IRIN-SA Weekly Round-up 38 covering the period 16 - 22 Sep 2000

from IRIN
Published on 22 Sep 2000
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ZIMBABWE: Opposition denies weapons claims

Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has expressed "utter shock" over allegations by Home Affairs Minister John Nkomo that the police uncovered illegal weapons caches at the party's offices.

Nkomo told parliament on Tuesday that police searches of MDC offices and the homes of party officials in Harare last week had unearthed grenades, pistols, rifles and tear gas. Computer files were also accessed. The police operation was launched after a grenade was hurled at an MDC office on 11 September in an incident Nkomo described as "an inside job". He said the resulting search by the police was "both lawful and in the interest of national security".

A statement by the MDC said the police operation had been conducted in full view of local and international media, none of whom reported seeing weapons. Neither have charges yet been laid against MDC officials.

"Minister Nkomo's statement therefore is a clear attempt by the government and the ruling party to maliciously and falsely concoct baseless allegations against the MDC with a view to discrediting it within the eyes of the public and also to take this as a pretext for cracking down on the MDC leadership," read the statement.

ZIMBABWE: EU voices concern at raids on opposition

The European Union on Tuesday expressed alarm over Zimbabwean police raids and the seizure of property at the offices of the main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), news reports said. "The European Union notes with concern the recent police raids on the offices of the Zimbabwean Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)," a statement issued by the French embassy was quoted as saying. France currently chairs the EU.

"The European Union urges the government of Zimbabwe to acknowledge the legitimacy of opposition parties and their democratic right to function freely without harassment or hindrance," the statement said.

On Monday the US State Department said in a statement that Washington was "very concerned by events in Zimbabwe which constitute government harassment of a legitimate opposition political party". The police raided three MDC offices last week, justifying the action as a search for "war weapons". They seized documents and arrested four party officials, who were then released after questioning.

Ruling party wants Mugabe to step down

The leadership of Zimbabwe's ruling ZANU-PF party allegedly wants President Robert Mugabe to step down from the 2002 presidential elections. According to a report on Thursday in the weekly 'Financial Gazette' quoting party "insiders" ZANU-PF Politburo members and others from the party's central committee, including parliamentarians, told the newspaper in separate interviews that they all wanted Mugabe to retire but were not agreed on who should succeed him.

Ruling party militants open fire

Ruling party militants opened fire on a group of white farmers and their black workers on Wednesday, heightening tensions in the seven-month occupation of white-owned farms across Zimbabwe. An AP report quoting the Commercial Farmers Union, which represents Zimbabwe's 4,000 white commercial farmers, said no-one was hurt in the shooting near the farming town of Featherstone, about 110 km south of Harare.

At the weekend, the police rounded up war veterans and illegal settlers after the burning down of labourers' homes at a white-owned farm east of the capital, AFP said on Monday. "There were some disturbances at Chipesa farm resulting in part of the compound being burnt. After screening we are now holding only six people," a senior police officer was quoted as saying. Meanwhile, the independent 'The Daily News' said 52 war veterans were arrested on Saturday after clashes with farm workers in Marondera district, 80 km east of Harare.

Meanwhile, Mugabe made a rare concession on Monday on his plan to confiscate farms for redistribution to landless blacks, telling one of the country's biggest corporate landowners, Anglo American, that it could keep its properties, state television reported. Anglo American owns a large sugar estate in southern Zimbabwe's Hippo Valley and 50,000 hectares of cattle ranches in western Matebeleland.

ZIMBABWE: SADC ministers visit US over Bill

Zimbabwe's ambassador to the United States, Simbi Mubako, said on Sunday a team of foreign ministers from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) had managed to sway a group of American Congressmen and Senators to vote against a proposed congressional bill imposing sanctions on Harare for allegedly violating human rights and the rule of law.

According to news reports, Zimbabwe's Foreign Minister Stan Mudenge led his counterparts from Malawi, Mozambique and Namibia in talks on land reform with a group of US Congressmen and Senators. "Some of the Congressmen and Senators we met showed that they had not been given enough information regarding the whole issue (land reform) and showed signs that they will not support the passing of the bill. Most of them said they will definitely re-think because they were willing to hear the government's point of view," said Mubako.

