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  • Christine Chumbler
    Zambian opposition loses key vote The EU says the results may not reflect the votes Zambia s Government has outmanoeuvred the opposition by winning the vote
    Message 1 of 57 , Feb 6, 2002
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      Zambian opposition
      loses key vote

      The EU says the results may not reflect the votes
      Zambia's Government has outmanoeuvred the
      opposition by winning the vote for a new
      parliamentary speaker.

      The combined opposition has a narrow majority
      in parliament but three opposition MPs voted
      for the MMD's Amussa Mwanamwamwa.

      This government
      victory came as the
      European Union said
      that President Levy
      Mwanawasa may not
      have won December's
      elections despite being
      officially declared the

      The Electoral
      Commission said Mr
      Mwanawasa had gained
      29% of the vote, with
      his nearest challenger, Anderson Mazoka
      getting 27%.

      "In view of the administrative failures on polling
      day, the serious flaws in counting and
      tabulation procedures, together with the close
      outcome of elections, we are not confident
      that the declared results represent the wishes
      of the Zambian electors on polling day," the EU
      said in its final report on the elections.


      The opposition strongly disputed the results
      and has filed legal challenges.

      After initially threatening street protests,
      opposition leaders instead said they would use
      their parliamentary majority to frustrate the
      government's legislative programme.

      But this strategy now
      lies in tatters after the
      opposition parties failed
      to vote together.

      After the vote, police
      had to restrain
      opposition lawmakers
      from manhandling one
      of their colleagues who
      had voted for the MMD

      The BBC's Richard Lee
      in Lusaka says that there many opposition MPs
      were looking rather glum after the vote.


      At the time of the December poll, analysts
      noted that a united opposition candidate would
      probably have won the poll but instead several
      strong candidates stood against Mr

      Mr Mazoka of the UPND party, and two other
      opposition candidates, have asked the
      Supreme Court to nullify the official results,
      claiming massive electoral fraud.

      Our correspondent says that the final EU
      report could be used to back up the
      opposition's court case.

      Mr Mwanawasa has rejected accusations that
      his election was not valid and has in turn
      accused the EU of meddling in Zambia's
      internal affairs.


      Chief Zimbabwe poll
      observer named

      Former Nigerian head of state Abdulsalami
      Abubakar is to lead a Commonwealth mission to
      Zimbabwe to monitor the forthcoming
      presidential elections.

      The announcement came as an advance party
      of Commonwealth officials arrived in Zimbabwe
      on Tuesday to pave the way for the main

      Last week, the 54-nation Commonwealth
      rejected British calls to suspend Zimbabwe
      from the organisation, but decided to send
      monitors to oversee the elections.

      Secretary General Don
      McKinnon said the first
      observers would arrive
      in Zimbabwe later this
      week, followed by a
      main group of about 40
      monitors later this

      General Abubakar, who
      was Nigerian head of state until 1999,
      previously led a Commonwealth mission which
      oversaw parliamentary elections in Zimbabwe
      in June, 2000.

      Mugabe conditions

      After coming under international pressure,
      Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has said
      he will allow Commonwealth and European
      Union observers, as long as they do not
      include any British members.

      Mr Mugabe has
      accused Britain of
      supporting the
      opposition Movement
      for Democratic Change

      The EU says it is still
      awaiting an official
      invitation from
      Zimbabwe to send
      observers and will
      impose selective
      sanctions on Zimbabwe
      if it does not allow its
      monitors to deploy.

      The first of a group of 150 European observers
      is expected to arrive in Zimbabwe later this
    • Christine Chumbler
      Voting doesn t fill the belly Justin Pearce 12 December 2004 23:59 Mozambique s ruling party, Frelimo, surged ahead last week in unofficial results from the
      Message 57 of 57 , Dec 14, 2004
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        'Voting doesn't fill the belly'

        Justin Pearce

        12 December 2004 23:59

        Mozambique's ruling party, Frelimo, surged ahead last week in unofficial results from the country's recent election, puzzling analysts who had expected a neck-and-neck finish with the opposition Renamo. At the same time, evidence of ballot-stuffing in some remote districts cast a shadow over the clean bill of health that international observers gave the elections.

        Projections suggest that Frelimo's presidential candidate, Armando Guebuza, will get 60% of the vote, as compared with 35% for Renamo's Afonso Dhlakama, who in 1999 collected nearly 48% of the vote. These projections are based on results posted by individual polling stations and collected by Radio Mozambique correspondents around the country.

        The sharp drop in Renamo support was accompanied by an equally dramatic fall in voter turnout, with numbers expected to be between three million and 3,5-million: less than half of the eligible voters. Turnout in the 1994 and 1999 general elections was 5,4-million and 4,9-million respectively.

        Analysts agreed that abstention had been highest among Renamo's traditional supporters in the largely agricultural centre and north of the country, who felt that the government had let them down, and the opposition had failed to provide a viable alternative.

        "People chose to stay in the fields -- voting doesn't fill the belly," said independent journalist Marcelo Mosse.

        "In the cities, the absence might have been a criticism not only of [outgoing president Joaquim] Chissano, but also of Guebuza -- he is not someone who inspires support."

        The political weekly Savana described the low turnout as "a red card to the political class", which it accused of being out of touch with voters' interests.

        Reports of irregularities were concentrated in Tete province in western Mozambique.

        "In Tete there was clearly fraud, though not enough to affect the final result," said Luís de Brito of the Electoral Institute of Southern Africa (Eisa).

        He said two voting stations in the province's Changara district had reported turnout of close to 100%, with most of these votes going to Frelimo. De Brito said the high turnout for the province as a whole gave reason for suspicion.

        "In Tete, we have an average of 400 voters turning out at each voting table, compared with fewer than 300 per table in all the other provinces."

