- Situation Update On HIV/Aids in Malawi
The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe)
March 31, 2003
Posted to the web March 31, 2003
Is there any evidence that the HIV prevalence has started to decline
Information provided by the National Aids Commission (NAC) indicated
the HIV prevalence in the year 2001 was lower than that of 1999.
The review of the Strategic Framework and
operations of NAC said although there are
random fluctuations of infections from year to
year, the decline witnessed in 2001 could be
attributed to a high death rate among older
The review has noted some decline in
prevalence among 15-19 and 20-24 olds in
There has been no similar decline noted in Blantyre or elsewhere in
country, the report said.
According to the NAC report, no firm conclusion could be drawn on the
decline without a thorough examination of corroborating evidence of
behavioural change, like the increase in condom use, the reduction in
number of sexual partners and the increase in age of first sexual
However, the primary mode of HIV transmission in Malawi remains
unprotected heterosexual sex which represents 90% of the infections
more women ( 56% ) infected than men.
The report says 'Infection among women between the ages of 15 and 24
ranges from 12-18 percent compared to 5-8 percent for men of the same
This suggests that women are more at risk and are being infected by
men.' Approximately 8 percent of transmission is believed to occur
mother to child, with annual HIV positive births totalling more than
or about 4.2% of total births.
Transmission risks due to unsafe blood products, inadequate
of universal precautions and men having sex with men are unknown but
thought to be a negligible 2% or less.
The total number of adults infected with HIV is about 740,000.
Including infected children (65,000) and adults 50 years and above
(41,000), the total number of HIV-infected people in Malawi is
approximately 845,000, out of the total estimated population of 11.24
Estimated annual AIDS related deaths remain alarmingly high at 81,000
about 550,000 in cumulative terms.
These deaths have produced approximately 500,000 to 800,000 orphans
cumulatively who have lost one or both parents, with about 65,000
being added yearly.
NAC indicated that for treatment, care and support the most important
accomplishment in this area has been the 129 million US dollars
secured from the Global Fund to fight HIV/AIDS in the country over the
It says approximately $125 million of that amount is earmarked for the
management of opportunistic infection and ARV therapy for 25,000 to
50,000 AIDS patients using generic ARV drugs.
The Ministry of Health and Population (MOHP) also recently
its HIV/AIDS Unit to concentrate on responses dealing with the
aspects of the National Strategic Framework.
A continuum of HIV/AIDS care is being developed in different settings
as Lilongwe (Lighthouse), Thyolo, Chiradzulu and Mzimba distict,
Ekwendeni and Embangweni hospitals and Salima district hospital.
There has been an increase in the number of CD4 counter machines in
the country from two to six, located at the Queen Elizabeth Central
Hospital, Mzimba District Hospital, Ndirande Health Centre, Johns
Project (College of Medicine), University of North Carolina Projects,
the private ABC Community Clinic in Lilongwe.
As of February 2003, up to 3,000 patients in Malawi may be on ARV
treatment, 556 from Chiradzulu hospital, 826 from Queen Elizabeth
hospital, 983 from Lilongwe Central hospital and approximately 500
others including some public and private organisations.
In Chiradzulu, where the treatment is free and focused on PMCT, women
constitute about 60 percent of the clients.
At the Light House in Lilongwe where there is a cost-recovery scheme
place a charge of MK2,500 per client per month is levied with men and
women benefit in roughly equal numbers.
Third-Term Controversy Ends
UN Integrated Regional Information
April 1, 2003
Posted to the web April 1, 2003
A controversial bid for a third term by President Bakili Muluzi of
appears to be over with this weekend's announcement by the ruling
of a new candidate for the 2004 election.
The United Democratic Front's (UDF) National Executive Committee
(NEC) endorsed 68-year-old economist Bingu wa Mutharika as its
presidential candidate on Saturday.
Mutharika comes from Thyolo District 40 km southeast of the commercial
city Blantyre and, until February this year, was deputy governor of
Reserve Bank of Malawi before being appointed minister in the newly
created Department of Economics and Planning. He holds a master's
degree in economics and development planning.
Until 1998, Mutharika was secretary-general of the Common Market for
Eastern and Southern Africa. He stood unsuccessfully in the 1999
presidential elections, representing his hastily formed United
Party (UDP), which he later left to rejoin the ruling party.
He has also held senior positions with the World Bank and the United
"It's a great honour for me to be unanimously voted with 100 percent
the] votes," Mutharika told IRIN. "My priority will be to turn around
the country to resume growth. The rest will follow later."
Muluzi announced the decision in a special broadcast on national radio
television on Sunday.
