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  • Christine Chumbler
    Tobacco Sales to Resume After Price Dispute UN Integrated Regional Information Networks May 7, 2003 Posted to the web May 7, 2003 Johannesburg Tobacco sales
    Message 1 of 1046 , May 8 6:51 AM
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      Tobacco Sales to Resume After Price Dispute

      UN Integrated Regional Information Networks

      May 7, 2003
      Posted to the web May 7, 2003

      Johannesburg

      Tobacco sales will resume in Malawi on Thursday after auction floors
      were closed earlier this week in a dispute over selling prices which
      growers feel are too low, the country's Tobacco Control Commission (TCC)
      said.

      Last year auction floors were closed twice over price disputes.

      Malawi is considered one of the world's top tobacco growers, with sales
      providing up to 70 percent of foreign exchange revenue and up to 25
      percent of its gross domestic product.

      Production has been shifting away from large estates to smallholder
      producers, and tobacco farmers who have weathered two years of droughts
      and floods are disappointed by this year's prices, which they say will
      not cover their costs.

      News reports said farmers had hoped for prices of around US $2 dollars
      per kg but buyers were offering less than US $1 per kg, with some even
      going as low as 70 cents. Earlier this year farmers were also concerned
      about the amount of deductions and fees they had to pay before receiving
      their money.

      Dr Godfrey Chapola, general manager of the TCC, told IRIN that buyers
      disputing low prices had disrupted auction sales on Tuesday, so floors
      were closed.

      "Meetings were held with buyers and sellers and sales will resume on
      Thursday," he said.

      However, tobacco sales are run by auction, without minimum reserve
      prices, and buying prices were determined by representatives of the
      international cigarette companies who seek out Malawi's tobacco at
      predetermined ranges. One of the reasons for the lower prices could be
      that Malawi's competitor, Brazil, which is offering the same style of
      tobacco, could be offering lower prices.

      "Market forces have driven the prices of high quality tobacco down, but
      demand and prices of lower quality tobacco is better this year," Chapola
      explained.

      Farmers came from a diversity of backgrounds and grew different
      qualities, and should not expect one fixed price for tobacco. They
      should also be realistic about the quality of the tobacco they were
      selling, as there were over 100 grades of leaves sold in the country.

      He said the growing global anti-tobacco lobby was not affecting prices
      adversely.

      "The market is still demanding the same quantities and there is no
      reduction in buying intention."

      The government would continue to explore diversifying from tobacco,
      which employs about one million people directly or in allied industries,
      because "as the president said, 'you can't put all your eggs in one
      basket'," Chapola added.

      *****

      Dope Not Okay, Says President

      African Eye News Service (Nelspruit)

      May 7, 2003
      Posted to the web May 7, 2003

      Lameck Bwanali
      Blantyre

      Malawian president Bakili Muluzi has shot down a plea by local
      Rastafarians to let them use marijuana for religious and spiritual
      purposes.

      Rastafarians marched to his private residence in Blantyre last month to
      present a petition asking him to legalise chamba (marijuana).

      On Wednesday, Muluzi responded when he met 50 leaders of Rastafarians
      at Sanjika presidential palace in Blantyre.

      "The government cannot allow you to smoke chamba because it is against
      the laws of the country. I should protect you," he said.

      In their petition, the Rastafarians argued that they were being denied
      freedom of worship because they were arrested or fined for possessing or
      using marijuana.

      The Rastafarians are also worried that they're being denied job and
      education opportunities because of their dreadlocks.

      Muluzi invited the Rastafarians to form a committee to deal directly
      with the government on matters that concerned them.

      "We have to accommodate you in society but you have to show good
      behaviour. The committee will help us know your leaders. If anything
      comes up, we should know who to contact," said Muluzi.

      He ordered Blantyre City Assembly Mayor, John Chikakwiya, to identify a
      place where the Rastafarians could congregate.

      Ras Judah 1, treasurer general of Rastafari for Unity, said the Rastas
      were not disappointed with Muluzi's rejection of their petition, but
      said the Rastas would step up their campaign to have Parliament amend
      laws which criminalise marijuana.

      "After we register our church and our organisation, we will start to
      campaign vigorously for the softening of the laws criminalising
      marijuana," Ras Judah 1 said. - ECN-African Eye News Service

      *****

      Harare becomes the capital of chaos
      08 May 2003 07:32
      In Harare these days you never know where you are going to end up when
      you take a taxi. A dozen passengers crammed into a taxi van recently
      complained angrily among themselves about Zimbabwe's high inflation,
      critical fuel shortages and the police who shoved them when they were
      stopped at roadblocks.

