News roundup 7/4/06

Mugabe promotes war veterans
HARARE - President Robert Mugabe's government has ordered the promotion of veterans of the country's liberation war to positions of control in the police force, while ordering young officers who did not fight in the 1970's war to undergo lessons in patriotism. Sour

ces have said the move was meant to place the police securely into the hands of loyalists in the face of threats by the MDC to instigate popular revolt against Mugabe and Zanu (PF). Junior officers, drawn from all over the country in batches of 200 to attend lessons in patriotism and the history of Zimbabwe at the police’s Morris depot training centre in Harare, are also taught how to combat and smother civil unrest.

Police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena defended patriotism lessons and anti-civil riot training for junior officers saying it was part of the police force’s ongoing training and refresher courses for its members. But a junior police officer undergoing patriotism education at Morris depot described the programme as a “brainwashing exercise” where senior officers threaten their juniors with dismissal if they sympathise with the MDC. – ZimOnline

AIDS drugs unavailable
HARARE – Zimbabwe’s National Aids Council (NAC) has said it is only able to provide anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs to one in every 12 HIV/AIDS patients because there is no money to buy adequate supplies.NAC executive director Tapiwa Magure told Parliament’s portfolio committee on health that funds raised through an aids tax on workers were having to be spread out to cover other social sectors requiring support leaving little money to pay for drugs or HIV/AIDS prevention programmes. As a result the NAC, the government’s anti-HIV/AIDS agency, had failed to increase the number of people receiving ARVs to 170,000 by end of 2005 as had been planned. Only 25,000 people were receiving drugs by the end of last year out of a total of 300.000 people that Magure said urgently required drugs. About a quarter of the 12 million Zimbabweans are estimated to be infected by the deadly HIV virus.

“Funding for health delivery has been dwindling in real terms since 2000. Although HIV and Aids are funded from the 3 percent levy on taxable incomes, the value of the money has dropped due to inflation,” said Magure.
The Zimbabwean has carried reports in the past about government ministers raiding drug supplies for their personal use. In addition, government has diverted tax money from the AIDS fund to stage beauty pageants. According to the 2004 Millennium Development Goals report on Zimbabwe, the country requires about US$38 million to reverse he spread of HIV/AIDS between 2002 and 2015. The amount excludes the cost of ARVs. Zimbabwe and Uganda are the only two sub-Saharan countries that have been able to reverse HIV/AIDS infections but the gains scored by Harare against the disease are now being reversed.- ZimOnline

New CEO for Zisco
HARARE – Global Steel Holdings (GSHL), which took over management control of Zimbabwe Iron and Steel Company (Zisco) last month, has appointed Lalit Kumar Sehgal as CEO. The company entered into a deal with the Zimbabwe government to take over control of Zisco for 20 years in return for an investment of US$400 million.
Sehgal moves to Zimbabwe after a stint in Nigeria, where he was CEO of Delta Steel Company and prior to that in Ajakouta Steel. – Own correspondent

‘Barbed wire’ education
HARARE – Based on a random sampling of 26 colleges around Zimbabwe there are indications that up to 40 percent of students have dropped out because of the new tuition fees introduced by government. Washington atema president of the Zimbabwe National Students Union (ZINASU) said 84,000 out of a total 210,000 students at 26 colleges have been forced to leave college because they can’t raise the Z$30 to Z$70 million in tuition fees now required.
Katema says the government is defying a High Court ruling that set aside the fee increases. A High Court judge ruled that the authorities could not raise fees above the support rate for students but Washington Mbizo, permanent secretary in the Higher Education Ministry, recently told the state media the students had to pay up. Meanwhile National University of Science and Technology lecturers are still on strike over the non-implementation of salary increases as ordered by the High Court, having failed to reach an agreement with the university authorities. – Lance Guma, SW Radio Africa

Malawi tightens laws
LILONGWE – There is growing resentment towards Zimbabwean refugees in Malawi after the government tightened immigration laws in order to block them from getting Malawi passports illegally. Malawians were previously not required to produce any documentation by their own government to prove their identity. But because large numbers of Zimbabweans escaping the crisis at home have been bribing officials to get passports, the Malawi government now plans to introduce stricter laws. In addition, the British government has imposed a visa requirement for Malawians
after Zimbabweans who were denied asylum produced Malawi passports and were deported to Lilongwe. – Tererai Karimakwenda, SW Radio Africa

Budiriro by-election
HARARE – The by-election to fill the Budiriro seat left by the death of G Shoko, an MDC legislator who died this year, has been scheduled for Saturday May 20 according to the latest edition of the Government Gazette. The voters roll will close on Thursday April 13 while the nomination court will sit in Harare on Friday April 21. The MDC has held the Budiriro seat since the 2000 elections. – Own correspondent

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