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  • Christine Chumbler
    Diary of an aid worker By Anita Payne Malawi Tearfund aid worker Anita Payne writes about her experiences in Malawi as she works with local churches assisting
    Message 1 of 1046 , Mar 24, 2003
      Diary of an aid worker

      By Anita Payne

      Tearfund aid worker Anita Payne writes about her
      in Malawi as she works with local churches assisting
      people in
      the grip of a major drought.

      19 March 2003

      I think I must be back in biblical times. I've just
      passed a small boy, in
      a shapeless brown garment, on the roadside, with his
      small herd of

      He was casting a stone beyond the
      straying goats to bring them back
      within closer range.

      He was all of six years of age. No
      schooling for him or the many other
      young boys herding goats and cattle
      throughout Malawi.

      I'm driving south again to see how
      the relief work is progressing in
      Chikwawa, Southern Malawi.

      We pass over a battered but defiant
      bridge. The floods have devastated the river banks and
      almost washed
      away the road but the bridge stands untouched.

      We rumble carefully over the centre part of the road
      giving the
      crumbling earth edge a wide berth.

      Harvest looms

      We pass lots of healthy maize - promise of a better
      harvest than last

      However, here and there, are pockets of stunted yellow
      leaves, only
      inches high - and we're fast approaching what should
      have been harvest

      Other patches of maize stand tall but
      are completely dried and withered.

      My urban lifestyle in England is so
      removed from the agricultural cycle
      I find it hard to imagine the
      overwhelming distress by the
      farmers as they survey these
      withered stalks.

      What must it be like - with a young
      family to care for - to have no other
      resources - and the next harvest is a
      year away?

      I love this drive along the Malawi/Mozambique border.
      There are no
      fences or ditches, just Malawi on one side of the road
      and Mozambique
      on the other.

      I was here 13 years ago when over one million
      Mozambicans simply
      crossed the road, fleeing the bombing, plundering,
      machetes and guns,
      to safety.

      The left hand side of the road was crammed with mud
      houses, cheek by
      jowl, whilst the right hand side lay eerily empty with
      the occasional
      bombed and shattered building.

      We pass, today, the same crumbling ruins on the
      Mozambican side, the
      faint ' Vote Chissano' fading in the sun.

      The acacia trees are pushing up through fallen walls
      but not far away
      whole villages have reappeared, maize is waving in the
      fields and all is
      quiet. Yes, there is always hope.

      25 February 2003

      The windowless room is nine feet square and pitch

      The ceiling fan has stopped, its hot and sticky and we
      can sense each
      other's presence rather than actually see each other.

      Yes, I'm back in Africa.

      I have returned to Malawi following a
      health check-up in the UK.

      And it is good to be back.

      The electricity has been coming and
      going since lunchtime but now it has
      finally given up trying and here we
      are, Charles, Wezi and I, trying to
      review the food relief programme
      we're operating in Malawi.

      I'm listening to their latest news.

      One of our partner agencies lost a key field officer
      just before they were
      due to start their January food distributions.

      "What did you do?" I ask.

      "We helped them cover the whole district, what else
      could we do?"

      I realise that this meant more than a tenfold increase
      in their workload!

      Samson, James and Andrew and our local church teams
      were only
      expecting to be in the villages for a few days in

      They ended up sleeping out in the rural areas for more
      than three
      weeks, waiting for the trucks to get across the broken
      down bridges and
      through the flooded dirt roads.

      Dingi, Lloyd and Limbi arrived back in the office,
      this morning, from the

      They've been out of contact for two weeks (cell phones
      waiting for the last trucks to arrive in Khosolo.

      We've been anxious, praying that all was OK.

      They look tired and exhausted, but quietly satisfied
      that every
      beneficiary finally got their bags of food.


      They could all do with a couple of days' rest but
      we'll all be back on the
      road next week in Chikwawa, starting all over again
      for the March food

      The black-out continues, the screen of my laptop
      providing a faint glow
      by which we look at the statistics and make our plans.

      Will our vehicles survive this taxing schedule?
      Will our teams?

