The ZIMBABWE Situation
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Mugabe brands UN envoy hypocrite and liar

Zim Online

Sat 10 December 2005

      ESIGODINI - Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe on Friday branded a
United Nations (UN) humanitarian envoy who left the country on Wednesday a
"hypocrite and a liar" and said he would tell UN secretary general Kofi
Annan his government will refuse to accept future emissaries from the world
body if they were British agents.

      Addressing the ruling ZANU PF party conference at Esigodini, Mugabe
said that UN humanitarian affairs and relief co-ordinator Jan Egeland had
insulted and misrepresented Zimbabwe after his four-day tour.

      "You can see how they raise this, so that the rest of the
international community can say human rights in Zimbabwe are being violated,
people are suffering in the hope that the United Nations can support the
British in their evil campaign to try and have control here," Mugabe said to
cheers from his party faithful. "He tells lies ... he's a hypocrite and a
liar," charged Mugabe, who mocked Egeland saying the Norwegian had problems
with his English.

      Mugabe got the event off to a typically bellicose start, launching a
new tirade against foreign critics his government frequently blames for its
deepening political and economic crisis.

      He however skirted the central economic issues on a day the country's
annual inflation for November raced to over 500 percent, with analysts
predicting the key rate to shoot beyond the previous peak of 624 percent
reached last January.

      Egeland was the most senior UN envoy to visit Zimbabwe since the
government embarked on its controversial programme of demolishing urban
slums earlier this year - a campaign the UN has estimated destroyed the
homes or livelihoods of more than three million people.

      Mugabe said he would personally tell Annan that Harare will not be
receptive to "men or women" from his office.

      "When he left the country he said some nasty things about us, and so
we will be adopting an attitude towards envoys of the Secretary General of
the UN," Mugabe said. "I'm going to tell the Secretary General not to send
us men, or women, who are not his own but agents of the British, because we
don't trust men from his office any more," he added.

      Zimbabwe is in the middle of a deep economic crisis marked by high
inflation, a jobless rate of above 70 percent and persistent shortages of
foreign currency and fuel.

      Mugabe's critics charge that the government land seizures have
accelerated the southern African nation's economic meltdown.

      They say his government has failed to source enough farm inputs such
as seed and fertilizer, further hitting farm productivity already struggling
following the seizure of formerly white-owned commercial farms.

      The congress will not be discussing the divisive issue of Mugabe's
successor and his deputy Joseph Msika put to rest any such hopes by
declaring that the veteran leader should continue to rule.

      Mugabe denies he has misruled the southern African country since
independence from Britain in 1980. - ZimOnline

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MDC politician's passport seized as Mugabe cracks down on opponents

Zim Online

Sat 10 December 2005

      BULAWAYO - Zimbabwe immigration authorities on Friday seized the
passport of opposition politician Paul Themba Nyathi as President Robert
Mugabe's government stepped up a fresh crackdown on the media and political

      Nyathi, who belongs to the main opposition Movement for Democratic
Change (MDC) party, had just arrived at Bulawayo airport from South Africa
when immigration officials took his passport saying his name was on a list
of 64 people whose travel documents should be impounded to prevent them from
leaving the country.

      The MDC official is the second high profile Zimbabwean to have his
passport impounded after the government on Thursday seized the passport of
top journalist and publisher Trevor Ncube.

      Nyathi told ZimOnline: "They confiscated my passport probably for the
same reason they took Trevor Ncube's. They simply said my name appears on
the list of 64 people whose passports should be withdrawn."

      He said the immigration officials had advised him to seek legal
recourse to have his passport returned but he appeared unwilling to pursue
the court route saying: "Since this is a political matter it must be solved
through political lobbying."

      But Ncube, who publishes the Zimbabwe Independent and the Standard
newspapers from Harare and the Mail and Guardian from Johannesburg, was
quoted in the Press on Friday as saying he would challenge the seizure of
his  passport in court.

      Mugabe's government controversially amended Zimbabwe's constitution
last August to allow it to seize passports from citizens it says may harm
"national interests" if they are allowed to travel abroad.

      But the government has not yet enacted a law outlining the specific
offences that warrant seizure of one's passport.

