- It's been quite a while between news bulletins, but this is a fairly big development. Meanwhile, the news from Zim gets worse and worse.Court blow for Malawi president
Malawi's Supreme Court has ruled that the speaker of parliament can expel MPs who switch parties - a ruling which could bring down the government.
Most members of President Bingu wa Mutharika's party were elected on the ticket of the former ruling party.
Mr Mutharika also won elections for the United Democratic Front (UDF), before leaving to set up the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
More than 70 of the 193 MPs could be affected by the ruling.
About half of them are from the DPP, which has formed a minority government.
'Victory for democracy'
UDF supporters burst into song and dance at the packed courthouse as Chief Justice Leonard Unyolo made his ruling.
He said Section 65 of the constitution gave the speaker the power to expel MPs who switch parties.
The DPP had challenged this view.
"It's [a] victory for democracy," said lawyer Kalekeni Kaphale, who represented opposition political parties in the landmark case.
"This will help bring political sanity in the country as it will stop those in power from abusing their authority in poaching almost everyone they want to their side."
DPP Secretary-General Heatherwick Ntaba said he was confident that his party's MPs would be re-elected in by-elections.
Parliament is due to resume on 29 June to debate the budget.
However political analyst Rafiq Hajat told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme that it would take six months to organise so many by-elections, if the speaker does expel the MPs.
He said that in the meantime, the government would struggle to get the budget passed and so some interim measure such as a government of national unity would be needed.
Mr Mutharika left the UDF, accusing party officials of blocking his anti-corruption drive.
*****Zimbabwe 'collapse in six months'
Zimbabwe will collapse within six months, possibly leading to a state of emergency, says a leaked briefing report for aid workers in the country.
Rampant inflation will mean shops and services can no longer function and people would resort to barter, it said.
"The memorandum is talking about a situation where there is no functioning government or a total breakdown," an unnamed aid worker told the UK Times.
Zimbabwe's inflation is already 3,714% - the highest rate in the world.
Business quotes were now valid for just one day or even one hour, said the report written by consultants and sent to workers at the United Nations and other aid agencies.
Several organisations contacted by the BBC News website denied commissioning the report.
Some firms were already partly paying their workers in food, rather than money, it said.
Shops were doubling their prices twice a month, so they could purchase replacement goods.
If this continues, "doubling the current inflation for each of the seven remaining months of 2007 gives 512,000% thus the economic collapse is expected before the end of 2007," said the report, according to the AP news agency.
The security forces who have remained loyal to President Robert Mugabe were also feeling the effects.
The report said an ordinary police officer earned less than aid workers paid their domestic staff.
It said power and water suppliers were already near collapse. Electricity was last month rationed to just four hours a day to save power for farmers.
Just one adult in five is believed to have a regular job.
Some 4m Zimbabweans - a third of the population - will need food aid this year, according to the UN World Food Programme.
Mr Mugabe denies responsibility for Zimbabwe's economic problems, blaming a western plot to bring down his government because of his policy of seizing white-owned land.
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- But good info for my childhoods class which will be doing projects on child labor. Maybe having the info will spur people to change things. I still hold out hope...How's the home solar project??KCOn Mon, Aug 24, 2009 at 9:26 AM, Christine Chumbler <wartpiggy@...> wrote:
Nothing to be proud of here, I'm afraid.
Malawi's child tobacco pickers 'poisoned by nicotine'Aug 24 2009 07:05Children in Malawi who are forced to work as tobacco pickers are exposed to nicotine poisoning equivalent to smoking 50 cigarettes a day, an investigation has found.
Child labourers as young as five are suffering severe health problems from a daily skin absorption of up to 54mg of dissolved nicotine, according to the international children's organisation Plan.
Malawian tobacco is found in the blend of almost every cigarette smoked in the West. The low-grade, high-nicotine tobacco is often used as a filler by manufacturers, reflecting a long-term global shift in production.
Tobacco farms in America declined by 89% between 1954 and 2002. Three-quarters of production has migrated to developing countries, with Malawi the world's fifth biggest producer.
Seventy percent of its export income comes from tobacco and the country is economically dependent on it.
Plan cites research showing that Malawi has the highest incidence of child labour in Southern Africa, with 88,9% of five to 14-year-olds working in the agricultural sector. It is estimated that more than 78 000 children work on tobacco estates -- some up to 12 hours a day, many for less than 1p an hour and without protective clothing.
Plan's researchers invited 44 children from tobacco farms in three districts to take part in a series of workshops. They revealed a catalogue of physical, sexual and emotional abuse and spoke about the need to work to support themselves and their families and pay school fees.
The children reported common symptoms of green tobacco sickness (GTS), or nicotine poisoning, including severe headaches, abdominal pain, muscle weakness, coughing and breathlessness.
"Sometimes it feels like you don't have enough breath, you don't have enough oxygen," one child said. "You reach a point where you cannot breathe because of the pain in your chest. Then the blood comes when you vomit. At the end, most of this dies and then you remain with a headache."
GTS is a common hazard of workers coming into contact with tobacco leaves and absorbing nicotine through their skin, particularly when harvesting. It is made worse by humid and wet conditions, which are prevalent in Malawi, as residual moisture on the leaves helps nicotine to be absorbed quicker.
Everyday symptoms of GTS are more severe in children than adults as they have not built up a tolerance to nicotine through smoking and because of their physical size. There is a lack of research into the long-term effects of GTS in children, but experts believe that it could seriously impair their development.
Neal Benowitz, professor of medicine, psychiatry and biopharmaceutical sciences at California University in San Francisco, said: "Numerous animal studies have shown that administration of nicotine during infancy and adolescence produces long-lasting changes in brain structure and function, as well as behavioural changes that are not seen when nicotine is administered to adults.
"The brain of a child or adolescent is particularly vulnerable to adverse neurobehavioural effects of nicotine exposure."
Plan called on Malawi's government to enforce existing child labour and protection laws and on plantations to provide safer, fairer working conditions for those children forced to work. It demanded that multinational tobacco companies scrutinise their suppliers far more closely and follow their own corporate responsibility guidelines.
Macdonald Mumba, Plan Malawi's child rights adviser, said: "This research shows that tobacco estates are exploiting and abusing children who have a right to a safe working environment.
"Plan is calling for better enforcement of child labour laws and harsher punishment for employers who break them. These children are risking their health for 11p a day." - guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media 2009
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"...for f*ck’s sake, the only thing that privilege is good for is to try to help other people." –Junot Diaz