- EU to Support Food Security
UN Integrated Regional Information Networks
October 23, 2003
Posted to the web October 23, 2003
The European Union (EU) is to commit -45 million (about US $17.7
million) to strengthen food security in Malawi.
Malawi recently emerged from a national food shortage, which at its
height saw millions of people depending on food aid to stave off
EU spokesman Charles Undulu told IRIN that "during the last two or
three years Malawi has not been able to achieve food security, partly
due to the lack of a proper food security policy".
"With the drafting of a new policy, we hope that within the next three
to four years the country will be food secure," Undulu said.
The EU head of delegation in Lilongwe, Wiepke van der Goot, told IRIN
the EU sponsored Multi-Annual Food Security Programme was of "enormous
importance" to Malawi.
"[Food security] is one of the major challenges facing Malawi,
especially when 30 percent of the population lives below the poverty
line. Given the food crisis we have had over the last couple of years,
it is extremely important to get to a situation where Malawi is
completely food secure," Van der Goot added.
The EU funds will go towards providing nutritional support to
vulnerable groups such as people affected by HIV/AIDS, women and
Undulu confirmed that approximately -11 million (US $12.9 million)
would be used to implement the country's food security and nutrition
policy, -10 million (US $11.8 million) to the strategic grain reserves
and about -1.6 million (US $1.8 million) for trade improvement measures.
-13 million would be used to improve household incomes and -10 million
(US $11.8 million) for nutritional support.
The Multi-Annual Food Security Programme will run from 2004 until 2007,
Van der Goot added.
Malawi Applauds Land Reform
The Herald (Harare)
October 23, 2003
Posted to the web October 23, 2003
Malawi deputy High Commissioner to Zimbabwe Mr Bilisoni Itaye yesterday
expressed his government's gratitude to the Zimbabwean Government for
integrating Malawian nationals in the land reform programme.
He said the Malawian Minister of Labour and Vocational Training, Mr Lee
Mhlanga, who was recently in Harare to sign a memorandum of
understanding with the Government, had sent him to express the gratitude
after having been impressed by developments on resettled farms.
Mr Itaye said this after paying a courtesy call on the Minister of
State for Information and Publicity, Professor Jonathan Moyo.
He said the Malawian government supported the country's cause of
correcting historical injustices through the land reform programme.
A number of ex-farm and ex-mine workers of Malawian origin were
allocated land in the country.
Mr Itaye applauded the land reform programme for its all-inclusive
nature, saying it was one way in which regional integration could be
enhanced as ex-farm and ex-mine workers from other countries were also
After the visit to Zimbabwe by Malawian Minister of Labour, that
country's Minister of Information was also exploring ways of coming up
with a similar memorandum of understanding that would promote the
exchange of information about the two countries.
There was need for the two countries to enhance their relations through
exchange programmes, Mr Itaye said.
The envoy commended the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation for its local
The two countries, he said, would benefit from the exchange of economic
programmes which would make business people aware of the opportunities
existing between them.
Mr Itaye also commented on the visit to Malawi by some MDC officials
who are said to have held discussions with the country's ruling United
He said although he was informed of the visit he was, however, not
privy to the details of the visit.
"I am not aware of what they discussed but I do know that they have
been visiting Sadc countries, including Malawi," said Mr Itaye.
Zimbabwe has a 'genuine moral case'
24 October 2003 07:15
White farmers in Zimbabwe now own just three percent of the country's
land, according to a long-awaited audit of the country's controversial
land reform programme that was made public on Thursday.
According to an executive summary of the audit published in the
state-controlled Herald newspaper, white farmers own 1 377 farms, or
roughly 1,2-million hectares.
Whites used to own 11-million hectares or 30% of Zimbabwe's land before
the government launched a programme in 2000 to redistribute the land
among new black farmers and landless blacks.
The summary contradicted government figures on the number of people it
had resettled, saying only 127 192 households had been given some
4,2-million hectares of land. The government had said 300 000 families
had been resettled.
