May 26 – June 1, 2014

mozambiqueGunmen from opposition party/rebel movement Renamo attacked a military convoy in Mozambique this week, the culmination of a back and forth between the group and government after Renamo’s leader Afonso Dhlakama announced his intention to run for president in the October elections.
The attack happened in Gorongosa, where Dhlakama has been in hiding since last year.
Renamo had warned this would happen: it said earlier in the week that there were plots to assassinate Dhlakama , though the government said it would have done that long ago if it wanted to.
Renamo-related violence has reportedly cost Mozambique $10 million in tourism – and that just between November last year and January.
“Eighty per cent of the foreigners travelling into Mozambique for leisure by car knew of the conflict with Renamo, and fifty per cent of them cancelled,” said researcher Ema Batey.
The group is in a deadlock with ruling party Frelimo over Renamo’s disarmament but this week residents in the Mabalane region urged the government to keep the communication channels with Renamo open.
Thirty political parties have registered for the October 15 elections.

Recommended reading:

  • Mozambican elections: what to make of Dhlakama’s intention to run for president from the Institute of Security Studies.
    “It is therefore vital that the Frelimo government and Renamo continue negotiations with a sincere resolve to reach agreement on fundamental outstanding issues – particularly a ceasefire and the disarmament of Renamo insurgents – to create conducive conditions for peaceful elections,” write researchers Gwinyayi Dzinesa and Paulo Wache.

madagascarIn what one UK newspaper genuinely called TOADOCALYPSE NOW, scientists are warning of an ecological disaster in Madagascar with the pending invasion by Asian common toads.
“Native animals that try to eat this toad could find themselves ingesting their last meal,” said the National Geographic.
(NOTE: TOADOCALYPSE is not to be confused with LOCUSTOCALYPSE, the ongoing locust plague in the country we mentioned last week. Here are some pics of millions of locusts eating crops.)

More immediately, the US has lifted its aid restrictions on Madagascar now that the country’s stabilised after the 2009 coup that ousted president Marc Ravalomanana and put Andry Rajoelina in his place. In the same week, the European Union announced it was resuming “development cooperation” with Madagascar, which is really just a fancy way of saying “aid”.

Recommended reading:

  • Madagascar: The puppet cuts his strings by the ever excellent Peter Fabricius, examining how newly-elected Malagasy president Hery Rajaonarimampianina surprised everybody by turning on Rajoelina and beginning the process of fixing the country post-coup – and the challenges still ahead.
  • When the aid dries up by Pulitzer Centre on Crisis Reporting grantees Aaron Ross and Rijasolo gives a great look into what the last few years have been like for Madagascar without the support of foreign aid.

This time last week, Malawi‘s elections were lying on the operating table, guts exposed. Today, they have a new president. So how do you go from constitutional blundering to presidential inauguration in a week?

  • First, the Malawi Election Commission (MEC) announced a recount. Hurrah!
  • Then they said the recount could take up to two months. Less hurrah.
  • Breathing down their necks was the High Court, who said the MEC was in contempt of court for not releasing the results.
  • The Malawi Defence Force, meanwhile, put out a press release saying it had no intention of taking over the government. Who’s asking, we wonder?
  • Then a protester was killed in a violent demonstration.
  • Aaaand yet SADC observers released a statement hailing Malawians for “maintaining peace”.
  • They were upstaged by MEC chairperson Maxon Mbandera who said, despite all this, the elections were free and fair.
  • Meanwhile, because of court delays, the MEC was forced to release the votes on Friday – sans recount.
  • And so, Peter Mutharika of the Democratic Progressive Party was named the winner, with just over 36 percent of the vote. He was sworn in as president on Saturday.



East African countries have called for an end to the plunder of the DRC‘s resources, which they say is not the cause but the consequence of the ongoing conflict in that country.
In the same week, the US state department put out a statement calling for “continued due diligence” from companies in keeping conflict minerals (like gold, tin, tungsten and tantalum) out of their supply chains: “Developing a legitimate mining industry is critical to building an economic foundation for a sustainable peace in the eastern DRC and the African Great Lakes region, which is an essential component of U.S. policy in the region.”

