- Fury at Zambia army HIV test
The Zambian army's decision to
turn away HIV positive
applicants has been angrily
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
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
"We are trying to fight this stigma in this country
and here is the army
now coming in with another big stigma."
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
The United Nations Aids agency condemns forcing people
Sinead Ryan from UNAids told BBC News Online that if a
physically fit but HIV positive, they should not be
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
Ben-Menashe cracks, cries 'abuse'
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
Ari Ben-Menashe, who has been testifying for four
weeks against Tsvangirai
and two top associates for their alleged plot to
Robert Mugabe, asked to be dismissed from the
"I feel I'm being abused, both by the state and the
defence," said Ben
"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
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
"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
The defence has given Ben Menashe short shrift
during the month-long
proceedings, accusing him of being an
who defrauded Tsvangirai's party, the Movement for
(MDC), and deliberately set out to trap its
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
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
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
arrangements for the country following the
assassination of Mugabe.
Ben Menashe said Tsvangirai had requested that the
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,
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
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
"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
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
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
But trying to break the taboos and silence surrounding
Zimbabwe Red Cross have been promoting the use of
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
It also keeps alive the memory of a mother for
children and helps
maintain a sense of history and belonging
It also encourages open talk about the disease - as
"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
"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
In sub-Saharan Africa, women now
account for 58% of adults with HIV/Aids.
The IFRC say much more work is needed to lessen
vulnerability to the disease and to ensure cultural
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
Women in Tanzania are being given the opportunity to
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
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
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
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
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
"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
"I was helped by a group of women friends. The group
on one house for one member and then it moves on to
"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
given the punishing daytime temperatures in this part
It represents a new start for Rehema who has moved
rented accommodation in a shanty town to the open
Rehema Mbuguni cannot stop talking about the freedom
her new home
"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.
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
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
"They are normally low income earners and are often
marginalized as a
result of that. We are helping them integrate into
- 'Voting doesn't fill the belly'
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
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