Angola + 5 more

Southern Africa: IRIN News Briefs, 16 November

ANGOLA: Authorities ban Antonov flights after crash
Angola's civil aviation authorities ordered the grounding on Thursday of all the country's Russian-built Antonov aircraft, with the exception of military planes, Lusa reported. The order came a day after the second crash of an Antonov in two weeks.

In Wednesday's crash, a private Asa Pesada company Antonov 24 went down moments after take off from the capital Luanda on a flight to the southern city of Namibe, killing all passengers and crew. Officials said between 40 and 50 people had been aboard the aircraft. In a communique issued in Luanda, the National Civil Aviation Directorate indefinitely banned all flights of the country's Antonov aircraft, specifically naming the models AN12, AN24, AN26, AN30 and AN32.

The ban was an extension of a prohibition on Antonov flights into the Angolan interior, following the 31 October crash of an Antonov cargo plane shortly after take off from northeastern South Lunda province. UNITA rebels later claimed they had shot down that plane, killing all 44 people aboard. But there has been no independent confirmation of the claim.

ANGOLA: Continued insecurity

Angola's northern town of Uige was shelled last week and two ambush attacks occurred in nearby villages, WFP reported in its latest update. The 10 November shelling, although causing only minor Infrastructural damage, "affected people psychologically, as direct shelling of Uige town has been rare," the update said. The attack was preceded by ambushes in two nearby villages, Kibianga (17 km) and Kiongwa (5 km), south of Uige. On 7 November, a reported ambush on a village 18 km from Uige town resulted in the temporary closure of the Uige-Negage road. Attacks on villages close to Uige have resulted in limited road access to Songo and Negage, while reported troop movements around villages near Uige resulted in temporary suspension of projects operating in the areas, WFP said.

Due to the continued insecurity in the central province of Bie, 2,777 new displaced persons (IDPs) from Cambadua, Chicala, Andulo, Catabola, Cuningha, and Chinguar were verified in Kuito during the reporting week, 8-15 November WFP said. Four mine accidents were reported in Kunje, 7 km from Kuito on 6 and 7 November. A total of 4 persons have been injured. On 6 November, an Angolan army helicopter was reportedly destroyed between Sautar (Malanje) and Cuemba (Bie).

Meanwhile, the security situation remains tense in the eastern province of Moxico, particularly in the municipalities along the Zambian border, as well as the provinces of Lunda Sul, Malanje, and Bie. As a result, an influx of 312 new IDPs into the provincial capital Luena from mostly Malanje (107) and within Moxico (174) was reported. This brings to a total of 324 new IDPs arriving in Luena in November, WFP said.

ANGOLA: Government slows oil development

Angola is taking steps to slow oil output to safeguard reserves for future generations, the 'Financial Times' reported on Thursday. Angolan oil minister Botelho de Vasconcelos made the announcement earlier this month. Angola may be taking note of nearby Gabon, whose 5,000 barrels a day output has fallen 25 percent in three years as old wells have run dry.

The announcement about delays is not all that is reportedly worrying foreign oil companies. Sonangol - the joint venture between the Angolan state oil concern and Stolt Offshore is seeking a better deal on 25 large deep-water discoveries. When the contracts were signed in the mid-1990s this was virgin territory, and the higher exploration risk meant easier terms for foreign operators signing production sharing contracts (PSCs). Now Sonangol wants to re-negotiate some of the deals.

These and other factors, such as talks over how large an area around discoveries companies will be allowed to develop, add to delays to projects like TotalFina Elf's giant Dalia field, which has been awaiting approval for the next development for more than six months. National output at 750,000 to 760,000 barrels a day this year is unlikely to rise in 2001.

ZIMBABWE: Government millions for farmers

The Zimbabwe government has made available US $16 million in soft loans to farmers as they start preparing for the new season, 'The Herald' reported on Thursday. Thousands of communal, small-scale and resettled farmers, including those newly resettled under the controversial commercial farm settlement programme will benefit from the fund, according to the report.

Minister of Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement Joseph Made, said the assistance would enhance the country's production base, food security and higher productivity for sustained agricultural development. He said the current high input costs prevailing in the country have posed a serious threat to agricultural productivity particularly for the smallholder sector.

