Sunday, November 22, 2009

President Obama presents Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award to Magodonga Mahlangu

On Monday President Barack Obama with wife Michelle Obama will present the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award to Magodonga Mahlangu. Mahlanghu represents her organization Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA). The award was created by the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial  to honour individuals around the world who show courage and have made a significant contribution to human rights in their country. Many of the WOZA group members have been arrested and beaten by government law enforcement controlled by Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe and First Lady Grace Mugabe.

Diplomatic pressure is rising for Robert Mugabe to make efforts towards real change in Zimbabwe as economic and political problems continue to fester and propaganda efforts by the white minority previously in power have taken root. Countries including the west  have imposed sanctions and cut off trade and food supplies to Zimbabwe as an organized effort is being made to force the strong man out. Robert Mugabe has called these unilateral sanctions illegal as 4 million of his citizens go hungry. Many of the sanctions were imposed after the Mugabe land transfer process in 2000 that saw many white farmers kicked off their land, the issue is complicated because much of the land the farmers were in possession of was obtained for little or no money at all during the apartheid like government that was previously called Rhodesia. Mugabe has referred to this as "equality and justice" for Zimbabwe. Robert Mugabe still has strong ties with China and is one of the main reasons he is still in power.

The question remains can Mugabe learn enough new tricks to turn back the tide of opposition that want to see the him shaked and baked, we'll see.

Last years recipient was Aminatou Haidar of Western Sahara. The winners receive a finacial award(30k) as well as assistants with their human rights projects.

"I feel both great excitement for the recognition of my work with WOZA and sadness because although my work has gained recognition internationally, in my own country I have been labeled an enemy of the state," said Mahlangu in reaction to the award.

Winners are selected by an independent panel of human rights experts. The 2009 panel included McDougall; Makau Mutua, Dean of University at Buffalo Law School; Sushma Raman, President of Southern California Grantmakers; and Dr. William F. Schultz, Senior Fellow at Center for American Progress.


Environmental board summons Sino-Zimbabwe Senior Management for a hearing.

Midlands based cement manufacturing company, Sino-Zimbabwe on Friday breathed fire as a high powered board of the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) walked out of a meeting in protest over “lack of seriousness” on the part of senior management.

Top management were reportedly said to have attended a board meeting in China the previous night but it however emerged during the “embarrassing”  meeting with the company’s junior managers, who failed to adequately address the board’s concerns that the General Manager and other top officials were actually in Harare and not in China.

After an embarrassing five minutes in which the junior officers were “mum” when asked to explain to the board what environmental concerns they had addressed in their Environmental Action Plan, the board led by Mrs Fannie Mutepfa quickly resolved to call senior management to Harare for a hearing, before leaving in a huffy.

“We want to make it clear to you that as EMA board we take our work seriously and as such with this kind of behaviour from senior management we are left with no option but to summon them to a hearing in Harare,” charged Mutepfa, who is also the board chairperson for the Environmental Protection Committee.

Other board members at the meeting included Mr Irvine Kunene, also deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Environment, Mrs Mutsa Chasi, EMA Director General and Petronella Shoko, a board member.

The high powered board team walked out of the boardroom ignoring invitations by the staff to “have lunch” which had already been served on the table during the few minutes of “unfruitful” deliberations.

The Chinese owned cement giant was this early August shutdown by EMA following several complaints by the surrounding community of serious pollution of water sources and plants through discharge of cement dust, raw sewage and used oil in streams that feed water bodies.

The company was however reopened after serious negotiations with EMA, in which they promised to meet the targets laid in their Environmental Management Plan.

During a tour of the company’s garage, which is some few kilometers from the company’s premises, where the plant is located, the board noted that the cement giant had made “notable improvements” in renovating toilets, constructing a septic tank and a water oil filtering system to curb discharging raw sewage and used oil in the nearby streams “but fell short” of addressing the discharge of cement dust in the environment.