      Machinjira comes in, stumbling in the dark,
      with a welcome tray of cups of hot tea. We
      shuffle our cups around.

      The laptop battery gives out and we are in
      total darkness.

      On my return I discovered that the land is

      An oasis of green was the welcoming sight as
      our plane touched down last Sunday at
      Lilongwe airport.

      Some maize is still small and stunted - farmers who
      can't afford
      fertiliser, but some fields are head high. Will it be

      Only time will tell, but at least it's more hopeful
      than last year.

      Another hopeful sign is the workshop two days ago.

      Several Malawian churches, from different
      denominations have put
      aside their differences.

      We've begun planning joint development projects over
      the next few
      years, aiming to share our technical expertise and
      work together among
      our communities. Co-operation rather than competition.

      n, its hot and sticky and we can sense
      Yes, there's definitely some good news since I got

      I've just unpacked my photos of home and stuck them on
      the wall.
      There's one of the family, out walking on the
      mountains together,
      catching up on each other's news over the New Year.

      Yes, I'm missing them and our new home among the

      Only last week I stood on Todd Crag, my boots just
      edged with snow,
      my face glowing with the cold. Now, my blouse is
      sticking to my back,
      even though night has fallen.

      The BBC World Service is keeping me company, but I
      reckon it's time
      for bed!


      Mugabe critics spurred on by strike
      20 March
      2003 09:43

      After a two-day anti-government strike, Zimbabwe's
      Movement for
      Democratic Change yesterday vowed to escalate "mass
      action" to force
      President Mugabe's government to reform or leave

      The national strike was the biggest protest for
      more than two years against
      Robert Mugabe's 23-year rule, shuttng factories,
      shops, banks and other
      businesses in protest at alleged human rights
      abuses and the economic

      More than 400 opposition figures, including a
      member of parliament, were
      arrested over the two days, said civic groups.
      Police would not confirm the
      number of arrests, but said that "mysterious
      explosions" near the city of
      Kadoma had damaged a supermarket, three shops, a
      bar and a bridge.

      "Thirty-three people were arrested in Kadoma,
      including Austin
      Mupandawana, the MDC member of parliament," the
      police said.

      Re-invigorated by the strike, the opposition MDC
      issued the Mugabe
      government with a list of 15 demands to restore
      democratic rights by March
      31 or face "popular mass action to regain the
      people's liberties, freedoms
      and dignity".

      Critics accuse Mr Mugabe's regime of human rights
      abuses, rigging his
      re-election, and causing mass hunger by seizing the
      white minority's farms.
      Two-thirds of Zimbabwe's 12 million people are
      threatened with starvation,
      according to government figures.

      "Over the past two days the people of Zimbabwe in
      their millions bravely
      demonstrated that they are no longer willing to
      live under tyranny and
      poverty," said Paul Themba Nyathi, an MDC
      spokesman. "The violence, the
      torture, murder and all other brutalities can no
      longer stop the people's
      desire to be free."

      Morgan Tsvangirai, the MDC president, now standing
      trial for treason,
      thanked the people for backing the call for a
      strike: "You have demon
      strated beyond any doubt to the regime that we, the
      people of Zimbabwe,
      have no fear and will take concrete steps to
      reclaim our power.

      "This regime is nervous. Their bags are now packed
      as they realise who has
      the power. We have to prepare for the final push
      and they will run ... We
      should prepare for the final onslaught for a
      people's victory."

      Brian Raftopoulos, chairman of the Crisis in
      Zimbabwe Coalition, said civic
      groups fully supported the demand for the Mugabe
      government to step

      The Commonwealth, meanwhile, has extended
      Zimbabwe's year-long
      suspension until December when the 54-nation group
      meets in Nigeria. The
      suspension, due to have expired yesterday,
      highlights Mr Mugabe's failure
      to split the Commonwealth on race lines. - Guardian
      Unlimited © Guardian
      Newspapers Limited 2003


      Mugabe angered by strike

      President Robert Mugabe has
      accused Western nations of
      sponsoring violence and
      terrorism in Zimbabwe.

