- Malawi minister guilty of fraud
By Raphael Tenthani
BBC News, Blantyre, Malawi
Malawi's former education minister, Yusuf Mwawa, has been found guilty of four counts of fraud and corruption.
This is the first conviction since President Bingu wa Mutharika launched his anti-corruption campaign in 2004.
He was sacked last year after being accused of using $1, 500 of public funds to pay expenses for his wedding at a hotel in Blantyre.
His wife, Diana, burst into tears following the guilty verdict. The court was packed with his supporters.
The conviction means he loses his seat in parliament, which he won on the ticket of the former ruling United Democratic Front (UDF).
He had denied the charges but offered to pay back the money.
He is to be sentenced on 9 February.
Two of the charges carry jail sentences of up to five years, according to Gustave Kaliwo, head of the Anti-Corruption Bureau.
President Mutharika has left the UDF, saying the party did not support his drive against corruption.
ACB wants Muluzi for abuse of office
by Gedion Munthali, 04 February 2006 - 04:47:12
The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) wants former President Bakili Muluzi, currently recuperating in the United Kingdom, for abuse of office for pardoning Sabir Suleman who was serving a five-year jail term for attempting to bribe a High Court Judge, Maxon Mkandawire, with K1 million (about $8,000), a highly placed source has confided in the Weekend Nation.
The source said in an interview on Thursday investigations were already concluded and a report was already written which includes letters which Muluzi wrote to facilitate the release of Suleman who is reportedly in Dubai.
"I think what is remaining is for the ACB to arrest Muluzi and charge him with abuse of office," said the source, and added: "This would have already happened if Muluzi did not leave the country for medical attention in the United Kingdom."
ACB Director Gustave Kaliwo could not be reached for comment on Friday.
Director of Public Prosecutions Ishmail Wadi said he was not aware of the issue, but thought the ACB could provide some information.
"I do not have information on that issue, but the ACB could have some details on it," said Wadi.
Deputy Commissioner of Prisons McDonald Chaona confirmed that Muluzi pardoned Suleman on May 13, 2004, 11 days before the former President left office.
"Suleman's brother wrote a letter to Muluzi on May 13, 2004 informing him that Suleman had been sick ever since he went to prison. The former President then directed that Suleman should be released and taken out of the country for treatment," said Chaona.
He said Muluzi signed the pardon order between May 16 and 17 May, 2004. This was just a day before the general elections which were scheduled to take place on May 18 but were later pushed to May 20.
Kaliwo, who prosecuted Suleman while in private practice, said immediately after the pardon that the development confused him.
"If we are serious about corruption, all state machinery should work together to make sure that corruption is not tolerated. I am confused with this development," said Kaliwo.
At the time he was freed, the ACB were investigating him for allegedly feigning illness so that he continues to stay in hospital rather than in prison.
Chilumpha catches govt unawares
by Olivia Kumwenda, 06 February 2006 - 05:45:54
Vice President Cassim Chilumpha stunned government on Sunday when he pitched up at the National Anti-Corruption Day commemoration in Blantyre after organisers had assumed that he was not going to attend.
Chilumpha, who had been shunning government events, was conspicuously missing from the protocol list on the day's programme of events, but speakers at the function acknowledged his presence.
Under the theme, "Fight Corruption: Develop Malawi" the commemoration graced by President Bingu wa Mutharika was held in the Comesa hall.
The President was upon arrival welcomed by Justice Minister Henry Phoya and Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) director Gustave Kaliwo, among others.
Asked to comment on Chilumpha's missing from the programme, public events principal secretary a Mr. Juwa referred the reporter to Kaliwo.
Kaliwo also refused to comment saying it is an issue to do with public events.
But deputy Information Minister John Bande said Chilumpha's name did not appear anywhere on the programme because he was not expected to attend.
"We were caught unawares. We didn't expect him because he has not been attending government functions for some time so we just went ahead to print the programme without involving him," said Bande who was silent on whether the VP was invited or not.
He, however, said government was pleased with Chilumpha's attendance as it shows that the VP is part and parcel of the anti-corruption drive adding, "we hope he will continue participating in government business as the VP of the country."
Chilumpha's press officer Horace Nyaka said his office does not want to talk about anything to do with the modalities of the event.
