Migration News

Archives and Current News

September 2004  - Click on the country title above the headlines for the entire article.

Informal cross-border trade
Should Africa open its borders?

Angola expels 300,000
Sierra Leoneans deported
Border identification card launched
Refugees return from Namibia
Refugees ready to come home
Repatriation of national citizens from Zambia
Angola: The journey home
Angola deports 418 foreigner
Expulsion of illegal miners continues
90,000 refugees to come back home
Angola to host meeting on border situation
Angolans repatriated from Zambia arrive
Refugee returns in full swing from Zambia, DRC

Angolan refugees representatives keen to repatriate
Illegal foreigners outdo the police
Botswana, Zimbabwe in bid to curb negative reporting
Customary Court President defends flogging

DRC, Rwanda agree on border issues
Thousands flee unrest in DR Congo
Immigrants ignite wrangle
Congolese sent home
Agreement reached to repatriate Congolese refugees

Report on impact of textile industry

Constitution: Dual nationality amendments
Poor turnout for voter registration abroad
Mozambique and Malawi strive to check border crime
Renamo trying to disenfranchise emigrants
Deportations of Mozambicans continue
Crackdown on contraband between Mozambique and Zimbabwe

Bangladeshis in out-of-court settlement with factory
Angolan refugees fly out
Agent hits out at government and Ramatex
Foreign affairs at centre of Bangladeshi storm
Comment on the deportation of Bangladeshi workers
Editorial: We should be ashamed
Ramatex in Namibia
Bangladeshi envoy intervenes too late
Bangladeshis bid farewell to Namibia
Bangladeshi drama
Government to train Ramatex workers
More Bangladeshis go home
Ramatex gives side of workers story
Government accused of ignoring labour law violation
Ramatex to sue recruitment agency
Enraged Bangladeshi workers assault agent
Bangladeshis expelled from Namibia
Bangladeshis riot over living conditions
Angolan border tariffs
Sex workers tell their secrets
Police manhandle innocent foreigners

South Africa:
South Africa, Zimbabwe to sign MOU on labour
Minister visits centre for illegal immigrants
11 000 police needed on SA borders
South Africa losing skilled people
Iranian doctors to work in SA's rural hospitals
Government to spend R1bn on rural health workers
Red tape ties up medical specialists
SA mulls scrapping visa requirements
Finger printing solution to bogus marriages?
Police ready to take over border control
Migrant women at higher risks of HIV/Aids
Mozambique, South Africa scrap visas
High court rules in favour of detained foreign children
Billions lost as doctors flee SA
South Africa accused of asylum bar on Zimbabweans
Court asked to help foreign children
Deportations of Mozambicans continue
Priest arrested for conducting fake marriages
Harrowing tale of police treatment
Commonwealth protocol to control teacher poaching

Escalating number of Asians

Tanzania booming: Record number of tourists this season

Cross-border traders object to body checks
More funds needed to repatriate Angolans
Pace of Angolan returns from Zambia slower than expected
Editorial: Illegal migrants an embarrassment
South Africa deports 14 Zambians
Rwandan refugees not willing to go back home
Zambia, Malawi seal tourism deal
Exodus of nursing professionals affecting health care
Trafficking in girls continues unabated

Tourists to Zimbabwe drop by a third
Border jumpers accused of crime in Beitbridge
Land reform displaced 150,000 farm workers
Anonymous pauper burial for migrants

Informal cross-border trade (The Sunday Mirror, 12/09):- By the time it is completed, it will run for 400km and cost the government $3.6m. The Botswana government says that the fence is meant to restrict the movement of livestock across its border because of a previous outbreak of foot and mouth disease. But this is happening at a time of economic and political turmoil in neighbouring Zimbabwe, when many Zimbabweans are crossing into Botswana in search of a better life. And they say the fence is designed to keep them out. Elsewhere, South Africa has also been tightening up its immigration controls - again thousands of Zimbabweans have been sent back home.

Should Africa open its borders? (BBC News, 10/09):- Botswana is constructing an 8-foot high electric fence along its border with Zimbabwe. By the time it is completed, it will run for 400km and cost the government $3.6m. The Botswana government says that the fence is meant to restrict the movement of livestock across its border because of a previous outbreak of foot and mouth disease. But this is happening at a time of economic and political turmoil in neighbouring Zimbabwe, when many Zimbabweans are crossing into Botswana in search of a better life. And they say the fence is designed to keep them out. Elsewhere, South Africa has also been tightening up its immigration controls - again thousands of Zimbabweans have been sent back home.

Angola expels 300,000 (Sapa-AFP, 29/09):- More than 300,000 foreigners have been deported from Angola as part of a crackdown on diamond traffickers launched nine months ago, according to police. The joint police and army operation that has mostly targeted nationals from the Democratic Republic of Congo has been criticised by UN agencies and human rights groups, who say women and children have been raped and forced to walk long distances without food or water. "A total of 300,000 migrants who were involved in illegal diamond exploitation have been repatriated during the two first phases of Operation Diamond and 4,877 in the third phase," said Deputy Police Commander Paulo de Almeida on public television. He added that several seizures of equipment were also carried out during the operation that should put diamond traffickers out of business. The UN bureau for humanitarian affairs has criticised the mass expulsions launched in December 2003, saying they violated "basic international standards" of human rights. President Jose Eduardo dos Santos' government has defended the operation by calling it an "act of sovereignty in defence of the economy" of Angola, which depends on its diamond exports and oil for hard currency. A former Portuguese colony, Angola is one of Africa's top oil and diamond producers.

Sierra Leoneans deported (Concord Times, 29/09):- Some 19 Sierra Leoneans have been deported from Angola, police sources disclosed Tuesday. These Sierra Leoneans were reportedly among a number of illegal African immigrants deported by the Angolan authorities during the last two months. Inspector General of Police, Brima Acha Kamara says 14 of the Sierra Leoneans were deported last month whilst 5 others were sent back home this month. He said most of those deported were found with incorrect papers. "That is why we insist that all Sierra Leoneans leaving the country are to have the required documents before leaving to avoid embarrassment," he said. He also said two other Guinean nationals, Alpha Mousa and Aboubakarr Diallo were arrested by police with fake UK visas. He said police are investigating the matter.

Border identification card launched (Angola Press Agency, 26/09):-An identification card for the populations that live on both sides of the common border between Angola and Nambia was officially launched on Friday at Namacunde district, southern Cunene province. The launch took place during a ceremony chaired by the national director of Angolan National Migratory Services, Maria Joaquina da Silva. The creation of the card resulted from a recent meeting of the Angola/Namibia bilateral commission devoted to assess the migratory movements and constraints. The card will permit people living within a range of 30 kilometres on both sides of the borderline to circulate freely across the border. The function was attended by Cuenene provincial Governor, Pedro Mutindi, the commander of northern Namibia police commander, the director of the neighbouring country's migratory services and chieftains.

Refugees return from Namibia (Angola Press Agency, 24/09):- Some 108 Angolan citizens (men, women and children) who lived for many years in Namibia as refugees arrived on Thursday, in the central Huambo province, in the framework of the country's repatriation programme, being supported by the UNHCR. The returnees, who are at a transit place, in the outskirts of the city, have received kits for installation and civil construction handed by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), who supports the referred programme. Besides the returnees from Namibia, a group of 210 national citizens also arrived from Zambia, having also benefited from an assistance with various materials. At the moment the IOM has already resettled 1.352 people in their areas of origin, in the municipalities of Ukuma, Mungo, Tchindjenje, Bailundo, Tchicala-Tcholohanga, Katchiungo, Caála, Longonjo and Ekunha. Out of the mentioned number 70 of them are physically disabled people who received a pair of crutches each, given by the Orthopaedic Centre of Bomba-Alta. The resettlement process in this province has found difficulties mainly because of the bad conditions of the access~ road to the various municipalities and communes. The official in charge of the transit shelter place, Tito Kapita, admitted that the meals provided in the centre are poor, however, he explained that the improvement on this field depends on the World Food Programme (WFP), which is the organisation that supplies food for the kitchen. The province of Huambo expects to receive over 11.000 Angolan refugees from the DR Congo, Zambia and Namibia. This process, which has the support of various NGOs such as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the International Service for the Population (ISP), will finish on November of the current year.

Refugees ready to come home (UN integrated Regional Information Networks, 17/09):- Justino Paquete, a former agricultural engineer, was confident that he would be able to find work once he got home to Angola. Bespectacled and dressed in a suit, he stood out among the Angolan refugees in the sprawling, dusty Meheba camp, all waiting their turn to get onto the buses that would take them across the border. Paquete, 30, had left Angola in 2001. With his skills, he felt he had a contribution to make to "my country" as it recovered from three decades of civil war. Paquete was at the transit centre to see off his 18-year-old sister, Juliette Antonio, and her two children. It would be his turn the following week. His parents and two brothers had left last year and were now back in Luena, the capital of eastern Moxico province. Juliette planned to open a business - "I will sell tomatoes and other vegetables," she said. Family members had sent her positive feedback about opportunities in Angola. But not all the returnees IRIN spoke to were as optimistic. "John Brown", 42, a former UNITA rebel soldier who fought against the MPLA government in Moxico for two decades, was apprehensive about going back: "The MPLA might kill me." He was interrupted by a relative, Costa Kativa, 34, also a former UNITA soldier who had operated in Moxico in the 1990s. "The MPLA is okay now - I do not think they will harm us," Kativa said. Although concerned about returning, "Brown" had nothing to hold him in Zambia. He had been living in the Ukwimi refugee camp in eastern Zambia for the past four years, without any of his immediate family. His wife had died during the war, which ended in 2002, after government forces killed UNITA leader Jonas Savimbi. Since his arrival in Zambia, "Brown" had received no word from his surviving family members. "I do not know if they are still living or dead," he said in fluent English. "I want to find out about my land, our house, my brothers, sisters - I want to find them now." "Brown" had made his way to Zambia on foot - a journey that had taken him five days through the forests of the northeastern region. On his arrival he was moved to Ukwimi, set up that year for fleeing UNITA soldiers, well away from the border. Refugee families are provided with rations by the World Food Programme during their first two years in Zambia. "Thereafter they have to fend for themselves," said Kelvin Shimo, spokesman for UNHCR, the UN refugee agency. In all the camps - Ukwimi, Mayukwayukwa, Nangweshi, Kala and Meheba - the refugees were given land to cultivate maize, rice or vegetables, which they sold in the settlements' small markets. For many, like Michael Makuya, who has been living in Meheba since it was established in 1971, Zambia has become a second home. He arrived in 1968 as a five-year-old toddler with his parents, six brothers and two sisters. "My father was a farmer - they tell me we fled when there was war." He met his wife in the camp and became the father of four children. Until recently Makuya ran a grocery shop in Meheba. "I have sold it now, because I now want to go home - that [Angola] is where I belong." He had saved money and planned to open a similar shop when he got back. Despite the anticipated difficulties in a country he does not remember, "it will be a new beginning for me and my family - everything will be new". Two of his siblings had left for Angola last year; he had heard from them and was eager to join them. "All of us Angolans, whether we have seen home or not, want to go back - who wants to live in a camp for always? But the UNHCR is slow in sending us. Last year they were sending a thousand people at a time - now it is 300 to 400," Makuya complained. UNHCR's Shimo countered that few people had stepped forward for repatriation since the refugee agency opened the route to Luena. "But we have increased the number of convoys going to Angola from once a week to two. As from next week, we will have daily airlifts to Angola - to wherever we can fly - Lumbala N'guimbo [in Moxico province], Luanda [the capital] and Huambo [in the central province of Huambo]," he said. More than 200,000 Angolans sought refuge in Zambia during the civil war. According to the Angolan government, 70,000 have returned home under their own steam since the 2002 ceasefire agreement. UNHCR began its voluntary repatriation programme last year, and by the end of 2004 hopes to have helped around 53,000 Angolans to return. Last week six buses left Maheba for Caianda, 160 km into Angola. Four years ago the journey through the thick forest between the border and the Angolan town had taken "Brown" five days to complete: this time it lasted only six hours. As he got off the bus in the reception centre at Caianda, he turned to cast one last look at the forest that lay behind him, then moved on towards shelter to rest before the last leg of his trip home to Luena.

Repatriation of national citizens from Zambia (Angola Press Agency, 17/09):- Delegations from Angola, Zambia and UNHCR are assessing since Thursday here the progress in the repatriation process of Angolan refugees residing in this neighbouring country, started in last June. According to the working agenda, elaborated by the UNHCR, this fourth session of the Tripartite Commission will make a revision of the planning of movement done by the International Organization of Migration and the possibility for repatriation through Namibia. During the two-day meeting, participants will also analyse issues such as the registration of the already resettled voluntary refugees, repatriation of nationals married with foreign citizens, as well as difficulties of transport and logistic plus other means linked to the operation. At the opening ceremony, the head of the Angolan delegation, Nilsa Batalha, noticed slowness in the process as since the beginning of the repatriation only 8,951 Angolans, out of the 40,000 expected returned home, in this second phase. The access by road to the localities of Luau, Cazombo and Lwena (Eastern Moxico Province) and delay in air movement were the reasons for this situation. The Angolan delegation comprises the Charge D'affaires with the embassy in Zambia, Joao Baptista da Costa, the Consuls to Mongu and Solwezi, Levy Kaunda abd Balbuino Silva, respectively, and high ranking officials.

Angola: The journey home (UN integrated Regional Information Networks, 13/09):- As the convoy wove its way over hundreds of kilometres of rutted dirt roads not even the clouds of dust could dampen the spirits of the Angolan children on their way home from Zambia. Phillip Chiweka, 15, born in Meheba refugee settlement in northwestern Zambia had never seen Angola. His parents had fled Luena in eastern Angola in 1974 at the height of the civil war between the MPLA and the rebel group, UNITA. "I am excited about going home - my mother tells me it is very nice there," he beamed. People were almost flung from their seats as the six buses in the convoy rocked, bumped and swayed over the 162 km of seldom travelled dirt track between Mwinilunga in Zambia to the reception centre in Caianda in Angola's eastern Moxico province.A few Angolans got off their bicycles to whistle and cheer from the roadside as the buses made their way through the sparsely populated forest hugging the boulder-strewn track. Chiweka was among the 410 Angolans in the convoy bound for Caianda near Angola's border with the Democratic Republic of Congo. After an overnight stop, the convoy hit the dirt road again for their final destination - Luena. The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, intends to repatriate 30,000 Angolans by the end of November in an operation funded by the EU. The Geneva-based International Organisation of Migration (IOM), responsible for transporting the refugees, up until last week had brought 7,897 home. "Of these 5,233 [travelled] by road either to Cazombo, Luena, Luau and 2,664 by air to Lumbala N'guimbo [all in Moxico province] and Huambo [in the central province of Humabo]," Manny Villaflores, the IOM representative in Zambia, told IRIN. By the time the convoy had arrived in Caianda, rain had begun to fall on the Zambian side of the border. "We are concerned that the rains might come earlier this year, so we have begun moving refugees every other day from the Nangweshi camp [in Zambia's Western province] to Mongu [in the same province] - as the road between the two places is in an extremely bad condition - to be ready for airlifting to Lumbala N'guimbo," Villaflores said. Many of the Angolans had begun the journey in Ukwimi in eastern Zambia with an overnight stop in the capital, Lusaka, and continued to Solwezi in the northwest. The convoy then travelled to Meheba, 92 km outside Solwezi, for a two-night stop, collecting additional refugees. Officials from the UNHCR and the IOM accompanied the convoy, a medical team from the African Humanitarian Agency travelled in an ambulance to attend to medical needs during the journey, and food parcels comprising rice, fish, peanut butter, jam and crackers were provided by the World Food Programme. The food agency also ran kitchens at the various reception centres to provide the travellers with a hot meal of beans and nshima (maize meal). "Fortunately the journey has been mishap-free - no buses broken down, no accidents," said IOM's head of operations, David Coomber, who accompanied the convoy throughout the journey. When Angola's three-decade civil war ended in 2002, an estimated 441,000 refugees were sheltering in neighbouring countries. Since then, an estimated 218,000 have returned home -many under their own steam. More than 100,000 Angolan refugees are still living in Zambia and the UNHCR intends to repatriate almost all of them by next year. An excited Chiweka got off the bus in Caianda, dragging bags out while exclaiming, "We are home!" With his mother, he made off to the freshly plastered thatched huts at the reception centre for a meal, before settling down for the night and the final leg home to Luena the next day.

Angola deports 418 foreigners (Sapa-Afp, 10/09):- Angola has expelled 418 foreigners, mostly Congolese, as part of its ongoing crackdown on diamond traffickers, police commander Tito Munana was quoted as saying in newspaper reports on Friday. The foreigners were part of a group of 1,005 people detained last month as part of Operation Diamond launched by police and the army in December last year to end trafficking in resources. The 418 illegal migrants were deported from the oil town of Soyo in northern Zaire province to their countries of origin, said Munana. After a 45-day moratorium on the expulsions, Angola announced in early August that it planned to resume a crackdown on suspected diamond and other traffickers that led to the expulsion of some 120,000 Congolese and 35,000 west Africans. UN agencies and human rights groups have said the anti-foreigner campaign has been carried out brutally, with women and children raped and forced to walk long distances without food or water. President Jose Eduardo dos Santos' government has defended the operation by calling it an "act of sovereignty in defence of the economy" of Angola, which depends on its diamond exports and oil for hard currency. A former Portuguese colony, Angola is one of Africa's top oil and diamond producers.

Expulsion of illegal miners continues (Irin News, 10/09):- Angolan security forces have detained and expelled around 240 illegal diamond workers in the latest phase of a crackdown on diamond traffickers, Angolan police said on Friday. "From 30 August until 6 September, we detained and expelled around 240 foreigners. They were working illegally in our diamond-rich areas and were from various countries," police spokesman Carmo Neto told IRIN. Gem-rich Angola is already believed to have expelled around 120,000 Congolese and 3,500 West Africans in a campaign to eliminate illegal diamond digging, known "Operation Brilliant", which began in December last year. Neto said five former Katangan rebels from neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) had been killed during armed clashes with police at diamond mining sites in Dundo in the northern province of Lunda Norte. "They were there illegally and they were threatening police, who had no choice but to fire," Neto said. The state-owned Jornal de Angola reported that authorities in the northeastern province of Zaire had repatriated 418 illegal diamond workers, mainly from the DRC, as part of the crackdown, which would continue until December. It quoted Tito Munana, the chief of police in Zaire province, as saying: "The authorities of the Republic of Angola are trying to exercise the right to sovereignty as well as maintain order in the country." Angola agreed to suspend the repatriation programme at the end of May after the DRC complained it was unable to cope with the influx. There were also reports of Angolan military agents sexually abusing women and girls on the pretext of searching for hidden diamonds. At the height of "Operation Brilliant" as many as 2,500 people a day were arriving in the DRC, mostly in areas where there was no food, water or shelter.

90,000 refugees to come back home (Angola Press Agency, 09/09):- The government was Wednesday informed in Luanda of the creation of the logistical and technical conditions for the start of the repatriation process which will permit the return of 90,000 refugees to the country A press note from the Cabinet's Standing Commission meeting presided over by President Jose Eduardo dos Santos reads that, out of that number, 19,000 already came back. The note adds that, until the present date, a total of 247,000 Angolan refugees have returned home coming from neighbouring countries. Meanwhile, the note adds that the Cabinet Standing Commission was also infomed of the Memorandum on the National Meeting for social protection and assistance of the elderly.

Angola to host meeting on border situation (Angola Press Agency, 09/09):- The first meeting of immigration directors of Angola, Congo Brazzaville and Democratic Republic of Congo starts this Wednesday, in Luanda, to analyse migration issues in the mentioned countries, an official source has announced. A source with Angola's Migration and Foreign Services (SME) said to Angop that the gathering will discuss the migratory flow, prevention and fighting against illegal immimigration. Participants will also study possibilities of standardising some procedures at the common border, mainly border station timetable and the control of the entrance and and exit of people and goods. The meeting will also analyse the issues of residents at the border and the the flow of people and goods, in the framework of accords signed among the three countries. The gathering takes place in fulfilment of a guideline from the tripartite defence and security meeting held in the year 2003, in Launda.

Angolans repatriated from Zambia arrive (Angola Press Agency, 07/09):- About 105 repatriated Angolans who had taken refuge in neighbouring Zambia are due to arrive today in Angola´s central province of Huambo, as has been informed by the provincial acting director of the Ministry of Welfare and Social Reintegration, Feleciano Cabinda.Feleciano Cabinda has said that for the reception of the repatriated people has been created a transit centre at the São Luís district, with the basic shelter conditions and a health post for medical assistance. "The centre, with the capacity of sheltering over a thousand people, has dormitories and toilets with tap water", he said, adding that each family will receive bed-clothes and a kitchen kit. The acting director has also said that conditions have been created for people to have three meals a day, while they wait to be taken to their areas of origin.

Refugee returns in full swing from Zambia, DRC (Irin News, 01/09):- The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, expects to repatriate over half the 71,420 Angolan refugees remaining in camps and settlements in Zambia by the end of the year, the organisation said in a progress report released this week. Earlier this month, with the help of the International Organisation for Migration, UNHCR began airlifting Angolan refugees from Mongu in western Zambia to Lumbala N'Guimbo in eastern Angola. A new overland corridor was also opened On 17 August when an inaugural convoy of 411 returnees travelled from Meheba in Zambia via Jimbe and Caianda to Luau and Luena in eastern Angola. UNHCR expects to assist some 40,000 refugees to return from Zambia this year, the agency said in its August overview of major refugee developments in Africa. The neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) was another major asylum country during Angola's three-decade civil war and around 45,000 Angolans took refuge there. UNHCR plans to assist some 32,000 of them to return home this year, with the remaining 13,000 scheduled for repatriation during 2005. So far this year, about 7,000 Angolan refugees have returned from DRC, mainly by land, the agency said. In all, during 2004 a total of 145,000 Angolans are expected to head home from asylum countries, 90,000 of them with UNHCR assistance. The remainder are expected to make their own way back. "When the peace accords were signed in April 2002, about 441,000 Angolans refugees were estimated to be in bordering countries. Since then, an estimated 218,000 have returned home, including 76,000 in 2003 under UNHCR's voluntary repatriation programme. We estimate some 223,000 Angolan refugees currently remain in the major asylum countries - the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia, Namibia and Republic of Congo - in addition to 14,000 in South Africa and Botswana," the agency said.

Angolan refugees representatives keen to repatriate (Mmegi/The Reporter, 29/09):- Four representatives of the Angolan refugees living at the Dukwi refugee camp in Botswana told the Angolan government representatives recently that they were ready to return home. The quartet, Joao Panzo (47), Avelino Jose (29), Luis Eduardo (29) and Violeta Nigoya (27), were part of the 13-man go-and-see UNHCR mission to Angola from Botswana. The delegation included the UNHCR representative in Botswana, Benny Otim, deputy Permanent Secretary in the Office of the President, Bergsman Sentle, general secretary of the Botswana Council of Churches, David Modiega, Dukwi refugee camp settlement commandant, Ephraim Sekeinyane, first secretary at the Angolan Embassy Rosalino Mendes and UNHCR protection officer, David Bugden among others. Panzo, who fled Angola in 1976, told the Monday meeting at Lumbala N'guimbo that two years ago when they heard that peace had finally returned to Angola, they were all excited and concluded that it was an opportunity to return home. "Two months ago, we had a tripartite meeting which consisted of representatives from the Botswana government, the Angolan embassy and the Angolan refugees. It was agreed that we should come and assess the situation on the ground. "This has been a fruitful trip because we have been able to see the situation for ourselves. Why should I stay away when Angola is so peaceful now?" he wondered. When he fled, he spent about five years in Namibia before leaving for Botswana where he has been living for the past 24 years. "The Botswana government together with the UNHCR and the Angolan embassy had and continue to play a vital role in providing us with a home away from home". He told the meeting that his compatriots at the Dukwi refugee camp had raised a number of concerns that they wished the Angolan government should clear before they finally return home. He said he would like to rear cattle, pigs and grow crops when he returns home. Nigoya told the meeting that she has been separated from her mother for a long time but she has been treated well since she came to Botswana in 1999. "Since there is peace back home, there is no better time for me to return home than now," she said and declared that she was going to influence fellow refugees to return home. She is from the Huambo province. Jose, who comes from the Wila province was happy that at last he has landed home after long years of separation from her family. "I was separated from my family in 1985 by the war. I really suffered while in Namibia and I had to seek refuge in Botswana and life has been better there". He wished the authorities could expedite the repatriation process. For Eduardo, who comes from the Moxico province, it was like a dream for him to set foot in Angola again after years of absence. "I was just instructed to join the army in the bush in 1985 and that marked the long separation from my family. I have been tracing my family without success and it is my wish that the Angolan government will unite me (sic) with my family at last". To him, the visit has provided a new hope to return home. He declared that Botswana has since become his second home as he has children at Shakawe village with a Motswana woman. "My children are enjoying all the necessary rights in Botswana and I would like to know if they will enjoy the same rights once they return here?" he asked. He demanded to know if her Motswana spouse would be able to accompany him to Angola. Mendes explained that all Angolans who have children in Botswana with non-Angolan spouses would be allowed to return with their partners. "You should remember that a family consists of yourselves, wife/husband and children," he told the refugees. He explained that when they apply for the repatriation, they should indicate the size of their families to the tripartite group. "You have to meet all the citizenship requirements," he emphasised.