        De Brito said Renamo activists had been forced to leave certain areas of Tete province early in the election campaign, which had prevented them from sending monitors to polling in those areas. Elsewhere in the country, the presence of party representatives during voting and counting was hailed as Mozambique's best safeguards against fraud.

        The Mozambican Political Process Bulletin -- an independent newsletter with a wide network of correspondents -- also cited evidence of ballot-stuffing in Tsangano district of Tete province, as well as in Chicono in northern Niassa province. In the latter, 996 out of 1 000 voters registered at one station appeared to have voted, with Guebuza gaining more than 900 of the votes.

        Such reports contradicted the positive assessment of international observation teams, who praised Mozambique's strong legal framework for elections, the professionalism of polling station staff, and balanced coverage both in state and private media. Asked why the international teams had not picked up the incidents of fraud cited by Eisa, De Brito said these incidents had occurred mostly at remote and inaccessible polling stations.

        The international teams, including Southern African Development Community parliamentarians and representatives of the Commonwealth, the Carter Center and the European Union, were however concerned at the low electoral turnout. Several of the observer teams also mentioned the mistrust that had been created by the party-political structure of the National Electoral Commission, where Frelimo is able to force through decisions by majority vote.


        Elderly pay the price for raising Aids orphans


        14 December 2004 08:21

        Until a week ago, elderly Hannah Dube and her five grandchildren living in the dusty village of Kezi in soutwestern Zimbabwe had been surviving on small portions of dried white melon.

        Then Zimbabwe's social services stepped in, handing the 75-year-old Dube emergency aid of the staple corn grain to feed her family, caught in the grip of an HIV/Aids pandemic and a crippling drought.

        Her face worn by grief and stress, the aging grandmother's plight in this remote and rural corner of Zimbabwe tells the story of the burden of many other pensioners in this southern African country where HIV/Aids has turned a million children into orphans.

        The UN children's organisation Unicef estimates that more than one in five children will be orphaned in Zimbabwe by 2010, with more than 80% of those orphaned by HIV/Aids, which kills about 3 000 people per week on average.

        Nine of her grandchildren are orphaned -- she is looking after five children between the ages of five and 13.

        Three successive years of drought in this naturally dry region some 600km southwest of the capital, characterised by unproductive soils, and a political and economic crisis have exacerbated food shortages.

        "We only eat one meal a day," said Dube, who lives in a hut next to a dusty road, where her cooking fire has long since gone out.

        "We are used to it now and there is nothing unusual about it," she said.

        While food is available in the shops, people like Dube and her family, who have no source of income whatsoever, cannot even dream of buying any.

        Driving up to Dube's home along a narrow dust road, hundreds of people, dangling empty sacks, were seen walking back home, looking tired, hungry and dejected.

        They are coming from the local business centre where they had gone to register their names for food aid to be handed out three days later.

        "We were told [by an international aid organisation] to come and register our names for food coming next week. But now they say only those on the old list will be given food," Dube said.

        The Zimbabwean government this year turned away foreign food aid, saying the country produced enough to feed its people.

        But Harare has recently allowed the United Nations World Food Programme to undertake a one-off free food distribution to get rid of its stock left over from April when the government stopped general food aid.

        Volunteer workers confirm the hunger in the area.

        "It is depressing to go out there visiting the sick, handing out a few bars of soap, diapers, some antiseptic solutions -- but seeing that what is urgently needed is food," said volunteer Georgina Tshabalala.

        Dube is not only struggling to provide food for her orphaned grandchildren, but also shelter.

        She cleans up grass that fell while she was thatching the roof of her new mud and pole hut in this remote rural area of Zimbabwe.

        With nobody to help her build or maintain their home, Dube has to risk climbing onto the roof to patch it up before the rains bring it down.

        Inside, the fire has gone out.

        Dube said besides the fact that their one meal has already been cooked, she could not afford to keep the fire going because she does not have the energy to regularly go to the bush to cut down firewood.

        The elderly woman -- old and weak enough to be a dependent herself -- said she had no choice but to look after her some of her grandchildren.

        Those who are not under her wing are probably involved in illegal gold mining, rife in the area.

        "I don't really know how they are surviving, but no one helps me with anything. The chickens and the goats you see outside I sell to send these children to school," she said.

        Despite the difficult living conditions and lack of food, one of her grandchildren, Dan, (7), passed his year-end school examinations with A grades. - Sapa-AFP


        Improved Zim inflation still world's highest

        Harare, Zimbabwe

        14 December 2004 15:15

        Zimbabwe's official inflation rate dropped to 149,3% last month, down from 209% in October, the state Central Statistical Office said on Tuesday. The new rate still leaves Zimbabwe with the highest inflation in the world.

        The troubled Southern African country is in the midst of its worst economic crisis since independence from Britain in 1980, with inflation peaking at more than 600% last year.

        With the local currency plummeting, sending a Christmas card to Europe by air mail now costs Z$40 000 (about R41) -- twice as much as a one-bedroom apartment did shortly after independence.

        A dollar was equivalent to Z$2 at the time, compared with the current official rate of Z$5 600, or Z$8 000 on the black market.

        The Reserve Bank attributes the recent drop to tighter fiscal policies aimed at reining in rampant profiteering and a lucrative black market in scarce commodities and hard currency.

        However, the official inflation rate excludes prices on a wide range of services and imports that have continued to soar throughout the year.

        The cost of medicines, vehicle repairs and health, agriculture and mining equipment has risen by more than 600%. The state telephone and postal companies have increased their fees by 1 000%.

        The agriculture-based economy has collapsed in the four years since the government began seizing thousands of white-owned commercial farms for redistribution to black Zimbabweans.

        The country routinely faces acute shortages of food, gasoline, hard currency and other imports. -- Sapa-AP
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