Zimbabwe News Online (10) - 11/12/97

Zimbabwe News Online (10) - 11/12/97


Edition #10 12 November 1997

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In this edition:




1. Government purchases four-wheel drive vehicles for ministers

2. Parliamentarians being urged to reject new Act

3. American agency siezes millions of dollars destined for Zimbabwe

4. Farm workers destroy property worth Z$3 million

5. Leaders urged not to manipulate constitutions

6. Defence lawyers say Banana can no longer be sued

7. Police impound counterfeit US dollars

8. SA-Zimbabwe border temporaliry closed

9. UZ over-staffed - audit

10. IMF/World Bank team expected for talks

11. Call to increase age of majority

12. Man wants back his amputated limbs

13. Australia turns down Zimbabwe's request

14. Zimbabwe fails to pay soccer coach



Like most other sub-Saharan African countries, Zimbabwe has been heavily afflicted by the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

If current statistics from the Ministry of Health are anything to go by, then the AIDS problem in Zimbabwe has reached catastrophic levels, to say the least.About a million people are reported to be HIV positive out of a population of just over 11 million. An average of 500 people are reported to be dying of AIDS every week, while about 2 000 are said to contract the virus weekly.

These shocking statistics have driven churches in Zimbabwe to speak with one voice against a government drafted National HIV/AIDS Policy Document, which they say does not express the churches' concerns, particularly as far as the issue of morality is concerned. The churches, therefore, recently formed what is known as the Heads of Denominations AIDS Committee, a body which seeks to have changes made to the government draft policy on HIV/AIDS before it can be adopted as a national policy.

To push forward their ideas, the churches recently organised a seminar which brought together people from various churches and non-governmental organisations. The seminar was mostly concerned by the "deliberate sidelining of the churches in the drafting of the policy document and the complete absence of reference to morality as the ultimate protector from contracting the deadly HIV.

Speaking at the seminar, the chairman of the Heads of Denominations AIDS Committee, Dr Salim Farag, expressed concern over the emphasis placed on the condom as the answer to the problem of HIV/AIDS. He said he was worried that people were being bombarded with half-baked truths about the safety of condoms.He said it was of utmost importance that people who were going to use condoms should be helped to understand the possible dangers involved so that they can use the condoms as cautiously as possible.

Quoting recent statistics by HIV/AIDS researchers, Dr Farag said new condoms have been found to have a breakage rate of up to 9 percent, while older ones were said to have a breakage rate of close to 19 percent.He said the research had also shown that there were pores in the condoms large enough to allow the passage of sperm-sized particles. There was also a leakage of HIV-size particles through 38 percent of condoms tested.

Dr Farag said it was unfortunate that the youth in Zimbabwe seem to have developed a condom culture, and he lambasted some advertising companies for misleading the youths through their advertisements. He gave the example of an advert which says: "Enjoy your youth, protect yourself, use condoms."

He said such advertisements give the false impression that if one has to enjoy his or her youth, he or she must indulge in sex and should not worry about safety because they will be protected by condoms. He said churches should legally challenge such advertisements since they provide misleading information to the youths. He also blamed the media forcarrying such adverts, saying they were normalising sexual impropriety.

The only perfect answer to the HIV/AIDS problem, he said, is for married people to stick to their partners and for those not yet married to completely abstain from sex.

A Catholic priest and director of a Jesuit AIDS Project, Father Edward Rodgers also lamented the fact that churches were not involved in the drafting of the HIV/AIDS Policy Document, and said there were a number of additions the churches would want to make. He said it should be made crystal clear in the policy document that while condoms may assist in the prevention of infection, faithfulness in marriage and abstinence for those not yet married are the only fool-proof solutions to the problem of HIV infection.

Fr. Rodgers urged the media to project positive moral and traditional values,saying these play an important role in shaping and directing people on how they should understand the world.

The seminar unanimously agreed that while individual rights should be respected, a partner should have a legal as well as moral right to know about the status of the other since he or she stands to be affected if the partner is HIV positive.

The seminar also noted that the public was not getting full information about the risks of using the condom, and agreed that those who campaign for condom use should make sure that they provide all necessary details such as the breakage rate, leakage rate and slippage rate. The seminar urged those who advertise condoms to balance their advertisements with messages on morality and also to state that condoms are not 100 percent safe.