Illegal foreigners outdo the police (The Midweek Sun, 21/09):- Francistown police have admitted they are losing the battle to crime perpetrated by illegal aliens. And as the tide of illegal immigration continues to sweep through the northern parts of Botswana, law enforcement agents say they are over-stretched to deal with the problem effectively as their numbers on the ground are thinner than those of criminals. According to Superintendent Chajani Baleseng of Central Police Station, thousands of illegal border jumpers from Zimbabwe have turned the low-income area of Monarch in the Francistown West constituency into a base for their criminal activities. This week, Baleseng told the Ghetto Metro that the police, helped by members of the Botswana Defense Force and Immigration Department have of late been playing cat and mouse games with Zimbabwean criminals who hide in the bushes of Monarch. Baleseng said the criminals target Monarch because it is overcrowded and the fact that the area is situated far from the Central Business District. He added that the situation is not helped by the state of underdevelopment of the area. "Apart from the Growing numbers of the illeqals our work is made more difficult by the absence of a proper road network and street lights. This makes life difficult for the police to patrol the area," lamented Baleseng. According to Baleseng, of late all sorts of goods stolen in Francistown have been finding their way into the bushes of Monarch presumably on their way across the border into Zimbabwe. He added that apart from theft, the aliens have committed other serious crimes such as rape, burglary, house breaking and assault on innocent people, adding that since the beginning of September 76 such cases have been reported at Monarch. In June, a Francistown magistrate told a multi-sectoral crime prevention seminar that Zimbabweans were committing more crimes than Botswana in and around Francistown. Statistics presented at the seminar by senior magistrate Gee Kettlogetswe revealed that for every crime committed in Francistown and surrounding areas between 2002 and 2004, a Zimbabwean national was involved, either acting alone or as a group with other Zimbabweans. The seminar also heard that the culprits were usually border jumpers who had been staying in Botswana undercover.

Botswana, Zimbabwe in bid to curb negative reporting (DailyNews, 13/09):- Negotiations between Botswana and Zimbabwe to sign an agreement that the media in both countries should avoid inflammatory reporting that may strain relations between the two neighbours, have not been discarded. Minister for Communications, Science and Technology, Boyce Sebetela, said Thursday that the two countries were still working on a draft memorandum of understanding on media to ensure that negative publicity was nipped in the bud. He told BOPA in an interview that Harare has already submitted its proposals and Botswana was still acting on it. "My officers are still studying the proposal carefully, and thereafter, it shall go though Cabinet for approval," he said. Sebetela was reacting to a report circulating on the Internet carried by "Zim online" from the Independent news service of Zimbabwe that Botswana has turned down proposals by Zimbabwe for a bilateral information act. Contrary to those reports, the initiative to have a memorandum of agreement was made by Botswana. In June this year, Sebetela visited Zimbabwe where he met with his counterpart, Jonathan Moyo. "I have talked with Professor Moyo about this issue and Minister of Agriculture Johnny Swartz met his Zimbabwean counterpart with a view to quell this negative situation," he said. His visit, he said, was prompted by negative reports emanating from the Zimbabwe public media, some charging that Botswana was colluding with some foreign powers to recruit Zimbabwean technocrats and train them as the next government. However, he said Moyo also complained about negative treatment meted to Zimbabweans in Botswana. The envisaged agreement, said Sebetela, would ensure that burning issues were handled through relevant authorities and not the media. "It is important that we resolve pertinent issues through dialogue as opposed to media." "Botswana and Zimbabwe have long historical and economic ties and we must not hurt those through misunderstandings." The minister said it was his desire to engage all ministers responsible for public media in the region to ensure that established procedures were followed to raise concerns. "This is provided for by SADC Protocol on Information and Culture," he said.

Customary Court President defends flogging (Mmegi/The Reporter, 07/09):- As the debate over flogging rages on, Gerald Estates Customary Court president, Paul Motshwane, has strongly defended corporal punishment. "I don't know why people tend to deliberately twist facts. Corporal punishment is a form of punishment that is above board here and it is prescribed in accordance with the laws of Botswana," he said. Motshwane explained that flogging is done on healthy men below 40 years of age. The courts do not discriminate based on nationality, colour or creed. Flogging, he argued, is the most effective way of curbing crime. "I have facts about it as I saw it happen during my tenure as the court president at the Phase Four Customary Court. It is also proving to be effective here at the Gerald Estates". He said mischievous young men bent on disturbing peace in the estate now fear what would happen to them when caught. "It is flogging that has actually reformed these young men, some of whom would be hardened criminals by now if we did not stand up and condemn their acts." He said that flogging is the best form of punishment at a time when state prisons were bursting to the seams with inmates. He recommends that criminals involved in petty crime should be flogged. "You don't have to be a traditionalist to support flogging. In most of traditional Africa, wrongdoers are flogged even by the village elders outside the courts, as a way of administering justice." Last Friday, a 28-year-old Zimbabwean who was caught shoplifting was taken before Motshwane's court. For fear of being sent to the state prison as a punishment, the accused opted to be flogged four times. While the Zimbabwean was still nursing his bottom, a 23-year-old Motswana, who was convicted for common assault received four lashes. Previously, caning was mostly restricted to cases of assault occasioning actual bodily harm and stock theft. Following the amendment of the Customary Court Act of 2000, corporal punishment can now be applied to all offences. "I am happy to have had a contribution in the amendment of this Act. Our argument has been that on offences like common nuisance, the law was not punitive enough," Motshwane said. He added that there is no unit of measure for the application of force applied in the administration of the cane. "There may be no accurate measure for the application of force when flogging, but I take it that the force is always reasonable. Accused persons are not flogged to be killed, but this is a remedial measure geared at correcting them," he said. Motshwane said it was possible that two different people administering corporal punishment may not have the same strength when flogging though there are no excesses reported. "We have never had reported cases of a flogged person who left the court terribly wounded or bleeding." He said even law enforcement officers are humane too. He pointed out that for humanitarian reasons, people caught on the wrong side of the law, are not simply caned without a proper trial. The rights of the accused persons are properly explained to them before they can be flogged. He was shocked that some Zimbabweans have been sending wrong messages to the world that they are being abused in Botswana. "That is a fallacy. Such people need to say the truth as they think they can simply enter this country and get away with murder," he said. Motshwane said in accordance with the laws of the land, it is not the accused who prescribe the ultimate punishment. He said flogging is always the last resort. "There is always an option for the accused person to pay a fine, failing which they are caned. In the case of illegal aliens, especially the border jumpers, they always opt for flogging. Thupa e aga motho, ga e bolae. (A cane reforms wrongdoers, it does not kill)," Motshwane said.

DRC, Rwanda agree on border issues (UN News Service, 22/09):- The Governments of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and neighbouring Rwanda have agreed to a joint mechanism to address border security issues, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan announced today. The new technical body, first discussed in June at a summit convened by Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, will be launched in October and be known as the Joint Verification Mechanism (JVM). It will comprise experts from the Governments of both countries as well as the UN and the African Union. A statement issued by a spokesman for Mr. Annan said the Secretary-General "believes that the JVM will be an effective instrument of confidence building" and looks forward to the active engagement of the Regional Support Group in future efforts to help the DRC and Rwanda to normalize their bilateral relations. In his latest report on the DRC, the Secretary-General said a regional support group composed of African personalities "could be envisaged to increase confidence-building, at the political level, between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and its neighbours." Mr. Annan's announcement today followed a working lunch he hosted for DRC President Joseph Kabila and Rwandan Prime Minister Bernard Makuza as well as members of the Regional Support Group. In a related development, Mr. Annan also welcomed the statement adopted today by the International Committee in Support of the Transition (known by its French acronym CIAT) that endorsed the "critical path" of the DRC transition, called for a mechanism for sustained dialogue between the Committee and the country's transitional institutions, and urged the international community to provide the assistance in military integration and police training. The Secretary-General welcomed CIAT's call on the international community to harmonize its political and economic strategies by carefully calibrating its political goals and financial and material assistance as a means of encouraging the DRC's authorities to move the transitional process forward. "He stresses that at this critical juncture of the peace process in the DRC, the international community must increase its involvement to ensure that the progress achieved to date is consolidated, and that many outstanding tasks of the transition are completed," the statement by Mr. Annan's spokesman said.

Thousands flee unrest in DR Congo (BBC News, 22/09)- Aid agencies are attempting to provide assistance to thousands of people displaced by unrest in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo. United Nations officials estimate at least 20,000 people have fled to North Kivu province from nearby South Kivu. Local authorities put the number at up to 150,000. The civilians were fleeing a recent advance by government troops on dissident soldiers, who broke away from the national army earlier this year. The war in DR Congo - Meanwhile, DR Congo and Rwanda have agreed to set up a UN-backed body to help resolve long-standing security issues on their border, UN officials say. The agreement was reached in talks at the UN between Secretary General Kofi Annan, Congolese President Joseph Kabila, and Rwandan Prime Minister Bernard Makuza. The joint verification mechanism will be composed of UN and African Union officials, along with technical experts from both governments. Instability affects large parts of eastern DR Congo despite a peace deal last year, under which rebels joined a new power-sharing government. The BBC's Rob Walker in Rwanda say this latest flight of civilians follows a familiar pattern laid down during a decade of violence in the region. After villagers heard government soldiers were advancing from the south last week, they took what they could carry and started walking north. The thousands of displaced people are now living out in the open on the cold hills of North Kivu province. Aid agencies will start trying to deliver relief supplies within the next few days. Providing shelter will be the first priority. The government troops were moving against the positions of dissident soldiers led by General Laurent Nkunda. His forces withdrew without a fight but they remain defiant, and DR Congo's transitional government still has only tenuous control over the east of the country. UN peacekeepers have been unable to contain the continuing violence there. Kofi Annan has asked for the current force of 11,000 to be more than doubled.

Immigrants ignite wrangle (New Vision, 21/09):- Hoima resident district commissioner Martha Asiimwe and Buhaguzi MP Tom Kyahurwenda have clashed over attempts to chase away illegal immigrants from the district. Asiimwe recently launched a clamp-down on the immigrants, saying they were a security threat. Most of the immigrants are Congolese asylum seekers, Rwandese and Sudanese refugees. Kyahurwenda criticised Asiimwe for allegedly using "high-handed" methods to deal with asylum seekers. Kyahurwenda said some Ugandans had also fallen victim of the exercise. Kyahurwenda vowed to petition the President to halt the exercise. Asiimwe said the exercise was being conducted legally and for security reasons. "I have 20 security-related reasons as to why I decided to crack down on illegal immigration. Those reasons are known to the Minister for the Presidency, Hon. Kirunda Kivejinja . I cannot disclose those reasons," she said. Asiimwe said the Congolese had invaded Lake Albert, depleted all the fish and robbed Ugandan fishermen. "Many Congolese and other refugees who escaped from refugee camps have unlawfully taken over elective posts in the district," she said. Asiimwe denied chasing away Ugandans. She said there was an influx of Congolese immigrants into Hoima because the Immigration Department was manned by Congolese nationals. President Yoweri Museveni has appointed a five-man team of ministers to investigate the issue.

Congolese sent home (New Vision, 20/09):- About 2,000 Congolese who entered Uganda illegally and settled in areas along Lake Albert in Masindi, Hoima and Nebbi districts have been deported to the Democratic Republic of Congo. The operation is being coordinated by the area resident district commissioners (RDCs). Masindi RDC Hassan Galiwango on Thursday said over a million Congolese had illegally settled in the districts. He said they would all be deported except those willing to register as refugees. "Most of these Congolese have been coming here as fishermen and they have outnumbered the indigenous Bagungu. Others came here in the 1960s but that does not give them a licence to become Ugandans," Galiwango said.

Agreement reached to repatriate Congolese refugees (UN Integrated Regional Information Networks, 01/09):- Some 10,000 refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) who have been living in the Central African Republic (CAR) are due to be repatriated following the signing of an agreement between the two countries and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The refugee agency reported on Tuesday that the agreement, which was signed on 26 August in the DRC capital, Kinshasa, provides a legal framework for the voluntary repatriation of the refugees. They fled the DRC's northwestern province of Equateur during fighting between 1998 and 2002. Some of the refugees have been living in the CAR capital, Bangui; others are in a settlement at Molangue, 80 km to the southwest of the city. A UNHCR spokesperson, Rupert Colville, said the refugees had been urging the agency to assist them to return home. UNHCR teams conducted several assessment missions to evaluate the conditions for return in Equateur Province, and mapped out two routes that convoys will take the repatriated refugees. One route will go from Bangui to the border town of Zongo. The other route will take refugees 200 km into the DRC, to the towns of Batanga, Libenga and Gemena. The agency said the convoys are expected to begin before the end of 2004.


Report on impact of textile industry (Business Day, 15/09):- Every weekday, whatever the weather, hundreds of people flock to the factory gates of Ha Thetsane in search of work. The congested industrial zone in Maseru, Lesotho's capital, houses one of Africa's biggest clusters of textile and garment factories. Nearly all are Taiwanese owned and export their wares to the US. Some labour and environmental activists have complained about the plants' pollution levels and labour practices. But for most people in the landlocked kingdom, a job cutting or sewing denim destined for US stores is a prized position. "I'm happy with my job," says Makananelo Mokotoi, a mother of three who earns just more than 100 a month sewing together panels for overalls. The textile industry has transformed Lesotho in just a few years. The country benefits from the US's African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa), that exempts some clothing made in the continent's poorest countries from strict duties and quotas. Tough Asian competitors could easily undercut even dirtpoor Lesotho on price, but Agoa's preferential US market access gives its manufacturers an edge. So Asia has come to Lesotho instead. Taiwanese investors, who have been in neighbouring SA since the apartheid era, have crossed the border for cheaper wages. Taiwan is now Lesotho's biggest foreign investor and, according to one estimate, a quarter of employed people work in Taiwanese factories. The textile industry has helped replace jobs lost elsewhere, such as migrant work in SA's downsizing mines. Asian expatriates are now visible everywhere in Maseru, including at the Lesotho Sun Hotel, where the restaurant serves Chinese food. CGM, the Taiwanese-owned factory where Mokotoi works, offers a striking tableau of globalisation. The CE is Indian and the factory employs 8000 people in Lesotho. It uses cheap fabric from China, India and Pakistan to produce jeans and trousers destined for Levi Strauss, Gap, WalMart and other American chains. "This is a small place where (there isn't) much hassle," MV Dalvi, CGM's CE for Africa, says of Lesotho's appeal as a place to do business. A few streets away in Ha Thetsane, another Taiwanese company, Nien Hsing, is expanding its operations. The company opened its first factory in Lesotho three decades ago. It has expanded quickly since Agoa's launch, and 18 months ago opened its third local factory with about 8000 employees. Nien Hsing has 13 factories around the world and claims its jeans factory, which supplies top US buyers, is Africa's largest. The production and quality of its Made in Lesotho clothes are about the same as those it makes in Nicaragua, but better than those made in Mexico, where workers come and go more quickly, according to its director. Nien Hsing recently integrated its operations, building a textile mill that will bring its total investment in Lesotho to $150m to 200m. That is significant in a labour-intensive and notoriously unsentimental industry where investors have been known to vacate factories virtually overnight in search of cheaper wages. In July the US extended Agoa's preferential import access until 2015 and the third-country fabric provision which allows producers in Lesotho to use cheap Asian cloth until the end of September 2007. However, with its textile mill now in operation, Nien Hsing says it is prepared to produce cloth competitively in Lesotho, regardless of Agoa's future. "We assume that if Agoa is not extended, we can use the material made here to reduce costs," says Chiu Chien Min, Nien Hsing's director for Lesotho. SA's strengthening rand is nonetheless squeezing producers' margins. Lesotho's loti is pegged to the rand, which has climbed sharply against the US dollar since last year. "Two years ago (our) wages were only $100 to $120," says Chiu. "Now they're about $170 because of rand appreciation." Higher costs and intense Asian competition have already driven many textile and garment companies out of SA. Several Taiwanese investors have closed down in Botshabelo, an industrial zone across the border in SA where industry wages are about four times Lesotho's. Investors in Lesotho warn that the industry there could follow suit if the currency remains strong. New investment in the industry has come to a halt since the rand's rally. But Agoa still gives African producers an edge by exempting them from 17% duty on jeans. That translates into a roughly $1 difference per unit between the price Lesotho-based CGM, for example, and Chinese manufacturers can quote to US buyers. But Asia competes fiercely on wages: while the industry pays workers in Lesotho about $130 a month, industry wages are just 70 in China and $65 in Pakistan or Bangladesh. "Even with a 17% (advantage), we're trying to compete with $65 a month," says Dalvi.

Constitution: Dual nationality amendments (Agencia de Informacao de Mocambique, 23/09):-The draft amendments to the Mozambican constitution currently under debate relax the rules on nationality. Under the current constitution, dual nationality is outlawed: any foreigner who wishes to become a naturalised Mozambican citizen must first renounce his or her previous nationality. This demand has disappeared. The amendments now state that any foreigner over 18 years old who has lived in Mozambique for at least ten years may acquire Mozambican nationality. However, he or she must be able to speak Portuguese, or one of Mozambique's African languages, and must be able to provide for him or herself. Naturalised citizens would share all the rights and duties of other Mozambicans, except that they could not be appointed members of the government, be elected to parliament, or join the army or diplomatic service. Some significant extensions in basic rights are proposed. Just like the aborted amendments of 1999, these ones strengthen the right to privacy, by prohibiting the use of computers "to register and process data on political, philosophical or ideological convictions, religion, party or trade union membership, or private life, where the individuals concerned can be identified". Personal data held in computerised form shall be protected, and there shall be legal guarantees concerning access to data bases, and the use of such data by public and private bodies. As in 1999, the amendments not only retain the ban on the death penalty, but also outlaw life imprisonment. "Punishments and security measures that restrict freedom in perpetuity, or for an unlimited or undefined period, are prohibited", the draft states. As a corollary, no-one can be extradited to a country where they may face the death penalty, life imprisonment, torture or other forms of cruel or degrading treatment. As for detention, a new requirement is that "persons deprived of liberty must be immediately informed, and in a manner they understand, of the reasons for their arrest, and of their rights". Under the existing rules, there is no formal obligation on the police to inform suspects of their rights. The amendments also specify that any evidence obtained through torture, coercion, "abusive intrusion into private or family life", or illicit phone tapping, shall not be admissible in court. But in one area, the draft remains deeply conservative. In an age when the trend is to move from conscript to volunteer armed forces, the draft goes in the other direction, and military service remains enshrined in the constitution. Recognising that it is quite impossible for everyone to spend a couple of years in the army, the draft makes matters even worse by demanding that the state "establishes a civic service to replace or complement military service for all citizens not subject to military duties". This clearly contradicts the right to free choice of work mentioned elsewhere in the draft. It is also completely impractical: establishing this civic service would require a whole new layer of bureaucracy, and would be vastly expensive. The draft does, however, recognise the right to conscientious objection, which is not covered by either the current constitution or the law on military service.

Poor turnout for voter registration abroad (Agencia de Informacao de Mocambique, 21/09):- The participation of Mozambicans living abroad in the December presidential and parliamentary elections is now in doubt, because very few of them have so far registered as voters. Addressing a Maputo press conference on Tuesday, the spokesperson for the National Elections Commission (CNE), Filipe Mandlate, said that figures for the first ten days of the registration abroad, which started on 6 September, showed that only 20,940 people had registered. Of these only 379 were in the two European countries covered by the registration (Portugal and Germany), while the rest were in Africa (South Africa, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania, and Kenya). Did this poor turnout mean that it was not worth holding elections among the Mozambican diaspora ? Not necessarily - since the registration does not end until 25 September, and the pace may pick up. Mandlate told the reporters "It is too early to say whether or not there will be elections abroad. We are yet to verify, when the time comes, if there are enough voters abroad to justify setting up polling stations". Manjate blamed the poor turnout on various factors, including the long distances potential voters must travel to reach the registration posts, and the lack of identity documents, particularly for those in African countries such as South Africa. And without proof of Mozambican nationality, no-one can be registered. He also complained of the fact that the law does not facilitate voter registration abroad, because it does not envisage mobile registration brigades, which would make it easier for officials to contact Mozambicans in the various regions of the countries in question. The brigades have been established in Mozambican embassies and consulates, and a few residential areas and workplaces where there is a high concentration of Mozambicans (such as certain South African gold mines). According to the Foreign Ministry, there are about 300,000 potential voters living abroad, but Manjate admitted that this figure may be wrong and may bear little relation to reality, which could help explain the poor turnout. By far the largest emigrant community is in South Africa - but a large number of these Mozambicans may not wish to show their faces because they are in South Africa illegally. Under the electoral law Mozambican emigrants elect two deputies to the country's parliament, the Assembly of the Republic. One is chosen by those living in Africa, and the other by Mozambicans in "the rest of the world". This scheme was blindly copied from Portuguese electoral law, where there are also two emigrant constituencies - one for Europe and the other for "the rest of the world". But in the Mozambican case "the rest of the world" has been reduced to just two countries. Even if it were expanded, the fact is that there are vastly more Mozambicans living in the neighbouring countries than in Europe and America put together, and it makes no sense to give the emigrants in Portugal and Germany the same weight as those in Africa. If the CNE decides it is not worth holding elections abroad, the two seats for the diaspora will be redistributed, one going to the central province of Manica, and the other to Maputo City.

Mozambique and Malawi strive to check border crime (Agencia de Informacao de Mocambique, 17/09):- The district governments of Mecanhelas in the northern Mozambican province of Niassa, and Makinga, in southern Malawi, are to meet soon to discuss ways to check crime along the common border, which is said to have taken on alarming proportions recently. Mecanhelas district administrator Augusto Salamanda told AIM that the meeting, which will take place in Mecanhelas, "is very important for us, because the situation is causing serious concern". He said that major crimes have been reported near the border, including the sale of human organs. Salamanda said that a man was murdered in strange circumstances in Mecanhelas recently. "After this brutal murder, which occurred at a village near the border with Malawi, the criminals severed the victim's genitalia", he said. He acknowledged that "hacking off human body parts for sale is now a common practice in Mecanhelas, and the district government is worried about the situation". Investigations into this case showed that the organs were sold in Malawi.  "When we investigate cases of dealing in human genitalia, people say that they are being sold in Malawi. Now, who the buyers are and where they live in Malawi, we do not know", said Salamanda. He said that three people have been arrested on the Mozambican side in connection with this murder, and hoped that they would reveal who the buyers are. Many local residents believe that these grisly mutilations are linked with the practice of witchcraft, which is a common and profitable business in Malawi. Some people, particularly in rural areas, believe that concoctions prepared on the basis of human genitalia will help them prosper in business and help heal certain diseases. Salamanda said that other crimes, committed by Malawians on Mozambican territory, call for the attention of the two governments. He said that, for instance, Malawians have seized nets belonging to Mozambican fishermen, in Mozambican waters on Lake Chirua. "They take the nets to Malawi with no explanation. We have contacted the Makinga district authorities for a meeting to help solve this problem, that worries our fishermen", he said. The Mecanhelas authorities have complained that large quantities of agricultural products, particularly maize, are being sold to Malawi illegally, which is blamed on the poor marketing system on the Mozambican side. A government source explained recently that the idea is not to forbid Mozambicans from selling their products in Malawi, because in an open economy people may sell their products wherever prices are higher, but "what we want is that such sales be recorded, for statistical purposes". Malawi is the main market for Mozambican small scale producers in some areas of Niassa, Nampula, Zambezia, and Tete provinces, because of the better prices Malawian traders offer.

