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  • Christine Chumbler
    Malawi Launches New Malaria Drug The Malawi Standard December 24, 2002 Posted to the web December 27, 2002 Raphael Tenthani Blantyre, Malawi Malawi has
    Message 1 of 1046 , Dec 30, 2002
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      Malawi Launches New Malaria Drug

      The Malawi Standard
      December 24, 2002
      Posted to the web December 27, 2002

      Raphael Tenthani
      Blantyre, Malawi

      Malawi has launched a new drug for Malaria called Arinate and
      manufactured by Belgian company Dafra Pharma.

      Herwig Jasern, head of Research and Development at Dafra Pharma
      said the company decided to introduce a new drug after observing
      that the Malaria parasite was becoming more resistant to traditional
      anti-Malaria drugs.

      He said Arinate was discovered in China in 1970, but only came into
      use in 1985.

      "Although it was used massively by the local population, the parasites
      of Malaria never became resistant to this new drugs," Jasern said,
      adding "after 15 years of broad Arinate use, the incidence of Malaria
      has dropped sharply in China and Vietnam." Jasern, however, said
      that the broad use of the drug was not likely to eradicate the disease
      completely in many parts of Africa.

      "But in some places, eradication can be considered as becoming
      feasible," he said.

      He said the new drug had exceptionally high cure rates, rapid
      clearance of parasites, improved compliance, rapid reduction of fever
      and definite economic benefits.

      Dumisan Chisala, commercial director at Chemicals and Marketing
      Company (local distributors of the new drug) also spoke highly of
      Arinate. "When administered in the right dose, it will clear the
      parasites within 24 hours and clinical relief is achieved within 36
      hours," Chisala said, affirming that "failures to treatment is most
      uncommon." He said the drug was in two forms: 100-gramme tablet
      and 8-gramme intra-muscular injection. He also said preparations
      were underway for syrups and suppositories for young babies.

      According to the Ministry of Health, the Malawi government spends
      US$29 million dollars every year to fight Malaria.

      *****

      Lawyers Say Leader of Opposition's Career Over

      The Malawi Standard
      December 24, 2002
      Posted to the web December 27, 2002

      Paul Kang'ombe
      Blantyre, Malawi

      Constitutional and legal experts have said that Malawi Congress Party
      vice president John Tembo is chasing the wind by asking the courts to
      quash Parliamentary decision to declare his seat and that of the
      party's secretary general Kate Kainja vacant. The experts say
      Tembo's and Kainja's political careers are over; as it is clear that
      the
      courts whose order they defied will uphold the decision made by
      Parliament over the matter.

      Leading the onslaught of those saying that Tembo and Kainja are
      wasting their time to petition the High Court to reverse a decision by
      Parliament, is one of the country's leading constitutional lawyers and
      head of law department at Chancellor College, Dr Edge Kanyongolo.

      Kanyongolo said Tembo made a mistake by conducting a convention
      against a court order while knowing that he was not a legitimate MCP
      President.

      He said Tembo should not be taken up by a recent high court
      injunction that declared him and Kainja still as MPs for a period of
      52
      days while assessing the nature of their case. He charged that their
      chances of retaining their Parliamentary seats are very minimal
      because their offence was against the same courts from which they
      are now seeking help.

      "Tembo obtained an interim injunction from the High Court aimed at
      assessing the merit of their case, the injunction does not mean that
      Parliament was wrong to declare their seats vacant. Their chances of
      retaining seats are minimal," he explained.

      Kanyongolo said that Tembo's case is a criminal offence; he however
      said that should the court decide other wise Parliament should make
      some checks and balances on the procedures on how to handle
      cases of this nature.

      Concurring with the University of Malawi law expert is the Vice
      Chairperson of the Law Society of Malawi, Ngeyi Kanyongolo, who
      said the law classifies contempt of court both as criminal offence and
      civil case.

      She however hinted that Tembo's case is a criminal offence as
      Parliament rightly put it.

      "Tembo committed a criminal offence, now that he obtained a court
      injunction, the judgment depends on his argument in court and how the
      presiding Judge will view it," she explained.

      A political Scientist at Chancellor College who asked for anonymity
      said Malawi needs leaders who respect the rule of law.

      She said it was surprising that Tembo rushed to the same courts he
      failed to recognise and respect earlier to get an injunction
      restraining
      the Speaker from declaring his seat vacant.

