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  • Christine Chumbler
    Africa childbirth deaths unacceptable African women are 175 times more likely to die in childbirth than Westerners, a UN report says. Overall, African woman
    Message 1 of 2 , Oct 20, 2003
      Africa childbirth deaths 'unacceptable'

      African women are 175 times more likely to die in childbirth than
      Westerners, a UN report says.
      Overall, African woman have a one in 16 chance of dying in child birth
      - but the report says many deaths could be avoided.

      Unicef Executive Director Carol Bellamy desribed said the figures
      showed an "unacceptably high number of women dying in childbirth" and
      called for increased access to emergency obsteric care.

      Many women deliver their children alone or with untrained attendants,
      says the report.

      In 2000 95% of the 529,000 maternal deaths occured in Africa and Asia.

      The report calls for more women to have access to a skilled health
      worker during pregnancy and labour, and access to emergency medical care
      when complications arise.

      It says most maternal deaths and disability result from delays in
      recognising complications, reaching a medical facility or receiving
      quality care.

      Lee Jong-wook, director-general of the World Health Organization, said:
      "Skilled attendants are vital because they can recognise and prevent
      medical crises."

      New technique

      The report is the first time a new analytical technique has been used
      to estimate the number of maternal deaths in countries where accurate
      figures are hard to come by.

      It shows that in the year 2000, the death rate among mothers per
      100,000 live births was 920 in sub-Saharan Africa.

      In developed countries it was just 20. In south central Asia it was
      520, and in southeastern Asia 210.

      The two countries with the worst record were Sierra Leone and
      Afghanistan, both suffering from years of civil strife, where the risk
      of death among pregnant women was one in six.

      In Angola, Malawi and Niger, it was one in seven.

      Japanese women have an only one in 6,000 chance of dying in pregnancy
      or childbirth.

      In 2000, world leaders agreed to slash the numer of maternal deaths by
      75% by 2015.

      Three UN agencies - World Health Organisation, the UNICEF children's
      agency, and the UN Population Fund - collaborated on the report.

      Chance of maternal death
      Sierra Leone, Afghanistan: one in six
      Angola, Malawi, Niger: one in seven
      Nepal: one in 24
      Pakistan: one in 31
      India: one in 48
      Malaysia: one in 660
      China: one in 830
      US: one in 2,500
      South Korea: one in 2,800
      Britain: one in 3,300
      Japan: one in 6,000
      Sweden: one in 29,800


      Zimbabwe admits land 'chaos'

      Less than half the number of supposed beneficiaries have been resettled
      under Zimbabwe's land reform programme, an official report says.
      The government has previously said that 300,000 black farmers had been
      given land seized from whites in the past three years.

      But a report prepared by Charles Utete, a close ally of President
      Robert Mugabe, puts the figure at 127,192, according to leaks in two
      local newspapers.

      The report also said that bureaucratic failings and political
      interference had hindered the process.

      One part of the land reform programme was meant to create 50,000 black
      commercial farmers but just 7,260 families have been given land under
      this scheme, according to the privately-owned Financial Gazette.

      Zimbabwe is experiencing economic meltdown, with shortages of basic
      foods, petrol and even banknotes and inflation reaching 455%.

      Government critics blame this on the disruption of the land reform
      programme to agriculture.

      Mr Mugabe blames a plot by western powers opposed to his reforms.

      Criteria ignored

      The government has seized some 8.6m hectares of land on 4,324 farms,
      the report says.

      It says that 1,323 white farmers remained on their land - far above the
      400 estimated by their representatives.

      Although the government published clear and well-defined criteria for
      who would lose their farms - absentee landowners, those who had multiple
      properties, those near already black areas - the lists of seized farms
      often did not respect these.

      Even some properties already belonging to the state were listed for
      compulsory seizure.

      Many of those properties seized had previously been given a
      certificate, saying that the state did not want to acquire them, the
      report said.

      "Many of these (properties) would, not infrequently, then be delisted
      via the same Government Gazette and the same newspapers in which they
      had been listed in the first place," the report says.

      These failings have resulted in many of the white farmers who have lost
      their land appealing to the courts.

