- Chissano denies role in Machel's death
02 May 2003 14:36
Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano has dismissed recent allegations
that he played a role in the death of the country's first president,
killed in a plane crash 17 years ago.
In a televised interview, Chissano said the allegations "make no sense
and were made by people either in the country or outside striving to
reach certain obscure objectives".
He added he did not understand the motive behind the "campaign" when he
has already stated he will relinquish power next year.
"This is just a senseless campaign which I doubt comes from our
opposition because I no longer constitute a political threat to any
political party," he said.
Chissano's statement comes a fortnight after opposition leader Afonso
Dhlakama urged the president to publicly react to the allegations or
risk having his reputation tainted.
A former South African intelligence officer, Tienie Groenewald, claimed
recently that Chissano helped mastermind the plane crash that killed
former president Samora Machel in October 1986.
Machel was flying back to Mozambique from a summit in Zambia, when his
aircraft slammed into a hillside in South Africa after being drawn off
course by a private beacon, broadcasting on the same frequency as Maputo
Chissano who was then foreign minister succeeded Machel.
The president said that, as foreign minister, he was not allowed to
have any contact with apartheid South Africa as the two countries had no
"The only contact I had was with the ANC (African National Congress),"
Dhlakama, leader of opposition Mozambique National Resistance (Renamo),
also demanded that Chissano comment in public on allegations that his
son was involved in the assassination of leading investigative
journalist Carlos Cardoso.
Cardoso was gunned down in late 2000 as he probed allegations of a huge
fraud at a formerly state-run commercial bank. The president's son,
Nyimpine Chissano, is currently under investigation following claims by
convicted assassins of Cardoso that he paid for the murder to be carried
Chissano said: "Let us wait for the results of the investigation, I do
not wish to influence the course of the inquiry." - Sapa-AFP
Rush on Zim banks as panic grips nation
David Masunda | Harare
02 May 2003 10:34
Zimbabwean banks ran out of cash and supermarket shelves were emptied
as panic that a new showdown between the government, the opposition and
trade unions was looming gripped the Southern African country.
The crisis has deepened to the point where South African President
Thabo Mbeki and Nigeria's President Olusegun Obasanjo are to press
President Robert Mugabe to retire, in an attempt to break the country's
economic and humanitarian deadlock.
In Harare, queues snaked in and out of banks as thousands tried to
withdraw their cash to buy and hoard basic commodities in anticipation
of the possible indefinite stayaway hinted at by the Zimbabwe Congress
of Trade Unions (ZCTU), the country's largest labour movement.
Last week's ZCTU-organised three-day stayaway, to protest against
fuel price hikes of more than 300% a week before, paralysed the nation.
ZCTU president Lovemore Matombo said the union would organise
indefinite mass action unless the government reversed the new prices.
Last weekend Amos Midzi, Zimbabwe's Minister of Energy, insisted his
government would not revise the increases, saying "the ZCTU can keep
# Meanwhile, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has also
officially responded to a conditional call from Mugabe for dialogue by
telling the Zanu-PF leader to denounce violence first.
"As a demonstration of its sincerity, the Mugabe regime must
immediately put a stop to all forms of state-sponsored violence, uphold
the rule of law and respect human rights," MDC leader Morgan
Tsvangirai said on Wednesday.
Mugabe recently said he was prepared to talk to Tsvangirai to solve the
country's economic and political crisis.
"All Zanu-PF militias must be disbanded ... and the war veterans must
be disarmed," Tsvangirai told senior party officials in Harare.
Zimbabwe sanctions 'have failed'
The Commonwealth has admitted that its sanctions have had little effect
on President Robert Mugabe.
Secretary General Don McKinnon told Reuters news agency that Mr Mugabe
has not adopted political reforms despite Zimbabwe's suspension from the
grouping of former British colonies.
Earlier this week, the United States official responsible for African
policy, Walter Kansteiner, also said that sanctions had failed.
Three African leaders are due to go to Harare to meet Mr Mugabe next
week, amid intense speculation that they will urge him to step down.
The Zimbabwe economy is in a severe recession, with unemployment at
over 50% and inflation estimated at 228%.
The opposition blames Mr Mugabe's economic policy, while he says he is
the victim of a western plot against him because of his redistribution
of land from white to black farmers.
In a report published on Friday, campaign group Amnesty International
said Zimbabwe's government had "introduced national legislation to
silence criticism and opposition, perpetrate human rights violations and
place the basic rights of the Zimbabwean people under siege".
Mr Mugabe recently told state television that he might be prepared to
step down, having completed his land reform programme.
A spokesman for South African President Thabo Mbeki has, however, said
he strongly rejected the notion that he would go to another country to
bring about regime change.
Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has
condemned the leaders of South Africa and Nigeria for being too soft on
Mr Mugabe, after they favoured lifting the sanctions in March.
