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  • Christine Chumbler
    Newly Launched Atlas Details Social Indicators in Malawi UN Integrated Regional Information Networks February 10, 2003 Posted to the web February 10, 2003
    Message 1 of 1046 , Feb 11, 2003
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      Newly Launched Atlas Details Social Indicators in
      Malawi

      UN Integrated Regional Information
      Networks
      February 10, 2003
      Posted to the web February 10, 2003

      Johannesburg

      An atlas that details social statistics for Malawi has been released
      combining information and analysis of the 1998 Population and Housing
      Census and the 1997 to 1998 Integrated Household Survey, making it the
      first map on the social statistics of the country in 10 years.

      The atlas aims to provide insights regarding key geographic factors
      associated with poverty, which affects over 60 percent of the
      population,
      and to assist in the geographic targeting of programmes designed to
      reduce it.

      They include distribution data on population characteristics, health
      and
      fertility, education and literacy, cultural and economic activity and
      living
      conditions.

      Information revealed includes the number of people living in a
      household,
      an important indicator of general welfare, and the type of structures
      they
      live in. It notes that 72.7 percent of the population used traditional
      latrines,
      93 percent use firewood for fuel and about 60 percent have access to a
      protected water source like a pump or a village well during the dry
      season.

      It also highlights findings that in areas like Nsanje and Chikwawa only
      half
      the population have toilets, and that Kasungu and Ntchisi are in
      greatest
      need of access to protected water sources.

      The atlas was produced as an extension of the work of the National
      Statistical Office and the IFPRI, carried out jointly under the
      Poverty
      Monitoring System of the government of Malawi established in 1997 to
      monitor the economic and social situation of the population and to
      analyse
      the impact and efficiency of poverty-oriented policies, programmes,
      and
      projects.

      Link to the atlas: http://www.ifpri.org/pubs/cp/malawiatlas.htm

      *****

      Trained staff quit
      troubled Zimbabwe

      By Ayisha Yahya
      BBC World Service business reporter

      The continued political unrest in Zimbabwe and
      the raft of economic problems now facing the
      country is having a damaging effect on the
      workforce.

      According to the ACCA in Harare - a body that
      represents chartered accountants - thousands
      of professionals have already left the nation.

      The medical profession has also been badly
      effected forcing Zimbabwe to recruit personnel
      from other regions.

      But the exodus could bring some unexpected
      economic benefits.

      New pastures

      Political uncertainty, sporadic violence and the
      daily problems of food and fuel shortages are
      taking their toll on Zimbabwe's white collar
      workforce.

      Accountants, engineers,
      doctors and teachers
      alike are finding it
      impossible to maintain
      their standard of living in
      the face of rampant
      inflation.

      The World Bank estimates that the level of
      inflation will reach 500% this year.

      In 2002, more than 6,000 professionals left the
      country.

      Most have joined the growing Zimbabwean
      expatriate communities in Britain, South Africa
      and Botswana.

      But others have settled in regions as far afield
      as the Caribbean and Australia.

      In demand

      An ACCA spokesman, who did not wish to be
      named, told the BBC that there were plentiful
      opportunities for accountants who choose to
      leave.

      "Worldwide there is an acute shortage of
      accountants therefore our members are highly
      mobile," he said.

      "Regardless of the economic situation we are
      facing, they have always been in demand in
      the region and across the globe."

      Other professionals such as doctors and nurses
      are also finding work in countries where their
      skills are in short supply, for example in Britain.

      That is causing a problem back in Zimbabwe,
      which has had to recruit medical staff from
      other regions.

      Unexpected bonus

      In the private sector, it is a different story.

      Although many workers are leaving, there are
      plenty of candidates to take their place -
      because so many companies are closing their
      doors, as the economic climate worsens.

      Although the general picture is bleak, there is
      an unexpected bonus for Zimbabwe from this
      skills drain.

      Last year, Zimbabweans living abroad
      collectively sent home more than $40m a
      month - providing a welcome boost for the
      country's depleted foreign reserves.

      *****

      Zambia to re-think
      privatisation

      Zambia's President Levy Mwanawasa has told a
      delegation from the International Monetary
      Fund he wants to re-think the country's
      privatisation programme.

      Mr Mwanawasa said privatisation of crucial
      state enterprises had led to poverty, asset
      stripping and job losses.

      Privatisation is important
      for Zambia because the
      IMF and other western
      banks will cancel $3bn
      of the country's $6.5bn
      debt, provided the
      agreed privatisation programme is seen
      through.

      Zambia's government must also show this year
      that it is managing the economy well.

      The Zambian president said that although he
      supported privatisation in principle,
      mismanagement by his predecessor Frederick
      Chiluba had caused the southern African
      country great misery.

      'Essential to revisit the issue'

      "There has been no significant benefit to the
      country," Mr Mwanawasa told the IMF's
      assistant director for Africa Robert Sharer.

      "Privatisation has contributed to high levels of
      poverty, loss of employment and asset
      stripping.

      "This administration felt that it is necessary
      and essential to revisit the method by which
      government exits itself from public property."

      Zambia has sold 257 of 280 state firms in the
      past 10 years.

      One of the conditions for debt relief is the
      privatisation of the state's Zambia National
      Commercial Bank and the concessioning of
      power utility Zesco and telephone firm Zamtel.

      "This administration has made excellent
      changes although there are many problems
      which lie ahead and the IMF is ready to help
      address these problems," Mr Sharer said before
      the start of talks with the Zambian president.