“In terms of international standards on the control of emissions Sino-Zimbabwe is in the red zone and a lot still needs to be done on the electro-precipitator  which is spewing heavy cement dust in the 20km radius of the plant,” said EMA Provincial Environmental Manager, Benson Basera.

Reports also indicate that when it is not raining the cement dust covers everything in the 20 km radius that even trees become “stony white” covered in dust.

It is also understood management have been hostile to the EMA provincial officials each time they are called to task over this serious environment catastrophe.

In a November EMA report on the cement company, the environmental agency noted that Sino-Zimbabwe “complied 75 percent with the order (EMA order)” but that “performance if ranked in relation to risk reduction, nothing has been done since high risk aspect of dust emission received very little and/or no attention as of August 2009.

“The company is concentrating on low risk aspects such as building of fuel storage tanks rather than reducing dust emission levels. It is against this background that EMA employ stiffer penalties against SINO come 31 December 2009.”

The report further blasted the cement giant for abusing the “Polluter Pay Principle” instead employing  the “Pay to Pollute Principle.”

Before it’s visit to Sino-Zimbabwe, the EMA board had also toured a chrome mine belonging to  ZOL pvt ltd, a company owned by  a Mr Zheng, a Chinese, at Guburie Chrome Washing plant, 10 km from Sino- Zimbabwe.

The mine  situated in a cattle ranching farm belonging to Mr Charles Hartley became a source of scrutiny from the board as it emerged that proper procedures were not followed in its construction. The washing plant, sited 500km from Mr Hartley’s farm house is in sticky mud and no engineering expertise was sort in constructing the slime ponds. It is situated less than 100m from the nearby a Guburie river raising concern of toxins discharge.

“Recently the company was fined a spot fine of US300 after one of the slime ponds busted flooding the surrounding environment,” confided an EMA official during the tour.

He added: “The slime from the ponds contains chromium which if not properly handled will spill into nearby rivers, thereby contaminating sources of water.”

The chrome which had a Friday EMA deadline failed to meet most of its Environment Action Plan targets.

But EMA board members had caucused soon after the tour they resolved to extend the deadline by a further two weeks failure of which “we will close the mine,” said Mrs Mutepfa.

“The alluvial chrome mining we are witnessing started about two years ago.  We don’t know it here and it is coming with some  people from other places. This is also happening in other places such as Mutorashanga and Penhalonga and we should be very cautious as such mining activities have serious repercussions on the environment.

“Your deadline for satisfying the board was today. You made attempts and we thank you for that but not everything has been adhered to. As environmentalists we are very concerned with the situation here. This is a flood plain and we take note that your slime ponds do not have bunded walls. When rivers flood water flows here washing with it toxins.

“Board members here have been generous to extend by just two weeks for you to build a wall on the slime ponds. Come after two weeks and no progress has been made we will close,” she charged.


Zimbabwe's Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai address the media at Harare International Airport, November 19, 2009. Tsvangirai left on Thursday for North Africa, where analysts said he would meet Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi to maintain political pressure on President Robert Mugabe to honour their power-sharing accord.

Former Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni (R) sits next to Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai (C) and an envoy of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Rafik El Hussaini (L), on November 20, 2009 during the international 2009 MEDays political-economic forum in the northern city of Tangiers. Several hundred people, including Islamists, demonstrated in Tangiers on Nov. 19 against the presence of Livni at the forum.


 Former Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni (R) shakes hands with an envoy of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Rafik El Hussaini (L), in front of Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai (C) on November 20, 2009 during the international 2009 MEDays political-economic forum in the northern city of Tangiers. Several hundred people, including Islamists, demonstrated in Tangiers on Nov. 19 against the presence of Livni at the forum.


Longtime Zimbabwean opposition leader and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, center-right, is received on his arrival, accompanied by Libyan Prime Minister Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi, far right, at the airport in Tripoli, Libya, Sunday, Nov. 22, 2009, where he is expected to be briefing on the current situation in the Zimbabwean unity government.



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