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  • Christine Chumbler
    Jan 21, 2003
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      Reporter arrested for interview with a
      vampire

      21
      January 2003 09:33

      Police in Malawi arrested a radio journalist
      yesterday for broadcasting an
      interview with a man who claimed to have been
      attacked by a vampire.

      Southern Malawi has been rife with rumours of
      blood-sucking vampires,
      fuelled by the popular belief that the government
      is colluding with vampires
      to collect blood for international aid agencies.

      A judge later dismissed charges against Maganizo
      Mazeze of broadcasting
      false information likely to cause public alarm,
      after an interview on a local
      radio station with a tea-planter from the southern
      province of Thyolo.

      "I am not bitter with anyone," Mazeze said after
      his court appearance. "In
      fact, my sojourn in jail has reinforced my resolve
      to unearth issues
      authorities would otherwise prefer buried."

      The police said there was no evidence to support
      the interviewee's claims.

      A man was recently stoned to death by villagers in
      Thyolo after being
      suspected of working with vampires. - Guardian
      Unlimited

      *****

      Mugabe party office
      firebombed

      Attackers have thrown petrol bombs at a ruling
      party office in a suburb of the Zimbabwean
      capital, Harare.

      One person died and seven people were hurt,
      several seriously, say police.

      Assistant Commissioner Wayne Bvudzijena said
      about 50 young men drove into Harare's
      western Kuwadzana township on Monday
      night, smashing property and assaulting
      pedestrians before throwing petrol bombs at
      the offices.

      "It's a political attack.
      We suspect that it is
      related to the
      by-election to be held
      in the suburb," Mr
      Bvudzijena said.

      A parliamentary
      by-election is
      expected to take
      place soon, following
      the death in police
      custody last year of
      an opposition
      Movement for
      Democratic Change (MDC) MP, Learnmore
      Jongwe.

      Blame

      Police are blaming the attack on opposition
      supporters and have made 16 arrests.

      Mr Bvudzijena said the
      attack appeared aimed
      at "provoking political
      violence on a wider
      scale".

      MDC officials say it is
      the work of militant
      supporters of
      President Robert
      Mugabe.

      They say Zanu-PF is
      waging a violent
      campaign to win the
      seat in the Kuwadzana constituency by trying
      to intimidate voters. The MDC won almost all
      urban seats in parliamentary elections in June
      2000.

      Widespread political intimidation and
      persecution of opposition supporters has been
      reported in recent months.

      Torture

      Last week, MDC MP Job Sikhala and human
      rights lawyer Gabriel Shumba said they were
      tortured by police while being held in police
      custody.

      Both appeared in court over the weekend and
      were then released on bail.

      At a news conference in Harare, Mr Sikhala
      said he was severely tortured all over his body
      "for a solid eight hours" including having
      electrodes attached to his genitals.

      "They also used planks to beat under my feet
      and over the entirity of my body... I am still in
      pain."

      He said he was then forced to drink poison
      which they said was urine.

      Zimbabwe is in the grip of a major food crisis
      affecting more than half of the country's
      population.

      President Mugabe's government is accused of
      withholding food aid from opposition
      supporters.

      *****

      Zimbabwe distances itself from Moyo's
      comments
      Richard Thompson

      20
      January 2003 12:40

      The South African government has "noted and
      accepted" the Zimbabwean
      government's explanation of remarks by its
      information minister -- who
      described South Africans as "filthy, recklessly
      uncouth and barbaric".

      Foreign Affairs representative Ronnie Mamoepa said
      on Sunday the South
      African government had requested an explanation
      from Zimbabwean
      authorities regarding Jonathan Moyo's remarks.

      Moyo's outburst followed a story in the Sunday
      Times of January 12 about
      his shopping trip to South Africa, when he spent
      large sums on luxury items
      while millions of his compatriots face starvation.

      In his response to that story, Moyo criticised the
      South African media and
      South Africans in general, and clearly implied that
      President Thabo Mbeki
      was not fit to lead the African Renaissance.

