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  • Christine Chumbler
    Malawi: Mutharika Takes Fresh Aim At Embezzlers UN Integrated Regional Information Networks December 3, 2004 Posted to the web December 3, 2004 Johannesburg
    Message 1 of 1046 , Dec 9, 2004
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      Malawi: Mutharika Takes Fresh Aim At Embezzlers

      UN Integrated Regional Information Networks

      December 3, 2004
      Posted to the web December 3, 2004


      More heads are expected to roll as Malawi's President Bingu wa
      Mutharika pushes ahead with his campaign to rid the country of
      high-level corruption, analysts said on Friday.

      On Thursday the mayor of the commercial capital, Blantyre, was arrested
      in connection with the disappearance of Kwacha 400,000 (US $3,782) from
      the city's coffers. John Chikakwiya is said to have solicited the money
      from the Grain and Milling Company for the rehabilitation of roads, but
      the funds cannot be accounted for. He is expected to appear in court on
      charges of theft by a public servant.

      At least seven senior members of the ruling United Democratic Front
      (UDF) are under investigation regarding the disappearance of government

      Attorney-General Ralph Kasambara told IRIN the state would continue
      pursuing corrupt officials, but would ensure that there was "solid
      evidence" against the accused before legal action was taken.

      "The president has the public's support for these measures and, from
      reading the media reports, Malawians are equally tired of corrupt
      officials," Kasambara said.

      Mutharika's zero-tolerance campaign against corruption has alarmed some
      UDF party stalwarts, who have already started accusing the new president
      of political witch hunting.

      "This is just the tip of the iceberg. In coming months we are likely to
      see the arrests of many more UDF officials, who, I suspect, will be
      charged with the embezzlement of far greater amounts of kwacha. Under
      the previous government the corrupt activities of officials were almost
      tolerated, but the tide is turning," Boniface Dulani, a political
      science lecturer at the University of Malawi, told IRIN.

      "It's no secret that the former president [Bakili Muluzi] has the
      backing of UDF heavyweights, but I don't think that Mutharika has
      deliberately gone after Muluzi's allies. Mutharika's anti-corruption
      drive is more about showing donors that he can run a clean government,
      and less about political witch hunting," Dulani added.

      Chikakwiya is expected to appear in court on Monday.


      Mozambique election re-run call

      Mozambican opposition leader Afonso Dhlakama says he will ask for last
      week's general elections to be re-run.
      In a BBC interview, the Renamo leader said he had evidence not just of
      irregularities, but of "massive fraud".

      The former rebel says he wants outgoing President Joaquim Chissano to
      stay in office until new polls can be held.

      International observers had warned that the delay in releasing results
      - blamed on weather and computer glitches - could raise suspicions.

      "I will ask President Chissano to stay for six months until we can sort
      this out," Mr Dhlakama told the BBC's Portuguese for Africa Service.


      International observers previously described the presidential and
      parliamentary polls as generally free and fair.

      Renamo representatives claim passwords to computers containing a
      database of results have been altered, allowing the manipulation of
      figures in favour of the ruling Frelimo.

      The National Electoral Commission denied the allegations and accused
      Renamo of disrupting an already slow count.

      The NEC has so far declined to release figures and has until the 17
      December to announce the result.

      Late on Wednesday, Renamo was reported to have withdrawn its observers
      from counting centres across Mozambique.

      The poll was plagued by poor turnout, with outgoing leader Joaquim
      Chissano saying more people would have voted if they had been paid to
      cast their ballot.

      Mr Chissano is stepping down after 18 years in power, with five
      candidates vying to replace him.

      Initial unofficial results suggest that Armando Guebuza, from Mr
      Chissano's Frelimo party is ahead.

      Mr Dhlakama is in second place.

      Maintaining peace

      Voters were also selecting members to the 250-seat National Assembly.

      Mr Guebuza has been a government minister in charge of senior posts and
      is also reputed to be a wealthy businessman.

      His supporters see in him a leader who can be trusted to maintain
      policies that have brought stability and progress.

      Despite rapid economic growth in recent years, Mozambique remains one
      of the world poorest countries.

      Opponents of the government argue that it has failed to address these
      issues and that it has favoured the southern provinces where the ruling
      party's support has traditionally been the strongest.

      Five years ago, Mr Chissano won the poll by a margin of just four
      percentage points over Mr Dhlakama.


      Cheers as Mugabe slaps down Moyo

      Moyo was the architect of draconian media laws
      Zimbabwe's private media has been celebrating the demotion of
      controversial Information Minister Jonathan Moyo.
      He has lost his position on the key body of the ruling party Zanu-PF
      but retains his seat in cabinet.

      Mr Moyo is the architect of tough media laws which have seen the
      banning of foreign correspondents and the closure of the only private
      daily paper.

      Two Sunday newspapers had front page headlines: "Zanu-PF ditches Moyo."

      Last week, he was severely reprimanded by the party leadership for
      heading a campaign against President Robert Mugabe's choice as
      vice-president, Joyce Mujuru.

