Ports & Ships Maritime News

May 23, 2006
Author: P&S

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  • Sugar sale brings promise of increased exports

  • Pirates rob tanker off Guinea coast

  • Mbeki to talk Africa with Blair

  • Court case on Zanzibar union with Tanzania begins

  • Zimbabwe crisis – a slow simmer may reach boiling point

  • Oops, wrong tide

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    Sugar sale brings promise of increased exports

    Associated British Foods’ (ABF) offer of R3.8 Billion for a 51 percent shareholding in South Africa’s Illovo Sugar brings with it the possibility of increased exports into Europe.

    Illovo’s board has already recommended to its shareholders that they accept ABF’s ‘fair’ offer for 51 percent of the South African company. What makes Illovo attractive is its strong presence in Africa with operations in South Africa, Malawi, Swaziland, Mozambique, Tanzania and Zambia, all of which no doubt was a strong factor in the offer made by the British group.

    Illovo says the company’s operation in less developed regions is expected to bring duty free access to the European Union from 2009 and that the group will benefit even further by way of ABF’s knowledge of the European market.

    Pirates rob tanker off Guinea coast

    The Russian flagged offshore bunker tanker Shkotovo was attacked by armed pirates on Sunday (21 May) when they boarded the vessel as it was waiting to refuel fishing vessels about 60 miles off Conakry, Guinea.

    The pirates came aboard from two small motor boats and demanded money and documents from the ship’s master. The captain was unable to produce documentation allowing him to operate in local waters but managed to put together a small sum of cash and cigarettes, which the pirates took with them, warning that they would return if the vessel was seen operating again in Guinean waters.

    The incident took place at coordinates 09.16.7N, 014.42.5W. Although the crew managed to activate the tanker’s SSAS they were prevented from radioing their plight until after the pirates had departed.

    Mbeki to talk Africa with Blair

    Johannesburg, 22 May 2006 (IRIN) - South Africa is recognised as a critical player not only in Africa but also in the developing world, so President Thabo Mbeki's two-day visit to the United Kingdom, which kicks off on Wednesday (tomorrow), is set to cover a wide range of issues.

    South Africa has helped bring some stability to the DRC. President Thabo Mbeki (right) with the DRC president, Joseph Kabila. Picture Pacoline Prinsloo/IRIN

    Ronnie Mamoepa, spokesman for the department of foreign affairs, said talks between Mbeki and Prime Minister Tony Blair would centre on the "African agenda of development", and cover the situation in the Great Lakes region, Sudan, the World Trade Organisation's (WTO) Doha round of negotiations, the restructuring of the UN and the Middle East peace process. He would also lobby for a diplomatic solution to Iran's standoff with members of the international community over uranium enrichment.

    "South Africa regards the UK [United Kingdom] as its strategic ally and [the UK] is a natural entry point [for South Africa] to lobby for support within the G8 or the UN Security Council," according to Prince Mashele, an analyst with the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), a Pretoria-based think-tank.

    The UK is committed to conflict resolution in Africa and spearheaded the recent debt cancellation campaign, which provided relief to 19 countries, giving the developing world a perceived ally among rich countries.

    As a sign of its commitment to the continent, South Africa, which has allocated 35 percent of its 2006/07 foreign affairs spending to Africa, also increased its contribution to the African Union (AU) budget from about eight percent to 15 percent. Besides its involvement in peace efforts in Burundi and Cote d'Ivoire, it has also been actively involved in peacekeeping missions in several African conflicts, including the Democratic Republic of Congo.

    The UK has in turn also played a significant role in supporting AU peace efforts in Darfur, Sudan's remote western region, where 3.6 million people have been affected by conflict.

    According to Henri Boschoff, a military analyst at the ISS, the UK "provides not only financial support to the AU's peacekeeping mission in Darfur, but also helps it with expertise in the form of security specialists - the two countries [South Africa and the UK] will probably review the situation in Darfur and the AU's peacekeeping role."

    In a recent article, Blair said Britain needed to do more to "beef up" the AU's outgunned and underequipped mission in Darfur. The EU has committed itself to footing the bill for the AU's 20,000 strong permanent peacekeeping mission to help resolve conflicts and crises in the continent, which should be up and running by the end of this year.

    Blair could also raise the crisis in Zimbabwe during his talks with Mbeki, said Mashele. According to government insiders, South Africa has burnt its fingers trying to resolve the situation in Zimbabwe in a series of unsuccessful attempts to mediate between the ruling ZANU-PF and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change. Zimbabwe is battling with an economic and humanitarian crisis, brought on largely by its own policies.

    (This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations)

    Court case on Zanzibar union with Tanzania begins

    Stone Town, Zanzibar, 22 May 2006 (IRIN) - A case challenging the legality of the union that created the United Republic of Tanzania - a merger of the Tanganyika mainland and the two isles of Zanzibar - began on Monday in Stone Town, capital of the semiautonomous Zanzibar.

    map courtesy IRIN

    A group of 10 Zanzibaris filed the case on 23 April before the Zanzibar High Court, seeking to have the union, signed in 1964, invalidated. The group, led by Rashid Salum Addiy, claims the 42-year-old union is illegal and wants it renegotiated.

    When Addiy's group filed the case, the attorney-general's office failed to produce an official copy of the original agreement signed by the founders of Tanzania, Julius Nyerere (Tanganyika) and Abeid Amani Karume (Zanzibar), both of whom are deceased. The union brought into a single entity Tanzania mainland and the two islands that make up Zanzibar: Pemba and Unguja. Zanzibar has its own president and national assembly but recognises the overall leadership of the president of the united republic.

    Addiy's group lists names of several prominent persons as defendants, including United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, whom they blame for stripping Zanzibar of its seat in the UN. The UN accepted the court's summons on Tuesday.

