IRIN-SA Weekly Round-up 53 covering the period 30 Dec 2000 - 5 Jan 2001
Soldiers from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) driven into Zambia by a rebel offensive are leaving the country without being screened for possible involvement in the 1994 Rwandan genocide, Reuters reported on Friday. Quoting senior Zambian intelligence sources, the news agency said that the nearly 4,000 soldiers were on their way back to the Congo or would be leaving shortly after meetings between Zambian and Congo leaders and military chiefs on Thursday. "It would appear that the screening sought by the Rwandan government or the International Criminal Tribunal on Rwanda (ICTR) have now been overtaken by events," one security source said.
The disarmed soldiers, who fled into Zambia in December, have been encamped outside a warehouse in the northern town of Kaputa, on the DRC border. Zambian military sources told AFP on Thursday that the soldiers were expected to be moved to Mufulira, a town near Lubumbashi - the DRC's second largest city. DRC President Laurent-Desire Kabila and Zambian leader Frederick Chiluba met in the Zambian copperbelt city of Ndola on Thursday to discuss the fate of the soldiers. Kabila was reportedly concerned that the ICTR and Rwanda wanted to verify whether any of them belonged to the hardline Hutu Interahamwe militia, blamed for leading the 1994 slaughter of 800,000 Rwandan Tutsis and moderate Hutus.
ZAMBIA-DRC: New refugee influx feared
Concern is mounting among humanitarian agencies in Zambia that an "impending" attack on the southeastern Congolese border town of Pweto by government forces could send thousands more refugees fleeing into Zambia. Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) government troops shelled the rebel-held town on Monday. The attack was condemned as "suicidal" by rebel RCD-Goma radio, which reported that two people died in the barrage. In the event of an all-out government assault on the town, humanitarian sources said they are preparing for an influx of 10,000 refugees - mainly from among those that fled the rebel advance on Pweto in December. Meanwhile, RCD-Goma forces are reported to be pushing south towards the government-held town of Kasenga, also on the Zambian border.
ZAMBIA: Poll on a Chiluba third term
Amid widespread speculation that President Frederick Chiluba intends to amend the constitution and run for a third term, an independent research group is polling Zambians to hear their verdict on the controversy. Mike Zulu, chairman of the National Organisation for Civic Education, said the independently-financed poll began on Tuesday. He said the exercise followed calls from within Chiluba's ruling Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) that he stay on beyond the end of his second term this year, the Associated Press reported.
The biggest hint yet that Chiluba could be a presidential candidate came at the weekend when the executive committee of the MMD's central province branch adopted a formal resolution asking him to run, Reuters said. The dispatch quoted analysts as saying the remaining eight provinces were likely to follow suit and the Zambian parliament, in which the MMD holds more than the required two-thirds majority, would probably amend the constitution to remove the existing two-term limit. Chiluba has banned campaigning for the MMD leadership, on the grounds that a succession fight would damage the party. In July, the MMD expelled Environment Minister Ben Mwila and seven MPs for launching "premature" campaigns for the presidential elections. Late last year Chiluba, a former trade union leader and born-again Christian, said he would not run again and would instead devote his life to God and a planned institute for democratic studies.
ZAMBIA: UNIP leadership battle
Zambia's opposition United National Independence Party (UNIP) central committee members have formally adopted secretary general Tilyenji Kaunda to replace embattled Francis Nkhoma as party president, 'The Post' newspaper reported on Thursday. Quoting party sources, the newspaper said Tilyenji - the son of the country's first president Kenneth Kaunda - would be elected into office during the forthcoming UNIP national council where Nkhoma was expected to be expelled from the party. "There is no doubt that Nkhoma would be asked to leave the party by the national council," said a senior UNIP official who declined to be named. "Hence, the move to ask Tilyenji to take over."
SOUTHERN AFRICA: SADC to meet over foot-and-mouth
The Southern African Development Community (SADC) plans to hold discussions over a foot-and-mouth disease crisis affecting member countries, according to news reports. South Africa officially has the highest rate of infection and has culled thousands of head of cloven hoofed animals, a situation which has had dire consequences for cattle farmers in two of the country's provinces. Swaziland became the latest affected country and in recent weeks over 200 head of cattle were slaughtered in a bid to contain the highly infectious disease.
SADC members have expressed concern at the impact the disease could have on meat exports and domestic cattle herds, DPA reported. Many member countries have banned meat imports from affected areas in South Africa, Swaziland and Mozambique since the disease broke out last year. Botswana, meanwhile, has taken steps to control the cross border movement of animals vulnerable to the disease by mending fences along its borders with South Africa and Zimbabwe, a Sapa report said. Botswana exports 85 percent of its meat products to the European Union. No date has been announced for the SADC meeting.
SOUTHERN AFRICA: Cholera spreads
A cholera outbreak is spreading in Southern Africa, with reports of cases in South Africa's commercial heartland Gauteng and in neighbouring Swaziland. SAPA said the Gauteng health department on Thursday reported two suspected cases of the waterborne disease, which has so far mainly affected coastal KwaZulu-Natal. SAPA said the eastern Mpumalanga province on Thursday opened an emergency isolation ward to treat 10 cholera cases.
