- Tension over Tanzanian militia
The authorities in north-western Tanzanian have said that they are
trying to diffuse tensions between local residents and a traditional
militia group which is said to be harassing and intimidating villagers.
The group, known as Sungusungu, which is recognised by the government,
had threatened to punish women in the Bariadi district, whom they accuse
of promiscuity and spreading HIV/Aids in the society.
The Bariadi district commissioner, Cleophas Rugarabamu, told the BBC
Focus on Africa programme that tension occurred after the traditional
militia gave two local unmarried women an ultimatum on Monday - to get
married, leave the Inkoma village or face the consequences.
"Following the investigations by our security personnel, we discovered
that Sungusungu had issued the directives to two women who are said to
be practicing prostitution," said Mr Rugarabamu.
He said the government was surprised by the Sungusungu action and that
they would call a meeting on Thursday to explain to the villagers that
the directive did not come from the government.
One of the women has since gone back to her family and the other is
still a free agent, but no action has been taken against her by the
traditional militia so far, three days after the deadline.
Mr Rugarabamu acknowledged that Sungusungu sometimes overstep their
boundaries, something which the government is closely "monitoring to
ensure that they do not operate outside their mandate".
"Their [Sungusungu] powers are limited to operations involving curbing
of cattle-rustlers and people who infringe on other people's
properties," he said.
Sungusungu was initially formed as a grass-roots law and order
organization of the Sukuma tribe of the Mwanza and Shinyanga regions,
aimed at controlling the increasing number of cattle rustlers who
emerged at the end of the Ugandan war, which left a surplus of guns and
young unemployed men.
But later the organisation, with members between the ages of 14 and 30,
began persecuting adulterers, run-away wives and debtors, reviving the
traditional aggressive mannerism towards women, which sometimes involved
After government intervention, Sungusungu was reformed in the mid-1990s
to become an arbitration organisation of peacemaking counsellors,
involved in solving community disputes, by imposing penalties and
sometimes ostracising the adulterers.
In recent years the organisation has come under a lot of criticism with
opposition political leaders calling for the group to be disbanded.
"The security of the people and property is the responsibility of the
police and not some traditional militia, who have the mandate of the
government," said Richard Hiza Tambwe, the director of publicity and
information with the opposition Civic United Front (CUF).
Sugar subsidies squeeze poor
By David Loyn
BBC developing world correspondent
As world trade talks are set to begin in Cancun, Mexico, developing
countries like Mozambique are pressing for a fairer deal on their
agricultural exports - in this case, sugar.
The sugar industry in Mozambique should be one of the world's success
With low labour costs and perfect growing conditions, its sugar cane is
of the highest quality.
It is the country's largest private employer and success for this
industry could be a key engine for growth.
But it is only now emerging from the mismanagement and neglect of
colonialism and civil war.
The South African sugar giant Illovo has taken over one of Mozambique's
biggest sugar factories at Mallagra, north of the capital Maputo.
They are hoping that the government will succeed in increasing the
quota allowed to Mozambique to sell into the highly regulated and
subsidised markets in Europe and the United States.
TRADE AND GLOBALISATION
Key issues at the trade talks
With prices close to $500 a tonne in Europe and $400 in the US, this
has obvious attractions against an average price of $270 elsewhere,
which does not even cover their cost of production.
"I don't see the world sugar market as fair. It is very distorted.
There is oversupply worldwide, and intervention and tariff protection
make it a very artificial market," says Lee Elkington, the finance
manager of the Mallagra plant.
Campaigning groups are pressing the government to take a tough line at
the trade talks.
Antonio Tovela, a campaigner with the small farmers' union UNAC said:
"We would appeal to the international government to stop subsidies
altogether. That would be a level playing field for us to have a
platform whereby all producers can actually benefit from their efforts."
UNAC, which has links to the British aid agency Action Aid, are
campaigning against other threats from the North, like the arrival of
genetically modified foods.