      "Tembo defied a court injunction and the Constitution of Malawi
      clearly
      states that contempt of court is a crime. Has he realised now the
      importance of courts?" she queried.

      Former Alliance for Democracy (Aford) Publicity Secretary Dan
      Msowoya has said Malawi Congress Party vice president John
      Tembo and the party's secretary general Kate Kainja deserved
      expulsion from Parliament because they disrespected the rule of law.

      Msowoya told The Malawi Standard that Tembo's failure to honour a
      court order stopping him from holding a convention in Lilongwe put
      him on a collision course with the law.

      "Every party has its own Constitution, which every member must abide
      by; and once you infringe it, just know that you're in troubled water.
      Driven by his excessive lust for power, Tembo suspended the MCP
      Constitution and thought that he was supreme and above the law. He
      has paid the price for his arrogant attitude and for disrespecting the
      rule of law," Msowoya said.

      Msowoya said Tembo, who was on the climax of his political career
      already faced an axe from the party because of his disagreements
      with the party's president Gwanda Chakuamba.

      "Of course, there was already an attempt by MCP leadership to have
      Tembo out of the party but in this regard the law has taken its course
      and the fact that he paid the court fine to avoid being imprisoned
      means that he accepted that he is a convict and according to the
      Constitution he cannot be allowed to hold or vie for any public office
      for
      seven years from the date he was convicted," he explained.

      But Chakuamba argued in Parliament that it was not fair to make
      (what he called) a rushed judgment on Tembo and Kainja, saying the
      two MCP politicians could have been given time to defend themselves
      before declaring their Parliamentary seats in Dedza vacant.

      MCP publicity secretary, Nicholas Dausi, said in an interview
      Chakuamba was outraged by Parliament's decision to declare the two
      seats vacant.

      "Parliament was supposed to give them a chance to hear their side of
      the story before arriving at the decision to declare their seats
      vacant,"
      he said.

      Commenting on the same issue, Hilton Khembo of Soche East in
      Blantyre, who has been following Tembo's issue with keen interest
      said that the court should not be lenient on Tembo as he is a
      confusionist whose aim is to divide the MCP. "It was relief to hear
      that
      Parliament had declared Tembo's seat vacant and the Court should
      not be lenient on Tembo. He must go," he said.

      Khembo described Tembo as an outdated politician who is out of tune
      with modern politics.

      "Tembo is a politician of the past who is living in the present
      politics
      but is failing to step into the future because he can not conform with
      norms of multi party democracy, or in short, he is a dictator," he
      noted.

      He observed that the best that Tembo could do is to resign from
      politics. He cautioned that if Tembo continues to be in politics with
      his
      archaic dictatorial policies, he would one day find himself behind
      bars.

      *****

      MCP President Happy With His Deputy's Fate

      The Malawi Standard
      December 24, 2002
      Posted to the web December 27, 2002

      Tusekele Mwanyongo
      Blantyre, Malawi

      Malawi Congress Party (MCP) President Gwanda Chakuamba is
      strategising to reclaim the parliamentary leader of opposition office
      stripped from him two years ago for disrespecting the head of state.

      Chakuamba's move follows the expulsion from Parliament of the
      leader of opposition John Tembo, who is also MCP vice president
      following his conviction on contempt of court charges.

      Sources in the MCP said Chakuamba called for an impromptu caucus
      with his inner circle immediately after Tembo and the party's
      secretary
      general Kate Kainja lost the parliamentary seats.

      "High on the agenda was the issue of reclaiming leader of opposition
      office. Other issues included the choice of people who would contest
      in by-elections for the vacant parliamentary seats in Dedza, how the
      Chakuamba's faction would work with the Tembo's faction and many
      other relevant issues," the source said.

      Chakuamba was removed as leader of opposition because of
      boycotting parliamentary proceedings in 1999. He was then claiming
      that he did not recognise Dr. Bakili Muluzi as the country's
      illegitimate
      head of state. At that time he was also disputing the outcome of the
      1999 presidential elections.

      MCP Publicity Secretary, Nicholas Dausi, refused to comment on
      whether Chakuamba is campaigning to regain his lost office or not.

      Tembo told BBC after his expulsion from parliament that Chakuamba
      was responsible for his expulsion from parliament because he was the
      one who took him and Kainja to court.

      He said on BBC's Focus on Africa programme that all this stemmed
      from the two leaders' power struggle.

