the Attorney General, we now urge President Mutharika to institute investigation against Mr Kasambara into allegations that have made rounds in the public domain during the recent past. These include: Mrs Helen Singh and SS Rent-a-Car; SGS and ITS saga; ...........the use of Malawi Police Service in the arrest of three Chronicle journalists and the handling of Mrs Rubina Kawonga," said Mpasu.
Mpasu also accused Kasambara of awarding government contracts to Lawson and Company where he was a senior partner.
"We urge government to thoroughly investigate the former AG. We also ask government to cautiously select the new AG ," said Mpasu, who was accompanied by the party's Secretary General Kennedy Makwangwala, leader of the party in Parliament George Mtafu, chief whip Leonard Mangulama and a member of the executive Hophmally Makande.
But Minister of Information Patricia Kaliati said UDF should give offer its advice to the Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB).
"They should advise bodies like the Anti-Corruption Bureau to conduct the investigations and why are they saying this now? Is it because Kasambara has been fired? This is not a personal issue. If they have other pressing issues they should just say so. These arguments should have come up earlier on when the said cases were happening," she said.
Kasambara asked UDF to proceed with the mission of urging government to investigate him.
"They can do their job. Everyone has a right to lobby for anything they want in the country. UDF has a right to do that, let them go ahead," he said.
Kasambara was relieved of his duties as AG by the President last week. Government has not given reasons behind the removal.
Zambia: Malawians Grab Zambian Land
The Times of Zambia (Ndola)
May 18, 2006
Posted to the web May 19, 2006
MALAWIANS who have encroached on both the 'no-man's' and part of the Zambian land at the Mwami border in Eastern Province have plucked out some beacons that were used in the demarcation of the border.
The Malawians are now using the beacons as stools in their newly-established villages on Zambian land.
Eastern Province Minister, Boniface Nkhata, said in Chipata yesterday that if the situation was not controlled urgently, Zambia would lose huge tracts of land to Malawians migrating into Zambian in large numbers.
A check at the Zambia-Malawi border showed a number of beacons had been vandalised and new structures constructed on the 'no man's' land and a large portion of Zambian land.
Mr Nkhata said the trend extended to many parts of the province bordering the two countries.
"A large portion of Zambian land has been taken up by the Malawians starting from the Chama boundary up to the Mwami border.
"The weighbridge at the Mwami border was initially in Zambia from the time both countries gained independence from Britain, but now the bridge is on Malawian soil," Mr Nkhata said.
The minister, who is former Chama District Commissioner, said there was similar encroachment in Lundazi and Chama districts where Zambia shares a boundary with Malawi.
He said a Malawian farmer identified as Mr Mfune had cultivated 71.5 hectares on Zambian land and employed about 265 Malawian workers.
"Khombe Farm in Chama district in Kanyerere's area, along the Muyombe road which leads to Northern Province where this Malawian farmer has cultivated a vast land is on the Zambian territory," he said.
Workers on the farm admitted that they were farming on Zambian soil but could not go back to Malawi because the land in that country was inadequate for cultivation.
Mr Nkhata appealed to the ministry of Lands to urgently release money for the demarcation of the Zambia-Malawi border to avoid further land disputes between the two countries.
Meanwhile, the Immigration Department in Livingstone has arrested a couple and another man, all Zimbabweans, for working in Zambia without permits.
They were arrested at Gwembe village yesterday where they worked for Into Africa, a tour operating company that provides bush dinners and breakfast.
According to the Immigration Department in Livingstone, the trio entered Zambia through the Victoria Falls border as visitors but decided to work for the company illegally.
Last week, immigration officers arrested 10 Zimbabwean traders and six Ethiopians for entering and staying in Zambia illegally.
The Zimbabwean traders were warned and cautioned and later released.
The Ethiopians were arrested at Konje Guest House when they ran out of money to proceed to Botswana.
Zim unions, MDC still plan anti-govt protests
22 May 2006 11:51
Zimbabwe's biggest labour federation on Saturday threatened to call massive demonstrations against the government over poor salaries and worsening living conditions for workers in the country.
