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  • Christine Chumbler
    Refugees Influx, Misdeeds Worry Host Communities African Church Information Service June 2, 2003 Posted to the web June 3, 2003 Reported By Hobbs Gama Lilongwe
    Message 1 of 1046 , Jun 4, 2003
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      Refugees Influx, Misdeeds Worry Host Communities

      African Church Information Service

      June 2, 2003
      Posted to the web June 3, 2003

      Reported By Hobbs Gama
      Lilongwe

      Malawi government is facing complaints from communities surrounding
      areas earmarked for settlement of refugees. The villagers are blaming
      asylum seekers for land shortage, environmental destruction and rise in
      crime rate.

      The Ministry of Poverty and Disaster Management has now embarked on
      negotiations with traditional leaders in Mwanza district, near the
      border with Mozambique, to find ways of redressing the situation.

      Most of the refugees flooding Malawi, one of the most peaceful states
      in southern Africa, are from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC),
      Rwanda, Burundi and Somalia.

      Dzaleka refugee camp in the central region district of Dowa, is the
      designated place for all refugees and asylum seekers.

      But the camp, which is designed to accommodate 4,000 refugees, now has
      more than 15,000 inhabitants.

      Ludoviko Shati, the Minister for Poverty and Disaster Management, after
      a tour of Luwani, assured the villagers that no land would be taken from
      them for the refugees' small-scale farming and business activities. He
      pleaded with the communities to peacefully co-exist with the asylum
      seekers.

      "We shall not snatch anybody's property. Instead, communities will
      enjoy all amenities that will be constructed for the refugees," said
      Shati, citing electricity, clean portable water and recreational
      facilities as examples.

      Commissioner for the department of Disaster Preparedness, Relief and
      Rehabilitation, Lucius Chikuni, said the government, in conjunction with
      United Nations Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), will soon rehabilitate
      the campsite. He asked traditional leaders to co-operate.

      "All we need is co-operation. Do not harass them, but conduct
      development activities together," appealed Chikuni.

      Malawi is still reeling under the effects of massive degradation of
      vegetation in most of the districts formerly inhabited by Mozambican
      refugees.

      Besides depleting vegetation, a number of refugees have been implicated
      in criminal activities. They escape from Dzaleka camp into the cities of
      Lilongwe and Blantyre, where some engage in illegal business
      activities.

      Just recently, three refugees from the DRC were arrested by police in
      Blantyre having been tipped by residents that they were renting a house
      after their escape from Dzaleka.

      George Chikowi, public relations officer at police headquarters in
      Lilongwe, confirmed that the remanded refugees were being investigated
      for a series of armed robberies in Blantyre.

      Previously, UNHCR and immigration officials had reacted angrily to
      public discontent over refugees, saying Malawi, as a signatory to the UN
      Charter on the rights of refugees and other international conventions,
      had the obligation to look after refugees and permit them opportunity to
      engage in income raising ventures.

      *****

      Church Leaders Object to Condom Distribution in Prisons

      African Church Information Service

      June 2, 2003
      Posted to the web June 3, 2003

      Hobbs Gama
      Blantyre

      Leading clergy in Malawi have condemned proposals by some members of
      parliament (MPs), that condoms be freely distributed to inmates around
      the country's prisons, to check the spread of HIV/AIDS, following
      rampant homosexual practices in the institutions.

      Members of the National Assembly were sharply split, when Loveness
      Gondwe, an opposition MP, blamed the government for not taking action
      against widespread sodomy in prisons.

      He told the government to stop pretending sex was not taking place in
      jails. "Prisoners are citizens like everybody else and must be protected
      from the AIDS scourge with free condoms," charged Gondwe, in response to
      a report by the Inspectorate of Prisons, that deplored inhuman
      conditions in most of the country's 23 prisons.

      But some MPs spoke strongly against the idea, arguing that it would
      defeat the concept of rehabilitation, as inmates were not allowed any
      social pleasures in the course of serving their sentences.

      Church leaders were particularly irked by the proposal, saying
      homosexuality was a sin, and that promoting condoms in prisons would
      encourage immorality among inmates.

      Pastor Gibson Nachiye of the Deeper Life Church, and Bishop Andrew Dube
      of the Assemblies of God, issued a stern criticism against the move
      during a press interview here. "Homosexuality is a sin before God,
      therefore, such act as distribution of condoms would only encourage
      immorality," noted pastor Nachiye.

      Bishop Dube, on the other hand, quashed another suggestion by some
      members who favoured the idea of occasionally allowing prisoners to
      sexually interact with their spouses.

      "When one is in prison he is denied the right to freedom and social
      life. Bringing wives for prisoners would be killing the whole idea for
      confining wrongdoers," affirmed Bishop Dube.

      Generally, churches in Malawi have been opposing free distribution of
      condoms to check AIDS. The Catholic Church commands the largest
      following, with 8 million members out of Malawi's 10 million
      population.

      It has been in the forefront in discouraging the faithful from using
      condoms, even for family planning purposes.

      The clergy assert that even though Malawi is one of the most badly
      affected country in southern Africa by HIV/AIDS, condoms are not the
      solution.