New financing for fuel procurement

The National Oil Company of Zimbabwe (NOCZIM) last week secured new finance packages worth US $30 million from the African Export Import Bank and a European financial institution known as EASTPAC to fund Zimbabwe's fuel imports. According to the 'Financial Gazette', Secretary for Mines and Energy Nicholas Kitikiti said the Cairo-based AFRI-EXIM Bank had offered US $10 million to finance fuel imports from the Independent Petroleum Group (IPG) of Kuwait. EASTPAC will provide the remaining US $20 million required to enable NOCZIM to pay for its fuel imports.

Government seeks money to buy maize

The Zimbabwe government is negotiating with banks to buy at least 900,000 mt of maize from farmers, the official 'The Herald' reported on Monday. The newspaper said that the state-owned Grain Marketing Board (GMB) has this year failed to buy maize from farmers due to a lack of funds. It added that officials from the ministries of agriculture, and finance and economic development were engaged in negotiations with banks to see how the purchase of maize could be bankrolled.

NAMIBIA: New ICRC office to assist in border zone

Citing its "growing concern" at tensions along the Namibian border with Angola, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has opened a new office in the Namibian capital, Windhoek.

An ICRC spokesman told IRIN on Wednesday its key tasks would be to provide humanitarian assistance to internally displaced people and detainees. Tensions along the border have increased since December last year when the Namibian government invited the Angolan Armed Forces (FAA) to use its territory to launch attacks against UNITA rebels in southern Angola.

"We see it as necessary to have a permanent presence in Windhoek to be able, in compliance with our mandate, to cover the border region," the spokesman said. The ICRC's main regional office in southern Africa is in Harare, Zimbabwe. 'The Namibian' newspaper reported this week that the new ICRC office would be working with the Namibia Red Cross Society to help identify potential benefactors and ensure that assistance in the form of maize meal, cooking oil, beans, salt, blankets, plastic sheeting and food utensils are ready for distribution.

NAMIBIA: Four injured in Kavongo blast

Four villagers were injured in northern Namibia on Sunday when one of them stepped on an anti-personnel landmine, Namibian news reports said on Tuesday. The incident occurred at Gcwagi village, 66 km west of the main northern town of Rundu, an area that has been repeatedly attacked this year by suspected UNITA rebels. In another incident, gunmen reportedly tried to destroy an electricity sub-station at Nzinze village in western Kavango, 90 km from Rundu.

In a separate development, soldiers from the Namibian Defence Force (NDF) accused of torturing people in the Kavongo region have been given a warning but will escape criminal charges, 'The Namibian' said on Monday. NDF legal head Colonel Veikko Kavungo confirmed that 18 of the 21 soldiers were found guilty of assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm, the report said. The soldiers poured hot water on seven people and beat them so severely they were admitted to hospital. The newspaper added that a court martial sentenced the 18 soldiers to two years' imprisonment each, but the sentence was suspended on condition that the troops do not commit the same offences in the next two years.

NAMIBIA-ANGOLA: Namibia to deport 82 Angolans

Namibia is to deport, without charging them, 82 people it says are suspected members and collaborators of the Angolan rebel group UNITA, 'The Namibian' said on Friday.

Government officials were quoted as saying that the suspects had confessed to murder, robbery and plunder in the northeast of the country close to the border with Angola. The 82 were detained in joint operations between the army, immigration and police in the northeastern region of Kavango in July. The suspected UNITA members and their collaborators were held in secrecy for a month at Dordabis, 100 km southeast of Windhoek, the newspaper said.

BOTSWANA: Namibian Caprivi suspects appear in extradition case

A group of 13 suspected secessionists from northeast Namibia's Caprivi Strip which borders Botswana were remanded in custody on Wednesday to appear in court on 7 November when a Botswana magistrate will weigh a Namibian request for their extradition.

Legal sources close to the case told IRIN the 13, who fled across the border following a secessionist attack in the Caprivi capital, Katima Mulilo, in August last year, were wanted in Namibia to face charges of high treason, possession of arms and ammunition, and murder. The 13 who fled among asylum seekers, were not granted refugee status by the Botswana government following independent vetting by UNHCR.

