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SOUTHERN AFRICA: Flooding causes havoc across region
Torrential rains over large parts of Southern Africa this week left a trail of destruction as rivers burst their banks claiming many lives and sweeping away roads, bridges and homes. The latest death toll in region was put at over 70 people.
Key border crossings linking South Africa and Mozambique, and South Africa and Swaziland were cut. The main railway service between southern Mozambique and Zimbabwe was also severed. Botswana's main north-south road artery and the railway line linking it with South Africa and Zimbabwe had to be closed because of severe flooding.
In Mozambique as the Incomati, Umbeluzi and Sabie Rivers rose to their highest levels ever recorded, a major international humanitarian relief operation swung into action to bring relief to tens of thousands of flood victims. In a statement, the Mozambique government said that it estimated that it would need about US $15 million to fully rehabilitate flood-stricken areas. It said that US $2.7 million was needed for the initial emergency response.
The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) sent an assessment team to assist the Resident Coordinator and the UN's World Food Programme (WFP) in information gathering, reporting and appeal contribution management. OCHA said that it had released US $30,000 from the OCHA Emergency grant.
The United States embassy in Maputo said that it had given US $25,000 to help support flood relief efforts. Meanwhile, the Prime Minister of Norway, Kjell Magne Bondevik, announced this week a donation of US $100,000 to support flood victims. Bondevik was in Mozambique for talks with President Joaquim Chissano. The United Kingdom's Department of International Development has pledged US $30,000 for emergency relief efforts.
The Belgian chapter of Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF-B) had already provided doctors, medical supplies and water tanks to several sites in the capital Maputo and Matola, about 45 km west of the capital. Neighbouring South Africa, according to OCHA, provided two cargo helicopters to help rescue people stranded by rising flood waters. South Africa is also providing various non-food items such as tents, blankets and kitchen utensils. UNESCO said that it would monitor the communications requirements to improve information access to the affected populations.
In Maputo, about 100,000 people have been affected by the flooding. WFP said, in its latest update that, about 20,000 people were being sheltered at 14 centres in the city. It said that 1,000 mt of food, enough to feed 70,000 people for one month, would be distributed. Authorities in Maputo had also started rationing water after a treatment plant was flooded. WFP said that it was also providing 54,655 people with food aid in other parts of the Maputo Province. "Recent information indicates that these numbers should increase by about 10 percent," the report said.
In Matola 25 km away, an estimated 100,000 people had been affected by the floods. It said that 2,000 people were being housed at 11 sites in the city and that "several cases of malaria had been reported at some of these sites".
In Xai-Xai, the capital of the southern Gaza Province, 5,000 people had to be resettled. WFP said that this number was likely to increase as the level of the Limpopo River rose.
WFP said that 6,975 families in Sofala Province in the east had been affected, with about 34,874 people having to be evacuated. It said that there was no access to the south of the province and that the main road to Maputo in the Chibabava district was also impassable.
In Inhambane Province to the east of the country, flooding from the Save River had affected the Govuro district in the north of the province.
Meanwhile, Botswana received about three quarters of its annual rainfall in recent days, severing the country's main road and rail arteries in what police described this week as some of the worst floods experienced in the past 30 years. Foreign Minister Mompati Merafhe said on state radio this week that 5,100 homes had been destroyed by the floods.
The main route linking Gaborone with the north of the country, was washed away near the town of Morwa, about 70 km north of the capital, while crops in many areas were destroyed, officials said. In Kopong village, about 30 km from Gaborone, residents had been forced to seek refuge on rooftops after the Metsimotlhabe river burst its banks.
Local radio broadcast warnings to the public to be alert for collapsing infrastructure, and people were advised against attempting to cross fast flowing rivers. Police and the country's emergency services were assisting people rendered homeless.
In Swaziland, an estimated 10 rivers in the country had burst their banks. At least two people had drowned since the rains began on Saturday afternoon. Swazi Meteorological services said this week that between Sunday and Monday an estimated 157 millimetres of rain had fallen in the country's capital, Mbabane. The agriculture ministry's Food and Security Bulletin said the continuing heavy rains were also threatening the country's maize supply because fields were becoming water-logged.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Home Affairs told IRIN this week that the Mananga border post, between Swaziland and South Africa's Mpumalanga Province, had been closed because of the heavy rains.
In South Africa, at least 38 people are reported to have died and thousands left homeless by the heavy rains. One of South Africa's most well known tourist attractions the Kruger National Park, has been devastated and forced to close its gates because of the rain. The damage to the Park is estimated to be about US $11 million.