And in his address, Mutharika said he was sad to note that corruption is still rampant is Malawi but added it will not weaken him in his fight against evil.
"You will recall that attempts have been made to impeach me because of my strong stand against corruption. I have been told that the move to impeach me will stop if I stop prosecuting those that are corrupt. But having been threatened with impeachment, my determination in the fight against corruption is even stronger," said Mutharika.
The President also said it is not fair for the opposition to say that government and the ACB have produced nothing in the anti-corruption drive for the past year.
"You may wish to know that one high profile politician and former cabinet minister, has been found guilty of corruption. Others will follow shortly," warned Mutharika.
Kaliwo also admitted that there is still more to be done in the fight against corruption and that at the moment the bureau has cases in excess of 1000.
"We are setting up mechanisms to reduce the cases by 80 percent by the end of this year. Some cases might be closed because we can't trace witnesses," said Kaliwo.
In his remarks, Phoya said his ministry will continue supporting the ACB in the anti-corruption drive as the fight requires collective effort.
CCJP takes violence to the pulpit
by Nation Reporter, 06 February 2006 - 06:19:17
The Catholic Commission of Justice and Peace (CCJP) has taken the fight against rising cases of gender-based violence to the pulpit by producing homily guidelines on the issue.
Zomba Catholic Diocese CCJP Secretary Clemence Alfazema said in a statement that the Church took this step after realising that instead of limiting itself to condemning errors, it was better to guide families in their daily lives through its teachings.
He said the ugly face of violence against women and children as reported in the media was an indication that couples, on their part, have not carried out their duties to love and honour each other.
"As a Christian community and a nation, let us all break the silence around gender-based violence and, through our teachings and discussion groups, raise awareness on its effects on women, girls, children as well as men themselves," said Alfazema.
In its guidelines, Zomba CCJP also urges marriage counsellors and family movements to provide a good preparation to the sacrament of marriage.
"The whole Christian community should develop ways to support fidelity to the sacrament of marriage. Married couples should observe the elementary demands of justice towards their spouses and their children," reads the guidelines.
Zomba CCJP's comments on the issue come in the wake of recent media reports where, among other things, a man chopped off both hands on his estranged wife in Dowa, another man killing his pregnant wife in Karonga for refusing to have sex and a businessman deliberately infecting HIV to a 14-year-old girl.
UDF to take Sauka, Chilembwe pledges to Parliament
by Zainah Liwanda, 06 February 2006 - 06:03:14
United Democratic Front (UDF) has expressed its intention to table in Parliament the issue surrounding construction of houses for families of the late Michael Sauka*composer of the National Anthem*and John Chilembwe, the country's first freedom fighter.
This comes in the wake of reports that the widow to the late Sauka was suffering and had been evicted from a Malawi Housing Corporation (MHC) house in Blantyre's Ndirande Township and now leaves desperately in Balaka.
Former President Bakili Muluzi promised to build houses for the families of Sauka and Chilembwe as a token of appreciation for their contributions to the nation.
But during this year's commemoration of Chilembwe Day in Chiradzulu on January 15, President Bingu wa Mutharika said his government would not implement promises made by the previous administration.
UDF Deputy Leader in the House Friday Jumbe said on Thursday that if government had put down its foot by not implementing the promise, then his party would table the issue in Parliament.
"I thought development was like a relay race. They had to start from where we stopped. These people did quite a lot for the nation and their families really deserve to be recognised. Any way, my party will take the issue for discussion in Parliament," said Jumbe.
He said it was hypocritical on the part of government to say it would not implement promises of the former administration saying projects such as the mausoleum for the late head of state, Hastings Kamuzu Banda and the Zomba-Jali-Phalombe Road were UDF promises which the Mutharika administration has implemented.
But government spokesperson Patricia Kaliati, in a separate interview, said there was no way government would implement promises of the last regime. She said each administration develops its own agenda and development plans to accomplish.
Kaliati said construction of Kamuzu mausoleum was not for campaign. She said government thought it wise to honour the country's first president.
The minister said UDF was good at making empty promises which it never fulfilled.
Boniface Dulani, Chancellor College-based political analyst, warned government against politicising important promises.
Dulani, however, said it was bad for the UDF to make promises that it never implemented saying it was a lesson for the next government's to desist.