      The Law Society of Zimbabwe, pro-democracy and human rights groups
criticised the constitutional amendment saying it would breach citizens'
right of movement which is enshrined in the Bill of Rights.

      Political analysts also warned that the amendment would be used to ban
MDC leaders and other government critics from going abroad to mobilise
international pressure against Mugabe and his ruling ZANU PF party. -

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Zimbabwe opposition faction to appeal to Supreme Court over Tsvangirai ouster

Zim Online

Sat 10 December 2005

HARARE - Senior officials of the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party who are pushing for the ouster of Morgan Tsvangirai last night said they will appeal to the Supreme Court against the High Court's refusal to bar Tsvangirai from leading the party.

MDC deputy secretary general Gift Chimanikire told ZimOnline that he will be consulting this weekend with secretary general Welshman Ncube and other leaders of the party opposed to Tsvangirai, adding that they would probably be filing an appeal against Justice Yunus Omerjee's ruling by next Monday.

"We have not yet been furnished with the reasons why our case was thrown out. We have a very strong case and we are definitely going to appeal to the Supreme Court on Monday," Chimanikire said.

Chimanikire, Ncube and others had this week appealed to the High Court seeking the court to bar Tsvangirai from exercising the duties of party president saying this was because he had been suspended by the MDC's disciplinary committee that is headed by deputy president Gibson Sibanda.

Sibanda belongs to Ncube and Chimanikire's faction.   

Tsvangirai opposed the application citing among other reasons the fact that Chimanikire who brought the application to court on behalf of the others did not have proper authority from the MDC to do so.

The MDC leader also told the court that his suspension by Sibanda's committee had subsequently been overturned by the party's national council - its highest decision making body outside congress.

Omerjee threw out Chimanikire's application but did not give immediate reasons why he had done so.

Infighting in the MDC is threatening to derail the six-year old party that had become Zimbabweans' only viable alternative to Mugabe's rule. - ZimOnline 

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Bicycles, hair salons propel Zimbabwe inflation to 502 pct


      Fri Dec 9, 2005 9:28 PM IST

By MacDonald Dzirutwe

HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwe's inflation rate raced to 502.4 percent in
November from 411 percent in October, data showed on Friday, propelled by
demand for bicycles, home rentals and hairdressing salons.

For the second month in a row bicycle sales were the main factor, as prices
surged 2100 percent from November last year with more people turning to
pedal power amid chronic fuel shortages which have grounded vehicles and
public transport.

Home rentals surged by 1,164.4 percent, on a rise in demand attributed to
the bulldozing of urban slums and so-called illegal structures by President
Robert Mugabe's government earlier this year.

The United Nations says that operation left 700,000 homeless or without a
livelihood and affected 2.4 million others.

Prices at hair dressing salons also spurred inflation in November, rising by
an annual rate of 2103 percent.

On a monthly basis, the consumer price index jumped 27 percent from 22.4
percent in October, the Central Statistical Office said.

On the ground it means more of the same, people will continue to suffer and
at the moment there is nothing to show that their plight will improve,"
James Jowas, a Harare based economist told Reuters.

"There are a lot of price pressures that will see inflation go long
as we do not address the supply side, which is weak due to a collapse in
agriculture, inflation will not subside," added Jowa.

Rampaging inflation is one of the most visible signs of an economy in its
sixth year of recession marked by severe shortages of foreign currency, fuel
and food widely blamed on government mismanagement.

Analysts said the latest jump in inflation dashes hopes that the government
would succeed in its aim of containing inflation to 300 percent by end of
this month.

Critics say Zimbabwe's economy has deteriorated under Mugabe's 25-year rule
and point to his government's seizure of white-owned farms for blacks for
accelerating the decline.

Zimbabwe has experienced food shortages since 2003, which critics blame on
land seizures and ill-equipped black farmers, while the government blames
the shortages on drought.

Mugabe rejects charges of misrule and instead says sanctions by Western
nations opposed to his land seizure drive and drought have worsened the
southern Africa country's economic woes.

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Tsvangirai survives court bid to oust him

09 Dec 2005 17:57:02 GMT

HARARE, 9 December (IRIN) - Zimbabwe High Court Judge Yunus Omerjee on
Friday dismissed an application by a 'rebel' faction of the main opposition
Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) seeking to remove Morgan Tsvangirai as
leader of the party.