The Malawi constitution allows a president two consecutive five-year
in office. The bid to have Muluzi serve a third term, and a proposed
constitutional amendment to allow it, had sparked political tension and
of violence which left three people dead and many others injured. It
opposed by human rights organisations, the diplomatic community,
university students and members of the clergy.
Last July the National Assembly rejected proposals to amend the
constitution. Attorney-general and Justice Minister Henry Phoya
re-introduced the bill in February this year, only to quickly withdraw
indications showed it would suffer another defeat.
Muluzi, who kept an official silence about his position on the
issue, said in reference to the heated debates: "Because I strongly
in the freedom of expression, it would have been improper for me to
comment on this constitutional matter."
In Sunday's message Muluzi condemned the political violence, often
allegedly orchestrated by the "Young Democracts" of his ruling party,
ordered police to arrest anyone who championed it.
The other two presidential hopefuls, Aleke Banda (Agriculture Minister)
Harry Thomson (Environmental Affairs Minister) received no votes in
Saturday's NEC meeting.
Mutharika nominated Cassim Chilumpha as his running mate. Chilumpha,
a former minister of finance and education, was removed from the
after being named in an as yet unresolved US $2 million scandal. He
currently chairs Blantyre Print and Packaging, publishers of tabloids
Daily Times and the weekend Malawi News.
Muluzi said the ruling party had requested him to become UDF national
chairman, which he said he would consider.
Serious Brain Drain Hits Malawi's Ailing Health
African Church Information Service
March 31, 2003
Posted to the web April 1, 2003
While Malawi's health sector is already hurt by shortage of drugs due
constrained government budget, and a rising death toll because of
HIV/AIDS, an exodus of medical personnel to richer western nations is
threatening to cripple the already ailing sector.
Recent records show growing numbers of trained nurses and radiography
technicians leaving en masse for either United States or United Kingdom
search of better terms, frustrating government's efforts to improve
The Ministry of Health and Population (MoHP) says all hospitals around
country, including Lilongwe Central Hospital and Queen Elizabeth
(both major referral centres), have been affected by massive departure
Lilongwe Central, which treats over 1,000 patients a day, has only 209
nurses. This is less than half the required 471.
Hospital authorities claim Malawian enrolled nurses and graduates from
Kamuzu College of Nursing were much preferred in the US and UK,
because their training was similar to that offered in the two western
Minister for health, Yusufu Mwawa bemoans the situation, which he
was getting worse by the day.
He regrets that medics were leaving at a time when Malawi stood among
countries hard-hit by HIV/AIDS. "The brain-drain is not good for the
at all," says Mwawa.
As one way of countering the problem, the ministry of health has
on training of auxiliary nurses, which are not as marketable to the
world as the other medics. They are referred to as "home-grown".
There are also plans to double the intake of student nurses and other
health personnel in government institutions.
Malawi is among developing countries that registered their concerns to
British government about the brain-drain at a Commonwealth meeting
March. The countries requested for funding to train more medics to
the effects of nurses travelling abroad.
Public Relations Officer at the British High Commission in Malawi,
Nevin, said that in 2001, the department of health in Britain
code of practice to prevent targeted recruitment of health workers
They did this after recognising the impact such a drain had on health
services of less developed countries.
"My country's National Health Sevice therefore does not recruit nurses
from certain countries including Malawi," said Nevin.
He added that UK's Department for International Development (DFID) was
working to gather evidence on the exact nature and scale of the
before taking action.
While the government is pleading with medical staff to stay, the
cite poor salaries, lack of overtime allowances and unfavourable
laws, as reasons compelling them to go abroad.
For the past few years, there have been protracted disagreements
between civil servants and government over salary increments and
improved working conditions. The health sector has suffered much of
Commenting on the brain-drain, chief executive of the Nurses and
Midwives Council of Malawi, Joan Makoza, said the exodus frustrates
those left in the system, as there were too few nurses looking after
increasing numbers of patients.
Zimbabwe opposition leader denied bail
The vice-president of Zimbabwe's opposition
Movement for Democratic
Change (MDC), arrested in connection with an
appeared in court Tuesday, but was denied bail, a
party official said.
Gibson Sibanda, who was detained on Monday after
the opposition won two
weekend by-elections, will reappear in court on
Wednesday to pursue his
"The state opposed bail ... and the magistrate will
decide tomorrow," David
Coltart, laywer and MDC legislator said.
Police said they arrested Sibanda for attempting to
subvert a constitutionally
elected government following his party-led two-day
mass stayaway from
work last month.