Swazi authorities on Thursday reported six deaths from cholera, after the epidemic crossed into the landlocked country from South Africa. In eastern Swaziland, Lubombo regional health inspector Sipho Shongwe said that local hospitals were admitting up to five new cholera cases per day, the African Eye news service reported. Shongwe said the isolated Kalanga area appeared to be the hardest hit because villagers had limited access to piped water or sewerage systems and instead depended on local rivers for drinking water.
Meanwhile, at least five people have died in a cholera outbreak in Mozambique's capital Maputo in recent weeks. Maputo city health director Olivia Ferreira told the daily 'Noticias' that between 40 and 50 cholera patients have been admitted to hospital every day over the last couple of weeks. The majority of the cases were from the suburbs of Chamanculo, Malanga, Maxaquene, Luis Cabral and Minkadjuine where sanitary facilities were poor. Many of the country's urban centres are vulnerable to cholera and malaria epidemics during rainy seasons which run from November to April, AFP reported. The water-borne disease killed more than 100 people last year following the devastating floods in February and March.
SOUTH AFRICA: WHO to help with cholera outbreak
WHO officials are due in South Africa this week to help the government deal with a cholera outbreak which has killed 53 people so far. The head of WHO in South Africa, Welile Shasha, told IRIN on Thursday that two epidemiologists expected by the end of the week would consult government health officials and then head off to KwaZulu Natal to try to determine why the epidemic has not yet been stemmed. "They will be here to design a programme to deal with the outbreak and also to look at ways of preventing future outbreaks," he told IRIN.
MOZAMBIQUE: Flooding cuts road links
Heavy rains have damaged roads in the western Mozambican province of Tete and cut off the districts of Zumbo and Mutarara from the provincial capital, authorities said on Thursday. The rains have also swamped cropland in the district of Zumbo, fuelling fears that the situation could worsen, DPA reported.
"We are experiencing serious problems in the northern and southern regions of the province," Paulo Mesquita, Tete's Public Works and Housing Director was quoted as saying. "The bridge over the Nhamadzi river that links the districts of Macanga and Angonia was washed away by the waters, thus cutting road access between the two districts." He said a similar situation has occurred between the districts of Madimba and Mutarara "which is now impassable, and also the link between the district headquarters of Fingoe and Maravia and the Zumbo district headquarters". Meanwhile, about 150,000 people have been put on alert in some districts of the Zambezia province, the news agency reported.
MOZAMBIQUE: Dhlakama accuses government of repression
Mozambique opposition leader Afonso Dhlakama said on Tuesday that he would hold more talks with President Joaquim Chissano only if government-backed militias ended attacks against his supporters, news agencies reported. Dhlakama alleged that militias loyal to the ruling FRELIMO party were persecuting and killing his RENAMO supporters in northern Cabo Delgado province, where 41 protesters died in November clashes with police, and 82 suffocated in a crowded prison cell. "We can't be simulating dialogue when people in Cabo Delgado are dying," he said in an interview with the Portuguese daily 'Publico'.
Chissano and Dhlakama met on 20 December for the first time since disputed general elections in 1999 for talks on how to end the political unrest and bolster democracy. They are set to meet again in mid-January. "There can be a dialogue so that we can agree on the conditions under which we Mozambicans will allow ourselves to be governed," Dhlakama said. "We leaders have to know what is needed to more or less stop confrontation." Dhlakama said the meeting last month did not mean that he had recognised Chissano as winner of the 1999 ballot.
MALAWI: Flooding hits south
Over 500 farmers in Malawi lost their crops this week when the Shire river burst its banks and flooded almost 200 hectares of maize fields, African Eye News Service reported. Malawi commissioner for disaster preparedness, Lucious Chikuni, said on Thursday: "We need at least 5,000 mt of maize seed for farmers to replant their crops. We need to move as quickly as possible to prevent hunger in the future, but haven't yet received our budget from government and are therefore hamstrung."
No one was reported killed in the flooding, but scores of houses, bridges and other infrastructure were destroyed, he added. At least 570 subsistence farmers were affected in the disaster in Malawi's southern Chikwawa district on the country's border with Mozambique.
MALAWI: Ex-minister's corruption trail opens
The high-profile trial in Malawi of a former cabinet minister facing corruption charges opened on Thursday amid tight security and high tension, AFP said. Brown Mpinganjira, who had been widely tipped to succeed President Bakili Muluzi as leader of the governing United Democratic Front (UDF), faces up to 12 years in prison for his alleged involvement in a two-million dollar contract scheme. The former transport and public works minister was sacked in November, along with two other ministers for allegedly authorising payments to "ghost contractors" to build schools when he was education minister several years ago. The projects were never completed and the funds were allegedly diverted towards campaigning for last year's parliamentary and presidential polls.
