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  • Christine Chumbler
    Fury at Zambia army HIV test The Zambian army s decision to turn away HIV positive applicants has been angrily criticised. Health Minister Brian Chituwo said
    Message 1 of 57 , Mar 7, 2003
      Fury at Zambia army HIV test

      The Zambian army's decision to
      turn away HIV positive
      applicants has been angrily
      criticised.

      Health Minister Brian Chituwo said
      the new policy was introduced
      because "with the excessive physical
      military activity recruiting HIV
      positive staff would be sending them
      to the grave faster".

      But this reasoning is rejected by medical experts who
      say good nutrition
      and effective medical treatment, including
      anti-retroviral drugs, will
      solve this dilemma.

      HIV positive counsellor Christine Inonge says the
      army's announcement
      will send out the wrong message to society.

      "An HIV positive person is a person who can live for
      20, 30, 40 years
      and still be able to work. We think it is wrong for
      the army to think like
      that.

      "We are trying to fight this stigma in this country
      and here is the army
      now coming in with another big stigma."

      Discrimination

      The BBC's Penny Dale says there is no doubt that the
      cost of drugs is a
      key factor in the army's decision.

      But Zambia's army insists it is not breaking any
      labour laws or violating
      any human rights by starting to screen new recruits
      for HIV - the virus
      which can lead to Aids.

      However, serving soldiers with HIV
      will not be forced out of the army.

      Some 21% of Zambia's adult
      population is HIV positive - one of
      the highest infection rates in the
      world.

      The United Nations Aids agency condemns forcing people
      to undergo
      HIV tests.

      Sinead Ryan from UNAids told BBC News Online that if a
      person was
      physically fit but HIV positive, they should not be
      discriminated against.

      She said that defence forces around the world have
      widely differing Aids
      policies, with some carrying out mandatory testing and
      others unable to
      afford to do it.

      Some military analysts in neighbouring South Africa
      have warned that
      high levels of HIV in the defence forces threaten
      national security. Mr
      Chituwo also said that members of the defence forces
      were at a greater
      risk of contracting HIV than the civilian population
      because they spend
      so much of their time away from home.

      Aids activists maintain that people with HIV should
      not face
      discrimination.

      *****

      Ben-Menashe cracks, cries 'abuse'

      07 March
      2003 10:49

      The key witness in the treason trial of Zimbabwe's
      main opposition leader,
      Morgan Tsvangirai, Thursday made an emotional plea
      to the judge to be
      dismissed from the case, saying he was being
      "abused" by both state and
      defence lawyers.

      Ari Ben-Menashe, who has been testifying for four
      weeks against Tsvangirai
      and two top associates for their alleged plot to
      assassinate President
      Robert Mugabe, asked to be dismissed from the
      proceedings immediately.

      "I feel I'm being abused, both by the state and the
      defence," said Ben
      Menashe.

      "I am not the accused. I am not a prisoner here,"
      Ben Menashe told Judge
      Paddington Garwe. "I ask you please to allow me to
      immediately step
      down."

      The Canadian-based political consultant has been
      subjected to intense
      grilling by chief defence lawyer George Bizos over
      a video he made of a
      meeting with Tsvangirai at which the latter
      allegedly requested help to
      eliminate Mugabe.

      "The state believes the more this cross-examination
      goes on, the more Mr
      Bizos helps them get a conviction," Ben Menashe
      claimed. He said the
      defence in turn were only interested in having the
      case dismissed on
      technical grounds.

      The defence has given Ben Menashe short shrift
      during the month-long
      proceedings, accusing him of being an
      internationally-renowned fraudster
      who defrauded Tsvangirai's party, the Movement for
      Democratic Change
      (MDC), and deliberately set out to trap its
      leader.

      The opposition claims that Ben Menashe and his
      Montreal firm of
      consultants, Dickens and Madson, were on the
      payroll of Mugabe's
      government who wanted the popular opposition leader
      sidelined ahead of
      last year's presidential poll, which Tsvangirai
      subsequently lost.

      Bizos dismissed Ben Menashe's request as "an
      exhibition" by "a
      disreputable person" who had defrauded and
      entrapped their clients
      "causing much damage to them and the country."

