Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Zimbabwe News Update: Zambia Stands by Nation; State on Alert for Swine Flu

Zambia stands by Zim

Herald Reporter

ZAMBIA will continue to support Zimbabwe’s economic recovery efforts, visiting Zambian President Rupiah Bwezani Banda has said.

Speaking at a State banquet hosted in his honour by President Mugabe and the First Lady, Amai Grace Mugabe, at State House last night, President Banda commended his Zimbabwean counterpart for Government’s well-articulated economic recovery programme.

He assured Zimbabwe of Zambia’s continued support despite the negative effects of the global economic crisis, while reiterating that the illegal sanctions imposed on the country by a cabal of Western nations and their allies must be lifted immediately.

"I wish to re-affirm Zambia’s commitment to contributing to the Short-Term Emergency Recovery Programme in order to assist Zimbabwean brothers and sisters.

"Following the Sadc Extraordinary Summit in Swaziland, we are encouraging countries to lift sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe.

"The lifting of sanctions will help facilitate the implementation of the recovery programme," he said.

President Banda said he was impressed by the manner in which the political leadership had stuck to the tenets of the Global Political Agreement that created the inclusive Government despite the scepticism expressed by some Western countries regarding the success of the arrangement.

President Banda arrived in Zimbabwe yesterday afternoon on a four-day State visit that will see him officially opening the 50th edition of the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair in Bulawayo today.

President Banda, who is accompanied by his wife Thandiwe and family, was met at the Harare International Airport by President Mugabe, Amai Grace Mugabe and their children, Robert Jnr and Belamine.

Also at the airport to welcome the Zambian leader were State Security Minister Sydney Sekeramayi; Higher and Tertiary Education Minister Stan Mudenge; Media, Information and Publicity Minister Webster Shamu; Harare Metropolitan Province Governor and Resident Minister David Karimanzira; senior Government officials, service chiefs, diplomats and Zambians resident in Zimbabwe.

President Banda’s delegation includes Minister of Commerce, Trade and Industry Mr Felix Mutate; while Zambian Agriculture Minister Dr Brian Chituwo, Provincial Minister for the Copperbelt Mwansa Mbulakulwa, the Deputy Minister of Energy Gladys Lundwe and the director in the Ministry of Agriculture, Dr Watson Mwale, are already in Bulawayo for the trade fair.

President Banda was given a 21-gun salute at the airport — the highest honour that can be bestowed on a visiting head of state.

Presidents Mugabe and Banda will tour stands at the ZITF grounds before the latter officially opens the annual exhibition later today.

President Banda is also expected to travel to his birthplace in Vumba Chigwe Village, Gwanda District, in Matabeleland South.

At last night’s banquet, President Mugabe outlined the long history of co-operation between Zambia and Zimbabwe, a history dating back to the days of Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle.

"For these sacrifices and for your country’s support under very difficult circumstances, Zimbabwe will always remain grateful," he said.

He paid tribute for Zambia’s support during the inter-party talks that led to the formation of the inclusive Government.

"We recall with deep gratitude, that Your Excellency, as Acting President of Zambia, attended the signing of the Global Political Agreement on September 15.

"This is typical of the solidarity which your great country and people have always shown for Zimbabwe."

President Mugabe also took the opportunity to once again assure the nation of Zanu-PF’s commitment and determination to see the inclusive Government succeed.

"We may be experiencing a few teething problems in the process. This is normal in an arrangement of this nature.

"However, as you are aware, we have put mechanisms in place to deal with such problems and I am confident that these problems will soon be behind us," President Mugabe said.

He condemned the illegal economic sanctions, saying Government’s efforts to turn around the economy would be hampered by the continued existence of the economic embargo.

"This is precisely why Sadc, as well as the AU and many other progressive countries, have called for their (the sanctions) removal.

"With the signing of the GPA and the formation of the inclusive Government, one finds it difficult to understand the motivation of those who are still punishing Zimbabwe."

President Mugabe took time to condemn the ongoing political turmoil in Madagascar and the recent assassination attempt on Lesotho Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili.

Zimbabwe on high alert for swine flu

Herald Reporter

ZIMBABWE has increased surveillance at all entry ports of the country in the wake of the swine flu virus that has claimed over 160 people in Mexico and is said to be rapidly spreading across the globe.

