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  • Christine Chumbler
    Blow for Zambia s ruling party By Penny Dale BBC, Lusaka Zambian Defence Minister Michael Mabenga has lost his job and been stripped of his parliamentary seat
    Message 1 of 57 , Sep 25, 2003
      Blow for Zambia's ruling party

      By Penny Dale
      BBC, Lusaka

      Zambian Defence Minister Michael Mabenga has lost his job and been
      stripped of his parliamentary seat after the Supreme Court annuled his
      election victory.

      The Supreme Court in Zambia delivered its final judgements on two cases
      outstanding from the country's controversial presidential and general
      elections nearly two years ago.

      After the elections in December 2001, which brought current President
      Levy Mwanawasa to power, the opposition launched a series of legal
      challenges to the results of both the presidential and parliamentary

      Today's verdict was a major blow to Mr Mwanawasa's ruling Movement for
      Multi-party Democracy [MMD] party.

      The court upheld the complaints of the runner-up, Sikota Wina, of the
      opposition United Party for National Development [UPND].

      'Broke the law'

      The judges ruled that Michael Mabenga broke the law when he used
      government money and vehicles while campaigning for the Mulobezi seat in
      Western Province.

      When delivering their ruling, the judges recommended that what they
      called appropriate action be taken by the authorities on the misuse by
      Mr Mabenga of $6,000 earmarked for the people of Mulobezi.

      The judges said this misuse amounted to theft.

      A disappointed-looking Mr Mabenga, who drove away from the courtroom to
      the boos of a delighted UPND crowd, was not the only ruling party MP to
      be booted out of parliament.

      The courts also ruled that the Mpika Central seat in the north of
      Zambia was not won fair and square.


      The MMD has brushed off what the opposition describes as a bad news day
      for the ruling party.

      Spokesperson Aka Mbikusita-Lewanika says the party is not exactly
      happy, but neither is it overly distressed, because, even with the
      losses, the MMD still has a majority in parliament.

      Having won three out of the last four by-elections, it has three more
      seats than the opposition.

      But today's court rulings mean yet another round of by-elections over
      the next few weeks.

      And with four seats now vacant the MMD's slim majority is once again up
      for grabs.


      Zimbabwe rolls out its new money

      Harare, Zimbabwe

      24 September 2003 07:46

      The now routine long lines of customers outside of banks eased on
      Tuesday for the first time in two months after Zimbabwe's central bank
      launched new temporary bank notes printed in full only on one side.

      The poor quality notes, valid as legal tender until January 31, are the
      latest in a series of desperate and unorthodox measures intended to
      bolster the struggling economy and end acute shortages of cash in this
      troubled Southern African country.

      The so-called "bearer cheques" resemble bank notes but will only be
      valid as legal tender until January 31, the Reserve Bank said.

      The notes were issued to banks on Tuesday in denominations of Z$5 000,
      Z$10 000 and Z$20 000 amid fears they were open to easy forgery, even by

      The highest existing denomination bank note is Z$500, or 60 United
      States cents at the official exchange rate of 824-1 or about 10 US cents
      at the black market rate of 5 000-1.

      The new notes are also available in automatic teller machines.

      In recent weeks, Zimbabweans have taken to waiting several days in bank
      lines to draw their money or cash pay checks. Some have slept on the
      sidewalk outside their banks to secure a place at the front of the

      Customers said they were served with the new notes after waiting for as
      little as 20 minutes in swift-moving lines on Tuesday.

      The central bank said it was releasing nearly Z$9-billion at the
      official rate (or $2-million at the black-market rate) this week.

      A total of Z$390 billion ($470 million or $80 million) of the new notes
      is to be released, nearly double the value of existing conventional bank
      notes in circulation.

      The dramatic increase in money supply was expected to spur already
      record inflation.

      Inflation rose to a record 426% in August, one of the highest in the

      Zimbabwe is suffering shortages of local money blamed on its runaway
      inflation, the central bank's inability to print conventional notes
      quickly enough and hoarding of money amid uncertainty in the crumbling

      The government has resisted calls to introduce large denomination bank
      notes, citing fears they would further fuel inflation.

      It argues the temporary notes, printed with a faint watermark and a
      simple security thread compared to elaborate security features on
      conventional notes, will restore consumer spending and revive
      productivity in the economy.

      In another unique attempt to ease the currency crisis, the central bank
      last month issued a range of new local travelers' cheques valid only in
      Zimbabwe in denominations of up to Z$100 000 that it said were legal
      tender accepted by major stores and businesses.

      Some stores, however, refused to accept the travelers' cheques that
      were described as "funny money" vulnerable to forgery and fraud.

      The nation is suffering its worst economic crisis since independence in

      The deepening economic crisis is blamed partly on the state programme
      that seized thousands of commercial farms from white farmers for
      redistribution to black Zimbabweans.