SOUTH AFRICA: Customary marriages now legal

Milestone South African legislation to recognise customary marriages came into effect on Wednesday, agencies reported. The Act defines a customary marriage as one negotiated, celebrated or concluded in terms of any of the systems of indigenous African customary law in South Africa. Until now, there has been no legal foundation for such marriages.

Launching the new law, Deputy Justice Minister Cheryl Gillwald said the Act engendered new respect for the African legal tradition, and elevated the status of women and children in a marriage. Existing customary marriages, whether monogamous or polygamous, would now be recognised as valid and should be registered within a year.

Under the new Act, customary marriages could only be terminated by decree of the court. In the traditional system, marriages were dissolved by the families of the spouses, which clearly put women and children at risk, Gillwald said. The Act does not include marriages concluded in accordance with Hindu, Muslim or other religious rites.

MOZAMBIQUE: President open to dialogue

Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano said on Wednesday in the Belgian capital Brussels that he was open to meeting with main opposition leader Afonso Dhlakama, Lusa reported. His comments came in the wake of last week's nationwide opposition protests, during which at least 41 people were killed. "I have no condition and am ready for a meeting and for any dialogue", Chissano said.

Chissano cautioned, however, that it was "still too early" to know what he would discuss during such a meeting. He added that it was likewise too early to determine whether there was any threat to the peace process in Mozambique. Dhlakama's Renamo-Electoral Union has repeatedly charged that the official results of last December's elections were "fraudulent".

Last Thursday, nationwide opposition demonstrations called to protest against the ballot ended in violence, with at least 41 people killed and dozens of arrests, particularly in Renamo stronghold regions in the north and centre of Mozambique. Chissano denied that police were responsible for the violent outcome of the protests. "The police reacted to defend themselves with the means they have", he said, adding that some protesters were "armed to the teeth".

ZAMBIA: European ministers urge electoral reform

Three European ministers on Thursday urged Zambia to reform its electoral system to guarantee free and fair polls next year, Reuters reported. The calls follow opposition charges that the current electoral process tends to favour the ruling party. The international development ministers from Britain, Sweden and Norway said free elections would give legitimacy to President Frederick Chiluba's successor, entrench political stability and lure international investment.

Clare Short, Maj-Inger Klingvall and Anne Kristin Sydnes - the ministers from Britain, Sweden and Norway were on a tour of Zambia to promote good governance and gain support for the fight against AIDS, debt relief and corruption. "In our meeting with President Chiluba, we emphasised the need to streamline the electoral process to ensure free and fair elections. This is important for the legitimacy of whoever wins the polls as well as future investment," Klingvall said.

Opposition leaders have complained that the electoral system is tilted in favour of the ruling Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD), threatening fair play and increasing the possibility of violence and chaos in the run up to the polls. Chiluba, a former preacher, told a church congregation in Nigeria at the weekend that he would definitely leave office and return to religion when his second and final five-year term expires in 2001.

SWAZILAND: Foreign journalists expelled

Swazi police expelled two foreign journalists from the country, reportedly telling them never to return, the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) reported on Thursday. South African journalists Themba Molefe and photographer Pat Seboko, both working for the 'Sowetan' newspaper, were stopped at a road block and held for two hours. They were then driven about 40km to the Ngwenya-Oshoek border crossing and told to leave the country.

In a separate incident on 7 November, at least four South African journalists were reportedly harassed and threatened with deportation. The 'Mail & Guardian' reporter, Sechaba ka'Nkosi and photographer Ruth Motau, Justin Aresntein of the Africa Eye News Service (AENS) and Khatu Mamaila of 'The Star' were allegedly harassed by the chief of Swazi Intelligence, Jomo Mavuso, while they were covering a planned demonstration in the capital, Mbabane.

Mavuso reportedly accused South Africans of "inciting instability" in Swaziland and allegedly promised to be their "worst nightmares". He then ordered them to leave the country, but they all managed to evade him and remain in the country for a couple more days. Arenstein told MISA that Mavuso had threatened to close down the Mbabane office of the AENS.

[ENDS]

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