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  • Christine Chumbler
    Chilumpha defiant by Mabvuto Banda, 09 March 2006 - 05:53:00 Cassim Chilumpha on Wednesday maintained he is still Vice-President of the country because he
    Message 1 of 1046 , Mar 9, 2006
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      Chilumpha defiant
      by Mabvuto Banda, 09 March 2006 - 05:53:00
      Cassim Chilumpha on Wednesday maintained he is still Vice-President of the country because he cannot allow a "bunch of 20 people with no constitutional mandate" to remove him after the Supreme Court of Appeal clarified its earlier ruling to mean that he is still VP.
      "I will not resign because I was elected by the people of Malawi and as long as the people of Malawi don't tell me in a constitutional way to leave, I am not going to leave. I was not elected by government or Cabinet. I was elected together with the President by the people of Malawi," said Chilumpha at Mudi House in Blantyre during a press conference.
      He accused government of deliberately misleading the public that Tuesday's Supreme Court Judge Isaac Mtambo ruling effectively quashed the earlier lower court's ruling that reinstated him as Vice-President.
      Justice Mtambo sat again Wednesday and clarified his Tuesday ruling, saying it did not mean Chilumpha is no longer Vice-President as government was propagating.
      "The order of this court made on 7th March, 2006 does not vacate the inter partes order of interlocutory injunction and mandatory injunction granted by the High Court on March 1, 2006. The said injunction orders of March 1, 2006 will still apply unless and until reversed," Mtambo said.
      In his March 1, 2006 ruling, High Court Judge Anaclet Chipeta had reinstated Chilumpha and ordered government to pay legal costs and restore his entitlements.
      Flanked by one of his lawyers, Viva Nyimba, Chilumpha said the constitution provides for a way to remove him and not by individuals with no mandate.
      "If government believes I have done something unconstitutional they should take the matter to Parliament and should Parliament decide according to the requirement of the Constitution that I leave, at that point I will actually not even ask Counsel Nyimba to go to court. I [will] actually pack up my bags and go because as a person I would have known that the people of Malawi have spoken.
      "But as long as it is 20 individuals who have no constitutional mandate, sitting somewhere, no! That is not enough!" said Chilumpha.
      Nyimba explained that Justice Mtambo's ruling was specifically on stopping the enforcement of the orders to restore the Vice-President's entitlements which had been taken away.
      Minister of Justice Henry Phoya and several other ministers on Wednesday interpreted the ruling as meaning that the Supreme Court had declared that Chilumpha is not Vice-President. Phoya was quoted on Zodiak Radio as saying the order means Chilumpha is not VP until the courts dispose of the matter.
      Government's interpretation of the ruling was described by Chilumpha as a deliberate attempt to mislead the masses and another example of their continued defiance of the rule of law.


      Muluzi well, says Mpasu
      by Olivia Kumwenda, 09 March 2006 - 06:06:36
      Former State President Bakili Muluzi who was operated on in the United Kingdom (UK) recently is now well, his spokesperson Sam Mpasu said on Wednesday.
      Muluzi underwent a major operation in January this year to replace four prolapsed discs on his spinal column which caused a shock-like pain in his left leg.
      His son, Atupele, said end last month his father was still unwell as affected nerves had not healed and that doctors who operated on him had recommended that he should remain in the UK for constant monitoring before certifying him fit to return home.
      The young Muluzi could not be reached this week to comment on his father's progress but Mpasu said Muluzi is doing very well.
      "The pain is gone, the only thing that is holding him there is physiotherapy. He has to exercise his muscles," said Mpasu.
      He said doctors are "very pleased with his progress" but it is not known when they will certify him fit to return home.
      Information and Tourism Minister Patricia Kaliati said in January government will spend about K6.5 milli50,000on (US $) on Muluzi air tickets, medical bills and allowances.


