Around Zimbabwe 11/05/06

Celebrity backing for 'Dignity. Period!'
HARARE - After receiving nothing but laughter from Zanu (PF) members in parliament, the crisis faced by Zimbabwean women who have no sanitary pads has received support from international celebrities.
Tabitha Khumalo, general se

cretary of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Union’s women’s advisory council, has fought hard to bring some dignity to this very private issue of sanitary pads and tampons in Zimbabwe through the “Dignity. Period!” campaign. Although these products can be found in the shops women are having to choose between food for their families and pads that are hygienic instead of newspapers and leaves.
So far actors Anna Chancellor, Gillian Anderson, Prunella Scales and Jeremy Irons are involved. Notable celebrity Stephen Fry will host a fundraiser on May 26 and the 20th Century Theatre in Notting Hill at which the project will be launched. There will be music, poetry, dance and an auction. – SW Radio Africa

Students challenge UZ Act as fee protests continue
HARARE – Three University of Zimbabwe students have challenged the constitutionality of sections of the University of Zimbabwe Act in the Supreme Court, contending that it infringes on their rights, specifically that of freedom of assembly.
Several students were recently suspended following demonstrations over massive hikes in tuition fees, including SRC activists Collin Chibango, Mfundo Mlilo and Wellington Mahohoma.
“If the challenge sails through, it would be a victory against the state’s willingness to silence the students through some draconian pieces of legislation. This will also be the first legal challenge of the University of Zimbabwe Amendment Act since its enactment in 1991,” said Mlilo.
Meanwhile 48 students leaders from university and tertiary learning institutions around the country were arrested after they brought down President Robert Mugabe’s portrait during the Zimbabwe National Students Union (Zinasu) congress in Harare last week.
A further 18 students from Bindura University were arrested on Monday during a peaceful demonstration against the new fee structure. ZINASU leader Washington Katema said the arrested students were brutally assaulted before taken to Bindura Central Police station, where they were unlawfully detained at the time of going to press.
After a meeting early Monday, the Bindura University Student Representative Council (SRC) had resolved to meet their Vice Chancellor who reportedly refused to meet them and responded by calling the police.
Katema said, “When the police officers arrived at the campus they started beating students indiscriminately and one female student sustained a broken jaw and was rushed to a private clinic in Bindura.” He said the students had resolved to continue to protest against the new fee structure. – SW Radio Africa

Officials beg for Av gas in Jozi
HARARE – Government officials from the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (CAAZ) flew to Johannesburg at the weekend to beg for fuel to prevent the total grounding of the national airline, due to a desperate shortage of Jet A1.
Zimbabwe has been without foreign currency to pay for crucial imports, including fuel since the International Monetary Fund, donors and development partners cut off aid over differences with Harare on governance issues. The country has virtually run out of all liquid fuels forcing the state-run National Oil Company of Zimbabwe to
appeal to banks to help raise foreign currency to pay for fuel.
An Air Zimbabwe plane en route from London to Harare last Sunday reportedly had to divert and land in Zambia because it did not have enough fuel to complete
the flight.
Jet A1 gas sells at between US 25 and 27 cents in South Africa, but in
Zimbabwean airlines must pay in excess of US$1. Zimbabwe consumes 15 million
litres of Jet A1 fuel a month.
South Africa has in the past helped Zimbabwe with fuel and electricity but has in recent weeks appeared reluctant to bail out its northern neighbour out of its worst
energy crisis. – Own correspondent

Mugabe turns to militia for protection
HARARE – The government of President Robert Mugabe continues to make frantic preparations to brace itself for the massive public protests being organised by the MDC.
Sources report that Mugabe has put his trust in the so-called war veterans and youth militias, rather than in the regular police and the army, to crush the planned street protests to topple his regime. He apparently expects the uprisings, promised by MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai for winter, to start next month.
The source said Mugabe was taking the MDC threats seriously. “He is well aware that the last national strike called by the opposition was an overwhelming success. And the people of Zimbabwe now have much more to protest about, following the surge in inflation and the massive hikes in prices everything from food to education,” he said.
The MDC has vowed to press ahead with its protests, despite the threats. Party spokesman, Nelson Chamisa, said there was nothing wrong with the people of Zimbabwe using peaceful mass protests to free themselves from “this rogue regime”. Tsvangirai has urged the uniformed services not to allow themselves to be used against their own people, warning that if they continue to obey ‘illegal orders’ they will face serious consequences under a future MDC government. – Own correspondent

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