Renamo trying to disenfranchise emigrants (Agencia de Informacao de Mocambique, 10/09):- Mozambique's former rebel movement Renamo has protested to the Constitutional Council, the body with the final say on electoral complaints, about the location of the brigades registering Mozambicans abroad as voters. Renamo complained bitterly that, during voter registration inside Mozambique, there were too few brigades. Now it is complaining that there are too many brigades registering the emigrants. On 31 August the National Elections Commission (CNE) voted that the registration should take place, not only in Mozambican embassies and consulates, but also in areas where there are a large number of Mozambicans living or working. So there are now brigades working, not only on diplomatic premises, but also in offices in South Africa belong to the Mozambican Labour Ministry, and at gold mines and certain residential areas where thousands of Mozambicans are to be found. The Renamo-appointed minority on the CNE voted against this. Renamo spokesman Fernando Mazanga, cited in Friday's issue of the Maputo daily "Noticias", claimed that the law only envisaged registration at embassies or consulates. Furthermore, the list of brigades operating outside of diplomatic premises was announced less than a week before the start of registration. Mazanga said this did not give opposition parties a chance to draw up lists of agents to monitor registration in these places. CNE spokesman Filipe Mandlate said this new Renamo complaint was merely another expression of Renamo's opposition to voting rights for emigrants. The Renamo members of the CNE had voted against any registration at all outside the country, and Renamo had submitted an appeal to the Constitutional Council seeking to annul the original CNE decision, of 28 July, on registration. "Renamo's position rests on a distorted interpretation of the law, and simply seeks to discredit the electoral process and damage the image of the election bodies", said Mandlate. He said that an article in the law on voter registration clearly states that the geographical units for registration are the areas corresponding to the jurisdiction of the consular mission. "By area of jurisdiction, the entire area where the consular mission exercises its activity is meant", said Mandlate. He compared this to courts. The area of jurisdiction of a court did not merely mean the area between its four walls. For example, the Sofala Provincial Court had jurisdiction over the entire province of Sofala, and not merely over a building in Beira. Furthermore, this year's law on the presidential and parliamentary elections declares that "outside of the national territory, the embassies, consulates or government representations abroad, have the power to determine where the polling stations shall be located". The Mozambican practice is that voter registration brigades and polling stations should, in general, be in the same place. As for the allegation that the change in the number of brigades was made outside the legal time limit, Mandlate argued that the basic decisions, as to holding the registration and in which countries, had been taken over 30 days before the start of registration, as required in the law. He claimed that there was no requirement of 30 days notice when a decision was merely modified. "The change to the decision sought to make things easier for the beneficiaries", said Mandlate, "and allow them to have easy access to the registration posts".

Deportations of Mozambicans continue (Agencia de Informacao de Mocambique, 08/09):- Despite attempts to persuade Mozambicans living in South Africa to show their faces and register as voters, the South African police have continued to deport Mozambicans alleged to be illegal immigrants. According to the governor of Maputo province, Alfredo Namitete, about 1,200 Mozambicans were repatriated from South Africa on Tuesday, just 24 hours after the start of voter registration among the emigrant communities. An angry Namitete told reporters that the deportation might be a deliberate attempt to disorganise the voter registration. This conspiracy theory seems unlikely - for the South African authorities deport hundreds of Mozambicans every week, usually taking them by train to the Ressano Garcia border post. The exercise is expensive and futile, since most of the deportees do not stay in Mozambique, but take an early opportunity to cross back into South Africa. Radio Mozambique reported on Tuesday that some of the many "illegal" Mozambicans in South Africa are unwilling to visit the voter registration posts, for fear that the South African police will be waiting there, and will arrest them. South Africa has far and away the largest community of Mozambican emigrants. Of the 300,000 emigrants expected to register as voters, half of them are in South Africa. In most countries covered by the registration, Mozambicans must visit the embassies and consulates to register. But in South Africa there are 17 registration posts and many of them are located where Mozambicans work: six of them are at gold mines that employ a large number of Mozambican miners. Filipe Tovela, a representative of the emigrant community in South Africa, told the radio it was untrue that the South African police would make use of the registration to seize illegal migrants. He said that efforts were under way, through the South African media, to urge all Mozambicans living in South Africa, whatever their legal status, to register to vote. "The important thing is to have a Mozambican passport or identity card", he said. "Whether they're in South Africa legally or not is a separate issue".

Crackdown on contraband between Mozambique and Zimbabwe (Agencia de Informacao de Mocambique, 06/09)- The customs authorities of Mozambique and Zimbabwe agreed on Friday to strengthen their fight against contraband between the two countries, reports Monday's issue of the daily paper "Noticias". The decision was taken during a meeting between the general director of the Mozambican customs services, Barros dos Santos, and his Zimbabwean counterpart, Gershem Pasi, held as part of the trade agreement between the two countries. The meeting discussed particularly the import/export of sugar and cigarettes, delays in the customs clearance of tanker trucks carrying fuel to Zimbabwe, and the high charges by the Zimbabwean authorities on merchandise in transit. Addressing a press conference at the end of the meeting, dos Santos said that one of the decisions taken was to strengthen the control of trade in sugar and cigarettes. "In legal terms, the framework has been set, and the ease with which we exchange information between the authorities in both countries will improve our efficiency in these matters. Sugar and cigarettes are very sensitive products, because, as we know, Mozambique has invested about 250 million US dollars to rehabilitate its sugar industry. This is a very heavy investment, and it needs protection", he said. He added that "there is nothing more damaging to any country's economy than the economic crime taking the shape of contraband". For his part, Pasi said that this meeting will help minimise the destruction of both countries' economies by smugglers. "In the specific case of Zimbabwe, for instance, the trade ministry is not issuing any licenses for the export of sugar, because the country does not have enough sugar for its own consumption", he said. "When sugar is smuggled, the economies of both countries economies end up greatly damaged, hence the importance of strengthening the fight against such contraband".


Bangladeshis in out-of-court settlement with factory (The Namibian, 28/09):- The last of the Ramatex Textile Factory's Bangladeshi workers are set to leave the country tomorrow. This follows an out-of-court settlement which was still being finalised yesterday. The aggrieved workers were tight-lipped yesterday over the details of the agreement, ostensibly not to jeopardise their position. They apparently struck the deal without their legal representative present. The group of 66 were the first Bangladeshi workers employed by the factory - more than a year ago on a three-year contract. The Namibian understands that they will receive at least nine months' salary, of US$200 a month, and that their repatriation costs will also be covered by the textile factory. The accommodation costs from the time they were sacked will also be covered. They could also receive compensation for the legal costs they incurred during the case. The group were fired on the spot from the factory for alleged poor performance at the end of July. A High Court order gave them the right to stay in the country to fight their alleged unfair treatment by the factory. The case was postponed twice to give the factory an opportunity to strike a deal with the complainants. The men will follow 372 of their countrymen who were deported two weeks ago because they allegedly failed to meet the factory's production standards.

Angolan refugees fly out (New Era, 24/09):- Excitement reigned at Hosea Kutako International Airport yesterday as the first group of Angolan refugees to non-bordering areas were airlifted home. Faces of mainly children beamed, as they crowded outside waiting to board the aeroplane, which took them to Huambo province, from where they will be taken to their home villages. They clutched a few of their belongings, some packed in plastic bags provided by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), which formed part of the 30 kg baggage they are allowed to take along to Angola. Although some remained uncertain about their future, as they have no clue about what is left of their homes which they left some years back, they were glad to return home. Isaac Hossi, who has been in Namibia since 1998 said he was happy to at last be going back to his roots. He came with two of his four children and his wife. For Rebecca Catarina, who has been in Namibia for eight years, the fact that it is time to go back takes away all the fears about her family's future. She said at the airport yesterday, "We ran away from war and now there is peace." Two of her six children were born in Namibia. She provided for family through sewing and selling clothes at the Osire refugee camp. All she has heard from home is that there is peace and they could go back home. Children who came when they were seven years old like Delfim Violeta went back home in their teens. Children under ten years of age made the greater part of the group, and for most of them, it was their first flight. As the plane that took them home sped past along the runway, children jostled to take a look at the plane. Delfim, who was doing her Grade 8 at Osire Secondary School said she would continue with her education if that opportunity exists in Angola. For others, their homeland hold surprises for them and when asked how they felt now that they were leaving for home at last, all they could say was, "I don't know." The refugees, who settled in the country at the Osire refugee camp in Otjiwarongo since the early 1990s, have considered the place as their home as it housed thousands of their tribesmen and women. With this in mind, some emotions ran high and some shed tears because they were finally parting with a country that has hosted them during the years they were displaced by decades of war between Angolan government forces and UNITA rebels. The airlifting operation follows the signing of the tripartite agreement between the governments of Angola, Namibia and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on August 17, which paved the way for voluntary repatriation of the refugees by air to non-bordering areas. The IOM facilitated the exercise. The next group is scheduled to leave Namibia next week. The repatriation exercise started in June last year and resumed on May 18, this year. Since then, according to UNHCR Representative Hesdy Rathling, 2 615 Angolan refugees have been repatriated in an organised manner. This figure, together with that of last year (4 185), brings the total number of Angolans repatriated to 6 803. The refugee population still in Namibia is 11 727 with Angolans being in the majority (9 663). The other group comprises refugees from Burundi, Cameroon, Congo Brazzaville, and Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Guinea Bissau, and Cote d'Ivoire, Liberia, Oman, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda.

Agent hits out at government and Ramatex (The Namibian, 20/09):- The Eastern Overseas Recruiting agency has accused Government and the Ramatex Textile Factory of unfairly treating 372 Bangladeshi workers who were deported from Namibia last week. Blame for the dire situation the Bangladeshi men found themselves in has circled among their employer, Ramatex, Government, the recruiting agency and local entrepreneurs. Yesterday, Eastern Overseas Public Relations Officer Alif Hossain spoke out on the agency's position for the first time. Hossain has kept a low profile while in Namibia, after his recruits physically attacked him when he arrived in Windhoek 10 days ago. He spoke to The Namibian before leaving for Malaysia. He claimed that Ramatex had misled and misguided his countrymen and had not been honest about the contract it entered into with the agency. "The Government is very unfair to us. They have no heart. It's like a stone only," charged Hossain. "The Bangladeshi workers are very poor men. They live from hand to mouth. Our workers are poor but honest. They are not harmful to the Government," Hossain told The Namibian. 'They were trained' He said all the men sent to Namibia were semi-skilled contrary to the factory's allegations that they were unskilled. Ramatex entered into an agreement with Eastern Overseas, a Bangladeshi government-approved recruiting agency, in May to recruit workers. According to a letter shown to The Namibian, and signed by Ramatex Executive Director Albert Lim Poh Boon, Ramatex requested 1 000 male workers from Bangladesh, stating that they be semi-skilled. The Ramatex management said it decided to put a stop to work permit applications for the men because they were unskilled. Hossain told The Namibian that his company had arranged a month of training for all the men it sent to Namibia - making them semi-skilled in the field of sewing. "It's not a hard job (sewing). It's not a pilot job. It's a very easy job," he commented. Hossain said several of the men had even worked overtime during their short stay in Namibia. This, he added, was proof that they were capable of doing the job. 'Muslim Factor' Hossain claimed that the factory management had victimised the Bangladeshi workers because they were Muslim and allegedly incited them to revolt against the agency because they no longer wanted to employ them. Further, the factory had acted unfairly in not allowing the men to prove themselves during an agreed three months probation period. "It is very clear that we are not cheaters and liars," he said. "The management misguided our workers." In a letter dated May 5 2004, Ramatex stipulated that the contract period for the Bangladeshis would be for two years at a monthly salary of US$120 (N$780 at the current exchange rate). He showed The Namibian advertisements placed in Bangladeshi newspapers to recruit factory workers which state that they would receive a salary of US$120, while the factory would be responsible for their accommodation and transport. In terms of the contract, they were to work six-day weeks of 48 hours. They were promised an overtime rate of US$0,86 per hour and US$9,20 for working on Sundays or public holidays. Medical attention was to be provided free of charge, while accommodation and transport were to be arranged by the employer. In another letter, dated May 11, Eastern Overseas was authorised to ensure that the recruits signed all the necessary documents and contracts required by the laws of Bangladesh as well as to arrange for the passport and visa endorsements. The agency showed The Namibian receipts which indicate payments of MYR 35 486 (Malaysian ringgits - about N$62 586) made to Namibia's Malaysian Embassy for visas for 399 people. 'PLAYING GAMES' In a letter to Ramatex, dated April 30, the Ministry of Trade and Industry acknowledged the factory's request to employ expatriates in accordance with its expansion intentions. The letter also noted that discussions on the matter had earlier taken place between Namibia's Ambassador to Namibia Neville Gertze and Lim Poh Boon. The Ministry gave the company permission to employ expatriate workers for no longer than two years. The Namibia Investment Centre said it would be prepared to recruit local staff required for the expansion. Hossain charged that the Ramatex management "was playing games" with people's lives. He was particularly upset that Government had not informed the Bangladeshi High Commission in Pretoria about their deportation decision and had not given them the opportunity to discuss the issue. The last of the Bangladeshi workers left the country at midday on Wednesday. The High Commissioner only managed to secure a meeting with Government officials at 16h00 that day. Hossain further alleged that the factory management had defied an order by Lim Poh Boon - that his company's local management hold off on sending the men back immediately. Their temporary visas were valid until early October. "The management is playing a game. The Namibian Government also." Hossain said given recent developments his company had cancelled the contracts of several hundred more people it had signed up to come and work in Namibia. He said Ramatex had planned to recruit 2 000 Bangladeshi workers. Hossain said his agency could not be held responsible for the men's living conditions and that the factory was to blame for accepting the accommodation provided by Saujana Blossom. However, he said, he had been prepared to assist a man named Hanif - a representative from Saujana Blossom which had formed a partnership with High Commissioner Gertze's brother, Desmond - provide alternative living space but neither Ramatex nor the Government had given him this opportunity. Living Conditions - Hossain claimed Ramatex was dishonest for having approved the living conditions of the men for so long. He said the men were used to living in cramped conditions back home, and that it was "normal" to shower outside and even sleep on the verandas of houses. Hossain said his investigations revealed that there were only about 28 people who were causing disturbance among the group. He said he had pleaded with the factory to only send them back home. Hossain left for Malaysia yesterday. He said he would attempt to claim compensation from Ramatex for breach of contract. He said he would also try and find work for the men at other factories in Mauritius, Taiwan, Malaysia and Singapore. "I'm trying to solve my workers' problems," said Hossain. "I haven't slept [while in Namibia]. My head hurts." He said he would definitely repay the men the US$1 500 they paid to secure the Namibian contract if he could not find them alternative employment. Hossain alleged that those recruits who reported that they had paid US$3 500 to secure work in Namibia were not telling the truth.

Foreign affairs at centre of Bangladeshi storm (The Namibian, 17/09):- Blame for the scandal which led to the deportation of 372 Bangladeshis who came to Namibia in search of work has been placed squarely at the door of the Foreign Affairs Ministry. At the centre of the storm is Namibia's High Commissioner to Malaysia Neville Gertze under whose authority work visas were issued to the workers without the approval of the Ministry of Home Affairs. Officials at the Home Affairs Ministry charged yesterday that "irregularities" were definitely at play in how the men obtained entry into Namibia. Its investigations revealed that it had not received visa applications for any of the Bangladeshi men who were recruited to work at the Ramatex Textile Factory. Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Lempy Lucas said the matter was being investigated but referred queries to the Deputy Permanent Secretary Nicky Nashandi. Contacted several times for comment, Nashandi requested to be called back each time but did not respond to the queries. Home Affairs Under Secretary Freddy Eliphas said that procedurally all applications for work or holiday visas submitted to Namibian embassies abroad had to be approved by Home Affairs in Windhoek. This, she said, had not been done in the case of the Bangladeshi workers. She added that the Home Affairs Ministry had also not given the Malaysian Embassy permission for these visas to be issued. "There was a degree of irregularity. The Ministry knows that they are not part and parcel of those visas [visas approved by the Ministry of Home Affairs]." The Bangladeshis all came to Namibia on work visas issued in Malaysia and valid for three months. The Ramatex Textile Factory put a stop to the Bangladeshis work permit applications in Namibia when, they maintain, they discovered that the men were unskilled workers. Eliphas has said that it would now be the responsibility of the Foreign Affairs Ministry to take action against its officials for the unauthorised issuing of visas. Gertze's father and brother, through a company Saujana Blossom Import and Export, were involved in illegal renovations to a residential house which was used to house more than 300 of the Bangladeshis during their stay. Earlier this week Gertze's father Willy, said his son Neville, had nothing to do with this arrangement, but had only helped with facilitating visas. The Ministries of Home Affairs, Foreign Affairs and Trade and Industry have formed a ministerial committee to discuss matters related to the recruitment of Bangladeshi workers to Namibia.  Trade and Industry Permanent Secretary Andrew Ndishishi said yesterday it planned to submit their findings to Cabinet. Ndishishi said the scandal that erupted, especially over the men's living conditions, had been "a wake-up call". "We knew they were here but no one knew where they were sleeping," he said. Ndishishi said it was imperative that a full investigation be carried out and that recommendations were made to avoid a repeat situation. Late on Tuesday, a meeting was held with the Bangladeshi High Commissioner to South Africa, who sought to stall the deportation of his countrymen, but it was in vain. By that time, all of the Bangladeshis, save the four cooks, had been sent back home. Said Ndishishi yesterday:"We are not against Bangladeshis. Those who meet the skills requirement for Namibia will always be welcome."

Comment on the deportation of Bangladeshi workers (The Namibian, 17/09):- The Ramatex textile company has been a controversial venture since it started operating in Namibia. Initially praised as a major job creator, its costs soon became apparent. First Namibia provided a host of special incentives including investments of over N$100 million in public funds to create infrastructure for the company. Then followed concerns regarding the threat of water pollution through the company's toxic waste. Thereafter we witnessed two strikes over extremely poor working conditions and the frequent violation of Namibian laws and policies. And now, we see the destruction of the young lives of Bangladeshi workers. In October last year, the Labour Resource and Research Institute (LaRRI) published a comprehensive report on the experiences of Namibian workers at the Ramatex factory. We alluded to the dangers of granting that company special status and quietly "exempting" it from Namibian laws and regulations. A year later, the situation has gone from bad to worse. Importing Workers - Following newspaper reports in August 2004 about the import of Ramatex workers from Bangladesh, we carried out our own investigations. We spoke to dozens of the Bangladeshis, documented their stories and discovered a network of shady operators, guilty of contributing to gross human rights violations. What we found presented the ugly face of global capitalism as it exists today. Its victims are always the poor - in this case young Bangladeshi workers. They were lured into Namibia by ruthless agents who had promised them the chance to earn better salaries to support their families. In return, each worker had to pay the agents US$3 500 (about N$23 000) which they could raise only by selling all their belongings, including houses, land and livestock. Many still had to borrow additional money from family members, friends and banks. After only a few weeks in Namibia, these workers were now sent home, condemned to even greater misery than before their ordeal. They lost everything and will not be able to recover their losses. Who Is To Be Blamed? - Meanwhile those responsible for the workers' misery and the trade in human beings seem to get off lightly - once again. With reference to the horrific conditions endured by 400 Bangladeshi workers at a house known as "Hotel Ramatex" in Windhoek West, the company in a recent statement claimed that "it is not Ramatex policy to provide such living conditions for any of its employees". However, these conditions had already been prominently reported in a local newspaper in mid-August but Ramatex did nothing to alleviate the suffering of the Bangladeshi workers. The company only responded when public pressure increased through several reports in the media and a strongly worded statement by the National Union of Namibian Workers (NUNW). Ramatex cannot claim innocence and must take full responsibility for the misery endured by its workers. The company has directly benefited from the human trafficking carried out on its behalf by Eastern Overseas, Bay Eastern Agency and Saujana Blossom Import and Export Namibia. These agencies are responsible for the extortion of large amounts of money from Bangladeshi workers in exchange for work contracts. Ramatex directly benefited from its agents' operation. The first group of 66 Bangladeshi workers who had arrived a year ago, still earned monthly wages of US$200 - 300 (N$1300 - 1950). They were dismissed last month under the pretext of not being productive enough. At the same time, a new group of about 400 Bangladeshi workers arrived in the country, earning monthly salaries of US$ 120 (N$ 780) of which they received only US$75 (N$487) as the rest was deducted for food. Ramatex thus benefited from even lower wages while its agents made millions of US$ through extorted payments from Bangladeshi workers. These workers now had to return home empty-handed. They paid the price for a game whose rules are set by global corporations. Protected by the blind faith of host countries that foreign investment will solve their development problems, these corporations drive down labour and environmental standards in what has been described as a "race to the bottom". There are many international examples to prove this point. When will Ramatex and its agents be made to account for the gross human rights violations and the misery imposed on their workers? Hosting Abuses - It is a tragic irony that Namibia plays host to such abuses. For decades, Namibians fought against a colonial contract labour system that condemned Namibian workers to a miserable life in the dreaded "single sex hostels". Some of our leading politicians started their political careers from there. Throughout the liberation struggle, the migrant labour system was seen as a reflection of the injustices of colonialism and apartheid. Just over a decade after independence, we now see a return of the migrant labour system in a new globalised, and perhaps even more vicious form. Like under colonial rule, workers who revolt against their inhuman conditions are simply deported to their "homelands". Previously back to "Ovamboland", now back to Bangladesh, China or the Philippines. The principle of exploitation and abuse of workers' rights for company profits has remained the same. Unanswered Questions - The deportation of the Bangladeshis does not resolve the problems experienced by Ramatex workers.  Treating them as if they were criminals and sending them back empty-handed is merely an attempt to avoid dealing with uncomfortable questions such as: * Why are no criminal charges brought against Ramatex and its labour agents for the violation of human rights and municipal regulations? * Why does Ramatex receive work permits for thousands of its Asian workers, many of whom seem to carry out jobs that could be performed by unemployed and trainable Namibians? * Who shares in the millions of US$ extorted from desperate Asian workers? * What is the nature of the links between Ramatex, its labour agencies and government officials in certain ministries and embassies? * Why does the Namibian government continue to allow Ramatex to violate Namibian laws and regulations with impunity? * What was done to ensure that Ramatex' toxic waste does not contaminate Windhoek's water resources? Another Battle Ahead - Although most Bangladeshi workers have already been deported, there is still a group of 66 workers who remained in Namibia to fight Ramatex in court. Their case will highlight some of Ramatex' abuses and presents perhaps the workers' last chance to see some justice done. However, these Bangladeshi workers have run out of money to pay for food, accommodation and legal costs. As Namibians committed to social justice we have to show practical solidarity and render whichever support we can, be it food or money. Otherwise, Ramatex will simply use delaying tactics and literally starve the workers out of their last chance to hold the company accountable. At the very least, the Bangladeshis have to be refunded for the money paid to the agents, receive some compensation for the hardships endured and a free ticket home. So far, there has been no justice for the poor. * The author works with the Labour Resource and Research Institute (LaRRI) in Katutura, Windhoek. Those interested in supporting the Bangladeshi workers during their trial can contact him at 212044 during office hours.