Zambia: Fertile but hungry
By Peter Biles
BBC southern Africa correspondent
As you drive around the Zambian countryside, to the north and south of the capital, Lusaka, it is sometimes difficult to understand why there is a food crisis in this country.
The fields are green, fertile and full of maize. There is also an abundance of water. It has been raining heavily.
These are promising signs for the forthcoming harvest.
However, the food shortages that Zambians are experiencing at present, with more than 1.2m people in need of food assistance this year, stem from the drought in 2004-5.
Like many other countries in sub-Saharan Africa, this is about far more than just poor rainfall.
There are deeper, long-term problems that cause hunger.
For the last five years, Emily Miyanda and her husband, Steve, have run Pamusha Farm, about 15km from Lusaka.
In a near perfect setting, the well-irrigated seven-hectare farm produces maize, cabbages, tomatoes and other vegetables.
"We're employing local workers here and helping the government to secure jobs. But in return, we'd like some government support in buying seeds and fertiliser. That would make life easier," says Emily Miyanda.
Zambian farmers lost out on subsidised agricultural inputs when tough World Bank and International Monetary Fund conditions were imposed.
However, Zambia's Minister of Agriculture Mundia Sikatana admits that more must now be done to help small farmers like the Miyanda family.
"We are giving fertiliser and seeds to 150,000 farmers but that's not enough. It's a drop in the ocean. One million small farmers need assistance," he said.
"We hope to improve on our numbers in this year's budget because it's much cheaper for the country to support the farmer than to import food".
In the meantime, farmers are being urged to diversify and end their over-dependence on maize. Some are turning to sorghum, sweet potatoes and ground nuts.
Mr Sikatana says he would also like to see Zambians growing cassava, a crop much favoured in neighbouring Angola and Democratic Republic of Congo.
In this way, Zambia would have the potential of returning to the days when it was a food exporter.
One problem for farmers is access to markets.
In spite of the fact that the Lusaka skyline lies in the distance, Pamusha Farm can only be reached by several kilometres of poor dirt roads.
"Some of the roads in Zambia are just impassable," says Henry Malumo, co-ordinator of the Global Call To Action Against Poverty.
"The issue of infrastructure is a major one. There's no way you can expect peasant farmers to lift themselves out of poverty when there are such bad roads."
Farming sector decimated
In the rural communities, hunger is directly related to poverty.
At the Kapopo primary school in the Naluyanda district near Lusaka, teacher Gift Shiyanga says that around half the 500 children are not getting enough food.
"They come from families that are poor. They are starving," he says.
Perhaps the biggest cause of food insecurity in southern Africa is the HIV/Aids crisis.
This has decimated the farming sector.
Ninety minutes' drive south of Lusaka is the farming town of Mazabuka.
The Ndeke Community Centre there provides support for those who are chronically ill, most of whom are HIV positive.
Under a thatched rondavel hut, 30-year old Gideon Lungu sits listlessly in the summer heat.
He is suffering from tuberculosis, and like many here, he looks gaunt and weak.
"Most of these people are farmers who can no longer work their fields," says Samuel Banda who works for a local non-governmental organisation called Programme Urban Self Help (Push).
"As a result the season is ending without any farming activity, and there is widespread hunger."
Life expectancy in Zambia has fallen from 50 to 32.
In a country that depends so heavily on agriculture, the loss of so many bread-winners is having a catastrophic effect on the farming sector and on society in general.
Many orphans are now being brought up by grandparents and elderly relatives who struggle to take on the burden of farming.
On the road back to Lusaka, I encounter an afternoon thunderstorm.
For half an hour, the countryside soaks up the torrential rain.
Drought and hunger are synonymous, but the storm is a potent reminder that it is Zambia's long-term developmental needs that must be addressed if people are to escape the hunger trap.
Tanzania's chief of police robbed
The home of Tanzania's police chief Omar Mahita has been burgled in the latest in a spate of armed robberies.
The gang cordoned off the streets, firing their guns into the air outside his private house in the Segerea suburb on the skirts of Dar es Salaam.
Last month, the police launched a shoot-to-kill policy in order to crack down on criminals.
A BBC correspondent says many people have lost faith in the police and have little sympathy for Mr Mahita.
Our correspondent, Vicky Ntetema, says people last week called on him to resign.