The participants agreed that no agency had the right to over rule parents' responsibility to their children unless a parent is deemed mentally disturbed.The responsibility of bringing up a child lies with its parents and no agency has the right to provide information that violates these rights. They pointed out, however, that parents should respect their children's rights and promote dialogue with them on issues relating to sex. Discussing sex is normally regarded as taboo in African culture, particularly discussing this with children.

Whilst the churches are putting their emphasis on faithfulness within marriage and abstinence before marriage, some people feel this is not realistic. Edmund Tinofirei a social scientist, argues that while faithfulness in marriage and abstinence from sex would be the surest ways of ensuring one's safety against HIV infection, this was not practical.

He said biologically there comes a time when a person grows to a certain age when he or she will develop feelings which will push her into indulging in sex, even against one's conscience. "Therefore talking about abstinence is only reality in theory and not in practice," he said. Tinofirei said even faithfulness in marriage is not always easy, particularly under today's circumstances when husband and wife can be separated for long periods due to work commitments.


Government purchases four-wheel drive vehicles for ministers

The Zimbabwe government has disclosed that it has purchased 20 Cherokee four-wheel drive vehicles worth Z$7 million from an American company for use by ministers and other high-ranking government officials.

The government said this had been done as a measure to prolong the lifespan of the ministerial Mercedes Benz vehicles which are sometimes subjected to terrain for which they are not suitable.

However, sources within the Central Mechanical Equipment Department (CMED) - a government department responsible for maintaining government vehicles - said the Cherokees were bought under a scheme tailor-made for ministers so that the vehicles would eventually become their personal property.

Last year the government purchased 48 E230 Mercedes Benz for use during a Solar Summit which was held in Harare. It then sold the older Mercedes Benz 230E to ministers for between US$600 and $1 000 each instead of the market value which US$25 000. Government lost about US$700 000 in the process, raising a public outcry that ministers were robbing the public fiscus.

Some senior ministers who had known about the chicanery in advance are said to have taken their old Mercedes Benz to the CMED for major repairs and engine overhauls just weeks before they bought the same vehicles for a song, further prejudicing public coffers.

Parliamentarians being urged to reject new Act

Government will soon present before Parliament for ratification, the Public Order and Maintenance Bill which seeks to replace the notorious Law and Order Maintenance Act which was the centrepiece of black oppression under colonial rule.

However, civic bodies have said the bill is just as draconian as the Law and Order Maintenance Act it seeks to replace, and have urged Parliamentarians not to ratify it. Leading the campaign against the bill are the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) and the Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights), who, together with other organisations, are holding public meetings to sensitize society about the provisions of the bill.

Fact sheets have already been distributed to Parliamentarians and permission has been sought for the civic groups to attend a Parliamentary caucus meeting to highlight what they believe is wrong with the bill.

Zimbabwe's only independent MP, Margaret Dongo said a lot of MPs needed to be sensitised about the far-reaching implications of the bill since most of them had not even read it and could easily be used to rubber stamp the bill into law. "The bill is just as oppressive as the one it seeks to replace," Dongo said.

American agency siezes millions of dollars destined for Zimbabwe

An American government agency has impounded more than US$7 million which it suspects was being laundered through American banks to Zimbabwe.

According to Zimbabwe newspaper, The Herald, the money originated from the embassy of the Democratic Republic of Korea in Harare and was being re-routed back to Harare through foreign banks in Austria and the United States when Americans grew suspicious about the money and impounded it.

The money was being re-routed in the name of a Zimbabwean businessman and member of parliament, Tirivanhu Mudariki, who says the money was a loan to him from the DPRK embassy's commercial section. However, Americans have said offshore loan procedures which should have applied in this case have not been followed and they suspect the money could be proceeds from drug trafficking or some other illegal dealings.

Mudariki has since hired a US law firm to try and have the money released. Farm workers destroy property worth Z$3 million

Property worth about Z$3 million was destroyed and another Z$3,2 million lost in horticultural earnings from the commercial farming sector during a two-week strike by about 340 000 farm workers who were demanding a 135 percent salary increase.

According to the vice president of the Commercial Farmers' Union, Arthur Baisley, the damaged property included vehicles, farm houses, barns and tractors. The strike ended after the General Agricultural and Plantation Workers Union and the Agricultural Labour Bureau agreed to award a 40 percent wage increase.

Meanwhile tobacco production figures for next year have been revised downwards following the destruction of seedlings by striking workers and the wilting of others due to lack of watering during the strike period.