In the country's Gauteng, Mpumalanga and Northern Provinces officials said this week that water levels in all dams were above 100 percent. Initial estimates for damage to government infrastructure in the Northern Province has been put at US $33 million.
An IRIN Focus report on the situation
in the region can be viewed at:
ZIMBABWE: Political violence ahead of referendum
The Zimbabwean government has vowed to clamp down on mounting political violence in the run-up to a referendum this weekend on the country's draft constitution.
Home Affairs Minister Dumiso Dabengwa said this week that the government would use the draconian Law and Order Maintenance Act to curb unrest. "The Ministry of Home Affairs will not sit back and watch chaos become the order of the day towards and during the forthcoming referendum and the 2000 elections," he warned. Among other emergency provisions, the pre-independence law gives the police the power to detain suspects for more than 48 hours without trial.
Zimbabweans go to the polls on Saturday and Sunday to decide whether to accept a draft constitution prepared by a government-appointed commission. The draft aims to replace the current constitution drawn up during independence negotiations at Lancaster House in London.
Analysts told IRIN they were concerned that sporadic clashes between supporters of President Robert Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF party and opponents of the government's draft constitution have already sown the seeds of violence that could mar the country's legislative elections in April.
The debate has been clouded by a row with Britain and a legal challenge for a postponement, analysts told IRIN. The government, campaigning for a 'Yes' vote for its draft document, has focussed on the emotive and highly politicised issue of land ownership. Last month it gazetted amendments to Clause 57 of the draft constitution to make it Britain's responsibility to pay compensation for land compulsorily acquired - mainly white-owned estates - for the resettlement of communal farmers.
President Robert Mugabe, who appointed the Constitutional Commission, said he wanted the draft to explicitly cite the former colonial power as being liable for compensation payments through a government-run fund. The British government has rejected any responsibility for farmers whose land is seized.
An IRIN focus report on the referendum
can be viewed at:
ZIMBABWE: Close race in referendum
Meanwhile, a national opinion poll released this week shows that the vote in this weekend's referendum is likely to be extremely close but the government could scrape a narrow victory.
The Public Opinion Institute, which canvassed over 6,800 people in the country's eight administrative provinces, said 42 percent of respondents said they would vote 'Yes' for the government's draft constitution and 37 percent 'No'. The survey was conducted in the last week of January.
ZIMBABWE: Fuel price hike
Fuel prices in Zimbabwe rose by up to 18 percent this week in what analysts said was a necessary correction in the troubled industry.
The debt-ridden state-owned National Oil Company of Zimbabwe (NocZim), struggling to maintain fuel supplies, cited an increase of over 10 percent in world market prices as partly to blame for the hike. "NocZim will continue to implement regular price adjustments to cushion the consumer against the shock of huge price increases," a statement said.
President Robert Mugabe at the weekend blamed corruption and mismanagement at NocZim for fuel shortages across the country. The shortages have hit industry and forced motorists to queue for rationed diesel and petrol.
A high-powered government delegation has reportedly been able to secure a US $100 million loan from the Middle East to cover supplies until April - a critical period for Zimbabwe's agriculture-dependent economy. Tobacco farmers have warned that 20 percent of next year's crop would be lost if the diesel shortage is not resolved in the next two months.
ZAMBIA: UNHCR assists isolated refugees
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) this week started providing assistance to an estimated 8,000 Angolan refugees in a remote southwest corner of Zambia near the point where the country's borders converge with those of Angola and Namibia's Caprivi Strip.
UNHCR told IRIN this week the focus of its operation in Zambia had shifted to the hamlet of Sinjembela on the western banks of the Zambezi River following the evacuation by air of some 2,300 refugees from a makeshift camp at Kalabo, further north, to a safer zone well inland.
Last week, IRIN erroneously reported that 4,000 refugees had been evacuated from Kalabo. "In the first phase, an airlift, jointly organised by UNHCR and WFP last week, brought 207 mt of food and medical supplies to the border reception centre at Kalabo and transported 2,292 refugees on the return leg to Mongu," said UNHCR spokesman Ron Redmond. He said some 2,500 refugees are still in Kalabo in the reception centre.
At "the much more isolated and remote camp" in Sinjembela, he said some 8,000 refugees remained trapped in "a very insecure area". Already, 30 mt of food and supplies have been delivered to Sinjembela along with a mobile clinic supported by UNICEF.