Omerjee did not give reasons for his decision to reject the application,
made by MDC deputy secretary-general Gift Chimanikire on behalf of the
faction led by secretary-general Welshman Ncube, party deputy president
Gibson Sibanda, and the party's former spokesman, Paul Themba Nyathi.

"The court has considered the submission brought before it and ... the
application is hereby dismissed," Judge Omerjee said, adding that he would
provide the full judgment later.

Tsvangirai's lawyer, Selby Hwacha, had argued that his suspension was void
because the MDC leader had not been charged or convicted of an offence.

He said the MDC constitution "empowers the committee to suspend only where a
member has been found guilty of an offence".

Chimanikire has yet to announce whether an appeal against Omerjee's decision
will be lodged.

Tsvangirai welcomed the court's decision, calling it a triumph of the
people's will and vowed to intensify "the struggle for the people's

The MDC leader fell out with Ncube and others after he ordered the MDC to
boycott last month's senate election, saying the poll was a waste of
resources in a country that should be focusing all its energies on fighting
the hunger threatening three million people.

Ncube's group, however, insisted that the MDC should contest the senate poll
after the party's national council narrowly voted to do so. The pro-senate
group also accused Tsvangirai of being dictatorial after he refused to
accept the national council vote.

Twenty-six 'rebel' MDC candidates contested the senate election, in which 50
seats were up for grabs, and won just seven of them. The election was marred
by the lowest voter turnout in 25 years.

Tsvangirai said the MDC would now focus on "democratic resistance to Robert
Mugabe and his regime", but added that the "door was not yet closed" to
those who had attempted to remove him as leader.

He noted that an internal process to renew and regenerate party structures
and the leadership was at an advanced stage and would be completed at the
MDC congress next year.

Last month, Tsvangirai got the party's national council to pass a vote of no
confidence in Ncube and his allies when the council - the MDC's highest
decision-making body outside congress - passed a resolution dissociating
itself from all the leaders in Ncube's faction.

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SAAF Says Skills Drain Prompted Zim Deal

Cape Argus (Cape Town)

December 9, 2005
Posted to the web December 9, 2005

Candice Bailey

The South African Air Force (SAAF) has dismissed criticism of its decision
to invite Zimbabwean Air Force instructors to help train local pilots,
saying there is "nothing sinister or insincere" in the arrangement.

Speaking at a "wings" parade for 54 new pilots yesterday, SAAF chief
Lieutenant General Carlo Gagiano said: "It is a source of great frustration
to the SAAF that this seemingly normal request, by means of which it is also
actively trying to foster good relations with neighbouring countries as part
of its regional strategy, has apparently been met with so much hostility and

He said the SAAF was "taken by surprise by the vehement reaction by certain
media and politicians".

The decision to ask six senior Zimbabwean flying instructors to join the
Langebaanweg base in the new year was part of an effort to counter a
shortage of skills in the SAAF, he said.

It follows the signing of two memorandums of understanding to facilitate
greater co-operation between South Africa and Zimbabwe.

The deal provides for Zimbabwe's air force to send instructors to train SAAF
pilots, as well as aircraft technicians and support staff.

"On a fact-finding visit to Langebaanweg, we discovered with the Zimbabweans
that we have a lot in common in the area of flying training," he said.

The instructors will be joining 22 line instructors at the base and will
start training in the last week of January.

Gagiano said that although this had become a controversial matter, the SAAF
did "not consider this request in any way out of the ordinary".

"Is an air force's ability to provide basic flying training measured by the
stability of the currency or the political situation of the country to which
it belongs, or by its being an African or a European air force?" he asked.

"I believe neither of these applies and therefore I see nothing sinister or
insincere in the approach taken."

He blamed the skills shortage on salaries that were not market related,
prompting pilots to go abroad or seek work in the private sector.

Applications for SAAF selection close on January 3.

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Australia in embarrassing sanctions botch-up

Mail and Guardian

      Staff reporter | Johannesburg

      09 December 2005 04:43

            Australia, an outspoken critic of the Zimbabwe government, on
Thursday acknowledged mistakes in the list of people facing sanctions for
cooperating with Mugabe's increasingly authoritarian regime.