The report, commissioned by President Robert Mugabe, had been widely
expected to look into allegations that prime commercial farms had gone
to ruling party officials.
But the executive summary made no mention of ruling party members
owning multiple farms.
Commenting on the report on state television late on Thursday, the
chairman of the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union - Patriotic Front
(Zanu-PF) dismissed allegations of cronyism.
"We are satisfied there were no favourites," said John Nkomo.
He said that beneficiaries had "cut across the entire nation" and
included members of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC),
who have been strong critics of the land reform programme.
Nkomo claimed more than 60 000 hectares of land had been given back to
the state by people who had got more than one farm.
When the report was handed over to Mugabe last month he vowed to
"urgently act" on its recommendations.
One recommendation is for dairy farms in one Zimbabwean province to
remain with their orginal owners "with a view to restoring viability in
this crucial industry".
Dairy production, as with other sectors of commercial agricultural
production, has been significantly cut since the country embarked on
Another key sector affected is tobacco production, the country's key
foreign currency earner.
Tobacco production is reported to have declined 50% since 2000, to
Nkomo said former colonial power Britain should now work with Zimbabwe
instead of against the country.
"Rather than confront us they must cooperate with us and accept that we
have a genuine moral case," he said. Britain has strongly criticised the
implementation of the land reform programme in Zimbabwe. - Sapa-AFP
Group: Zimbabwe Gov't Uses Food As Weapon
By TERRY LEONARD
The Associated Press
Thursday, October 23, 2003; 8:28 PM
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa - Zimbabwe's government is using food as a
weapon, denying it to political opponents as nearly half its people face
starvation, Human Rights Watch said Thursday.
The group said the government and ruling party punish opponents by
manipulating the supply and distribution of subsidized food, as well as
the registration of people eligible for international relief.
In a 51-page report, the New York-based group said corruption and
profiteering are rampant at the government's Grain Marketing Board,
which oversees distribution of most staple food. It said officials
divert large quantities of grain at tremendous profit to the black
market and neighboring countries.
"Select groups of people are being denied access to food," Peter
Takirambudde, executive director of the group's African division said in
a statement. "This is a human rights violation as serious as arbitrary
imprisonment or torture."
Human Rights Watch said food is used as a weapon against members of the
main opposition party and people presumed to support it, teachers,
former commercial farmworkers and those living in urban opposition
"That's a lie," George Charamba, the spokesman for President Robert
Mugabe, said in a telephone interview. "It sounds like a very familiar
lie to which we are too busy to respond."
The report also criticized international donors for preventing
international food aid from going to black farmers who received land
confiscated without compensation from white farmers under Zimbabwe's
controversial land reform program.
However, Richard Lee, regional spokesman for the U.N. World Food
Program, said he was unaware of any such conditions imposed by donors.
Human Rights Watch, aid workers and political analysts in Zimbabwe said
people without ruling party membership cards are routinely denied access
to government-subsidized food and often prevented from registering to
receive international relief.
"No party card, no food," said John Makumbe, a political analyst at the
University of Zimbabwe.
Increasing numbers of people seen as opponents must turn to the black
market, where Makumbe said a day's supply of food for one person can
cost more than a household makes in a day.
Zimbabwe until recently was a grain exporting nation. The United
Nations now estimates more than 5.5 million Zimbabweans will need
emergency food aid before the next harvest.
Human Rights Watch and others say a collapse in agricultural production
prompted by the government's often violent land seizures has contributed
greatly to the shortage.
The government and state-controlled press have reported 40 deaths from
malnutrition in the second city, Bulawayo. No figures are available for
the rest of the country.
"We expect the situation is much worse in other areas, particularly in
Matebeleland north and south," said Makumbe, who also advises the Famine
Early Warning System monitoring food supplies in the region.