      "As the committee went about its work, it could not fail to be struck
      by the number and the variety of legal issues that still required a
      resolution," the report said.


      Zim group demands new constitution

      Wilson Johwa | Harare, Zimbabwe

      20 October 2003 15:43

      Without New Constitution, No Chance for Opposition

      Zimbabwe's main constitutional change pressure group has taken its
      campaign to a level, demanding that the next general election be held
      only under a new democratic constitution.

      The National Constitutional Assembly, a grouping of civic groups,
      labour unions, churches and opposition parties, says to get into another
      election before changing the rules would be self-defeating.

      "Zimbabweans would be foolish to go into another election without a new
      constitution," says chairperson Lovemore Madhuku. "The current
      government is not accountable because there is nothing in the
      Constitution to make it accountable."

      Zimbabwe is in the grip of its worst political and economic crises,
      blamed on the country's long-serving, all-powerful executive President
      Robert Mugabe with a limitless number of terms of office.

      Last year Mugabe won his fifth election since independence under a
      cloud of controversy that he stole victory through intimidation,
      violence and mass disenfranchisement.

      The opposition is contesting the outcome of this election in court.

      But the problems go beyond one man. Zimbabwe has not had a popular
      constitution since gaining independence from Britain in 1980, following
      a protracted liberation struggle against the rebel Rhodesian government
      of Ian Smith.

      The country has been operating on the ceasefire document signed at
      Lancaster House in London, Britain, in 1979 and subsequently amended 15

      Political analysts in Zimbabwe say a skewed electoral playing field has
      helped the ruling party dominate all elections held since 1980.

      "You can have 100 elections under the current Constitution and they
      will all be stolen," Madhuku says.

      Elections in Zimbabwe are run by civil servants and verified by an
      ineffective Electoral Supervisory Commission appointed by the president,
      who also has the power to validate and invalidate elections.

      Thus, in effect, the Constitution allows the president to be both
      referee and player.

      One of the Constitution's major weaknesses is that the presidential
      election and parliamentary elections do not have to be held
      simultaneously. The presidential term is six years while
      parliamentarians are elected for five years.

      Furthermore, the gap between the two elections is growing. The last
      parliamentary election was held in 2000. The presidential election took
      place two years later.

      The next parliamentary elections will be in March or April 2005 and the
      presidential election will be in 2008.

      This two-year interval between the two elections will swell to five
      years by 2020, potentially making the country ungovernable.

      Madhuku says to reject voting under the current Constitution is not
      akin to boycotting elections.

      "We are saying let's disturb the electoral process under the current
      Constitution. If an election is called, we will disrupt nomination
      through mass action."

      But the ultimate decision to participate will be left to the political
      parties themselves, he says.

      Launched in January 1998, the National Constitutional Assembly
      spearheaded the successful campaign against a new ruling-party-drafted
      constitution in February 2000, giving Mugabe his first ever electoral

      Twenty months after its formation, the National Constitutional Assembly
      gave rise to the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), which has since
      become the country's main opposition party.

      Since then the two organisations have sometimes had an uneasy

      "At the moment, the relationship with the MDC is fine, we are agreed on
      these principles," Madhuku says. "But we don't trust that they will be
      with us on this point."

      "Political parties are opportunistic," he says. "When they see power
      they abandon principle."

      The second round of talks between the MDC and Zanu-PF aimed at halting
      the country's decline has been on and off since March. Madhuku says if
      the MDC believes these talks will offer it a chance at power it is
      likely to forget about a new constitution.

      Equally, he says if the MDC thinks the current constitution will lead
      it into power it will stick to it.

      "They have some faith in the current Constitution since they have
      managed to win elections under it."

      Nine months after formation in 2000, the MDC won 57 of the contested
      120 parliamentary seats. Since then the party has scored major victories
      in council elections.

      However, MDC spokesperson Paul Themba Nyathi says "the only way forward
      for Zimbabwe is through constitutional reform".

      Nyathi adds that the decision to contest elections is made by the MDC's
      national executive.

      "We will cross that particular bridge when we get to it."

