- President Muluzi Commends Opposition Aford Leader
Malawi Standard (Blantyre)
May 10, 2003
Posted to the web May 12, 2003
By Tusekele Mwanyongo
Malawian President Bakili Muluzi has commended Alliance For Democracy
(Aford) President Chakufwa Chihana for the political contribution, he
made in the fight against the brutal one-party regime of the Malawi
Congress Party (MCP) in 1994; and the positive contributions he is
making in multiparty Malawi in fostering peace, unity and development.
Speaking at a rally he addressed at Katoto Freedom Park in Mzuzu on
Sunday, President Muluzi said that Chihana and him were the first people
in the country to speak openly against Malawi Congress Party's iron-fist
rule. He recalled that in the run-up to the 1993 referendum and the 1994
first multiparty elections, Chihana and himself were harassed through
short detentions and other forms of physical and pyschological torture
on orders of MCP leaders, some of whom are still holding influential
positions in the party until now.
The Malawian leader explained that he and Chihana never gave up the
fight against the notorious one party regime because they had made up
their mind to liberate the country from the evils of dictatorship. He
explained that this is why he found it right and proper to work hand in
hand with Aford in developing Malawi.
The UDF and Aford worked together in dislodging dictatorship in this
country. This is why these two parties are currently working together in
government as partners in development, said Muluzi.
Muluzi's remarks come after the appointment of Chihana as Second Vice
President and several other Aford MPs as cabinet ministers. The
President's appointments ignited outbursts from opposition parties and
other Aford MPs who claimed that the appointed members had joined the
Muluzi dismissed such claims as cheap political propaganda advanced by
people who do not know democratic politics as practised in other
He observed that in most countries ruling parties work with the
opposition in government to compliment each other in development
Look at South Africa; their democracy is working because the ruling
party has incorporated almost all political parties into government,
He said he wondered what the estranged Aford members were up to when
they question the cooperation existing between UDF and Aford.
If you question unity, then what are you looking for? Disunity? Do you
want war? I won't subscribe to such thinking, the President said,
stressing that he would not be swayed away from working with Aford,
because it is only in unity and through unity that this country could be
developed. And the only parties that could guarantee peace and unity as
well as democracy to Malawians are Aford and UDF.
Taking his turn, Chihana said Muluzi also deserved recognition for
holding the country together since taking over the reigns of power in
He assured the President that Aford would continue to offer government
unreserved support to accelerate development in the country. He said
that experience has shown that there is limited development in countries
where there is no unity and democratic freedom.
Malawi's First Lady Challenged
Malawi Standard (Blantyre)
May 10, 2003
Posted to the web May 12, 2003
By Brian Ligomeka
Mzuzu University has challenged the First Lady Madame Dr Patricia
Shanil Muluzi to work extra hard in her charity work for the benefit of
the underpriviledged in the country.
The University gave the challenge to the First Lady last Saturday, when
it conferred upon her an honorary degree of Doctor of Philosophy,
Honoris Causa, of Mzuzu University.
In his speech on the occasion, of awarding Bachelor of Education
degrees to 62 students President Dr Bakili Muluzi who is Chancellor of
Mzuzu University, said the honorary degree was indeed a challenge to the
First Lady to work extra hard.
"Of course, Mr Chairman, this honour to the First Lady is yet another
challenge to work extra-hard in her charity work," said Dr Bakili
Muluzi, who promised to give her the necessary moral support so that her
work would not be deterred by culture and tradition.
The Malawian leader said that the entire family of the First Couple is
overjoyed and humbled by the honorary degree that has been conferred
President Muluzi disclosed at the graduation ceremony that when the
First Lady received the news that Mzuzu University would confer upon her
an honorary degree, she was so humbled that she did not want to accept.
"She claimed that whatever she does is not for people to glorify her,
nor does she do that for publicity. She accepted only after the Vice
Chancellor persuaded her that Mzuzu University was doing that because of
her noble contribution to humanity: orphans, the elderly and the
physically challenged," Muluzi explained.
At the same ceremony, Mzuzu University also conferred upon Dr Moses
Charuwananga Chirambo, an honorary degree of Doctor of Science, Honoris
Causa for his contribution to the nation in the field of medicine and
The Vice Chancellor of Mzuzu University, Professor Peter Mwanza
concluded his oration for the First Lady by saying: "History is the
story of the achievements of men and women, but it records relatively
few outstanding names and events. Many important contributions were also
made by men and women whose names have been lost from view in the longer
and deeper shadows cast by those who caught the fancy of the
chroniclers. But history does not necessarily deal only with events of
the distant past. History is being made today with new knowledge and
experience of each passing day."