Cash worth about $170 was stolen in the daring raid, along with other goods.
Zimbabwe power cuts 'to worsen'
Power cuts already blighting Zimbabwe are set to get worse because of a lack of coal supplies for electricity generators, state-run media reports.
The state electricity provider is also reported to be unable to pay its debts to suppliers and transport companies.
Coal-fired stations in the capital, Harare, and in the second city, Bulawayo, have already been shut down.
Zimbabwe's main overseas power provider South Africa says it has temporarily halted supplies for maintenance work.
"I would like to bring to the attention of all consumers that the current load shedding due to supply shortfall is set to worsen," head of the power regulatory commission, Mavis Chidzonga, was quoted in Zimbabwe's Sunday Mail as saying.
She warned that electricity production at the Hwange facility servicing north-west Zimbabwe may also have to be reduced due to the shortages.
She said the recent coal shortages had been made worse by the state electricity provider's inability to pay its debts to suppliers and transporters.
The government has previously refused to approve inflation-linked hikes in electricity fees.
But Ms Chidzonga said management reforms and massive tariff increases were needed to address what she called the country's "precarious" power situation.
She told the newspaper they were trying to obtain additional supplies from Zambia. But BBC correspondents say this is unlikely as drought is affecting that country's hydro-electric power service.
Harare is already experiencing daily black-outs. The country's regular cuts in power and water supplies are blamed on acute shortages in hard currency, gasoline and imported spare parts.
The country imports around 40% of its power from South Africa, DR Congo and Mozambique.
ADB firm on Karonga-Chitipa road contract
by Zainah Liwanda, 22 May 2006 - 06:09:17
The African Development Bank (ADB) has again rejected a proposal by government to look for another contractor instead of China Hunan Construction to construct of the long awaited Karonga/Chitipa road.
China Hunan from Mainland China won the bid which was approved by the ADB but government later wanted to award the contract to a Portuguese firm, Mota Engil, the second lowest bidder, claiming China Hunan's bid was unrealistically low and that the company had very little experience in Africa.
Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe confirmed on Sunday the ADB rejected the proposal at a meeting held between the bank and Malawi government in Tunisia last week.
The Malawi government wanted the Tunisia meeting to authorise it to get another contractor for the road, said Gondwe.
"They did not allow us to look for another contractor because of their regulations. But we are about to get another alternative for Karonga/Chitipa and I would be surprised if it does not start before end June," said Gondwe.
The minister explained that the bank insisted that regardless of the unrealistic cost estimates, China Hunan should be allowed to go ahead with the construction.
But Gondwe could not give further details about the alternatives, arguing there are still a few loose ends to tighten up before disclosing it.
The problem with China Hunan, according to Gondwe, is that it would require more money to meet the total cost of the project.
This paper reported last week that government met Taiwanese representatives where they offered to fund the road if the ADB continued to reject its favoured contractor, Mota Engil.
Gondwe could neither confirm nor deny the reports on the Taiwanese offer, saying government was looking at a number of ways to handle the issue.
According to Gondwe, the China Hunan's bid was 24 percent lower than the consulting engineers' estimates of K7.9 billion and 34 percent below the second lowest bidder.
President Bingu wa Mutharika laid a foundation stone for the construction of the road this year ahead of a crucial byelection in Chitipa in December last year.
The President's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) won the Chitipa Wenya constituency by-election that fell vacant following the collapse and subsequent death of Speaker of Parliament Rodwell Munyenyembe who belonged to the UDF.
Last week, police and the District Commissioner (DC) for Chitipa stopped a rally that was aimed at soliciting people's views about development projects in the district.
The meeting, which was reportedly organised by Concerned Citizens of Chitipa, was among other things also supposed to tackle the controversial Karonga/Chitipa road.
The project failed to start off in 2000 when a contract for an initial loan of US$17 million and US$15 million from the Taiwanese government was signed, with some quarters claiming the Bakili Muluzi administration diverted the money to another road.
Chihana operated on
by Edwin Nyirongo, 22 May 2006 - 06:32:31
Alliance for Democracy (Aford) president Chakufwa Chihana, who is in South Africa receiving treatment, had a brain operation on Friday at Garden City Clinic, family and party officials confirmed on Sunday.
