Zimbabwe + 3 more

Southern Africa: IRIN News Briefs, 4 June

ZIMBABWE: Armed police seal off three campuses
Heavily armed policemen barred students from three tertiary institutions in Harare from marching into the city at the weekend to protest against the privatisation of catering services and to demand an increase on Vocational Training Loans (VTL), the 'Daily News' reported on Monday. The students at the Harare Institute of Technology, Belvedere Teachers' Training College (BTTC) and the Harare Polytechnic College could not move out of their colleges into the city after the police sealed the main gates.

Itai Zimunya, the vice-president of the Zimbabwe National Students Union, (ZINASU) said the police were armed with guns and teargas canisters and students were not allowed in or out of the colleges. He added that in Chitungwiza, 54 students from Seke Teachers' College were arrested and made to pay admission of guilt fines for malicious injury to property and public disorder.

Tinashe Chimedza, ZINASU's secretary-general, was detained for five hours on Wednesday and was only released after the intervention of his lawyer. Chimedza had addressed students who had marched to the state-run 'Herald' newspaper office calling on the paper to report the students' strike accurately. Students have gone on an indefinite strike countrywide calling for a review of the VTL's and the scrapping of privatisation of catering services.

ZIMBABWE: Largest car assembly plant closes

Zimbabwe's largest vehicle assembly plant, Willowvale Mazda Motor Industries (WMMI), which is reeling from the crippling foreign currency shortage facing the country, has been closed indefinitely, the 'Daily News' reported on Monday. The closure throws into uncertainty the future of over 300 workers.

Other downstream industries that include car dealers, rubber merchants and tyre manufacturers, which heavily depend on the car assembly firm, will immediately feel the impact of Willowvale's closure. WMMI workers, who were supposed to resume work last week, were informed of the indefinite closure by the group chairman, Mike Ndudzo, at a meeting held at the Industrial Development Corporation headquarters in Harare on Friday. A senior WMMI manager said yesterday the workers would be required to report at the vehicle plant on 3 September in case the situation improved.

But a representative of the workers said that the employees suspected that a lot of underhand deals were going on at the company. "How can production plunge to zero for a company that enjoys 75 percent share of the market. Surprisingly, Quest Motor Corporation, which is our competitor is doing well," said the representative. WMMI is reeling under a crippling foreign currency shortage and cut-throat competition from vehicle imports. The company normally assembles 8,000 units annually, but this year's production was expected to come down to 2,000 units.

ZIMBABWE: Land invaders vow to stay put

Over 10,000 families that occupied undesignated farms in Zimbabwe's southern Masvingo province are in a tense stand-off with the government which wants them moved out immediately, the 'Daily News' reported on Monday. They have defied an eviction order served on them by the state, with one of their leaders vowing they would not move out unless they are offered alternative land.

Masvingo provincial administrator, Alphonse Chikurira, said the families had refused to leave the farms they occupied at the height of farm invasions spearheaded by self-styled war veterans. "These people moved on to the farms after the government had banned fresh farm invasions in July last year," said Chikurira.

Leonard Moyo, a war veteran who moved onto one of the undesignated farms told The Daily News at the weekend that he would not move unless he was given alternative land. "If it is a government order to remove us from these farms we are ready for any battle," said Moyo. "It has to be noted that the same government sanctioned these farms invasions and now they want to remove us because the farms either belong to ministers or their friends," he added.

NAMIBIA: Nujoma urged to rethink bans on The Namibian

An international committee of journalists has called on Namibia's President Sam Nujoma to withdraw his "ill-conceived" directive to government ministries and agencies to stop buying the 'Namibian' newspaper, the paper reported on Monday. Last week Nujoma instructed that the purchase of the Namibian with state funds cease as from last Friday, adding that ministries and agencies who may have already placed their subscription orders in advance should cancel those orders immediately.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), in a letter dated 1 June, appealed to Nujoma "to reconsider this ill-conceived decision, which belies your Government's commitments to press freedom as enshrined in Article 21 (b) of Namibia's Constitution and Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights". On 26 April, the Foreign Affairs Ministry circulated a list of local papers with countrywide circulation in which it intended to place adverts celebrating national events such as the President's birthday.

"The list prominently excluded The Namibian, which has the largest circulation in Namibia and enjoys a strong local and international reputation for its serious and independent journalism," she stated." Ann Cooper, Executive Director of CPJ, said. On Friday the Regional Director of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) said in a statement that the action by government could have "a chilling effect on the environment for freedom of expression in Namibia, as citizens may become afraid of exercising their fundamental right of expressing criticism of Government.

MALAWI: Flood victims in land dispute

A row has erupted in Malawi between displaced flood victims and a sugar company they said is the cause of their problems, BBC reported on Monday. Local leaders say 30,000 people were forced to move on to the Shire River flood plain when the Malawian government leased their land to the Illovo Sugar Company in 1992. The villagers from the southern Lower Shire district of Chikwawa have lodged an official complaint with the Malawian authorities.

The villagers are asking for some of the land to be given back to them, because they maintain most of it is lying idle. But the sugar company says all the land is being put to productive use. The authorities in Malawi have been telling more than 300,000 people displaced by floods that they should move to higher ground.

SOUTH AFRICA-NAMIBIA: Border row pits Pretoria against Windhoek

A dispute appears to be simmering between Namibia and South Africa about the exact location of the southern border between the two countries, IOL reported. A relocation of the border could affect diamond mining activities in the area. "We are not sure where the border is," Rudolf Isaks, the surveyor-general of Namibia, said at the weekend.

"It is still to be negotiated at a higher level. We suspect the border has not been fixed yet," Isaks added. South Africa has always viewed the northern bank of the Orange River as the border. However, Namibia's constitution states: "The national territory of Namibia's southern boundary shall extend to the middle of the Orange River."

Simphiwe Dhlamini, a spokesperson for the Northern Cape government, said that while President, Nelson Mandela had indicated to Namibia that the southernmost border would again be looked at.

[ENDS]

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