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  • Christine Chumbler
    I Didn t Steal, Denies Muluzi The Post (Lusaka) February 3, 2005 Posted to the web February 3, 2005 Amos Malupenga Maputo I AM not corrupt nor did I steal when
    Message 1 of 1046 , Feb 4, 2005
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      I Didn't Steal, Denies Muluzi

      The Post (Lusaka)

      February 3, 2005
      Posted to the web February 3, 2005

      Amos Malupenga

      I AM not corrupt nor did I steal when I served as president, former
      Malawian president Bakili Muluzi said yesterday.

      In an exclusive interview, Muluzi said he was waiting to see anyone who
      will come up with evidence of his corruption or theft while in
      government. He said what was happening in Malawi now was a process of
      transition and every transition had its own problems.

      Muluzi was yesterday among the international dignitaries who attended
      the inauguration ceremony of newly elected Mozambican President Armando
      Guebuza in Maputo.

      Muluzi, who is still chairman of the ruling United Democratic Front
      (UDF), said nobody should stop the law from taking its course if there
      was a proven case of corruption against anyone, including himself.

      "I am not corrupt, neither did I lead a corrupt government," Muluzi
      said. "I think you know that I come from a business background, I come
      from the private sector. I was doing business long before I became
      President. I left Dr Kamuzu Banda's government as a minister and went
      into very active business." Muluzi described as 'empty' any talk
      suggesting that he was involved in corruption.

      He said it was his administration that established the Anti Corruption
      Bureau in Malawi through the assistance of the British government in a
      bid to enhance democracy and the rule of law.

      He said nobody had quarrels with any fight against corruption for as
      long as there was no witch-hunting and if things were done
      professionally. Asked if he lived in fear that sooner or later the law
      will catch up with him, Muluzi replied: "What have I done? I didn't

      And asked to clear the air about the complaints from Malawians that he
      was driving a very posh car with a personalised number plate, Muluzi
      wondered if Malawians were not entitled to drive posh cars. He said the
      car in question was bought six years ago through instalment payments
      although he could not remember how much he paid for it.

      And asked how his current personal relationship with his successor
      Mbingu wa Mutharika is, Muluzi said he is still very supportive. He said
      he met Wa Mutharika many years ago when the latter was in COMESA. Muluzi
      said at that time he was in the private sector although he was the first
      president of COMESA.

      He said he knew Wa Mutharika for a number of years and that is why he
      nominated him to take over from him as Malawi's President.

      "So there is no way I can't support him now when I supported him five
      months ago," Muluzi said.

      Asked if he thought that Wa Mutharika was fighting him after nominating
      him as his predecessor, Muluzi said he did not think it was fighting per

      He said Malawians just want the role UDF played in ushering Wa
      Mutharika in government to be recognised.

      "That's all they are asking for," he said.

      And asked to comment about the expulsion of Bingu wa Mutarika from the
      party, Muluzi said that Mutarika has not been expelled from the party,
      contrary to media reports.

      He said Malawians were just discussing the relationship between the
      ruling United Democratic Front (UDF) and the government because at one
      time President Mutarika said UDF was not the ruling party.

      "So people got angry with that," Muluzi said.

      "They said how can we not be ruling when we supported you? But it is
      not true that the President has been expelled from the party."

      And asked if he could compare what was happening in Malawi to what was
      happening in Zambia as it related the fight against corruption, Muluzi
      said the two could not be compared.

      "You have former president Chiluba who is in court and that is why I
      don't know if we should be comparing," Muluzi said.

      Muluzi was saddened with the emerging trend in Africa where retiring
      presidents are being perceived to be thieves.

      "This is strange and I don't understand this. I fought Kamuzu Banda for
      40 years and he locked me up seven times," Muluzi said.

      Asked if he fought Kamuzu because he believed that he stole from the
      Malawian people, Muluzi replied: "I was fighting his dictatorship not
      his being a thief because we didn't have evidence that he had stolen. I
      perceived Kamuzu more of a dictator than a thief. I am a believer in
      democracy and because we didn't have evidence of theft, we didn't

      He said the tendency of witch-hunting should come to an end because
      more time is being spent on the same at the expense of fighting poverty
      and working to develop poor African nations.

      And Muluzi said he was settling down very well as former president and
      he has gone back to his private sector business.

      He said his being chairman of UDF is also keeping him very busy.

      "As you know before I even became president I was a transporter. I
      owned a number of buses so I have gone back to that business. I also own
      several houses which I have put on rent and I can say that my businesses
      are doing very well," he said.

      There has been a rift within the ruling UDF, with members divided over
      their loyalty between Muluzi and President Wa Mutharika. Members loyal
      to Muluzi feel Wa Mutharika is ungrateful, alleging that he is
      victimising leaders of the previous regime, including his predecessor.

      Meanwhile Dr Kenneth Kaunda, who missed President Guebuza's
      inauguration ceremony, said he was happy to join the celebration even at
      that late hour.

      Dr Kaunda said Africa was now getting used to changing leadership
      peacefully and harmoniously.

      He praised the opposition RENAMO party and the people of Mozambique for
      the peaceful change.

