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  • Christine Chumbler
    Strike Looms Over Workers Payrise African Church Information Service August 8, 2003 Posted to the web September 8, 2003 Hobbs Gama Blantyre Civil servants in
    Message 1 of 1046 , Sep 9, 2003
      Strike Looms Over Workers' Payrise

      African Church Information Service

      August 8, 2003
      Posted to the web September 8, 2003

      Hobbs Gama
      Blantyre

      Civil servants in Malawi have threatened to go on strike next month,
      following the Governments decline to improve their pay package and
      working conditions.

      In 1999, the Government, due to pressure from the Civil Service Trade
      Union (CSTU), instituted a commission, which recommended that public
      servants be offered a 300 percent wage increase in line with the cost of
      living.


      But since then, no single increment has been effected. Randson
      Mwandiwa, chairman of the Governments negotiating team, who is also
      Principle Secretary in the Ministry of Gender, shattered the workers
      hopes recently when he said they had to wait until a Government
      committee released its recommendations.

      They should give us a bit of time. They cannot expect any increase
      until recommendations of a wage policy analysis are known, said
      Mwandiwa.

      Malawis over-staffed civil service with over 100,000 employees, is
      among the lowest paid in southern Africa. Some workers earn as little as
      US$15 per month.

      CSTU General Secretary, Pontius Kalichero, has blamed the Government
      for rampant corruption among top officials, and the abuse of public
      resources by President Bakili Muluzi, who makes endless political
      rallies with large entourages. It is unfortunate that while the
      Government is talking about financial discipline, its spending does not
      match its words, charged Kalichero.

      Defending the Government, information minister, Bernad Chisale, said
      the president plans for his trips and spends according to the funds
      allocated to him.

      Malawi is facing hard economic times as a result of withdrawal of
      support by the International Monetary Fund and other major donors,
      because of poor governance, over expenditure and unfocused policies.

      The frozen aid amounts to about US$ 87 million.

      Heavy borrowing from the domestic market and spending beyond budget
      limits have seen the Malawian Kwacha plummeting to K107 to one US dollar
      by end of August.

      *****

      Malawi Launches Its First Child Registration Programme

      African Church Information Service

      August 9, 2003
      Posted to the web September 8, 2003

      Hamilton Vokhiwa
      Blantyre

      A registration programme of all children born in Malawi has been
      launched, making it the first time babies born in the countrys rural
      hospitals and those below the age of three are being registered.

      Minister of Gender, Alice Sumani, described the exercise, also known as
      Vital Birth Registration, as a move to offer children security from
      exploitation by relatives who grab property when their parents die.


      Sumani said compulsory registration of children ensures that they have
      access to basic services, and that they are protected from cases of
      abuse.

      This development, comes against a background of increasing concern that
      in Malawi, many children are sidelined when sharing property because
      their names are not included on the list of beneficiaries.

      According to recent statistics, more than 50 million children
      world-wide go unregistered each year, representing more than 40 percent
      of total births .

      Officials from the National Statistical Office here said that during
      its first phase, the programme is concentrating on nine districts,
      registering what they called millennium children those who were born
      from January 1 of the year 2000.

      The registration would also help the Government to have accurate
      projection of the countrys population.

      UNICEF representative, Catherine Mbengue, described the launch as a
      significant milestone in the organisations efforts to implement
      programmes for the uplifting of the rights of the child. UNICEF is
      financing the programme.

      She added that birth registration opens the door to a range of other
      rights, including education and health care, regardless of social
      class.

      The officials said the registration of children would also help the
      authorities to come up with realistic figures in times of humanitarian
      disasters such as famine, as that experienced last year.


      *****

      Malawi Has High Incidence of Property Grabbing - Judge

      The Post (Lusaka)

      September 4, 2003
      Posted to the web September 4, 2003

      Bivan Saluseki
      Lusaka

      THERE is a high incidence of property grabbing in Malawi, that
      country's judge Tujilane Chizumila has observed.

      During a public discussion on the constitution review process in Africa
      organised by Women for Change and American Friends Service Committee in
      Lusaka on Tuesday evening, judge Chizumila said in Malawi most women and
      children were being left without goods because of too much property
      grabbing.

      "What is happening, you really wonder why those things are happening,"
      she said. Judge Chizumila blamed culture for such acts. She said certain
      cultural practices were being practiced yet the law was in place against
      such vices.

      Judge Chizumila said when Malawi decided to review its constitution in
      1998, one of the areas of interest was the presidential term of office
      which was cut from life tenure to two-five year terms.

      She said people also looked at human rights and the crossing of floor
      by members of parliament. Judge Chizumila explained that the problem was
      that most commissioners were from different backgrounds.

      She said women refused to participate in contributing to the
      constitution and in the process lost out. Judge Chizumila said even
      among the commissioners, they realised in the end that they had no
      rights and authority to change the Constitution but merely "add full
      stops, commas and change the language".

      And Women in Law and Development in Africa country co-ordinator
      Constance Lewanika said she was a very sad woman because of what was
      happening to the Zambian Constitution.

