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  • Christine Chumbler
    Dec 1, 2005
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      DZ businessman found with 111 bags of fertiliser
      by Olivia Kumwenda, 29 November 2005 - 06:21:38
      Police in Dedza have arrested a businessman from the district for being found with 111 bags (50 kgs) of subsidised fertiliser.
      The development comes barely days after our sister publication Weekend Nation established that some unscrupulous estate owners and traders in various parts of the country are buying the subsidised fertiliser in bulk using corruptly obtained coupons from poor farmers who wait on queues for weeks to buy the input which is also in short supply in most Admarc depots.
      Dedza Police PRO Franklin Gausi said, the businessman, Patrick Chilipa, 29, was arrested on Sunday after a tip.
      "The explanation he is giving is that he got the fertilisers from farmers who failed to pay him after they hired him to carry their fertilisers, saying each farmer gave him one bag," said Gausi.
      The PRO said the police will still continue investigating the matter as the explanation Chilipa has given is not satisfactory.
      "As of now, we have charged him with being found in possession of property suspected to have been stolen but we will work on the charge as we gather more information on the matter," said Gausi, adding that Chilipa did not have any coupons.

      *****

      MBC refunds MCP
      by Olivia Kumwenda, 29 November 2005 - 06:20:32
      The Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) has refunded about $350 (K42,000) to the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) meant for broadcasting the main opposition party's press briefing.
      MCP held a press briefing in Lilongwe earlier this month and paid the money to MBC as payment for the broadcaster to air the conference but it did not.
      MCP Second Vice-President and Publicity Secretary Nicholas Dausi told The Nation last week MBC's Director-General Owen Maunde told him (Dausi) that the press conference tape went missing.
      Dausi claimed he told Maunde that MBC should air the conference or return his party's money.
      When contacted yesterday Dausi said although MBC has not aired the conference this time around, the party will not stop inviting the station to cover its activities.
      "We are in a democratic era where information is power and these people [MBC] are denying us our rights. We are definitely going to fight until we reach our destiny, we cannot allow few people to dominate MBC and TVM, no way," said Dausi.
      Asked why the station opted to give the money back instead of airing the conference, Maunde told the reporter to get the information from Dausi.
      "Ask the one who has told you that we have given back the money to explain the reasons as I have already explained to him why we can't air the item," said Maunde.
      Dausi had earlier also accused Information Minister Patricia Kaliati of instilling fear in MBC and TVM staff..
      He said the refusal to broadcast the briefing was a result of that threat, saying the staff want to protect their jobs.
      But Kaliati on Monday said she is not aware of the issue as she was abroad. She said she does not dictate how MBC should operates.
      "I was abroad and have no knowledge of the matter but such incidents have been happening for long, even when I was not the Information Minister, was I also to blame that time?
      "It is wrong to blame everything on me or government," said Kaliati, adding that as a responsible minister she will follow up the issue with MBC.


      *****

      Mugabe blames Britain for Aids-drug shortage

      Harare, Zimbabwe

      01 December 2005 07:21

      Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe on Wednesday blamed former colonial ruler Britain for "compromising" his country's battle against HIV/Aids by trying to block anti-Aids funds from global organisations.

      However, Mugabe paid tribute to the Geneva-based Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria for releasing funds to Harare in May this year.

      "We have suffered further setbacks through the unjustified British-led international demonisation of our country, which has seen some international donors and multinational agencies withholding their humanitarian support," Mugabe said in a speech broadcast on state television to mark World Aids day on Thursday.

      "I must commend the global fund for rising above cheap political considerations and seeing humanitarian value in assisting out programmes to control the HIV and Aids epidemic," said Mugabe.

      Earlier, the government said that about 7% of about 280 000 people in need of anti-retroviral drugs for HIV/Aids are receiving the treatment, a figure it hopes will rise next year.

      Mugabe said efforts to roll out such drugs have been hampered not only by their increasing cost and a shortage of foreign exchange, but by Britain's "demonisation of our country".

      Britain, which ruled what was known as Rhodesia until independence in 1980, regularly condemns Mugabe for what London terms rampant human rights abuses.

      Mugabe regularly responds by insisting Britain is seeking to reimpose its control over his country by unfairly encouraging international criticism. -- Sapa-AFP

      *****

      King cancels World Aids Day in Swaziland

      Thulani Mthethwa | Mbabane, Swaziland

      01 December 2005 01:48

      Events marking World Aids Day were cancelled by royal decree on Thursday in Africa's last absolute monarchy because they clashed with a traditional ceremony scheduled for the same day.

      The announcement shocked activists in a country where more than 38% of the one-million population are infected with HIV, the virus that causes Aids.

      Prime Minister Themba Dlamini had been expected to give a speech about the crisis at an event marked by traditional dancing and drama in the rural Mtfongwani area, about 55km east of the capital, Mbabane.

      But at the last minute, Jim Gama, the governor of Ludzidzini royal residence, announced the start of the month-long Incwala ritual culminating with the presentation of the first fruits of the harvest to King Mswati III. No other events are allowed to take place during this sacred period.

      Health Minister Sipho Shongwe, who is also a traditional chief, promised the kingdom would hold its own HIV/Aids day events at an unspecified date next year.

      But a consortium of non-governmental groups decided to defy the royal order and mark the day with the rest of the world at a dinner on Thursday night in Mbabane.

