Ivory poachers in Zimbabwe have killed an estimated 350 elephants in the past year, Knight Ridder news reported on Thursday.
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 according to confidential documents it had obtained, the animals had been killed by poachers using AK-47 automatic rifles. "The gangs used axes or chain saws to hack off the elephants' ivory tusks," leaving the cracasses to rot. It said the poaching raids were detailed in a report still to be released 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: 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.
ZAMBIA-DRC: Mediator sought for DRC
Zambian President Frederick Chiluba has said efforts were still underway to identify a mediator in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) peace process, PANA reported on Thursday.
It said he told a news conference that former South African president, Nelson Mandela, whose name was being mentioned for the job, had said he could not offer himself. Mandela has 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.
NAMIBIA: Vote counting starts
As Namibian officials started counting the vote on Thursday after this week's third parliamentary and presidential elections, the ruling Southwest Africa Peoples Organisation of President Sam Nujoma looked set for victory, news reports said.
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. International observers said on Thursday they were still checking allegations of voting irregularities.
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 on Thursday 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.
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