Human Rights Watch said the government compounded food shortages and
consolidated its control by preventing private merchants, the opposition
party and all but a handful of aid groups from importing grain.
More than 220,000 tons of grain imported by the government have simply
vanished, according to diplomats in Zimbabwe.
Human Rights Watch said it appears grain bought by the government
abroad was diverted to foreign markets and the local black market, where
reports indicate ruling party politicians and favored businessmen can
make a 220 percent profit.
The group said the grain board is run by former police, military and
intelligence officials who report directly to Mugabe's Cabinet in what
Makumbe and other analysts called the militarization of key government
industries and ministries.
The government blames food shortages on prolonged drought and donor
However, Lee, the WFP spokesman, said drought has eased in the region,
and donors have not withdrawn humanitarian aid.
Britain, Zimbabwe's former colonial ruler, committed a further $8.5
million Thursday to emergency food aid after receiving assurances that
politics would not interfere with the handouts.
Human Rights Watch said the government often uses war veterans and
ruling party militants, groups blamed for the widespread violence and
intimidation, to distribute food.
International relief organizations such as WFP have strongly resisted
government attempts to take over food distribution, Human Rights Watch
Relief groups have briefly suspended operations in some areas because
of government interference and threatened to pull out entirely if the
government persists in trying to politicize food aid.
However, the government still punishes opponents by manipulating the
list of people eligible for international aid, said Human Rights Watch.
Makumbe said party officials and traditional leaders are instructed to
exclude opponents from the lists.
Lee acknowledged there had been interference, some of it serious, but
said the vast majority of incidents were minor.
Charamba, Mugabe's spokesman, called Human Rights Watch a tool of the
British government and dismissed the report as an attempt to support the
hardline anti-Mugabe position of Australia, Britain and Canada. "We
don't even dignify it by denying it," he said.
Zimbabwe fuel drought hits food transport
By Chris Carnegy
BBC World Service business reporter
Fuel shortages have hit commuters, businesses and farmers
An acute shortage of diesel fuel has created big problems for farmers
trying to transport their harvest to feed the starving.
Part of Zimbabwe's maize crop has been left to rot, in a country facing
a food crisis, despite a relaxation of this summer's ban on commercial
Fuel shortages began to bite as long ago as 1999, but they have got
worse in recent weeks, leaving commuters, businesses and farmers
struggling to keep moving.
Although the mainstream maize harvest is in, thousands of tons grown by
peasant farmers in the Mashonaland East province are in danger of
rotting for lack of transport, the Herald newspaper reports.
The situation has worsened at a desperate time, hot on the heels of a
water shortage that has hit harvests so hard, more than five million
Zimbabweans will need food aid by the end of this year, aid agencies
This summer, President Robert Mugabe relaxed regulation to allow the
commercial import of fuel, but that has delivered help only at a high
White commercial farmers are still feeling the effects of the land
"Farmers normally get together in groups and order fuel in bulk. They
import it directly or import it through various groups using foreign
currency," explained the chief executive of Zimbabwe's Commercial Grain
Producers' Association, George Hutchison.
"What this means is that instead of fuel costing the regulated price of
450 Zimbabwean dollars per litre, it is costing over Z$2,000, probably
NZ2,200-2,300 per litre," he said, referring to the difference between
the official exchange rate of Z$824 to the US dollar and the actual
market rate of up to Z$6,000 to the US dollar.
Farmers who are able to pay have little choice but to do so.
"Farmers are having to do this in order to reap their crops and pay for
the following season," Mr Hutchison said.
Faced with a fuel bill that as quadrupled and more than 450%
hyper-inflation that makes essential supplies like seed more expensive,
Zimbabwe's farmers are engaged in a battle for commercial survival.
White commercial farmers are still feeling the effects of President
Robert Mugabe's land seizures, designed to put resources in the hands of
the black majority.