Editorial: We should be ashamed (The Namibian, 17/09):- The sad saga of hundreds of Bangladeshi workers at the Ramatex plant, who paid exorbitant amounts of money to get work in this country, were ill-paid and treated as if they had no rights at all, and who were then deported to face a life of penury and stigma back home, cannot be repeated. Somewhere, somehow, heads should roll for this disgraceful affair. While Ramatex itself should shoulder the blame for employing these Bangladeshis in the first place, Government has to account for its share in this sad saga. With the men now all gone home, one hopes that those involved do not merely shrug off what transpired in recent weeks as a bad experience for the country. Ramatex somehow always escapes being held accountable, whether it is labour related or crucial environment issues. Paying for the return tickets home of the Bangladeshis and giving them a little bit of money to make their short stay not seem totally in vain - was Ramatex's quick solution to the disgrace - with a Government deportation order as backing. Generally evasive of the media, this time around the factory was quick to acknowledge fault for not having ensured better living conditions for Asian workers. But it is unlikely they will get a rap over the knuckles for their "carelessness" in overlooking the men's living conditions nor for apparently being too "trusting" of the recruiting agent. After all, Ramatex receives heavy backing in many respects from Government to provide much-needed employment for Namibians. And it has the money to get rid of its "problems". It is imperative to attract investors and provide jobs, but it needs to be done in an ethical way. Let's also hope that the 'outsiders' who benefited from those who have had to sacrifice so much for nothing also do not escape punishment as the pictures of the horrific way the Bangladeshis were made to live gradually fade. Those involved in accommodating the Bangladeshis claimed that it even overstepped the law by making illegal renovations to make the men as comfortable as possible. But it was clearly worth the money they were being paid if they felt free to ignore municipal regulations. However, given past trends, we hold our little hope that there will be much soul-searching, let alone accounting on the part of Government of what went wrong. It's unlikely to happen since the media generally get scant praise, but The Namibian in particular should be credited with being at the forefront of exposing the trafficking and inhumane treatment of workers, which has led to the close scrutiny that the whole matter now somewhat belatedly enjoys. While this has not altered the sad fate of the deported Bangladeshi workers, it has hopefully raised consciousness about this human abuse and may ensure that it does not happen again. To give a brief synopsis of how the saga unfolded: August 5 - The Namibian reports on a Ramatex attempt to have its first group of 66 Bangladeshi workers, who had been in the country for a year, deported. The High Court allows the men to stay to fight their dismissal. Their appalling living conditions right across the road from the factory in Otjomuise is exposed. The first group of 372 workers have started arriving in Namibia. August 6 - The Namibian writes an editorial on Ramatex, reminding the up-to-then silent NUNW affiliated trade unions of the slogan of 'an injury to one is an injury to all' and calls for solidarity with the ill-treated workers. August 10 - The Namibian reports on planned legal action by the disgruntled 66. August 11 - The NUNW finally issues a statement in response to the treatment of the sacked 66 workers following the editorial in The Namibian. August 25 - The Namibian reveals the dreadful living conditions of new Bangladeshi arrivals. Sept 10 - The newspaper reports on a riot at the factory by workers in protest against their living conditions. Sept 10 - Unions again respond to ill-treatment of the Bangladeshis - a month after their first statement. Sept 13 - 16 - The Namibian carries several reports of the deportation of the Bangladeshis and more about the key players involved in bringing the men to Namibia is revealed. The newspaper also reports on the devastating impact on the lives of the Bangladeshi workers and their families.

Ramatex in Namibia (New Era, 17/09):- The Ramatex textile company has been a controversial venture since it started operating in Namibia. Initially praised as a major job creator, its costs soon became apparent. First Namibia provided a host of special incentives including investments of over N$100 million in public funds to create infrastructure for the company. Then followed concerns regarding the threat of water pollution through the company's toxic waste. Thereafter we witnessed two strikes over extremely poor working conditions and the frequent violation of Namibian laws and policies. And now, we see the destruction of the young lives of Bangladeshi workers. In October last year, the Labour Resource and Research Institute (LaRRI) published a comprehensive report on the experiences of Namibian workers at the Ramatex factory. We alluded to the dangers of granting that company special status and quietly "exempting" it from Namibian laws and regulations. A year later, the situation has gone from bad to worse. Importing workers -  Following newspaper reports in August 2004 about the importing of Ramatex workers from Bangladesh, we carried out our own investigations. We spoke to dozens of the Bangladeshis, documented their stories and discovered a network of shady operators, guilty of contributing to gross human rights violations. What we found presented the ugly face of global capitalism as it exists today. Its victims are always the poor - in this case young Bangladeshi workers. They were lured to Namibia by ruthless agents who had promised them the chance to earn better salaries to support their families. In return, each worker had to pay the agents US$ 3 500 (about N$ 23 000) which they could raise only by selling all their belongings, including houses, land and livestock. Many still had to borrow additional money from family members, friends and banks. After only a few weeks in Namibia, these workers were now sent home, condemned to even greater misery than before their ordeal. They lost everything and will not be able to recover their losses. Who is to be blamed? - Meanwhile, those responsible for the workers' misery and the trade in human beings seem to get off lightly - once again. With reference to the horrific conditions endured by 400 Bangladeshi workers at a house known as "Hotel Ramatex" in Windhoek West, the company in a recent statement claimed "it is not Ramatex policy to provide such living conditions for any of its employees". However, these conditions had already been prominently reported in a local newspaper in mid-August but Ramatex did nothing to alleviate the suffering of the Bangladeshi workers. The company only responded when public pressure increased through several reports in the media and a strongly worded statement by the National Union of Namibian Workers (NUNW). Ramatex cannot claim innocence and must take full responsibility for the misery endured by its workers. The company has directly benefited from the human trafficking carried out on its behalf by Eastern Overseas, Bay Eastern Agency and Saujana Blossom Import and Export Namibia. These agencies are responsible for the extortion of large amounts of money from Bangladeshi workers in exchange for work contracts. Ramatex directly benefited from its agents' operations. The first group of 66 Bangladeshi workers who had arrived a year ago, still earned monthly wages of US$200 - 300 (N$1300 - 1950). They were dismissed last month under the pretext of not being productive enough. At the same time, a new group of about 400 Bangladeshi workers arrived in the country, earning monthly salaries of US$120 (N$780) of which they received only US$ 75 (N$487) as the rest was deducted for food. Ramatex thus benefited from even lower wages while its agents made millions of US$ through extorted payments from Bangladeshi workers. These workers now had to return home empty-handed. They paid the price for a game whose rules are set by global corporations. Protected by the blind faith of host countries that foreign investment will solve their development problems, these corporations drive down labour and environmental standards in what has been described as a "race to the bottom". There are many international examples to prove this point. When will Ramatex and its agents be made to account for the gross human rights violations and the misery imposed on their workers?  Hosting abuses - It is a tragic irony that Namibia plays host to such abuses. For decades, Namibians fought against a colonial contract labour system that condemned Namibian workers to a miserable life in the dreaded "single sex hostels". Some of our leading politicians started their political careers from there. Throughout the liberation struggle, the migrant labour system was seen as a reflection of the injustices of colonialism and apartheid. Just over a decade after independence, we now see a return of the migrant labour system in a new globalised, and perhaps even more vicious form. Like under colonial rule, workers who revolt against their inhuman conditions are simply deported to their "homelands". Previously back to "Owamboland", now back to Bangladesh, China or the Philippines. The principle of exploitation and abuse of workers' rights for company profits has remained the same. Unanswered questions - The deportation of the Bangladeshis does not resolve the problems experienced by Ramatex workers. Treating them as if they were criminals and sending them back empty-handed is merely an attempt to avoid dealing with uncomfortable questions such as: - Why are no criminal charges brought against Ramatex and its labour agents for the violation of human rights and municipal regulations? - Why does Ramatex receive work permits for thousands of its Asian workers, many of whom seem to carry out jobs that could be performed by unemployed and trainable Namibians? - Who shares in the millions of US$ extorted from desperate Asian workers? - What is the nature of the links between Ramatex, its labour agencies and government officials in certain ministries and embassies? - Why does the Namibian government continue to allow Ramatex to violate Namibian laws and regulations with impunity? - What was done to ensure that Ramatex' toxic waste does not contaminate Windhoek's water resources? Another battle ahead - Although most Bangladeshi workers have already been deported, there is still a group of 66 workers who remain in Namibia to fight Ramatex in court. Their case will highlight some of Ramatex' abuses and presents perhaps the workers' last chance to see some justice done. However, these Bangladeshi workers have run out of money to pay for food, accommodation and legal costs. As Namibians committed to social justice we have to show practical solidarity and render whichever support we can, be it food or money. Otherwise, Ramatex will simply use delaying tactics and literally starve the workers out of their last chance to hold the company accountable. At the very least, the Bangladeshis have to be refunded for the money paid to the agents, receive some compensation for the hardships endured and a free ticket home. So far, there has been no justice for the poor.

Bangladeshi envoy intervenes too late (New Era, 17/09):- The Bangladeshi High Com-missioner to South Africa accredited to Namibia, Amir Hussain Sikder, yesterday made a belated plea to the Namibian ministries of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Industry to stop the deportation of Bangladeshi workers. However, by late yesterday, most of the beleaguered Bangladeshi workers had been flown out of Namibia back to their country. According to the acting permanent secretary of Foreign Affairs, Nickey Nashindi, the tone of the plea was that the Namibian Government organs had acted 'harshly' towards the workers, who could not secure appropriately granted work permits after it came to light that the workers were not suitably qualified as garment workers. "The Bangladeshi High Commission is based in South Africa but it is also accredited in Namibia," said Nashandi, adding that the Namibian stance on the deportation was final as there were a number of country laws that had been violated in the saga by both the employer, the Ramatex textile company, as well as the agency that provided accommodation for the workers. He would, however, not expound on what those violations were. "They [the Bangladeshi High Com-mission] thought it has some-thing to do with our countries' bilateral relationship, but it had nothing to do with that. But we have made it clear that in future, they should send skilled workers and see to proper accommodation of their nationals," Nashandi said. Nashandi would not let himself out regarding the work permits that have reportedly been wrongly issued to the workers by the Namibian High Commission in Malaysia, except to say that he did not have sufficient in-formation on it, and that it was a matter to be dealt with by the ministries of Home Affairs and Trade and Industry as they are represented on the Immigration Selection Board that deals with the issuance of work permits. Permanent secretary in the Ministry of Trade and Indus-try, Andrew Ndishishi, said Sikder's view would be "communicated to our Government", saying that yesterday's meeting was me-rely to hear what the Bangladeshi High Commissioner had to say. In the meantime, the court case of the remaining 66 Bangladeshi workers on a charge of unfair dismissals from Ramatex has been postponed until October 11. Their lawyer, Vincenzio Olivier, told New Era the workers were prepared to settle with the company. "We are now in the process of working out the returns and payments with the concerned parties in view of the terms of employment still remaining of some of the workers. Some of these terms extend to about two years," Olivier said. "Even if we can get these workers back to work, Ramatex is likely to start victimising them again and issues of productivity will come up again. We are thus looking at a settlement." The impoverished workers told New Era that they are in the meantime without any food as Ramatex has practically withdrew its involvement with the workers. Ramatex paid their accommodation last month, but the workers were not sure if this arrangement would still stand for the remaining months that they have to stay in the country.  Ndishishi said that the court would have to be responsible for providing the workers with food in the interim, as it was a court decision that stopped the deportation of the workers. Olivier, however, refuted this, saying that the court could not take that responsibility. "The court cannot take that sort of responsibility. In any labour case, damages can only be claimed after the case has been resolved," Olivier said. According to him, the workers have also paid for the first round in the court case, and Olivier said his law firm would not claim any payment from the workers yet, as it also cannot claim payment until the matter has been finalised. He did, how-ever, mention that his firm would contribute to the costs involved.

Bangladeshis bid farewell to Namibia (The Namibian, 16/09):- A Namibian experience most of them would rather put behind them is sure to continue when the last group of thwarted Bangladeshis arrive back home today. Already yesterday some of the men were tearful at the thought of having to face a worse life at home after having sacrificed so much to come here. "Bye bye, see you later," the men shouted from the bus windows to security guards and Police officers they got to know well during their short stay. For most, English is a foreign tongue of which they can understand very little and speak even less. But they did not go home without picking up a few words from the security guards who kept a watchful eye over them while they worked, ate and slept. They greeted them like old friends - even shaking hands with Police officers whom they said had been good to them - as they boarded the bus to the airport. Yesterday a group of about 40 were the last to vacate the 'Ramatex Hotel' just before lunch time. Earlier in the day another 100 had been taken to the airport. Only the four cooks remained behind to clean the makeshift kitchen and canteen. On Tuesday night, the Bangladeshi High Commissioner to South Africa and his First Secretary arrived in Windhoek and were expected to hold talks with Namibian Foreign Affairs and Trade and Industry senior officials late yesterday. But it was too late to broker a better deal for close to 400 Bangladeshis who came to Namibia just over a month ago in the hope of a better life. Some of those who left yesterday carried leftover loaves of bread and cooking oil in a plastic bag. It was the sum total of their hand luggage. Others attempted to bundle up the mattresses they had slept on to take home. "Namibia don't like us. Namibian Government cheating people," said Nawab Naim, one of the cooks. He would like to have stayed. "I know something about Namibia from the Internet. Namibia is a new country. I thought it would be good to us," he says. Another man claims he came to Namibia to escape the Bangladeshi government. He says he is a political activist and came to Namibia to avoid being killed. As Jashim put his luggage in the bus, he told The Namibian that his first priority would be to retrieve the money he paid to the agent to secure him a work contract in Namibia. Muklashrman says he is not sure what he will do - money is a problem he says. The Eastern Overseas agent Alif who the men attacked on Friday for allegedly tricking them, made a brief stop at the "hostel" late on Tuesday night. But this time he stayed outside the gate - only briefly talking to some of the men who still remained. He was originally believed to have quietly left the country after Friday's riot as he never returned to speak to the men again, nor did he make contact with the Ramatex management. The company brought 372 men to Namibia to work at the Ramatex Textile Factory, but upon discovering they were unskilled, Government ordered that they be deported last Friday. Another 66 Bangladeshi men remain behind to plead for the mercy of the courts tomorrow in fighting a case of alleged unfair dismissal from the factory after having worked there for a year.

Bangladeshi drama (New Era, 16/09):- Apparent confusion reigns in the Ministry of Home Affairs over work permits that were granted to the close to 400 unskilled Bangladeshi workers meant to work as skilled garment workers at Ramatex. The confusion follows revelations that the Namibian High Commission in Malaysia had issued the work permits, instead of the authorised work visas. According to the spokes-person of the home affairs ministry, Mikka Asino, the minister, under the Immigration Control Act, grants permission to persons and/or agencies to issue work visas. Namibian embassies and high commissions have apparently been granted the permission only to grant work visas. Work visas, he said, are granted to foreign workers to be employed only on a temporary basis, usually for a period of three months. Work permits, on the other hand, are granted to workers for employment of about a year or longer. Equally, said Asino, foreign workers are usually only allowed in the country if it is found that the skills they have are not presently avail-able in Namibia. For this, he said, the Immigration Selection Board meets every Tues-day in Windhoek to study work permit applications, and grants permits where appropriate. "What has happened [in the case of the Bangladeshi workers] is that people were granted work permits. We are now trying to figure out how this was done," Asino said. A joint meeting took place between the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Andrew Ndishishi, Acting Permanent Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Nickey Nashandi, as well as two members of the High Commission for Bangladesh that flew into the country yesterday from Pretoria, South Africa, to discuss the matter that threatens to be a huge political and investment embarrassment for both governments. A well-placed source at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs concurred that the Namibian High Commission in Malaysia was indeed not authorised to issue work permits, and added that the matter is being discussed with various ministries. "This is a whole government issue. [Neville] Gertze was appoint-ed by the President [Sam Nujoma] so there will be wide consultation. There are many inter-governmental issues that will be discussed," the source said. He further contended that it was a mistake by all ministries concerned to have allowed the Bangladeshi workers in, but that none of these ministries picked up on the matter of irregularly issued work permits. "None of these ministries would have picked up the mistake had it not been for the furore over the living conditions of the Bangladeshi workers. All these ministries are at fault," the source went on. He said what made the matter worse, was the family connection Gertze has with the Saujana Blossom Import and Export Company. "It is a government cock-up and a big political issue," he said. New Era has made repeated attempts to get hold of Neville Gertze for comment, but to no avail, as the lines to the Namibian High Commission in Malaysia have purportedly been disconnected. Attempts to get hold of him on his mobile phone and home fax number also proved futile. A former colleague of his in Windhoek, however, confirmed having spoken to him the day before yesterday, and said that the work permit issue was done "very innocently" and that he was "merely trying to do his work". She also mentioned that Gertze was quite frazzled by the entire Bangladeshi fiasco. It is understood that the ministries of Trade and Industry, and Foreign Affairs, as well as the Bangladeshi High Commissioner, will issue a joint statement on the matter tomorrow.

Government to train Ramatex workers (The Namibian, 15/09):- Government plans to set up a training centre specifically for textile workers to be employed at the Ramatex Textile Factory.  Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Trade and Industry Andrew Ndishishi told The Namibian this week that Namibia urgently needed to train locals to fill positions at the factory to curb the influx of foreign workers. Ndishishi could not say at this stage how much the exercise would cost Government, adding that the Ministry was still scouting for a venue, instructors and equipment. He said if Government did not assist with training, it would affect the expansion of the factory and consequently Namibia's economic growth. This move comes in the wake of a decision to deport at least 372 Bangladeshi men who were recruited abroad to work at the factory. Ndishishi said the Ministry of Trade and Industry had decided not to recommend that work permits be granted to them after it was found that they were unskilled. He maintained that claims by the National Union of Namibian Workers that foreign workers were being employed at the Malaysian-run factory at the expense of Namibians were untrue. "Ramatex is worried about employing foreign workers. If possible they wouldn't want them. It is expensive for them," he said. He said Government's arrangement with the factory was that Asian workers would only be employed for three years but the reality was that the country was not producing semi and skilled workers to take their places. Acting General Secretary of the Namibian Food and Allied Workers' Union (Nafau) Kiros Sakarias said yesterday that it supported training more Namibians to work at the factory. "Why should you import foreigners when you are in a better position to train our own people?," he asked.  However, Sakarias said, the union still demanded an explanation from Government on the approval of entry visas for foreign workers. Sakarias said the labour movement was concerned about the procedures being followed at Namibia's Malaysian Embassy and the Ministry of Home Affairs in granting visas and work permits to foreign workers. Ramatex currently has about 1 892 foreign workers - mostly Chinese and Filipinos. Namibians contribute another 6 000 to their workforce. Nafau said it had been kept in the dark about recent discussions between the Ramatex Textile Factory and Government regarding the factory's foreign workforce. It said it had only been called to a meeting with Government officials late on Friday to discuss the matter.  Sakarias said the labour movement had a duty to protect all the country's workers. "A worker is just a worker no matter where you come from. This whole thing only came out when the matter reached boiling point," he said. Ndishishi said his ministry only recommended to the Immigration Selection Board that work permits only be granted to foreigners if the investment was critical to the economy and if the skills needed to expand were available in Namibia. He said Namibia needed to train at least 1 000 skilled and another 3 000 semi-skilled workers to meet the factory's demands. The factory needed to expand to make it more economically viable to ship their products, he added. However, Namibia's training system was lagging behind in providing the company with the necessary expertise. In the medium term, Ndishishi said, Government's plan was to set up a training school to train designers and cutters. Ndishishi said he had met with Namibian workers at the factory and had acknowledged that there were still labour relations issues that needed to be ironed out. He ascribed many of the problems to cultural differences with management and Namibians' unwillingness to accept a salary based on productivity. Ndishishi disputed accusations that the company was deliberately violating the country's labour laws. "In terms of typical violations neither Government nor Ramatex would condone that. They have certain standards to meet. Ramatex is a huge international investor. They wouldn't make it if they weren't honest and serious," he said. During last month, Ramatex exported US$13 million in goods from Namibia. Of the group's total turnover of US$120 million last year - US$53 million is generated from its Namibian concern. The factory exports branded clothes for fashion houses Nike, Puma and Otto Versand while also producing for large overseas shopping chains Wal-Mart and Sears.

More Bangladeshis go home (The Namibian, 15/09):- With only small bags of luggage, dashed hopes and about US$240, a third group of 68 Bangladeshi workers recruited to work at the Ramatex Textile Factory were deported yesterday. They follow a larger group of 141 Bangladeshi workers who left on Monday and the first group of 30 who were sent home on Sunday. The factory says it put a stop to their work permit applications when it discovered that they were unskilled. By the end of today, all of the 372 Bangladeshis, who came to Namibia desperate to earn money to ease the plight of their families back home, should have left the country. The factory has paid them for their work to date and an additional month's salary of US$120 as compensation. All of the Bangladeshis are poor. Most of the workers The Namibian spoke to said they would go back to being unemployed after selling most of their meagre belongings to raise the US$3 500 needed to secure work in Namibia. They hope to find work in the agricultural sector once they are home. The first group of about 66 Bangladeshis, who have worked in Namibia for a year, have been spared deportation for now. They are scheduled to appear in court on Friday to fight a case of unfair dismissal. They were fired on the spot on August 3 for alleged poor work performance. The factory cancelled their work permits immediately after their services were terminated. A last-minute High Court reprieve gave them the right to stay in the country to fight their case. The men insist that they are skilled workers, unlike their countrymen who are being deported. Senior Factory Manager Khayhiang Lim said on Sunday that the probation period of the group of 66 had to be extended from three to six months. She claimed they were underperforming. Lim said the matter had been reported to the Bay Eastern Agency, which recruited the 66, but that agents had refused to come to Namibia to iron out the problem. Lim said the factory was prepared to pay for their return home. On Friday, the Namibian Workers' Union of Namibia said the 66 men faced an immediate humanitarian crisis because they had spent most of what they earned to pay their legal costs. The NUNW has appealed to international humanitarian agencies for assistance, saying the court case would be of major significance in highlighting alleged violations of the Labour Law at the factory. To date the union has had to fork out N$46 000 for their legal aid. They will have to pay another N$25 000 to pursue the matter this week. The case was scheduled to proceed a week ago, but a postponement was granted at the request of the defence's legal team. The workers believe the company is trying to prolong the case in an attempt to force them out of the country. A spokesperson for the group claimed the factory was refusing to pay their accommodation and food at the Farida Hillcrest Hotel despite a High Court ruling that they do so. Twenty-one of the group are married with children, while many of the single men also have children to support.

Ramatex gives side of workers story (New Era, 14/09):- Correspondence between itself and its Malaysian recruitment agency, Bay Eastern Limited, or Eastern Overseas in which the former pleas for "skilled sewers", failing which the contracts with the workers would be terminated. This follows what some call a "humanitarian crisis of a scandalous nature" involving Bangladeshi workers in Namibia that came to light at a house in Windhoek West, where most recruited Bangladeshi workers were accommodated and in anticipation of a court case against Ramatex for firing the first 66 Bangladeshi workers for purportedly not being "productive enough". The move further comes on the heels of an emotional outbreak by the Bangladeshi workers who have claimed that they have been run in by both the recruitment agent and Ramatex, for not honouring the promises that had been made to them when they were recruited in Bangladesh. The first group of workers were sent back to Bangladesh on Sunday, and the exercise continued yesterday and today. In the correspondence, Ramatex noted that it had started with recruitment for new workers as the factory had made expansion plans. It stated that it made the decision to get more workers at the beginning of last year in order to expand the operation level of the factory to a level of an annual turnover of US$120 million. Last year, it said, it had a turnover of US$53 million. "As such, new capital expenditure and new machinery were brought in to expand the physical capacity at all levels of production. Truly, we managed to achieve US$13 million in August 2004. However, we find it difficult to sustain that for long," Ramatex said. "At the same time, we need more fellow workers particularly the skilled one(s) in order to achieve our goal. Management decided to recruit skilled workers from Bangladesh," the company continued. The first batch of workers of 66 were then recruited through the agency, but from the correspondence, it transpires that the company had hoped to recruit a total of one thousand to work for a basic salary of US$120 per month, that the company describes as the "standard rate for all Malaysian companies employing foreign workers from Myanmar, Vietnam, Indonesia, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh". A letter dated 15 October 2002, subsidiary company of Ramatex, Lichen Apparel Namibia (Proprietary) Ltd requested from Bay Eastern 60 to 80 "Bangladeshi skilled sewers" for the garment factory in Windhoek for the middle of 2003. In the letter, the company wrote: "It is a criteria that the skilled sewers must be able to satisfy the company target set of productivity level both in quantity and quality standards". In return, Bay Eastern responded in November 2002: "We will like to assure and reiterate to you that we shall only recruit those workers that are skilled in sewing capabilities suitable to your industry," adding "in addition to that they are of good character and health. If the company is not satisfied with the workers poor performance, we shall sent (sic) them back at our own cost". According to the correspondence, Ramatex had then decided to take in the 66 workers with the understanding that it would "monitor their performance for a period of three months with a continuing performance appraisal done on the workers during this period". Failing to adhere to the factory quality production business standards, these workers would then be considered to be "problem workers". In the contract between Bay Eastern and Lichen Apparel Namibia, a "problem worker" would constitute workers that "violate the standard code of conduct or the factory rules and regulation and workers that are below the expected productivity level of the factory standard". It further stated that the company would then "reserve (sic) the rights to terminate the service contract if the sewer failed to meet the required target set up by the management without informing the sewer". According to the contract, Lichen Apparel Namibia would institute legal steps should the agency fail to deliver the required skilled workers, and would seek compensation for the loss to the company production, with an agreed upon penalty of N$200 per person per day. In November of last year, Lichen Apparel Namibia sent a letter to the agency claiming that the company was not happy with the skills and observation of the workers, saying that it could not "keep those expatriates that cannot perform". In return, Bay Eastern noted that the workers had "claimed that they have special sewing skills" and that they demanded to get US$200 basic salary per month as opposed to the initial US$120 per month. The company had also requested that the workers be given "further chance to perform" before deciding that they should be dismissed. According to Ramatex, the workers had not performed, and a case of unfair dismissal is now pending in the Namibian courts. It is not certain how the Bangladeshi workers' crisis will affect the operations of Ramatex, or the other parties involved, notably the Bay Eastern recruitment agency, and their "local partner" as per Ramatex worker, Desmond Gertze.

