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  • Christine Chumbler
    Mbaya, Symon face two counts each by Olivia Kumwenda, 07 February 2006 - 05:05:10 United Democratic Front (UDF) deputy regional governor (South) Abubakar Mbaya
    Message 1 of 1046 , Feb 7, 2006
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      Mbaya, Symon face two counts each
      by Olivia Kumwenda, 07 February 2006 - 05:05:10
      United Democratic Front (UDF) deputy regional governor (South) Abubakar Mbaya and regional secretary Macdonald Symon who were arrested last month on allegations bordering on treason are facing two counts each, a charge sheet submitted to the court has indicated.
      The two appeared before the High Court in Blantyre on Monday to take a plea on the charges submitted by Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) Ishmael Wadi.
      But the two failed to enter the plea after their lawyers argued that the particulars of the first count which is on treason contrary to Section 38 (1) (a) of the penal code are inadequate.
      The particulars of the offence indicate that the two between 30th December 2005 and 13th January 2006 at the UDF Head office in Limbe with other unknown persons conspired to overthrow a lawfully constituted Government of the Republic of Malawi.
      "A proper charge would mention the method the accused were going to use to overthrow the government, for example recruiting people or organising firearms. The charge sheet should be amended to explain the method before the accused take a plea, the accused should be well aware of the offence they are answering," said Joseph Kamkwasi, one of the lawyers representing Mbaya.
      In response Wadi argued that the counts capture the essential elements of the offence and that further particulars will come in the opening statements which will be more illustrative.
      "It is sufficient to say the accused wanted to overthrow government through the use of force. As to how that force was intended to be used is a matter of evidence which will be raised by witnesses," said Wadi.
      But John Gift Mwakhwawa, who is representing Symon, argued that witness statements are never part of the charge sheet saying, "the issue of particulars is not a matter of evidence as submitted by the DPP, evidence only goes to support the particulars."
      Apart from the treason charge both Mbaya, who is also Mangochi East MP and Symon, face sedition charges but with different particulars.
      Symon faces sedition contrary to Section 51 (2) as read with Section 50 (1) of the penal code. The particulars of the offence indicate that Symon uttered a seditious speech expressly stating that the UDF party had procured the removal of President Bingu wa Mutharika other than by lawful means.
      And Mbaya sedition charge is contrary to Section 51 (2) as read with Section 50 (1) (b) of the penal code. The particulars of the offence indicate that Mbaya uttered a seditious speech that anyone hesitating or in disagreement with the finalised plans by the UDF party remove Mutharika other than by the lawful means should quit the party forthwith.
      In his ruling Justice Healey Potani ordered the DPP to amend the first count as prayed for by the defence counsel but said he sees no problem with the other counts.
      The defence counsels then applied for bail for their clients.
      Mbaya was denied bail by the same court two weeks.
      The case has since been adjourned to Friday, 10th February 2006 for hearing and ruling on the bail application.
      According to courts record, an affidavit filed earlier by the State Prosecutor Allan Ntata indicate that on 13th January 2006, a news broadcast by Radio 101 FM revealed that a plot had been hatched by the UDF party to remove the President through use of force by mobilising 4,000 young democrats from each constituency.

      *****

      New system to flush out bogus Aids organisations
      by George Ntonya, 07 February 2006 - 07:41:54
      The National Aids Commission (Nac) and its stakeholders are set to adopt a new system of assessment that is expected to expose people who have been forming HIV and Aids organisations for personal benefits.
      Nkhata Bay District Commissioner Moses Chimphepo presented the proposed system of assessment at a meeting Nac organised in Lilongwe on Friday to discuss lessons the Malawi delegation learnt at a recent International Conference on Aids and Sexually Transmitted Diseases (Icasa) held in Abuja, Nigeria.
      Chimphepo said that the number of organisations undertaking HIV and Aids activities continues to grow in the country yet some of these organisations are run single-handedly by "the so called executive directors."
      He said: "In Malawi, we have several CBO (Community Based Organisations) / FBO (Faith Based Organisations) undertaking HIV/Aids activities. However, most of these do not have the required capacity or are not community based in the true sense."
      Chimphepo said if the proposed system is adopted, the bogus CBOs and FBOs would be flushed out.
      CBO stands for Community-Based Organisations while FBO is an abbreviation for Faith-Based Organisation.
      Nac is disbursing millions of kwacha to community-based organisations to help them participate effectively in the fight against HIV and Aids.
      Besides exposing bogus organisations, the proposed system would also enable Nac and district assemblies to easily assess the needs of genuine organisations and help build their capacity.
      The proposed system would require the organisations to provide information about their programme, areas where they operate, their mission and values, staff and structure, among others.
      The meeting also discussed recent advances in HIV and Aids, the role of traditional health system, needs assessment of people living with HIV and Aids as well as mainstreaming HIV and Aids in local authorities.
      Nac sponsored 15 people to attend the Icasa, which took place in December 2005 and brought together scientists, sociologists, activists and others from different countries in the world.