Some are moving out of staple crops like maize and turning to
But agricultural production is down by 50% in the last year, and the
fuel crisis feels like one more blow for an already punch-drunk farming
ADB firm on Karonga-Chitipa road contract
by Zainah Liwanda, 22 May 2006 - 06:09:17
The African Development Bank (ADB) has again rejected a proposal by government to look for another contractor instead of China Hunan Construction to construct of the long awaited Karonga/Chitipa road.
China Hunan from Mainland China won the bid which was approved by the ADB but government later wanted to award the contract to a Portuguese firm, Mota Engil, the second lowest bidder, claiming China Hunan's bid was unrealistically low and that the company had very little experience in Africa.
Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe confirmed on Sunday the ADB rejected the proposal at a meeting held between the bank and Malawi government in Tunisia last week.
The Malawi government wanted the Tunisia meeting to authorise it to get another contractor for the road, said Gondwe.
"They did not allow us to look for another contractor because of their regulations. But we are about to get another alternative for Karonga/Chitipa and I would be surprised if it does not start before end June," said Gondwe.
The minister explained that the bank insisted that regardless of the unrealistic cost estimates, China Hunan should be allowed to go ahead with the construction.
But Gondwe could not give further details about the alternatives, arguing there are still a few loose ends to tighten up before disclosing it.
The problem with China Hunan, according to Gondwe, is that it would require more money to meet the total cost of the project.
This paper reported last week that government met Taiwanese representatives where they offered to fund the road if the ADB continued to reject its favoured contractor, Mota Engil.
Gondwe could neither confirm nor deny the reports on the Taiwanese offer, saying government was looking at a number of ways to handle the issue.
According to Gondwe, the China Hunan's bid was 24 percent lower than the consulting engineers' estimates of K7.9 billion and 34 percent below the second lowest bidder.
President Bingu wa Mutharika laid a foundation stone for the construction of the road this year ahead of a crucial byelection in Chitipa in December last year.
The President's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) won the Chitipa Wenya constituency by-election that fell vacant following the collapse and subsequent death of Speaker of Parliament Rodwell Munyenyembe who belonged to the UDF.
Last week, police and the District Commissioner (DC) for Chitipa stopped a rally that was aimed at soliciting people's views about development projects in the district.
The meeting, which was reportedly organised by Concerned Citizens of Chitipa, was among other things also supposed to tackle the controversial Karonga/Chitipa road.
The project failed to start off in 2000 when a contract for an initial loan of US$17 million and US$15 million from the Taiwanese government was signed, with some quarters claiming the Bakili Muluzi administration diverted the money to another road.
Chihana operated on
by Edwin Nyirongo, 22 May 2006 - 06:32:31
Alliance for Democracy (Aford) president Chakufwa Chihana, who is in South Africa receiving treatment, had a brain operation on Friday at Garden City Clinic, family and party officials confirmed on Sunday.
Aford national chairman Chipimpha Mughogho said he was told by the family members that Chihana had a successful operation on Friday and was put in an intensive care unit.
Mughogho said Chihana, who initially complained of headache, was found with a brain tumour which South African doctors removed.
Mzimba West MP Loveness Gondwe said Aford boss condition was stable.
"Hon. Chihana had a major operation and after that he was put in the intensive care unit but his condition is stable. I do not know where he was operated on but it had something to do with the skull," she said.
Deputy Information Minister John Bande referred the matter to the Health Minister Hetherwick Ntaba who was reported to be in Geneva, Switzerland.
Aford publicity secretary Norman Nyirenda said when Chihana's situation got worse, the family alerted the Office of the President and Cabinet who took him to Mwaiwathu Private Hospital.
"The doctors at Mwaiwathu advised that he should be sent to South Africa and they even identified the doctor for him," he said.
He said the costs are being met by the Malawi government, contradicting his earlier statement that his boss covered the cost.
Mughogho is now in charge of the party.
Gondwe will be a busy person when Parliament starts meeting on June 6 as she is the only Aford MP remaining.