Government accused of ignoring labour law violation (The Namibian, 13/09):- The National Union of Namibian Workers has accused Government of deliberately turning a blind eye to gross labour law violations by the Malaysian-run Ramatex textile factory. The umbrella union on Friday threatened to call a strike at the factory if the living conditions of the nearly 400 Bangladeshi workers were not improved. NUNW Deputy Secretary General Evilastus Kaaronda said the workers' union would continue to pressurise involved parties to ensure justice for the workers. "Ramatex must be reminded that their presence here is not value free. There are rules in this country that they should abide by. They are not a special case," he said at a press conference. The union said it was preparing to launch an international protest campaign against the Ramatex-Berhad group for its continuous violation of workers' rights. The NUNW said it was unacceptable that Government allowed the factory to operate as if it were above the law. "What we found [at Ramatex] caused us disbelief and outrage," said the union's first Vice President Alphaus Muheua. A press conference was called to discuss findings of investigations the union carried out following an article published by The Namibian a month ago on the plight of the factory's Bangladeshi workers. "As Namibians we are embarrassed that our country can be the host to such abuses of human rights." Ramatex admitted fault in not ensuring that the agency it had contracted to meet the living expectations of the workers, were keeping to the deal. "We trusted the agency too much and that's why we neglected to investigate ourselves," said Ramatex Senior Manager Khayhiang Lim yesterday. The union said it suspected high-level corruption in the granting of work permits to the foreigners questioning why the company was being permitted to employ so many foreign unskilled workers, when the work could instead be done by Namibians. "This stands in sharp contrast to Namibia's immigration laws and practices, which are meant to ensure jobs for Namibians," said Muheua. Lim said the company had been tricked into believing that it would be employing skilled workers and that their inefficiencies were only picked up once they began working at the factory. "Why would we bring unskilled workers when we can use Namibians?," she asked. Lim said that as the company expanded it was necessary to employ skilled foreign workers to help train locals to do the work. The factory has a workforce of 8 000 - 1 892 of whom are Filipino and Asian workers, technical staff and management. The NUNW has demanded that the offices of the Ombudsman, the Prosecutor General and the Labour Commissioner investigate the influx of foreigners at the factory. "There is no time to waste as we might uncover a web of dubious operators and shady deals," Muheua said, claiming that there were vested interests at stake. The union alleged that certain officials wanted the court case launched by the factory's first group of Bangladeshi workers against their immediate dismissal from the factory to collapse, to conceal their operations. The NUNW said the experiences of the Bangladeshi workers point to an international syndicate of labour brokers who engage in human trafficking. The union has likened the situation to syndicates which offer young women in Eastern Europe and South East Asia seemingly attractive jobs (or husbands) and then sell them into the sex trade. Investigations by the union have revealed that as much US$21 million in undocumented payments were allegedly made in the instance of the Bangladeshi workers who have come to Namibia. "When workers stand up for their rights, some Government officials and ministries point to the need for protection of the national interest? What is meant by this? If it means excluding workers' rights and trampling on their dignity, does Government believe that the national interest is the same like the interest of corporations?" the NUNW asked.

Ramatex to sue recruitment agency (New Era, 13/09):- Textile company Ramatex is planning to sue recruitment agency Eastern Overseas, the company that recruited unskilled workers from Bangladesh to work at its factory in Windhoek. It is understood that the company’s head office in Malaysia will press charges against the agency’s office in that country. This comes after shocking facts became known around the inhumane conditions under which the Bangladeshi workers were hoarded at a house in Windhoek West, and other irregularities concerning their contracts with the company. Ramatex further claimed that it had requested the company, which is registered in Malaysia with an office in Bangladesh, to recruit skilled garment workers. Instead, said Ramatex, the agency recruited unskilled labourers, something that apparently became clear only when the workers arrived at the factory here. “Our recruitment contract with the agent was to recruit skilled workers from Bangladesh. We corresponded several times with the agent on the issue of unskilled workers being sent from Bangladesh. The delay by the recruitment agent to deal with [the] issue of the unskilled workers, has eventually now led to the cancellation of the recruitment contract with the agent,” said general manager of Ramatex Namibia, Khay-hiang Lim, in a statement issued to the press. The delay to deal with unskilled workers, said Lim, has eventually caused a breach of contract with Ramatex. Of the atrocious conditions in which the workers are accommodated, Ramatex indicated that it had notified the accommodation service provider, Desmond Gertze from Rehoboth, and the recruitment agent “to rectify the situation”. “Admittedly, the management [of Ramatex] had overlooked the accommodation issue as the accommodation service provider which Ramatex has contracted was responsible for such,” Lim stated. She also said that it was not Ramatex policy to provide “such living conditions for any of our employees”. “To that effect, the company has taken corrective steps immediately to find many alternative places to stay around Windhoek so as to solve the living conditions at once,” said Lim. The “corrective measures” Ramatex is taking, is to send the workers back to Bangladesh. Yesterday the first batch of 30 workers were sent back, with the remaining 338 to leave today. The leaving workers were given R940 each from Ramatex, with money subtracted for food. They are supposed to change this money into US dollars once in South Africa, because Ramatex apparently could not arrange the payouts in US dollars at short notice. A further total of 66 retrenched Bangladeshi workers are to remain in Namibia awaiting a court case later in the month against Ramatex for unfair dismissal. According to the National Union of Namibian Workers (NUNW) the workers were fired under the pretext that they were not “productive enough”. “This seems to be a mere excuse for unfair dismissals,” the union pointed out. The workers who are being sent back could not secure work permits from the Ministry of Home Affairs, and their visas expire at the end of this month. The NUNW on Friday expressed its shock and disbelief over the conditions of the workers. After an investigation into the living conditions of the workers, the NUNW said: “It is indeed tragic that 14 years after independence, workers in Namibia are deprived of basic human rights while the Ramatex company continues to operate as if it is above the law.” The union said the first group of Bangladeshi workers, the 66 workers, came to Namibia on a three-year contract between June and August this year. “Twenty-one of them are married with children while the others are single with children to support in Bangladesh. All their families rely on remittance payments for their survival.”  The union stated that the workers had come to Namibia because of the salaries and benefits promised to them. Instead, the workers had to pay US$3 500 to the recruitment agency, of which only US$1 000 was recorded with receipts. “Given the prospects of a few years of better earnings in Namibia, the Bangladeshi workers had to sell their houses, land and livestock and take out loans with banks, families and friends. As a result many are indebted today,” Alphaus Muheua, first vice president of NUNW said. The union said 63 of these workers were employed as sewers with a monthly salary of US$200, while three were employed as quality controllers at a salary of US$300 per month. The union stated that as per contract signed in Bangladesh, Ramatex was responsible for accommodation for the workers, as well as for the air tickets and for reimbursing the workers for “all approved medical expenses for in-house or designated clinic or hospital for medical treatment”. “The Bangladeshi workers received only seven days of annual leave, while the Namibian Labour Act (1992) prescribes a minimum of 24 consecutive days annual leave,” the union stated. It said that the workers had hoped to recover their “agency fees”. “However, after only six weeks in Namibia, Ramatex unilaterally changed their contracts by cancelling the provision of food and reducing the quality controllers’ salary from US$300 to US$200 per month,” said Muheua. The remaining workers, a total of 418 according to the union, came during July and August. These men were accommodated at “Hotel Ramatex”, the house of Gertze, “under conditions that are even worse than those of the notorious migrant worker hostels in colonial Namibia,” charged the union. “We regard those people responsible for the workers’ accommodation and food as criminals who do not regard workers as human beings.”  During New Era’s a visit to “Hotel Ramatex” on Friday, workers claimed that they only received US$75 after the agency withdrew US$45 for food from their basic salary, and a further US$100 for accommodation. Ramatex PRO, David Yong, told New Era that this was not the arrangement with the agency, and that it, Ramatex, had given the agency US$70 per person per month for food and accommodation. “That means that the agency is making a double collection,” Yong said. Yong also said that Ramatex had paid the company to recruit workers, and that it was unfortunate for the workers to have had to pay the recruitment agency. Muheua said on Friday that the matter raises serious questions about the relationship between Ramatex and the Namibian Government, “which has granted and continues to grant hundreds of work permits to unskilled and semi-skilled Asian workers who carry out tasks that could easily be performed by Namibian workers”. “Given the huge undocumented amounts made by the recruitment agencies, we suspect high level corruption in the granting of work permits,” said the union. The union also called for an investigation into what it framed the “dubious relationship” between Ramatex and certain government ministries. “Those who perpetrated and upheld the suffering of Ramatex workers must face criminal charges. We do not believe in the granting of special privileges to Ramatex and call on Government to ensure that justice is done by granting a speedy trial and not to allow delaying tactics to literally starve the Bangladeshi workers out of their rights,” the union demanded. It said that it would give the Namibian Government and Ramatex until next week to rectify the situation. “Should they fail, we will immediately launch an international protest campaign against Ramatex and even consider calling a general strike at Ramatex to express our outrage at the continuous violation of workers’ rights.”

Enraged Bangladeshi workers assault agent (The Namibian, 13/09):- Angry Bangladeshi nationals assaulted their recruiting agent - a man known only as Alif - on Friday, while another agent - Halif - fled as the men pursued his car. The Police Reserve Unit was called in to curb the mayhem, firing several warning shots in the air. They also threatened to fire rubber bullets at the workers who mobbed the men from the Eastern Overseas agency as they entered the crowded house in Windhoek West where the Ramatex workers have been living in shocking conditions. Hungry and restless, after being sent home by Ramatex on Thursday following a riot at the factory over poor living conditions, the men waited patiently for their agents to arrive after attending prayers at the mosque. Ramatex had ordered the agency to visit Namibia to discuss a breach in their contract - they allegedly recruited unskilled workers - and to improve the living conditions of the men. The factory expected possible violence, and members of the Police arrived well ahead of time to monitor the situation. The men had been waiting patiently for more than an hour to see their agents, but could not contain their anger, disappointment and hatred at being "duped" into accepting employment by the factory. Alif entered the gate carrying a file, waving his hand in irritation at the men who all started shouting at him at once. His partner Hanif, as well as the Ramatex Textile managers, preferred to watch from a seemingly safer position outside the premises, taking pictures of the chaos that was gradually growing on the other side of the gate. Alif, however, did not appear intimidated by his ranting countrymen and strode confidently to a high point on the property to address them. Shouting back at them in Bangla, he called them bastards and told them if they did not listen to him, he would have them arrested by the Police. The insults were the last straw for the men. They pounced on him, throwing blows wherever they could reach. Others ran towards Hanif who sprinted to a nearby vehicle and hastily drove off. The Police had to fire shots both within and outside the premises to break up the enraged crowds and rescue Alif. The men continued to accost Alif outside the property, crying and pleading with him to send them home. He left shortly afterwards. Even after calm had been restored, Alif refused to return to speak to them. The Ramatex management said they had been unable to contact the pair after that incident. It is believed that the duo hastily left the country on Saturday. The factory management has admitted neglect in ensuring that the agency was doing a good job in caring for the expatriate workers during their stay in Namibia. "We trusted the agency too much, that is why we didn't investigate ourselves. Normally we don't have problems [with recruitment agencies]," said Khayhiang Lim, a senior manager at Ramatex. She said the factory would probably not employ any Bangladeshis again in the future. The men are being deported this week at the cost of Ramatex, which has said it does not want to employ unskilled foreign workers. The Ramatex Group has already started legal proceedings against the Eastern Overseas.

Bangladeshis expelled from Namibia (The Namibian, 13/09):- With the sound of gunshots echoing in their ears, their hopes in tatters and underlying whispers of suicide, the first of about 372 Bangladeshi men brought to Namibia to work at the Ramatex Textile Factory were deported yesterday. "Many of these people will commit suicide when they are back in Bangladesh. So much [of our] money has been lost," one of the workers, who gave his name only as Jalil, told The Namibian as he waited to board a bus in front of what had been his home for just over a month. The deportation follows a turbulent week in Windhoek. Tensions over "horrific" living conditions and broken promises erupted into riots at the factory on Thursday and at the workers' hostel on Friday, when shots were fired to bring the situation under control. Yesterday, dressed in their best clothes, the first 30 men to leave did not put up any resistance as Police reservists helped them load their belongings. "We are all very, very poor men," said Obaidur Rahman. "Ramatex has damaged our future," he charged.
Ramatex, which is Malaysian run, has laid the blame squarely at the door of Eastern Overseas, the agency that recruited the Bangladeshis. Also under fire is Saujana Blossom Import and Export Namibia, which was responsible for arranging accommodation for them.
Family Fears - The men's search for employment at the Ramatex Textile Factory saw them arrive with high hopes only a few weeks ago. Yesterday they said they feared returning home. They are desperately worried that they will be shunned by their families for having spent so much of their meagre resources in the hope of trying to provide support for them. Ramatex said it was forced to break its contract with Eastern Overseas and send the men home because there had been too many discrepancies between the factory's original agreement with the agency and the current situation. A group of at least 100 Bangladeshis are expected to leave Namibia today. The rest will depart tomorrow. The company agreed to pay them one month's salary of U$120 before they left, but said there was nothing it could do to help the men recover US$3 500 they each paid the recruiting agency Eastern Overseas, to secure work for them work at Ramatex. Ramatex General Manager Khayhiang Lim told The Namibian that the Ramatex Group had already instituted legal proceedings in Malaysia against the recruitment agency because it had failed to deliver on its promises. "We corresponded several times with the agent on the issue of unskilled workers being sent from Bangladesh. The delay by the agent in dealing with the issue of the unskilled workers, has eventually led to the cancellation of the recruitment agent," said a statement issued by the factory yesterday. "Only solution' Following riots at the factory on Thursday and again at their hostel on Friday afternoon, the company said it had decided to pay for all the Bangladeshi workers to return home as an immediate solution to the problems they had encountered since their arrival. The men physically attacked their agent shortly after he arrived in Windhoek on Friday. He visited Namibia following complaints by the factory that it had been sent unskilled workers and to iron out issues related to their poor living conditions. Enraged by their treatment, the Bangladeshis mobbed Eastern Overseas Managing Director - a man known only as Alif - when he entered the property where they live, forcing the Police Unit Reservists to fire at least six rounds of live ammunition to break up the riot. Ramatex paid the agency US$580 for every person recruited. On Saturday, the factory once again enlisted the aid of the Police to tell the men that they would not be granted work permits and that they would have to go home. The factory had paid for entry visas for the men. Lim said the factory had decided to hold off on applying for work visas for the men when it was discovered that they were unskilled and following a report in The Namibian a month ago: the newspaper detailed the squalid, cramped and unhygienic conditions the men were being made to live in at three small houses across the road from the factory in Otjomuise and at a private residential property in Windhoek West which has now become known as 'The Ramatex Hotel'. In its press statement, the Ramatex management admitted oversight on its part in not checking that the workers' living arrangements were satisfactory. "It is not Ramatex policy to provide such living conditions for any of our employees. Admittedly the management had overlooked the accommodation issue as the accommodation service provider which Ramatex contracted was responsible for such," it said. The men rioted at the factory on Thursday in protest against their treatment and demanded the same living conditions as other Asian workers employed by the factory. Lim said it was not possible to provide living arrangements for the men at the factory. She said being Muslims, they had different food preparation requirements. The factory paid Saujana Blossom Import and Export Namibia - a company linked to the Eastern Overseas agents and locals father and son, Willie and Desmond Gertze - US$70 per person a month to arrange their accommodation. The National Union of Namibian Workers claimed the Gertzes were related to Namibia's High Commissioner to Malaysia, Neville Gertze. The Namibian was unable to confirm this by the time of going to press. The City of Windhoek said on Friday that it had already instituted legal action against the owner of the house Flip Bredenhann where illegal renovations had taken place to accommodate all the men.

Bangladeshis riot over living conditions (The Namibian, 10/09):- Police had to be called in to break up a riot at the Ramatex Textile Factory in Windhoek during lunch time yesterday as tempers flared among Bangladeshi workers at the firm. What originally started out as a food fight, with workers hurling food at the factory's management, turned ugly as the Bangladeshi men went on a rampage, breaking hostel windows and kicking down doors in protest against their living conditions. The last straw for the more than 400 Bangladeshis, who have been employed at the factory since last month, was when their lunch arrived - it was unappetising pots of rice. Food is prepared for them at a house in Windhoek West, where they have lived in squalid conditions since their arrival in the country. It is then transported to the factory premises. The Bangladeshi workers, most of whom do sewing work in Factory C, demanded to be fed the same food as the Chinese workers at the factory. Chinese and Filipino workers live in hostels and eat in canteens at the factory. According to a source, the men kicked down the doors to the kitchens at the canteen and demanded better food. Security personnel were unable to control the irate workers and the Police were called in. Soon after calm was restored, the workers were transported back to their compound and will not return to work until they meet with their agent - Eastern Overseas - at the weekend. The Namibian has learned that the agency has secured a contract to bring 2 000 Bangladeshis to Namibia. They are being paid US$100 per person per month to accommodate, feed and transport the workers during their stay. The men say at least 600 more visas have been obtained from the Namibian Embassy in Malaysia to bring more of their countrymen to Namibia. But the process has apparently been halted until the situation improves. The majority of the men now working at the factory are unskilled.
They have paid as much as US$3 500 (more than N$21 000) to secure work in Namibia for a salary of US$120 a month. A third of their salary is deducted for food, which the workers describe as unacceptable and contributing to regular illnesses. They are being made to live in every available nook and cranny in one house with only one bathroom between them. Their plight was brought to the attention of Government, the Windhoek Municipality and the workers' unions when The Namibian first reported on their situation last month. The municipality has now ordered that all illegal building renovations on the property be stopped, and that Eastern Overseas relocate the workers within the next month. Two weeks ago, an official from the Bangladeshi High Commission based in Pretoria, South Africa, visited Namibia to see first hand how their nationals were being treated. At least 25 men indicated to him that they wanted to return to their homeland, but had no resources to do so. The official was given an assurance by the factory that the workers' living arrangements would be improved. This week, various Government officials and the Namibian Food and Allied Workers' Union (Nafau) representatives visited the property.

Angolan border tariffs (New Era, 10/09):- Business people at the border town of Oshikango continue to complain about steep import tariffs imposed by Angolan customs and excise officials. They charge that such tariffs are slowing down business, causing some companies to close down and move elsewhere. International companies trading from Oshikango primarily for the seemingly lucrative Angolan market say the newly introduced tariff regime on the Angolan side makes it less viable for them to operate from that town. "We need at least N$1.5 million to cover all our invoices and serve the deposits from the customs people. We cannot handle that," said Brazilian trader Mark Kassou. Kassou is acting as a manager for the only company with EPZ (export processing zone) status at the Oshikango EPZ Park that was set up by the Ministry of Trade and Industry to attract businesses to the area. He said the company, Sigma Trading, is now considering closing shop at Oshikango and repatriating its business into Angola. "And this is likely to happen to most companies here bit by bit," Kassou said. He did, however, mention that prevailing safety concerns inside Angola are stemming the tide of an outflow of business from Oshikango. Oshikango rose from dust to relative riches after the Government set up the EPZ park to create and attract businesses to "least developed regions", according to Phillip Namundjebo, General Manager: Industrial Development at the Offshore Development Corporation (ODC). Since then, it has attracted businesses from all over the world and has established bonded warehouses to trade with Angola. There are curently seven companies opera-ting from the EPZ park, with only one having EPZ status. The rest are merely renting space inside the park. Equally, said Namundjebo, companies are allowed to trade from inside or outside the park. Namundjebo said that the ministry is currently in the process of appointing a commercial councillor at Oshikango to assess the difficulties faced by businesses here. He noted, however, that Angola has not collected duties for more than forty years, and that businesses should expect a change in the system now that there is a chance for lasting peace for that country. "In Angola the law has been very limited and to change the system will not be an overnight thing." He also said that the Namibian and Angolan governments have agreed on prefe-rential access for Namibian goods like fish and beer, and services, to the latter. "So far, we have the endorsement by the two heads of states of the agreement that relates only to Namibian goods. If your product is not from Namibia, then you have to compete," he said. Counsellor for Economic Affairs at the Angolan Embassy in Namibia, António Coelho Ramos da Cruz, would not say to what extent import taxes have gone up, and nor would he acknowledge that the tariffs are prohibitively high, only saying that all imported goods have specific codes and are accordingly taxed. He did, however, concede that controls were down during the time of war, adding "but now companies are paying what they have to pay". Ramos da Cruz went on to say that import taxes imposed on goods going into that country was designed to protect internal goods there on the one hand, as well as to entice businesses to invest there. "But if you just want to bring things into the country without helping us build the country, then you must expect to be taxed," he said. "But we have to get controls in place to re-industrialise Angola." Oshikango flourished into a bustling town after the establishment of the EPZ park. "Before that there was nothing," said Namundjebo. Now it has become a place where people from Angola, Rwanda and Burundi converge with Namibians and other international companies operating from there. Consequently, most crime reported in the Ohangwena Region has been reported to happen there. Mayor of the Helao Nafidi town council under which the town resides, Metusalem Hanjamba, however, said that the town is set to continue growing because of the Oshikango railway project. "And the town council is ready for the growth," he enthused. "It is a very busy town and in future, it will be a good place where youngsters can get jobs," he said.

Sex workers tell their secrets (New Era, 03/09):- Scores of ladies of the night - streetwalkers - from as far as Cameroon, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe have invaded Windhoek and Namibia's coastal towns where they ply their trade. On a cool Saturday night last week, five young women, all foreigners, were taking a stroll in what has come to be known as the capital's red light district, near Ausspannplatz. There was no mistaking them. They spoke French. Later, it was Bemba and Nyanja. One of the girls wore a short black skirt, a black tank top or what others would call a shabadoo. To fight off the cool breeze, she had a small black jacket on top and black suede boots. Her head was covered in what ladies call brown Whitney extensions. Her skin, just like that of the other four, was light in complexion. This, not because the heavenly father created her that way but thanks to mother earth where the invention of hydroquinone creams make this possible. Another girl had a short maroon dress as if she was going to a club that only entertains Salsa dancers. But, no, she was just trying to expose her bleached, thin and straight legs and that way attract customers. Talk between this reporter and the girls was brisk and curt. While friendly, the girls were in no mood to spend too much of their time talking to a stranger instead of a client. They excused themselves saying they would rather position themselves near the Kalahari Sands Hotel in the centre of the city. Why the Kalahari Sands, I asked one of the girls. And the answer was simple. One stands a good chance of netting a client who has US dollars at the Sands, especially rich tourists than simply standing along the many walkways. As we parted ways, the girls started moving in pairs and were soon swallowed by the darkness. Around the corner, near a local hotel, another batch of girls was waiting and waiving at motorists who cared to stop. In another conversation with this lot, it became clear that there are two types of clients and also two types of hookers, or rather sex workers, as they prefer to be called nowadays. There are those who are willing to go along with any customer, especially the locals, irrespective. But, there is also the choosy type, the classic. This group does not only go for money but status as well. They go for the powerful in society and especially the tourists with their foreign currency. Meanwhile, an influx of prostitution spurs the growing town of Walvis Bay. Prostitution has long been flourishing at the coastal town just as it has taken root in the many towns in the country, including Windhoek. Prostitutes also congregate at the sordid settlements that have sprung up near common nightclubs around the land. Talking about her experiences in this business and almost in tears, a 31-year-old female sex worker at Walvis Bay said, "I came from Okahandja to Walvis Bay to do this because my friend told me the coast is good for such work because people who come from the sea pay good money." She said she has been engaged in prostitution for almost four years now and was prompted by the need to support her two children who are currently staying in Okahandja with her mother. She admitted that her life is not good and that she was willing to stop if she could find alternative employment. Another sex-worker, a 29-year-old, told of how difficult it is at times to convince clients to use condoms. "Sometimes they say no to condoms but you know, when you need the money you just do it. I am currently two-months pregnant," she said. In a joking way she added that there are foreign women, especially Zimbabweans, coming for similar business, and "they disturb and get our men". New Era has established that the hordes of these foreign sex workers parading the streets of Windhoek do so particularly from the Royal Hotel in Snyman's Circle, where customers can book a room for the encounter, just as at many of the city's lodges where the sex workers reside. New Era's investigations revealed that many of the foreign sex workers residing at the Royal Hotel speak French and other central African languages, such as Bemba and Nyanja. The foreigners we spoke to boastfully said being multi-lingual put them in a better position than their local counterparts as they could negotiate better. The 29-year-old sex worker we spoke to in Walvis Bay had a message for young Namibians: "The young people have to go to school and study instead of doing this business and suffering." As the old saying goes, there is no sweet without sweat, the sisters said getting involved in this trade does not only mean getting the dollar but there are dangers they face as well. A 27-year-old woman told a New Era journalist that on Sunday she got herself a Russian man and then had their "thing"‚ but afterwards the man demanded anal sex. As she refused his demands, the man strangled her, raped her, and took the money he paid before the act. She could not report the matter to the police, she said, adding nothing could be done since prostitution is not legalized in Namibia. "Sometimes we fight among ourselves and we are just tired of this life," she said. Prostitution is regarded in many African cultures as an evil and a woman who engages in it is called names and regarded as someone without self-respect. But, New Era has established the opposite - that the sisters have a lot to say about themselves and indeed respect themselves. At a price of fifty to a hundred or even two hundred dollars, or more, prostitutes attract local residents from all walks of life and an array of visitors that, while varying from town to town, generally embrace sizable numbers of sea workers, businessmen, politicians, and gamblers. Whether right or wrong, prostitution tends to be prevalent in societies where sex is repressed. The fact that prostitution is illegal may sometimes encourage it. It guarantees a measure of anonymity and silence, which may not otherwise be feasible. Although this reporter attempted to speak to men who buy sex favours from the ladies of the night, no man would admit in public that he makes use of prostitutes. At a local nightclub, Chez Ntemba, the ladies often end up in fights over customers, inside and outside the club.