            The 37 new names on the Australian list include Trevor Ncube,
publisher of the South African Mail & Guardian, and the Zimbabwean Standard
and Independent weekly newspapers -- all newspapers critical of the Zimbabwe

            According to The Associated Press (AP), the Australian
ambassador in Zimbabwe, Jon Sheppard, said the list had been difficult to
compile and may have been released prematurely.

            "It will be reviewed and we expect deletions," he told AP. "We
are asking people who are surprised to find themselves on the list to bear
with us."

            Sheppard said Australia has gone a step further than other
countries by including senior executives of state-owned enterprises on its
list of people facing sanctions.

            "It shows we are trying to do something," he said.

            But when the Mail & Guardian Online telephoned Sheppard on
Friday, he denied making the comments, and then slammed the phone down.

            "I am not aware of saying that. Not to you, not to anyone.
Please phone media enquiries. I am not in the position to answer questions.
I have to refer you back to our media officers."

            To compound matters, Zimbabwe authorities also this week seized
the passport of Ncube under new laws targeting perceived government critics,
preventing him from returning to South Africa.

            "I'm obviously shocked at both actions. I'm barred from
Australia and now I'm barred from leaving Zimbabwe," he told the Mail &
Guardian Online.

            Ncube said that the Australian embassy in Zimbabwe had phoned
him to apologise "profusely".

            Britain, the United States and European Union have also imposed
targeted travel and financial restrictions against Mugabe's regime.

            Ncube said he is in negotiations to have his name removed from
the Australian sanctions list.

            The list includes a leading economist and executives of private
firms and banks in Zimbabwe.

            Economist Eric Bloch, who fled Nazi Germany as a child, also
features. He is an adviser to the Zimbabwe Reserve Bank but says he is
guided by a desire for reform.

            Bloch is in his sixties, but the list gave his age as 24 -- a
typographical error, Sheppard said.

            With additional reporting from AP

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Mugabe's party worried by problems in farming


      Fri 9 Dec 2005 4:13 AM ET
      By Stella Mapenzauswa

      ESIGODINI, Zimbabwe, Dec 9 (Reuters) - President Robert Mugabe was to
open a meeting of his ruling party on Friday likely to focus on serious
problems in farming as the country struggles to overcome food shortages.

      The former breadbasket of southern Africa has become a net food
importer in the last five years because of drought and what critics say is
ruinous disruption to agriculture caused by the government's compulsory
redistribution of white-owned farms to blacks.

      Critics say Mugabe's government has failed to adequately supply
beneficiaries of the programme with farm inputs like seed and fertiliser.
His ZANU-PF party's information secretary Nathan Shamuyarira acknowledged
late on Thursday the issue was a worry.

      "Shortage of fuel, shortage of fertilizers and then shortage of
foreign currency to procure spare parts for machinery ... was one general
complaint," he said after a private meeting of the decision-making central
committee before the main conference.

      "The season is not over yet but we are saying given the rains that
have fallen now ... only 25 percent of the land that could be planted to
maize has been ploughed, so there is need for a lot more," heb told

      The meeting comes weeks after ZANU-PF tightened its 25-year grip on
power with a Senate election win over a deeply divided opposition, but
analysts say the conference in the southwestern district of Esigodini will
be clouded by mounting economic problems.

      Analysts say tension still lurks within ZANU-PF after a row erupted
last year over the appointment of Joyce Mujuru as a second vice president in
both ZANU-PF and government, a post seen as a stepping stone to succeeding
Mugabe at his expected retirement in 2006.

      In a tacit acknowledgement of the factionalism that has emerged over
the issue, Mugabe told the central committee the party could stay strong
only if united.

      "Let us adopt a united front, and shun divisive and retrogressive
factionalism," the 81-year-old veteran leader, who has not publicly anointed
a successor, urged delegates in a speech published by the state-owned
Chronicle newspaper.

      Mugabe denies he has misruled the southern African country since
independence from Britain in 1980, leading to chronic shortages of food,
fuel and foreign currency, as well as unemployment of over 70 percent and
triple-digit inflation.

      He says the economy has fallen victim to sabotage by domestic and
foreign opponents of the land reforms Harare says were necessary to restore
land forcibly taken away from blacks during colonialism.