Pillane proposes presidential age limit
by Emmanuel Muwamba , 22 May 2006 - 06:34:13
A member of the DPP National Governing Council Abdul Pillane on Saturday urged members of political parties and the civil society to put an upper age limit in the Constitution for presidential candidates.
Pillane was addressing members of political parties and civil society in Liwonde during a two-day follow up workshop to the National Conference on the Review of Constitution held in March in Lilongwe.
"My view is that (an upper) age limit should be at 75. We have to give a chance to younger people to lead because in circumstance, when you age you become forgetful especially when sickly," said Pillane. "Overall, chances should be given to young people."
But UDF secretary general Kennedy Makwangwala, whose party members agitated for the age limit during presentations, played the issue down.
"I feel there is no logic to have an upper age limit for presidential candidates. If someone is 90 or 80 I don't know how that can influence the electorate not to vote for someone who is younger, I don't see any logic behind that," said Makwangwala.
MCP participants at the workshop also vehemently objected to the proposal.
MCP vice president Nicholas Dausi in an interview said: "There is no constitution in Africa which stipulates an upper age limit. So it would be strange in Malawi to have an upper age limit for presidential candidates."
MDP President Kamlepo Kalua also opposed the need to have an upper age limit.
"If we have personalities in mind that we want to discriminate against then it is unfortunate. The constitution we want to build is a guiding document for future generations and it should not bar certain individuals on the basis of grudges," he said.
The Malawi Law Constitution Issues Paper of March 2006 says several submissions that were received put an upper presidential age limit in the Constitution.
"It is argued that it is common sense that mental knowledge faculties tend to fail with age. As regards what the actual age limit should be the submissions are far from being agreed. The range is from 60 years to 80 years," read submissions in the Issues Paper.
On whether MPs should double as ministers, Kalua said this should be the case.
Makwangwala also said it is not right for MPs to serve as ministers because the Legislature, another arm of government, is reduced while the Executive branch is beefed up from another arm of government.
"There is no separation of powers when MPs double as ministers," said Makwangwala.
But Pillane said there is no problem for MPs to work as ministers as well, saying MPs are elected by the President.
"One can serve both posts. There have been no problems before for people to double," said Pillane.
The Centre for Multiparty Democracy funded the workshop through the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy.
The objective was to come up with a collective position on the Issues Paper which will be presented to the Special Law Commission that will be constituted soon.
Mussa hails new driving licence
by Zainah Liwanda, 22 May 2006 - 06:58:52
Transport and Public Works Minister Henry Mussa last week said the design of the Malawi-Sadc driving licence would guard against forgery and ensure that only skilled and legitimate drivers of particular vehicles are licensed.
Mussa was speaking at the official launch of the licences in Lilongwe where he announced that traffic police would from July enforce speed limits and sober driving using Breathalysers which his ministry is in the process of procuring.
The minister said financial constraints are the reason for the delay in procuring the equipment but assured that by July they would be available.
"With the new equipment, the days of those who believe in the thrill of drink and driving are numbered," warned Mussa.
Mussa added that with the new licence, government is optimistic that the country's roads would be safe.
Acting Director of Road Traffic James Chirwa said the features that distinguish the new from the old licences are the Malawi national flag and a ghost image of the driver's photograph, among others.
Those with old licences, according to Chirwa, are expected to get the new ones after the expiry of the former.
UDF demands investigation on Kasambara
by Rabecca Theu, 22 May 2006 - 06:30:46
The United Democratic Front (UDF) has asked government to investigate Ralph Kasambara on allegations of abuse of office while he was attorney general.
UDF publicity secretary Sam Mpasu told the press Sunday that the party is neither amused or saddened by the removal of the former AG but asked government to institute investigations on Kasambara.
"Beyond the removal of the Attorney General, we now urge President Mutharika to institute investigation against Mr Kasambara into allegations that have made rounds in the public domain during the recent past. These include: Mrs Helen Singh and SS Rent-a-Car; SGS and ITS saga; ...........the use of Malawi Police Service in the arrest of three Chronicle journalists and the handling of Mrs Rubina Kawonga," said Mpasu.