Aford national chairman Chipimpha Mughogho said he was told by the family members that Chihana had a successful operation on Friday and was put in an intensive care unit.
Mughogho said Chihana, who initially complained of headache, was found with a brain tumour which South African doctors removed.
Mzimba West MP Loveness Gondwe said Aford boss condition was stable.
"Hon. Chihana had a major operation and after that he was put in the intensive care unit but his condition is stable. I do not know where he was operated on but it had something to do with the skull," she said.
Deputy Information Minister John Bande referred the matter to the Health Minister Hetherwick Ntaba who was reported to be in Geneva, Switzerland.
Aford publicity secretary Norman Nyirenda said when Chihana's situation got worse, the family alerted the Office of the President and Cabinet who took him to Mwaiwathu Private Hospital.
"The doctors at Mwaiwathu advised that he should be sent to South Africa and they even identified the doctor for him," he said.
He said the costs are being met by the Malawi government, contradicting his earlier statement that his boss covered the cost.
Mughogho is now in charge of the party.
Gondwe will be a busy person when Parliament starts meeting on June 6 as she is the only Aford MP remaining.
Pillane proposes presidential age limit
by Emmanuel Muwamba , 22 May 2006 - 06:34:13
A member of the DPP National Governing Council Abdul Pillane on Saturday urged members of political parties and the civil society to put an upper age limit in the Constitution for presidential candidates.
Pillane was addressing members of political parties and civil society in Liwonde during a two-day follow up workshop to the National Conference on the Review of Constitution held in March in Lilongwe.
"My view is that (an upper) age limit should be at 75. We have to give a chance to younger people to lead because in circumstance, when you age you become forgetful especially when sickly," said Pillane. "Overall, chances should be given to young people."
But UDF secretary general Kennedy Makwangwala, whose party members agitated for the age limit during presentations, played the issue down.
"I feel there is no logic to have an upper age limit for presidential candidates. If someone is 90 or 80 I don't know how that can influence the electorate not to vote for someone who is younger, I don't see any logic behind that," said Makwangwala.
MCP participants at the workshop also vehemently objected to the proposal.
MCP vice president Nicholas Dausi in an interview said: "There is no constitution in Africa which stipulates an upper age limit. So it would be strange in Malawi to have an upper age limit for presidential candidates."
MDP President Kamlepo Kalua also opposed the need to have an upper age limit.
"If we have personalities in mind that we want to discriminate against then it is unfortunate. The constitution we want to build is a guiding document for future generations and it should not bar certain individuals on the basis of grudges," he said.
The Malawi Law Constitution Issues Paper of March 2006 says several submissions that were received put an upper presidential age limit in the Constitution.
"It is argued that it is common sense that mental knowledge faculties tend to fail with age. As regards what the actual age limit should be the submissions are far from being agreed. The range is from 60 years to 80 years," read submissions in the Issues Paper.
On whether MPs should double as ministers, Kalua said this should be the case.
Makwangwala also said it is not right for MPs to serve as ministers because the Legislature, another arm of government, is reduced while the Executive branch is beefed up from another arm of government.
"There is no separation of powers when MPs double as ministers," said Makwangwala.
But Pillane said there is no problem for MPs to work as ministers as well, saying MPs are elected by the President.
"One can serve both posts. There have been no problems before for people to double," said Pillane.
The Centre for Multiparty Democracy funded the workshop through the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy.
The objective was to come up with a collective position on the Issues Paper which will be presented to the Special Law Commission that will be constituted soon.
Mussa hails new driving licence
by Zainah Liwanda, 22 May 2006 - 06:58:52
Transport and Public Works Minister Henry Mussa last week said the design of the Malawi-Sadc driving licence would guard against forgery and ensure that only skilled and legitimate drivers of particular vehicles are licensed.
Mussa was speaking at the official launch of the licences in Lilongwe where he announced that traffic police would from July enforce speed limits and sober driving using Breathalysers which his ministry is in the process of procuring.
The minister said financial constraints are the reason for the delay in procuring the equipment but assured that by July they would be available.
"With the new equipment, the days of those who believe in the thrill of drink and driving are numbered," warned Mussa.
Mussa added that with the new licence, government is optimistic that the country's roads would be safe.
Acting Director of Road Traffic James Chirwa said the features that distinguish the new from the old licences are the Malawi national flag and a ghost image of the driver's photograph, among others.
