- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 3, 2009


Mugabe pardons 1,500 prisoners

HARARE | President Robert Mugabe has pardoned 1,500 inmates, more than 10 percent of the prison population, as Zimbabwe struggles to provide them with food and water, an official said Wednesday.

Mr. Mugabe granted amnesty to 1,544 prisoners, mainly women and juveniles, as well as people with terminal illnesses, David Mangota, the permanent secretary in the Justice Ministry, told the official New Ziana news agency.

People convicted of murder, rape or conspiracy against the government would not qualify for the amnesty, he said.

In June, the government allowed the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to bring blankets, food, medicine and other supplies to the prisons. Amnesty International says that nearly 1,000 of Zimbabwe’s 12,900 prisoners died in the first six months of the year in prisons that are overcrowded and filthy.

The Khami maximum security prison in the second city of Bulawayo last month had its water supplies cut off because of unpaid bills. Dire prison conditions have turned the cells into breeding grounds for cholera, diarrhea and tuberculosis.


Top militant sets terms for amnesty

ABUJA | A top Nigerian militant who has held talks with the government about laying down arms took out a full-page newspaper advertisement Wednesday detailing demands that include a military withdrawal from the oil-producing Niger Delta.

Government Tompolo, a core faction leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, has held informal talks with the government about surrendering his weapons in return for a presidential offer of amnesty.

In an open letter to President Umaru Yar’Adua published in the Nation newspaper, Mr. Tompolo said the offer of amnesty to gunmen in the Niger Delta was seen as part of a wider peace process rather than an end in itself.

He said peace would only be achieved once there was dialogue with the government about core issues in the delta, home to Africa’s biggest oil and gas industry, including the withdrawal of the joint military task force from the region.


Court orders arrest of editor

LUSAKA | A Zambian court Wednesday ordered the arrest of the editor in chief of the private Post newspaper, after he failed to appear to face contempt charges over a story about an ongoing “pornography” trial.

The paper’s news editor Chansa Kabwela is standing trial on obscenity charges over unpublished photos showing a woman giving birth on a sidewalk outside a hospital during a doctors’ strike.

The newspaper ran a column last week calling the trial “a comedy of errors,” and the magistrate’s court slapped contempt charges against the author Muna Ndulo and Editor-in-Chief Fred M’membe.

Both were ordered to appear before the court Wednesday to face the charges, but Mr. Ndulo currently lives in the United States. The newspaper argued that Mr. M’membe did not need to appear because he is on an extended academic leave from the Post and was not responsible for the story.

Ms. Kabwela’s trial has cast a cloud over media freedoms in Zambia, while the photos have sparked a national debate over pornography in this deeply conservative country.

The baby in the pictures was born in the breech position and subsequently died. The mother’s family took the pictures and gave them to Ms. Kabwela in frustration at the strike.

Although Ms. Kabwela did not publish the pictures, she sent them to government officials, urging them to stop the strike and improve Zambian health care.


Winfrey school trial ends first stage

SEBOKENG | Prosecutors have finished presenting witnesses against a former dormitory supervisor accused of abusing students at Oprah Winfrey’s school for poor South African girls.

Wednesday’s testimony from the last prosecution witnesses wrapped up the first stage of the trial. Proceedings began in July 2008 with Tiny Virginia Makopo pleading not guilty to indecently assaulting and otherwise abusing six teenagers and a fellow supervisor.

On Monday, Ms. Makopo’s attorneys are expected to start their defense.

The scandal erupted at Miss Winfrey’s $40 million school outside Johannesburg after it opened in 2007 amid great fanfare.

From wire dispatches and staff reports.

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