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  • Christine Chumbler
    ... you ... central ... said ... defended ... paper ... maize ... Media Institute of Southern Africa ***** World Vision to Run Malaria Control Project UN
    Message 1 of 1046 , Jun 26, 2003
      > Malawi Alert
      > June 25, 2003
      > President threatens media
      >
      > President Bakili Muluzi on Tuesday 24 June threatened to deal with
      > media houses that probe into the way he distributes maize to his
      > supporters during political rallies.
      >
      > President Muluzi was apparently incensed by a lead article in the
      > "Weekend Nation" of June 21-22, 2003, that questioned the source of
      > the alms the president doles out at his rallies.
      >
      > "Voertsek (go away)! How can newspapers question that? Do I take the

      > maize from your home? And you, the opposition, have I ever come to
      you
      > asking for alms?" fumed President Muluzi, when he addressed the crowd

      > at a ceremony to inaugurate a donor-funded strategic bridge in
      central
      > Malawi.
      >
      > The president warned that he would be forced to act if the media does

      > not stop rubbing its nose in his business.
      >
      > "One day I will come to your home and grab you by the collar", he
      said
      > without elaborating.
      >
      > In its editorial of June 25, the daily newspaper "The Nation"
      defended
      > its sister paper, saying that in a democracy people have a right to
      > know how public resources are used.
      >
      > In the article, the "Weekend Nation" interviewed the Deputy Secretary

      > to the President and Cabinet and the Deputy Secretary General of the

      > ruling United Democratic Front (UDF) on the source of the maize. The

      > two officials expressed ignorance on the source and referred the
      paper
      > to the Commissioner for Relief who also expressed ignorance on the
      > origins of the maize.
      >
      > President Muluzi said the newspaper should have asked the Minister of

      > Agriculture, Chakufwa Chihana, instead of the three officials.
      >
      > In April 2003, Muluzi handpicked the president of opposition party
      > Alliance for Democracy (Aford) for the position of second
      > vice-president and Minister of Agriculture in a new cabinet of 46
      > ministers. This appointment is generally seen to be a reward to
      > Chihana for not standing in the way of a third term for President
      > Muluzi.
      >
      > BACKGROUND
      >
      > The Ministry of Agriculture says that, currently, Malawi has enough
      > food and the National Food Reserve Agency is over-stocked. This is in

      > sharp contrast to Muluzi's insistency that he is dishing out the
      maize
      > because people are starving.
      >
      > Some analysts claim that Muluzi is distributing the maize to gain
      > political mileage ahead of next year's general elections.
      Media Institute of Southern Africa

      *****

      World Vision to Run Malaria Control Project

      UN Integrated Regional Information Networks

      June 25, 2003
      Posted to the web June 25, 2003

      Johannesburg

      World Vision Malawi (WVM) will run a community-based malaria control
      project in the country over the next three years.

      Up to 260,000 people who are most at risk of contracting malaria will
      benefit from the project, WVM Relief Manager Francis Battal said in a
      statement. This includes 200,000 children under the age of five years
      and 42,000 pregnant and lactating women.

      According to the World Health Organisation, malaria is the number one
      killer of children in Africa and the "roll back malaria" campaign has
      identified women and children as the groups most vulnerable to the
      disease.

      Battal said the project objective was to reduce malaria-related illness
      and deaths among children by 25 percent, and maternal deaths attributed
      to malaria by 30 percent, through more access to community-based malaria
      prevention and care in the area development programmes (ADP).

      He said some of the strategies to be used in the project would be
      increasing access to insecticide-treated bed nets, enabling communities
      to make early diagnosis, and appropriate referral of malaria cases.

      The US $1.7 million project is jointly funded by the United Nations
      Children's Fund, who will provide US $1,278,915, and World Vision
      International, who will make available $442,925. Work in the initial
      programme areas is expected to begin next week.

      "As you can see, this is a big project and we are excited that it will
      impact so many people in the country." Battal said.

      *****

      State closes case in Zim treason trial

      Harare

      26 June 2003 15:09

      State lawyers on Thursday closed their case in the marathon treason
      trial of opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai and two senior party
      officials, while defence lawyers said they would apply to have the
      charges dismissed.

      The close of the state's case, which claims Tsvangirai and his two
      co-accused in the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party plotted to
      kill President Robert Mugabe, comes four months after the trial began.

      One of the lawyers defending the MDC trio, Chris Andersen, told the
      court that the defence team would be applying to have the three
      discharged, because he said the state had not proved its case against
      them.

      "It is our intention to make an application to have the three accused
      persons discharged," Andersen said before Judge Paddington Garwe.

      Garwe postponed the matter to July 7, when he said the court would deal
      with the application for discharge.

      Earlier the court heard the last of the state's 11 witnesses testify.

      Edward Chinhoyi, a technician with the state-run Zimbabwe Broadcasting
      Corporation, had been called to give his views on the videotape that is
      said to incriminate Tsvangirai in a plot to "eliminate" Mugabe.

      The tape was made on December 4 2001, three months ahead of a disputed
      presidential election that pitted Tsvangirai against Mugabe, and which
      Mugabe won.
      It was made using hidden surveillance cameras in the offices of
      Canada-based political consultant Ari Ben Menashe, whom the MDC say they
      approached to do promotional work for them in North America.

      On the tape, which Ben Menashe gave to the Zimbabwe authorities,
      Tsvangirai is alleged to have requested for the consultant's help in
      "eliminating" Mugabe and organising a coup to topple his government.