      When one man tried to defend the police, a woman retorted: "The police
      are just Mugabe's dogs." The rest of the passengers cheered. When the
      taxi stopped, the man jumped out and ran to some nearby police officers.
      He identified himself as an off-duty policeman and ordered them to
      arrest the passengers. They were jailed overnight and charged for
      insulting police, a crime under the Public Order and Security Act.

      For many months horror stories have been emerging from Zimbabwe about
      the suffering inflicted by President Robert Mugabe. Newspapers have been
      filled with accounts of political corruption, rapes and beatings. But
      behind these stories lie the daily hardships felt by the capital's
      1,7-million people.

      What was once a thriving city has descended into a place of empty
      supermarkets, petrol queues and blackouts.

      In the past week the longstanding fuel shortages have taken a turn for
      the worse. Hundreds of vehicles spend entire days and nights in fuel
      queues in Harare. "We used to laugh at Zambians because of all the
      shortages they had. Now they are laughing at us because it is much worse
      here," said a salesman. "We never thought it would get this bad."

      A few months ago Mugabe's motorcade of more than 20 vehicles, including
      two trucks full of armed soldiers, passed a fuel queue on Samora Machel
      Avenue in downtown Harare. The president was met by jeers and hoots of
      derision. Some people threw empty cans. The soldiers later returned and
      beat up many of those in the queue. A law has also been passed declaring
      it illegal to make derogatory comments or gestures to the presidential
      motorcade.

      Harare's new mayor, Elias Mudzuri, tried to improve city services;
      garbage collections were organised and crews sent out to fill potholes.
      But Mudzuri, elected by nearly 80% of Harare's voters, belongs to the
      opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). Last week
      the Mugabe government sacked him, accusing him of incompetence and
      corruption. Mudzuri has been barred from his office and has gone into
      hiding after receiving threats.

      At first glance, the supermarket in central Harare appears well-stocked
      and busy. But on closer inspection, rows and rows of toilet paper are
      displayed. "That is where there should be salt and that is where there
      should be sugar, but those items are out of stock so they put up toilet
      paper," said Idah Mandaza.

      "And mealie meal [maize meal, Zimbabwe's staple food] and cooking oil
      and soap, they have all been replaced with toilet paper. But we can't
      eat loo paper. Either basic things are not available or I can't afford
      them. I never thought it would come to this."

      For Mandaza, Zimbabwe's inflation of 228% and 12% decline in GDP are
      not dry economic statistics. They are the harsh facts of life that she,
      her family and everyone in Zimbabwe grapple with daily.

      Mandaza (53) is proud of her job as the assistant production manager in
      a Harare factory. But by the time she pays for travel to and from work
      and her rent for a small two-roomed house, more than half of her salary
      is gone. "I'm lucky, I have two sons and they both have jobs. But I
      still must be very careful when I shop. I support my mother and my
      sister, plus I help my brothers in the rural areas. There is just not
      enough money," she said.

      Zimbabwe's once thriving middle-class is struggling to get by, but the
      poor are desperate. Growing numbers are begging and rummaging through
      rubbish bins. The disparity in wealth has widened after two years of
      economic crisis.

      "In 40 years working as a doctor, I have never seen so many cases of
      malnutrition, particularly among children," said a general practitioner.
      "It used to be that I would only see signs of kwashiorkor [a form of
      malnutrition caused by inadequate protein intake] in children from the
      rural areas. Now I see it in city children."

      The United Nations estimates that nearly one million urban Zimbabweans
      do not have enough food. In total, more than seven million of the
      country's 12-million people are threatened with starvation, according to
      the government. Just a few years ago Zimbabwe was extolled as the
      breadbasket of Africa for all the surplus food it exported.

      An unruly commotion erupts in the supermarket as people rush to the
      bakery section where bread is put on the shelves. After a few minutes of
      shoving and grabbing, the bread is gone. One woman was knocked down in
      the scuffle.

      There used to be a similar rush when milk and other fresh dairy
      products were delivered. But for two weeks there have not been any milk
      deliveries. A dairy farm that supplied 40% of Harare's milk has been
      overrun by Mugabe's supporters, according to local newspaper reports.

