Africa childbirth deaths 'unacceptable'
African women are 175 times more likely to die in childbirth than
Westerners, a UN report says.
Overall, African woman have a one in 16 chance of dying in child birth
- but the report says many deaths could be avoided.
Unicef Executive Director Carol Bellamy desribed said the figures
showed an "unacceptably high number of women dying in childbirth" and
called for increased access to emergency obsteric care.
Many women deliver their children alone or with untrained attendants,
says the report.
In 2000 95% of the 529,000 maternal deaths occured in Africa and Asia.
The report calls for more women to have access to a skilled health
worker during pregnancy and labour, and access to emergency medical care
when complications arise.
It says most maternal deaths and disability result from delays in
recognising complications, reaching a medical facility or receiving
Lee Jong-wook, director-general of the World Health Organization, said:
"Skilled attendants are vital because they can recognise and prevent
The report is the first time a new analytical technique has been used
to estimate the number of maternal deaths in countries where accurate
figures are hard to come by.
It shows that in the year 2000, the death rate among mothers per
100,000 live births was 920 in sub-Saharan Africa.
In developed countries it was just 20. In south central Asia it was
520, and in southeastern Asia 210.
The two countries with the worst record were Sierra Leone and
Afghanistan, both suffering from years of civil strife, where the risk
of death among pregnant women was one in six.
In Angola, Malawi and Niger, it was one in seven.
Japanese women have an only one in 6,000 chance of dying in pregnancy
In 2000, world leaders agreed to slash the numer of maternal deaths by
75% by 2015.
Three UN agencies - World Health Organisation, the UNICEF children's
agency, and the UN Population Fund - collaborated on the report.
Chance of maternal death
Sierra Leone, Afghanistan: one in six
Angola, Malawi, Niger: one in seven
Nepal: one in 24
Pakistan: one in 31
India: one in 48
Malaysia: one in 660
China: one in 830
US: one in 2,500
South Korea: one in 2,800
Britain: one in 3,300
Japan: one in 6,000
Sweden: one in 29,800
Zimbabwe admits land 'chaos'
Less than half the number of supposed beneficiaries have been resettled
under Zimbabwe's land reform programme, an official report says.
The government has previously said that 300,000 black farmers had been
given land seized from whites in the past three years.
But a report prepared by Charles Utete, a close ally of President
Robert Mugabe, puts the figure at 127,192, according to leaks in two
The report also said that bureaucratic failings and political
interference had hindered the process.
One part of the land reform programme was meant to create 50,000 black
commercial farmers but just 7,260 families have been given land under
this scheme, according to the privately-owned Financial Gazette.
Zimbabwe is experiencing economic meltdown, with shortages of basic
foods, petrol and even banknotes and inflation reaching 455%.
Government critics blame this on the disruption of the land reform
programme to agriculture.
Mr Mugabe blames a plot by western powers opposed to his reforms.
The government has seized some 8.6m hectares of land on 4,324 farms,
the report says.
It says that 1,323 white farmers remained on their land - far above the
400 estimated by their representatives.
Although the government published clear and well-defined criteria for
who would lose their farms - absentee landowners, those who had multiple
properties, those near already black areas - the lists of seized farms
often did not respect these.
Even some properties already belonging to the state were listed for
Many of those properties seized had previously been given a
certificate, saying that the state did not want to acquire them, the
"Many of these (properties) would, not infrequently, then be delisted
via the same Government Gazette and the same newspapers in which they
had been listed in the first place," the report says.
These failings have resulted in many of the white farmers who have lost
their land appealing to the courts.
"As the committee went about its work, it could not fail to be struck
by the number and the variety of legal issues that still required a
resolution," the report said.
Zim group demands new constitution
Wilson Johwa | Harare, Zimbabwe
20 October 2003 15:43
Without New Constitution, No Chance for Opposition
Zimbabwe's main constitutional change pressure group has taken its
campaign to a level, demanding that the next general election be held
only under a new democratic constitution.
The National Constitutional Assembly, a grouping of civic groups,
labour unions, churches and opposition parties, says to get into another
election before changing the rules would be self-defeating.
"Zimbabweans would be foolish to go into another election without a new
constitution," says chairperson Lovemore Madhuku. "The current
government is not accountable because there is nothing in the
Constitution to make it accountable."
Zimbabwe is in the grip of its worst political and economic crises,
blamed on the country's long-serving, all-powerful executive President
Robert Mugabe with a limitless number of terms of office.
Last year Mugabe won his fifth election since independence under a
cloud of controversy that he stole victory through intimidation,
violence and mass disenfranchisement.
The opposition is contesting the outcome of this election in court.
But the problems go beyond one man. Zimbabwe has not had a popular
constitution since gaining independence from Britain in 1980, following
a protracted liberation struggle against the rebel Rhodesian government
of Ian Smith.
The country has been operating on the ceasefire document signed at
Lancaster House in London, Britain, in 1979 and subsequently amended 15
Political analysts in Zimbabwe say a skewed electoral playing field has
helped the ruling party dominate all elections held since 1980.
"You can have 100 elections under the current Constitution and they
will all be stolen," Madhuku says.
Elections in Zimbabwe are run by civil servants and verified by an
ineffective Electoral Supervisory Commission appointed by the president,
who also has the power to validate and invalidate elections.
Thus, in effect, the Constitution allows the president to be both
referee and player.
One of the Constitution's major weaknesses is that the presidential
election and parliamentary elections do not have to be held
simultaneously. The presidential term is six years while
parliamentarians are elected for five years.
Furthermore, the gap between the two elections is growing. The last
parliamentary election was held in 2000. The presidential election took
place two years later.
The next parliamentary elections will be in March or April 2005 and the
presidential election will be in 2008.