      Meanwhile, Zanu-PF spokesperson Nathan Shamuyarira says the 2005
      elections will go ahead as scheduled and that the ruling party has no
      plans to adopt a new constitution.

      He accuses the National Constitutional Assembly of indecisiveness.

      "They were the ones who rejected the constitution we put on the table
      in 2000. They don't seem to know what they want," he alleges. -- IPS


      Zim judge wonders why The Daily News was banned

      Susan Njanji | Harare

      18 October 2003 08:23

      A judge hearing an appeal by Zimbabwe's only private daily newspaper,
      shut down by the government, questioned on Friday why the country's
      media law was not applied when the paper was refused a licence last

      Administrative Court Judge Michael Majuru grilled the licensing
      commission's head Tafataona Mahoso on the criteria used by the
      commission in deciding to refuse The Daily News registration.

      "This is not a case where you can come up with reasons of your own ...
      it has to be reasons laid down by the law."

      "The wording of the act is very clear, it tells you when you can refuse
      registration," said Majuru.

      The sections of the media law referred to by the judge states that the
      commission may not refuse to register a mass media house unless it
      contravenes any provisions of the law or provides misleading or false
      information on its application form.

      Other grounds that can lead to the rejection of registration include
      non-payment of registration fees or if the application is filed by an
      non-authorised person.

      On Thursday Mahoso said his commission's decision was influenced by the
      Supreme Court ruling which had declared The Daily News illegal because
      it was not yet registered by the media commission.

      Majuru also asked Mahoso why his commission did not take any steps as
      provided in the law against The Daily News for the eight months during
      which it operated without a licence.

      The commission had powers under the law to remind the paper that it was
      operating illegally, to issue an order to the paper not to continue
      publishing or impose daily penalties for the period the paper
      contravened the act.

      Mahoso, who admitted that his commission did not set up a new deadline
      for The Daily News to register, decided not to take action against the
      paper because the newspaper had turned to the courts to seek the
      nullification of the media law.

      "Since the matter was now in the court, we did not feel that we had to
      act in the first place," he told the court.

      The hearing continues on Sunday when the lawyers will sum up their

      The Daily News's lawyers had argued on the first day of the appeal
      hearing that the media commission's refusal to grant the paper a
      registration certificate was politically motivated.

      They accused Mahoso of bias and hostility against The Daily News.

      The paper has been off the news stands since armed police forcibly shut
      it down last month and confiscated all its equipment.

      Police moved onto the paper's premises in the capital on Friday
      September 12 after the Supreme Court ruled that the newspaper was
      operating illegally because it was not registered with media commission,
      set up shortly after President Robert Mugabe was re-elected in disputed
      elections in March last year.

      The paper had earlier decided against registering with the commission,
      arguing that obligatory registration was against the constitution of the
      southern African country. It subsequently submitted an application last
      month, but it was rejected. -Sapa-AFP


      Zimbabwe fuel firm on empty

      20 October 2003 07:49

      Zimbabwe's state fuel company has run dry, paralysing virtually all
      government departments and stopping many trains, buses and cars across
      the country.

      The government responded to the latest twist in the long-running fuel
      crisis by blaming the British government. "There is no fuel here, not a
      single drop," said an official of the state National Oil Company of
      Zimbabwe (Nicoz) in the state-controlled Herald newspaper on Saturday.
      The official said some fuel was expected "early next week".

      Without fuel, the work of government departments around the country has
      been hit. Police operations in many areas are being carried out on foot,
      bicycle or by public transport.

      Ambulances have had to be refuelled by patients' relatives.

      The severe shortage should embarrass the energy minister, Amos Midzi,
      who said only last week that fuel supplies were "adequate".

      International oil companies closed off supplies to Zimbabwe in December
      1999 because the government had failed to meet payments.

      The state oil company, Noczim, is said to owe around £180-million.

      Since then, the country has staggered through on temporary arrangements
      - including a year's supply from Libya - which all dried up as the
      government continued to fail to pay its bills. - Guardian Unlimited ©
      Guardian Newspapers Limited 2003

      Three injured in MDC shooting

      Zimbabwe's main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change
      (MDC), has said three people were shot at its headquarters in the
      capital, Harare.
      The MDC said a lawyer who rents an office in the same building opened
      fire on two security guards and a party supporter.