Police manhandle innocent foreigners (The Namibian, 02/09):- Three Zambians and an Angolan national escaped with minor bruises on Tuesday after they were dragged from their car, pinned to the ground and kicked before being arrested by close to 10 AK 47-toting members of the Namibian Police's feared Task Force unit. The Hollywood movie-type action occurred at around 14h30 just as the four visitors' South African-registered Toyota Corolla stopped at a traffic light on the intersection of Davey and John Meinert streets, next to The Namibian's office in Windhoek. Perplexed staff of The Namibian and other onlookers stood in awe as they witnessed the swift incident which resulted in a five-minute traffic jam on the busy road. Soon after the officers whisked the four foreigners away. About 30 minutes later, the shocked group came to The Namibian's office to relate their ordeal after being released. We just saw them [the Police] jumping out of their vehicle and pointing guns at us. They pulled us and started kicking us without saying anything, said the group's spokesperson, Mike Mwenya, who was still trembling. This is really shocking experience. I never before encountered anything like this in any country. Mwenya said they were taken to the Windhoek Police Station where their travelling documents were checked and found to be in order before they were set free. They only thing they told us after this humiliating treatment was that they received wrong information about the colour of our car, Mwenya stated. The group did not lay a charge with the Police, but said they were planning to approach their High Commissions to lodge a formal complaint with the Namibian Government. Contacted for comment about the incident, Police spokesperson Chief Inspector Angula Amulungu said he was not aware of the incident. "If they [the victims] had laid a charge with the Police there would be a CR-number, but now it's hard to find out." The group, which arrived in Namibia on Monday evening from South Africa, was in transit to Zambia.

South Africa
South Africa, Zimbabwe to sign MOU on labour (Sapa, 30/09):- South Africa and Zimbabwe are to sign a memorandum of understanding on issues of employment and labour in Pretoria on Friday, the Labour Ministry said. The document is to be signed by Labour Minister Membathisi Mdladlana and his Zimbabwean counterpart Munyaradzi Paul Mangwana. The memorandum would cover issues relating to ex-Zimbabwean migrant workers employed on South African gold mines and Zimbabwean farm workers in Limpopo, the ministry said. Other issues will include labour dispute resolution, collective bargaining and social dialogue, labour law reform, labour market policies, occupational health and safety, and social security.

Minister visits centre for illegal immigrants (SABC News, 29/09):- South Africa is looking at easing border restrictions with neighbouring countries like Zimbabwe. This according to Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, the home affairs minister, is aimed at fighting the influx of illegal immigrants that flock to the country everyday, Mapisa-Nqakula said this whilst visiting the notorious Lindela detention centre which keeps foreigners due for deportation. "There are South Africans who are kept here... I have evidence to prove that, so please don't be defensive, it's a reality," she said. Mapisa-Nqakula met a South African woman destined for Zimbabwe tonight. Her sin, she alleges, because she could not bribe the police. Nomvula Zondo (22) hails from Escort in KwaZulu-Natal. She had been detained in the centre for two days. While the minister expressed her satisfaction at the overall running of the centre, she said a lot needed to be done by social welfare, police and home affairs to prevent a repeat of cases like Nomvula's.

11 000 police needed on SA borders (Pretoria News, 27/09):- South Africa needs 11 000 policemen to man its 53 border posts and patrol its border fences. So says National Commissioner Jackie Selebi, who undertook a tour of border posts between South Africa and Namibia and South Africa and Botswana including Nakop, Middelputs, Rietfontein and Gemsbok. Border post patrol used to fall under the South African National Defence Force but has now been moved to the police. "Everyone is complaining that our borders are too porous." "We must control them and ensure that people not wanted do not come in," said Selebi. "With increased terrorism worldwide, much more pressure had been put on governments to step up security. The responsibility is now on our shoulders and we are the best people for the job," he said. Selebi said the additional staff would have to be recruited by 2009 to help man the posts as well as patrol borderlines. The first batch of SAPS members to do this important job arrived at Upington earlier this month and have been in training. Among the skills they must learn are crime threat analysis, Global Positioning Systems, night shift equipment as well as the details of the Refugee and Immigration Act. There are currently 11 companies still deployed on the borders. Police have 36 members but will slowly start to take over each of the country's 53 border posts. He said border duty would be done in three-month stints.

South Africa losing skilled people ( Sunday Times, 23/09):- South Africa has lost a lot of skilled people to capital cities like Perth, New York, London and Vancouver, Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) chief economist Lumkile Mondi told reporters. Skills and the loss of skills were key areas identified by Mondi that were an impediment to the South African economy. "There is a huge skills gap in the country. We will never achieve a growth in gross domestic product (GDP) while we have this skills gap," Mondi said. Regarding affirmative action, Mondi said employment equity had resulted in black employees in skilled positions getting a premium, as black candidates for these positions were in short supply. "There is a (black) skills shortage so they are going to get paid a higher salary than their white counterparts - I can't see any problem with that," Mondi said. On the same issue of skills, Mondi said South Africa's immigration policies weren't structured to attract or allow for the import of skilled people. South Africa wasn't the only African country to see itself lose skilled people, Mondi said. "Nigeria has similar issues to us with a lot of Nigerians in London and New York," he added. South Africa needed to be in a position where it could attract skilled people and so that it could fight back when other countries "steal" its skill people, he added. "When they steal our people, we steal other people," Mondi said. Informal traders like those in down town Johannesburg needed to be moved and needed to be placed in a position to have jobs and skills, he stated.

Iranian doctors to work in SA's rural hospitals (BuaNews, 22/09):- The national health department is in the process of finalising a bilateral arrangement with Iran to allow Iranian doctors to work in rural health facilities in South Africa. The move is similar to the deal with Cuba, in which Cuban doctors are currently working in the country's rural areas. Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang announced this yesterday during her opening remarks at the three-day Health in the Rural Nodes Conference, held in the city's Ocean Conference Centre. The Iranian doctors would be working in rural nodes in the provinces of Limpopo, Mpumalanga and North West. Objectives of the conference include sharing lessons on rural development and also to develop a rural health strategy for South Africa. Dr Tshabalala-Msimang said apart from South Africa entering into agreements with other countries so that their doctors could come and work in rural areas, the health department had also facilitated for health professionals from other countries to work in rural and under-served areas. "We presently have about 80 doctors from the United Kingdom working in under-served and rural areas of South Africa so that they would gain exposure to the health challenges in developing countries," said Dr Tshabalala-Msimang. She also announced that an additional R37 million had been made available - through funding from the European Union - for technical support over three years to the 13 presidential rural nodes. "The difficulty in recruiting and retraining suitably qualified health professionals remains a major challenge in rural areas. We have adopted a recruitment and retention strategy that seeks to address the broader challenge of migration of health personnel from rural to urban areas, from public to the private sector and from South Africa to developed countries," she said. She said the department had allocated R750 million this year for rural and scarce skills allowances as part of the strategy to recruit and retain skilled health workers in rural areas and the public sector in general. Dr Tshabalala-Msimang said the budget for these allowances would increase to R1 billion next year. The rural allowance currently applies to 33 000 full-time health professionals, including professional nurses working in designated areas, she told conference delegates. The scarce skills allowance applies to 62 000 full-time health professionals in specified categories regardless of the geographic area in which they work. The allowances range from 10 percent to 15 percent of annual salary, depending on occupational category. This means that a medical doctor at an entry level working in a rural area with an annual salary of R150 000 would get a R15 000 rural allowance - which translates to 10 percent. Other occupational categories which include dentists, pharmacists, radiographers, speech and hearing therapists, occupational therapists, environmental health officers, dieticians, psychologists and physiotherapists, receive allowances that range between 8 percent and 22 percent of their annual salaries. This depends on the area and occupational category. As part of the government's bid to spread health care facilities to rural and under-served areas, the health department had introduced a one-year community service. "We started with the doctors, followed by dentists and pharmacists. Last year seven other categories of health professionals were introduced to community services. These are radiographers, speech and hearing therapists, occupational therapists, environmental health officers, dieticians, psychologists and physiotherapists. "The last category to be included in this programme are professional nurses who are due to start community service next year," she said.

Government to spend R1bn on rural health workers (Mail & Guardian, 25/09):- The government will spend R1bn in allowances to ensure health professionals are available in rural areas and the public-health sector, said Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang on Tuesday. "We have adopted a recruitment and retention strategy to address the broader challenge of migration of health personnel from rural to urban areas," said Tshabalala-Msimang, opening a conference in Durban on health in rural areas. She said the strategy would also address the problem of migration of workers from the public to the private sector and from South Africa to developed countries. Tshabalala-Msimang said the "rural and scarce skills allowances" amounted to R750m this year and would increase by R250m next year. The rural allowance applied to 33 000 health professionals, including nurses, working in designated areas while the scarce skills applied to 62 000 professionals in specified categories. "We are aware that sustainable solutions to the challenge of supply and distribution of health workers lie in our ability to produce and retain local health personnel in under-served areas," said Tshabalala-Msimang. From next year, she said all categories of health professional would be included in the compulsory community service programme, including nurses. She said the country was proud of the calibre of its health workers. "No wonder that several developed countries embarked on a poaching spree to attract our health care workers." She said discussions were held with Britain to help manage the flow of health workers between the two countries. "We are also opening opportunities for British health professionals to work in rural and under-served areas in South Africa for them to gain exposure to the health challenges in developing countries," Tshabalala-Msimang said. She also told delegates the government was finalising an agreement with Iran, as it did with Cuba, to import doctors to work in rural facilities. The government would spend a further R37m, funded by the European Union, in the next three years to improve facilities and services in rural areas.

Red tape ties up medical specialists (Sunday Times, 19/09):- South African doctors and nurses with top foreign qualifications are struggling to register here despite an acute need for their skills. Specialists who trained outside of the country are required to undergo an additional three years' training and write a local exam before they can be registered in SA, says the communications officer of the Health Professions Council of SA, Phephela Makgoke. Groote Schuur Hospital senior medical superintendent Dr Saadiq Kariem said on Friday: "We often get affected by this. Sometimes these specialists have more experience and skill than our own graduates, but it is difficult to employ them." Stringent requirements to register with the council, red tape and delays deter specialists from working here. A specialist at Groote Schuur Hospital, who does not wish to be identified, has been struggling for months to get on the register. The specialist, with internationally accepted qualifications and experience in the UK and US, says: "How can the British recognise our training and we can't recognise theirs?" Until she gets on the register she must work at a junior level, earning an annual basic salary of about R156 500. She could be earning about nine times more in England, but wants to practise in Cape Town. A new departmental policy also increases the time that foreign-trained doctors are confined to the public sector from three to five years. Their skills are desperately needed in the public sector, which has been hit by falling specialist numbers. Their number dropped from 11.2 per 100 000 members of the population in 2000 to 8.9 last year. The council - with 1 297 foreign-qualified specialists out of nearly 10 000 on its register - denies that the registration process is onerous and inefficient. Makgoke says: "On average the application for registration as a specialist takes three months." Red Cross Children's Hospital CEO Dr Dennis Adams said they recruited doctors through the British Medical Journal this year. In June the hospital had only six out of 14 posts filled at a junior doctor level. But he is optimistic that a batch of foreign-trained doctors will be registered in time for the January intake. Nurses with foreign qualifications are also struggling to register with the SA Nursing Council, though there are about 42 000 vacant nursing posts in the public sector. Austrian-trained nurse Herman Angulo-Salom has abandoned attempts to work here after 18 months of frustration. Angulo-Salom says: "It is a shame, as South Africa needs more nurses. People are dying of Aids without basic care." When he applied to the SA Nursing Council last March, he ran into one obstacle after another. Only after he got a lawyer to take up his case did the council let him sit the required exam, on the legislative and ethical framework in SA. He did not pass. Council CEO and registrar Hasina Subedar said on Friday the process was a little cumbersome. The council was looking at "streamlining it to facilitate registration".

SA mulls scrapping visa requirements (Zimbabwe Standard, 19/09):- South Africa could soon phase out visa requirements for countries in the SADC region but may have to delay doing so for Zimbabwe, which is undergoing its worst economic and political crisis, official sources have said. They said the move to scrap visa requirements among SADC countries was aimed at promoting cross border trade and all countries in the regional bloc support the move. South Africa and Mozambique kick-started the initiative when the two countries announced on Tuesday they had abolished visa requirements for their citizens. Mozambique was one of the countries in the SADC regionwhose citizens endured stringent visa requirements imposed by South Africa in order to curb the illegal flow of immigrants into that country. Eden Reid, the third political secretary at the South African Embassy, confirmed that South Africa was working towards scrapping visa requirements for SADC countries. 'The South African government is in the process of reviewing our current visa policy and progress is at an advanced stage. South Africa hopes to conclude discussions with various stakeholders, including governments of the other Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) member states as soon as possible,' Reid said. He said relaxing of the visa conditions was a two-way process that should be reciprocated by all countries in the region. 'South Africa recognises that the principle of reciprocity should form the basis of our visa policy with all SADC member states and we are committed to maintaining the strong and friendly relations between South Africa and her neighbours, including Zimbabwe,' Reid said. Sources, however, said despite Pretoria finalising the technical aspects over the matter, Zimbabwe was not likely to benefit soon owing to fears of being flooded by illegal Zimbabwean immigrants. The sources said Zimbabweans might find themselves the only ones that would need visas to travel to South Africa unless Harare moved to address economic and political problems facing the country. 'Consultations are still taking place in the Department of Foreign Affairs over Zimbabwe and the South African government is concerned that if visa requirements are relaxed for Zimbabwe millions of illegal immigrants will cross the border,' the sources said. South Africa is hosting nearly two million illegal Zimbabwean immigrants, the majority of whom fled the country's economic problems while another large number fled the deteriorating political situation in the country. The sources said South Africa was concerned that they might be forced to handle an influx of Zimbabweans if visa conditions were relaxed before the parliamentary elections due in Zimbabwe next year. South Africa is Zimbabwe's second largest trading partner and thousands of Zimbabweans cross the Limpopo everyday to conduct business with their counterparts across the border. South Africa tightened visa restrictions for Zimbabwe in 2003 and now demands that visa applicants should pay a fee of R 1 000 and a further R 100 for their upkeep while in South Africa. Mozambican citizens, another source of immigration irritation to South Africa, were paying a fee of R430, which was non-refundable, if a visa was refused.

Finger printing solution to bogus marriages? (Cape Argus, 15/09):- The Department of Home Affairs is considering fingerprinting newlyweds in an attempt to stop fraudulent marriages. Addressing parliament's home affairs portfolio committee, Minister of Home Affairs Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said they were looking at ways to stop the problem of fake marriages between South African women and foreign men. Mapisa-Nqakula launched a "Check your Marriage Status" campaign last month after hundreds of South African women discovered they had been married to foreigners without their knowledge. Six weeks after the launch of the campaign, almost 29 000 people have approached Home Affairs offices to check their marital status. Almost 1 000 of them turned out to be allegedly fraudulently married, with Gauteng as a front-runner with 525 reports of fraudulent marriages out of 4 940 inquiries. In the Western Cape there were 40 cases of fake marriages from 3 441 inquiries. These figures were collected between August 4 and September 10. Last week police in Pretoria arrested a priest on charges of illegally sanctioning at least 600 fake marriages. Mapisa-Nqakula said the fact that many South African women were married without even knowing it was "a trauma we never prepared for". She said her department would "continue to fight this cancer" and urged women to check their marital status. She added that it was too early to say that all people that had checked their status so far were victims, because it was possible that people were taking advantage of this opportunity to get out of marriages, which would otherwise cost them money. People wishing to check their marital status can visit the Home Affairs website at or call the toll-free number 0800 10 1994 between 7.15am and 3.45pm.

Police ready to take over border control ( Sapa, 14/09):- The police are ready to take over border control from the army, they said on Tuesday. South African Police Service (SAPS) is ready to take over first phase of border control along the country's borders, police said on Tuesday. Speaking at Middelput, a post on the Botswana border, the police's divisional commissioner of operational response, Arno Lamoer, said the first group of police would be deployed on Monday. They were currently still receiving training at Upington in the Northern Cape. The first deployment of police will be between Middelput and Nakop on the Botswana and Namibian borders. The next phase of deployment would cover the whole Namibian border. Lamoer told journalists the police units along the border would us especially on combating international and organised crime. He said the deployment of police would not only control the border, but would also empower police officers as they would receive additional training. This includes intensive training in searching techniques, the identification of places of concealment, 4x4 training, relevant legislation and other skills. The police's new duties along these borders in Botswana and Namibia form part of the entry/exit strategy prepared by the SAPS and the SA National Defence after a cabinet lekgotla in 2002. That lekgotla decided to hand responsibility for border control m the SANDF to the SAPS. Lamoer said that the police would control the entire border by March 2009.

Migrant women at higher risks of HIV/Aids (UN Integrated Regional Information Networks, 14/09):- Rural women seeking work in South Africa's urban centres are as much at risk of contracting HIV as a their male counterparts, a new study has found. Research funded by the UK Department for International Development showed that HIV infection was higher among migrant women (46 percent) than non-migrant women (35 percent). The study, conducted in Carltonville, a small mining town about 50 km southwest of Johannesburg, aimed to identify risk factors for HIV infection among 834 women, mainly resident in the nearby Khutsong township. Whether they were married or single, migrant women showed a higher level of HIV infection, "suggesting that whilst migrant women are away from home they engage in sexual activities with multiple partners". Kangelani Zuma, co-author of the report, told PlusNews that migrant women were, in some cases, forced into sexual relations in exchange for shelter or security. "Having multiple partners can be seen as a strategy for economic survival during the migration period. Many of these migrant women do not have a place to stay when they arrive in the urban areas and are forced to have 'transactional sex' with a series of partners," Zuma explained. Condom use was also lower among migrant women than non-migrant women. "Because many of these women arrive with very little, they find themselves powerless and unable to negotiate safe sex," he added. According to the study, the risk of contracting HIV was affected by age, marital status and the use of alcohol. Women aged 35 years or younger and married or committed were at greater risk of HIV infection than those who were older or single. "Being older and single often meant the woman was more stable and less sexually active. But it must be pointed out that the use of alcohol in itself is not a risk factor, but rather the sexual risks a person is willing to take when under the influence of alcohol is cause for concern," Zuma said. The report noted that, given the "alarmingly high" prevalence of HIV and curable sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) among migrant women, urgent intervention was needed, which should address the social and economic factors promoting the spread of HIV. "There is a definite need for provision of services to treat STDs, and for educational and empowerment programmes that will promote condom use among migrant women," Zuma said. He recommended that migrant women be accommodated in "resettlement" areas catering specifically for families. "Much is being done for migrant males to ensure that they can bring their wives and children to the hostels in the city. The same should be undertaken for these women who leave home to seek work," he told PlusNews.

Mozambique, South Africa scrap visas (Sapa-AFP, 14/09):- Mozambique and South Africa have decided to abolish visas for their citizens visiting each other's countries, a senior Mozambican official said on Tuesday. A joint technical team is finalising arrangements so that the new system can come into force soon, even in as little as a month, deputy minister of foreign affairs and co-operation Francis Rodrigues said on Mozambican Television. The news has been warmly welcomed in Mozambique as it will end years of stringent visa requirements imposed by South Africa to control illegal immigration. Visa restrictions were tightened in 2002 and included a high fee of R430 which was non-refundable if a visa was refused. Mozambicans were also required to present large sums of money to show they would be able to cover their living expenses in South Africa.

High court rules in favour of detained foreign children (SABC News, 14/09):- The Pretoria High Court has ruled that the detention of foreign children at the Lindela and Dyambo repatriation centres is unlawful.  This follows an application by Lawyers for Human Rights and the University of Pretoria's Centre for Child Law. In her ruling, Judge Annemarie de Vos castigated government officials for failing to act in accordance with the constitution. She has called for the immediate release of about 30 children.

Billions lost as doctors flee SA (Sunday Times, 12/09):- South African taxpayers have spent R5-billion training 11 000 doctors who are now registered in the UK, US, Canada and New Zealand. And the rate of exodus has accelerated. The country is one of the leading suppliers of doctors to developed countries - at a cost of about 12% of the current health budget of R39billion. The Lancet medical journal estimates it costs about R500 000 to train a doctor. Highly trained and in demand because they speak English, the number of SA doctors registered to work in these four countries amounts to nearly a third of the 32 000 registered in SA. Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang has already secured a guarantee from British Health Secretary John Hutton to tighten regulations allowing recruitment from developing countries. Medical registers for foreign countries showed this week that: - Some 3 334 SA-trained doctors and 9 282 UK graduates joined the British medical register last year; - More than 6 000 SA graduates appear on the British register; -. There were 1 953 South African doctors registered in Canada in January, while 831 worked in New Zealand last year; and - Almost 2 000 physicians from SA were on the American Medical Association database in 2002. Professor Dave Sanders, director of the School of Public Health at the University of the Western Cape, said the figures seemed to indicate the migration of doctors was accelerating. But he said: "There has, for a long time, been a significant migration of SA doctors to the UK, North America and Australasia," adding that more doctors might have gone than official records reflect as they often did not inform the Health Professions Council of SA when they left the country. Improved working conditions, pay, opportunities for training and professional support would give doctors increased incentives to stay in the country, Sanders said. But he added that it was more difficult to prevent doctors being lured abroad by higher salaries, less demanding working conditions and a First-World lifestyle. Physicians for Human Rights said in a recent report that governments had "to redress second-class health systems" to stop the brain drain from Africa. The Commonwealth has adopted an International Code of Practice on the Ethical Recruitment of Health Workers and the World Health Assembly has embraced a similar resolution. However, Sanders pointed out such codes were difficult to enforce. South Africa supplied the second highest number of overseas-trained doctors to New Zealand after Britain, and the second-highest number of African graduates to the US after Nigeria. Numbers could not be obtained for other countries including Australia but hundreds work there. The Department of Health is developing a human resources strategy to tackle the critical shortages of staff in the public health sector, where 31 % of posts are vacant. Head of human resources Dr Percy Mahlathi conceded that both pay and working conditions in the public sector had contributed to the exodus of doctors and other professionals. Mahlathi said: "It is not mainly money but making sure services are friendly to the professionals, as well as the patients." While agreeing that poor working conditions and pay were problems, the SA Medical Association (Sama) identified a hostile attitude from the top as a barrier to retaining doctors. Sama president Dr Kgosi Letlape said: "Health professionals feel threatened by authorities and not recognised.