ZAMBIA-ANGOLA: Angolan army not invited
Zambia said this week it would not allow Angolan government forces to launch operations against UNITA rebels from its territory. A senior government official told IRIN that this was the essence of a message carried to the Angolan capital, Luanda, at the weekend by Zambian Defence Minister Chitalu Sampa. Zambia, he said, did not want to get embroiled in the conflict, and did not want the kind of tensions seen in Namibia which in recent weeks invited Angolan forces to use its territory as a springboard.
"We have remained neutral in the Angolan conflict, and we remain so," the official said. Sampa visited Luanda to attend the 16th session of the Angola-Zambia Joint Permanent Defence and Security Commission, during which the two countries discussed a range of security issues.
ANGOLA-SOUTH AFRICA: SA willing to mediate
South Africa said this week that it was willing to play a facilitating role in ending the Angolan war if invited to do so by the government of President Eduardo Jose Dos Santos, the SA Deputy Defence Minister Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge said in Windhoek.
Addressing a news conference after a three-day visit to Namibia, during which she met top officials including, the Deputy Home Affairs Minister Jeremiah Nambinga and the Prime Minister, Hage Geingob, Madlala-Routledge said: "The South African government remains convinced that negotiations between the governing MPLA and the rebel group UNITA offers the only hope for lasting peace in Angola."
Madlala-Routledge said the South African government was fully aware of, and condemned in the strongest terms, the destabilising influence of UNITA's continued war with the Angolan government. "The suffering of the people of Angola, and lately also Namibian citizens, is totally unacceptable and has a negative impact on the political stability and economic developments in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region."
ANGOLA: UNITA attacks border town
Dozens of people were reported to have been killed or wounded early on Sunday when suspected UNITA rebels launched a pre-dawn raid on the town of Santa Clara along the country's southern border with Namibia.
"A band of UNITA soldiers - said to number about 100 - attacked a section of Santa Clara called Omutaku at about 4:30 a.m. (03:30 gmt). Shells hit sections of the border settlement and army and police bases at the town until about 7:00 a.m.," said the independent daily, 'The Namibian'. "Many people were killed in the shelling and in subsequent killings in the town itself, where people were reportedly shot and bayoneted to death."
ANGOLA: Humanitarian update
WFP said that it planned to distribute about 15,715 mt of food to an estimated 1.13 million internally displaced people in Angola this month.
The largest distribution programme would be in Malanje, 380 km east of Luanda, where 2,783 mt of food would be distributed to a quarter of a million people. WFP said 2,447 mt of food would be distributed to 197,000 people in the central highlands city of Huambo, and 2,939 mt to 193,000 people in Bie, also in the central highlands.
NAMIBIA-ANGOLA: Angola should withdraw
The opposition Democratic Turnhalle Alliance (DTA) in Namibia has called on the government to order the withdrawal of Angolan troops from northern Namibia. The DTA request came after President Sam Nujoma warned on state television this week that men may be conscripted to defend the northeast border, where the government has allowed the Angolan army to use Namibian territory in its campaign to drive UNITA rebels from their southern Angolan strongholds.
NAMIBIA: Nujoma reaffirms support for Angola
Meanwhile, Nujoma reaffirmed his country's continued support for Angola against UNITA "until peace returns to their country".
"We are behind the Angolan government," Nujoma said in a national television broadcast this week. "We will give every support to the Angolan government to crush the UNITA bandits in order to restore peace in Angola." Nujoma also said Namibia had "willingly" allowed Angola to use landing fields in Namibia, "and will continue to do so".
SOUTH AFRICA-ZIMBABWE: Mbeki to meet Mugabe
President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa travelled to Zimbabwe on Friday for talks with Mugabe on the wars in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Angola.
Presidential spokesman Parks Mankahlana said that Mbeki's visit was part of a South African effort to improve relations with its neighbours. "The aim is to ensure that good neighbourliness and regional cooperation is not just left at the level of pleasantries but were dealt with concretely," Mankahlana said. In reference to the current political situation in Zimbabwe he said: "The South African government wants to see growth and prosperity, not only in South Africa, but in the region, and that will include Zimbabwe."
AFRICA: UNICEF visit
The Executive Director of UNICEF, Carol Bellamy, arrived in South Africa this week at the start of a 14-day regional tour. In a statement, UNICEF said she will also visit Namibia, Mozambique and Burundi to meet politicians, visit UNICEF projects, and address issues facing young people in the continent.
"I hope this trip will help bring attention to the enormous challenges facing the children and young people of Africa," Bellamy said in New York before her departure. "Children are the nucleus of sustainable global development, which makes it crucial that those who are committed to human progress take a close look at the well-being of children. That's what this trip is about."
Johannesburg, 11 February 14:00 GMT
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