      "If these people believe they can lead an African
      renaissance, then God help
      them," Moyo said.

      Pretoria's request -- on Tuesday -- for an
      explanation from Harare can be
      seen as a demarche, in diplomatic terms an extreme
      form of criticism.

      Harare's reply to that demarche criticises the
      Sunday Times for its
      "invasion" of Moyo's privacy and "disregard" for
      his status as a cabinet
      minister.

      However, it goes on to distance itself from
      "inferences" that "cast
      aspersions on President Thabo Mbeki's impeccable
      credentials as a Pan
      Africanist.

      "Nothing could be further from the truth," the
      Zimbabwean government says
      in the statement.

      "The Zimbabwe government respects and supports the
      role and efforts of His
      Excellency President Thabo Mbeki to bring about the
      dawn of a new
      Africa..."

      Mamoepa said the South African government accepted
      the reassurance "in
      as far as it pertains to the government and people
      of South Africa."

      Zimbabwe was suspended from the councils of the
      Commonwealth -- a
      lesser penalty than outright suspension -- after
      President Robert Mugabe
      was returned to office in 2002 in elections marred
      by violence and widely
      regarded as rigged.

      Mbeki is a member of the "troika" delegated by the
      Commonwealth heads of
      Government Meeting to consider whether that
      suspension should be
      continued is to meet again in March.

      Mbeki's representative Bheki Khumalo said on
      Sunday Moyo's remarks
      "would have no bearing on that meeting."

      He emphasised that Mbeki would approach the
      question with an open mind.

      Meanwhile, Moyo blamed the opposition and
      disgruntled civil servants on
      Sunday for spreading reports of a retirement plan
      for Mugabe, accusing
      them of treason and agitating for a coup.

      "If there is anyone who has hatched a plot to
      force the president to step
      down they should face the full wrath of the law,"
      Moyo told the state Sunday
      Mail newspaper.

      Moyo said the debate on Mugabe's future was,
      "tantamount to plotting a
      coup in the glare of the media."

      He blamed the economic crisis gripping the southern
      African country
      marked by massive shortages of food, fuel and hard
      currency, on
      government bureaucrats fumbling what he termed
      "technical" economic
      factors, and not ruling party policies.

      "There is a lot of inefficiency, let alone
      corruption," he said.

      "Our greatest challenge at the moment is that we
      have a civil service that is
      not performing."

      Moyo suggested some members of the civil service
      may be serving "hostile
      political interests."

      The economic disruptions in the country --
      partially blamed on the
      government's often violent seizure of thousands of
      white-owned commercial
      farms -- and erratic rains have caused the
      unprecedented shortages and
      spurred record inflation and unemployment.

      An estimated 6,7-million people face starvation in
      coming months. Analysts
      say the unravelling of the economy is likely to
      intensify demands for
      Mugabe's departure.

      In his comments, Moyo made no mention of two of the
      most powerful figures
      in the ruling party, Parliament speaker Emmerson
      Mnangagwa and military
      commander General Vitalis Zvinavashe, who have been
      cited in reports as
      favouring Mugabe's retirement.

      Moyo also denied any rifts in the ruling party.

      "You will not find in the party any significant
      elements that want to act
      unconstitutionally and undemocratically in favour
      of coup plotters and
      electoral cowards," said Moyo.

      The South African government, meanwhile, faced
      criticism on its Zimbabwe
      policy from another quarter on Sunday. Zimbabwe's
      main opposition the
      Movement for Democratic Change accused Mbeki of
      "hypocrisy" and
      "dishonesty" in his approach to the situation in
      Zimbabwe.

      "The South African government frankly, is
      dishonest," MDC
      secretary-general Welshman Ncube was reported as
      saying, in the Sunday
      Times.

      "It is not surprising, really, because it is the
      same SA government which is
      saying to the rest of the world: 'Don't do anything
      about Zimbabwe. Let
      (Mugabe) go on with his torture and abuse. Let
      bygones be bygones'," he
      said. - Sapa
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