Angola + 9 more

IRIN-SA Weekly Round-up 48 covering the period 27 Nov - 03 Dec 1999

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ZIMBABWE: Protest feared over pay rises for top officials

A government announcement this week of substantial pay rises for cabinet ministers, members of parliament, local chiefs and headmen as Zimbabwe's economy faces its worst crisis in two decades has drawn angry protests from critics of President Robert Mugabe.

An Extraordinary Government Gazette on Tuesday also said the salary rises and perks will be back-dated to July. Local headmen and chiefs were awarded increases ranging from 500 percent to over 750 percent, MPs were given 300 percent, and cabinet ministers a 200 percent raise.

Analysts said the increases were aimed at helping them cope with the crisis which has seen inflation go up to 70 percent, interest rates go up more than 60 percent and an unemployment rate of over 50 percent.

"We are simply reeling with shock at this announcement, given the priorities in this free-falling economy, the health crisis, the land problems, the massive HIV/AIDS emergency and growing poverty," Bidi Munyaradzi, the director of Zimrights told IRIN. "We have our fingers on the pulse in this country, and when we urge people to moderation, diplomacy and restraint, they are now telling us they can no longer accept it. It will not be long before people take to the streets." The increases were also condemned by the Zimbabwe's Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU): "We cannot accept it when civil servants were denied 20 percent cost of living allowances earlier in the year," said Nomore Sibanda, the spokesman for the union group.

Public doctors last month ended a six-week strike over low salaries, outmoded equipment a lack of medicines. The International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other foreign donors have suspended aid to Zimbabwe's government, citing economic mis-management and confusion over the cost of its military intervention in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Newspapers said that under the newly gazetted increases, an MP's salary will go up to 426,000 Zimbabwe dollars (US $11,240) a year while a cabinet minister's increases from 213,000 Zimbabwe dollars ($5,620) to 640,000 Zimbabwe dollars (US $16,886).

"By raising the salaries of local chiefs and headmen, the government is seeking to buy votes in next year's general election. By giving the cabinet and the other elite a huge pay rise, they are trying to ease tensions within the ruling ZANU-PF party," Munyaradzi added.

ZIMBABWE: Uproar over draft constitution

Zimbabwe's controversial constitutional reform wound up in uproar this week because the final draft reflected the wishes of the ruling ZANU-PF party of President Robert Mugabe rather than the views of Zimbabweans solicited across the country over several weeks.

In the final plenary session in Harare's international conference centre, cries of "No" reportedly greeted a declaration by the chairman of the 400-member commission, judge Godfrey Chidyauski, that the draft had adopted "by consensus and by acclamation", denying a vote on the document.

The commission - itself weighted heavily in favour of ZANU-PF and ruling party sympathisers - was created in May in answer to demands to reform an "outdated" constitution which vests immense power in the presidency. In countrywide meetings, some 100,000 people were canvassed for their views on what the government said should be a "people-centred" magna carta.

However, the 106-page draft presented to President Robert Mugabe reportedly rejects major proposals to restrict the powers of the presidency, introduce an executive prime minister, or cede significant power to parliament.

Welshman Ncube, spokesman of the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA)which boycotted the government's reform process said the commission was "always a ZANU-PF affair" and the independent commissioners who "thought they had a say are left licking their wounds."

He told IRIN: "Unfortunately, it does not give us any pleasure to say, 'we told you so'." He said four options remain: Mugabe could reject the draft and demand a fresh one based on the survey report; he could order changes to controversial elements in the draft; he could put the document directly to a referendum; or, he could have it enacted by parliament without a referendum. "The ball's in Mugabe's court. All we can do is wait and see how he'll exercise his discretion," Ncube added.

ZIMBABWE: Rights groups want "massacre" report released

Zimbabwe human rights organisations have launched a Supreme court application to force President Robert Mugabe to make public the findings of a commission of inquiry into the deaths of about 8,000 civilians in the western provinces of Matebeleland in the 1980s.

"The government has not apologised for the actions of the North Korean-trained 5th Brigade that randomly killed civilians in Matebeleland," Nicholas Ndebele, chairman of Zimrights told IRIN this week. "The country needs to know why these atrocities happened so that a process of reconciliation and reparation can begin."

Ndebele said Zimrights, through the application launched on 17 November, aims to instil a sense of accountability in the government: "The perpetrators of this massacre are well-known, however, they have not owned up to their actions. In fact, some of them occupy top positions in government and the army."

Elizabeth Feltoe, a former legal officer of the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace in Zimbabwe said Mugabe made an undertaking to release the Matebeleland report when the Chihambakwe commission of inquiry was established.