South Africa accused of asylum bar on Zimbabweans (The Guardian, 09/09):- The South African government is denying thousands of Zimbabwean refugees their right to political asylum, says a report published today by Refugees International. "Genuine refugees are prevented from getting asylum," said Andrea Lari, a researcher for the organisation. "In many cases, Zimbabweans cannot even get into the appropriate office to apply for asylum. These people are being denied their rights." Mr Lari said up to 50,000 Zimbabweans were eligible for asylum. "Of the 5,000 applications filed by Zimbabweans to date, fewer than 20 have actually received political asylum in South Africa," he said. "Even more troubling is the fact that few Zimbabweans are able even to apply for political asylum." More than 2 million Zimbabweans are currently sheltering in South Africa - about 15% of their country's population of 13 million. Although Zimbabweans have sought work in South Africa for decades, the numbers have swollen greatly in recent years since the economic collapse presided over by President Robert Mugabe. Most of those in South Africa are economic migrants, without claims to refugee status. But thousands have fled because they are victims of state violence and torture and they fear more persecution. South Africa is obliged by law to grant political asylum to those who have a reasonable fear of such violence. But Refugees International says South African officials are preventing Zimbabweans from gaining their rightful status. Several Zimbabwean refugees told the Guardian that they were often chased away from refugee reception centres by guards with whips. "The guards say, 'We don't want to see you Zimbabweans here. Go away!' They whip us and beat us until we run away," said one man, who said he had been tortured in Zimbabwe. Refugees International is also critical of the office of the United Nations high commissioner for refugees (UNHCR) for "failing to advocate for Zimbabweans' right to protection". It adds: "UNHCR staff in South Africa downplay the political crisis in Zimbabwe and show a marked tendency to dismiss the legitimacy of Zimbabweans' overall case for asylum, making a minimal effort to provide direct protection." A regional UNHCR official said: "We know there is work to be done to make sure all Zimbabweans can access the refugee procedure. That is true for people of other nationalities seeking asylum here, too." A senior South African immigration official admitted there were problems in the way the government dealt with the flood of Zimbabwean refugees. But steps were being taken to improve the situation. "We agreed with the UNHCR to catch up with the backlog of cases of Zimbabweans seeking asylum," said Barry Gilder, director general of South Africa's department of home affairs. "We are taking steps to counter corruption, and we have just agreed to set up new refugee reception centres, including one in Musina, near the border with Zimbabwe."

Court asked to help foreign children (Pretoria News, 09/09):- The Pretoria High Court was yesterday again asked to step in to resolve the predicament of foreign children who, without parental custody, are detained at Lindela Repatriation Centre and at Dyambo Place of Safety in Krugersdorp. The Centre for Child Law has fought an ongoing battle in order to ensure that these children receive fair treatment and to find a long term solution on how to deal with children who have fled to South Africa. The centre, with the aid of Lawyers for Human Rights,complained in an urgent application yesterday about the Department of Social Development's failure to bring foreign children, who are in the country unaccompanied, before the Krugersdorp Children's Court. Ann Skelton, of the centre, said in papers before court that the matter was urgent as 13 children had been held in detention at Dyambo since February this year. She said they were under the impression that they were being punished and added that their prolonged detention had led to some of them trying to escape, while others threatened suicide. There was even a stabbing incident. "For these reasons it is imperative that Children's Court inquiries are finalised in respect of each child," Skelton said. She added that the Department of Social Development had made no attempts to bring the children before court in order to investigate their circumstances. The court earlier interdicted Home Affairs from deporting children under 18 held at Lindela who were without parental custody, pending an investigation into their circumstances. A curator was also appointed to investigate the situation and to make recommendations to court. The court at the time ordered that the minors, in the interim, be held at a place of safety and not among adults at Lindela. But Skelton stated in papers before court yesterday that some children were still being detained at Lindela. She said this was "extremely worrying" as it indicated that the police and Social Development were not acting in accordance with the provisions of the Child Care Act. A curator's report revealed "startling facts" regarding the way in which children were repatriated from Lindela, Skelton added. She said these included that children are loaded into trucks, taken to train stations and transported to their country's border, where they are taken to the nearest police station. Judge Annemarie de Vos ordered that the 13 foreign children held at Dyambo must, within five days, be brought before the Krugersdorp Children's Court to conduct inquiries into their personal circumstances. Regarding the children held at Lindela, the judge ordered that a list of their particulars had to be compiled and that they had to be removed and taken to a place of safety. They must also be brought before the Children's Court. The police may not, when arresting an unaccompanied foreign child, take him/her to Lindela without the Children's Court first dealing with the child. De Vos said she would give reasons on Monday for her judgment.

Deportations of Mozambicans continue (Agencia de Informacao de Mocambique, 08/09):- Despite attempts to persuade Mozambicans living in South Africa to show their faces and register as voters, the South African police have continued to deport Mozambicans alleged to be illegal immigrants. According to the governor of Maputo province, Alfredo Namitete, about 1,200 Mozambicans were repatriated from South Africa on Tuesday, just 24 hours after the start of voter registration among the emigrant communities. An angry Namitete told reporters that the deportation might be a deliberate attempt to disorganise the voter registration. This conspiracy theory seems unlikely - for the South African authorities deport hundreds of Mozambicans every week, usually taking them by train to the Ressano Garcia border post. The exercise is expensive and futile, since most of the deportees do not stay in Mozambique, but take an early opportunity to cross back into South Africa. Radio Mozambique reported on Tuesday that some of the many "illegal" Mozambicans in South Africa are unwilling to visit the voter registration posts, for fear that the South African police will be waiting there, and will arrest them. South Africa has far and away the largest community of Mozambican emigrants. Of the 300,000 emigrants expected to register as voters, half of them are in South Africa. In most countries covered by the registration, Mozambicans must visit the embassies and consulates to register. But in South Africa there are 17 registration posts and many of them are located where Mozambicans work: six of them are at gold mines that employ a large number of Mozambican miners. Filipe Tovela, a representative of the emigrant community in South Africa, told the radio it was untrue that the South African police would make use of the registration to seize illegal migrants. He said that efforts were under way, through the South African media, to urge all Mozambicans living in South Africa, whatever their legal status, to register to vote. "The important thing is to have a Mozambican passport or identity card", he said. "Whether they're in South Africa legally or not is a separate issue".

Priest arrested for conducting fake marriages (Sapa-AFP, 07/09):- South African police have arrested a local priest for conducting at least 600 fake marriages between foreigners seeking South African nationality and unsuspecting local women, a police statement said Tuesday. Hendrik Uys Jansen, 39, who was also a registered marriage officer, conducted "at least 600 fake marriages" since 2003, at his home in Pretoria, the statement said. "We have reason to believe that Jansen is part of a syndicate operating countrywide," the police said. "This arrest follows several other recent arrests nationwide as part of the ongoing investigations into these syndicates," it added. Jansen has been remanded in custody and is expected to appear in court next Tuesday. South Africa has been rocked by recent reports that more than 3,000 women have, unbeknown to them, been married off to foreigners in a scam involving corrupt home affairs officials helping men from Africa, Asia and Latin America stay in the country. Flooded by complaints from women who find out they have tied the knot without consent, the government launched a campaign last month to encourage local women to check their marital status and report missing identity documents immediately. The nationwide campaign complete with television ads and posters is advising South African women to visit their local home affairs office where a special desk has been set up to handle the status checks. A total of 3,387 complaints have been filed since 2001 by women who have been married to foreign nationals from Nigeria, Egypt, Pakistan, China, India and Brazil who allegedly paid about 5,000 rand (670 euros) for a marriage certificate that gives them residency rights.

Harrowing tale of police treatment (Cape Argus, 05/09):- Young Memory Moyo witnessed the horror of her village being burnt and destroyed by President Robert Mugabe's notorious youth militias. She witnessed her young friends being raped and tortured by the youths known as Green Bombers. She decided to flee Zimbabwe after fighting off several attempts to rape her. She says she never expected a life of milk and honey on coming to Johannesburg. After Home Affairs authorities issued her with an Asylum Seeker's Temporary Permit which allows her to stay and work in South Africa, she had hoped the income earned from plaiting women's hair would allow her the basics of survival. But now the 19-year-old Moyo says her life in Johannesburg has become "hell on earth" thanks to the South Africa Police Service (SAPS). "We (Zimbabwean refugees) seem to have become a lucrative industry for the SA police," said an angry Moyo shortly after her recent release from the Lindela refugee holding centre near Johannesburg. "They (SA police) are just as cruel as Mugabe's notorious militia. They arrest us and demand bribes or sexual favours in exchange for not being deported." Moyo has been arrested several times even though she holds the temporary asylum permit, the most recent arrest was following yet another police swoop on illegal immigrants in and around Hillbrow. She claims police officers tore up her permit and loaded her into the back of a police truck bound for Lindela, where arrested immigrants are held pending deportation. She was told she could avoid deportation if she had sex with each of the four police officers and paid a R400 bribe. "I refused both options and they offloaded me at Lindela and urged my deportation. They did not even mention that they had torn up my temporary refugee permit and I was not an illegal immigrant." She was held for four days and her deportation papers were ready when a sympathetic immigration official finally listened to her story. Her name was checked against the department's computer files which confirmed that she had been granted the temporary asylum permit. She was released. Several Zimbabwean political refugees who have been returned to Zimbabwe have allegedly disappeared after being accused of "treachery". Despite the risks Moyo says she has decided to go public with her story to expose "the sadistic" ways of the SA police with desperate young Zimbabwean girls. She says many of her friends who have fled to Johannesburg have become "unofficial wives" of policemen here. She claims they are arrested, driven to dark areas where they are forced to have sex with several officers at a time to avoid deportation. While some have legitimate refugee permits, many others don't and the wait to get them is often a long one. "The police don't differentiate between who holds an official permit and who does not. They harass everyone," says Moyo. "While it is their legitimate duty to fish out and deport illegal immigrants, it's high time they were stopped from abusing their powers and victimising hapless girls and women. "They (the police) say it's them who have the power to decide who should live in South Africa and who should not and don't care about Home Affairs permits," says Moyo. "In the end, it's either you pay them or submit to sex or both. This has become a nightmare world for us," says Memory. Another victim, Valentine Mpofu says she offered the police her cellphone in exchange for her freedom when they arrested her over a week ago. She did not have the bribery money and also resisted sex. "They refused the cellphone saying it would give them more work in trying to find a buyer. So they took me to Lindela for deportation," she says. "They had also asked me if I was a virgin or not saying they preferred to sleep with refugees who were virgins. I told them I wasn't and resisted their advances. Luckily I was not raped." At Lindela, Mpofu, 21, was also lucky to find a sympathetic immigration official who checked her name against official records and found her to be a legitimate refugee. She gave her a permit to go back to Rosettenville or Pretoria to replace the temporary asylum seeker's permit destroyed by the police. It's not always easy to find sympathetic immigration officials at Lindela says Mayibongwi Nkosi, 22, another Zimbabwean. "Most (immigration officials) don't listen to the cries of refugees and will simply process papers and deport you," says Nkosi. Nkosi says the refugees deported back to Zimbabwe are accused of betraying Mugabe while in South Africa. They are taken to militia torture camps where many are raped and some are killed. "While we are here, it's difficult to maintain regular contact with home because we don't have resources. So our families think we are safe here," she says. Nkosi said the third time she was arrested, she was one among 20 other people. By the time they reached Lindela, only nine remained; the others had paid bribes to the officers and were dropped along the way. The Zimbabwean interviewees claimed a lot of abuses also took place on the train transporting deportees to the Zimbabwe border. They said women and girls are sexually abused in one of the coaches in the train reserved for staff. The situation was even worse for Zimbabwean men who were accused of being "thieves who are killing South African policemen and committing robberies." Apart from paying bribes, the men often endure heavy beatings and abuse. Two young Zimbabwean male refugees who did not want to be named said the police often told them that Zimbabwe was not at war and that they should go back. "We tell them that what's happening in Zimbabwe amounts to war. They hardly listen," said one of the men. He said he saw no point in SA authorities issuing temporary asylum permits if the police trashed them. Only 12 Zimbabweans have reportedly been given full asylum despite hundreds of thousands of applications. An estimated three million Zimbabweans are now living either legally or illegally in South Africa. What all these refugees now want is for President Thabo Mbeki to institute an inquiry into the abuse of refugees and temporary asylum seekers by SA authorities including probing the "inhospitable and horrible" conditions at Lindela where they say inmates are fed at most one or no meals per day. They say they did not flee to South Africa out of choice but because of political hardships which South Africans should understand. They said the behaviour of SA authorities flies in the face of international conventions for refugees. Lungelo Dlamini, the spokesman for the SAPS in Gauteng, said the police had dealt with cases of alleged corruption involving the police and immigrants but emphasised that there was little the SAPS could do unless the victims came forward to report their grievances and backed them with evidence. He said if they were afraid to report to the police stations in person but felt they had compelling evidence, the victims could write letters to the Commissioner of Police detailing their cases or to station commanders at various police stations and these would receive due attention. "We do have complaints of police corruption and we deal with them from time to time. Although the complaints are of a general nature, we have indeed received corruption complaints relating to police and illegal immigrants," said Dlamini. He said the SAPS would prosecute officers caught soliciting bribes or abusing immigrants if the allegations were backed with evidence. Dlamini also encouraged refugees to report any forms of abuse to their respective embassies in Pretoria, an option that seems totally out for Zimbabwean political refugees here.

Commonwealth protocol to control teacher poaching (UN Integrated Regional Information Networks, 02/09):- South Africa's largest teachers' union welcomed a decision by Commonwealth countries on Thursday to clamp down on the poaching of educators from developing countries. Education ministers of 23 Commonwealth states this week agreed to a series of measures that will guide the process of international teacher recruitment. The Commonwealth protocol does not ban recruitment from developing countries altogether, but is intended to end the organised targeting of poorer countries by wealthier ones seeking teaching staff. Teacher organisations in South Africa have criticised British recruitment agencies for poaching, saying that the financial rewards they offer have led to an exodus. South Africa, which remains the largest provider of teachers to Britain, has been losing an estimated 1,492 educators a year, followed by Zimbabwe at 268. "We fully support the Commonwealth decision. Developing countries spend vast amounts of money on teacher training, only to lose some of our best educators to richer countries. The flight of these skills has been very detrimental to the country's effort to improve literacy rates," John Lewis, a spokesman for the South African Democratic Teachers Union, told IRIN. While the attractive financial rewards offered in countries like the United Kingdom remained a key "push factor", local teachers also sought better working conditions. On average,  teachers in South Africa earn about Rand 8,300 (US $1,300) per month. "The pull of the pound certainly has a lot to do with why teachers opt to work in the UK, but many also are lured by promises of improved working conditions in British schools. This has proven to be untrue, with a number of teachers ending up in poorly maintained schools in the inner city," Lewis noted. Under the protocol, countries experiencing an exodus of teachers may request states employing their nationals to discuss the problem, while governments receiving high numbers of teachers from other countries will agree to provide them with extra training and support to boost the education systems of their home countries when they return. "SADTU has always maintained that host countries should give something back to the developing countries providing them with these teachers. Ongoing teacher training is essential, as well as ensuring that these teachers are unionised, which protects them from being exploited," Lewis added. Meanwhile, South African teachers across the country went on strike this week after rejecting the government's revised benefits offer. Although the government revised its offer to raise salaries from 4.4 to 5.5 percent, plus a 1 percent pay progression, it did not meet SADTU's demand of 7 percent from an intital 10 percent. Lewis told IRIN: "Fair remuneration remains our biggest contestation with the government. Since 1996 teachers have received restrictive salary adjustments, limiting salary increases to inflation only. The education ministry has said it would commit funds to address the eight-year backlog in promotions, based on time served." The teachers' strike has received support from the medical unions, who have been equally vocal about poor salaries and inadequate working conditions. Recent statistics show that 2,366 nurses left South Africa last year to fill vacant nursing posts in Britain, and a further 1,101 have followed them since January 2004.

Escalating number of Asians (Times of Swaziland, 13/09):- The issue of the escalating number of Asians in the country is now in Cabinet for discussion, as it is feared that they are now filtrating the local market with counterfeit goods like cigarettes and compact discs. According to the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Mabili Dlamini, not only does this int1ux lower the quality of goods in the country but it is also causing a 'headache'. "Citizens ofthe country are spending their hard earned cash on fake goods in most of the operations," Dlamini noted. According to Olamini the Minister of Enterprise and Employment Lutfo Dlamini is also aware of the issues raised surrounding this matter. A request has also been forwarded to cabinet to look into the matter that Mabili referred to as "Asianisation" of the country. "While I strongly feel that free enterprise is what we should all stand for we also have to set certain standards for those businesses to operate well," he said. The general concern is the smuggling and trade in counterfeit goods, which includes compact discs, cigarettes, audiocassettes, clothing and footwear. "We are aware that the ministry responsible for intellectual property rights, the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs is reviewing the legislation with regards to trademarks and copyrights," Said Dlamini. Furthermore, he stated that trade in counterfeit goods adversely affects the genuine manufactured goods and is moreover deceptive to the consumer. On the other hand, Mabili noted that the int1ux of the Asians also hinges on the issue of National Security. Mabili pointed out that it is the duty of the country to guarantee security to not only the citizens of the other country pointing out that security should be guaranteed to all people making an example of the Ambassador of the United States of America.

Tanzania booming: Record number of tourists this season (Express online, 08/09):- Tanzania has recorded a never-reached number of tourists since the start of the new tourism season, three months ago, a feat that tourist business stakeholders attribute to peace, security and highly motivated marketing strategies. The number of tourists visiting the northern wildlife parks rose sharply between June and August, pushing bookings in leading tourist lodges ahead to January next year. Executives of various tourist companies in Arusha have attributed the increasing number of visitors to aggressive marketing and promotional campaigns overseas, which have been coordinated by the Tanzania Tourist Board (TTB), and key departments in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, led by Minister Zakia Meghji, in collaboration with private business stakeholders. As a result of the current flow of tourists into Tanzania, almost all hotels inside the wildlife parks are fully booked while additional, luxury tented camps have been moved to offer more accommodation to the visitors. Five out of 11 lodges and hotels inside key wildlife parks are reported fully booked for the rest of this year. Tarangire, Lake Manyara, Ngorongoro and Serengeti wildlife parks form the core of Tanzania’s tourism industry, attracting over 80 per cent of visitors a year. Northern Tanzania has a tourist capacity of 13,400 rooms in leading hotels and lodges. New tourist lodges and resorts are springing up in northern Tanzania to add more rooms for the holidaymakers visiting the wildlife parks and Mount Kilimanjaro. Leading hotels and safari lodges that accommodate most safari makers are Lake Manyara Hotel and Lake Manyara Serena Lodge (outside Lake Manyara National Park), Tarangire Sopa Lodge (Tarangire National Park) and Ngorongoro Wildlife Lodge, Ngorongoro Crater Lodge, Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge and Ngorongoro Serena Lodge (inside Ngorongoro Conservation Area). Other prominent lodges are Serengeti Sopa Lodge, Serengeti Safari Lodge (Seronera), Serengeti Serena Lodge and Lobo Lodge, which are operating in Serengeti national park. Each lodge are fitted with 65 to 75 double bed rooms. Big hotels in Arusha Municipality are Mount Meru, the Arusha Hotel, Equator, Impala, Ngurdoto Mountain Lodge and Hotel Seventy-Seven (Hotel 77). These hotels have rooms ranging between 100 and 200 with single and double beds. The managing director of Unique Safaris Ltd., a specialist tour operator for the American and British tourists, Hussein Hamisi, said his company was driven to establish more camping sites and introduce additional facilities to accommodate its clients who are currently visiting northern Tanzania. “We need more lodges and camping sites that would help to accommodate more visitors in future,” he said. The executive secretary of the Tanzania Association of Tour Operators (TATO) Mustapha Akunaay told The Express that the increasing number of tourists was a result of marketing and promotional strategies outside Tanzania. He said that his association members are well informed of the global challenges in tourism, and have been working hard to market Tanzania as the best tourist destination in Africa. “We in the tourism industry know what to do, and we ensure our clients get the attractions promised as well as quality services from us,” Akunaay added. Akunaay said the on-going tourist flow has indicated market competitiveness, which suggests a positive growth for Tanzania’s tourism industry and the quality of services offered to high-class visitors. “I think it is time all stakeholders think of putting more investments in hotels and lodges to meet the accommodation requirements of our visitors,” he told this paper. Chief Tourism Manager for Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority (NCAA) Bernard Murunya said: “In Ngorongoro, things are good. Tourism is very good here. There are a growing number of tourists visiting this site everyday.” TATO has projected the number of tourists visiting Tanzania will rise from 575,235 in 2002 and 595,000 tourists last year, to 700,000-plus visitors by the end of this year. Likewise, Tanzania is the fastest growing tourist destination in Africa, competing hard with South Africa, Botswana and Kenya after a tourism slump hit Zimbabwe – the once leading destination in Southern African region. Tanzania is still considered a relatively expensive destination, but has been getting high-class visitors from the world’s leading travel markets – the United States and the United Kingdom.

Cross-border traders object to body checks (Times of Zambia, 22/09):- The Cross-Border Traders Association is concerned over rampant physical checks its members are being subjected to at Zimbabwean borders when importing goods from South Africa. Chairman-general, Misheck Musonda, charged in an interview yesterday that the checks were often unnecessary and bordered on harassment. Mr Musonda, however, attributed the development to false declaration of imported goods by people masquerading as members of his association. “There are some people who are not our members who give false declarations of imported goods and destinations where such goods will be sold,” Mr Musonda said. He called for stiffer penalties against the individuals behind the practice. He also complained about the high tariffs and Value Added Tax that association members were being charged, saying the development adversely affected small scale business. Mr Musonda said that cross-border traders had recorded an increase in the exports of sugar, maize, cement and cables from Zambia Metal Fabricators to Kenya, Malawi, Zimbabwe and the Democratic Republic of Congo. He said this would lead to employment creation and overall economic development. Also registered is an increase in importation of blankets and clothes from South Africa, bananas from Zimbabwe and potatoes from Tanzania.

More funds needed to repatriate Angolans (UN Integrated Regional Information Networks, 20/09):-
The UN's refugee agency, UNHCR, and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) have launched an appeal for additional funds to complete this year's scheduled returns of Angolans from Zambian settlement camps. The US $1.8 million appeal was launched last week after the Zambia-Angola-UNHCR Tripartite Commission for the Organised Voluntary Repatriation of Angolan Refugees met in Lusaka to discuss the slower pace of repatriation this year. UNHCR and the IOM had initially planned to repatriate about 40,000 Angolans from Zambia during 2004, but this was subsequently revised to 33,593, of which about 10,000 have so far gone home. IOM's Duc Tran said his organisation, contracted by the UNHCR to transport the refugees, had only managed to raise enough funds to repatriate 26,000 Angolans from Zambia this year. "We had planned US $18 million ... to repatriate 20,000 in 2003, followed by 40,000 this year - but we did not even get half the amount required," he said. IOM received a little over $8 million from donors for its two-year programme. IOM requires an additional $1.8 million to repatriate an intended 32,245 out of the 33,593 refugees. The remaining 1,348 will return home with the UNHCR's assistance, the agency's Angola spokesperson, Fernando Mendes, told IRIN. Tran said the initial lack of reception centres for the returnees in Huambo, in Angola's central highlands, and Lumbala N'guimbo in the eastern province of Moxico, had delayed the repatriation process. Mendes responded by saying, "We are increasing our capacity to receive the refugees, but we have also been hampered by the demining process, bad roads and bridges damaged during the years of civil war in Angola." A UNHCR spokesperson in Zambia, Kelvin Shimo, noted the "fact that we did not have access to towns like Huambo and Lumbala N'guimbo prevented many Angolans from registering initially. Now that we have opened the routes to more towns besides Cazombo [in Moxico], the process has picked up." More than 200,000 Angolans sought refuge in Zambia during almost three decades of civil war between the government and the rebel movement, UNITA, which ended in 2002. According to the Angolan government, 70,000 refugees had returned home under their own steam since the ceasefire. Shimo said at least 10,000 to 15,000 Angolans in refugee camps in Zambia were unlikely to return on completion of the voluntary repatriation process in 2005.