      The supermarket no longer puts its rare deliveries of maize meal or
      other scarce items on sale in the store. After some mini-riots in which
      shelves were knocked down, the scarce goods are sold at the back of the
      store where deliveries are made. People queue there for hours.

      Zimbabwe's once respected police are now widely feared for arbitrary
      arrests, beatings and torture. In the past two months 10 high-profile
      Zimbabweans, including three members of parliament and one lawyer, have
      accused police of torturing them with electric shocks. Medical
      examinations have confirmed injuries consistent with their harrowing
      accounts. Most were released without charges.

      Last month more than 250 opposition supporters were forced to go into
      hospital after men dressed in army uniforms raided their homes and beat
      them.

      But not everyone is gloomy and depressed. "The worse things get, the
      sooner we will have a change," said one motorist queueing for fuel. "The
      more angry people get, the sooner they will press Mugabe to go."

      He pointed to the visit to Harare on Monday of South Africa's president
      Thabo Mbeki and his Nigerian equivalent Olusegun Obasanjo. "Do you think
      they came to congratulate Mugabe on doing such a good job? No, they came
      to tell Mugabe he must go. The pressure is mounting and change is in the
      air. I can feel it." - Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited
      2003
    • Christine Chumbler
      ADB firm on Karonga-Chitipa road contract by Zainah Liwanda, 22 May 2006 - 06:09:17 The African Development Bank (ADB) has again rejected a proposal by
      Message 1046 of 1046 , May 22 8:06 AM
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        ADB firm on Karonga-Chitipa road contract

        by Zainah Liwanda, 22 May 2006 - 06:09:17

        The African Development Bank (ADB) has again rejected a proposal by government to look for another contractor instead of China Hunan Construction to construct of the long awaited Karonga/Chitipa road.

        China Hunan from Mainland China won the bid which was approved by the ADB but government later wanted to award the contract to a Portuguese firm, Mota Engil, the second lowest bidder, claiming China Hunan's bid was unrealistically low and that the company had very little experience in Africa.

        Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe confirmed on Sunday the ADB rejected the proposal at a meeting held between the bank and Malawi government in Tunisia last week.

        The Malawi government wanted the Tunisia meeting to authorise it to get another contractor for the road, said Gondwe.

        "They did not allow us to look for another contractor because of their regulations. But we are about to get another alternative for Karonga/Chitipa and I would be surprised if it does not start before end June," said Gondwe.

        The minister explained that the bank insisted that regardless of the unrealistic cost estimates, China Hunan should be allowed to go ahead with the construction.

        But Gondwe could not give further details about the alternatives, arguing there are still a few loose ends to tighten up before disclosing it.

        The problem with China Hunan, according to Gondwe, is that it would require more money to meet the total cost of the project.

        This paper reported last week that government met Taiwanese representatives where they offered to fund the road if the ADB continued to reject its favoured contractor, Mota Engil.

        Gondwe could neither confirm nor deny the reports on the Taiwanese offer, saying government was looking at a number of ways to handle the issue.

        According to Gondwe, the China Hunan's bid was 24 percent lower than the consulting engineers' estimates of K7.9 billion and 34 percent below the second lowest bidder.

        President Bingu wa Mutharika laid a foundation stone for the construction of the road this year ahead of a crucial byelection in Chitipa in December last year.

        The President's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) won the Chitipa Wenya constituency by-election that fell vacant following the collapse and subsequent death of Speaker of Parliament Rodwell Munyenyembe who belonged to the UDF.

        Last week, police and the District Commissioner (DC) for Chitipa stopped a rally that was aimed at soliciting people's views about development projects in the district.

        The meeting, which was reportedly organised by Concerned Citizens of Chitipa, was among other things also supposed to tackle the controversial Karonga/Chitipa road.

        The project failed to start off in 2000 when a contract for an initial loan of US$17 million and US$15 million from the Taiwanese government was signed, with some quarters claiming the Bakili Muluzi administration diverted the money to another road.

        *****

        Chihana operated on

        by Edwin Nyirongo, 22 May 2006 - 06:32:31

        Alliance for Democracy (Aford) president Chakufwa Chihana, who is in South Africa receiving treatment, had a brain operation on Friday at Garden City Clinic, family and party officials confirmed on Sunday.

        Aford national chairman Chipimpha Mughogho said he was told by the family members that Chihana had a successful operation on Friday and was put in an intensive care unit.