Mr Mbeki and his Nigerian counterpart Olusegun Obasanjo are two of the
three Commonwealth leaders tasked with resolving the Zimbabwe crisis
following last year's elections.
The Commonwealth said that election was held in "a climate of fear",
with MDC activists persecuted.
"It's a classic case where we have failed. I claim we deserve an A
minus for effort over Zimbabwe but about a D minus for achievement," Mr
Despite the positions of Mr Mbeki and Mr Obasanjo, Zimbabwe's
suspension was extended until December.
The MDC say that Mr Mugabe's resignation would be the first step to
resolving the crisis but they insist that this must provide them with an
equal role for them in a transitional government and fresh elections.
They fear that Mr Mugabe wants to hand power over to one of his close
Amnesty says that the "state repression of fundamental human rights" in
Zimbabwe is escalating.
"It is essential that the international community, particularly
Southern African governments, redouble their efforts to stress to the
Zimbabwean authorities that intimidation, arbitrary arrest and torture
of government critics is unacceptable," says its latest report.
Malaria drug related to suicidal behaviour
02 May 2003 15:03
The South African Pharmacy Council warned on Friday of the possible
suicidal psychological side-effects of the popular malaria drug Lariam.
"We have not really alerted the public or placed advertisements to tell
the public of the possible side-effects of Lariam. It is the duty and
responsibility of pharmacists themselves to do this," said the council's
registrar, Jan du Toit.
Du Toit was responding to questions about the distribution of the drug,
which can lead to suicidal behaviour if given to patients with a history
of illnesses such as psychotic disturbances, anxiety and depression.
He said that pharmacists had ethical rules governing them, and must
make sure that when patients left their pharmacies, they were "fully
informed" about the correct use and possible side-effects of any drug
prescribed to them.
The medical director of South African Airway's Netcare Travel Clinics,
Dr Andrew Jamieson, said that with business travel expanding into
Africa, "thousands of South Africans" travel to malaria-plagued
countries and use Lariam.
"The medicine is associated with neuro-psychological side-effects in
some people ... and people with these underlying problems experience a
worsening of the problem when using Lariam," he said.
For example, when people travel to remote areas, it prompted anxiety,
and this could be exacerbated even further by the use of the drug, with
many a holiday ruined because of "personality changes where people
become aggressive or even lock themselves in their hotel rooms".
"Travellers must be screened adequately and the drug should not be
handed out indiscriminately," he said.
Jamieson acknowledged that sometimes it was difficult to determine a
person's medical history. Many people, for example, said they were not
being treated for any psychological illness, but admitted to taking
Prozac for depression, which is a psychological illness.
The government's national malaria programme manager, Patrick Moonasar,
said that the Department of Health recommended the use of Lariam as an
effective malaria prophylactic.
"It is a safe drug for usage for people with normal temperaments and
who are psychologically well. But there are contra-indications, in, for
example, anyone with mental instability or depression."
Moonasar said the department had recently printed an updated
prophylactic guide which would be distributed to pharmacies across the
country. He said there were alternatives available should people not be
able to take Lariam.
Both he and Du Toit did not want to be drawn into whether business
imperatives for pharmacists might lead to an ethical hiatus, with Du
Toit saying he "firmly" believed pharmacists would not sell the drug
"I am also not aware of any complaints we (the Pharmacy Council)
received regarding Lariam," Du Toit said. - Sapa
US triples Aids spending
United States lawmakers have voted to triple to $15bn spending on the
fight against Aids in Africa and the Caribbean.
The money will pay for anti-viral medications for people already
suffering from the disease and try to slow the spread of HIV over the
next five years.
It was passed by a 375-41 vote following amendments by conservatives
that put a greater emphasis on faith-based groups and sexual abstinence
programs in fighting Aids.
Under an amendment proposed by Republican representatives Joseph Pitts
and Henry Hyde, one-third of the funds will be spent on programs
teaching abstinence until marriage.
President George W Bush promised to spend more on Aids/HIV in his State
of the Union address in January.
Democrat representative for California Tom Lantos described the passing
of the bill as a "grand humanitarian legislation".
However, conservatives backed down on the politically sensitive
The bill did not bar giving American tax dollars to Aids programmes run
by international family planning organisations that promote abortion.
AFRICA AIDS CRISIS
"The HIV/Aids pandemic is more than a humanitarian crisis," said Mr
"Increasingly it's a threat to the security of the developed world."
The initiative focuses on 12 African countries - Botswana, Ivory Coast,
Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa,
Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia - as well as Guyana and Haiti in the
The funds will also help fight tuberculosis and malaria.
Aids has reportedly killed 25 million people - 8,500 a day in 2002.
By 2010 the death toll is likely to reach 80 million.
- '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