      Mangochi floods victims are destitute
      by Emmanuel Muwamba, 09 March 2006 - 06:04:04
      Flood victims in Mangochi have not received any humanitarian assistance four days after the calamity struck. This is despite the fact the victims have lost everything.
      Mangochi Director for Planning and Development Harry Chipeni said over 500 households have lost their houses and the people are living in mosques and schools.
      The most affected area is that of T/A Mponda where water is still running where they were no rivers and maize crops are under water. He also said that the figure of the needy people is rising daily.
      Village Headman Sadik, who is now based at St. Francis Roman Catholic Hall with 86 households, said he fears for an outbreak of cholera because people have only two toilets and no further sanitation facility.
      Sadik said most people have been without food for three days and have no clothes.
      But Chipeni could not say the estimates of the hectare that has been affected by floods saying officials from Ministry of Agriculture had just gone to the field to gather data.
      Annie Aliseni, whose house collapsed and rescued nothing from it, said she saw water coming from the hillside and the whole village was asked to vacate to higher grounds at about 5 am.
      "It was not easy to take anything out from the house. What we managed to take out were children only and not property. Everything went with water," she said.
      Margaret Mapanga explained that her house collapsed at about 10 pm on Sunday when water burst the banks of nearby Namingundi River, whose key bridge has also been swept off by the floods.
      Member of Parliament for Mangochi Central Clement Chiwaya, whose constituency has been hardly hit by floods, has blamed government for delaying in assisting the people.
      Chiwaya said the calamity is serious and people need immediate assistance like tents, food and other necessities.
      "But I am surprised that it's four days now since the floods hit Mangochi but up to now no assistance has come to the people.
      "I just hope there is no political connection to punish people because they are not supporting the government. I have been providing food to the people but I can't manage to feed them all," said Chiwaya, who was compiling a list of people whose houses have collapsed.
      At about 5 pm yesterday contractors Mkaka Civil Engineering were finalising the filling in of the 5-metre washed away area.
      There has been no relief effort in areas The Nation visited yesterday apart from chlorine provided at St. Francis Mponda Health Centre.


      Malawian Firms Dump Zim for Mozambique

      Financial Gazette (Harare)

      March 8, 2006
      Posted to the web March 9, 2006


      DIFFICULTIES in repatriating foreign currency from Zimbabwe have prompted Malawian businesses to turn to Mozambique for trade opportunities and a new bilateral agreement should boost these prospects, a senior Malawi trade official says.

      "The problem of foreign exchange repatriation in Zimbabwe has created an opportunity for most Malawian business people to resort to trading with Mozambique instead of Zimbabwe," said Harrison Mandindi, acting director of trade in Malawi's Ministry of Trade and Private Sector Development.

      Zimbabwe -- once southern Africa's breadbasket -- is slowly turning into a trade pariah as most of its neighbours look to South Africa and elsewhere for market opportunities due to Harare's worsening economic crisis which analysts blame on President Robert Mugabe's unpopular policy stance with Western donors.

      Mandindi urged implementing agencies to speed up the process of formalising requirements of the new pact, saying this was the opportune time for the private sector to make the most out of the agreement.

      He said the trade pact with Mozambique provided for duty- and quota-free treatment and removal of non-tariff barriers on all products from the two neighbouring states based on certificates of origin.

      Mandindi said the need to conclude the agreement had been necessitated by increased demand for Malawian products in Mozambique and the new government's policy of turning Malawi into a mass exporter.

      He said the agreement was expected to stimulate trade and boost crossborder and foreign direct investment between the two countries and provide a gateway for exports from landlocked Malawi.

      Mozambique has port facilities on the Indian Ocean.

      The Malawi-Mozambique bilateral trade agreement supersedes the 1959 customs agreement signed between Portugal and the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland.

      Portugal is the former colonial master of Mozambique, formerly known as Portuguese East Africa.

      Under the pact, all goods except those excluded from the preferential treatment list will be required to satisfy the 60 percent local content in line with rules of origin and a 25 percent allowance for value addition.