      The defense still wants to hear evidence on Ben
      Menashe's reputation. The
      state's lawyer, Bharat Patel, said he needed a few
      days to re-examine Ben
      Menashe but supported the consultant's request,
      saying the time he had
      spent on the witness stand was "probably a
      record."

      Ben Menashe said he was prepared to come back for a
      "limited time" if
      required. Garwe said he would deal with the request
      on Friday morning.

      Cross-examination of Ben Menashe continued Thursday
      with the defence
      saying that Ben Menashe had lured Tsvangirai on the
      pretext that Dickens
      and Madson would raise money for his party.

      Ben Menashe admitted to luring Tsvangirai under
      false pretences, but said
      he had done so in order to collect evidence on the
      MDC leader, who he
      claimed attended the meeting in Montreal to discuss
      transitional
      arrangements for the country following the
      assassination of Mugabe.

      Ben Menashe said Tsvangirai had requested that the
      assassination take
      place within 10 days of the Montreal meeting, which
      was held on December
      4, 2001. Defence lawyer Bizos said his client would
      oppose that allegation.

      The political consultant, who claims to be a former
      Israeli intelligence agent,
      was reprimanded by the judge for referring to
      Tsvangirai, his secretary
      general Welshman Ncube and shadow agriculture
      minister, Renson Gasela,
      as "criminals".

      He warned him to refer to the trio, who face the
      death penalty if convicted,
      as "the accused". - Sapa-AFP

      *****

      Zim train stopped by diggers' tunnel under line

      Harare

      07 March 2003 13:57

      Train services on Zimbabwe's busiest railway line have been closed for
      the past three days after illegal gold miners in central Zimbabwe dug
      large tunnels underneath and right next to the railway line, railway
      authorities said on Friday.

      Passenger and freight services between Harare and the western city of
      Bulawayo had to be stopped on Wednesday when railway personnel
      discovered that the miners had dug a 100m labyrinth of tunnel next to
      the electrified line just outside the central town of Kwekwe, said
      Munesu Munodawafa, acting general manager of the
      state-owned National Railways of Zimbabwe.

      "I am happy that the tunnels were discovered before an accident
      happened," he said.

      "We would be talking about something else now. They have caused a lot
      of damage.

      "It's sad that these people don't value human life. The police are
      arresting them on a daily basis, but it has not deterred them," he
      said.

      Railway security officers had been put on 24 hour patrol. Work on
      filling the tunnels had been hampered by heavy rains, he said. He hoped
      services could resume later on Friday. The breakdown had affected the
      transport of coal for the country's power stations, already struggling
      with low supplies as a result of fuel shortages that have hit coal
      mining operations.

      Deliveries of sugar, also critically short in Zimbabwe, had also been
      disrupted, he said. An estimated 1,5-million Zimbabweans have turned to
      illegal gold mining as a result of famine and economic collapse
      afflicting the country. They risk not only arrest, but also a high
      likelihood of being buried alive in the tunnels they dig manually
      without any proper supports.

      In the country's worst train crash last month 50 died in a collision
      between two trains. The signalling system meant to stop one of the
      trains was switched off by thieves who stole the copper cables.

      Many people were also burnt to death when fuel being carried illegally
      by black-marketeers in the passenger coaches caught light in the
      collision. - Sapa

      *****

      Women embrace memory box

      Gladys Sananguray has been
      living in a shed without
      electricity or running water,
      since her husband died from
      Aids and she herself was
      diagnosed HIV positive.

      She and her children were thrown
      out by her husband's family.

      But her concerns now are about
      what will happen to her children if
      she is not around anymore.

      "The future of these lives, if I die myself... I do
      not know who will take
      care of these young children of mine."

      Hers is a predicament faced by millions of other
      women, especially in
      sub-Saharan Africa, where HIV/Aids infection rates
      among women now
      exceed those for men.

      Such is the impact of Aids on communities, that
      cultural and family
      histories are being lost and a whole generation of
      children are left
      orphaned.

      Memory boxes

      But trying to break the taboos and silence surrounding
      Aids, the
      Zimbabwe Red Cross have been promoting the use of
      memory boxes.

      Mothers are helped to communicate with their children
      by making a
      treasure chest of family photographs, letters, stories
      and history. alleged plot to assass

      The International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC)
      says the project
      helps lessen the trauma for a parent who knows she
      will leave a
      children orphaned by allowing her to communicate with
      them after her
      death.