Leaders urged not to manipulate constitutions

The acting director of the political department of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), Sam Ibok, has urged African leaders not to manipulate constitutions to enable themselves to remain in power, saying this was one of the major causes of civil strife and bloody coups.

In an interview last week in Harare where he was attending a meeting of African military experts, Ibok said most African leaders were reluctant to give up power and some manipulated their constitutions so that they could remain in power. He said the OAU was working on a mechanismwhich would not allow leaders to undemocratically prolong their terms of office when they have expired.

He said sometimes the OAU had to recognise governments which got into power through forceful means because those overthrown would have failed to respect the sovereignity of their people by paving way for others.

Defence lawyers say Banana can no longer be sued

Lawyers defending former state president Canaan Banana in a civil lawsuit in which his former bodyguard is claiming damages of more than Z$1,3 million for alleged sodomy and indecent assault have argued that the plaintiff can no longer sue Banana because of the long period that has lapsed since the alleged crime was committed.

The lawyers are arguing that under the Prescription Act, the plaintiff Jefta Dube should have sued for monetary compensation within three years of "knowing one's condition and the source of the condition which is being sued for". They are arguing that it took Dube more than three years to seek compensation for the sodomy alleged to have taken place between 1983 and 1986.

However, Dube's lawyers are arguing that although three years have lapsed since the time the offence allegedly took place, Dube is entitled to a claim because he only got to know that he suffered from post traumatic stress disorders last year after shooting a policeman to death at a music concert in Harare. They argue that Dube's claim is for traumatic stress disorder, a condition he only got to know of last year.

Banana is currently facing 11 counts of sodomy and indecent assault.The Supreme Court is yet to make a ruling on whether his trial should continue following an application by his defence lawyers that he be discharged on grounds that he would not receive a fair trial due to adverse pre-trial publicity which they say prejudiced his constitutional right to a fair trial.

Police impound counterfeit US dollars

A total of 4 900 counterfeit US$100 bills have been impounded by police in Harare and two Malawians have been arrested.

The fake notes were impounded at a house in Harare's high density suburb of Mabvuku, and police have said they suspect the notes originated from an East African syndicate which operates between Tanzania and Kenya. Detectives who raided the house found the notes wrapped in Tanzanian newspapers in a travelling bag.

Security personnel at the US Embassy in Harare have described the notes as expertly forged. The notes have six different serial numbers between them.

Police have said the information they have so far suggests that the notes were smuggled from Tanzania by road via Malawi and Mozambique. Banks and members of the public have been warned to be on the lookout as some of the fake notes may already be in circulation.

SA-Zimbabwe border post temporaliry closed

Zimbabwe and South Africa's only border post was closed for two days last week following an accident at Beitbridge - on the Zimbabwean side - involving a tanker which was carrying highly explosive petroleum gas.

According to a report carried by TheHerald, the gas began leaking after the accident and fire fighters had to be summoned from Pietersburg, Messina and Pretoria in South Africa to clear the gas since Zimbabwe did not have the capacity to deal with this emergency. The accident occurred on Saturday morning,and by evening, close to 10 000 people had left the town following reports that the tanker was about to explode.

A police highway patrol vehicle drove around the town warning residents through its public address system to leave their homes for safety. They were told they would only be safe from a distance of 10 kilometres.

Some people jumped onto trailers of moving trucks while others climbed on the roofs ofpacked buses to flee to safety. In the end, it was an explosion that never was.

Had the explosion occurred, servingand remand prisoners as well as the sick at the Beitbridge hospital had been left to die as no efforts had been made to evacuate them.

UZ over-staffed audit

External auditors have criticised the University of Zimbabwe (UZ) for being over-staffed and have urged the government-run institution to carry out a job evaluation exercise to eliminate duplication of activities, a move which would save millions of dollars in wages.

The problem of over-staffing was particularly serious in the non-academic sections which had 3 134 staff as of June 1997. The UZ has a total staff complement of 4 063 compared to a student population of11 204, meaning that the staff to students ratio was 1:3, a ratio described as unacceptable.

UZ Vice Chancellor, Professor Graham Hill admitted the institution was overstaffed and said staff recruitment would remain frozen until an acceptable level had been reached.

The auditors, Deloitte & Touche, also urged the UZ to tighten cash controls to minimise cases of fraud and to be tough with staff debtors who currently owe the institution about Z$1,5 million in unpaid advances.