The threats are ratcheting up pressure against President Robert Mugabe's government after similar threats by the biggest opposition party in the country, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), about two months ago.
Speaking at the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) conference on Saturday, the labour body's president, Lovemore Matombo, said the powerful union wants the government to award workers salaries that match the country's ever-rising inflation.
"I can assure you we will stage massive demonstrations to force them [employers] to award workers minimum salaries that tally with the poverty datum line," said Matombo.
Matombo did not say when exactly the ZCTU would order workers to strike.
Meanwhile, the MDC on Sunday said it will push ahead with plans for anti-government protests, saying victory in a key by-election at the weekend was a "sign the electorate supported its policies", including democratic mass resistance.
A spokesperson of the main faction of the splintered MDC, Nelson Chamisa, said victory over Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF and a rival MDC faction in a Saturday by-election in Harare's Budiriro constituency is a sign Zimbabweans still have confidence in party leader Morgan Tsvangirai and his policies.
Tsvangirai, the founding leader of the MDC, heads the main rump of the opposition party whose candidate, Emmanuel Chisvuure, polled 7 949 votes to win the Budiriro House of Assembly seat.
Gabriel Chaibva of the other faction of the MDC, led by prominent academic Arthur Mutambara, garnered 504 votes while Zanu-PF's Jeremiah Bvirindi polled 3 961 votes.
"This election showed that the electorate still has confidence in the MDC [Tsvangirai-led] leadership and its policies," Chamisa told independent news service ZimOnline.
He added: "We will now move to consolidate our position * we still believe in mass protests. Until we have attained our goals we see no reason why we should abandon [plans for protests]."
Tsvangirai has threatened to call mass protests this winter against Mugabe and his government. He says the mass protests, whose date he is still to name, are meant to force Mugabe to relinquish power to a government of national unity to be tasked to write a new and democratic Constitution that would ensure free and fair elections held under international supervision.
Mugabe and his government, who had hoped for victory in Budiriro to show they were recapturing urban support from a splintered MDC, have not taken idly the opposition's threats to call mass protests, with the veteran president warning Tsvangirai he would be "dicing with death" if he ever attempted to instigate a Ukraine-style popular revolt in Zimbabwe.
In a fresh crackdown against dissension, the police last week arrested several church and civic leaders for organising public prayers and marches to mark last year's controversial home-demolition exercise by the government.
The police also banned the marches and prayers, fearing they could easily turn into mass protests against Mugabe and his government.
However, the marches went ahead in the second-largest city of Bulawayo after organisers had obtained a court order barring the police from stopping the march.
Political analysts say although Zimbabweans have largely been cowed by Mugabe's tactics of routinely deploying riot police and the military to crush street protests, worsening hunger and poverty are fanning public anger that Tsvangirai -- with proper planning and organisation -- could easily manipulate.
Zimbabwe is in the grip of a severe six-year old economic crisis that has seen inflation breaching the 1 000% barrier. Last year, the World Bank said Zimbabwe's economic crisis was unprecedented for a country not at war.
The MDC and major Western governments blame Mugabe for wrecking the country's economy, which was one of the strongest in Africa at independence from Britain 26 years ago.
Mugabe denies the charge blaming the crisis on sabotage by Britain and her allies after he seized white-owned farms for redistribution to landless blacks six years ago.
The Harare authorities recently hiked salaries for civil servants, with the lowest-paid soldier now earning about Z$27-million while the lowest-paid school teacher now takes home about Z$33-million.
But the salaries are still way below the poverty datum line, which the government's Consumer Council of Zimbabwe says now stands at a staggering Z$42-million a month for an average family of six.
The Zimbabwe government often accuses the ZCTU, a strong ally of the MDC, of pushing a political agenda to remove Mugabe from power.
Meanwhile, Matombo and Lucia Matibenga retained their posts as president and first vice-president respectively during the ZCTU congress that ended on Saturday. -- ZimOnline