      It also keeps alive the memory of a mother for
      children and helps
      maintain a sense of history and belonging

      Talk

      It also encourages open talk about the disease - as
      with Gladys's
      children.

      "They always take my memory book, read, revise and
      talk to each
      other," she says.

      Lexa Samugadza, a single mother of three young girls,
      has the support
      of her family, but she also worries about what could
      happen to her
      children.

      "I think I wrote in my memory book
      that they must keep away from men
      and concentrate on their school, and
      then after that they must learn to
      keep each other close," she says.

      Lexa's 25-year-old sister, Adeline,
      works for the Red Cross HIV/Aids
      programme and argues that, in
      order to protect women they need to
      be empowered to fend for
      themselves.

      In sub-Saharan Africa, women now
      account for 58% of adults with HIV/Aids.

      The IFRC say much more work is needed to lessen
      women's
      vulnerability to the disease and to ensure cultural
      continuity between
      generations.

      On International Women's Day, they are calling for
      women to be given a
      greater say in the battle against HIV/Aids.

      *****

      Tanzania's 'sweaty' women builders
      By Daniel Dickinson
      BBC, Dodoma



      Women in Tanzania are being given the opportunity to
      own
      their own houses.

      Nothing unusual in that perhaps, but
      what is striking is that the women
      have to physically build them, with
      the help of a few friends.

      The building programme, which is
      underway across Tanzania, focuses
      on one particular group of
      marginalised women - single
      mothers.

      The women have to contribute what
      has been dubbed "sweat equity" in
      other words their own hard work in
      return for a loan to buy materials to construct the
      house.

      It was 0900 at the Chidache housing project on the
      outskirts of Dodoma
      when I got there, but the women have already been at
      work for two
      hours, mixing cement, carrying bricks and taking
      measurements.

      Major achievement

      They are putting the finishing touches to a house in
      which one single
      mother has already taken up residence.

      This house has three bedrooms, a living room as well
      as bath and toilet
      facilities.

      It has a corrugated metal roof,
      concrete floors and measures 50m2.

      It is a relatively modest affair, but
      for 48-year-old mother of five,
      Rehema Mbuguni it represents a alleged plot to
      assass
      major achievement.

      "It wasn't difficult to build the house
      but it was hard work lifting bricks
      and carrying water.

      "I found it easy to motivate myself
      because I knew I would have a house at the end of the
      process," she
      said.

      Important co-operation

      "I was helped by a group of women friends. The group
      works together
      on one house for one member and then it moves on to
      build another.

      "So there is a real sense of achievement as our
      village grows. I feel
      very proud of my new house".

      The house has taken around two months to build - a
      considerable feat
      given the punishing daytime temperatures in this part
      of Tanzania.

      It represents a new start for Rehema who has moved
      from shared
      rented accommodation in a shanty town to the open
      spaces of
      Chidache.

      No landlord

      Rehema Mbuguni cannot stop talking about the freedom
      her new home
      gives her.

      "My life has changed... The rent I usually pay goes
      towards the loan I
      needed to buy the materials to build the house.

      "I am so happy that I no longer pay
      rent to a landlord. It is like being a
      slave. You can be evicted at anytime
      and you have no rights."

      The building costs around $1,500,
      money that was lent to Rehema by
      the non-governmental organisation,
      Habitat for Humanity.

      In return for the 10 year loan and
      expert building advice, Rehema had
      to contribute what Habitat calls
      "sweat equity" - literally putting her
      own sweat and effort into building the house.

      'Community spirit'

      According to Matinde Nyagonde of Habitat,
      participation is the key to the
      success of the programme.

      "Sweat equity is important because it shows a great
      commitment by the
      individual to completing what is a big project.
      Because the individual
      homeowners are working in a group they get to know
      their new
      neighbours and this creates a good community spirit."


      Habitat is building houses across Tanzania and is
      working with both men
      and women in a number of other African countries.

      But Matinde Nyagonde says single mothers are a key
      focus.

      "They are normally low income earners and are often
      marginalized as a
      result of that. We are helping them integrate into
      society."
    • 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
        '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

        Kezi

        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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