        Mughogho said Chihana, who initially complained of headache, was found with a brain tumour which South African doctors removed.

        Mzimba West MP Loveness Gondwe said Aford boss condition was stable.

        "Hon. Chihana had a major operation and after that he was put in the intensive care unit but his condition is stable. I do not know where he was operated on but it had something to do with the skull," she said.

        Deputy Information Minister John Bande referred the matter to the Health Minister Hetherwick Ntaba who was reported to be in Geneva, Switzerland.

        Aford publicity secretary Norman Nyirenda said when Chihana's situation got worse, the family alerted the Office of the President and Cabinet who took him to Mwaiwathu Private Hospital.

        "The doctors at Mwaiwathu advised that he should be sent to South Africa and they even identified the doctor for him," he said.

        He said the costs are being met by the Malawi government, contradicting his earlier statement that his boss covered the cost.

        Mughogho is now in charge of the party.

        Gondwe will be a busy person when Parliament starts meeting on June 6 as she is the only Aford MP remaining.

        *****

        Pillane proposes presidential age limit

        by Emmanuel Muwamba , 22 May 2006 - 06:34:13

        A member of the DPP National Governing Council Abdul Pillane on Saturday urged members of political parties and the civil society to put an upper age limit in the Constitution for presidential candidates.

        Pillane was addressing members of political parties and civil society in Liwonde during a two-day follow up workshop to the National Conference on the Review of Constitution held in March in Lilongwe.

        "My view is that (an upper) age limit should be at 75. We have to give a chance to younger people to lead because in circumstance, when you age you become forgetful especially when sickly," said Pillane. "Overall, chances should be given to young people."

        But UDF secretary general Kennedy Makwangwala, whose party members agitated for the age limit during presentations, played the issue down.

        "I feel there is no logic to have an upper age limit for presidential candidates. If someone is 90 or 80 I don't know how that can influence the electorate not to vote for someone who is younger, I don't see any logic behind that," said Makwangwala.

        MCP participants at the workshop also vehemently objected to the proposal.

        MCP vice president Nicholas Dausi in an interview said: "There is no constitution in Africa which stipulates an upper age limit. So it would be strange in Malawi to have an upper age limit for presidential candidates."

        MDP President Kamlepo Kalua also opposed the need to have an upper age limit.

        "If we have personalities in mind that we want to discriminate against then it is unfortunate. The constitution we want to build is a guiding document for future generations and it should not bar certain individuals on the basis of grudges," he said.

        The Malawi Law Constitution Issues Paper of March 2006 says several submissions that were received put an upper presidential age limit in the Constitution.

        "It is argued that it is common sense that mental knowledge faculties tend to fail with age. As regards what the actual age limit should be the submissions are far from being agreed. The range is from 60 years to 80 years," read submissions in the Issues Paper.

        On whether MPs should double as ministers, Kalua said this should be the case.

        Makwangwala also said it is not right for MPs to serve as ministers because the Legislature, another arm of government, is reduced while the Executive branch is beefed up from another arm of government.

        "There is no separation of powers when MPs double as ministers," said Makwangwala.

        But Pillane said there is no problem for MPs to work as ministers as well, saying MPs are elected by the President.

        "One can serve both posts. There have been no problems before for people to double," said Pillane.

        The Centre for Multiparty Democracy funded the workshop through the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy.

        The objective was to come up with a collective position on the Issues Paper which will be presented to the Special Law Commission that will be constituted soon.

        *****

        Mussa hails new driving licence

        by Zainah Liwanda, 22 May 2006 - 06:58:52

        Transport and Public Works Minister Henry Mussa last week said the design of the Malawi-Sadc driving licence would guard against forgery and ensure that only skilled and legitimate drivers of particular vehicles are licensed.

        Mussa was speaking at the official launch of the licences in Lilongwe where he announced that traffic police would from July enforce speed limits and sober driving using Breathalysers which his ministry is in the process of procuring.

        The minister said financial constraints are the reason for the delay in procuring the equipment but assured that by July they would be available.

        "With the new equipment, the days of those who believe in the thrill of drink and driving are numbered," warned Mussa.

        Mussa added that with the new licence, government is optimistic that the country's roads would be safe.

        Acting Director of Road Traffic James Chirwa said the features that distinguish the new from the old licences are the Malawi national flag and a ghost image of the driver's photograph, among others.