Recommended reading:

  • All that Glitters is Not Gold: Dubai, Congo and the Illicit Trade of Conflict Minerals, a report by Partnership Canada Africa (PAC), looking at the illicit trade in gold and diamonds, from Congo mines to Dubai souks. Why Dubai?
    “In 2013, 40% of the world’s gold trade, worth an estimated $75 billion, passed through Dubai, a 12-fold increase in value over a decade previous. In 2013, over 15% of the world’s rough diamonds, worth $12.4 billion, were traded through the Emirate, compared with $690 million in 2003.5 Part of this increase is due to rising flows of Congolese gold and diamonds making their way into the Dubai market.”
  • Intel Stiff-Armed Pursuing African-Mine Conflict Minerals from Bloomberg looks at the efforts by by one company, Intel, in keeping conflict minerals out of their chips.
  • Minerals aside, conflict can be profitable in other ways: an interesting article by Beeld newspaper in South Africa reported that sending South African troops to the DRC is earning the country big bucks: R100 million is expected to be paid out to Treasury this year by the UN.

swazilandBheki Makhubu, editor of Swaziland publication The Nation, received a suspended sentence of two years’ imprisonment or a $20 000 fine this week for articles published four years ago about the country’s Chief Justice Michael Ramodibedi.
What exactly could Makhubu have said to deserve such a sentence? Well, he compared Ramodibedi to a “high school punk” , which is apparently called “scandalising the court”, though which I thought meant the judge was running around drawing penises on bus seats.
The sentence is suspended for three months on condition Makhubu doesn’t scandalise the court any further – but he’s already facing another set of contempt of court charges with fellow journalist Thulani Maseko for a completely different set of articles about the thin-skinned Ramodibedi.
That’s all also completely separate from three judges Ramodibedi allegedly wanted arrested for being critical of his iron-gaveled rule . It seems the arrest warrants were prepared but never executed, and the reports are being dismissed as “nonsense”, clearly the kind of thing journalists would invent for the fun of scandalising the court.

One billion dollars could soon be coming Angola‘s way courtesy of the World Bank, to support the country’s 2013-2017 National Development Plan, particularly in the fields of education, health and agriculture.
Which is just as well: the province of Huambo, with a population of 2.7 million, currently has only one doctor for every 16 000 people.
In 2009, the country overall had a density of 0.166 doctors for every 1000 patients (or 1 doctor to every 6000 patients), but the health department’s goal is 1:5000.
In the same year, South Africa had 0.224 doctors for every 1000 patients (or 1 doctor for every 4500 patients).

botswanaAids advocacy NGO Bonela said it would challenge the Botswana government over its alleged decision to inhibit the LGBTI community from donating blood. The health ministry has denied the allegations.
Although homosexuality itself isn’t technically illegal in Botswana, the country does have laws against “indecent practices” and “unnatural offences”, worded in the law as either having or allowing somebody else to have “carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature”.

zambiaAcross the border in Zambia, Amnesty International has condemned the prolonged imprisonment of two men accused of having this sex “against the natural order” after the magistrate put off delivering his verdict.
“The wheels of justice have been turning very slowly for these two men,” said researcher Simeon Mawanza. “Their incarceration in the first place, and inexcusable delays in proceedings, reflect very badly on the justice system in Zambia.”

And a Zimbabwe prisons official told a parliamentary committee this week that the department was struggling to provide food and water to 18 000 prisoners.
“Inmates are entitled to clean water and proper sanitation, unfortunately the prevailing situation is pathetic,” said deputy commissioner of prisons Aggrey Huggins Machingauta. “It is by the grace of God that to date we have not encountered any serious outbreaks of water borne diseases.”
This in spite of President Robert Mugabe granting amnesty to 2000 prisoners to relieve overcrowding. The prisons need $21 million to feed inmates – but were allocated only $2.5 million in the 2014 national budget.