May 19 – 25, 2014

Malawi was undoubtedly the week’s biggest newsmaker, with its elections going from a seemingly innocuous start on Tuesday and winding up in a constitutional mess by Saturday.
It’s culminated in UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon calling for calm across the country as the situation devolved.
Let’s put aside the accusations of pre-election media bias in favour of presidential incumbent Joyce Banda’s ruling People’s Party (because DA adverts and SABC, anyone?).
Put aside even mishaps like polling stations opening late, or running out of ballots and ink. South Africa experienced that too, just two weeks ago – though not the torching of polling stations that came with it.
No, it was only on Saturday that things got really quite out of hand when Banda decided she was scrapping the elections entirely because of some unnamed party had hacked the electoral commission’s computer system.
It’s worth noting that preliminary results at the time showed she was losing (though before voting opened, her opponents had claimed the elections were rigged in her favour).
It didn’t last long. Legal experts on Twitter immediately began asking exactly which part of the Constitution Banda was basing this all on and by the afternoon she was saying on radio it was a slip of the tongue.
The High Court rejected Banda’s announcement yesterday.

Who to follow for the unfolding story:
Malawian journalist James Chavula and the Malawi News Agency.

Recommended reading:

swazilandSwaziland could be headed for (even more) uncomfortable economic times as rumours swirled last week that it’s African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) status could be revoked by the United Status.
Having it allows Swaziland to export goods – particularly from its textiles industry – to the US duty-free, and economists predict some serious losses if it goes.
The problem? Human rights abuses, including the arrest of journalists and political opponents, and the banning of opposition party t-shirts and berets. Not to mention banning political parties in general.
Things became murky when the US ambassador to the small country denied telling newspapers the AGOA status was denied. In a meeting with the ambassador, King Mswati III apparently made the case about why his government had failed to meet the AGOA benchmarks, saying something along the lines of, “Hey, you guys were the ones who wanted us to fight the terrorists.”

Recommended reading:

  • Swaziland’s AGOA status: Madagascar all over again? by the Brookings Institute gives a great overall picture of why Swaziland may lose its AGOA status and what knock-on effects this could have, given what happened in Madagascar when it’s own AGOA status was revoked (ie: bad things).

Two black rhinos were killednamibia in Namibia last week, the second incident in a month. Their annual total of six killed so far may seem paltry in comparison to the over 400 South African rhinos already lost, but there are fears of that ivory-seeking poachers have the country in their sights.
“There is a high probability that attention will shift to Namibia as we have recently experienced,” said deputy Environment Minister Pohamba Shifeta.
Meanwhile, three Chinese men charged with trying to smuggle rhino horn out of Namibia in a separate incident have been denied bail.

And in other news:

  • mine collapse in Mozambique killed at least ten illegal gold miners last week. The government ordered the mine closed, but miners were already returning to work before the week was out.
  • Zimbabwe says it will evict 600 families who settled on farmland owned by South African sugar company Tongaat Hulett.
  • Tanzania‘s government is calling for calm after a dengue fever outbreak. Reports range from 400 to 600 people infected, though the government says only 31 are actually still in hospital.
  • Madagascar is battling an ongoing locust plague.
  • And Botswana is currently hosting the second African Youth Games. The host country’s U-15 team is having a rotten time of it, already losing to Nigeria and Tanzania.