      They have, accordingly, embarked on various programmes to promote
      abstinence, especially among the youth.

      *****

      HCB to Supply Power to Malawi

      Agencia de Informacao de Mocambique (Maputo)

      June 3, 2003
      Posted to the web June 3, 2003

      Maputo

      Hidroelectrica de Cahora Bassa (HCB), the company that operates the
      Cahora Bassa dam on the Zambezi in the western Mozambican province of
      Tete, has won the tender launched in March by the Electricity Supply
      Corporation of Malawi, to supply Malawi with electricity for a 20 year
      period as from 2004.

      The chairman of the HCB board, Carlos Veiga Anjos, announced in Maputo
      on Tuesday that negotiations on a detailed electricity sales contract
      will start this month.

      According to the tender documents, it is the Malawian company that will
      be responsible for the transmission line from the dam town of Songo to
      the Malawian commercial capital of Blantyre, and will have to seek the
      necessary funding. The cost is estimated at 80 million US dollars.

      Work on building the lines will begin in late 2003, and should be
      concluded in 2004.

      HCB will eventually supply Malawi with up to 300 megawatts of power,
      though it will start with just 100 megawatts.

      Malawian demand for power has been steadily growing, and in 1998 a
      memorandum of understanding was signed between the Mozambican and
      Malawian governments on the interconnection of the electricity grids of
      the two countries.

      As for the current modernisation of the Cahora Bassa power station,
      Veiga Anjos said this is advancing "at a good pace". The result of the
      automation now being introduced at the power station should be fewer
      interruptions for maintenance work.

      "We shall be able to produce more power than we have been producing",
      said Veiga Anjos. Currently the theoretical maximum production is 2,075
      megawatts (five turbines each capable of generating 415 megawatts).

      The modernisation of the power station is budgeted at 40 million US
      dollars.

      *****

      Zimbabwe activist 'dies from torture'

      Zimbabwe's main opposition group says that one of its members has died
      after being tortured by police officials and soldiers.

      Tichaona Kaguru was taken away from the house of a Movement for
      Democratic Change councillor in Harare, and later died in a city centre
      hospital, the MDC says.

      The police have arrested more than 300 MDC supporters and officials
      during this week's strike, intended to drive President Robert Mugabe out
      of power.

      Most businesses in Harare and the second city, Bulawayo were closed on
      Wednesday for a third day.

      The government, however, says the Movement for Democratic Change
      protests have flopped because the security forces have prevented the
      mass demonstrations they had also called.

      The BBC's Barnaby Phillips says neither the government nor the
      opposition has emerged so far as clear winners, so conflict and economic
      decline may well continue.

      The MDC accuses Mr Mugabe of rigging last year's election and
      mismanaging the economy.

      But he says they are a front for white farmers and Britain, who are
      trying to block his land reform programme.

      Withdraw licences

      Police maintained tight security in Harare, reports Reuters news
      agency.

      Shops and offices were also shut in the second city, Bulawayo, Reuters
      says.

      State television says that security agents are investigating businesses
      which have shut down during the strike.

      The government has threatened to withdraw their trading licences.

      The MDC says that Mr Kaguru was dumped in the township of Mabvuku after
      being assaulted overnight by security agents.

      MDC activists and officials have been arrested throughout the country.

      In Bulawayo, opposition MPs have gone into hiding, reports the BBC's
      Themba Nkosi in the city.

      MDC spokesman for Manicaland, Pishayi Muchauraya, told the
      privately-owned Daily News: "The police have launched a door-to-door
      manhunt for known MDC supporters and they are harassing their
      families."

      On Monday, riot police used teargas, and soldiers in armoured cars
      fired guns to break up the demonstrations.

      On Tuesday, about 200 people tried to march into Bulawayo city centre
      but they were soon dispersed by riot police, our correspondent says.

      Interference

      The High Court in Harare is considering a government application to
      tighten bail conditions for MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai and two other
      high-ranking MDC officials, all on trial for treason.

      The group's secretary-general, Welshman Ncube, said violence against
      protesters would not deter them.

      "What is left is for the people to press on for the next four days with
      the complete stay-away from work and massive demonstrations," he said.

      The BBC's Themba Nkosi says some Bulawayo residents accuse MDC leaders
      of being cowards for not being prepared to face the riot police and lead
      the anti-government marches.

      A government spokesman, Jerome McDonald Gumbo, accused the MDC of
      intimidating people who wanted to go about their daily routine as
      normal, and said the government had a responsibility to maintain law and
      order.

      "A lot of people are suffering because they cannot conduct their
      day-to-day business. You can't even conduct a funeral, you can't even
      send your children to school," he told the BBC's Network Africa.

      He also attacked what he said was outside interference in Zimbabwe's
      affairs by countries like Britain and the US.
    • Christine Chumbler
      ADB firm on Karonga-Chitipa road contract by Zainah Liwanda, 22 May 2006 - 06:09:17 The African Development Bank (ADB) has again rejected a proposal by
      Message 1046 of 1046 , May 22, 2006
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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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