Professor Mwanza said that there are many first ladies in the world who
have chosen simply to rightfully enjoy the glory and trappings of being
the first lady; and there are also a few including Madame Dr Patricia
Shanil Muluzi who have chosen to commit themselves to charity work.
Meanwhile prominent individuals, companies and the civil society have
hailed Mzuzu University for recognising the role the First Lady Madame
Dr Patricia Shanil Muluzi plays in society.
The ruling UDF proposed candidate Dr. Bingu Wa Mutharika and his
running mate Dr. Cassim Chilumpha are among those who have congratulated
the First Lady for her commitment to charity work.
The two presidential hopefuls said that time is ripe that Malawians
should honour individuals, who are achievers in various fields.
Speaking at a rally addressed by President Bakili Muluzi at Katoto
Freedom Park in Mzuzu a day after the graduation ceremony, Dr. Mutharika
described the First Lady's contribution to the less privileged as "very
commendable." The UDF Presidential aspirant said that the First Lady's
charitable activities have gone a long way to complimenting government's
efforts to alleviate people's poverty.
"This is why I take this opportunity to congratulate you, Madame," he
Mutharika's nominated running-mate, Dr. Chilumpha said Dr. Patricia
Shanil Muluzi is a source of great pride not only to the UDF and
President Muluzi, but to the whole nation.
"Word of your kindness and generosity has gone far and wide," Chilumpha
said, encouraging President Muluzi to continue offering moral support to
the First Lady so that she continues with her commendable charity work.
Bank of Malawi Wants ZNCB
The Times of Zambia (Ndola)
May 9, 2003
Posted to the web May 9, 2003
THE International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD)
says the Sub Saharan African countries have virtually remained excluded
from the dispute settlement process of the World Trade Organisation
The centre contends that the weakest of the WTO membership which
comprised the majority of countries in Africa have been left out of the
dispute settlement process in all senses.
Zambia is one of the WTO members and is equally affected by decision
and procedures adopted by the world body both as an individual country
and as a member of various regional trade groupings.
Coordinator for African and legal affairs Victor Mosoti says, in an
ICTD commissioned research that, the success of the dispute settlement
systems viewed in comparison with other international tribunals, should
not be taken as absolute.
The report indicates that documented evidence on developing countries
and the dispute settlement process had side stepped the deep concerns
that African countries have expressed about the system.
'The issue of the absence of African participation is a glaring
omission and at best the whole subject is dealt with by a single line to
the effect that Africa has not been involved in the process,' reads the
report in part.
It is argued in the report that the notion that African countries have
other immediate priorities that concerned them as a result of low trade
volumes did not stand.
It further says involvement in the dispute settlement process was
cardinal as it was about the evolution of a corpus of international
trade law principles and jurisprudence which would govern multi-lateral
trade relations for years to come.
'Africa and other poor countries are absent from this important chance
of shaping such legal principles. There is absolutely no reason why
African countries should not be in the forefront in the ongoing dispute
settlement review process, for instance,' it reads.
The ICTD says Africa genuinely needed a deep motivated discussion about
the absence of the region from the settlement process particularly
within the ongoing review exercise.
It says for as long as the region, which made up the single largest
block of members, continue to be absent from the dispute settlement
process, there would never be an honest talk of a successful and
Yet, this should be the aspirations of a world body such as the WTO
adding that a genuine and full integration of the poorer nations of the
world into the WTO should include a spirited effort.
This should ensure that these countries could confidently lodge
disputes and litigate them despite the global political power
asymmetries and should include the views of the developing countries
submitted to the review process.
Zambia hard hit by Aids
By Charu Shahane
BBC News Online
The southern African country of Zambia has set a new record - one which
no country would wish to hold.
Zambian Aids sufferer in hospital
Better medical facilities are needed to fight Aids
The average life expectancy in the country is 33 years - by far the
lowest in the world - and it is all due to Aids.
The illness has been referred to as the viral genocide, cutting down
200 Zambians every day.
One in five Zambians is HIV-positive which, for a country with a
population of only 10 million, is a devastating statistic.
Dr Desmond Johns, director of UNAids, said: "The situation in Zambia is
pretty much typical of what is going on in the heavily-affected
countries in southern Africa."