      The state-owned Herald newspaper raised its cover price on Tuesday to
      Z$500 (60 US cents at the current official exchange rate, or 10 US cents
      at the black-market rate), up from Z$300. In 1985, five years after
      independence, the paper cost 10 Zimbabwe cents. -- Sapa-AP


      Mugabe calls for unity at ally's funeral

      Harare, Zimbabwe

      24 September 2003 14:17

      Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe on Wednesday called for unity with
      the opposition as he led tens of thousands of mourners in paying tribute
      to the country's late vice president, Simon Vengesayi Muzenda.

      Muzenda, who was buried in a state funeral broadcast live on national
      television, died on Saturday aged 80, after being hospitalised for
      months for diabetes and hypertension.

      "Unity of our nation is vital ... unity in a directed manner towards
      the attainment of certain goals, on the basis of certain fundamentals,"
      said Mugabe.

      In his salutations, Mugabe recognised the presence at the Harare
      ceremony of over a dozen opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)
      lawmakers, city mayors and municipal councillors.

      "To our friends from the MDC who are here, we say to them, you are
      welcome, you are Zimbabweans," Mugabe said in a sharp contrast to his
      usual reference to opposition members as puppets of Britain.

      "We are sons of the soil together, and sons of the soil should behave
      like sons of the soil, [and] not rise against each other," he said.

      Differences could always be resolved internally, and not in "[Britain's
      Prime Minister Tony] Blair's home", he added.

      Mugabe, who has previously accused the MDC of being bankrolled by the
      former colonial power Britain, has recently toned down his vitriol
      against the party that has posed the most serious challenge to his
      political career in independent Zimbabwe.

      Wednesday was the second time he spoke of unity. In August he told the
      opposition to repent if they wanted to seek unity with his government.

      Muzenda was buried with full military honours including a 19-gun salute
      and a fly-past by MIG-23 fighters over his grave at the country's
      shrine, set aside for heroes of the country's war of independence.

      The government declared three days of national mourning starting on

      Flags have flown at half-mast since Muzenda's death, while most
      regularly scheduled programmes on national television and radio have
      been replaced by special shows dedicated to the veteran nationalist and
      Mugabe ally.

      The funeral was attended by vice presidents of Botswana, the Democratic
      Republic of Congo, Malawi and Tanzania.

      South Africa and Zambia were represented by Cabinet ministers. --


      Condom supply to Africa hit by US abortion policy

      25 September 2003 08:03

      United States President George Bush's administration's ban on funds to
      family planning clinics that offer abortion counselling is adversely
      affecting the supply of condoms to countries hit by HIV/Aids, it was
      claimed on Wednesday.

      Clinics have had to close in a number of African countries because the
      family planning organisations running them refuse to sign a declaration
      that they will not offer abortions or even discuss them.

      Many healthcare workers consider it unethical to refuse help to a
      pregnant woman who may endanger her life by seeking a backstreet
      abortion if she is turned away.

      On Wednesday the biggest international organisations affected by the
      so-called Mexico City policy, or Global Gag as the activists call it,
      launched a report quantifying the disaster they say it is visiting on
      the developing world.

      Amy Coen, president of Population Action International, the lead
      sponsor of the study, said: "The policy significantly reduces access to
      vital family planning and health-related services for some of the
      world's poorest women and weakens vital HIV/Aids prevention efforts."

      The rule was "another example of how the Bush administration is
      allowing political ideology to trump science".

      The report documented the closure of many clinics that are often the
      only provider of sexual healthcare in their areas because of a cutoff of
      funds from USAid, the US agency which is the world's biggest source of
      development funding. About $430-million, which the administration
      earmarks for family planning in poor countries, can only go to
      organisations that have signed the anti-abortion pledge.

      The policy was introduced by Ronald Reagan, thrown out by Bill Clinton
      and reinstated on Bush's second day in office.

      Family planning groups say the policy is damaging the cause that Bush
      has espoused in a bid to show the compassionate side of his
      administration, that of HIV/Aids.

      USAid is the most important single donor of condoms to the developing
      world, procuring and delivering more than a third of all donated
      supplies, worth about $75-million a year.

      The report said that by 2002, the policy had ended shipments of
      USAid-donated condoms to 16 developing countries whose family planning
      associations are affiliated to the International Planned Parenthood
      Federation and who refused to sign the pledge. They include Swaziland,
      which has one of the highest HIV rates in the world, Burundi, Chad,
      Gambia and Mauritius.

      USAid's condom supplies to a further 13 countries have been cut because
      the main, although not the only, family planning organisation will not
      sign. They include some with the worst HIV problems in Africa: Uganda,
      Zambia and Zimbabwe. -- Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited
    • 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 6:02 AM
        '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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