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Watchdog body condemns media owner's travel ban

[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

JOHANNESBURG, 9 Dec 2005 (IRIN) - The Zimbabwean chapter of watchdog body,
the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), has condemned the
government's move to withdraw the passport of the only remaining independent
newspaper publisher.

Trevor Ncube, the Zimbabwean owner and publisher of the Standard and the
Independent newspapers in Zimbabwe and the weekly Mail & Guardian in South
Africa, had his passport impounded on Wednesday when he arrived in the
country's second city, Bulawayo, from South Africa. Ncube frequently travels
between the two countries.

"We see the action as an attack on the freedom of expression and movement -
no one should be victimised by the government for holding a view contrary to
that of the government," said MISA chair Thomas Deve.

Speaking to IRIN from Harare, Ncube said he had been told that his name was
on a government list of 17 prominent Zimbabweans whose passports would be
confiscated if they travelled back to their homeland. The list apparently
includes the name of a well-known activist.

Ncube said a recent set of constitutional amendments allowing the government
to confiscate the passports of Zimbabweans "who they think are undermining
the government" had been used as the basis for withdrawing his passort.

"I suspect I am being punished for exercising my freedom of expression," he
added, pointing out that all his newspapers have been critical of the
Zimbabwean regime.

Ncube said his lawyers were going to bring an urgent court application to
interdict the impounding of his passport on the grounds that it was
"unlawful" to restrict a citizen's right of movement.

Attempts to reach the Zimbabwean police and the ministers of national
security and home affairs were unsuccessful.

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Mugabe rejoices at opposition's woes


          December 09 2005 at 02:11PM

      Esigodini, Zimbabwe - Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe said on
Friday that infighting within the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) had
revealed "the real character" of the opposition party that he said was
driven by greed and obsessed with power.

      "Happily our people can see the real character of the MDC," Mugabe
told senior members of his Zanu-PF party gathered for the annual congress in
Esigodini, in southern Matabeleland province.

      Widely seen as posing the stiffest challenge to Mugabe's 25-year hold
on power, the MDC has split because of leader Morgan Tsvangirai's decision
to boycott last month's senate elections.

      "Yesterday (Thursday) they pretended to be national builders, today
within their ranks are emerging stories of greed, narrow-mindedness and
power obsession," said Mugabe.

      Some 5 000 delegates of the Zimbabwe African National Union- Patriotic
Front (Zanu-PF) have converged on Esigodini for the congress that is to take
stock of the party's victory in the senate polls.

      "Our supremacy was shown when we won a resounding victory... which
left candidates of the other parties sprawling as they were overrun by a
streamrolling Zanu-PF," Mugabe said.

      ZANU-PF won 43 of the 50 contested seats in the senate, while the MDC
picked up seven seats in the elections that were marred by poor turnout.

      Mugabe said the victories in former opposition strongholds sent "a
clear resonating message to our detractors that this country is not for

      The 81-year-old president, who has ruled Zimbabwe since independence
from Britain in 1980, has repeatedly accused the MDC of being puppets of
former colonial ruler Britain. - Sapa-AFP

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Desperate tale of a Zimbabwe hunger striker recovering in a UK hospital


      By Violet Gonda
      09 December 2005

      Two Zimbabwean asylum seekers who have been on hunger strike for 33
days were moved from Yarls Wood Detention Centre to Bedford hospital in the
U.K. They are being gradually reintroduced to food after becoming
dangerously ill.

      Amanda Sibiya and another woman who prefers to be called Thando have
been on hunger strike to protest against their forced deportations from the
United Kingdom.

      A human rights worker for the Zimbabwe Central London Forum, Anna
Meryt, said as a result of political pressure, the two were moved from Yarls
Wood to a hospital when their condition deteriorated. Both were abused by
men while living in exile in South Africa.

      Meryt told SW RADIO AFRICA her group is hoping to have them out on
bail soon, but appealed for accommodation for Amanda when she comes out of
hospital.  She is aged 19 and suffered severe abuse from age 15.  She also
needs to be in a supportive and all female environment for a while.

