Zimbabwe + 3 more

Southern Africa: IRIN News Briefs, 5 August

ZIMBABWE/NAMIBIA: Defence pact to stand
Following Monday's rebel attack in Namibia's Caprivi Strip, Zimbabwe has warned that it will "not stand idly by while its key regional ally's territorial integrity is under threat," 'The Namibian' reported on Thursday. Zimbabwe has a mutual defence pact with Namibia.

According to the newspaper the announcement was made by the Zimbabwean Defence Minister, Moven Mahachi. Mahachi said the purpose of the defence pact was to "come to the aid of each other in times like these."

He added that Namibia had not asked for the assistance from its allies. He was quoted as saying: "They (the Namibian government) said the rebels were not a serious threat and they would contain them without external assistance." The defence pact was signed in April this year by Namibia, Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Zimbabwe.

ANGOLA: UNITA rebels shell Angolan city

The UNITA rebel movement shelled the central highland city of Huambo, official Angolan news reports said on Thursday.

The rebels launched their attack from about 40km outside the city on Wednesday evening. Initial reports said at least five civilians were wounded in the attack. The government controlled city, lies some 530 km southeast of the Angolan capital, Luanda.

Meanwhile, the council of ministers in the Angolan government on Friday is expected to unveil an emergency aid program, which could include the opening of humanitarian corridors to ensure the safety of aid workers.

Humanitarian groups call for international mediation

Sixty humanitarian organisations in Angola have called for an "internal mediation commission" to broker an end to the civil war between government forces and UNITA rebels, media reports said on Thursday.

According to reports, Thursday was declared a "day of reflection" on peace in Luanda. This latest initiative is among several to emerge in Angola in recent weeks. A "peace manifesto" was launched on July 15 by unionists and intellectuals, while the Catholic Church, which did not back the manifesto, set up a "movement for peace."

ZIMBABWE: AIDS cuts staple food production

The AIDS pandemic has reduced the country's production of staple food crops by up to 60 percent, news reports on Thursday quoted an AIDS consultant of the Commercial Farmers Union (CFU) as saying.

"Maize output in communal and resettlement farming has fallen 61 percent because of AIDS, cotton output has been reduced by 47 percent and vegetable production has fallen by 49 percent," the consultant said.

The AIDS pandemic, which is estimated to be claiming about 300 people a day in Zimbabwe, is negatively affecting the agriculture industry which employs more people than any other sector in the country.

Tsetse fly control centre to be set up

Zimbabwe has been suggested to become the regional centre for tsetse fly control in the Southern African Development Community (SADC), news reports said.

The reports said the recommendation follows Zimbabwe's contribution in developing and improving tsetse control techniques such as ground and aerial spraying and the use of artificial and live baits.

Zimbabwe, together with Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique are participating in a European Union-funded Tsetse and Trypanosomiasis Control Programme launched in 1986 and due to end in December this year.

MALAWI: Plans to prosecute AIDS carriers

Malawi's state-funded law commission said on Thursday said that it would revise the country's penal code to allow for the possible prosecution of AIDS carriers who recklessly spread the disease, news reports said.

The Commission on Criminal Justice Systems spokeswoman, Rose Kanyuka, was quoted as saying that the Law Commission would to begin canvass opinion on the move. "We will hold a series of workshops starting this month to see how best the issue of criminalising the spread of AIDS can be tackled," she said.

Law Commission reform officer, Matilda Katopola, stressed that the proposed changes would only target people deliberately spreading the AIDS virus and would seek to treat them as criminals. The initiative forms part of a wider review of Malawi's laws.

ZAMBIA: Britain cancels an estimated US $73 million in Zambian debt

Britain has cancelled about US $73 million owed by Zambia and rescheduled the repayment of an estimated US $100 million in debt to 2023, PANA reported on Thursday. Zambia's current external debts stand at an estimated US $6 billion.

"There is widespread recognition that the burden of Zambia's debt is no longer sustainable and that something should be done about it," British High Commissioner to Zambia, Thomas Young, was quoted as saying on Thursday in Lusaka during the signing ceremony of the two packages. He added that his government had joined other nations in pressing for more generous debt repayment terms for Zambia and other African countries.

SOUTHERN AFRICA: Low growth rate forecast

The 14-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC) is projected to register a 3 percent economic growth this year, media reports said.

This growth rate was projected after an improvement in the world and Southern African economic climates. Last year's gain was only 1.7 percent, the reports said. The reports added that free market reforms in the region and initiatives to attract foreign investment were also likely to boost the growth rate.

The reports also said last year's growth rate was disappointing when compared to the 1997 rate of 2.8 percent and the 1996 rate of 4 percent.


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