      Lewanika said 39 years after independence, Zambia still had a
      Constitution which excluded women and children by denying them their
      rights. "Instead of talking about implementation, we are still on the
      drawing board where we still have a problem," she said.

      Lewanika said the current constitution review process was highly
      contentious in terms of how to ensure that the majority of Zambians were
      included in the Constitution. She said women do not want a process that
      excludes their rights.

      Lewanika said inspite of the problems women were facing, they were not
      silent but continue to make challenges. "We are not giving up. We have
      to challenge the existing status quo.

      We will fight the bitter war to its conclusion," said Lewanika. And a
      women's rights activist from Nigeria, who is also a lawyer Toun Ilumoka
      said people could only defend the Constitution if they took ownership of
      it. Ilumoka said people defended what they believed in.

      "If people take ownership of the Constitution and the process, they are
      more likely to defend it," she said. Ilumoka said it was important to
      entrench a culture of respect for constitutionalism. "If you want people
      to develop and abide by the Constitution, you must allow them to
      participate in it," said Ilumoka.

      And Uganda's Rakai district member of parliament Sarah Kiyingi Kyama
      said the struggle to have women in decision-making positions in her
      country had been made easy by President Yoweri Museveni. Kyama said
      President Museveni had made the women's struggle for equal rights more
      bearable as men had started respecting women.

      She said women had become more confident to participate in leadership
      positions in Uganda because of policies put in place by the government.
      Kyama said of the 301 members of parliament in Uganda, 73 were female.

      And Lebolang Liepollo Pheko from South Africa said 2.5 million people
      in her country made submissions during their constitution review. Pheko
      said 73 per cent of adults knew about the constitution review process.


      *****

      Zambian threat to sack strikers


      Zambian Vice President Nevers Mumba has warned striking civil servants
      that they face being dismissed next week if they do not return to work.

      But Union leaders have defied the government's order, accusing the
      government of intimidation and vowed that they will not back down.

      They have rejected the authorities' call to renegotiate the agreed deal
      on allowances.

      The general secretary for the Civil Servants and Allied Workers Union
      of Zambia (CSAWUZ), Darrison Chaala has been quoted by a Zambian
      newspaper, The Post on the web, as saying that the workers have to be
      ready to be fired in order to win their battle with the government.

      "We have the powers to grind government to a halt," Mr Chaala said.

      Instability

      About 5,000 civil servants are on strike over the authorities' refusal
      to pay housing allowances agreed upon several months ago.

      The government says it does not have the money to pay the workers and
      that the strike is illegal.

      Mr Mumba said that many of the workers had broadened their demands to
      include better working conditions and were using the strike as a means
      of causing political instability.

      The strike has been in progress for two weeks, paralysing many
      hospitals and magistrates courts, with teachers refusing to teach when
      schools open next week.

      "If it means killing us, hunting us, arresting us, we have to go. We
      are tired of being intimidated. We shall not surrender. No retreat, no
      surrender, the fight continues," said Mr Chaala.

      Lusaka journalist Dickenson Jere told the BBC's Focus on Africa
      programme that many Zambians feel the government has failed to handle
      the current crisis well.

      The journalist said that the worst affected sector is the health
      service, where many doctors, nurses and general hospital workers have
      joined the strike.

      Deaths

      A public relations officer at the University Teaching Hospital in
      Lusaka, Sarah Kamanga, is quoted by AP news agency as saying that it was
      difficult to gauge the effect of the strike, but about 35 people died on
      Tuesday while waiting for attention at the hospital.

      Mr Jere said he feels the government would find it difficult to carry
      out its threat to sack workers who continue to strike.

      "Some of them have worked in the civil service for over 30 years," he
      said.

      Last month Zambia's state prosecutor postponed the trial of the former
      president Frederick Chiluba, due to striking judiciary workers.

      *****

      Zambian workers sue government

      Public service workers in Zambia have commenced legal action against
      the state for 'breaching the agreement' to pay civil servants housing
      allowances equivalent to up to 80% of their basic salary.

      The two-week countrywide strike by about 120,000 civil servants, which
      paralysed Zambia's public services, was called off on Monday as union
      leaders, opted for a change of tactics.

      Trade union lawyer Kelvin Hang'andu said the action was being taken "in
      the best interests of workers".

      In an attempt to find a solution to the crisis, last week Zambian
      President Levy Mwanawasa called for a national conference of opposition
      parties, civil society organisations and church groups to be held within
      the next four weeks.

      Financial crisis

      Mr Mwanawasa's government says that the state has not got enough funds
      to pay the workers their outstanding housing allowances housing
      allowances dating back 14 months.

      Western donors have cut aid of about $100 million to support Zambia's
      economy because the government had failed to cut spending.

      According to the UN information service, IRIN, the IMF said on Monday
      that Mr Mwanawasa's government had exceeded its budget by 300bn kwachas
      ($70 million) and had not "sufficiently explained the overspending".

      Zambia is categorised as one of the least developed countries and
      qualifies for the Highly-Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) debt-relief
      programme of the IMF and World Bank.
    • 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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