Angola + 7 more

Southern Africa: IRIN News Briefs, 7 March

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ZIMBABWE: SA fuel helps alleviate shortage
Alleviating Zimbabwe's crippling three-month fuel shortage, eight tankers of petrol and five carrying diesel fuel arrived in Harare this week from the giant South African oil company SASOL, according to news reports on Monday.

The reports said Botswana and Zambia have also pledged to temporarily supply bulk fuel to Zimbabwe. The arrival of the South African fuel came as President Robert Mugabe visited Kuwait to secure oil supplies from the Gulf state. Last week, Mugabe's office assumed the energy portfolio, following the resignation of the energy minister, Enos Chikowore, over the crisis.

Zimbabwe and Kuwait have warm relations after Harare strongly backed a UN authorisation of military force to roll back Iraq's 1990 invasion of the Gulf state, PANA news agency said.

ZIMBABWE: Row with Britain over diplomatic bags

As British diplomats guarded a seven-ton embassy shipment at Harare airport on Tuesday, customs officers refused to release the boxes and packages for a fourth day in a growing row over diplomatic exemption from such searches.

According to officials and local television reports, Zimbabwean authorities have refused to release the shipment bound for the British High Commission, arguing they have the right to open unusually large diplomatic packages. British officials insist the "diplomatic bags" are exempt from inspection under the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations. They were quoted as describing the action by customs men as "deplorable".

Relations between Britain, the former colonial power, and Zimbabwe have deteriorated over criticism in London of President Robert Mugabe's economic policies, and its military intervention in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

NAMIBIA: President denies increase in Angolan rebel attacks

President Sam Nujoma of Namibia has described as "malicious" reports that the Angolan rebel movement UNITA had stepped up attacks along the country's border with Angola since Namibia offered support to the Angolan government three months ago.

In remarks in a national television broadcast at the weekend, 'The Namibian' said Nujoma was apparently reacting to calls for the withdrawal of Angolan troops from Namibian territory. The newspaper cited official statistics indicating that more people had died in the past three months as a result of UNITA reprisals than in the first nine years of independence. Nujoma also rejected calls for dialogue with UNITA.

MALAWI: Air force steps in for Mozambique

More than 1,000 Mozambique flood victims are said to owe their lives to the unsung heroes of Malawi's small air force, who, with the South Africans, were the first to respond to the country's international flood rescue appeal.

But a Reuters report said, there were no television cameras at hand when Malawian pilots flew daily rescue sorties in the flooded Save River basin last week helping lift over 1,000 people to safety. While the South Africans flew their dangerous missions from Maputo into the flooded Limpopo River valley, two helicopters of the Malawi Air Force and a third chartered by them from South Africa were performing similar miracles from Beira some 600 km (370 miles) to the north.

"It was sometimes risky but we had to save lives," Major Augustine Masamba told Reuters. "You have to save people before you can feed them. You can't feed dead people."

BOTSWANA: President says everything being done to assist flood victims

President Festus Mogae of Botswana has described the flood situation in his country as much better than that of Mozambique or Zimbabwe, but said he feared an outbreak of diseases among displaced people.

In remarks in a national radio address this week, PANA quoted Mogae as saying "the government is doing everything possible" to alleviate suffering of people whose homes were flooded. He cited a shortage of tents, and pleaded with the public to cooperate with government and NGO humanitarian workers. Latest weather reports indicate that with the exception of a few isolated areas, no further heavy rains are expected. Botswana offered US $5 million for flood victims in Zimbabwe and Mozambique.

SOUTH AFRICA: Sudanese women address parliament

A group of Sudanese women have appealed to South Africans not to encourage the continuation of the conflict in their country through the sale of arms.

The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) said the group, comprising women from various organisations in both the north and the south of Sudan, have been in South Africa for more than a week to learn, among other things, mediation and conflict resolution skills. They appealed for an end to arms sales in a presentation to a parliamentary committee in Cape Town.

[ENDS]

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