Mpasu also accused Kasambara of awarding government contracts to Lawson and Company where he was a senior partner.
"We urge government to thoroughly investigate the former AG. We also ask government to cautiously select the new AG ," said Mpasu, who was accompanied by the party's Secretary General Kennedy Makwangwala, leader of the party in Parliament George Mtafu, chief whip Leonard Mangulama and a member of the executive Hophmally Makande.
But Minister of Information Patricia Kaliati said UDF should give offer its advice to the Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB).
"They should advise bodies like the Anti-Corruption Bureau to conduct the investigations and why are they saying this now? Is it because Kasambara has been fired? This is not a personal issue. If they have other pressing issues they should just say so. These arguments should have come up earlier on when the said cases were happening," she said.
Kasambara asked UDF to proceed with the mission of urging government to investigate him.
"They can do their job. Everyone has a right to lobby for anything they want in the country. UDF has a right to do that, let them go ahead," he said.
Kasambara was relieved of his duties as AG by the President last week. Government has not given reasons behind the removal.
Zambia: Malawians Grab Zambian Land
The Times of Zambia (Ndola)
May 18, 2006
Posted to the web May 19, 2006
MALAWIANS who have encroached on both the 'no-man's' and part of the Zambian land at the Mwami border in Eastern Province have plucked out some beacons that were used in the demarcation of the border.
The Malawians are now using the beacons as stools in their newly-established villages on Zambian land.
Eastern Province Minister, Boniface Nkhata, said in Chipata yesterday that if the situation was not controlled urgently, Zambia would lose huge tracts of land to Malawians migrating into Zambian in large numbers.
A check at the Zambia-Malawi border showed a number of beacons had been vandalised and new structures constructed on the 'no man's' land and a large portion of Zambian land.
Mr Nkhata said the trend extended to many parts of the province bordering the two countries.
"A large portion of Zambian land has been taken up by the Malawians starting from the Chama boundary up to the Mwami border.
"The weighbridge at the Mwami border was initially in Zambia from the time both countries gained independence from Britain, but now the bridge is on Malawian soil," Mr Nkhata said.
The minister, who is former Chama District Commissioner, said there was similar encroachment in Lundazi and Chama districts where Zambia shares a boundary with Malawi.
He said a Malawian farmer identified as Mr Mfune had cultivated 71.5 hectares on Zambian land and employed about 265 Malawian workers.
"Khombe Farm in Chama district in Kanyerere's area, along the Muyombe road which leads to Northern Province where this Malawian farmer has cultivated a vast land is on the Zambian territory," he said.
Workers on the farm admitted that they were farming on Zambian soil but could not go back to Malawi because the land in that country was inadequate for cultivation.
Mr Nkhata appealed to the ministry of Lands to urgently release money for the demarcation of the Zambia-Malawi border to avoid further land disputes between the two countries.
Meanwhile, the Immigration Department in Livingstone has arrested a couple and another man, all Zimbabweans, for working in Zambia without permits.
They were arrested at Gwembe village yesterday where they worked for Into Africa, a tour operating company that provides bush dinners and breakfast.
According to the Immigration Department in Livingstone, the trio entered Zambia through the Victoria Falls border as visitors but decided to work for the company illegally.
Last week, immigration officers arrested 10 Zimbabwean traders and six Ethiopians for entering and staying in Zambia illegally.
The Zimbabwean traders were warned and cautioned and later released.
The Ethiopians were arrested at Konje Guest House when they ran out of money to proceed to Botswana.
Zim unions, MDC still plan anti-govt protests
22 May 2006 11:51
Zimbabwe's biggest labour federation on Saturday threatened to call massive demonstrations against the government over poor salaries and worsening living conditions for workers in the country.