ZIMBABWE: Fifteen killed at Harare construction site

Fifteen workmen were killed in central Harare on Thursday morning when a construction crane plummeted nearly 70 metres to the ground in what media reports called one of the country's worst industrial accidents.

The accident occurred in the downtown area at the new Millennium Towers skyscraper being built for the Central Africa Building Society. The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU)said the accident reflected "low and deteriorating health and safety standards" in Zimbabwe where last year 20,000 industrial accidents were reported.

ZIMBABWE: Fuel price increase

Zimbabwe's state oil procurement agency this week raised retail fuel prices by about eight percent, citing high prices on the world market, difficulties in getting foreign currency and high interest rates.

"This will not go down well with ordinary people who are living with great difficulty in a free-fall economy," Bidi Munyaradzi, the director of Zimrights told IRIN. "People simply cannot afford these increases any more." But the National Oil Company of Zimbabwe (NOCZIM), said in a statement it had no option but to hike prices to stay afloat. In October, it had already raised fuel prices by an average 30 percent.

ZIMBABWE: Cholera outbreak

Eight people have died of cholera following an outbreak in the north of the country, the official daily, 'The Herald' reported.

The deaths were reported in Mashonaland West. The newspaper quoted health officials as saying 130 people had contracted the disease over the past month.

ZIMBABWE: Foreign currency restrictions

Zimbabwean exporters holding corporate foreign currency accounts this week were given 60 days to change half their holdings into local currency under a plan by Finance Minister Herbert Murerwa to support the country's dwindling foreign exchange reserves.

Last year all corporate foreign currency accounts were ordered closed, but in August, they were reopened on orders from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Analysts said the move follows the IMF's decision in October to suspend funds to Zimbabwe over confusion on the cost of its intervention in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and failure to heed economic reform recommendations.

ZIMBABWE: Rights groups warn on journalists

The World Association of Newspapers (WAN) and Reporters sans Frontieres (RSF) this week expressed their concern to President Robert Mugabe at alleged threats against three Zimbabwean journalists.

Bengt Braun, president of the Paris-based WAN, which represents more than 17,000 publications in 93 countries, described the threats against the three, Ray Choto, Basildon Peta and Ibbo Mandaza, as serious. "We respectfully remind you that it is the duty of the state to ensure that journalists are able to carry out their professional duties without fear of attack and intimidation," he said in a letter to Mugabe. RSF filed a similar protest.

ZIMBABWE: Ivory poaching on increase

Ivory poachers in Zimbabwe have killed an estimated 350 elephants in the past year, Knight Ridder news reported this week.

Describing what it called "the worst outbreak of ivory smuggling" since the animals were taken off the world's endangered species list nearly three years ago, Knight Ridder said the animals had been killed by poachers using AK-47 automatic rifles. The poaching raids were detailed, it said, in a report by the Worldwide Fund for Nature.

The survey was conducted last month by game rangers in low-flying aircraft. The rangers counted double the number of carcasses found in last year's survey of the Zambesi River valley.

ZIMBABWE-DRC: Mugabe defends DRC intervention

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe this week strongly defended his country's military intervention in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

He told a southern Africa trade and investment conference in the Mozambique capital, Maputo:"The Zimbabwean government responded to a call for assistance by the DRC government following the invasion by Uganda and Rwanda. I think our decision was a gallant one and our response so far has been just as gallant. We have prevented the aggressors from achieving their goal."

MOZAMBIQUE: General elections

Over 7 million registered voters started going to the polls in presidential and parliamentary elections on Friday and Saturday in Mozambique's second general election since the end of a devastating 16-year civil war.

Diplomats in the southeast African nation of 19 million people told IRIN they expected President Joaquim Chissano was likely to retain the presidency. But whether his ruling Frente de Libertaç=E3o de Moçambique (Frelimo) will make gains in parliament against the opposition Resistência Nacional Moçambicana (Renamo)led by his wartime rival turned presidential opponent, Afonso Dhlakama, remains to be seen.

Chissano told delegates at a trade and investment conference this week that Frelimo, in power since independence from Portugal in 1975, was confident the party would improve on the 129 seats it holds in the country's 250-seat parliament. In the last election in 1994, Renamo took 112 seats with the remainder going to a smaller party. Altogether, there are 20 registered political parties in Mozambique.

IRIN has prepared a detailed Focus report previewing the elections. It can be viewed on the internet at http://www.reliefweb.int/IRIN/

MOZAMBIQUE: SA troops deployed for elections

South Africa has deployed more than 100 members of its Defence Force in northern Mozambique to assist in the country's second democratic elections.

The troops will use five helicopters and three planes to fly about one million ballot papers to outlying areas which cannot be reached by road. Pretoria said the Mozambique government had requested South Africa's help.

