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  • Christine Chumbler
    Malawi: Mutharika Promises Action Over Economy, Corruption UN Integrated Regional Information Networks June 30, 2004 Posted to the web June 30, 2004 Lilongwe
    Message 1 of 1046 , Jul 1, 2004
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      Malawi: Mutharika Promises Action Over Economy, Corruption

      UN Integrated Regional Information Networks

      June 30, 2004
      Posted to the web June 30, 2004

      Lilongwe

      Malawian analysts have reacted with caution to President Bingu wa
      Mutharika's promise to tackle corrpution and the economy, made in his
      address at the inaugural session of the national assembly on Tuesday.

      "We will deal with corruption and its perpetrators decisively, because
      corruption has a negative impact on our economy. The measures will
      include swift investigations, prosecution and severe punishment of all
      those involved in corruption," said Mutharika, a former World Bank
      economist.


      "The priority of my government is to resume the economic programme with
      the IMF [International Monetary Fund], so that we can access resources
      necessary to fix the growth process," Mutharika told the assembly.
      Malawi's domestic debt is about US $600 million dollars, while it owes
      foreign institutions about $2.9 billion.

      The IMF, the European Union, the World Bank, and the governments of
      Britain and Denmark all suspended budgetary support to Malawi following
      concerns about over-expenditure and corruption by former president
      Bakili Muluzi's government.

      "I am cautious about his speech. What he is saying is cosmetic, as he
      has already started backtracking on some of the promises he made. People
      are not interested in rhetoric - he must walk the talk," said political
      analyst Nixon Khembo, referring to newspaper reports last month that
      Mutharika had pardoned Shabir Suleman, a businessman serving a five-year
      jail sentence term for attempting to bribe a High Court judge.

      This week police officials said it was Muluzi who had pardoned Suleman,
      11 days before he left office in May this year.

      "We need political will to deal with corruption. Unless Mutharika
      delinks himself from the UDF [United Democratic Front] national chair
      [Muluzi] and the party, his promises will not be fulfilled," Khembo
      said.

      Mutharika promised to make Malawi "hunger-free", saying, "A nation that
      cannot feed itself cannot claim to be a sovereign and independent
      country."

      Strategic agriculture programmes, including plans to introduce contract
      farming to produce 250,000 metric tons of maize, the nation's staple
      food, along with winter cropping of about 100,000 metric tons, were
      announced by Mutharika. In contract farming the harvests of independent
      farmers are purchased in advance.

      He also said his government would introduce fertiliser subsidies,
      continue with a targeted inputs programme that benefits about 2.5
      million people, and expand lending institutions in the agriculture
      sector.

      Mutharika pointed out that the economy had been adversely affected by
      high domestic debt and the decision of donor countries and agencies to
      withhold over US $75 million in aid.

      Political analyst Rafiq Hajat said, "If the president is promising to
      reduce domestic borrowing and public expenditure, to me this is a good
      indication for the economy. However ... the 10-point plan by former
      finance minister Matthews Chikaonda ... was good, but the ministries
      failed to implement them."

      Hajat called on Malawians to give the new government time to see
      whether it would deliver on its promises. "The president is an
      economist. He knows how to deal with the IMF".

      Mutharika also promised to reform the education system by encouraging
      vocational training, which would provide long-term benefits to the
      economy. He said, Malawi was to continue with free primary education.
      Malawian schools' curriculum would also shift emphasis from training
      children for white collar jobs to acquiring entrepreneurial skills,
      Mutharika said.


      *****

      Lessons learned about Aids prevention

      Joana Macie | Maputo, Mozambique

      01 July 2004 11:53


      The Aids pandemic has taken a particularly heavy toll on Southern
      African countries -- not least Mozambique. According to the Joint United
      Nations Programme on HIV/Aids (UNAids), latest statistics indicate that
      about 13% of the country's 19-million-strong population is infected
      with HIV.

      As with states elsewhere in the region, authorities and NGOs in
      Mozambique are giving attention to providing HIV-positive people with
      the anti-retroviral drugs that can prolong their lives. However, with
      the number of new HIV infections in the country put at about 700 a day,
      Aids prevention remains a matter of critical importance. Is the
      government rising to the challenge?

