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  • Christine Chumbler
    People affected by HIV, Aids least heard*study by Nation Reporter, 05 May 2006 - 06:37:05 HIV and Aids in Southern Africa is under-reported, the voices of
    Message 1 of 1046 , May 5, 2006
      People affected by HIV, Aids least heard*study
      by Nation Reporter, 05 May 2006 - 06:37:05
      HIV and Aids in Southern Africa is under-reported, the voices of those most affected are least heard, and the gender dimensions of the pandemic are not well reflected, the HIV/Aids and Gender Baseline Study has revealed .
      The study, which was conducted by Gender Links and the Media Monitoring Project and released on World Press Freedom Day on Wednesday, covered 118 media houses in 11 Sadc countries.
      The study monitored over 37 000 news items over one month in 2005. It found that only 3% of all the items focused on, or mentioned, the pandemic. This varied from 19% in Lesotho, to only 1% in Mauritius and 2% in South Africa, which has the largest number of people living with HIV and Aids globally, estimated at over 5 million.
      People living with HIV and Aids (PLHIV) constituted a mere 4% of all sources, compared to 42% of government officials and officials representing international organisations. PLHIV were most often used as sources in Swaziland (10%), Tanzania (7%) and South Africa (6%).
      Here in Malawi, no PLHIV were used as sources in the period under review.
      "Despite the disproportionate burden of the pandemic borne by women, who constitute the highest proportion of those living with HIV as well as provide most of the care, women constitute only 39% of sources overall. Men's voices dominate in all topic categories, except for care," reads part of the study.
      The study further noted that the gender dimensions and major drivers of the pandemic are not well reported on.
      "Although the bulk of the coverage (40%) centred on prevention, sexual power relations, mother to child transmission, intergenerational sex, gender based violence and cultural practices as sub-topics, prevention received limited coverage.
      "Care and support received a mere 16% of total coverage, reinforcing the general tendency in society to take women's work for granted. Within this topic category, orphans and vulnerable children received the greatest attention, with home-based care receiving only minimal mention," the study says.
      On the positive side, the report found that there have been a number of improvements in media reporting. These include fewer blatant stereotypes (10%) and increased sensitivity to language. Feature stories on HIV and Aids are higher (10%) than in general coverage (5%) and that a high number of stories are original stories produced or added to by newsroom journalists.
      The research showed that in Southern Africa, there are more women journalists reporting on HIV (45%) than in most other beats and in most instances women journalists were more likely to access female sources.


      Veep's arrest creates leadership confusion in UDF
      by Juliet Chimwaga, 05 May 2006 - 06:05:55
      The arrest of Vice-President Cassim Chilumpha, who is also UDF acting chairman, has created leadership confusion in the party which is failing to identify his temporary replacement.
      The party's spokesperson Sam Mpasu said the chairmanship is being rotated among himself, secretary general Kennedy Makwangwala and the party's director of economic affairs Friday Jumbe.
      "[Since the arrests] we have been having Nec meetings and sometimes it is the secretary general Hon. [Kennedy] Makwangwala who chairs, myself or Hon [Friday] Jumbe who is the party's director of economic affairs," said Mpasu.
      Chilumpha was acting on behalf of UDF chair Bakili Muluzi who is currently in the United Kingdom for medical treatment.
      Mpasu claimed the arrests of Chilumpha and others have no effect on the party.
      "There isn't really an adverse effect because usually deputies take over," said Mpasu citing the taking over of the party's leadership in the South by Abubakar Mbaya when John Chikakwiya was arrested as an example. "In fact, this is not the first time our officials are getting arrested; it doesn't mean the party is finished," he said.
      Mpasu described the arrests as "a desperate move by a desperate man who is leading a desperate government".
      "The government is actually afraid of UDF to the extent of fabricating charges against innocent people," said Mpasu.
      Ten more UDF officials and supporters were arrested on Wednesday in connection with Chilumpha's treason case.
      Mbaya and the party's regional secretary McDonald Symon were also arrested on the same treason charge early this year.
      But Mbaya was released by the High Court which ruled he had no case to answer. Symon is still on remand answering a sedition charge.
      Chilumpha was arrested last Friday together with Rashid Nembo and Yusuf Matumula.


      Mugabe defends Malawi road naming

      Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe has cut the ribbon on a major road named after him in Malawi.
      He said local human rights groups who opposed honouring him in this way were "working for white masters".

      Malawi's President Bingu wa Mutharika hailed Mr Mugabe as a "true son of Africa" at a lavish ceremony surrounded by tight security to deter protests.

      The road from Malawi to Mozambique used funds from the European Union, which has put a travel ban on Mr Mugabe.

      The EU and the US have imposed sanctions on Mr Mugabe and his associates, saying that elections since 2000 had been marred by fraud and violence against the opposition.

      On his arrival in Malawi, President Mugabe said he was following in the footsteps of great African "freedom fighters", such as former Malawi President Kamuzu Banda and Ghana's Kwame Nkrumah.

      Banda was one of the few African leaders to have good relations with South Africa's apartheid government and was accused of widespread human rights abuses.

      "Mugabe is 200% African, he does not belong in Europe, he is not British, he is not American," Mr Mugabe said at the road's naming ceremony.

      'True democrat'

      Desmond Kaunda, chairman of the Council for Non-Governmental Organisations, said Malawi should not be honouring Mr Mugabe.