      Items excluded from the preferential treatment list are sugar, beer, petroleum products, table eggs, dressed chickens, explosives, firearms, refined cooking oil, manufactured tobacco and Coca-Cola and Schweppes-branded drinks. -- Nation


      MDC denies links to arms cache in Zim

      Angus Shaw | Harare, Zimbabwe

      08 March 2006 03:29

      Police discovered a weapons cache in eastern Zimbabwe and linked it to a little-known group that state radio identified on Wednesday as the military wing of the main opposition party.

      Nelson Chamisa, a spokesperson for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) rejected allegations it was linked to an armed group.

      The weapons, including automatic rifles, submachine guns, tear gas and military radio equipment were allegedly stored by a white former army officer, identified as Michael Hitschmann, who the radio said claimed to be a member of the Zimbabwe Freedom Movement.

      Attorney Tafadzwa Mugabe said lawyers were trying to see Hitschmann and six others on Wednesday, including at least two MDC supporters, arrested in connection with the cache in the eastern border city of Mutare, 260km east of Harare, where the weapons were found.

      It was not clear when the six others were arrested. State radio said Hitschmann was arrested late on Monday in Mutare.

      British-based human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell announced the formation of the Zimbabwe Freedom Movement, which he called an armed rebel movement, at a 2003 news conference in London. Tatchell said he had no connection with the group and was only acting as its messenger.

      Tatchell also said the group, which has not been heard from since the 2003 news conference, had no connection to the MDC and received no aid from outside Zimbabwe.

      The MDC has repeatedly denied recruiting insurgents or plotting violent action against the government.

      "We are a legitimate democratic political party. We don't draw legitimacy from the barrel of a gun," spokesman Chamisa said Wednesday.

      The MDC was once seen as posing a significant threat to an increasingly autocratic President Robert Mugabe, but in recent months has been weakened by internal disputes that resulted in a split.

      State radio said Hitschmann alleged the military wing of the opposition was co-ordinated by former lawmakers Roy Bennett and Giles Musekwa, a former army major.

      In Harare, Bennett denied any links with the alleged military group. Musekwa was unavailable for comment, but there were no reports of his arrest, Chamisa said.

      Both Hitschmann and Musekwa served in the military of Rhodesia, as Zimbabwe was known before independence in 1980.

      The radio said the cache contained five automatic rifles, seven Uzi submachine guns, 11 shotguns, three silencers, a selection of hand guns, thousands of rounds of ammunition, 15 tear-gas canisters, 20 flares, four telescopic sights and communications equipment.

      Tatchell said at the London news conference announcing the formation of the Zimbabwe Freedom Movement that the group aimed to overthrow Mugabe and then to put him on trial. He said the group hoped to slowly build support among the country's security forces so it could seize the president and trigger a "bloodless democratic revolution".

      He also said the group consisted primarily of serving members of the Zimbabwean armed forces, police and intelligence services.

      Chris Mullin, then Britain's minister for Africa, said at the time that he believed members of the movement had informally approached British authorities and had been told "very firmly" that Britain would have nothing to do with their project. -- Sapa-AP
    • Christine Chumbler
      ADB firm on Karonga-Chitipa road contract by Zainah Liwanda, 22 May 2006 - 06:09:17 The African Development Bank (ADB) has again rejected a proposal by
      Message 1046 of 1046 , May 22, 2006
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        ADB firm on Karonga-Chitipa road contract

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


        Chihana operated on

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

        Mughogho is now in charge of the party.

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


        Pillane proposes presidential age limit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


        Mussa hails new driving licence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


        UDF demands investigation on Kasambara

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


        Zambia: Malawians Grab Zambian Land

        The Times of Zambia (Ndola)

        May 18, 2006

        Posted to the web May 19, 2006

        Andrew Lungu


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

        The Zimbabwean traders were warned and cautioned and later released.

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



        Zim unions, MDC still plan anti-govt protests

        Harare, Zimbabwe

        22 May 2006 11:51

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

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

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

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

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

        Opposition protests

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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