      Authorities appear to admit that their efforts to date might leave
      something to be desired.

      Diogo Milagre, deputy executive secretary of the National Council
      against HIV/Aids (CNCS), says that during the initial phase of the Aids
      pandemic, prevention programmes were directed more at providing basic
      information about HIV -- not convincing people to change habits that
      might cause them to contract the virus. He also admits that the written
      messages used to spread the word about Aids served little purpose in a
      country where about 50% of the population is illiterate.

      Milagre notes that certain Aids activists were themselves not fully
      informed about the disease, and that the prevention messages they passed
      on to the population might have been inaccurate.

      But, he adds, any cultural change of the order that is needed to put a
      stop to Aids will -- necessarily -- be somewhat time-consuming.

      "It takes time and courage to make a cool and clear analysis of what
      is happening, taking into account that a change of behaviour will
      interfere with cultural values," he says. "We will take some time to
      see the results of our job."

      Milagre also says impressions that Aids is worsening in Mozambique may
      simply be the result of more effective reporting about the pandemic --
      rather than actual increases in HIV prevalence.

      Aids statistics in Mozambique are compiled from HIV tests done on
      pregnant women at various "sentinel sites" in the country. There are now
      40 such sites in Mozambique, up from 12 in 2000. Voluntary testing and
      counselling facilities for other citizens only exist in the provincial
      capitals and a handful of districts, however. UNAids estimates that less
      than 40% of the population has access to health services.

      In an effort to increase the effectiveness of prevention efforts, the
      government has included the topic of HIV/Aids in the school curriculum
      this year. In addition, teachers at all levels are receiving training to
      enable them to address Aids-related matters during class.

      Many Aids activists have highlighted the need to give women the social
      support and financial independence that would enable them to steer clear
      of relationships or professions that increase their vulnerability to
      HIV. Others insist that the sexual habits of men, particularly the
      tendency of some to have multiple sexual partners, must be altered.

      Milagre says the Mozambican government does not agree that men are the
      biggest culprits when it comes to spreading HIV, even though many seek
      work in neighbouring countries, establishing second families in those
      states. For this reason, officials have not given attention to awareness
      programmes that are specifically directed at men.

      The government has begun to include civil society in its Aids
      prevention programme -- with the CNCS serving as coordinator of this
      initiative. The council at present receives funds from various sources,
      including the World Bank, some of which are given to NGOs (although a
      number of groups have complained of unnecessary delays in the
      disbursement of funds by Mozambican officials).

      In a country brief issued in June last year, UNAids noted that while
      there were hundreds of civic groups and community-based organisations
      working in HIV prevention in Mozambique, many had "weak institutional
      and technical capacities" that "limited their effective
      involvement" in this sphere. Financial and other forms of
      assistance are clearly needed to make these groups a force to be
      reckoned with.

      Amodefa is one of the civic organisations involved in Aids education,
      training community activists on issues of sexual health and HIV
      prevention. Odete Uarota, who assists with the training, says that while
      there have been many initiatives to halt the progress of the pandemic,
      most failed to deliver the desired results.

      More emphasis needs to be given, she adds, to behavioural change. --
      IPS

      *****

      Zimbabwe adopts 'facist' law

      Ryan Truscott | Harare

      01 July 2004 12:57


      Zimbabwe's Parliament has passed a tough new Bill that allows police to
      hold suspects for three weeks before they are brought to court, an
      opposition lawmaker said on Thursday.

      The Criminal Procedure and Evidence Amendment Bill was passed late on
      Wednesday despite stiff resistance from the opposition Movement for
      Democratic Change (MDC), said the party's shadow justice minister David
      Coltart.

      "This is the most fascist legislation passed by this Parliament yet,
      reminiscent of the worst apartheid-era provisions," said Coltart.

      Under the Bill, suspects arrested on suspicion of corruption or
      violating security laws would be detained for up to 21 days instead of
      the 48 hours previously allowed to schedule a court appearance.

      The Bill will now be presented to President Robert Mugabe who is
      expected to sign it into law.

      Mugabe's government had argued that the longer detentions were needed
      to investigate allegations of financial crimes such as money laundering,
      illegal foreign currency dealing or gold smuggling.