      However, a Zimbabwe police spokesman, Wayne Bvudzijena, disputed the
      MDC's version of events, saying the lawyer opened fire only after he was
      shot at.
    • Christine Chumbler
      Scribes to Stand By Harassed Zim Counterparts African Church Information Service October 20, 2003 Posted to the web October 20, 2003 Hamilton Vokhiwa Blantyre
      Message 2 of 2 , Oct 21, 2003
        Scribes to Stand By Harassed Zim Counterparts

        African Church Information Service

        October 20, 2003
        Posted to the web October 20, 2003

        Hamilton Vokhiwa

        The closure of the an independent newspaper in Zimbabwe, The Daily
        News, has triggered condemnation from media practitioners in Malawi.

        Representatives of Malawi's National Media Institute of Southern Africa
        (NAMISA), have criticised the Zimbabwe government, and have promised to
        petition the Zimbabwean High Commissioner in Malawi on the matter.

        Secretary for NAMISA, Lowani Mtonga, expressed sympathy with a team of
        journalists from Zimbabwe who were in Blantyre to brief their colleagues
        on the situation in their country.

        The journalists also visited South Africa, Botwsana, Namibia and

        National Director for Media Institute of Southern Africa
        (MISA)-Zimbabwe, Sara Chumbu, condemned journalists from the Southern
        Africa Development Community (SADC) region for not using their regional
        weight to help media in one country when in trouble.

        She subsequently called on all media practitioners in the region to
        start helping each other in order to promote media freedom in the

        Chumbu explained the repercussions of the closure of Daily News,
        pointing out that according to Zimbabwean laws, journalists who were
        employed by the paper are not supposed to work as media persons for two

        The closure of Daily News last month has meant loss of jobs for the 60
        journalists that it was employing.


        Zim opposition's 'peaceful weapon'


        21 October 2003 13:57

        Zimbabwe's opposition on Tuesday defended its "peaceful" legal
        challenge to the legitimacy of the government of longtime leader Robert
        Mugabe, re-elected last year in controversial polls.

        Zimbabwe's High Court is to begin hearing the challenge on November 3
        when the opposition will argue that Mugabe, who has ruled the southern
        African country since 1980, won re-election through massive fraud,
        violence and intimidation of opposition supporters.

        "This case is our peaceful weapon," David Coltart, an MP and legal
        adviser of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), said during a visit
        to South Africa.

        By challenging the results of the March 2002 polls, the MDC "are
        exercising our constitutional right," Coltart told a press conference in
        Johannesburg. "We are showing we are a mature political party ready to
        use the law even if it's subverted."

        The MDC, Zimbabwe's main opposition party led by former union leader
        Morgan Tsvangirai, filed the challenge in April 2002, the month after
        the election which was widely condemned as flawed, prompting sanctions
        from the European Union and the United States and suspension from the

        Coltart said: "The court procedure will show why the election was
        illegitimate. The case will also refocus world attention on the issue,
        the illegality of the government."

        However the MDC official said he feared that the High Court, whose
        president was appointed by Mugabe, "are not taking this case

        Mugabe's ruling Zimbabwe African National Union - Patriotic Front
        (Zanu-PF) party "wants to clear Mugabe's name," he said, adding: "I fear
        tactics to postpone the case."

        Coltart noted that the lawyer chosen for the case by the government is
        little known in Zimbabwe and that the presiding judge in the case has
        not yet been chosen.

        Zanu-PF has demanded that the MDC drop the challenge and take part in
        talks to resolve Zimbabwe's economic and political crises, a dialogue
        that broke down in May last year after the opposition launched the
        challenge. - AFP


        Zimbabwe tobacco sales lowest in 50 years


        21 October 2003 12:27

        Zimbabwe's annual auction of tobacco, once the motor of one of Africa's
        most vigorous economies, closed on Monday at its lowest volume in nearly
        50 years, with even an even gloomier future for the next season's crop.