      Don't be deceived by that body, she is a young woman

      President Robert Mugabe
      He was lobbying for Parliamentary Speaker Emmerson Mnangagwa to take
      the key position, which could be a stepping stone to the presidency as
      Mr Mugabe is unlikely to contest the next presidential election, due in

      "No true Zimbabwean is likely to feel any remorse for Moyo because of
      the way he single-handedly changed the country's political and media
      landscape," the Standard said in an editorial.

      Mr Moyo has not yet publicly commented on his demotion.

      Under new laws, the Daily News, which had become Zimbabwe's
      biggest-selling daily paper was shut down in September 2003.

      Tightly controlled state-media have a monoply of the daily press, radio
      and television.

      Parliament recently voted to further tighten laws, so that anyone
      working as a journalist without official credition could face up to two
      years in prison.

      After Mrs Mujuru was confirmed as Zimbabwe's first vice-president, Mr
      Mugabe suggested that she could go one step further.

      "When you choose her as a vice president, you don't want her to remain
      in that chair do you?" he asked some 10,000 delegates at the Zanu-PF

      "Don't be deceived by that body, she is a young woman," he said of the
      stoutly built Mrs Mujuru, 49, a former guerilla fighter with little
      formal education.


      Zim legal system 'compromised'

      Ellen Hollemans and Sapa-AP

      09 December 2004 13:58

      Zimbabwe's government is subverting the country's legal system in order
      to stay in power, according to an international group of lawyers who
      recently visited the Southern African state.

      In a report, Stephen Irwin, chairperson of the Bar of England and
      Wales, says the group found that judges and the courts have been
      "profoundly compromised".

      "We have concluded that the Zimbabwean justice system has ceased to be
      independent and impartial," the report on the state of justice in
      Zimbabwe concludes.

      "None of the petitions of electorates regarding alleged electoral abuse
      in the 2004 parliamentary elections have been brought to conclusion,"
      Irwin told the Mail & Guardian Online on Thursday.

      "That means that Zimbabwe will choose a new Parliament in March without
      knowing whether all aspects of the previous elections have been
      conducted lawfully," he added.

      "Many of those within the system have been driven out by some kind of
      pressure, and much of the legal system of Zimbabwe has been subverted by
      the Zanu-PF government [of President Robert Mugabe], in an effort to
      frustrate the proper working of democracy and to hold on to power," says
      Irwin, who was part of the delegation, in the group's report on the

      "There are still judges and lawyers in the system that are very
      courageous and brave and act according to the law, but these people are
      in danger, which can even mean they fear for their lives."

      The report says it was clear to the delegation "that the judicial
      system in Zimbabwe has become profoundly compromised over the past four

      "It is not too late for Zimbabwe's judiciary. There is still a legal
      system, courts operate and judges rule. If the political will is there,
      Zimbabwe can still be a democratic operating state abiding by the rule
      of law," Irwin told the M&G Online.

      "But governments in the region and especially the South African
      government should speak out against what is happening in Zimbabwe. How
      can Mbeki keep quiet? We cannot forget about Zimbabwe.

      "And I think that even in Zimbabwe itself there are political voices
      that want to speak up and make sure that the rule of law is restored.

      "Does Mugabe want to end his career as a tyrant? He was always seen as
      the liberator, and that image is changing to that of a tyrant. Is that
      really what he wants?"

      "We are lawyers and we have no political interest whatsoever. We care
      about the legal system of Zimbabwe."

      Other members of the delegation were Glenn Martin, president of the
      Queensland Bar Association in Australia; vice-chairperson of the South
      African Bar Justice Poswa; vice-dean of the Faculty of Advocates of
      Scotland Roy Martin; and Conor Maguire, chairperson of the Irish Bar.

      Some judges have even been given land at nominal rents under the
      government's farm-reallocation scheme, the report states.

      Magistrates and prosecutors perceived as unsympathetic to Mugabe's
      government also have faced attacks on their families and property, it

      "The legal culture has been subverted for political ends."

      Zimbabwe is facing its worst political and economic crisis since
      independence, with Mugabe's autocratic regime cracking down on dissent
      ahead of parliamentary elections in March.

      Agricultural production has collapsed in the four years since Mugabe
      ordered the seizure of about 5 000 white-owned commercial farms for
      redistribution to black Zimbabweans.


      Can Mozambique gain from investment?
      By Orla Ryan
      BBC business reporter in Mozambique

      The Mozal smelter near Maputo has created a buzz in political and
      business circles around the continent.

      Not only is it Mozambique's biggest industrial investment, it is also
      one of Africa's biggest direct investments yet.

      Its size; equivalent to 340 soccer fields, its gleaming newness and the
      space-age safety outfits worn by the staff have all helped attract 1,400
      visitors from all over the world in the past six months alone.

