- Kamuzu Banda Returns in Exciting Novel
Malawi Standard (Blantyre)
March 15, 2003
Posted to the web March 17, 2003
WHEN Kamuzu Banda, the late President of Malawi, died people believed
was gone forever.
Those who knew about his despotic rule will remember the spectacular
gyrating of his popular Mbumba Women's League whenever he returned
home from business and personal visits.
Well, the Ngwazi is back and alive this time in Zimbabwe in an exciting
by Wim Bonswinkel.
The novel, Erina, is set to be launched by a Bulawayo publishing
Amabooks at the Zimbabwe International Book Fair Bulawayo exhibition to
held at the Large City Hall between 13 and 15 March.
The book, which discusses development aid, governance, and
between races, among other subjects, is set in Malawi during the Ngwazi
The story is centred on a romantic relationship between Erina and
man who comes to Africa to manage a tea plantation.
The story takes a leap into the unknown, cleverly blending an African
with the fantastic premise at its core: the arrival of a black female
Brian Jones, the director of Amabooks, says the book is of relevance
Zimbabwe and Africa as a whole.
Boswinkel, the author of the book, settled in Bulawayo in 1988 after
in a number of countries since leaving Holland in 1970.
He has been involved in farming, development work, conservation and
According to John Eppel, another author of two books from Amabooks
publishing house, "the book will shock those who deserve to be shocked
delight those who deserve to be delighted". (Source Zimbabwe Daily
0- Malawi Standard
Bakili Muluzi Institute Offers Leadership Courses
Malawi Standard (Blantyre)
March 15, 2003
Posted to the web March 17, 2003
By Standard Reporter
Malawi President Dr Bakili Muluzi has demonstrated his personal
to the task of building capacity in Malawi by initiating the
establishment of the
Bakili Muluzi Institute For Social and Economic Transformation.
The establishment of the Institute comes in the heels of the birth of
African Union, whose recent Durban Declaration requires a political
commitment to the task of capacity building in vital sectors of
economies. Although, the Institute is currently in its formative stage,
started already to bear sweet fruits from which many Malawians will
This is done through various leadership courses the Institute is
One may ask what are the principles, aims, objectives and development
plans for the much publicised prestigious Bakili Muluzi Institute for
The vision of the Founder, Dr. Bakili Muluzi, is to free Malawi from
bondage of poverty and transform it into a well governed and
country. This vision can be achieved through a strategy focused on
building. Freeing the people of Malawi from the bondage of poverty
start from unleashing human potential. Thus, the philosophy of the BMI
be to help people take greater responsibility towards their own
enhancement, and the subsequent development of others. BMI will have
abiding commitment to helping others help themselves along the path to
The overall mission of the BMI is to build capacity for the efficient
and management of public and private sectors and in civil society. The
Institute will develop and deliver high quality, relevant, practical,
demand-driven and effective research and training programs and
The Institute will promote excellence in training, research, and policy
and facilitate the translation of knowledge into practice. BMI will
the effects of specialized training, innovative research, reflection,
and public debate ripple throughout the nation and Continent to improve
human condition. It will be home for the pursuit of knowledge and the
enhancement of professional and technical skills to address major
The institute will mobilize unique expertise, pursue new avenues,
collaborative relationships, conduct workshops and promote best
in capacity building and research.
The main goal of the BMI is to prepare potential leaders and managers
development challenges. BMI will seek to help shape leaders and
to possess the commitment, knowledge and capability to influence the
framework within which they operate.
Additionally, BMI will assist Malawi and other African countries
directly to; the lack of capacity in economic and social policy
capacity to plan, implement, monitor and evaluate development
programmes; weak understanding of policy options, strategies, and
development management issues by policy makers; and weak capacity for
economic and financial management.
To address the capacity needs of the private sector, the Institute will
to build capacity for income generation, small business development,
employment, and workforce development. The aim will be to nurture and
support the initiation, growth, and success of small and medium
A strong education and training system is essential for sustainable
building. Therefore the Institute will provide a forum for discussing
educational improvement ideas. The Institute will bring stakeholders
to identify and resolve diverse problems that currently weaken
BMI intends to make a national and global contribution to knowledge
acquisition and transmission through the provision of an international
conference center. BMI will host major international conferences and
symposiums, thus improving the circulation and sharing of knowledge on
social and economic transformation.