      Dr Kaunda said he was delighted that the opposition that was going to
      cause problems in the end changed and accepted the people's decision.

      He said he was in Mozambique to congratulate the Mozambicans on the
      peaceful change of leadership.

      "I hope Zambians will learn from what is happening here," Dr Kaunda

      "Changes will always take place because that is human development but
      we have to learn to behave in a decent way whenever there is change. I
      am talking to the opposition and government in Zambia. They have to come
      together and find solutions to our people's problems. They have a duty
      to Zambians. And there is nothing personal in what I am saying."

      And former Mozambican president Joachim Chissano handed over power to
      his successor President Guebuza at a colourful ceremony witnessed by
      among others President Mwanawasa, South African president Thabo Mbeki,
      Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe, Bingu wa Mutarika, Festus Mogae of Botswana,
      Benjamin Mkapa, Brazilian President Lula da Silva, former Tanzanian
      president Ali Hassan Mwinyi, prime minister from Swaziland and
      Botswana's former president Sir Ketumile Masire.

      President Guebuza pledged to fight poverty and empower women in
      national development.

      And Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa has observed that African
      politicians do not accept the fact of losing.

      In an interview on Tuesday, President Mkapa said one of the problems of
      African transition was that parties that lose do not want to accept the
      fact of losing. He said this they do not because they have evidence but
      because no one accepted defeat in Africa. He said this was wrong because
      when somneone enters a competition, they should expect either a win or a

      "The best way of consolidating the spirit of competition is to be ready
      to accept that when there is a justified victory and justified loss we
      should accept that," President Mkapa said.

      He said the election results in Mozambique were a reflection of
      people's aspirations for stability and development. President Mkapa said
      the presence of the various heads of state in Maputo to witness the
      inauguration of Mozambique's President elect Armando Gebuza should be
      interpreted as their commitment to reinforce the determination of the
      people of Mozambique to see that the transition offered continuation and
      consolidation of unity, development and posperity.

      And President Mwanawasa said people had the right to complain through
      established channels including the courts of law but should accept
      results once the courts throw out their complaints with the contempt
      they deserve.

      "If people want to complain, let them air their grievances and
      eventually if they are thrown out with the contempt they deserve, let it
      be," President Mwanawasa said on arrival at Maputo Airport.

      He said even in Mozambique, it was clear that there was room for
      aggrieved parties to complain because the losing opposition Renamo party
      petitioned the results although they lost the case.


      Tanzanian coalition to fight female genital mutilation

      Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

      04 February 2005 01:04

      Seven NGOs in Tanzania have formed a coalition to fight female genital
      mutilation (FGM), a practice that is still widespread in the East
      African country.

      "Various studies have shown that at least 18% of women in Tanzania are
      victims of FGM," Hellen Kijo-Bisimba, the coalition's coordinator, said
      in Dar es Salaam on Friday, ahead of its official launch on February 6.

      She said FGM is rampant in central and north-eastern Tanzania where, in
      some communities, up to 100% of women undergo the ritual, which involves
      the removal of parts of the female sex organs.

      "The main objective of the coalition is to intensify the campaign
      against this dangerous and unhealthy cultural practice," she said.

      "Rallies, public condemnation campaigns and counselling to elders,
      opinion leaders and school children carried out by various activists
      appear to be bearing fruit. In some parts of the country, ngaribas
      [traditional circumcisers] have stopped the practice."

      Kijo-Bisimba said that after counselling, at least 300 Ngaribas have
      surrendered the tools of their trade -- knives and blades -- to village
      authorities. Some have even joined the anti-FGM crusade, she added.

      "There is also increased awareness and goodwill among the clergy and
      politicians at the grassroots," she said. "But what is most important is
      the fact that many parents are now against genital mutilation of their
      daughters, which was not the case in the past."

      "Some religious leaders now openly condemn the practice in their
      sermons, while in some villages by-laws against FGM and other repugnant
      cultures have been enacted," said Kijo-Bisimba, MD of the
      non-governmental Legal and Human Rights Centre.

      She said until a few years ago, uncircumcised women from ethnic
      communities -- such as the Maasai and Kurya in the north, as well as the
      Rangi and Nyaturu in the central parts of the country -- were subjected
      to public ridicule.

      "They were regarded as uninitiated, outcasts and dirty," Kijo-Bisimba

      Other NGOs in the coalition are the Tanzania Women Lawyers'
      Association, the Tanzania Media Women Association, the Anti-Female
      Genital Mutilation Network, Women Wake Up, the Network against Female
      Genital Mutilation, and the Dodoma Inter-African Committee on
      Traditional Practices Affecting Health of Women and Children.

      The coalition's launch on Sunday will coincide with the marking of the
      International Day on Zero Tolerance to FGM. The national marking of the
      day will take place in Tanzania's administrative capital, Dodoma.

      The director of the media women's association, Ananilea Nkya, said the
      coalition will serve as a forum for advocacy on issues relating to FGM
      and a centre for exchange of information on the issue.

      "We want to make FGM a thing of the past in Tanzania," she said. --
    • 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.


        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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