The threats are ratcheting up pressure against President Robert Mugabe's government after similar threats by the biggest opposition party in the country, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), about two months ago.
Speaking at the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) conference on Saturday, the labour body's president, Lovemore Matombo, said the powerful union wants the government to award workers salaries that match the country's ever-rising inflation.
"I can assure you we will stage massive demonstrations to force them [employers] to award workers minimum salaries that tally with the poverty datum line," said Matombo.
Matombo did not say when exactly the ZCTU would order workers to strike.
Meanwhile, the MDC on Sunday said it will push ahead with plans for anti-government protests, saying victory in a key by-election at the weekend was a "sign the electorate supported its policies", including democratic mass resistance.
A spokesperson of the main faction of the splintered MDC, Nelson Chamisa, said victory over Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF and a rival MDC faction in a Saturday by-election in Harare's Budiriro constituency is a sign Zimbabweans still have confidence in party leader Morgan Tsvangirai and his policies.
Tsvangirai, the founding leader of the MDC, heads the main rump of the opposition party whose candidate, Emmanuel Chisvuure, polled 7 949 votes to win the Budiriro House of Assembly seat.
Gabriel Chaibva of the other faction of the MDC, led by prominent academic Arthur Mutambara, garnered 504 votes while Zanu-PF's Jeremiah Bvirindi polled 3 961 votes.
"This election showed that the electorate still has confidence in the MDC [Tsvangirai-led] leadership and its policies," Chamisa told independent news service ZimOnline.
He added: "We will now move to consolidate our position * we still believe in mass protests. Until we have attained our goals we see no reason why we should abandon [plans for protests]."
Tsvangirai has threatened to call mass protests this winter against Mugabe and his government. He says the mass protests, whose date he is still to name, are meant to force Mugabe to relinquish power to a government of national unity to be tasked to write a new and democratic Constitution that would ensure free and fair elections held under international supervision.
Mugabe and his government, who had hoped for victory in Budiriro to show they were recapturing urban support from a splintered MDC, have not taken idly the opposition's threats to call mass protests, with the veteran president warning Tsvangirai he would be "dicing with death" if he ever attempted to instigate a Ukraine-style popular revolt in Zimbabwe.
In a fresh crackdown against dissension, the police last week arrested several church and civic leaders for organising public prayers and marches to mark last year's controversial home-demolition exercise by the government.
The police also banned the marches and prayers, fearing they could easily turn into mass protests against Mugabe and his government.
However, the marches went ahead in the second-largest city of Bulawayo after organisers had obtained a court order barring the police from stopping the march.
Political analysts say although Zimbabweans have largely been cowed by Mugabe's tactics of routinely deploying riot police and the military to crush street protests, worsening hunger and poverty are fanning public anger that Tsvangirai -- with proper planning and organisation -- could easily manipulate.
Zimbabwe is in the grip of a severe six-year old economic crisis that has seen inflation breaching the 1 000% barrier. Last year, the World Bank said Zimbabwe's economic crisis was unprecedented for a country not at war.
The MDC and major Western governments blame Mugabe for wrecking the country's economy, which was one of the strongest in Africa at independence from Britain 26 years ago.
Mugabe denies the charge blaming the crisis on sabotage by Britain and her allies after he seized white-owned farms for redistribution to landless blacks six years ago.
The Harare authorities recently hiked salaries for civil servants, with the lowest-paid soldier now earning about Z$27-million while the lowest-paid school teacher now takes home about Z$33-million.
But the salaries are still way below the poverty datum line, which the government's Consumer Council of Zimbabwe says now stands at a staggering Z$42-million a month for an average family of six.
The Zimbabwe government often accuses the ZCTU, a strong ally of the MDC, of pushing a political agenda to remove Mugabe from power.
Meanwhile, Matombo and Lucia Matibenga retained their posts as president and first vice-president respectively during the ZCTU congress that ended on Saturday. -- ZimOnline