      *****

      Brave cricketers risk
      Mugabe's wrath

      By Joseph Winter
      BBC News Online

      Zimbabwe cricketers Henry Olonga and Andy
      Flower knew that they were taking a great risk
      by making a public protest against the
      government of Robert Mugabe.

      Olonga has already been suspended by his
      club, Takashinga for wearing a black armband
      during the Namibia match but that is the least
      of their worries.

      As the statement they released just before
      taking to the field said:

      "People have been
      murdered, raped, beaten
      and had their homes
      destroyed because of their
      beliefs and... many of those
      responsible have not been
      prosecuted."

      While such high-profile people are unlikely
      to be physically attacked in the middle of
      the Cricket World Cup, Mr Mugabe and his
      supporters have long memories.

      Certainly, their cricketing careers - in
      Zimbabwe at least - are in jeopardy.

      The Zimbabwe Cricket Union, whose
      patron is cricket fan Robert Mugabe, is
      already considering what action to take
      against them for breaching its
      "non-political" stance.

      And it will be interesting to see how many
      black armbands, if any, are worn during
      Zimbabwe's next match.

      Ruined plans

      Mr Mugabe will have been livid when he
      heard of the protest, which has ruined his
      careful plans of a propaganda victory over
      both the opposition and the UK at the
      Cricket World Cup.

      Security is
      extremely tight
      around the Harare
      Sports Club, which
      is just across the
      road from Mr
      Mugabe's residence,
      in a bid to
      outmanoeuvre
      those in the England
      team trying to use
      safety fears as a
      pretext for not
      playing in Harare.

      Sports clubs have received warnings from
      government supporters to close during
      Zimbabwe's cricket matches, in order to
      get as many fans as possible to the
      ground after the opposition had called for
      a boycott.

      And the police have said no political
      slogans, songs, placards, dress or other
      "artefact associated with political parties"
      would be allowed at cricket venues.
      in
      Loud cheers

      But despite this, the cricketers' action has
      brought attention back to "the death of
      democracy" in Zimbabwe.

      And the statement is far more powerful,
      coming from the first black player in the
      national team, Henry Olonga.

      Both players
      received loud cheers
      every time they
      bowled or batted,
      further adding to Mr
      Mugabe's
      embarrassment.

      The government
      mouthpiece, The
      Herald newspaper,
      noted that the two
      were "able to
      express themselves
      without any harassment or intimidation".

      But the police would have handed out
      instant justice to anyone making similar
      statements from the crowd.

      'Restore sanity'

      Olonga says he is ready to pay the price
      of his action and accepted that he and
      Flower may now be in physical danger.

      "We'll have to deal with whatever
      repercussions come along our way as
      best we can but we believe in the greater
      good," he told the BBC.

      And Olonga also
      called on other
      Zimbabweans to
      overcome their
      fears and stand up
      for what they
      believe.

      "The more people
      hesitate, the more
      people hold back,
      the less we can
      achieve to bring
      about a restoration
      of sanity and dignity to the nation of
      Zimbabwe."

      "I hope that by our stand, people will be
      inspired to follow suit," he said.

      Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the
      opposition Movement for Democratic
      Change (MDC), has been charged with
      treason for making a similar statement.

      The charges, carrying a possible death
      sentence, were eventually dropped but Mr
      Mugabe's advisors will no doubt be
      examining the statement released by
      Olonga and Flower extremely carefully to
      see what action they could take.

      But they may do nothing for the time
      being, to avoid any further public relations
      gaffes during the rest of the Cricket World
      Cup.

      *****

      Mozambique poet 'a
      national hero'

      By Jose Tembe
      BBC, Maputo

      Mozambique's greatest poet, Jose Craveirinha,
      has been laid to rest at Maputo's heroes
      monument.

      The Mozambican cabinet declared Monday a
      day of national mourning for Craveirinha's
      funeral.

      The flag has been flown at half mast.

      Craveirinha died of cardio-vascular problems at
      a South African clinic last week.

      He was the first Mozambican citizen who did
      not use a gun to fight for the country's
      independence, to be declared a national hero.

      Inspiring

      Mozambique's greatest painter, Malangatana
      Valente Nguena, sang in memory of one of the
      country's great poets, Jose Craveirinha, as he
      was being buried at the Maputo monument for
      national heroes on Monday.

      Craveirinha inspired
      many national and
      foreign citizens
      because - according
      to most of the
      messages read out on
      Monday - of his works
      of art, his nationalism,
      his fight against
      illiteracy, his fight for
      the country's
      development and his
      passion for sports.

      In his message,
      Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano said it
      would be hard to fill the gap left by
      Craveirinha.

      "The gap left by Craveirinha will not be filled
      easily. All Mozambican families must join efforts
      to fill it.

      "Through his pen, Craveirinha fought for
      Mozambique's independence from colonialism,
      against illiteracy and for the spread of
      Mozambican culture," Mr Chissano said.

      Loved by all

      Craveirinha's funeral was attended by hundreds
      of people, including academics, diplomats,
      government officials, the general public and
      politicians.

      One of the politicians
      was Afonso Dhlakama,
      leader of Mozambique's
      main opposition party,
      Renamo.

      This was the first time
      Mr Dhlakama had
      attended ceremonies
      at the Maputo heroes
      monument.

      So far, he had always
      refused to do so
      because the
      monument only honours veterans of the ruling
      Frelimo party.

      But he made an exception for Craveirinha.
    • 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 8:06 AM
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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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