      *****

      Air traffic controllers close airport towers
      by George Ntonya and Aubrey Mchulu, 07 February 2006 - 05:11:40
      A South African Airways aircraft was forced to remain airborne for about 40 minutes on Monday afternoon because air traffic controllers at Kamuzu International Airport (Kia) were out of the control room in an effort to force government improve their package.
      "That is indeed true. Instead of landing at 12.35 pm it [the aircraft] landed at 13.19pm," acting director of civil aviation in the Ministry of Transport and Public Works Justin Mkandawire said in a telephone interview on Monday.
      Air traffic controllers at Kamuzu and Chileka International Airports have agreed to close the control towers during lunch hour, after 5pm and on public holidays because the government has not been able to fulfil its promise to upgrade their position and give them professional and duty allowances.
      Air traffic controllers, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said they asked for a better package last year and the government promised to effect the changes.
      "But up to now nothing has happened. Because of this we have decided to work just like any other civil servant. We'll operate from 7.30am to 12pm and from 1pm to 5pm," said one of the air traffic controllers at Kia. "We'll not work on public holidays unless our grievances are addressed."
      Aircrafts cannot land or take off without the air traffic controllers unless at the airline's own risk.
      Mkandawire said that a meeting the Ministry of Transport convened to discuss the issue failed to come up with an immediate solution because the Ministry of Finance and the Department of Human Resource Management and Development have to look at the implications of the demands by the air traffic controllers.
      He said that as part of the civil service, the Department of Civil Aviation alone cannot address the demands.
      "We haven't actually resolved the issue. We are looking at the options available to us," Mkandawire said adding that it was unfortunate that the South African Airways (SAA) aircraft had remained in the air for long.
      He said that his department would send a "notice to airmen" informing them of the development so that they can adjust their schedules while they are addressing the concerns of the air traffic controllers.
      Mkandawire also admitted that this development is likely to result in loss of revenue because "aviation is a catalyst for the development of any economy."
      "The losses to the economy can be huge. That is why we are negotiating with our colleagues to come up with a solution," he said.
      The government, with funding from the World Bank, instituted a study to see whether it was necessary to commercialise civil aviation services by establishing a quasi-government Civil Aviation Authority (DCA).
      This, Mkandawire added, will ensure better packages for the new body's employees.
      "Most governments worldwide have delinked civil aviation," said Mkandawire.
      Air Malawi Marketing Manager Henry Najira confirmed on Monday that DCA wrote all airlines operating in the country informing them about the development and its implications.
      "This is beyond our control and there will be some disruptions to the normal flight schedules. This also means no plane can land or take off before 7.30 am or during lunch-time and after 5 pm because we can't navigate without the Civil Aviation," he said.
      Najira said the disruption has affected all airlines operating in the country among them Air Malawi, Kenya Airways, Ethiopian Airlines and South African Airways.
      Najira said Air Malawi's shoppers' flight from Blantyre to Johannesburg whose scheduled departure time is 6 am every Tuesday might leave around 7.30 am if the grievances are not resolved.
      But Najira was non-committal on what would happen to the return flight which arrives around 9.40 pm from Johannesburg.
      SAA officials refused to comment on their flight's delayed landing due to the go-slow.

      *****

      Chipimpha to verify Chihana's status
      by Edwin Nyirongo, 07 February 2006 - 05:14:14
      Alliance for Democracy (Aford) national chairman Morton Chipimpha Mughogho says he wants to meet the party's president Chakufwa Chihana to verify reports that he is retiring from politics.
      Mughogho said this in reaction to press reports that Chihana, who has led Aford since its formation in the early 1990s, plans to quit politics and concentrate on writing memoirs on his rough political journey which saw him locked in many prison cells during the 31 years*from 1964 to 1994*of former president Kamuzu Banda's one party rule.
      Two weeks ago Weekend Nation quoted Chihana's close relation as saying that he was almost hiding at his residence in Mzuzu compiling notes for a book an American friend has expressed interest to publish.
      In the report, Chihana's son, Enock, confirmed that the family was currently looking at the matter seriously saying everybody felt it was time he concentrated on the book and his Rumphi Central MP.
      Mughogho said he has not been briefed on the alleged decision by his boss to retire from politics.
      "Surely, I have been taken by surprise on the move because Chihana himself has never told me anything regarding his retirement. I will meet him on Wednesday [tomorrow] and get the whole truth," he said.
      Mughogho admitted that time has passed since he spoke to Chihana but said that could not be automatically interpreted to mean he had left politics.
      Asked how the party's image could be without Chihana, Mughogho said he would only comment after talking to the party president.
      Meanwhile, Aford has said the much expected meeting aimed at finding the way forward in the wake of its dwindling popularity has been shifted to April.
      Mughogho said they needed more consultation and more money because what would be discussed would shape the future of the party.
      Aford, which had 33 MPs in 1994 won 16 in 1999 and six in 2004.
      Currently, Aford only remains with two of the six seats won in the May 2004 general elections i.e. one occupied by Chihana and the other by Loveness Gondwe in Mzimba West.
    • 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.

        Crackdown

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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