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  • 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 1 of 2 , Oct 21, 2003
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      Scribes to Stand By Harassed Zim Counterparts

      African Church Information Service

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

      Hamilton Vokhiwa
      Blantyre

      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
      Zambia.

      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
      region.

      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
      years.

      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'

      Johannesburg

      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
      Commonwealth.

      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
      seriously."

      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

      Harare

      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
      country.

      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
      2002.

      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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