The MDC organised a national strike on March 18 and
19 to press President
Robert Mugabe to take urgent steps to resolve the
country's grave economic
and political crises.
The opposition party has meantime claimed that
several of its members
were attacked late Monday and early Tuesday in
allegedly by ruling party militias.
The MDC retained the seats in two constituencies in
the capital Harare after
the by-elections. Mugabe has a parliamentary
majority behind him, but short
of the two-thirds he would need for constitutional
"The MDC deplores in strongest terms the barbaric,
disgusting behaviour by
a party that thrives on violence," MDC party
representative Paul Temba
Nyathi in a statement.
Police could not be immediately reached for comment
on the violence
A local elections monitoring agency, the Zimbabwe
Network (ZESN) "deplored the violence that erupted
(constituency) after the announcement of the
The campaign ahead of the elections was marred by
A losing ruling Zanu-PF candidate, war veteran
leader Joseph Chinotimba,
said he would not accept the results of the polls,
alleging some of his
supporters were intimidated by opposition members.
Zim opposition victims of torture
Job Sikhala, a Zimbabwean MP, had wire wrapped
his genitals, toes and tongue and was then
electric shocks for eight hours until he confessed
against the Zanu-PF regime.
Sikhala, who was one of the first of a succession
Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) members to be
tortured, is in South Africa for psychological
Meanwhile, increasing numbers of members of his
being arrested, tortured and assaulted.
The retribution campaign follows a speech by
President Robert Mugabe on March 21 in which he
compared himself to
Adolf Hitler. Mugabe said he would be the "black
Hitler tenfold in crushing
Reports indicate that widespread persecution of
opposition members has
occurred since a two-day anti-government strike
organised by the MDC last
Speaking at a hideout in Johannesburg, Sikhala says
this new wave of
violence flies in the face of South African
President Thabo Mbeki's
statement that Zimbabwe has gone a long way towards
He says Mugabe no longer hides these human rights
violations but is using
the army as an instrument of state oppression.
Taking off his shoes, Sikhala
points to dark marks around his middle toe, where
he says an electric wire
"This is the torture my people will be facing,"
he says. "They [Zanu-PF] have
not killed my spirit. My horrendous experience has
hardened my resolve
that it is better to die for the freedom of the
Zimbabwean people than to
He says on January 14 this year armed police burst
into a hotel room where
he had gone to meet Gabriel Shumba, a human rights
"There were five of us in the hotel room. The
police assaulted Gabriel and
took us to different police stations," Sikhala
At 6pm the next day two policemen took him out of
the Harare police station
to a minibus. "I was blindfolded, handcuffed and
taken to an unknown
The 30-year old man is almost 1,8m tall, but
trembles when he recalls the
torture. "I knew my life was in danger, and
walking down a long passage I
began to prepare myself for death."
After hours of interrogation, being beaten under
the feet with a wooden
plank, stripped naked and electrocuted, Sikhala
says he "cracked".
"I was forced to use my body to wipe up my urine,
then they told me to lick
it up," he says wiping his eyes.
"I answered all their questions. They wanted to
know where the MDC had
hidden arms ... if we were planning to overthrow
the government. I made up
stories just to stop the pain."
The final humiliation was when one of his
assailants urinated on him.
Sikhala is undergoing psychotherapy to assist in
his recovery and will return
to Zimbabwe next month. He has also undergone blood
tests because he
was forced to drink toxins during his
Sikhala, Shumba and three others were charged with
treason attempt and appeared in court on January
Harare magistrate Caroline-Anne Chigumira ordered a
of Sikhala and Shumba during the trial after
hearing testimony about police
brutality towards them.
"The case was thrown out because the evidence
used by the state was a
document written by Shumba under duress. Gabriel
was tortured and made
to write a document accusing me of treason,"
The police warned Sikhala that he would be killed
if he spoke about the
torture, he says, but after his testimony there was
a "public outcry" that an
MP could be tortured.
Sikhala, who is anxious to return to his wife and
two children, says he is not
afraid to go back to Zimbabwe. He says to stay away
or be silent would be
to allow the human rights abuses to continue.
"The Mugabe regime uses systematic murder, rape,
arrests and assaults as
a way of silencing dissent.
"We do not want or expect Mbeki to liberate
Zimbabwe, but to tell the world
the truth about what is happening in Zimbabwe."
Sikhala warns that Mugabe is the greatest threat to
the New Partnership for
Africa's Development (Nepad). "Mugabe is a
demonic ruler, who stands
against all the ideals of good governance and human
rights that Nepad is
trying to achieve."
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