- Teacher-pupil sex blamed for HIV rise
A breakdown in the school environment in Africa has led to growing
number of cases of HIV amongst young girls being caused by teachers,
Two thirds of those affected by HIV and Aids in sub-Saharan Africa are
women between 15 and 25 years old.
And one of the crucial reasons for this rise is the number of teachers
having sex with their pupils, researchers say.
"If you go to any school within the southern African region you will
hear the same story from the girls," Zimbabwean academic Pamela
Machakanja told BBC World Service's Africa Live! programme.
Ms Machakanja added that the problem went right to the top in many of
"Most of the perpetrators are head teachers," she said.
"[They] are supposed to maintain peace and tranquillity within the
Why are girls so vulnerable to HIV?
"They are supposed to educated their teachers about good behaviour,
role models, and exemplary etiquettes within the school system."
She argued that the problem was a recent phenomenon, and partly as much
a consequence of Aids - and the way it had caused a virtual breakdown in
society in some areas.
One 19-year-old girl at a school in Lusaka, Zambia - who asked not to
be named - said she knew of many teachers who had sex with a number of
"Those teachers are not only going out with one girl at the school -
they are going out with several other girls," she told Africa Live.
"You might find that they're going out with three or so."
The pupil added that the reasons her classmates had slept with their
teachers were varied.
"Sometimes they just say that they just like the teachers," she said.
"Sometimes they want to be getting good grades."
However she added that the girls were not only sleeping with teachers -
and that they were leaving themselves open to HIV infection in a number
Her friends "have been having sex on so many occasions they can't even
count," she said.
"Some have been using condoms and some haven't been using them.
"Sometimes they think their boyfriends - the people they are having sex
with - might leave them.
"They fear that, and they decide that they should not use condoms."
She added that "sugar daddies" - older men who girls have sex with in
return for the promise of expensive gifts - were also a major factor at
"A lot were having sexual relationships with older men - much older
men," she said, adding that this would usually be unprotected.
"They go out with older men because they think they give them many of
the things that the need, and they don't want to lose that.
"They like cellphones - and they don't want the bigger ones, they want
the small ones.
"So they go out with older men, who they think can afford to give them
the cellphones and to top up their cards."
"I think sex education in school is key in solving this problem," said
Ghanaian teacher Clara Boateng.
"When we educate the youth - especially in their schools - they will be
able to make informed choices, and then they will go down to their
communities, educate their parents and other siblings."
She argued also that in fact amongst children who attended to school,
cases of HIV were lower than amongst those who did not.
"The youths who are in school are not mostly affected," she said.
"The majority of the people are people who are out of school."
And she added that teachers could help solve the crisis as much as be
part of it.
"Teachers are versatile," she said.
"If they are given the mandate to carry out HIV messages, they can do
it and do it well."
Nationwide strikes loom in Zim
19 November 2003 11:58
Zimbabwe's main labour body called on Wednesday for nationwide strikes
in protest at the arrest of more than 100 of its officials and
supporters during anti-government demonstrations.
The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) called for a two-day job
stay-away starting on Thursday to put pressure on the government to
release its leaders and supporters, a statement issued by the labour
The arrested activists were among hundreds of people who witnesses said
had heeded the labour grouping's call to take to the streets on Tuesday
across the Southern African nation, to protest at the crumbling economy
and alleged rights abuses by President Robert Mugabe's government.
Baton-wielding police broke up the demonstrations and arrested at least
105 people, according to police figures, although the ZCTU says the
figure is higher.
"We demand the immediate release of ZCTU and other civic society
leaders," said the statement signed by ZCTU acting secretary general
Among those arrested were the ZCTU's president, Lovemore Matombo, and
secretary general Wellington Chibebe.
The two-day strike called by the ZCTU was also intended to put pressure
on the government to address the labour grouping's concerns over high
taxes, sky-rocketing prices and alleged abuses of human and workers'
rights, the labour grouping's statement said.
Ordinary Zimbabweans are suffering the effects of 70% unemployment,
inflation of more than 525% and chronic shortages of food, fuel and
medicines due to a lack of hard currency to import them.
On Thursday Finance Minister Herbert Murerwa is due to present the
national Budget for 2004, and workers are demanding that it address
their grievances. -- Sapa-AFP
Zimbabwe inflation surges to 526%
19 November 2003 09:06
Zimbabwe's annual rate of inflation, the highest in the world, soared
to new levels, reaching 526% in October, according to figures issued on
Tuesday by the state Central Statistical Office (CSO).
Compared with prices a year ago, the cost of living went up 525,8%,
against September's annual rate of 456%.