      But Dausi refused to comment on Tembo's assertions.

      "We are Christians and we don't harbour any vengeance heart
      (against Tembo). If that is his line of thought, we are obliged to
      respect
      it," Dausi said.

      Meanwhile, Tembo and Kainja have been granted a court injunction
      restraining the Speaker from gazetting their expulsion pending a
      judicial review. The High Court in Lilongwe prescribed 56 days for
      this
      process after which a final decision would be made.

      *****

      Journalists face
      Zimbabwe deadline

      By Hilary Andersson
      BBC, Johannesburg

      Independent journalists in Zimbabwe are in a
      precarious position as the end of the year
      approaches.

      They have been working under draconian
      legislation that was introduced at the start of
      what has been a tense and dangerous 2001.

      They have been required by law to register
      themselves with the government by the end of
      December if they are to be allowed to practise
      journalism in Zimbabwe next year.

      The legislation holds that journalists publishing
      falsehoods or undermining the credibility of
      President Robert Mugabe can be heavily fined
      or liable to a two-year prison sentence.

      In addition, the law requires independent
      journalists to register with a special
      government commission.

      Delays

      So far journalists in the country have been
      allowed to continue to practise pending the
      approval of their request for registration but
      that grace period is expected to expire at the
      end of this month

      And so far the
      registration process
      has been plagued by
      delays.

      If journalists are not
      registered on time,
      they will be legally
      obliged to stop work
      and the entire future
      of independent
      journalism in Zimbabwe
      will be in jeopardy.

      Already a number of
      foreign media
      organisations, including the BBC, have been
      banned from the country.

      The media bill is being challenged in court by a
      group of independent journalists, but there is
      no guarantee that this will change anything.

      Zimbabwe this year has degenerated into a
      desperate state where huge sections of the
      population face severe food shortages and
      where political criticism is suppressed.

      President Mugabe has cracked down on the
      media because he believes that a foreign
      conspiracy is to blame for his country's woes.

      *****

      Zimbabwe hits back in
      cricket row

      Zimbabwe has accused the UK Government of
      trying to "keep cricket white", in a growing row
      over whether England should play a World Cup
      match in Zimbabwe.

      Information Minister
      Jonathan Moyo told the
      state-run Herald
      newspaper that
      attempts to boycott
      Zimbabwe amounted to
      a "well-orchestrated"
      propaganda move.

      His comments came
      after UK Prime Minister
      Tony Blair said England
      should not go to
      Zimbabwe, because of
      the human rights record
      of President Robert
      Mugabe's government.

      However the UK
      Government cannot order such a move and the
      England Cricket Board (ECB) has been warned
      it could face a hefty compensation claim if it
      withdraws.

      As ECB officials were expected to hold talks
      with ministers on the issue, England cricket
      captain Nasser Hussain urged the government
      to make the decision.

      England are scheduled to play just one World
      Cup match in Zimbabwe in February, with the
      rest in South Africa.

      'Political mumbo-jumbo'

      Mr Moyo described as "false" concerns
      expressed in Britain and also in Australia about
      playing in Zimbabwe.

      "This is obviously not about safety and
      security, it just political mumbo-jumbo."

      "If the British and the Australians want to keep
      cricket as a white and colonial sport, then
      they should do so alone because we are not
      interested in their rubbish."

      "They are forgetting that cricket is not like
      World Cup soccer or the Olympics. It is rather
      an exclusive and undeveloped sport not
      accessible to the black majority."

      Earlier, Zimbabwe's opposition leader Morgan
      Tsvangirai said Nasser Hussain would be
      "endorsing" Mr Mugabe's government if he
      came to the country.

      He said Mr Mugabe would exploit the match
      politically and the issue was symbolic, as a
      boycott would "send the right signal that
      Zimbabwe is an isolated country".

      U-turn claim

      The International Cricket Council (ICC) has
      heaped further pressure on the ECB by warning
      of a possible £1m compensation bill for pulling
      out of the Zimbabwe game.

      It has already been made clear that England
      would effectively forfeit the match if it chose
      not to play for what the ICC calls "political
      considerations".

      The Zimbabwean president has been criticised
      for his policy of seizing land owned by white
      farmers, and for systematic violence against
      political opponents.

      The World Cup Match is being co-hosted by
      South Africa, Zimbabwe and Kenya.
    • 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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