      It's been a very hard few years for Amanda Sibiya. Her story is a sad
one, and it is feared a number of Zimbabwean refugees in South Africa face
similar situations. Amanda's father was allegedly murdered by war veterans
in Zimbabwe sometime after the 2002 presidential elections. She was 15 at
the time.

      Her mother, in fear for her life, took her and her sister aged 22
across the border and into South Africa.  They had no money and no papers
but managed to make contact with a man in South Africa who promised to help.
In a detailed report by Meryt, this man used the children as prostitutes in
order to feed the family. Meryt's report claims he came 2-3 times a week and
used the daughters for sex, often bringing 2 or 3 friends with him.  This
man supported the mother and daughters financially and allowed them to stay
in his flat.

      In Dec 2003, a desperate Amanda tried to escape from the flat, but
unfortunately, the man caught her at a railway station. She was injured but
returned to the flat with on crutches, and the cycle of abuse resumed. Then
in September 2005, Amanda discovered she was pregnant. Her mother paid for
an abortion several months later.  Three days later her mother, she obtained
a South African passport and came to the UK where she stayed with

      Meanwhile her sister was diagnosed with HIV and taken to a hospital in
South Africa.  Her mother was reported to the police by the man and sent
back to Zimbabwe. She has not been heard from since and Amanda fears that
she may be dead. Many people 'disappear' en route back to Zimbabwe on these
trucks.  Her sister developed mental health problems. Amanda last spoke to
her in June 2005 and she did not recognise her.

      In April 2005, immigration officials found Amanda and took her to
Oakington DC where another Zimbabwe woman advised her to claim asylum.
Several months ago the Home Office attempted to remove her, but she made
such a fuss on the plane that the captain ordered her removal because the
crying and fuss was upsetting the passengers. She was put back in detention.

      Anna Meryt said the story is a shocking tale of child abuse by
predatory abusers in South Africa.  It is unfortunately not uncommon that
refugee young girls and women who are vulnerable can become the prey for
such men. Amanda suffers from depression and other mental problems as a
result of what happened to her.  She is frightened of men and the staff at
Yarl's Wood are largely male.  She tells Meryt that many of them will walk
into her room without knocking and don't care if they find her naked.

      In November a UK immigration tribunal disallowed Zimbabwe deportations
but it is very difficult to reverse this decision on Zimbabweans who come
into the country with other passports, like Malawain or South African.

      SW Radio Africa Zimbabwe news

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Africa's New Despots

Business Day (Johannesburg)

December 9, 2005
Posted to the web December 9, 2005


EVERY now and then some illustrious international publication will carry a
story lauding the flowering of democracy in Africa. People keep count of the
number of elections on the continent and, led by our own President Thabo
Mbeki, voices all around have begun to write poems and eulogies to our

And then, every now and then, some African leader spoils the whole show,
rendering all the above as little more than advertising.

This week it was the turn of Tanzania, normally regarded as a fortress
against intolerance, led by wise and good-humoured folk who learned the art
of leadership at the feet of Julius Nyerere.

Hot on the heels of pictures of Tanzanian police beating up protesters in
the aftermath of elections on Zanzibar in October, however, came news last
weekend that the government had shut down two newspapers for allegedly
insulting President Benjamin Mkapa.

It is most depressing that a country with as fine a postcolonial past as
Tanzania should now turn out to be led by a thin-skinned bully with an
oversized ego.

Depressing but perhaps not surprising. Mkapa has been one of the most
staunch supporters of the land "reform" policies of Robert Mugabe in
Zimbabwe. That he would soon begin to emulate him should have been

In Uganda President Yoweri Museveni has been lauded around the world for his
brilliant leadership in fighting AIDS. Forbes magazine a few years ago
hailed him as Africa's new hope. But last month he arrested and jailed his
only serious political opponent, who had recently returned to Kampala from
exile in SA.

And let us not forget the leader of Africa's most "mature" democracy,
Botswana's President Festus Mogae, who this year expelled a long- resident
foreign academic for criticising his policies.

What is it with these people? Are they scared of ideas? Or do so many years
in power so corrupt the minds of basically good people that it becomes
inevitable that they will begin to behave like monsters?

Fortunately, you cannot hide political abuse. African leaders might enjoy
having Mbeki out on the world stage making them all look and feel good. But
their behaviour behind his back speaks not only of their contempt for his
project, but of their hatred of open societies.