In an interview yesterday, Health and Child Welfare Minister Dr Henry Madzorera said following the outbreak his ministry, with the assistance of partners who include the World Health Organisation country team, had deployed health teams at the country’s ports of entry to check for any suspected cases of swine flu (H1N1).

"At the moment we have no recorded cases of the flu, but as a precaution we have put a number of measures in place to detect the virus in the event it spreads to Zimbabwe.

"A taskforce consisting of the ministry, the Department of Veterinary Services and WHO has increased surveillance at the country’s main ports of entry that include the Harare International Airport, Bulawayo (Joshua Nkomo) Airport and Beitbridge, among others.

"We have put our structures on a state of readiness and will move in with haste to investigate suspected cases. Any suspected cases or individuals presenting symptoms similar to those of swine flu will be referred to our hospitals that investigate infections in the nearest city such as Wilkins Hospital in Harare," he said.

Minister Madzorera said the taskforce was therefore on the lookout for any signs of flu or any other unusual signs among visitors to Zimbabwe. He said health personnel had been asked to be on the lookout for any unusual increase in cases of flu.

"Although Zimbabwe does not have drugs to treat the bug in its stocks, Zimbabwe is aware that WHO Africa Regional Centre has enough of the medicine and in the event that the drugs are needed we can get in touch with them," he said.

According to the WHO, the human swine flu outbreak continues to grow in Mexico, United States and the globe forcing the global health body to raise the pandemic alert level from phase three to phase four, a clear signal of the need for quick response and mitigation efforts.

The rise in the pandemic level means experts believe the virus is showing a sustained ability to pass from human to human, and is able to cause community-level outbreaks.

Although Mexican authorities say they have recorded nearly 160 deaths of the bug and 2 000 cases, WHO says it has officially recorded only seven deaths.

In the United States 65 cases were confirmed and one death recorded, 13 cases were recorded in Canada, 14 in New Zealand while Britain, Spain and Israel have recorded two cases each. Germany had one.

Swine flu is a respiratory disease thought to spread through coughing and sneezing with similar symptoms to those of normal flu. Swine flu is caused by any strain of the influenza virus endemic in pigs and is rare in humans.

People who work with pigs, especially those with intense exposures, are at risk of catching swine influenza if the swine carries a strain able to infect humans.

UK, C’wealth lift travel warnings

From Isdore Guvamombe in BULAWAYO

BRITAIN and the Commonwealth have, with immediate effect, lifted travel advisories warning their citizens against visiting Zimbabwe with the European Union promising to do the same in the next week or so, a Cabinet minister has said.

The Commonwealth joins Japan, Germany, and the United States who have since lifted their travel warnings.

Addressing the International Business Meeting at the ongoing Zimbabwe International Trade Fair in Bulawayo yesterday, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Walter Mzembi said Britain had communicated to his office that it had lifted travel warnings.

"Allow me to announce that Britain and the Commonwealth have removed travel warnings they had imposed on their citizenry.

"The EU has promised that it will do the same in the next one-and-a half weeks. So there is no need for anyone to claim that we have failed to do business because tourists are banned from visiting this country.

"America, Japan, Germany and others have done the same, so we should be seeing a flooding of our resorts by tourists from these countries," Minister Mzembi said.

He said once the EU lifts travel warnings, that would signal the end of travel warning regimes that have severely affected tourist arrivals in particular, and business in general, since citizens of those countries adhere to the their government warnings.

"There will be no more excuses because we are now a safe destination and anyone can come. I have received more than 25 letters from countries that are working on removing travel warnings in the EU and elsewhere," he said.

Minister Mzembi said he would, next week, lead a delegation to Brazil to negotiate with that country’s football bosses to have the Samba Boys, as the Brazilian national team is affectionately known, camp and train in Zimbabwe ahead of the 2010 World Cup soccer finals in South Africa.

"I am leading a delegation to Brazil and hopefully we will be able to convince the Brazilians to camp here first before going into South Africa for their matches.

"When we were fighting politically, other countries were moving in and clinching deals with teams that qualified for the soccer finals, so we now have to move fast and put ourselves in better deals," he said.

Minister Mzembi challenged the banking sector to ensure that plastic money is made available so that tourists do not have to carry with them huge sums of cash. "We urgently need to sort out our use of cash. No tourist would want to have a lot of cash while travelling to several places in the country," he said.

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