IMF/World Bank expected for talks

A team from the International Monetary fund is expected in Zimbabwe next week for talks expected to centre on the funding of the second leg of the country's market reform programme.

The team will meet the Minister of Finance Herbert Murerwa and the governor of the Reserve Bank Leonard Tsumba, among other people. The visit comes just about two months after the World Bank temporarily withheld the disbursement of key balance of payments aid worth more than Z$700 million. This followed the government's announcement that it was going to pay a gratuity of Z$50 000 plus a monthly pension of Z$2 000 to every ex-combatant.

The World Bank was worried that the payments estimated to cost more than Z$2,5 billion would push the budget deficit beyond the government's projected 8,9 percent of the Gross Domestic Product to over 12 percent. The IMF and World Bank have publicly stated that they are not in a hurry to release funds to prop up the country's balance of payments position until they are satisfied that the deficit is under control.

The government was forced to grant the gratuities following violent demonstrations bypoverty stricken ex-combatants who were demanding to be rewarded for their role in the liberation struggle.

Call to increase age of majority

A workshop held in Nyanga last week to examine the Legal Age of Majority Act has recommended that the age of consent to marriage be increased from the present 18 to 20 years.

The workshop also recommended that the age at which a person could legally consume alcohol be increased to 20 years. The workshop was held in response to criticism of Government by parliamentarians and traditional chiefs who blamed the increase in HIV infection and other social ills among young Zimbabweans to the Legal Age of Majority Act of 1982.

Man wants his limbs back

A man who lost both legs in an underground mine accident 16 years ago has startled the mine's management by demanding his limbs, saying he would like to be buried with them when he dies.

According to the latest issue of Read On magazine, John Bisius was involved in an accident while working underground in April 1981, resulting in his legs being amputated at the mine hospital.

Bisius who was employed as a receptionist after the accident but was retrenched in 1990 without compensation said: "If my limbs were buried I want to dig them up. I will keep them and wait for my other part to die so that I can be buried in one grave. I have never heard of a person being buried in two graves. If it was just a finger, I would probably not complain. But we are talking about half of me."

Bisius said he did not recall signing any documents relating to the disposal of his limbs.

Australia turns down Zimbabwe's request

The lawn tennis association of Australia has turned down a request by Zimbabwe to switch the venue of the opening match of the 1998 Davis Cup World Group from Australia to Harare.

The president of the Tennis Association of Zimbabwe, Paul Chingoka, said Australia had been given the choice of venue when the draw was conducted in London two weeks ago. Asking for the change of venue, Chingoka had pleaded with the president of the Tennis Association of Australia, Geoff Polard, that the change would give Zimbabweans their first opportunity to watch tennis at its highest level. This is the first time that Zimbabwe has qualified for the World Group after beating Austria 2-3 in Harare last month.

Chingoka said Australians turned down Zimbabwe's request as they felt that there were also a lot of cities and people in Australia that had not had the opportunity to see their Davis Cup team perform and that they have had a string of away matches over the last four years, with only three home matches out of 10.

Zimbabwe fails to pay soccer coach

The Zimbabwe Football Association (ZIFA) has failed to raise money to pay former Liverpool goalkeeper Bruce Grobbelaar to become the national soccer team coach.

ZIFA vice chairman Vincent Pamire said in an interview if funds were available ZIFA would have already engaged Grobbelaar because the national soccer team should by now have started preparing for the African Cup of Nations finals to be played in 2000.

Pamire said Grobbelaar who in the past has acted as coach of the Zimbabwe team,had already agreed to become the substantive coach but no contract had been signed due to lack of funds. According to Pamire, ZIFA needs an urgent injection of Z$1 million from the government or any well-wisher to enable it to engage Grobbelaar and start preparations for the Nations Cup before it is too late.

ZIFA has over the years been dogged by financial problems mainly due to maladministration. Zimbabwe is a soccer loving nation such that soccer matches are always well attended, and if it was not for maladministration, ZIFA would have more than enough resources to pay for a coach.

Soccer fans have repeatedly called for the dissolution of the ZIFA executive which is headed by President Robert Mugabe's nephew, Leo Mugabe.

**************************** From: (Africa_news Network) Date: Sun, 23 Nov 1997 09:14:31 +0100 Subject: Zimbabwe News Online Message-ID: <>

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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