ZIMBABWE: The two-step between Mugabe and the opposition goes on
ANGOLA: Cholera every year if water and sanitation not improved
SOUTH AFRICA: No escape from “poverty trap”
MALAWI: Turning the future into charcoal
SWAZILAND: Old habits die hard
LESOTHO: Textiles no longer hanging by a thread
Yet another mediation effort has been launched to solve the political and humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe but analysts and politicians told IRIN there was little hope of success.
Benjamin Mkapa, a former Tanzanian head of state, has been asked by regional leaders to help find a solution to the divide between Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and an opposition that rejects the legitimacy of his government. Without a settlement, Zimbabwe’s pariah status in western capitals is likely to continue, and financial aid will remain frozen.
Zimbabwe may have the fastest shrinking economy in the world, but a small, well-connected elite appears immune to the hardships.
Government policies that have allowed the parallel market to thrive, combined with corruption, have led to the skewed distribution of wealth. This means that every evening long lines of people walk home from work in the city centre because they cannot afford bus fares, while a fortunate few cruise past them in expensive cars.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has called on the Zimbabwean government to stop the alleged jamming of news broadcasts by radio stations based in the United States and Britain.
In a statement this week, the CPJ accused the government of jamming medium-wave signals by the Voice of America’s (VOA) Studio 7, a 90-minute news programme broadcasting into Zimbabwe in English and local languages, and the London-based SW Radio Africa. Home affairs minister Kembo Mohadi denied the jamming allegation and the government claims it faces western “sanctions” as punishment for its violent land redistribution programme, launched in 2000.
The cholera epidemic in Angola has peaked and new cases are on the decline, but if water and sanitation issues are not addressed, aid agencies expect to be back for another outbreak within a year.
“The government needs to improve water and sanitation – Angola has not seen a cholera outbreak since 1995 and now we expect it to reappear every year, becoming endemic,” Karen Godley, the Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF)-Switzerland head of mission in Angola, told IRIN.
Hope that post-apartheid economic growth will translate into a better life for the poor is dying in the expanding squatter camps that ring Johannesburg, South Africa’s bustling business centre.
A recent government discussion paper on social trends, ‘A nation in the making’, acknowledged a vast underclass of the unemployed and unemployable who are undocumented and unreached by government programmes. Most of those who can earn a living in the squatter settlement do so by collecting scrap metal or cardboard, piled into trolleys, and pushed and pulled all the way to the dealers. The less entrepreneurial forage in garbage dumps for food. The poignancy of poverty in South Africa is that often the have-nots are within sight of the haves.
Chopping down the forests for charcoal and fuel wood seems so shortsighted, but until there are alternative sources of energy for Malawi’s rural poor, the destruction will continue.
Malawi loses about 50,000ha of indigenous forest every year – the highest deforestation rate in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region. The government estimates that just 4 percent of the population has access to electricity; over 93 percent depend on wood fuel.
A new constitution has granted Swazi women a degree of protection that is shocking tradition-bound Swazi men.
Until the new constitution was signed into law by King Mswati III at the beginning of the year, Swazi women were second-class citizens, unable to own property in their own names or even open a bank account without the assent of a male relative. The Swazi branch of the regional NGO, Women in Law, has targeted half the country’s 365 chiefdoms in a new education campaign engaging residents in discussion during regular weekend community meetings, driving the message home that on paper, at least, women are now equal.
Lesotho’s single largest employer, the textile industry, has made a remarkable comeback, setting an example for the region and giving thousands back their jobs.
Lesotho was an early victim of cheap Chinese exports to the key US market when the World Trade Organisation’s 30-year old Multi-Fiber Agreement (MFA) expired in 2005. The industry picked up significantly after Lesotho established itself as a “destination of ethical choice” and demand from the US and more recently from Europe increased. Jobs in the industry have climbed from below 40,000 to around 47,000