ZAMBIA-ANGOLA: Hundreds more Angolan refugees arrive

Hundreds of Angolan refugees have crossed into neighbouring Zambia in recent days, UNHCR told IRIN on Tuesday. "Since last week Wednesday we have seen 321 Angolan refugees enter Zambia," Kelvin Shimo UNHCR's spokesman in Lusaka said. Shimo added that most of the refugees had arrived in Zambezi, in Zambia's Northwestern province, fleeing fighting in eastern Angola.

"We have also heard reports that some of the refugees had come from as far a field as Bailundo (in Angola's central highlands)," Shimo said. "Because the refugees have had to walk such large distances, they are understandably very weak. But we have put in place enough foodstocks and medicines to take care of them."

Meanwhile, Zambian army chief, Leujalo Musengulo said on Tuesday his government would not allow the UNITA rebel movement to carry out armed activities against Angola from its territory. Musengulo, according to media reports, made the announcement in Angola where he was holding talks with Joao de Matos, the Angolan Armed Forces (FAA) chief of staff. The two army chiefs discussed military activities that would allow for the defence of their common border with the aim of preventing any movement by UNITA forces along the border. The generals also discussed the tensions that exist between the two governments, added the reports.

ZAMBIA: EU gives US $100 million

The European Union is to give Zambia US $100 million to implement its economic reform programme under an agreement signed in Lusaka on Monday. The grant, one of the largest single EU grants ever made to an African country, will also be used as a contribution to Zambia's external financing gap for 2000-2001 to support the domestic budget and domestic debt reduction. The money will be disbursed in five tranches between November and December 2001.

ANGOLA: Sanctions-busting continues

The new chairman of the UN committee monitoring sanctions against the rebel movement UNITA arrived in Angola this week, amid reports of illegal supplies continuing to reach the rebels in eastern Angola. Paul Heinbecker, who has replaced Robert Fowler as the head of the UN sanctions committee, arrived in Luanda on Thursday for two days of talks with the Angolan authorities. He was due to meet with foreign, defence, finance, mining and oil ministers on the implementation of UN sanctions on UNITA's military and fuel supplies, diamond trade and finances.

However, security sources in South Africa told IRIN that UNITA has managed to circumvent the embargo and receive military supplies. Prior to the government's latest offensive in the eastern province of Moxico, flights were allegedly arriving from Eastern Europe via West Africa and landing on an extended airstrip in the remote UNITA-held town of Cazombo, close to the Zambian border.

For more details see:

ANGOLA: Ambush claims 28 lives

A total of 24 people were killed and 24 trucks destroyed in an attack on Wednesday launched by members of Jonas Savimbi's UNITA rebel movement. The trucks, according to reports, were carrying assorted merchandise from Huila and Benguela provinces to be sold in Huambo.

The official news agency ANGOP said the ambush occurred on the Catata-Cuima road, south of the city of Huambo, the second biggest city of the war-torn country. The victims, said the agency, included elderly people and children, adding that an unspecified number of civilians were wounded in the attack.

ANGOLA: Humanitarian situation precarious in Bie

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Luanda warned in its latest situation report that humanitarian conditions in the central highland province of Bie remain precarious. "The deteriorating condition of the airstrip remains the biggest impediment to the delivery of humanitarian assistance," the agency said. OCHA added that an estimated 16,000 new internally displaced persons (IDPs) were reported in the provincial capital Kuito in the first three weeks of August. "Humanitarian partners have expressed concern over the lack of adequate shelter, non-food items and essential medicines available to recent arrivals," OCHA said.

Meanwhile, food stocks in Cuando Cubango province, in southern Angola, are running out and the situation could become critical in the next three months if displaced persons in Menongue are not helped immediately, a church official told a Portuguese radio station on Tuesday.

According to Bishop Dom Alves Queiros, concerns were rising over the first cases of anaemia in children due to the serious food shortage in the region. Queiros said the food shortages could become even more dramatic as the harvesting season approached an end while constant appeals by WFP had met with little response.