Those with old licences, according to Chirwa, are expected to get the new ones after the expiry of the former.
UDF demands investigation on Kasambara
by Rabecca Theu, 22 May 2006 - 06:30:46
The United Democratic Front (UDF) has asked government to investigate Ralph Kasambara on allegations of abuse of office while he was attorney general.
UDF publicity secretary Sam Mpasu told the press Sunday that the party is neither amused or saddened by the removal of the former AG but asked government to institute investigations on Kasambara.
"Beyond the removal of the Attorney General, we now urge President Mutharika to institute investigation against Mr Kasambara into allegations that have made rounds in the public domain during the recent past. These include: Mrs Helen Singh and SS Rent-a-Car; SGS and ITS saga; ...........the use of Malawi Police Service in the arrest of three Chronicle journalists and the handling of Mrs Rubina Kawonga," said Mpasu.
Mpasu also accused Kasambara of awarding government contracts to Lawson and Company where he was a senior partner.
"We urge government to thoroughly investigate the former AG. We also ask government to cautiously select the new AG ," said Mpasu, who was accompanied by the party's Secretary General Kennedy Makwangwala, leader of the party in Parliament George Mtafu, chief whip Leonard Mangulama and a member of the executive Hophmally Makande.
But Minister of Information Patricia Kaliati said UDF should give offer its advice to the Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB).
"They should advise bodies like the Anti-Corruption Bureau to conduct the investigations and why are they saying this now? Is it because Kasambara has been fired? This is not a personal issue. If they have other pressing issues they should just say so. These arguments should have come up earlier on when the said cases were happening," she said.
Kasambara asked UDF to proceed with the mission of urging government to investigate him.
"They can do their job. Everyone has a right to lobby for anything they want in the country. UDF has a right to do that, let them go ahead," he said.
Kasambara was relieved of his duties as AG by the President last week. Government has not given reasons behind the removal.
Zambia: Malawians Grab Zambian Land
The Times of Zambia (Ndola)
May 18, 2006
Posted to the web May 19, 2006
MALAWIANS who have encroached on both the 'no-man's' and part of the Zambian land at the Mwami border in Eastern Province have plucked out some beacons that were used in the demarcation of the border.
The Malawians are now using the beacons as stools in their newly-established villages on Zambian land.
Eastern Province Minister, Boniface Nkhata, said in Chipata yesterday that if the situation was not controlled urgently, Zambia would lose huge tracts of land to Malawians migrating into Zambian in large numbers.
A check at the Zambia-Malawi border showed a number of beacons had been vandalised and new structures constructed on the 'no man's' land and a large portion of Zambian land.
Mr Nkhata said the trend extended to many parts of the province bordering the two countries.
"A large portion of Zambian land has been taken up by the Malawians starting from the Chama boundary up to the Mwami border.
"The weighbridge at the Mwami border was initially in Zambia from the time both countries gained independence from Britain, but now the bridge is on Malawian soil," Mr Nkhata said.
The minister, who is former Chama District Commissioner, said there was similar encroachment in Lundazi and Chama districts where Zambia shares a boundary with Malawi.
He said a Malawian farmer identified as Mr Mfune had cultivated 71.5 hectares on Zambian land and employed about 265 Malawian workers.
"Khombe Farm in Chama district in Kanyerere's area, along the Muyombe road which leads to Northern Province where this Malawian farmer has cultivated a vast land is on the Zambian territory," he said.
Workers on the farm admitted that they were farming on Zambian soil but could not go back to Malawi because the land in that country was inadequate for cultivation.
Mr Nkhata appealed to the ministry of Lands to urgently release money for the demarcation of the Zambia-Malawi border to avoid further land disputes between the two countries.
Meanwhile, the Immigration Department in Livingstone has arrested a couple and another man, all Zimbabweans, for working in Zambia without permits.
They were arrested at Gwembe village yesterday where they worked for Into Africa, a tour operating company that provides bush dinners and breakfast.
According to the Immigration Department in Livingstone, the trio entered Zambia through the Victoria Falls border as visitors but decided to work for the company illegally.
Last week, immigration officers arrested 10 Zimbabwean traders and six Ethiopians for entering and staying in Zambia illegally.