      The opposition sounded the alarm after sections of Zimbabwe's strict
      Public Order and Security Act (Posa) were added into the Bill, raising
      concerns that it would be used to clamp down on strikes and other forms
      of civil protest.

      Coltart said suspects could be detained for weeks under a section of
      the security law on "subverting the constitutional government" that "has
      been the most used provision to oppress the opposition".

      Mugabe announced new anti-graft regulations in February, shortly after
      his government declared "war" against corruption, but Parliament had to
      enact them within six months.

      Officials in Zimbabwe say foreign currency amounting to $6-billion was
      illegally siphoned out of the country into foreign bank accounts by the
      end of last year.

      The government has blamed the country's economic crisis, which includes
      inflation of more than 400% and chronic foreign currency shortages, on
      corrupt businessmen and government officials.

      Several high-profile Zimbabweans, including Finance Minister
      Christopher Kuruneri, have so far been arrested in the government's
      anti-corruption drive.

      Earlier this week Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa defended the Bill
      as a necessary tool for rooting out corruption, and said it was in line
      with the Constitution.

      "My legal conscience is very clear," Chinamasa told Parliament.

      "This Bill is going to be a roll call for those who are for corruption,
      and for those who are against corruption."

      However, MDC lawmakers shouted him down, saying the law gives too much
      power to the police and does away with the presumption of innocence. -
      Sapa-AFP

      *****

      A photo essay showing paintings done by Zimbabwean street kids.

      http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/shared/spl/hi/picture_gallery/04/africa_zimbabwe_street_kids/html/1.stm
    • 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 8:06 AM
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        ADB firm on Karonga-Chitipa road contract

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

        *****

        Chihana operated on

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

        Mughogho is now in charge of the party.

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

        *****

        Pillane proposes presidential age limit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

        *****

        Mussa hails new driving licence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

        *****

        UDF demands investigation on Kasambara

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

        *****

        Zambia: Malawians Grab Zambian Land

        The Times of Zambia (Ndola)

        May 18, 2006

        Posted to the web May 19, 2006

        Andrew Lungu

         

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

        The Zimbabwean traders were warned and cautioned and later released.

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

         

        *****

        Zim unions, MDC still plan anti-govt protests

        Harare, Zimbabwe

        22 May 2006 11:51

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

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

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

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

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

        Opposition protests

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

        Crackdown

        In a fresh crackdown against dissension, the police last week arrested several church and civic leaders for organising public prayers and marches to mark last year's controversial home-demolition exercise by the government.

        The police also banned the marches and prayers, fearing they could easily turn into mass protests against Mugabe and his government.

        However, the marches went ahead in the second-largest city of Bulawayo after organisers had obtained a court order barring the police from stopping the march.

        Political analysts say although Zimbabweans have largely been cowed by Mugabe's tactics of routinely deploying riot police and the military to crush street protests, worsening hunger and poverty are fanning public anger that Tsvangirai -- with proper planning and organisation -- could easily manipulate.

        Zimbabwe is in the grip of a severe six-year old economic crisis that has seen inflation breaching the 1 000% barrier. Last year, the World Bank said Zimbabwe's economic crisis was unprecedented for a country not at war.

        The MDC and major Western governments blame Mugabe for wrecking the country's economy, which was one of the strongest in Africa at independence from Britain 26 years ago.

        Mugabe denies the charge blaming the crisis on sabotage by Britain and her allies after he seized white-owned farms for redistribution to landless blacks six years ago.

        The Harare authorities recently hiked salaries for civil servants, with the lowest-paid soldier now earning about Z$27-million while the lowest-paid school teacher now takes home about Z$33-million.

        But the salaries are still way below the poverty datum line, which the government's Consumer Council of Zimbabwe says now stands at a staggering Z$42-million a month for an average family of six.

        The Zimbabwe government often accuses the ZCTU, a strong ally of the MDC, of pushing a political agenda to remove Mugabe from power.

        Meanwhile, Matombo and Lucia Matibenga retained their posts as president and first vice-president respectively during the ZCTU congress that ended on Saturday. -- ZimOnline

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