GM crops represent a significant cultural challenge to peasant farmers,
because often the seeds cannot be replanted, but new seeds have to be
bought from the company every year.
The issue of food security is literally a matter of life and death in a
country where the vast majority of people still work on the land,
compared with a much smaller proportion in Europe.
But the government is cautious about taking a hard line on sugar.
The deputy Agriculture Minister, Joao Carrilho, believes that Europe
and the United States are now beginning to talk seriously about lowering
subsidies for the first time.
He wants Mozambique to cooperate through the African Union and other
groupings to appeal for a balanced approach, fearing that a free-for-all
in agriculture could make food more expensive in Mozambique, which is a
net food importer.
He told the BBC: "Are we prepared to open our sugar market today and
say imports should be free? No we are not."
The key principle of trade liberalisation as pursued in the World Trade
Organisation is to ultimately lift all tariff barriers.
But with massive subsidies propping up farmers in the developed world,
the poorest countries, particularly those which are only now emerging
from the shadow of conflict, will demand protection to let their
Hopes and fears
Sub-Saharan Africa, the region with the largest number of poor
countries anywhere in the world, accounts for less than 2% of world
The negotiations in Mexico next week are being billed as a so-called
'development round', designed to help them trade their way out of
Mozambique will measure success in sacks of sugar sold.
Elephants relocated to Mozambique
By Alastair Leithead
Elephants living in the Kruger Park in South Africa are being moved to
Mozambique in the latest stage in the creation of a huge cross-border
game park between the two countries and Zimbabwe.
The elephants are being relocated to the Mozambican side of the Great
Limpopo Transfrontier Park, as part of a plan to spread the animals
across the three countries, now fences separating them are being
The translocation of four families of elephants, more than 40 in all,
takes place this Thursday.
Some 10,000 elephants live in the Kruger Park on the South African
side, too many for the habitat to sustain.
So the translocation serves the purpose of stocking the Mozambican park
and providing more space for the animals.
The countries' three heads of state signed an international treaty last
year and since then some border fences have been removed to allow the
animals to migrate and move around in their natural habitat without
It will take many years for the park to be completed and eventually it
is hoped an area of 100,000 square kilometres will be protected within
the conservation area.
Zimbabwean union plans mass action over cash shortages
04 September 2003 11:18
The main labour body in Zimbabwe is planning mass action against the
government over chronic cash shortages gripping the country, a top
labour official said on Thursday.
Over the past few months banks have been unable to supply people with
cash, workers have been unable to cash their pay cheques and people have
resorted to sleeping in bank queues.
Lovemore Matombo, the president of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade
Unions (ZCTU) said the labour body was planning mass action to protest
the "inactivity of the government" in overcoming the shortages.
He could not give any firm dates for the action, saying it awaited the
approval of the labour body's general council. But, he was confident the
mass action would be approved.
"We want to force them (the government) to act on the crisis," Matombo
said. The private Daily News newspaper quoted unnamed ZCTU sources as
saying the protest action would kick off on September 29 and would
include a week-long strike and protest marches by workers.
The government has said it was printing new money and has promised to
pump billions of Zimbabwe dollars into the economy on a daily basis
after September 26.
Matombo said his union, which represents around 250 000 workers, was
unconvinced and wanted direct assurances. "We cannot go by what we read
and hear in the print and electronic media," he said.
The Zimbabwean government blames the cash shortages on people hoarding
the country's highest denomination Z$500 note. It plans to withdraw the
old notes from circulation at the end of September and replace them with
new Z$500 and Z$1 000 bills.
Last month, it outlawed companies and individuals from holding more
than Z$5-million in a bid to release cash into the market. But, there
has been no let-up to the crisis.
Late on Wednesday, the state Ziana news agency interviewed a
48-year-old woman from rural Zimbabwe, who had spent a week queuing
outside a bank in central Harare in an attempt to draw her pension. --
- '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