The objectives of the Bakili Muluzi Institute for Social and Economic
Transformation are: (a) To conduct specialized training, short
distance education programmes, innovative research, reflection, public
debate, national and international conferences, and workshops in
(b) To facilitate the enhancement of technical, analytical, and
skills to address specific human and institutional capacity gaps.
(c) To facilitate the translation of knowledge into practice and reduce
by doing the following: (i) Awakening the human potential to strive
(ii) Increasing income and self employment opportunities.
(iii) Improving health and HIV/AIDS awareness and interventions.
(iv) Enhancing the quality of education.
(v) Improving public policy formulation, implementation, monitoring,
(d) To establish an International Conference Centre for Social and
(e) To champion leadership development within the SADC Region.
(f) To form linkages, twinning arrangements, collaborations, and
partnerships with other institutes world wide.
and management of
The overall focus of the Bakili Muluzi Institute will be on
particularly in areas where huge institutional and human capacity gaps
which include leadership, entrepreneurship, policy analysis, and
The Institute will be organized into four major centres, namely: *
Leadership Development * Centre for Entrepreneurship and Productivity
Centre for Policy Analysis and Research * Centre for Excellence in
Education * Centre for Leadership Development
Excellence will be the foundation of all research and training
BMI. The Institute will promote excellence as a fundamental goal both
individual and institutional levels. This will be achieved by
excellence within the context of the goals of the Institute, which will
by a strong commitment to producing novel outcomes, services, and
Inclusiveness at the Bakili Muluzi Institute will mean drawing together
makers, practitioners, community, political, and civic leaders,
and large business owners, intellectuals, and professionals to
shaping the future of Malawi and Africa. The activities of the
include group efforts and larger team-driven projects focusing on
goals and priorities.
The Institute will play a critical role in integrating individuals from
countries, disciplines, and organizations to build partnerships in
achieve shared goals. Collaborations will be established between the
Institute and government agencies, international organizations, local
Regional institutions. Building partnerships with existing institutions
will be an
important priority for BMI.
The Institute will demonstrate flexibility by responding to the
of the environment. Thus, mechanisms will be put in place for changing
focus of the centers and creating new centers as new needs and demands
arise. The Institute will ensure that it responds rapidly to important
socioeconomic problems and pressing national and Regional concerns.
The Institute will open its doors to visiting researchers, scholars,
participants from Africa and the larger global community. It shall
aspire to be
identified as a center of specialization for leadership training within
Region. It will accommodate visits by distinguished scholars for
research, and to deliver public lectures. The Institute will host
and Regional conferences.
The Institute will form linkages and twinning arrangements with other
research and training institutes worldwide. It will foster strong ties
institutes, particularly in East and Southern Africa.
Additionally, each centre will form partnerships and linkages with
international institutions, to conduct collaborative training and
exchange research fellows and tutors, and share resources.
So far two linkages have already been established between the BMI and
Global Leadership Development Foundation (GLDF) based in South Africa,
and the World Institute of Leadership and Management in Africa (WILMA)
based in the U.S.A.
Strike shuts Zimbabwe cities
Most factories and shops in
Zimbabwe have closed in
response to an
However some government offices
and banks remain open, reports
Reuters news agency.
The BBC's Lewis Machipisa in Harare
says that the army has been
deployed following some violence in
the Harare suburb of Epworth.
Correspondents say this is the most successful
since President Robert Mugabe's controversial
re-election a year ago.
It was called by the Movement for Democratic Change,
Morgan Tsvangirai has been accused by some party
activists of not
doing enough to make life difficult for Mr Mugabe.
Our correspondent says he has seen a bus and a bread
van set on fire,
while youths are throwing stones at any cars which are
on the streets.
Police have also fired tear gas to
disperse protesters from a bus
station in the eastern suburb of
Mabvuku, the Associated Press news
The BBC's Themba Nkosi in the
second city, Bulawayo, says there have been clashes
activists and government supporters in the suburb of
He says that most shops and factories are closed,
while there is a heavy
The authorities have declared the strike illegal under
tough new security
laws and say they will deal strongly with any
"The police will meet them head-on. We will be very
ruthless with them,
but within the limits of the law," police Inspector
Andrew Phiri told state
"There are major roadblocks on all roads going to and
leading out of
town," our correspondent says.
Many of those who want to work are unable to do so
transport is not running.
The MDC has called on people to stay at home on
Wednesday and not to demonstrate in order to avoid any
"The reports we have so far is that there is an 80%
the country," said MDC spokesman Paul Themba Nyathi.
"People are sick and tired of this
regime and this is their message."