These leaders should be made aware that the world is watching them.
Political tolerance is the key to Africa making any progress at all in the

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Zimbabwe bird flu strain still uncertain-S.Africa


      09 Dec 2005 07:56:42 GMT

      Source: Reuters

JOHANNESBURG, Dec 9 (Reuters) - A South African researcher said on Friday
that the precise strain of avian flu on ostrich farms in neighbouring
Zimbabwe had yet to be isolated but indications were that it was not the
virulent H5N1 virus.

Zimbabwe's state-run Herald newspaper said on Thursday that tests had shown
that it was the H5N2 strain of bird flu, which can be lethal to birds but
poses little risk to humans.

But Celia Abolnik, a senior researcher at South Africa's Onderstepoort
Veterinary Institute, said it was still too early to say exactly what strain
it was.

She said that the tests were being conducted at another South African
laboratory and that Onderstepoort also expected to receive some samples from

"They haven't isolated the virus yet but indications are that it is an H5
strain," she told Reuters.

"But we can say with some certainty that it is not the Asian H5N1 because
they have seen no symptoms at all in the ostriches. Ostriches may survive a
highly pathogenic virus but H5N1 is so virulent that you would expect to see
some symptoms," she said. She also said that testing on over 500 samples of
migratory bird droppings collected in South Africa had shown no signs of
avian flu.

Many experts say migrating birds are prime carriers of the virus but this
has been disputed by some scientists and conservationists.

South Africa last year had an outbreak of H5N2 among ostriches that led to
around 26,000 of the birds being culled.

It declared itself bird flu free in September and the European Union last
month lifted a ban on the import of South African ostriches and their meat.
H5N2 is not as virulent as the H5N1 strain that has killed 70 people in Asia
since 2003.

The H5N1 strain has not yet been detected in Africa but experts say
uncovering it in the region's rural areas will be difficult because of poor
surveillance and already high mortality rates among the continent's backyard

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Save Hwange Appeal

The need to act

The Trust was set up in response to the crisis in Hwange National Park
in Zimbabwe. It has no political or national affiliations, but is a
purely humanitarian response to an intolerable situation which had
developed in the park because of drought and the lack of funds, fuel and

Why we're doing this

During a recent recce trip to Hwange by Don Pinnock of Getaway and Brett
McDonald of Flame Lily Holidays, it became clear that an ecological
crisis was in the making.  There were way too many elephants for the
available water supply and not enough food. Trees were chewed to stumps
and thirsty animals were snuffling at the end of dry water pipes. All
animals and plants were suffering and there were many reports of deaths.

The problem was lack of fuel in Zimbabwe and an elephant population of
around 30 000 animals - way too many for the 14 600km2 park. Funds were
not available as Hwange is not supported from the Zimbabwean treasury
but is expected to survive on tourism alone. Visitors, however, are
afraid to travel to and in the park, partly because of the Zimbabwe's
political profile and mainly because of the fuel shortages. Park
officials also can't get fuel to do antipoaching patrols or run the
pumps that supply animals with water. As tourism and water in the
central park declined, animals migrated to the hunting concessions to
their detriment.

A rescue plan was worked out on the spot during the recce, but needed
the support of concerned parties and sponsors. Mitsubishi Fuso offered
to supply a vehicle, Caltex agreed to provide diesel from its Hwange
bowsers and Flame Lily organised to deliver the fuel and oversee the
maintenance of the pumps.

We are presently trying to raise funds to put a tank and winches on the
vehicle as well as to purchase spares for the mainly Lister pumps.

Any contributions of equipment or funds would be gratefully accepted.
The Save Hwange bank account is at First national in Sea Point, Branch
number 201809,  account number 6209 3759 086. If you're interested in
being part of the Save Hwange Campaign contact South Africa
0861-312-312.  Getaway will be providing updates on the rescue plan as
it develops.

Trustees and sponsors

Dr Don Pinnock - Associate Editor of Getaway magazine.
Brett McDonald - Director of Flame Lily Holidays.
Andrew Muir - Director of the World Wilderness Foundation.

Flame Lily Holidays
Mitsubishi Fuso

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