ZIMBABWE: Opposition campaigning hit by violence
Mounting violence in Zimbabwe's Bikita West constituency has "severely compromised" by-election campaigning by the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), party spokesman Learnmore Jongwe told IRIN on Wednesday. He confirmed press reports that MDC candidate Bonnie Pokayi had been forced to stop campaigning in the vacant rural seat. "The situation is so bad you can hardly walk there and claim to be MDC," Jongwe said. "We are now trying to see if we can have other means of low-key campaigning." One person has already died in the political violence. Both the ruling ZANU-PF and the MDC claim that the man, who was stabbed at a ZANU-PF rally at the weekend, was one of their supporters. Next week's by-election is viewed by the two parties as a gauge of their support in the politically important rural areas ahead of presidential elections next year.
ZIMBABWE: Eight people arrested in Bikita West violence
Eight people arrested in a crackdown on political violence in the Bikita West constituency in Masvingo last week were expected to appear in court on Thursday, Zimbabwe's 'Herald' reported. Four opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) supporters were arrested for the alleged murder on Saturday of ZANU-PF member Steven Bernard Gwanda, also known as Bernard Gara. Four ZANU-PF men were arrested for allegedly assaulting MDC supporters in separate incidents. Masvingo Province Senior Assistant Commissioner Emmanuel Chimwanda, said on Thursday that more arrests were expected.
ZIMBABWE: MDC election results petition
Meanwhile, a petition challenging the constitutionality of a presidential decree banning opposition lawsuits over last June's disputed election results is to be heard by the Supreme Court on 19 January, news reports said. The opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) is contesting the results of the June legislative poll in 38 out of 120 parliamentary seats, on the grounds that violence and intimidation benefited the ruling ZANU-PF. But last month, President Robert Mugabe decreed that no court hearings could be held to invalidate disputed election results "in the interest of democracy, peace, security and stability", even if voting irregularities had been established.
At the Supreme Court on Wednesday, the government argued that it needed four weeks to prepare its case against the MDC's petition, and that it would be hiring South African lawyers. The court ruled that it could only have two weeks. The MDC has 57 seats and would need to win 18 of the contested 38 constituencies to gain a majority in Zimbabwe's 150-seat parliament.
ZIMBABWE: 2,000 civil servants retrenched
The Zimbabwe government on Tuesday laid off more than 2,000 civil servants in ongoing moves to streamline the public sector, according to the workers' union. Thousands of workers from the education ministry were handed letters of termination when they turned up for work on Tuesday, AFP quoted the Government Workers Association (GWA) as saying. "At least 2,000 workers have been affected, but the actual number could be far greater than that," Agrippa Munyaka, secretary general of the GWA said. The majority of the workers informed of their fate on Tuesday were from Zimbabwe's two main cities of Harare and Bulawayo. Others from rural areas were still to receive their notices of retrenchment.
ZIMBABWE: Hospital fees hiked
Zimbabwe has increased hospital fees by between 50 and 100 percent with effect from 1 January as the ministry of health grapples with escalating health costs, the official 'Herald' newspaper reported on Wednesday. Minister of Health and Child Welfare Timothy Stamps was quoted as saying that the hike in hospital fees and tariffs is one strategy through which his under-funded ministry intends to supplement its budget allocation. According to the 'Herald', the ministry asked for US $300 million dollars but only received US $180 million dollars in the current budget.
NAMIBIA-ANGOLA: Namibians abducted and tortured
Two Namibians were abducted and tortured inside Angola allegedly by UNITA rebels on 25 December, Namibia's National Society for Human Rights (NSHR) reported on Sunday. The two men, Daniel Ndeluudila and Simeon Hamulo, were kidnapped near a cattle post at the village of Oufukalelo, less than 10 km inside Angola by a band of between 50 and 100 rebels.
They told NSHR investigators they were marched further north to an Angolan village, Onamwiidi, where they were whipped and slashed with machetes or axes. The alleged UNITA soldiers, some of them wearing uniforms of the Angolan "Ninja" counter-insurgency police and government army, also beat to death three Angolan villagers they had abducted. A further four people, also Angolans, were "taken away to an undisclosed location," the NSHR statement said. Ndeluudila and Hamulo were left for dead. They said they did not know why they had been captured, but were accused of spying and had been questioned over the location of Angolan army bases. Both men are currently in hospital in Namibia recovering from their injuries. "We are unable to say precisely who did this (to them)," Phil ya Nangoloh of NSHR told IRIN.
ANGOLA: Opposition denounces vote delay to 2002
Angolan opposition parties have denounced President Jose Eduardo dos Santos for delaying elections originally scheduled for this year to the second half of 2002. "The president is bluffing," Abel Chivukuvuku, a prominent independent legislator, told Reuters. "The president just wants to continue in power. It shows political irresponsibility."
The first and last time multi-party elections were held was 1992. Since then, the ruling MPLA has twice used its overwhelming majority in the National Assembly to overrule the constitution and extend its four-year mandate, most recently until the end of 2002. David Pottie, senior researcher at the Johannesburg-based Electoral Institute of Southern Africa, said he believed the MPLA was stalling the vote. "My cynical side would say that the MPLA don't want to go to elections until they are absolutely sure they can win them," he told Reuters.
Johannesburg, 5 January 17:00 gmt
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