The Zimbabwean traders were warned and cautioned and later released.
The Ethiopians were arrested at Konje Guest House when they ran out of money to proceed to Botswana.
Zim unions, MDC still plan anti-govt protests
22 May 2006 11:51
Zimbabwe's biggest labour federation on Saturday threatened to call massive demonstrations against the government over poor salaries and worsening living conditions for workers in the country.
The threats are ratcheting up pressure against President Robert Mugabe's government after similar threats by the biggest opposition party in the country, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), about two months ago.
Speaking at the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) conference on Saturday, the labour body's president, Lovemore Matombo, said the powerful union wants the government to award workers salaries that match the country's ever-rising inflation.
"I can assure you we will stage massive demonstrations to force them [employers] to award workers minimum salaries that tally with the poverty datum line," said Matombo.
Matombo did not say when exactly the ZCTU would order workers to strike.
Meanwhile, the MDC on Sunday said it will push ahead with plans for anti-government protests, saying victory in a key by-election at the weekend was a "sign the electorate supported its policies", including democratic mass resistance.
A spokesperson of the main faction of the splintered MDC, Nelson Chamisa, said victory over Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF and a rival MDC faction in a Saturday by-election in Harare's Budiriro constituency is a sign Zimbabweans still have confidence in party leader Morgan Tsvangirai and his policies.
Tsvangirai, the founding leader of the MDC, heads the main rump of the opposition party whose candidate, Emmanuel Chisvuure, polled 7 949 votes to win the Budiriro House of Assembly seat.
Gabriel Chaibva of the other faction of the MDC, led by prominent academic Arthur Mutambara, garnered 504 votes while Zanu-PF's Jeremiah Bvirindi polled 3 961 votes.
"This election showed that the electorate still has confidence in the MDC [Tsvangirai-led] leadership and its policies," Chamisa told independent news service ZimOnline.
He added: "We will now move to consolidate our position * we still believe in mass protests. Until we have attained our goals we see no reason why we should abandon [plans for protests]."
Tsvangirai has threatened to call mass protests this winter against Mugabe and his government. He says the mass protests, whose date he is still to name, are meant to force Mugabe to relinquish power to a government of national unity to be tasked to write a new and democratic Constitution that would ensure free and fair elections held under international supervision.
Mugabe and his government, who had hoped for victory in Budiriro to show they were recapturing urban support from a splintered MDC, have not taken idly the opposition's threats to call mass protests, with the veteran president warning Tsvangirai he would be "dicing with death" if he ever attempted to instigate a Ukraine-style popular revolt in Zimbabwe.
In a fresh crackdown against dissension, the police last week arrested several church and civic leaders for organising public prayers and marches to mark last year's controversial home-demolition exercise by the government.
The police also banned the marches and prayers, fearing they could easily turn into mass protests against Mugabe and his government.
However, the marches went ahead in the second-largest city of Bulawayo after organisers had obtained a court order barring the police from stopping the march.
Political analysts say although Zimbabweans have largely been cowed by Mugabe's tactics of routinely deploying riot police and the military to crush street protests, worsening hunger and poverty are fanning public anger that Tsvangirai -- with proper planning and organisation -- could easily manipulate.
Zimbabwe is in the grip of a severe six-year old economic crisis that has seen inflation breaching the 1 000% barrier. Last year, the World Bank said Zimbabwe's economic crisis was unprecedented for a country not at war.
The MDC and major Western governments blame Mugabe for wrecking the country's economy, which was one of the strongest in Africa at independence from Britain 26 years ago.
Mugabe denies the charge blaming the crisis on sabotage by Britain and her allies after he seized white-owned farms for redistribution to landless blacks six years ago.
The Harare authorities recently hiked salaries for civil servants, with the lowest-paid soldier now earning about Z$27-million while the lowest-paid school teacher now takes home about Z$33-million.
But the salaries are still way below the poverty datum line, which the government's Consumer Council of Zimbabwe says now stands at a staggering Z$42-million a month for an average family of six.
The Zimbabwe government often accuses the ZCTU, a strong ally of the MDC, of pushing a political agenda to remove Mugabe from power.
Meanwhile, Matombo and Lucia Matibenga retained their posts as president and first vice-president respectively during the ZCTU congress that ended on Saturday. -- ZimOnline