MAURITIUS: New government sworn in

A new government was sworn in on the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius on Sunday, six days after a sweeping election victory by the opposition alliance of Anerood Jugnauth's Militant Socialist Movement and Paul Berenger's Mauritian Militant Movement.

The new prime minister, Anerood Jugnauth, said the government's priority would be to give confidence back to local and international investors, and to re-launch the economy.

For more details see:

SOUTH AFRICA: Mbeki tries to clarify HIV/AIDS viewpoint

President Thabo Mbeki has made his clearest statement yet on HIV/AIDS, saying that the South African government's response to the epidemic was based on "the thesis that HIV causes AIDS" and that an effective response to the epidemic demanded that all the factors contributing to the spread of the disease should be taken into account. But that until the questions around the disease had been answered scientifically, the government had to assume HIV was the cause of AIDS.

Speaking in parliament on Wednesday Mbeki said that while the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) could be one of the contributory factors in causing AIDS, it could not actually cause the syndrome itself. "A virus cannot cause a syndrome. A virus can cause a disease and AIDS is not a disease it is a syndrome," he told parliamentarians. He said that while he could accept that HIV contributed to the collapse of the immune system, other factors like poverty and poor nutrition were also involved.

Meanwhile, the Anglican Church in South Africa this week entered the AIDS debate saying that the South African government would be judged by its inaction over AIDS as a crime against humanity. Earlier in the week the trade union movement COSATU appealed to Mbeki to clearly state a link between HIV and AIDS.

SOUTH AFRICA: Meat exports to EU continue

The European Union (EU) said on Friday that imports of South African meat would continue, despite an outbreak this week of foot and mouth disease at a farm in KwaZulu-Natal province. An EU official told IRIN that Europe was unlikely to follow the lead of South Africa's neighbours who have banned South African meat imports: "The EU will most probably not impose a ban on South Africa's exports to Europe because we are of the opinion that the authorities have taken measures to contain the outbreak of the disease."

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SOUTH AFRICA: Globalisation increases vulnerability

The impact of increased globalisation in South Africa has compounded existing inequalities, according to a report by the government's National Population Unit.

Titled 'The State of South Africa's Population', the report was launched in Pretoria on Friday by the department of social development. It argues that the categories of people at risk increases as globalisation facilitates a shift from state control of the economy to free markets.

According to the report, the official unemployment rate in South Africa increased from 16.9 percent in 1995 to 20.1 percent in 1996, and again to 22.9 percent in 1997, with the unemployment burden falling heaviest on black South Africans.

MOZAMBIQUE: New aluminium smelter opened

Five regional heads of state on Thursday attended the opening of a new multi-million dollar aluminium smelter in Mozambique.

Opened by the British company, Billiton, the Mozal smelter 17 km west of the capital, Maputo, was described in news reports as the largest foreign investment in the country. "The construction of the Mozal smelter is a true example of regional partnership," Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano told the more than 300 people who attended the ceremony with the presidents of South Africa, Botswana, and Zimbabwe.

The Mozambican government invested US $20 million dollars in the smelter, the Industrial Development Corporation of South Africa US $130 million, Billiton US $245 million and Mitsubishi of Japan US $125 million dollars. When fully operational, the smelter is expected to produce 250,000 mt of aluminium annually for export.

The first shipment of 1,600 mt were exported last month through the recently refurbished Matola industrial harbour. The reports said it was expected to make a significant contribution to the national economy, generating about US $400 million annually.

AFRICA: AIDS will put Africa on the road to ruin - IMF

Southern Africa faces severe economic costs from the HIV/AIDS epidemic, IMF said in its latest World Economic Outlook this week. It said that the region was likely to experience a 1-2 percent decline in annual growth rates. "The HIV and AIDS problem in southern Africa is already of enormous dimension and it is clear that these countries will require considerable external assistance to address it," the IMF said.

The IMF added that by 2010 the gross domestic product (GDP) per capita in the worst affected countries could be five percent lower than it would be without the disease. "The epidemic creates a vicious circle by reducing economic growth which leads to increased poverty and facilitates the rapid spread of HIV and AIDS as household food and health spending declines, thereby reducing resistance to opportunistic infections," the IMF warned.

Johannesburg, 22 September 2000, 16:00 gmt


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