MOZAMBIQUE: Opposition party cites harassment

The main opposition party in Mozambique, RENAMO, has said that harassment of its officials is endangering the fairness of the forthcoming general elections in parts of the western province of Tete.

RENAMO election office spokesman, Gulamo Jafar, told a news conference that in three districts of Tete "we run the risk of not being able to appoint polling station monitors" - a right to which all parties are entitled. He said "aggression and harassment" by the ruling FRELIMO party and the local authorities might make it impossible for RENAMO to recruit monitors for the areas concerned.

ANGOLA: Refugees flee to Namibia, Zambia

Angolan refugees have fleeing to Namibia and Zambia, according to reports by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees during the week.

In Namibia, most who fled across Angola's southern border were transferred to a secure camp away from the border. But Hesdy Rathling, UNHCR's Senior Liaison Officer in the Namibian capital, Windhoek, said he feared more refugees would be fleeing fighting in southern Angola.

"Thanks to transport provided by the government, we have managed to transfer almost all of the 2,400 refugees who crossed over in the past 10 days or so," he said. "They are being housed in tents at the Osire camp in safer conditions some 750km south of border. The World Health Organisation (WHO) and UNICEF (the UN Childrens' Fund) are in contact with the ministry of health to help cope with medical requirements. But I want to stress that so far we have only avoided a disaster at the border - we need the international community's help to sustain this assistance."

He said groups of refugees, fleeing as government forces flush out strongholds of the rebel U NITA movement in the south of the country, were still crossing the border daily. UNHCR expected their numbers to double b y the end of the year. Other clashes in the southwest of Angola had also seen a similar influx across the Zambian border, according to UNHCR, where since 8 October, over 3,700 had crossed over into North-Western Province and Western Province.

UNHCR said in a statement the refugees were also being transferred to camps at Meheba and Mayukwayukwa in Zambia after screening. Most were reported exhausted after long walks through the bush.

ANGOLA: SA to set up humanitarian committee

South Africa said this week it will launch a nationwide appeal to channel humanitarian aid to Angola through UN agencies and NGOs.

"We are deeply alarmed at the humanitarian situation in Angola," a government spokeswoman told IRIN. "We are hoping the public and the business community will respond through donations in kind or in cash. There are hundreds of thousands of desperate war victims out there without food, shelter or clothing and we are concerned particularly at the plight of women and children."

She said the cabinet had decided to set up a special coordinating committee under the ministry of welfare to manage the appeal and oversee the funds. It would be an open-ended programme. "We are going to NGOs, the Red Cross and big business on this one, and we will also help get it to those in need through UN agencies in Angola," she said. "We will be ready to ship humanitarian relief as soon as it starts coming in."

Meanwhile, the World Food Programme (WFP) said it planned to distribute15,757 mt of commodities to more than 1.14 million people across Angola this month. It said the largest assistance programme was planned in Malanje east of the capital Luanda, where food would be distributed to over a quarter of a million people. The next largest number of people receiving the aid are in Bie and Huambo Provinces in the central highlands.

ANGOLA: New currency launched

The Angolan Central Bank this week launched a new currency, the kwanza, as part of a monetary reform program to simplify small transactions.

Aguinaldo Jaime, the central bank governor, said the authorities wanted to do away with the public having to use large wads of the old currency, the readjusted kwanza, when making small purchases. The largest denomination of the new currency will be five kwanzas, which is worth 5 million readjusted kwanzas. The new currency will coexist with the old for several months until the readjusted kwanza is entirely phased out, he said.

ANGOLA: Japanese aid

Japan has announced a new emergency aid package of US $3.8 million for Angola for distribution through WFP.

The Japanese foreign ministry, it said the funds would be used to help feed people some of the hundreds of thousands displaced in fighting between government forces and UNITA rebels.

NAMIBIA: Vote counting underway

As Namibian officials counted the votes at the weekend after this week's third parliamentary and presidential elections, the ruling Southwest Africa Peoples Organisation of President Sam Nujoma looked set for victory.

But it was not clear whether SWAPO would retain its two-thirds majority in parliament after polling which saw voter turnout top 60 percent. Analysts said it remained to be seen whether the Democratic Turnhalle Alliance (DTA) which has 20 percent of seats in parliament's would lose its place as the official opposition to the Congress of Democrats (CoD), a party formed eight months ago by SWAPO dissidents.

NAMIBIA: Polling irregularities alleged

International observers said they were still checking allegations of voting irregularities made by members of the opposition parties and by the National Society for Human Rights (NSHR).

The NSHR expressed its "profound alarm" saying that opposition party agents had not been able to monitor the voting in several constituencies in the country's most heavily populated northern Ovambo regions.