This two-year interval between the two elections will swell to five
years by 2020, potentially making the country ungovernable.
Madhuku says to reject voting under the current Constitution is not
akin to boycotting elections.
"We are saying let's disturb the electoral process under the current
Constitution. If an election is called, we will disrupt nomination
through mass action."
But the ultimate decision to participate will be left to the political
parties themselves, he says.
Launched in January 1998, the National Constitutional Assembly
spearheaded the successful campaign against a new ruling-party-drafted
constitution in February 2000, giving Mugabe his first ever electoral
Twenty months after its formation, the National Constitutional Assembly
gave rise to the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), which has since
become the country's main opposition party.
Since then the two organisations have sometimes had an uneasy
"At the moment, the relationship with the MDC is fine, we are agreed on
these principles," Madhuku says. "But we don't trust that they will be
with us on this point."
"Political parties are opportunistic," he says. "When they see power
they abandon principle."
The second round of talks between the MDC and Zanu-PF aimed at halting
the country's decline has been on and off since March. Madhuku says if
the MDC believes these talks will offer it a chance at power it is
likely to forget about a new constitution.
Equally, he says if the MDC thinks the current constitution will lead
it into power it will stick to it.
"They have some faith in the current Constitution since they have
managed to win elections under it."
Nine months after formation in 2000, the MDC won 57 of the contested
120 parliamentary seats. Since then the party has scored major victories
in council elections.
However, MDC spokesperson Paul Themba Nyathi says "the only way forward
for Zimbabwe is through constitutional reform".
Nyathi adds that the decision to contest elections is made by the MDC's
"We will cross that particular bridge when we get to it."
Meanwhile, Zanu-PF spokesperson Nathan Shamuyarira says the 2005
elections will go ahead as scheduled and that the ruling party has no
plans to adopt a new constitution.
He accuses the National Constitutional Assembly of indecisiveness.
"They were the ones who rejected the constitution we put on the table
in 2000. They don't seem to know what they want," he alleges. -- IPS
Zim judge wonders why The Daily News was banned
Susan Njanji | Harare
18 October 2003 08:23
A judge hearing an appeal by Zimbabwe's only private daily newspaper,
shut down by the government, questioned on Friday why the country's
media law was not applied when the paper was refused a licence last
Administrative Court Judge Michael Majuru grilled the licensing
commission's head Tafataona Mahoso on the criteria used by the
commission in deciding to refuse The Daily News registration.
"This is not a case where you can come up with reasons of your own ...
it has to be reasons laid down by the law."
"The wording of the act is very clear, it tells you when you can refuse
registration," said Majuru.
The sections of the media law referred to by the judge states that the
commission may not refuse to register a mass media house unless it
contravenes any provisions of the law or provides misleading or false
information on its application form.
Other grounds that can lead to the rejection of registration include
non-payment of registration fees or if the application is filed by an
On Thursday Mahoso said his commission's decision was influenced by the
Supreme Court ruling which had declared The Daily News illegal because
it was not yet registered by the media commission.
Majuru also asked Mahoso why his commission did not take any steps as
provided in the law against The Daily News for the eight months during
which it operated without a licence.
The commission had powers under the law to remind the paper that it was
operating illegally, to issue an order to the paper not to continue
publishing or impose daily penalties for the period the paper
contravened the act.
Mahoso, who admitted that his commission did not set up a new deadline
for The Daily News to register, decided not to take action against the
paper because the newspaper had turned to the courts to seek the
nullification of the media law.
"Since the matter was now in the court, we did not feel that we had to
act in the first place," he told the court.
The hearing continues on Sunday when the lawyers will sum up their
The Daily News's lawyers had argued on the first day of the appeal
hearing that the media commission's refusal to grant the paper a
registration certificate was politically motivated.
They accused Mahoso of bias and hostility against The Daily News.
The paper has been off the news stands since armed police forcibly shut
it down last month and confiscated all its equipment.
Police moved onto the paper's premises in the capital on Friday
September 12 after the Supreme Court ruled that the newspaper was
operating illegally because it was not registered with media commission,
set up shortly after President Robert Mugabe was re-elected in disputed
elections in March last year.
The paper had earlier decided against registering with the commission,
arguing that obligatory registration was against the constitution of the
southern African country. It subsequently submitted an application last
month, but it was rejected. -Sapa-AFP
Zimbabwe fuel firm on empty
20 October 2003 07:49
Zimbabwe's state fuel company has run dry, paralysing virtually all
government departments and stopping many trains, buses and cars across
The government responded to the latest twist in the long-running fuel
crisis by blaming the British government. "There is no fuel here, not a
single drop," said an official of the state National Oil Company of
Zimbabwe (Nicoz) in the state-controlled Herald newspaper on Saturday.
The official said some fuel was expected "early next week".
Without fuel, the work of government departments around the country has
been hit. Police operations in many areas are being carried out on foot,
bicycle or by public transport.
Ambulances have had to be refuelled by patients' relatives.
The severe shortage should embarrass the energy minister, Amos Midzi,
who said only last week that fuel supplies were "adequate".
International oil companies closed off supplies to Zimbabwe in December
1999 because the government had failed to meet payments.
The state oil company, Noczim, is said to owe around £180-million.
Since then, the country has staggered through on temporary arrangements
- including a year's supply from Libya - which all dried up as the
government continued to fail to pay its bills. - Guardian Unlimited ©
Guardian Newspapers Limited 2003
Three injured in MDC shooting
Zimbabwe's main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change
(MDC), has said three people were shot at its headquarters in the
The MDC said a lawyer who rents an office in the same building opened
fire on two security guards and a party supporter.
However, a Zimbabwe police spokesman, Wayne Bvudzijena, disputed the
MDC's version of events, saying the lawyer opened fire only after he was