Calculated on a monthly comparison of prices, inflation in the month to
the end of October was 25,3%, the highest ever in a single month.
The CSO said that the biggest contributors towards the sharp rise were
increases of 1 179% for telephone charges, 983% for vehicle running
costs, 952% for school textbooks and 913% for shoes.
Economist John Robertson said the CSO's figures gave an appearance of
inflation much lower than the real rate. "It is evident that the recent
steep increases in rates and rentals in the Harare area have not been
captured, and that education and health fees recorded are being drawn
from a narrow sample of state-run facilities," he said.
The CSO also used the controlled prices of basic commodities, like
maize meal, the national staple, flour, sugar and fuel, which are
ignored by retailers who charge far higher prices.
Economists say misguided economic policies, such as price controls, a
regime of rock-bottom interest rates and unchecked state spending,
account for the uncontrolled escalation in prices. President Robert
Mugabe accuses "British interests" and "greedy hoarders" for the
Zimbabwe is described as having the fastest-shrinking economy in the
world, with gross domestic product having fallen 40% in the last four
years, and estimated to drop 18% this year alone.
Export earnings have plummeted to 1977 levels, largely as a result of
the destruction of productive agriculture following Mugabe's illegal
seizure of white-owned commercial farms.
Stricken by the sudden evaporation of hard currency earnings, mining
and manufacturing have recorded similar falls, while the value of the
national currency has fallen from 12 Zimbabwe dollars to the US dollar
in 1997, to 6 500 Zimbabwe dollars to the US dollar on the semi-official
parallel market now.
The government has pegged the rate at 842 Zimbabwe dollars to the US
dollar, a rate of conversion ignored even by state departments trying to
buy hard currency. - Sapa
Polling in Mozambique off to slow start
Fienie Grobler | Maputo, Mozambique
19 November 2003 13:04
Local polling in Mozambique started slowly on Wednesday as voters
queued patiently to cast their ballots in the first municipal elections
contested by a former rebel group in the southeast African country.
"They're not coming in big waves, but there has been a continuous flow
of people," Trade and Industry Minister Carlos Morgado said at a polling
station in the capital Maputo. "We have had one or two small problems
but overall all it is okay and calm."
The Mozambique National Resistance (Renamo) party, a rebel movement
that waged a 16-year civil war against the ruling Mozambique Liberation
Front (Frelimo), is participating in local elections for the first time
since independence from Portugal in 1975.
A peace deal in 1992 saw Renamo transformed into a political party, but
it boycotted 1998 municipal voting, accusing the Frelimo government of
That resulted in a turnout of just 14,4% and a landslide victory for
This year, more than two million people are registered to vote in 33
municipal districts contested by Frelimo and Renamo, which are the two
main contenders along with no fewer than 15 smaller opposition parties.
National television reported that voting was proceeding peacefully in
northern parts of the country, where Renamo is expected to win a
majority in Mozambique's second port city, Beira.
Frelimo traditionally enjoys strong support in the south, including the
capital Maputo, and Renamo is more popular in the less developed and
poorer rural areas.
This year's municipal elections are taking place mainly in cities and
in 10 rural centres, thus excluding the majority of the population of
17-million. The government has decided to gradually create separate
rural councils in areas currently ruled by officials appointed by
Electoral official Leticia Mondlane said organisers were expecting a
last-minute rush at the end of the day.
"If there are people who had been queuing from before 6pm [4pm GMT,
when the stations are scheduled to close], we will not shoo them away.
We will stay open to give them a chance to vote."
Mondlane's polling station is one of the busiest in Maputo, and it is
where President Joachim Chissano cast his vote early morning.
Three young women who are voting for the first time said they had
queued for two hours.
"We are very happy and very curious about voting for the first time,"
one of them said, but declined to say whom she would vote for, adding
that even her friends did not know.
Another woman, 50-year-old Rita Cumbula, was confident the new
political leaders would create better lives for Mozambicans.
"I voted because I hope and believe there will be change," she said.
Mozambique is dependent on foreign investment and aid, which makes up
50% of the annual Budget.
It had one of the fastest-growing economies in the world in the late
1990s, but fell victim to disastrous flooding in 2000 and 2001 that left
hundreds dead and devastated agriculuture and homes.
The country nevertheless achieved 8% growth in 2002 but now grapples
with high Aids rates and unemployment.
The results of the local elections will provide preliminary clues to
the outcome of a presidential election next year, which is expected to
be a tight race between Frelimo, Renamo and a newly registered
opposition formation, the Peace, Democracy and Development Party,
initiated by a popular former Renamo leader, Raul Domingos. -- Sapa-AFP
- '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