      MDC secretary general Welshman Ncube and senior party official Renson
      Gasela were also said to be part of the plot. If convicted all three
      could face the death penalty.

      Chinhoyi, an expert in video recording and editing, testified that the
      picture on the tape was "hazy", making it difficult to tell who was
      speaking.

      But he said in his view it had not been tampered with after its initial
      recording.
      Defence lawyer Andersen argued that the poor picture was "intended",
      and that the tape may have been expertly edited as part of what the
      defence claims was "a trapping exercise" by the government to sideline
      Tsvangirai ahead of the 2002 poll.

      "A poor picture could not be made by mistake," he said.

      The three MDC officials deny the charges against them, and say they
      were the victims of a government set-up. - Sapa-AFP

      *****

      Govt of national unity for Zimbabwe?

      Harare

      26 June 2003 11:53

      The ruling party in Zimbabwe is ready to form a government of national
      unity with the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), but will
      not consider new elections, a newspaper said on Thursday.

      "We have had such governments in the 1970s and in 1987 with Zapu (an
      opposition party)," the Zimbabwe African National Union - Patriotic
      Front (Zanu-PF) spokesperson Nathan Shamuyarira told the private Daily
      News.

      "It is a tradition that we have always had and we are ready for that,"
      Shamuyarira was quoted as saying.

      But the paper said he rejected calls for a transitional government that
      would be tasked to prepare for free and fair elections. This was in
      response to a promise made earlier this week by US Secretary of State
      Colin Powell that the US would resume aid to Zimbabwe "with the
      president (Mugabe) gone".

      "We have never been opposed to a government of national unity. We have
      also never objected to American investment," Shamuyarira said. "But such
      (US) support should not be conditional."

      The US government does not recognise Mugabe's victory in last year's
      presidential poll. It has imposed a visa ban on Zimbabwean leaders,
      frozen any assets they might have in the United States and cut off all
      official assistance to the government.

      The Zanu-PF spokesperson's comments about a unity government
      contradicted those of Mugabe who has said he will never form such a
      government with the opposition party, which he says is a front for
      Western interests.

      The MDC is also adamantly opposed to such a government. The party,
      which poses the biggest threat to Mugabe's 23-year hold on power, says
      such a move would see the opposition party neutralised.

      In a separate development, Information Minister Jonathan Moyo, speaking
      in his capacity as deputy Zanu-PF spokesperson was quoted in Thursday's
      official Herald newspaper as saying the use of "lies and deception" by
      Powell and US President George Bush would never work against Zimbabwe.

      "The use of lies and deception by Powell and Bush has not worked in
      Iraq where he wanted to mix it with oil. It will never work anywhere
      else and will certainly not mix with land in Zimbabwe," Moyo said.

      The Zimbabwe government claims that Western countries, including former
      colonial power Britain and EU member states as well as the United
      States, are opposed to Zimbabwe's land reform programme, which has seen
      fast-track seizures of land from white farmers for redistribution among
      new black farmers. - Sapa-AFP

      *****

      Mugabe goes begging for fuel again

      Harare

      26 June 2003 11:59

      Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe and several government officials left
      for Libya on Wednesday to hold discussions about the supply of fuel to
      the country, state radio said.

      "Negotiations with Libyan authorities are expected to centre on the
      provision of more fuel to Zimbabwe," the Zimbabwe Broadcasting
      Corporation reported.

      Libya supplied Zimbabwe with 70% of its fuel needs before the supply
      line was cut after Zimbabwe failed to keep its side of a bargain to
      supply Libya with sugar, tobacco and beef in return.

      Since then fuel of all types has been critically short here. But the
      government this month claimed that the fuel deal had been resumed, and
      that Libya was going to continue supplying Zimbabwe with fuel at the end
      of June.

      The radio said Mugabe was leading "a high-powered delegation" to the
      north African country, and that he would hold talks with President
      Moammer Gadaffi ahead of the African Union summit due to take place next
      month.

      Zimbabwe has been experiencing erratic fuel supplies for the past three
      years due to a shortage of foreign currency needed to import it.

      The situation has become worse in recent months, with most fuel
      stations unable to serve the scarce commodity.

      The Zimbabwe government has come up with restrictions to try and curb
      the sale of existing scarce supplies on the black market at exorbitant
      rates.

      On Tuesday it banned motorists from carrying fuel in containers, and on
      Wednesday it said that public transporters would now have to obtain fuel
      using coupons. - Sapa-AFP
    • Christine Chumbler
      ADB firm on Karonga-Chitipa road contract by Zainah Liwanda, 22 May 2006 - 06:09:17 The African Development Bank (ADB) has again rejected a proposal by
      Message 1046 of 1046 , May 22, 2006

        ADB firm on Karonga-Chitipa road contract

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

        *****

        Chihana operated on

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

        Mughogho is now in charge of the party.

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

        *****

        Pillane proposes presidential age limit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

        *****

        Mussa hails new driving licence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

        *****

        UDF demands investigation on Kasambara

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

        *****

        Zambia: Malawians Grab Zambian Land

        The Times of Zambia (Ndola)

        May 18, 2006

        Posted to the web May 19, 2006

        Andrew Lungu

         

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

        The Zimbabwean traders were warned and cautioned and later released.

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

         

        *****

        Zim unions, MDC still plan anti-govt protests

        Harare, Zimbabwe

        22 May 2006 11:51

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

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

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

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

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

        Opposition protests

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

        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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