      "The enjoyment of civil liberties in Zimbabwe is seriously eroded by the existence of restrictive legislation... and the curtailment of civil liberties," he told Reuters news agency.

      Earlier, President Mutharika praised Mr Mugabe as a "true democrat".

      "How can anybody say Mugabe is a sworn enemy of democracy?" he asked

      "The first known government of national unity in Africa was initiated by Robert Mugabe in 1980."

      Mr Mutharika's wife, Ethel, is Zimbabwean.

      The BBC's Raphael Tenthani found that most patrons of a bar on the Midima Highway had nothing against the road's new name: Robert Mugabe Highway.

      "We need to honour African leaders," one man said.

      "Mugabe needs to be honoured as a freedom fighter," said another.


      The road, linking Blantyre to Mozambique and its Indian Ocean ports, is a route for trade in and out of Malawi and for foreign food aid.

      It was for this reason that the EU funded its multi-million dollar expansion.

      The BBC's David Bamford says the renaming after President Mugabe has created a furore at the EU headquarters in Brussels as well as among Malawian organisations.

      Opposition Malawi Democratic Party leader Kamlepo Kalua also said it would be inappropriate to honour the Zimbabwean leader personally.

      "It would be a serious oversight to decorate and honour a leader who is classified as an outright dictator," he told the Malawian Sunday Times.

      "We can't have a leader who is demolishing people's houses without giving alternatives, using the intelligence and the army to arrest political opponents, honoured here."

      Mr Kalua has since been arrested for his role in an alleged plot by Vice-President Cassim Chilumpha to topple President Mutahrika.

      The Malawi government says the naming was in gratitude for Zimbabwe's job opportunities for Malawian workers.

      However, many thousands of farm workers who have lost their jobs in Zimbabwe's controversial land reform programme are of Malawian origin.

      Mr Mugabe, in power since 1980, last year oversaw an urban demolition campaign in which 700,000 people lost their homes, according to the United Nations, and many of those left homeless were dumped in rural areas.


      Zim minister: White farmers not invited back

      Harare, Zimbabwe

      05 May 2006 01:19

      A Cabinet minister in Zimbabwe has categorically denied the government is inviting white farmers dispossessed during the controversial land reform campaign back to their farms, it was reported here on Friday.

      "No white farmer is being invited back," State Security Minister Didymus Mutasa told the privately-owned Zimbabwe Independent newspaper.

      The minister, one of the most senior in President Robert Mugabe's government, said reports that the authorities were backtracking on the land reform programme, launched to international criticism in 2000, were wrong

      "They are lying. I have never spoken to any foreign journalist and all their claims are wrong," Mutasa was quoted as saying.

      There has been confusion over claims the authorities, worried by the downturn in agricultural production, might be considering inviting back white farmers. Several press reports have said that
      white farmers are applying for leases to rent back their land from the state.

      Mutasa said that white farmers still on their land were being told to apply for leases because in some cases the government wanted to cut down their farm sizes.

      "If the state considers that the farm is too big then it is going to be reduced ... That is what is happening," he said.

      About 4 000 white commercial farmers used to own most of Zimbabwe's most fertile land before 1999. Now most have been replaced by new black farmers and there are only a few hundred white farmers left on the land.

      "We hope that these white farmers will refrain from doing agriculture in a political way; they must just be farmers and resist from politics on the land," Mutasa told the Independent.

      White farmers stoked the ire of Mugabe because in many cases they were believed to be supporters of the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change. -- Sapa-dpa


      Zim police arrest 100 women in school-fees protest

      Angus Shaw | Harare, Zimbabwe

      05 May 2006 01:53

      About 100 women who had protested massive increases in school fees were being held by police on Friday, police and organisers of the protest said.

      The protesters were arrested in the second city of Bulawayo where they marched eight blocks to government education offices on Thursday to demand the lowering of school fees.

      The organisers, a militant women's group known as Women of Zimbabwe Arise (Woza), said 73 schoolchildren were briefly detained before being released to lawyers and parents. Many of the children, aged between seven and 18, wore school uniforms.

      "This may have been the last time the children will be able to wear uniform as they may not return to school next week," the women's group said in a statement.

      Zimbabwe schools reopen on Tuesday after the Easter break. Fees at most state schools have more than doubled for the new term after the government last week nearly trebled the salaries of teachers,
      police and soldiers.

      Children are not admitted to class if fees have not been paid in advance.

      Earlier this week, education authorities said fees were being hiked to help meet soaring costs, including teachers salaries, as the nation faces rampant inflation, officially at 913% the
      highest in the world.

      Some junior day schools doubled their charges to about Z$5-million ($50) while new charges at state boarding schools ranged between Z$20-million and Z$100-million ($200 and $1 000) a term.

      Smaller increases in the past year have led to a jump in absenteeism and some families have admitted keeping girls at home to help with household chores and sending only boys to school.

      The government faces mounting discontent over economic hardships. The main opposition Movement for Democratic Change has called for mass street protests against President Robert Mugabe's authoritarian rule -- and police and security officials were among those recently granted raises.

      Woza has repeatedly defied a ban on public demonstrations under the nation's sweeping security laws.

      Scores of women were detained after staging a Valentine's Day protest on February 14 in which they distributed red roses and called for an easing of the harsh security laws. Others have been arrested for banging empty cooking pots to protest food shortages. -- 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

        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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