        Sales on all three auction floors ended with 80,2-million kilogrammes
        of smoking leaf -- less than half last year's 166-million kilogrammes
        and a third of the record 236-million kilogrammes sold in 2000.

        The Zimbabwe Tobacco Association, which represents growers, is
        forecasting a crop next year of 60-million kilogrammes, but officials
        admit it may drop to 40-million.

        President Robert Mugabe's seizures of white-owned farms -- a large
        proportion of which produced tobacco -- and the accelerating economic
        collapse driven by the 79-year-old former guerilla leader's economic
        policies are said to be behind the tobacco collapse.

        This year's crop -- nearly all of it exported -- earned about
        US$179-million, less than half of what the record bumper crop of
        236-million kilogrammes earned in 2000, before Mugabe's "revolutionary
        land reform programme" had taken full effect. Since well before
        independence in 1980, tobacco has been the country's most important
        source of foreign currency.

        "Without a significant tobacco industry, there are almost no other
        sources of foreign currency," said Harare-based economist Tony Hawkins.

        "It means fertilisers, crop chemicals and fuel will be harder than ever
        to get. We will have to import more and more food. Hard currency will be
        harder and harder to get on the black market, and the exchange rate will
        disappear into the stratosphere."

        "The industry is dying," said David Machingaidze, the managing director
        of Tobacco Sales Floors. "We are going into the dark. We don't know
        which farmers are going to take the risk of planting a crop."

        "If the (white) commercial sector continues to dwindle significantly
        without any meaningful growth from the new farmers (who have taken over
        white-owned land), that is probably the biggest question," he said.

        Commercial farmers, nearly all whites, with generations of experience
        in growing and curing high grade leaf, accounted for 75% of this year'
        crop. The small-scale peasant farmers crop is not only much less, but of
        low quality.

        Even if commercial farmers were left alone to grow, they would face the
        task of trying to produce in a hyper-inflationary environment, with the
        annual inflation index at the end of September at 455%.

        "Chemicals and fertiliser are not only expensive, but also difficult to
        find," Machingaidze said. "There are serious shortages."

        Last year it cost farmers 1,8-million Zimbabwean dollars to grow a
        hectare of tobacco. Forecasts by farmers' unions of 30-million
        Zimbabwean dollars now are "not entirely wild", he said.

        The government worsened conditions for growers by pegging the exchange
        rate at one US dollar to 800 Zimbabwe dollars, as the unofficial
        "parallel" rate soared unchecked to about one US dollar to 5 500
        Zimbabwe dollars.

        Twice in the five-month growing season, peasant growers withdrew their
        crop from sale in an attempt to force the state to devalue and give them
        a better price. Their action went unheeded. - Sapa-DPA


        South Africa HIV rate 'falling'

        A new analysis of the Aids epidemic in South Africa suggests that fewer
        people are becoming infected with HIV than in previous years.
        The research also predicts that the total number of HIV-positive people
        in South Africa will remain constant for the foreseeable future.

        About 5m South Africans carry the Aids virus - more than in any other

        The researchers say Aids remain a "huge burden" in the country.

        Research from ante-natal clinics shows that the proportion of young
        women carrying the Aids virus has declined over the last five years.

        Scientists have now combined that finding with information from a
        recent nationwide survey, and put the data into a computer programme
        which aims to model the epidemic.

        Safe sex

        The results were published in the African Journal of Aids Research.

        They suggest that the annual rate of new infections has declined
        substantially, from 4.1% of the population aged 15-49 in 1997 to 1.7% in

        One of the researchers, Dr Thomas Rehle, says that is partly because
        young people are paying more attention to safe sex education.

        "Well, it looks like people more and more get the message. And
        particularly among the young groups, it looks like it gets better and
        better absorbed."

        But BBC science correspondent Richard Black says the epidemic is
        certainly far from over.

        In the immediate future, the proportion of the adult population
        infected with HIV will stay roughly constant, the researchers say; the
        average life expectancy will continue to fall for around 10 years.

        The projections made by this research team are considerably lower than
        previous estimates, and the scientists acknowledge there are
        uncertainties in their figures.

        But they emphasise their analysis does not mean that the scale of the
        AIDS problem has been exaggerated.
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