The strike is being supported by the
unions and other civic groups.
Zimbabwe is hit by shortages of
everything from food and fuel to
Inflation is running at more than
200% and many factories have
closed down, leading to massive
Half of the population, some seven million people need
Mr Mugabe blames the problems on sabotage by foreign
opposed to his land reform programme.
Mugabe's youth militias 'rape captives'
Rape is being used as a political weapon by the
youth militia and other
groups allied to Zimbabwe's ruling party, according
to human rights workers
and church groups. Investigations by the Guardian
reveal allegations of
politically motivated rape against opposition
According to victims' testimony, President Robert
Mugabe's militia are also
forcing young women to be their concubines with
Zimbabwe's human rights forum reports seven cases
of politically motivated
rape in 2002, alongside 58 murders and 1 061 cases
of torture. But the
reported rapes, verified by medical examinations
and interviews, are just the
tip of the iceberg, human rights workers say.
"There is a serious problem of political rape in
Zimbabwe. The documented
cases are low, but there is considerable stigma and
fear about reporting
rape," said Tony Reeler, human rights defender for
the Institute for
Democratic Alternatives for Southern Africa. "From
evidence we know the number is much higher.
"The victims are mostly young females, relatively
uneducated, poor, rural,
the most vulnerable members of society. Many
antiretrovirals for HIV infection."
The trauma of rape is evident in the dull gaze of
Sithulisiwe (21). For eight
months she was held captive at a "youth camp" for
ruling Zanu-PF party, where, she says, she was
repeatedly gang raped and
tortured. She said she was abducted in December
2001 and marched to a
camp in a Bulawayo suburb.
"It was surrounded by security guards so we could
not get out," she said.
"There were hundreds of us. We were fed horse meat
and rotten food. They
woke us up at 3am and we had to run 20 kilometres.
Then we had to do 200
press ups and other exercises. If anyone failed to
do so, they were beaten.
We had to chant slogans and sing Zanu-PF songs.
"They taught us the history of our country,
starting from colonial slavery, and
they told us we should hate whites. We slept in
large rooms, the men and
women together. We were raped by the boys. I can't
even count how many
times by how many different men. If we complained
to the camp
commander, we were beaten and they would call us
sell-outs to the MDC
[the opposition Movement for Democratic Change]."
Sithulisiwe says she felt sorry for the young
girls, of just 12 and 13, picked
out, by the camp commander and taken to a nearby
hotel to be raped. Her
voice is flat and only when she talks to her
five-month-old child does her
face light up. "I have named her Nokthula, which
means peace. I want her to
find peace - imagine, I do not even know who her
Sithulisiwe and others were caught trying to
escape. She says they were
buried up to their necks. "We were beaten and
thought we'd be killed, but
the camp commander rescued us. They made us roll in
mud, then would not
let us take a bath."
The camp closed in July 2002. Many of the youths
went to government
training camps, and Sithulisiwe was sent away.
Aided by a church group,
she and other women then reported the rapes at
Hillside police station near
"Then the doctor gave me a blood test. He told me I
was HIV positive."g to
Sithulisiwe's story has been independently
verified. This month she testified
at a service led by Archbishop Pius Ncube at the
cathedral. People across Zimbabwe told of rape and
torture at the hands of
"We have several reports of gang rapes and beatings
at the youth militia
camps," said a human rights worker. "The camps have
become centres of
torture and sexual abuse. Reports are made to
police but they take virtually
Zimbabwe's police deny this. "Irrespective of
whether they are political
cases or not, if they are true rape cases then we
will investigate them," said
Wayne Bvudzijena, an assistant commissioner. "If it
proves to be a serious
charge, then the culprits will go to court." He was
not aware of reports of
rape at the Bulawayo militia camps.
But investigations have revealed other accounts of
sexual violence. Rebecca (36) says she was dragged
from her home in
eastern Zimbabwe by youth militia. "They beat me,
saying I wanted to give
the country back to whites. Six guys raped me.
These people threatened to
kill me and my family. I am afraid I may be
infected with HIV, but this has
made me stronger. I feel we are in a war and I must
be prepared to die."
Sarah (22) from central Zimbabwe, tells how Zanu-PF
youth attacked the
homestead where she farmed. "They burned our house
everything we owned. They beat me, even though I
had our baby on my
back. They took my baby away. They called me
Tsvangirai's whore [a
reference to opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai],
and they beat the soles of
my feet. Then, they raped me." - Guardian Unlimited
Newspapers Limited 2003
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