He said there is a common set of factors in most of these countries
that has led to high numbers of HIV-positive people.
These factors include poverty, wide social disparities, limited access
to basic services such as education and health, and migration for
economic and other reasons.e
But is Zambia doing something wrong?
Zambian Aids orphans
More than half of Zambia's population is under the age of 20
A few years ago, it was Botswana and Sierra Leone which topped the grim
league table of countries with the lowest life expectancy.
Now, Zambia is up there. The average Zambian can expect to live 11
fewer years than he or she did a decade ago.
Dr Johns says the country's government is working to reverse that trend
through education, but it will take time.
"We have to bear in mind that the impact of the prevention efforts are
only felt several years down the line," he said.
The best weapon in addressing the situation is to prevent new
infections, predominantly among young people, he added.
Fewer sexual partners
"In this regard Zambia has made tremendous strides," said the doctor.
He said recent evidence shows that prevention efforts have led to young
girls delaying sexual activity.
"There is a greater use of condoms in casual relationships," added Dr
People also now appear to have fewer sexual partners, surveys show.
More than 50% of Zambia's population is under the age of 20.
School enrolment has risen - but that is of little use in a country
where thousands of teachers have died of Aids.
A report by Human Rights Watch says girls suffer from an HIV rate five
times higher than boys largely because they are the victims of sexual
Dr Johns says removing the stigma and discrimination attached to Aids
is just one way to get the death rate down.
He said the authorities also need to combine prevention with true
access to treatment and care.
This had proved to be effective in tackling HIV/Aids in places such as
Thailand, Senegal, and Uganda, he added.
Zimbabwe tense as trial reopens
The trial of Zimbabwe's main opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai has
resumed, against a background of widening political and economic
tensions in the country.
Mr Tsvangirai, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change, has been
charged with plotting to assassinate President Mugabe before
presidential elections last year.
He denies the charges, alleging he was framed by the government.
A two-month recess in the trial has been marked by continued unrest in
The MDC staged a widely-supported general strike in March to protest
alleged misgovernance, and then supported a second strike called by the
Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions last month.
That strike was called to protest a rise in petrol prices of more than
Mr Tsvangirai and the MDC have warned there will be further strikes.
Rigged poll allegation
The MDC has been placing full-page advertisements in the press stating:
"The will of the people shall prevail".
The opposition leader has however said he is willing to meet President
Mugabe and the ruling party to chart a way out of Zimbabwe's political
Last week, three African leaders - Thabo Mbeki of South Africa,
Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria and Bakili Muluzi of Malawi - went to
Harare for talks to try to break the political deadlock.
President Mugabe said that Mr Tsvangirai must accept him as president
before any inter-party talks could resume, something the opposition
leader refuses to do - he claims the presidential poll last year was
At a rally on Sunday in the country's second city of Bulawayo, Mr
Tsvangirai urged thousands of supporters to take to the streets in
support of his demand for fresh elections.
"What the MDC wants to do is for people to go on the streets in
numbers. And if we go on the streets Mugabe will know it's over for
him," Mr Tsvangirai said.
As the trial resumes, evidence is expected from policemen involved in
investigating the alleged treason plot.
The charges arise from a barely audible video tape of a meeting Mr
Tsvangirai held with a controversial Canadian political consultant, Ari
Ben-Menashe, who alleges that Mr Tsvangirai asked him for help to
"eliminate" President Mugabe.
Lawyers argue that the consultant deliberately tried to entrap the
The tape was recorded just before Mr Ben-Menashe's firm signed a
consultancy contract with the Zimbabwe Government.
Mr Ben-Menashe has admitted he taped the meeting solely to get evidence
for the government but denied entrapping Mr Tsvangirai.
Zimbabwe short of banknotes
The Zimbabwe government can no longer afford to pay for the ink and
special paper needed to print the local currency according to the
state-controlled Herald Newspaper.
It said the government had no foreign currency to pay for the
materials, which have to be imported.
Local money will now be added to the long list of shortages in the
Long queues of people waiting outside banks to withdraw cash are
already a familiar sight in the capital, Harare.
The shortage of banknotes will add to the frustrations for people who
are already coping with shortages of fuel and basic commodities.
The newspaper report said banks had resorted to issuing the small 100
and 50 Zimbabwe dollar bills (worth 12 US cents and six US cents).
But that is unlikely to help in a country where inflation stands at
228% and prices increase weekly.
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