"It is reported that such officers did this with the connivance of certain SWAPO officials," it said in a statement referring to the ruling Southwest Africa Peoples Organisation led by President Sam Nujoma. "This state of affairs brings into serious question the transparency of the electoral process and consequently the credibility of the final results.

"The final results must not only be credible, but also be perceived as such," said the statement signed by the NSHR director of elections, Zen Asser Mnakapa. He said party agents representing the opposition CoD and the DTA had been turned away by presiding officers in some cases because their letters of appointment had not been submitted to Returning Officers or that they did not bear the official seals of their parties.

NSHR said its own monitors and other sources had cited irregularities in the Ovambo constituencies of Omuthiya, Eengodi, Olukonda, Onyaanya, Okatana, Ongwediva, Oshakati West, Mobile, Ompundja, Oshikuku, Ondangwa, Endola, Okankolo, Oshikango and Ohangwena. It also cited irregularities in Katima Mulilo, capital of the northeast Caprivi Strip.

"The Electoral Commission must ensure that the voting process is repeated at these places," the statement said.

MALAWI: Row with donors settled

Matthew Chikaonda, governor of the Reserve Bank has said this week a row with Western donors that sparked economic turmoil in Malawi last year had been settled.

"We have worked on these donor concerns, leading to a revision of the negative indicators seen in that period. The economy is doing fairly well," Chikaonda told Reuters. He said the kwacha had since stabilised in a range of 42 to 46 against the dollar, where it was expected to remain until the end of the year.

He said real gross domestic product (GDP) growth would rise to 3.8 percen t in 1999 versus 3.1 percent in 1998. Inflation, which ended 1998 at a worrying 56 percent, was firmly on its way down, and forecast to be 21 percent for 1999. It was 32 percent in the 12 months to October.

MALAWI: MPs protest over pay packages

Malawi's 192 members of parliament returned to work after putting an unprecedented stop to proceedings this week in a quest for higher pay.

Members of parliament on Tuesday refused to handle government business until a special committee had resolved the issue. The average monthly salary and allowances of an mp in Malawi amounts to the equivalent of US $400. They
returned to normal proceedings after agreeing on a 50 percent increase.

ZAMBIA-DRC: Mediator sought for DRC

Zambian President Frederick Chiluba has said efforts were still underway to find a mediator in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) peace process.

He told a news conference this week that former South African president, Nelson Mandela, whose name was being mentioned for the job, had said he could not offer himself because he had undertaken to help mediate the Burundi crisis. Under a July cease-fire agreement signed in Lusaka, an inter-Congolese dialogue should have begun in October, 45 days after all parties had signed the deal.

BOTSWANA: US gives money to fight AIDS

The US government will donate a significant amount of its US $1 billion anti-AIDS funding to Botswana to help fight the pandemic in a country where it is estimated that one in every eight people are infected with HIV.

Outgoing US ambassador to Botswana, Robert Krueger, said this week that Botswana will get millions of dollars, although he did not reveal the exact amount pending an announcement by Botswana's government.

The main components of the donation will focus on prevention, better care for HIV positive sufferers, assisting AIDS orphans and establishing a training and counselling centre.

SWAZILAND: Constitutional review

The chairman of the Swaziland Constitutional Review Commission, Prince Mangaliso, has said the commission will complete its survey for submission to King Mswati by the year 2001.

Prince Mangaliso told a news conference that the canvassing of public views would be completed by August, prior to a full analysis. The commission has already solicited the views of over 18,000 people around the kingdom which shares borders with Mozambique and South Africa. He also said there was no guarantee that the next general elections in 2003 would be conducted under a new constitution. Earlier this year, King Mswati set December as the commission's deadline, but he later extended it to 2000.

SOUTHERN AFRICA: US-SADC trade and aid agreement

The United States government and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) have signed a US $2 million agreement through which Washington will help stimulate trade, monitor HIV/AIDS, and help manage the region's environment.

A statement released by the US state department this week said the agreement, signed in September was part of follow-up activity to a joint forum in April aimed at increasing trade and investment in southern Africa.

Under the agreement, a commercial law development program will provide training from the U.S. Department of Commerce to assist SADC in creating the laws necessary to attract investors and thus new employers to southern Africa, it said.

AFRICA: Putting Africa's case at Seattle

African countries at this week's World Trade Organisation (WTO) Ministerial Conference have been seeking to transform international trade regulations which they say currently work against them.

Although no agenda was set for the Seattle meeting which opened on Tuesday, the priority for African countries at the conference includes the implementation of WTO agreements on special and differential treatment for developing nations; the correction of imbalances in previous WTO agreements; and improved market access for exports from developing countries.

IRIN has prepared a special Focus on African issues at the talks which can be viewed on the internet at http://www.reliefweb.int/IRIN/Johannesburg, 3 December 1999, 10:00 GMT

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