        Those with old licences, according to Chirwa, are expected to get the new ones after the expiry of the former.

        *****

        UDF demands investigation on Kasambara

        by Rabecca Theu, 22 May 2006 - 06:30:46

        The United Democratic Front (UDF) has asked government to investigate Ralph Kasambara on allegations of abuse of office while he was attorney general.

        UDF publicity secretary Sam Mpasu told the press Sunday that the party is neither amused or saddened by the removal of the former AG but asked government to institute investigations on Kasambara.

        "Beyond the removal of the Attorney General, we now urge President Mutharika to institute investigation against Mr Kasambara into allegations that have made rounds in the public domain during the recent past. These include: Mrs Helen Singh and SS Rent-a-Car; SGS and ITS saga; ...........the use of Malawi Police Service in the arrest of three Chronicle journalists and the handling of Mrs Rubina Kawonga," said Mpasu.

        Mpasu also accused Kasambara of awarding government contracts to Lawson and Company where he was a senior partner.

        "We urge government to thoroughly investigate the former AG. We also ask government to cautiously select the new AG ," said Mpasu, who was accompanied by the party's Secretary General Kennedy Makwangwala, leader of the party in Parliament George Mtafu, chief whip Leonard Mangulama and a member of the executive Hophmally Makande.

        But Minister of Information Patricia Kaliati said UDF should give offer its advice to the Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB).

        "They should advise bodies like the Anti-Corruption Bureau to conduct the investigations and why are they saying this now? Is it because Kasambara has been fired? This is not a personal issue. If they have other pressing issues they should just say so. These arguments should have come up earlier on when the said cases were happening," she said.

        Kasambara asked UDF to proceed with the mission of urging government to investigate him.

        "They can do their job. Everyone has a right to lobby for anything they want in the country. UDF has a right to do that, let them go ahead," he said.

        Kasambara was relieved of his duties as AG by the President last week. Government has not given reasons behind the removal.

        *****

        Zambia: Malawians Grab Zambian Land

        The Times of Zambia (Ndola)

        May 18, 2006

        Posted to the web May 19, 2006

        Andrew Lungu

         

        MALAWIANS who have encroached on both the 'no-man's' and part of the Zambian land at the Mwami border in Eastern Province have plucked out some beacons that were used in the demarcation of the border.

        The Malawians are now using the beacons as stools in their newly-established villages on Zambian land.

        Eastern Province Minister, Boniface Nkhata, said in Chipata yesterday that if the situation was not controlled urgently, Zambia would lose huge tracts of land to Malawians migrating into Zambian in large numbers.

        A check at the Zambia-Malawi border showed a number of beacons had been vandalised and new structures constructed on the 'no man's' land and a large portion of Zambian land.

        Mr Nkhata said the trend extended to many parts of the province bordering the two countries.

        "A large portion of Zambian land has been taken up by the Malawians starting from the Chama boundary up to the Mwami border.

        "The weighbridge at the Mwami border was initially in Zambia from the time both countries gained independence from Britain, but now the bridge is on Malawian soil," Mr Nkhata said.

        The minister, who is former Chama District Commissioner, said there was similar encroachment in Lundazi and Chama districts where Zambia shares a boundary with Malawi.

        He said a Malawian farmer identified as Mr Mfune had cultivated 71.5 hectares on Zambian land and employed about 265 Malawian workers.

        "Khombe Farm in Chama district in Kanyerere's area, along the Muyombe road which leads to Northern Province where this Malawian farmer has cultivated a vast land is on the Zambian territory," he said.

        Workers on the farm admitted that they were farming on Zambian soil but could not go back to Malawi because the land in that country was inadequate for cultivation.

        Mr Nkhata appealed to the ministry of Lands to urgently release money for the demarcation of the Zambia-Malawi border to avoid further land disputes between the two countries.

        Meanwhile, the Immigration Department in Livingstone has arrested a couple and another man, all Zimbabweans, for working in Zambia without permits.

        They were arrested at Gwembe village yesterday where they worked for Into Africa, a tour operating company that provides bush dinners and breakfast.

        According to the Immigration Department in Livingstone, the trio entered Zambia through the Victoria Falls border as visitors but decided to work for the company illegally.

        Last week, immigration officers arrested 10 Zimbabwean traders and six Ethiopians for entering and staying in Zambia illegally.

        The Zimbabwean traders were warned and cautioned and later released.