Pace of Angolan returns from Zambia slower than expected (UNHCR, 17/09):-
Logistical problems have slowed down the pace of refugee returns from Zambia to Angola, with only a fifth of the expected number repatriating so far this year, the UN refugee agency conceded on Friday. "The pace of returns in our voluntary repatriation programme to assist Angolan refugees from Zambia back home is proving slower than originally hoped because of continued problems of poor access by road, both from Zambia to Angola, and within the country," UNHCR spokesman Ron Redmond told reporters at a news briefing in Geneva on Friday. UNHCR started its second repatriation season to Angola in mid-June. It had planned to assist 40,000 Angolan refugees home from Zambia before the rainy season starts in November, but only 8,354 have returned so far this year. Zambia hosted a total of 71,420 Angolan refugees in camps and settlements at the start of repatriation season this year. Most of the returnees have gone home on UNHCR convoys through two land corridors – from Meheba in Zambia to Cazombo in Angola, and from Meheba to Luau and Luena in Angola. However, noted Redmond, "Angolan roads are in bad condition, bridges are broken and there are problems with landmines." Airlifts are used where areas of return are not accessible by road. There are currently two air routes – from Zambia's Mongu to eastern Angola's Lumbala N'Guimbo town, and from Mongu to Huambo in the central highlands of Angola. "Currently only one plane is operating the airlift and UNHCR is working with the International Organization for Migration to charter a second aircraft," said Redmond. He added that IOM said it could fly up to 20,500 refugees home but warned that the airlift may grind to a halt once heavy rains affect runway conditions in Lumbala N'Guimbo. UNHCR and the governments of Zambia and Angola are discussing these issues at a tripartite meeting now underway in Lusaka. Voluntary repatriation to Angola is also ongoing from Namibia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), with 2,161 returning on UNHCR convoys from Namibia and 9,906 from the DRC so far this year. To boost returns from these two major asylum countries, UNHCR plans to start an airlift from Namibia to Huambo next week, and to open another land corridor from the DRC to Uige province in northern Angola soon. In all, more than 100,000 Angolan refugees have been assisted home by UNHCR since the voluntary repatriation programme started in June last year. Another estimated 150,000 have returned to Angola on their own since the peace accords of April 2002 ended three decades of civil war. This leaves an estimated 200,000 Angolan refugees still in the DRC, Zambia, Namibia and the Republic of Congo, plus another 14,000 in South Africa and Botswana.

Editorial: Illegal migrants an embarrassment (Times of Zambia, 11/09):-
Zambians illegally migrating abroad are not only a source of embarrassment to the country but to their families as well. It is wrong and shameful for any straight-thinking and morally upright Zambian to end up languishing in jail in alien land for flouting immigration laws. Generally an illegal immigrant the world over is a source of worry for countless reasons, with crime ranking number one. Out of desperation to make ends meet in foreign countries illegal immigrants always find themselves at odds with the law. Weakened to points of hopelessness, illegal immigrants are capable of doing anything to bounce over to some comfort. Illegal women immigrants find themselves in circumstances where they are forced to use their bodies to made ends meet. Any self-respecting Zambian should, therefore, aspire to migrate properly and legally instead of being branded an illegal immigrant. The deportation of 14 Zambians from South Africa for illegally being in that country is a development that the authorities should address immediately. The deportees who were flown back on a chartered flight on Wednesday should not be let scot-free but taken to task over what led to their illegality in South Africa. Government through the immigration department should interrogate the deportees to establish the truth about their alien status and how they trekked to South Africa. Acknowledging that a good number of Zambians are abroad, the authorities should act swiftly to ensure that the country's image is not dented by irresponsible characters with nothing to offer. In comparison to other countries that are in the lead regarding the exportation of illegal immigrants Zambia has respect in the conduct of its citizenry at home and abroad. However, the deportation of the 14 from South apart from being a dent is a signal to the authorities to work out measures to avert further incidences of Zambians finding themselves in foreign prisons. Many who have been abroad will admit that most Zambians out there are better-off being at home and contributing to the development of the country. Zambians struggling to make ends meet in foreign lands would be better-off by accepting the living fact that there is no better place than home -- home sweet home. The pretence of being abroad tells its own story when the time comes to return home and sometimes forcibly as happened on the Wednesday deportations from South Africa. The diaspora would do well to accept that despite the journey being muddy and rough, Zambia shall one day get there. A timely reminder to Zambians abroad is that they should not be a source of embarrassment but part of the expedition to prosperity.

South Africa deports 14 Zambians (Times of Zambia, 11/09):-
The South African government has deported 14 Zambians from that country for staying there without proper immigration documents. And a 39-year-old Zambian farmer of Chisamba has been arrested for smuggling eight Malawians into the country. Immigration department spokesperson, Mulako Mbangweta, confirmed the developments in Lusaka yesterday. Ms Mbangweta said the 14 Zambians, who were flown into the country on Wednesday, were released by the department because they had no case in Zambia. She said the 14 were brought into the country on a chartered plane. Some of them were found working without valid documents. On the Chisamba farmer, Ms Mbangweta said the man had smuggled eight Malawians into the country in October last year and employed them to work on his farm. She said two of the eight Malawian workers who were now destitute, reported the matter to the Malawian high commission office who later reported the matter to the immigration department. The farmer had failed to pay them their wages. Ms Mbangweta said the farmer had now been charged with smuggling and employing the eight Malawians without valid papers. The farmer appeared in court, but denied the charge. He would appear in court again next Tuesday. In another development, the immigration department has arrested a man from Botswana who was found in possession of a Zambian passport as he was about to board a British Airways plane to Britain.

Rwandan refugees not willing to go back home (Times of Zambia, 11/09):-
Home Affairs Minister Ronnie Shikapwasha is sad that Rwandese refugees in Zambia are not willing to go back to their country on grounds that it is still unsafe for them to return home. Lieutenant-General Shikapwasha was, however, confident that the refugees would be willing to get back to their country once they had fully appraised on the peace obtaining in Rwanda. Gen Shikapwasha said during the Government Forum programme on Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC) Radio 2 programme yesterday that some Rwandan refugees had been sent there on a fact-finding mission. The minister said he was hopeful that once this team returned with the good news of peace, more refugees would be willing to get back and get involved in efforts of ensuring total peace in their country. He said the recent repatriation of refugees from Zambia had gone well except for some of the Rwandese who still felt that their country was insecure. “It is unfortunate that Government is having difficulties to ensure that Rwandan refugees are repatriated. They are giving reasons that security in that country has not yet improved when the opposite is true. “Government has since sent a team from amongst them to bring the correct information about the situation there and we hope this will make them eager to be taken back home,” Gen Shikapwasha said. The minister said the number of refugees in Zambia had declined with the total number standing at 208,795. He said of the total, about 115 refugees were from Angola, 2,200 from Burundi 712 from Somali, 6,300 from Rwanda, 734 from Uganda and while the rest were 8,757. Of the total, the minister said some were in refugee camps while a few had strayed to towns. Gen Shikapwasha said the refugees were being taken back home using buses and planes. “Angolan refugees are joyous people who are hoping to get back to till the land and help in enhancing development in that country. We are happy as Government for their zeal in wanting to get back home,” Gen Shikapwasha stated. For those that had got into businesses, the minister said it was okay for them to do so as they would be able to raise income and enhance their skills. He noted, however, that Government through the Immigration Department made sure that refugees did not set up businesses which Zambians could ably carry out. The minister hailed the donor support Government had received in regards to the refugees. On border security, Gen Shikapwasha assured the nation that all border areas were secure as officers had been deployed there to man them. He said apart from the security concerns in Kaputa where some Mai Mai rebels raided locals for food, the only other problem had to do with the Zambia-Namibia border where some Zambians had been shot for straying. Gen Shikapwasha said the situation was being dealt with through the joint permanent commission of the two countries and there was a programme to alert locals to the dangers of straying across the border. He also said government was working to improve its performance in the issuing of national registration cards and had released K1.7 billion for the exercise. On road traffic accidents, the minister said police were doing everything possible to ensure that unlicensed vehicles which posed as death traps were removed from the roads. He said officers would continue to undertake patrols to ensure that no defective motor vehicles were on the road.

Zambia, Malawi seal tourism deal (Times of Zambia, 07/09):-
Zambia and Malawi have signed a historic agreement that will see the creation of a new trans-frontier conservation area (TFCA) covering a total of 33,000 square kilometres. The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed at Chilinda, on Malawi's remote Nyika Plateau by Tourism, Environment and Natural Resources Minister Patrick Kalifungwa and Malawian minister of Information and Tourism, Ken Lipenga. According to a statement released in Lusaka yesterday by Mr Kalifungwa, the agreement was reached after a series of bilateral meetings facilitated by Peace Parks Foundation (PPF). Mr Kalifungwa said the proposed TFCA would consolidate Zambia's Nyika national park, Lundazi forestry reserve and Lukusuzi national park and Malawi's Nyika national park, Vwaza Marsh wildlife reserve and Kasungu national park. TFCAs are areas comprising two or more conservation areas that border each other across international boundaries. Some TFCAs already created in Southern Africa are the Great Limpompo trans-frontier park between Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe, the Kgalagadi trans-frontier park between Botswana and South Africa, and the Ai/Ais/ Richtersveld trans-frontier park between Namibia and South Africa. The Zambia/Malawi TFCA covers a large diversity of habitats and eco-systems ranging through Afromontane forests and high altitude grasslands on the Nyika plateau to marsh and wetlands, Miombo brachystegia and acacia woodlands and classical African Bushveld. It was expected that the final treaty establishing the Zambia/Malawi peace park would be signed in December next year by heads of state of the two countries. The two governments would approach international donor organisations to support the TFCA. And Dr Lipenga said TFCAs had potential to promote ecological, cultural and political processes. "Eco-systems divided by political boundaries can be reunited, cultural ties severed by borders can be re-integrated, agreements on collaborative management can contribute to political ties between states, " he said. Dr Lipenga noted that the occasion marked a significant step towards activating the SADC protocol on wildlife conservation and law enforcement to which the two countries were signatories. He said the Zambia/Malawi FTCA would help improve joint tourism opportunities, skills transfer and promotion of goodwill between the two countries. And PPF chief executive officer, Professor Willem van Riet said the signing of the MoU signified the beginning of a complete new era in conservation in Zambia and Malawi. Zambia/ Malawi TFCA coordinator Humphrey Nzima cited the potential in terms of institutional support, natural attractions and existing infrastructure to conservation.

Exodus of nursing professionals affecting health care (Times of Zambia, 03/09):-
First Lady Maureen Mwanawasa has said the exodus of nursing professionals to other countries is affecting health care services in Zambia. Mrs Mwanawasa said this during the 56th graduation ceremony of nurses and midwives at Chikankata Hospital in Mazabuka. She advised health workers not to leave Zambia for other countries because the move did not only hurt the economy but compromised self esteem. She urged the nurses to put Zambia first in their profession. And Health Deputy Minister Kapembwa Simbao has called on nurses to uphold a spirit of sacrifice in their profession, saying that nurses dealt with life, hence their need to put service before self. He said it was saddening to see nurses lose the grip of their profession and the trend of abandoning their duties had become common. Mr Simbao said nursing was a pro-service oriented profession and the country needs it to develop. He said Government was committed to enhance quality health service delivery in the country. Meanwhile, Mrs Mwanawasa has called on the Ministry of Community Development, non-governmental organisations and all stakeholders to assist in the promoting and re-establishment of the extended family system. She said that could be done by empowering those members of the family willing to look after children left behind by their beloved ones but were unable due to economic difficulties. She said stakeholders should direct financial and human resources to develop programmes and strategies that would alleviate the social problem brought about by the HIV/AIDS pandemic. The First Lady was speaking when she launched the ARV therapy at Muka Buumi clinic at the Salvation Army Chikankata health services yesterday. Mrs Mwanawasa noted that apart from poverty, Zambia had a challenge of high disease burden which include HIV/AIDS. She said the pandemic has continued to sap the economy, social and political gains achieved and there was need for every one to work together to fight the pandemic. And Salvation Army territorial commander Vinece Chigariro said the ARV therapy clinic was a source of hope for the community in Chikankata. Colonel Chigariro commended UNICEF, AIDS Health Care Foundation-Global Immunity, Centre for Infectious Diseases and American organisations for helping in setting up the clinic to fight HIV/AIDS and reduce its burden. Mr Simbao said the challenge of the disease was great and required concerted efforts in its fight. Mr Simbao said that Government was committed to the fight against HIV/AIDS by extending ARV therapy to rural areas.

Trafficking in girls continues unabated (Time of Zambia, 02/09):-
In December 1999, Zambia recorded it's first court case of trafficking in young girls for commercial sex exploitation when an Australian male was arrested at Chirundu border post allegedly trying to export five teenage Zambian girls to Australia for prostitution. Although the man was acquitted on grounds of inadequate laws to deal with such cases, many young people continue to fall prey to men that will deceive them with the promise of a better life outside their own countries. The trafficking of young girls for sexual exploitation has also helped in the spread of HIV/AIDS in young people as these are subjected to unsafe sex by their kidnappers. Child trafficking may be perceived by many as an African problem where so many young girls are keen to work in other countries to earn some money to better their livelihood. However many will be surprised to note that the problem is not an African problem alone but affects all continents especially with varying economic differences between neighbouring countries. Trafficking in persons is defined by the United Nations (UN) as " the recruitment, transportation, and receipt of a person for sexual or economic exploitation by force, fraud, coercion, or deception" in order to make profit. The UN estimates that up to four million people worldwide are trafficked worldwide each year for purposes including sexual exploitation, domestic servitude and forced manual labour. It is believed that organised criminal networks are heavily involved in this illegal industry, which is estimated to generate between US$ 7 to 13 billion each year. To combat these problems, Music Television (MTV) approached The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) for financial support and expertise on these issues. MTV which is probably the most popular music channel in both Europe and the United States (USA) and is slowly reaching the African continent through Digital Satellite Television (DSTV) is watched by millions of teenagers across the globe. It is because of it's vast coverage that SIDA awarded approximately US$3 million in grants for the project provided that the campaign messages for the initiative adapted to local cultures, and that the projects would involve collaboration with local television broadcasters, educators and community-based organisations. The two then launched two initiatives addressing HIV/AIDS and trafficking in persons with the aim of reaching youths in their own environment with messages that will raise awareness, change behaviors and attitudes, and increase prevention on both of these critical issues facing young people. The project includes the first ever-made for TV movie for MTV'S Staying Alive HIV/AIDS awareness campaign internationally, as well as the first-ever campaign of the MTV Europe Foundation, End Exploitation and Trafficking (EXIT) to combat the trafficking in persons specifically women for sexual exploitation. Both projects will be offered rights free at no cost to all TV broadcasters worldwide to get the messages of the campaigns out to the widest audiences possible. SIDA head of Southeast Europe division Per Byman said trafficking and HIV/AIDS hinder global development and strongly affect the lives of young people. "This is a matter of urgency, and we must act now. SIDA is using several approaches to facilitate the work of local organisations and governments on these issues," said Byman. "Trafficking has become an extremely critical human rights issue facing young people in Europe," commented Tom Ehr, director of the MTV Europe foundation. "Victims of trafficking are subject to serious abuses, including rape and torture, with women and girls particularly affected, through these programmes we hope to raise awareness and increase prevention of trafficking among young people in the world, as well as support Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO)s working to assist victims of trafficking," said Mr Ehr. Transit, (working title) will be a two-hour television film that uses fiction to deliver crucial HIV/AIDS prevention messages to young people. Co-written by Murilo Pasta and Nail MacCormick, the film explores the themes of emotion and sexuality in a candid and compelling manner to engage young people and encourage them to practice safer sex. Directed by Nail MacCormick and produced by Nikki Parrot, the film will be premiere on MTV next year on World AIDS Day which falls on 1 December 2005 as part of the MTV's international Staying Alive campaign. The project is being produced by MTV'S Richard Godfrey and Georgia Franklin. Launched in 1998, MTV"s award winning Staying Alive campaign seeks to help prevent HIV/AIDS by empowering the youth to protect themselves, fight stigma and discrimination, and engage businesses, media and organisations to form their own responses to HIV/AIDS. The campaign includes long-term programming, such as documentaries, concert events, discussion programs and made for TV movies, sexual behavior polls and public service announcements. with a Multi-lingual Web Site ( SIDA and MTV will work together to develop teaching materials related to the film to be available in schools and to any community-based organisations interested in adapting the materials for local use. Vice president of Public affairs, MTV Networks International Georgia Franklin said that more than half of all new HIV infections globally are aiming young people under the age of 25. "Through MTV's staying Alive Campaign, we are seeking new, compelling ways to communicate HIV/AIDS prevention messages to the youth, as well as to help with the stigma associated with the disease," said Franklin. He said Transit had provided MTV a great opportunity to partner with Sida on their first-ever made for TV film and adding a new component to their on-going Staying Alive activities around the world." MTV Networks International includes the premier multimedia entertainment brands MTV: Music Television, VHI, Nickelodeon, TMF (The Music Factory) and Game one. SIDA, is a Government agency that reports to the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. The goal of SIDA's work is to improve the standard of living of poor people and, in the long-term, eradicate poverty. Because both projects will be offered rights free at no cost to all TV broadcasters worldwide to get the messages of the campaigns,it is hoped that the two initiatives will spread among other issues the importance by governments in addressing issues relating to child trafficking and also highlight the danger signs to for in child kidnappers.

Tourists to Zimbabwe drop by a third (Sapa-Afp, 23/09):- The number of foreign tourists visiting Zimbabwe dropped by 36 percent in the first half of this year compared to the same time in 2003, the country's tourism promotion body said Thursday. The figures by the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) said the number of visitors dropped from 1.3 million in the first six months of last year to 827,245 this year. Zimbabwe has launched a campaign to attract tourists from China and other Asian countries after arrivals from its traditional European and other Western markets slumped in recent years due to the political upheaval in the southern African country. The figures, released to the ZIANA news agency, said most tourists came from South Africa, with some 255,975 visitors, followed by Mozambique with 186,759. Most overseas visitors came from the United States, said the ZTA, with around 23,300 or 15 percent of the total figure. There were 13,892 visitors from Britain, representing 13 percent, while China, which Zimbabwe had been eyeing, was placed third with 11,584 or seven percent of tourists. The number of arrivals from China represented a 245 percent increase over the same period last year. At its peak in the 1990s, tourism - notably to the spectacular northwestern Victoria Falls and the game reserves - brought in about 12.5 percent of Zimbabwe's gross domestic product (GDP) and employed 4.5 percent of the labour force. But tourists have been staying away from Zimbabwe since an economic and political crisis began four years ago. The government blames the slump in tourism on negative reporting by international media, tarnishing Zimbabwe's image.

Border jumpers accused of crime in Beitbridge (The Daily News, 14/09):- Residents here are blaming border jumpers who are caught and dumped at the Beitbridge police station by South African authorities for the rampant prostitution and high crime rate at the border town. The residents told The Daily News Online at the weekend that the border jumpers were responsible for high incidents of crime and prostitution in the town. "When they are dumped at the police station here, they will be broke and they are released without any money or travel warrants. That is why some of them end up resorting to crime and prostitution to raise money to go back home," said Fanos Gwendu of Dulibadzimu high density suburb. He said crimes such as house-breaking and pick-pocketing were rife in the town because there were lots of strange people being dumped in the town daily by South African police. Another resident who asked not to be named said the police were to blame for the current state of affairs in Beitbridge. He said: "Police must ensure that all those that are caught and  brought back to Zimbabwe are given travel warrants or money so that they can go back to their homes." Four tuckloads of Zimbabweans who cross the border into South Africa illegally are brought to Beitbridge police station everyday. Upon arrival at the police station, the border jumpers, as they are popularly know are just recorded in police books and released without any  form of assistance. While it was the men who resorted to theft and housebreaking, the women quickly turn to prostitution. The ladies found clients easily among the truck drivers who spend days at the border awaiting clearance by custom officials. "As you can see there are a lot of lodges here and booking houses where this business takes place," said Manuel Chikovo, a vendor who operates at Dulibandzimu bus terminus. A survey around the town showed that there were many, some of them charging hourly rates of $30 000 per room and $140 000 per night. A police officer at the station confirmed that they received  Zimbabweans from their South African counterparts every day but could not release crime statistics in the area without permission from his superior who was off duty. Thousands of unemployed Zimbabweans cross the border into South Africa  illegally in search of jobs. Although some of them succeed, others are arrested and held in holding camps such as Lindela in Johannesburg and later deported. An estimated 2.5 million Zimbabweans work and live in South Africa, most of them illegally.

Land reform displaced 150,000 farm workers (Zimbabwe Standard, 05/09):- More than 150 000 farm workers have been internally displaced after they lost their jobs since the beginning of the controversial land reform programme in 2000, according to findings of an assessment mission by Refugees International. Two researchers from the United States-based organization - Sarah Martin and Andrea Lariec - observed that "economic disruption, political intimidation and harassment" have resulted in the displacement of thousands of former farm workers. They note that, as conditions for the former farm workers deteriorated, the government was "imposing restrictions and preventing humanitarian agencies from providing them with assistance, resulting in a hidden crisis of internal displacement in the country". Since 2000, when the land occupations began, Zimbabwe's economic situation has deteriorated and food production has dropped, say the researchers. "Unemployment has spread rapidly. An estimated 78% of farm workers, who represented 25% of the national active working force, have lost their jobs. "This crisis has been caused by the poor implementation of the Fast-Track Land Reform programme by the government, compounded by regional droughts. "The government has implemented special political re-education programmes while impeding humanitarian access to organisations deemed to be part of the political opposition to consolidate their political strength in anticipation of upcoming parliamentary elections." Refugees International says former farm workers who spoke to them, told horrendous tales of how they were violently removed from farms during the land reform exercise. "The war veterans destroyed houses in order to push farm workers off the land and to ensure that they could not return. In some cases, people were ferried to communal areas or dumped at road sides," one former farm worker told Refugees International. However, Martin and Lariec say not all former farm workers were removed from farms by violent eviction and explain a different kind of 'displacement'. "Displacement is also due to economic conditions on the former commercial farms," say Martin and Lariec. "Some of the new settlers have been unable to farm their allotment of land due to lack of financial capital or lack of essential agricultural inputs. "Many of the new settlers refuse to or cannot pay minimum wage to farm workers." The assessors say some former farm workers accused new settlers of using intimidation, hunger, and other methods to get the farm workers to work for them in "slave labour" conditions. "In some case, new settlers ban access to NGOs that provide food assistance, telling farm workers, 'If you are getting food, you will be sent out of the farm'. "The majority of former farm workers have opted to stay on the farms or remain 'trapped' on the land. Those who have remained have few livelihood options and turn to other activities such as gold panning and hunting of game for commercial sales." One farm worker told the researchers: "My wife works for the new settlers to keep the peace and I pan for gold. Life on the farm is not good but I have nowhere else to go." Refugees International also observed that the deplorable living conditions on the farms are making farm workers "increasingly vulnerable". "Lack of sufficient food and access to basic services such as water and sanitation, healthcare and primary education have made the former farm workers that are trapped on the farms increasingly vulnerable. "It is estimated that there are 900 000 to 1,2 million orphans in Zimbabwe and an average of 12 orphans per commercial farm. Both orphans and children of former farm-workers are particularly impacted by the economic problems. "Besides insufficient food, children lack money for uniforms, supplies, and transport to schools. Some children have to work as casual labour on farms, performing tasks such as picking cotton or weeding crops to help support their families. "Orphans are usually the first to drop out of school for lack of funds. These orphans are vulnerable to exploitation as child labour." Older orphans drift to nearby cities and towns to make a living on the streets or as prostitutes. However, in the face of these rapidly growing levels of vulnerability, the government, both at national and local levels, is setting barriers to access for humanitarian agencies, says Refugees International. "By progressively reducing the operational space of humanitarian agencies, the government is preventing assistance from reaching those who need it.

Anonymous pauper burial for migrants (The Daily News, 02/09):- The number of foreign tourists visiting Zimbabwe dropped by 36 percent in the first half of this year compared to the same time in 2003, the country's tourism promotion body said Thursday. The figures by the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) said the number of visitors dropped from 1.3 million in the first six months of last year to 827,245 this year. Zimbabwe has launched a campaign to attract tourists from China and other Asian countries after arrivals from its traditional European and other Western markets slumped in recent years due to the political upheaval in the southern African country. The figures, released to the ZIANA news agency, said most tourists came from South Africa, with some 255,975 visitors, followed by Mozambique with 186,759. Most overseas visitors came from the United States, said the ZTA, with around 23,300 or 15 percent of the total figure. There were 13,892 visitors from Britain, representing 13 percent, while China, which Zimbabwe had been eyeing, was placed third with 11,584 or seven percent of tourists. The number of arrivals from China represented a 245 percent increase over the same period last year. At its peak in the 1990s, tourism - notably to the spectacular northwestern Victoria Falls and the game reserves - brought in about 12.5 percent of Zimbabwe's gross domestic product (GDP) and employed 4.5 percent of the labour force. But tourists have been staying away from Zimbabwe since an economic and political crisis began four years ago. The government blames the slump in tourism on negative reporting by international media, tarnishing Zimbabwe's image.