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  • Christine Chumbler
    Apr 29, 2004
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      EU poll team denies Malawi bias

      The European Union election observer mission in Malawi has denied allegations it is campaigning against the ruling party.
      President Bakili Muluzi has threatened to expel the EU mission ahead of the 18 May election.

      He said he had received intelligence that some observers were campaigning against his United Democratic Front.

      Mr Muluzi is not standing after failing in a bid to change the constitution to let him run for a third term in office.

      "We refute [the charge] that the observers are interfering with the election," deputy head of the EU mission Alistair Baird told the United Nations news agency Irin.

      Mr Muluzi's hand-picked successor in the UDF, Bingu wa Mutharika, is expected to face a strong challenge in the poll.

      Several party heavyweights have left the party over Mr Mutharika's nomination as candidate.

      However, the opposition has not agreed to field a single candidate.

      The BBC's Raphael Tenthani in Blantyre says that although Mr Muluzi did not name the EU observers, they are the only election team already in the country.

      *****

      Zimbabwe recalls retired judges

      Up to four recently retired judges have been recalled to deal with a huge backlog of legal cases in Zimbabwe.
      At least one white judge is among those being brought back to deal with challenges to election results and several corruption cases.

      Several judges stepped down in recent years after President Robert Mugabe's government accused them of racism.

      The judiciary repeatedly overruled the government over the seizure of white-owned farmland.

      'Colonial relics'

      The Financial Gazette newspaper reports that Justices George Smith, Rogers Kola, Mohamed Adam and Nicholas McNally have been asked to return to work.

      Senior legal practitioner Sternford Moyo told BBC News Online that Mr Smith and Mr Kosa were returning next week.

      Mr McNally was on the Supreme Court which incensed the government by effectively declaring illegal Mr Mugabe's land reform programme.

      The government accused the judges of being "colonial relics."

      During a court hearing in November 2000, a group of ruling party militants stormed the Supreme Court, while police watched.

      The government said it could no long guarantee Chief Justice Gubbay's security and he resigned shortly afterwards.

      "Serious challenges to the independence of the judiciary still remain in Zimbabwe," Mr Moyo said.

      As well as those who have resigned under government pressure, other judges have stepped down for financial reasons.

      Devalued justice

      The High Court is currently operating at half-strength, said Mr Moyo, a former president of the Law Society of Zimbabwe.

      As a result, the legal system is experiencing huge delays.

      "It can take more than a year for judges to hand down their decisions," he said.

      With inflation running at more than 600%, this means that the value of settlements is greatly reduced by the time they are awarded.

      The High Court is still hearing challenges to the results of the 2000 parliamentary elections. The next polls are due next year.

      *****

      Gas powers Tanzania ahead

      By Daniel Dickinson
      In Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

      It may be just a speck in the Indian Ocean, but the palm-fringed tropical island of Songosongo off the southern coast of Tanzania could hold the key to the country's future development.

      In a matter of weeks, gas will start flowing from Songosongo, East Africa's largest natural gas field.

      This will make Tanzania reliably selfsufficient in power.

      And eventually it could make the country a power house for the region.

      Rain dependency

      The gas will fire jet turbines which will provide a quarter of Tanzania's electricity needs for at least the next 20 years.

      The project, which has been largely funded with World Bank loans, has taken 20 years to get off the ground.

      But after a period of intensive construction on the island of Songosongo, the building of a 250 km pipeline, and the refurbishment of a Dar es Salaam power station, the generation of electricity is set to begin.

      Paul Kunert, the managing director of Songas, the company behind the project said it is an important step for Tanzania.

      "The gas provides a new fuel source.

      "At the moment Tanzania's power system is dependent on hydro-electric generation to a very large extent, so when rainfall is low, like this year, the country runs out of electricity."

      Cheaper and cleaner

      This power deficit has forced Tanzania to import oil to generate electricity, costing the country a budget-breaking US$13m a month.

      Patrick Rutabanzibwa, the permanent secretary in the country's energy ministry, believes finding a reliable energy source like gas will boost Tanzania's economic development.

      "Economic growth and the demand for power have a linear relationship, so the gas will give us the basis for predictable sustainable economic growth," he said.

      The gas is to be used mainly to generate electricity, but it will also be supplied directly to a number of major companies which are planning to use it to power some or all of their production processes.

      Tanzania Breweries will be using gas to fire its boilers.

      According to general manager, Trevor Gray it has distinct advantages over oil.

      "There are economic benefits," he said.

      "It is cheaper than heavy furnace oil that we are using at the moment. It is also cleaner and more efficient.

      "It is an important move for us and I expect other industries to follow suit."

      No access

      The search for further deposits is continuing off the island of Songosongo.

      If more gas is found, then Tanzania could become a regional broker for power exports to other East African countries, as well as into the power pool of southern Africa.

      But while the government looks towards a brighter future, the average Tanzanian is unlikely to benefit for some time to come.

      Only around 7% of all Tanzanians have electricity, either because it costs too much or because the infrastructure is not in place.

      Those people who are not connected hope that an improvement in Tanzania's economy will eventually translate into access to electricity.
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