        The Ethiopians were arrested at Konje Guest House when they ran out of money to proceed to Botswana.

         

        *****

        Zim unions, MDC still plan anti-govt protests

        Harare, Zimbabwe

        22 May 2006 11:51

        Zimbabwe's biggest labour federation on Saturday threatened to call massive demonstrations against the government over poor salaries and worsening living conditions for workers in the country.

        The threats are ratcheting up pressure against President Robert Mugabe's government after similar threats by the biggest opposition party in the country, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), about two months ago.

        Speaking at the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) conference on Saturday, the labour body's president, Lovemore Matombo, said the powerful union wants the government to award workers salaries that match the country's ever-rising inflation.

        "I can assure you we will stage massive demonstrations to force them [employers] to award workers minimum salaries that tally with the poverty datum line," said Matombo.

        Matombo did not say when exactly the ZCTU would order workers to strike.

        Opposition protests

        Meanwhile, the MDC on Sunday said it will push ahead with plans for anti-government protests, saying victory in a key by-election at the weekend was a "sign the electorate supported its policies", including democratic mass resistance.

        A spokesperson of the main faction of the splintered MDC, Nelson Chamisa, said victory over Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF and a rival MDC faction in a Saturday by-election in Harare's Budiriro constituency is a sign Zimbabweans still have confidence in party leader Morgan Tsvangirai and his policies.

        Tsvangirai, the founding leader of the MDC, heads the main rump of the opposition party whose candidate, Emmanuel Chisvuure, polled 7 949 votes to win the Budiriro House of Assembly seat.

        Gabriel Chaibva of the other faction of the MDC, led by prominent academic Arthur Mutambara, garnered 504 votes while Zanu-PF's Jeremiah Bvirindi polled 3 961 votes.

        "This election showed that the electorate still has confidence in the MDC [Tsvangirai-led] leadership and its policies," Chamisa told independent news service ZimOnline.

        He added: "We will now move to consolidate our position * we still believe in mass protests. Until we have attained our goals we see no reason why we should abandon [plans for protests]."

        Tsvangirai has threatened to call mass protests this winter against Mugabe and his government. He says the mass protests, whose date he is still to name, are meant to force Mugabe to relinquish power to a government of national unity to be tasked to write a new and democratic Constitution that would ensure free and fair elections held under international supervision.

        Mugabe and his government, who had hoped for victory in Budiriro to show they were recapturing urban support from a splintered MDC, have not taken idly the opposition's threats to call mass protests, with the veteran president warning Tsvangirai he would be "dicing with death" if he ever attempted to instigate a Ukraine-style popular revolt in Zimbabwe.

        Crackdown

        In a fresh crackdown against dissension, the police last week arrested several church and civic leaders for organising public prayers and marches to mark last year's controversial home-demolition exercise by the government.

        The police also banned the marches and prayers, fearing they could easily turn into mass protests against Mugabe and his government.

        However, the marches went ahead in the second-largest city of Bulawayo after organisers had obtained a court order barring the police from stopping the march.

        Political analysts say although Zimbabweans have largely been cowed by Mugabe's tactics of routinely deploying riot police and the military to crush street protests, worsening hunger and poverty are fanning public anger that Tsvangirai -- with proper planning and organisation -- could easily manipulate.

        Zimbabwe is in the grip of a severe six-year old economic crisis that has seen inflation breaching the 1 000% barrier. Last year, the World Bank said Zimbabwe's economic crisis was unprecedented for a country not at war.

        The MDC and major Western governments blame Mugabe for wrecking the country's economy, which was one of the strongest in Africa at independence from Britain 26 years ago.

        Mugabe denies the charge blaming the crisis on sabotage by Britain and her allies after he seized white-owned farms for redistribution to landless blacks six years ago.

        The Harare authorities recently hiked salaries for civil servants, with the lowest-paid soldier now earning about Z$27-million while the lowest-paid school teacher now takes home about Z$33-million.

        But the salaries are still way below the poverty datum line, which the government's Consumer Council of Zimbabwe says now stands at a staggering Z$42-million a month for an average family of six.

        The Zimbabwe government often accuses the ZCTU, a strong ally of the MDC, of pushing a political agenda to remove Mugabe from power.

        Meanwhile, Matombo and Lucia Matibenga retained their posts as president and first vice-president respectively during the ZCTU congress that ended on Saturday. -- ZimOnline

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