Botswana + 5 more

Southern Africa: IRIN News Briefs, 27 July

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ZAMBIA: Food shortages loom say farmers
Zambia was expected to experience a huge shortage of maize, the country's staple food, the Zambia National Farmers Union (ZNFU) said on Thursday. "A maize shortage is expected this year. ZNFU estimates a shortfall of 120,000 to 150,000 mt," Songowayo Zyambo, ZNFU executive director, was quoted saying in an AFP report.

According to the report, the Zambian government had no official estimates of the shortfall, but had set up a committee to find solutions to the crisis to prevent market distortions and food riots. "This year ZNFU is convinced that there will be a shortfall expected to be experienced around December 2001 and January 2002," Zyambo was quoted saying.

About two million Zambians already faced starvation because their crops were washed away by floods which ripped through southern Africa earlier this year, the report said. According to Zyambo, 40 of Zambia's 73 districts would have maize deficits. Zambian Vice President Enoch Kavindele told AFP earlier in the week that about 98,000 mt of grain was needed to avert a hunger crisis in rural areas. The Zambian government had issued an appeal to donors for help, and so far two countries had provided about US $750,000 in food aid, the report said.

Meanwhile, farmers accused Zimbabwe on Thursday of dumping agricultural products on their market in violation of rules governing the regional Free Trade Area (FTA) signed last year. According to an AFP report, Zambian farmers at their annual congress said that Zimbabwe had been dumping wheat, dairy, oil seed and horticultural products on the Zambian market, contrary to the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) FTA treaty. "Trade with Zimbabwe has been the biggest problem," said Songowayo Zyambo, executive director of the Zambia National Farmers Union (ZNFU). "Zimbabwe has a lot of economic problems, and because of its desperate efforts for foreign exchange, has been dumping a lot of products on Zambia," Zyambo told the farmers congress. Dumping is the selling of goods in another country at below the market prices in that country.

ZIMBABWE: British govt seeks better relations

New British High Commissioner to Zimbabwe, Brian Donnely, said on Thursday that his government wanted to re-establish the friendly relations the two countries enjoyed before the current controversy over the land issue, news reports said.

Donnely, who was presenting his credentials at State House in Harare, told reporters after a one-and-half-hour meeting with President Robert Mugabe that he conveyed to the Zimbabwean leader a message of friendship from British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Relations between the two countries have not been that cordial since 1997, when Blair spurned Mugabe's request for Britain to honour its independence promise to fund land reforms.

Following his re-election in May, Blair wrote a conciliatory letter to Mugabe, who had written to congratulate him, raising hopes that the two countries could be back on talking terms soon. "I am here to represent my country and give the position of Britain in line with what my prime minister has said in so far as working together to solve difficulties and differences between our countries," Donnely was quoted saying. He said, however, that working with Zimbabwe did not mean that Britain had changed its position on fundamental issues.

ZIMBABWE: Skirmishes in Bindura ahead of by-elections

The calm that had returned to the volatile Bindura constituency was shattered on Thursday following skirmishes between ZANU-PF and Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) youth, the state-controlled 'Herald' reported.

According to the report, two truckloads of young MDC supporters attacked the hall where ZANU-PF officials were expected to hold a meeting. Other news reports, however, blamed ZANU-PF members for instigating the violence. Police had to disperse people with teargas.

The political temperature in Bindura has been rising steadily as the MDC and ZANU-PF campaigns gathered steam, the report said. Elliot Manyika of ZANU-PF and Elliot Pvebve of the MDC are contesting the position left vacant by Border Gezi in April. There had been general peace and tranquillity across the constituency following weekend clashes between the two parties, but by Friday police were maintaining a heavy presence.

ZIMBABWE: Mugabe appoints three new judges

President Robert Mugabe has added three new seats to the Supreme Court by appointing three judges seen as stalwarts of his ZANU-PF ruling party, the state-controlled 'Herald' reported on Friday,

Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa said the additional judges were needed to handle litigation by white farmers "who are contesting and indeed frustrating the government's land reform programme", according to the report. White farmers, through the Commercial Farmers' Union (CFU), have already won a Supreme Court ruling declaring the violence-wracked land reforms unconstitutional, but individual farmers continue to press claims to retain their farms.

Chinamasa did not say when the new judges - Misheck Cheda, Vernanda Ziyambi and Luke Malaba - would take the bench. Under Zimbabwean law, Mugabe has unrestricted powers to appoint judges or to expand the size of the bench. His appointments are reviewed only by the Judicial Services Commission, which is also filled with Mugabe appointees, the report said.

"The real reason for the new appointments is an attempt to further ZANU-ize the judiciary in this country," said Tendai Biti, a leading constitutional lawyer and an MP for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). "Fortunately the men and women who have been appointed are men and women of integrity," Biti said. "The intended subordination of the Supreme Court through the appointment of judges who are perceived as sympathetic to the Mugabe regime is not going to succeed," he was quoted saying.

SOUTHERN AFRICA: SADC launches anti-malaria plan

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) Malaria Action Plan, which aims to reduce the effects of the disease in the region, was launched by South African Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang at Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe on Wednesday.

Sapa reported that Tshabalala-Msimang launched the plan at the southern Africa malaria control annual meeting, where the main focus was to create measures to half the number of malaria deaths in southern Africa from 300,000 to 150,000 per year by the year 2010. Tshabalala-Msimang told delegates the plan was conceived because of fear of an outbreak in the region after last year's heavy rains. "Ministers from the flood-affected countries, Botswana, Mozambique, South Africa, Swaziland and Zimbabwe, met in Maputo and established the malaria task team," she said.

"The team's task was to advise on an emergency response to the malaria threat and to advise on regional co-operation to control the disease," she was quoted saying. She said the ministers approved the plan at the annual health sector meeting in Botswana in April. The plan covered control of the health sector and insecticide resistance, surveillance, forecasting and epidemic preparedness, case management, drugs, insecticides, insecticide treated materials, operational research, community mobilisation and capacity building, the report said. The conference, organised by WHO's Roll Back Malaria (RBM) initiative, would make plans for malaria control over the next five years, and would mobilise national, SADC and international resources to fight the disease.

SOUTH AFRICA: US may boycott racism conference

The Washington Post newspaper reported on Thursday that the United States had again threatened to boycott next month's United Nations conference on racism in Durban, South Africa.

The newspaper cited a senior State Department official, Channel Africa reported. In preliminary sessions for the conference, the US has been strongly opposed to reparations for slavery and Zionism as a form of racism being discussed at the meeting. According to the Washington Post, the US administration was to present its position to dozens of ambassadors on Friday to seek support for keeping the two topics off the conference agenda. The State Department official was quoted saying that no-one should be surprised if they arrived in Durban and found the US was not there.

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