      The prestigious Mozal-project has made Mozambique the subject of envy.
      General manager Carlos Mesquita jokes that a delegation from Malawi
      asked to be put in touch with its principal owner BHP Billiton to see if
      they could get a Mozal of their own.

      Decent jobs

      But behind the prestige and glitz of flagship investments such as Mozal
      lie hard questions.

      Does the government's strategy of spurring economic growth by wooing
      such investors truly benefit either the local or the national economy -
      or indeed ordinary Mozambicans?

      Outgoing President Joaquim Chissano insists it does. He attributes much
      of the country's economic growth to Mozal and other mega-projects which
      have attracted $6bn of investments.

      Indeed, some of the ruling party Frelimo's re-election ads made a point
      of mentioning Mozal.

      The $2bn project started producing aluminium in 2000 and now exports
      more than 500,000 tonnes of aluminium a year. Its 1,000 employees are
      among the best paid in the country.


      Yet critics remain vocal. The problem with Mozal, says Carlos Nuno
      Castel-Branco, economics professor at Maputo's Universidade Eduardo
      Mondlane, is that its size is used to disguise the true state of the

      "Our exports grow as a function of mega projects, we export about $600m
      of goods a year," he says.

      "Of these, two thirds are aluminium from one core company, which is
      Mozal. It is totally fake, if you take Mozal away, all the other things
      have stagnated.

      "In 2000, it added 3.5% to the rate of growth. When you say gross
      domestic product (GDP) grew by 7%, half of that was Mozal."

      Ultimately, Mozal pays few taxes, employs few people and transfers much
      of its profits out of the country, Mr Castel-Branco says.

      Consequently, the 'trickle-down effect' which economists often say
      result from inward investment remains elusive and he sees little
      evidence that ordinary people benefit from the big sums invested in


      But that argument, insists Mr Mesquita, misses the point. The issue is
      not how many jobs Mozal creates but the development it can trigger, he

      "The idea was to have a catalyser to start creating jobs and
      demonstrate to the world that Mozambique is a safe place to invest," he

      Indeed, other firms have followed Mozal into the Beluluane Industrial
      Park which now employs a total of 5,000 people.

      Within the park, new schools jostle with the old schools they have
      replaced, all paid for by Mozal. The company spends heavily on its
      corporate social responsibility programme, for which there is a strong
      business logic, Mr Mesquita says.

      "If we didn't reduce the level of malaria, I couldn't operate this
      plant," he says.

      "The incidence of malaria was at such high levels, the absence would be

      "Of course, it translates in a return to us, in terms of productivity,"
      he acknowledges.

      The real development potential could lie not in Mozal's spending on
      social projects but in the business it offers local suppliers.


      Mozal buys $10m worth of goods a month from local suppliers and works
      with them to improve standards, Mr Mesquita says.

      But again, Mr Castel-Branco is critical.

      In reality, few Mozambican suppliers can meet the company's standards
      or invest the money needed to meet then, he says.

      So instead Mozal deals with South African companies which set up
      subsidiaries near Mozal but keep their expertise at home, he insists.

      Indeed, Mr Mesquita acknowledges that "in some areas, it will take a
      long time before we start having Mozambican suppliers".

      "Being a Mozal supplier is like a label of competence," he says.

      Not the last

      Mozal is not the country's first big project and it will not be the
      last, and whereas their importance to a country's economy should not be
      ignored, nor should they be over-played, insists World Bank country
      director Michael Baxter.

      "The mega projects are not the only contribution to economic growth,"
      he says, pointing out that it is not uncommon that the 'trickle-down
      effect' is slow to come about.

      "There are other sectors which are equally important [which] need to be
      developed in balance with the mega projects," he said.

      Indeed Mr Castel-Branco doubts whether Mozambique has the momentum to
      support these projects.

      "I don't think it will continue to be a driving force" for economic
      growth, he says.

      "The mega projects have almost exhausted the capacity of Mozambique to
      supply skilled workers."

      So it is going to take time to lift the country back up from the ruins
      of a war that ended 12 years ago.

      "We are still dealing with one of the poorest countries in the world,"
      Mr Baxter observes.
    • Christine Chumbler
      ADB firm on Karonga-Chitipa road contract by Zainah Liwanda, 22 May 2006 - 06:09:17 The African Development Bank (ADB) has again rejected a proposal by
      Message 1046 of 1046 , May 22, 2006
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        ADB firm on Karonga-Chitipa road contract

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


        Chihana operated on

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

        Mughogho is now in charge of the party.

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


        Pillane proposes presidential age limit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


        Mussa hails new driving licence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


        UDF demands investigation on Kasambara

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


        Zambia: Malawians Grab Zambian Land

        The Times of Zambia (Ndola)

        May 18, 2006

        Posted to the web May 19, 2006

        Andrew Lungu


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

        The Zimbabwean traders were warned and cautioned and later released.

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



        Zim unions, MDC still plan anti-govt protests

        Harare, Zimbabwe

        22 May 2006 11:51

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

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

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

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

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

        Opposition protests

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


        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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