    However, Zanzibar High Court Judge Mbarouk Salim heard the case on Monday without a representative of the UN.

    The others listed as defendants in the case include the Zanzibar attorney-general, the secretary-general of the Revolutionary Council, the secretary-general of the ruling Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM) and the Speaker of the Zanzibar Parliament.

    The Zanzibar deputy state attorney, Omar Makungu, appeared for the defendants while the Kenyan human rights lawyer, Pheroze Nowrojee, represents Addiy's group. Zanzibar lawyer Hamad Suleiman stood in for Nowrojee during the hearing on Monday.

    Suleiman pleaded with the High Court to give the parties mentioned in the case time to prepare. The case comes up for mention on 28 June.

    Tanzanians are keenly following this case, which comes amid Zanzibaris' complaints of suppression by the mainland. Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete has promised to look into the complaints.

    Addiy's group began their opposition to the current union in June 2005 when they went to the High Court demanding that the attorney-general's office present the original articles of the union. In a December 2005 ruling, the court said the attorney-general's office did not have a copy of the original agreement.

    (This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations)

    Zimbabwe crisis – a slow simmer may reach boiling point

    Harare, 22 May 2006 (IRIN) - The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) has resolved to embark on crippling strikes if employers, including the government, do not award workers salaries pegged against the bare necessity of the 'poverty datum line'.

    The resolution was one of several adopted at the labour body's sixth congress, held over the weekend. ZCTU president Lovemore Matombo told IRIN that workers were now left with no option but to confront the government.

    "We have resolved that the only way the government can understand the hardships that workers are experiencing is through street demonstrations. If employers do not award workers wages pegged against the poverty datum line, we will certainly go into the streets and unleash crippling demonstrations," said Matombo.

    Inflation has now shot to 1,042 percent and is still climbing as the economic meltdown continues, putting Zimbabwe's rapidly dwindling working class in an ever more precarious position.

    On average, workers earn about ZimD15 million (USD 148) a month, way below the ZimD 42 million (USD 415) an average Zimbabwean family needs to meet its most basic monthly needs.

    Opposition MDC faction leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, who cut his political teeth as secretary-general of the ZCTU, has called for a "cold season of democratic resistance" against living conditions in the country.

    The workers' resolution has added to the growing list of organisations that have either supported calls for demonstrations against the government or defied the authorities.

    Farm workers have announced that they will down tools next week, after complaining that their new employers, mainly senior government and military officials, were only paying them a monthly wage of ZimD 1.3 million (USD 12.80), while they were demanding ZimD 10 million (USD 98) a month.

    University and college students have issued an ultimatum, which expires at the end of this week, saying that if the government does not reduce tuition and examination fees, they too will take to the streets.

    Promise Mkwananzi, president of the Zimbabwe National Students Union, said "We will make this country ungovernable if authorities want to be stubborn. The new charges at universities virtually mean only children of the elite can afford to attend university."

    The Zimbabwe Christian Alliance, a grouping of church organisations, last week challenged the authorities when they were barred from leading prayer processions to remember the victims of Operation Murambatsvina (Drive Out Filth), a controversial clean-up campaign launched by the government a year ago that destroyed informal settlements and trading stalls, depriving more than 700,000 people of homes and livelihoods.

    Despite being interrogated by state security agents, some members of the clergy managed to get a High Court order authorising them to march.

    But Evans Chipfere, a lecturer at one of the colleges in the capital, Harare, doubts whether people will heed calls to demonstrate. "I think as things stand, Zimbabweans have not suffered enough to make them want to take to the streets. When things really get tough, they will not need mobilising by civic society, students or labour unions - they will just go into the streets and demonstrate."

    Silibaziso Moyo, who works at a commercial bank, agreed. "When we had the food riots in the late 1990s they were just spontaneous, and I believe if we are to have a similar situation, then I suppose it would have to happen without preparation, otherwise the authorities would easily crush any such demonstrations."

    According to Dumisani Shava, who runs a little shop in central Harare, few people have the courage to confront the army and police. "Our security forces are well-known for brutally putting down strikes and demonstrations. There have always been calls by so many organisations for stayaways and strikes, but people have generally ignored the calls because they know how brutal our forces can be."

    Secretary-general of the MDC pro-Senate faction, Welshman Ncube, said although he wished his anti-Senate colleagues well in mobilising for the demonstrations, he doubted that they would take off.

    "Remember, they said they wanted a short and sharp programme for democratic resistance, but I see the programme going into the summer and beyond. Remember, I have worked with some of them in the past and I doubt if they will lead from the front as they claim. Some of the leaders are very big cowards and are afraid of leading people in a demonstration."

    David Kasirori, an illegal fruit vendor keeping an eye open for approaching municipal officers who may want to seize his goods, believed the calls for the demonstrations would be heeded.

    "There are a lot of people with a lot of anger inside them," he warned. "Do you think I enjoy playing hide and seek with municipal police who always confiscate my wares? Do you think people are happy with what is taking place in the country? Do you think people are happy that the government destroyed their homes and flea markets? This time I believe people will take to the streets, and I will be one of those waiting for the signal to go into the streets."

    (This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations)

    Oops, wrong tide

    A couple’s argument while sitting in a car parked on the Durban yacht mole had a comical if scary ending on Sunday.

    The couple were sitting in their car on the yacht mole overlooking Durban Bay when the argument began. Why the driver thought to end things dramatically is not known, but angry and frustrated he started the car’s motor and drove straight ahead into what at another time of the day would have been a metre or two of water.

    Fortunately for both occupants the tide was out, leaving the car high and dry with its nose stuck in the mud, and both occupants shocked and at least one somewhat chastened by the turn of events.

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