      Mswati has drawn criticism for his lavish lifestyle at a time of widespread poverty and for resisting international pressure to introduce democracy into the tiny Southern African country.

      Activists also expressed alarm on Thursday at critical shortages of life-prolonging anti-retroviral medicines after the United Nations-backed Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria withdrew funding for the government's treatment programme.

      "Counseling and testing centres have run out of ARVs, thus placing HIV-positive people in a precarious position," said Hannie Dlamini, who is also infected.

      Derek Von Wissel, head of Swaziland's National Emergency Response Council on HIV/Aids, said funding was cut recently because the country lacked proper drug and patient management systems. - Sapa-AP

      *****

      Zimbabwe's evicted and forsaken

      Matthew Burbidge | Johannesburg, South Africa

      01 December 2005 12:02

      On May 25 this year, Zimbabwe's government began Operation Murambatsvina -- a massive campaign of forced evictions and demolitions. Six months later, says a damning Human Rights Watch (HRW) report released on Thursday, the government has made no arrangements to provide even temporary shelter to the internally displaced. Thousands of people are now living in the open.

      "We have been out in the open since the end of May when our houses were demolished during Operation Murambatsvina. We are not getting any assistance from anyone. I have two children staying with me, but I sent the other two to the rural areas.

      "My husband does not have a rural home and I don't think he would appreciate it if we went to my rural home. I don't have the money to send my children to school. The kids have colds because of staying outside and in the cold. I can't afford medical assistance. Sometimes we sleep without eating a meal or anything. We don't know what's going to happen once the rains come," a displaced mother of four, living by the edge of a forest in Victoria Falls, told a HRW researcher in September.

      HRW is an international NGO, based in New York, that conducts advocacy and research on human rights issues.

      Forsaken
      On the front page of the report, entitled Evicted and Forsaken: Internally Displaced Persons in the Aftermath of Operation Murambatsvina, there is a Reuters photograph of an old man sitting among his possessions in front of his destroyed home in Norton, Zimbabwe. He sits close to a small fire; his toes protrude from his shoes. He clasps his hands; he does not look angry. There are cupboards, couches and clothes strewn nearby. Women and children mill about in the background of the photograph. Perhaps they are trying to reconstruct the rooms with the furniture, repositioning it inside a house that now has no walls.

      In September and October, HRW sent a new research mission to the country to look into the plight of the internally displaced persons. The researchers carried out site visits to numerous locations in four of Zimbabwe's provinces and conducted more than 50 interviews with displaced people, human rights activists, local authorities, church officials, United Nations staff in Zimbabwe and others.

      "The political, economic, humanitarian and human rights conditions in Zimbabwe are all in precipitous decline. While drought and the devastating HIV/Aids pandemic have influenced these conditions to some extent, the actions of the Zimbabwe government and its indifference to the dignity and well-being of its citizens lie at the heart of Zimbabwe's current crisis," says the report.

      "Ruling through intimidation and with respect for the rule of law or the rights of his citizens, President [Robert] Mugabe's latest outrage -- the forced eviction and displacement of hundreds and thousands of mostly poor people from the urban areas throughout Zimbabwe -- has attracted international condemnation but been defended with characteristic bluster."

      'Cruel indifference'
      The report says the displaced "have continued to suffer the cruel indifference of their government; no protection or assistance, no compensation, no accountability, restrictions on freedom of movement".

      The report says up to 223 000 children were directly affected by the operation.

      An ActionAid report found that, overall, 22% of children who had been attending school dropped out because of the evictions. The displacement, says the HRW report, also hindered parents' ability to pay for schooling, which meant that even more children dropped out of school.

      The report says that with unemployment at about 80%, most adults in Zimbabwe try to make ends meet in the informal sector. Many lost their livelihoods when the government destroyed market stalls and other informal-sector businesses and homes.

      Now the government has prevented them from making money by selling fruit, for example, says the report.

      Chipo D, a Harare township resident, told HRW that although his stall was destroyed, he still tries to sell vegetables, "but the police arrest me and make me pay a fine".

      Another witness told HRW: "People whose market stalls were demolished have come back and are selling their vegetables in the open. Police come about five times a day and harass the vendors, and take their goods for free.

      "One woman got tired of police harassment and threw stones at the policeman three weeks ago. She was arrested by the police, and I don't know what happened to her."

      Obstruction
      The report says the Zimbabwean government has persistently obstructed humanitarian operations. It says the UN staff interviewed by HRW in September and October cited the Zimbabwean government's continuous obstruction of operations as the main reason for the international agencies' inability to implement their programmes.

      In its recommendations, among others, HRW calls on the Zimbabwe government to take urgent measures to provide protection and assistance to the displaced, including shelter, food, water and sanitation and medical services.

      It also calls on the government to allow the special envoy of the African Union Commission, Tom Nyanduga, to return to Zimbabwe and fulfil his mandate and report to the AU on the status of internally displaced people.

      It calls on the AU to adopt a resolution strongly condemning the mass evictions and demolitions as well as strongly condemning the obstruction of international humanitarian assistance.

      The report says the plight of people displaced by the Zimbabwean government cannot be overlooked any further.

      "It must generate a sense of outrage sufficient to trigger concerted action to protect and assist the displaced."

      The full report is at: http://www.hrw.org/reports/2005/zim1205/
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