- 'Castrate Zambia's child rapists'
Zambian members of parliament have called for child rapists to be
castrated to curb a growing problem.
Police say that 400 cases of child rape were reported in the first half
of 2003 - a 68% increase on the previous year.
Some men say they rape children in the belief that having sex with a
virgin can cure Aids. Some 20% of Zambians are HIV positive.
The call was made in a report by the parliamentary legal committee,
whose recommendations often become law.
"The recommendation is the result of the numerous cases of child
defilement in the country," said Amos Nakalonga, Chairman of the
Committee on Legal Affairs, Good Governance and Human Rights.
"It's too barbaric to be allowed to happen," he told the BBC's Network
"People have observed that existing laws are weak [and] not deterring
people," he said.
However, he did not say how the castration should be carried out,
saying this question should be answered when the bill is drafted.
He said it was "likely" that the recommendation would become law.
The incidence of child rape is one factor behind the high number of
young girls who are HIV positive.
Boat capsizes in Zambia, killing 26
26 November 2003 15:21
A passenger boat capsized on Lake Mweru on Zambia's northern border
with Congo, killing 26 people and leaving 14 missing, officials said on
The boat was sailing in rough weather on Monday afternoon when the
accident happened, police spokesperson Brenda Muntemba said.
Police said the 36-capacity boat was loaded with 51 passengers and
Eleven people survived the accident and were treated at a rural health
center in nearby Nchelenge, a town about 600km north of the capital,
Rescue efforts were delayed because the incident was only reported to
authorities in Nchelenge on Tuesday, officials said.
Army divers were dispatched to the scene to search for survivors and
"We are still searching for the missing persons, but much of our
efforts are being hampered by the roughness on the lake," Deputy Home
Affairs Minister Kennedy Sakeni said on Wednesday. -- Sapa-AP
Mugabe cracks down on the internet
Sapa and Riaan Wolmarans
26 November 2003 13:02
Reporters sans Frontières has urged Zimbabwean authorities to drop
charges against 14 people who were arrested for circulating an e-mail
message criticising President Robert Mugabe's economic policies and
calling for his departure.
"Robert Mugabe has already gagged the traditional news media and we
must now speak out so that the internet does not meet the same fate,"
Reporters sans Frontières secretary general Robert Ménard said about the
arrests in Zimbabwe.
"The Zimbabwean opposition is increasingly using the internet to
distribute information criticising the regime and this right must not be
denied them," he added.
The Herald, a government-controlled daily, said those detained were
released after paying bail of Z$50 000 but have been ordered to appear
in court on November 26. The e-mail message encouraged Zimbabweans to
stage violent demonstrations and strikes to force Mugabe to stand down,
the newspaper said.
This is the first time the Zimbabwean authorities have used a law
passed last year by Parliament allowing it to intercept e-mail. An
employee with a Zimbabwean internet service provider told the BBC that
no system for monitoring e-mail has yet been installed. The police
therefore intervened after receiving a copy of the message.
"What is happening is that governments are starting to not only wise up
to the internet, but to acknowledge it as an important medium of
communication," says South African internet journalist and author Arthur
"As such it poses a tremendous threat to totalitarian regimes such as
those in China and Zimbabwe. If it were still the old South Africa,
internet access would probably be rigidly monitored, but unlike these
examples, the individuals using it to express their views would be
pursued by security police rather than through the open justice
Goldstuck says an emerging trend would be governments avoiding pursuing
these matters openly because the nature of the medium means their
embarrassment will be compounded.
"The violating e-mails would become part of the online record of
discussion of the cases, which is exactly what these kinds of
governments want to avoid."
The Zimbabwean news media use the internet to get around government
After The Daily News was banned in October, its editors decided to
continue publishing on a website hosted in neighbouring South Africa.
The Insider, a newspaper that has declared its intention of providing
independent news, has been publishing online since September to avoid
the prohibitive cost of a paper edition.
- '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