      In his first public comments since
      this week's two-day strike called by
      the opposition Movement for
      Democractic Change, Mr Mugabe
      said he had instructed the security
      forces to react promptly and
      vigorously to any unrest.

      His comments came as a Zimbabwean police officer said
      he had
      received reports of a bomb attack on a ruling party
      office in the town of
      Chinhoyi. He gave no futher details.

      The strike on Tuesday and Wednesday was widely
      observed, but led to
      some violent incidents and many arrests.

      The MDC organised the stay-away as a protest against
      what it described
      as Mr Mugabe's oppressive rule. They say some 200
      supporters, including MPs and journalists, have been

      Abductions and death

      "The money used to organise the pretended stayaway, to
      pay our
      youths to self-destruct, to turn them into career
      purveyors of violence,
      came from the so-called democracies of the West," Mr
      Mugabe said at a
      funeral of one of his ministers.

      "It came from Britain, from the
      United States of America, from
      Holland and Germany through their
      ostensibly humanitarian or civic

      "All these nations were united in
      sponsoring violence here," he added.

      The opposition are already
      complaining of reprisals since the
      strike, including beatings,
      abductions, night raids and the death
      of one of their supporters by
      government security agents.

      A statement named the deceased as Steven Tonera, an
      employee of
      MDC MP Roy Bennett.

      It said he was accused of training MDC soldiers and
      burning a bus
      during the two-day strike.

      South Africa protest

      Meanwhile, the French News Agency, AFP has reported
      that a group
      known as Zimbabweans in exile. linked to the MDC, on
      Friday organised
      a an anti-Mugabe protest in South Africa.

      The agency said some 700 protesters in Sandton, a
      Johannesburg suburb, wore black arm-bands and carried
      coffins to
      symbolise the death of democracy in Zimbabwe.

      The demonstrators were also out to protest at South
      Africa's "quiet
      diplomacy" toward Mr Mugabe.

      "Africa, wake up", "Zimbabwe is dying" and "Mugabe, go
      now", were
      some of the slogans on the placards.

      Zimbabwe, once a regional breadbasket, now has
      unemployment, long fuel and bread queues and inflation
      of more than


      'Brutal' Zimbabwe crackdown

      Opposition groups in Zimbabwe
      say that government security
      forces have arrested and
      beaten hundreds of people
      following last week's widely
      observed general strike.

      Amnesty International says that up
      to 500 people have been detained in
      "a new and dangerous phase of

      President Robert Mugabe has
      promised "greater action" against the opposition
      Movement for
      Democratic Change.

      The BBC's Barnaby Philips in Johannesburg says that
      all the evidence
      points to a new crackdown of unprecedented brutality.

      'Children assaulted'

      A doctor working in a hospital in Harare said more
      than 250 people have
      been treated there after being beaten by the security
      forces; many had
      broken fingers or toes, some had broken legs.

      Two women described how men in military uniforms
      stripped them, beat
      them, and used guns to sexually abuse them.

      The MDC says that children of opposition activists
      have been assaulted.

      Lawyer and director of the publishers
      of the Daily News Gugulethu Moyo
      says she was beaten by five men in
      Harare central police station after
      going there to enquire about a Daily
      News photographer who had been

      "The cells were so full I had to stand,
      which was okay because my
      backside was so bruised I could not
      lie down," she said.

      Zimbabwean police spokesmen
      Bothwell Mugariri said about 400 opposition members
      have been
      arrested since last week's strike.

      He said many had been charged with malicious injury to

      During the strike, stones were thrown at passing cars
      and a bus was set
      on fire.

      The police also say that the offices of the ruling
      Zanu-PF party were set
      on fire in Chinhoyi, north of Harare, while explosives
      were found in the
      central town of Kadoma.


      Zimbabwean human rights activist Tony Reeler says the
      attacks are
      focused on the MDC's local leadership.

      Following the strike, the MDC gave
      Mr Mugabe until 31 March to agree to
      15 demands including ending torture
      and depoliticising the police force or
      face further "popular mass action".

      Tension is rising in the capital,
      Harare, ahead of two by-elections
      this weekend in seats the MDC won
      easily in June 2000 elections.
    • 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

        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.


        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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