June 2 – 8, 2014

swazilandInternational support is growing for two men imprisoned in Swaziland these last three months for a series of articles criticising the judiciary.
Human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko and The Nation editor-in-chief Bheki Makhubu were arrested in March.
Just last week, in a separate incident, Makhubu was found guilty of “scandalising the court” for an article in which he compared the Chief Justice Michael Ramodibedi’s attitude towards the Constitution as that of a “high school punk”. For that, he got the choice between a R200 000 fine or two years in jail.

The current batch of articles that landed the pair behind bars are well worth a read if you’re unfamiliar with the Swazi political climate.
In “The Chief Justice Should do the Right Thing and Step Aside”, Maseko slams the reverence held for Ramodibedi in Swaziland while he was (*cough cough*) facing impeachment in Lesotho. The other criticised the arrest of Bhantshana Gwebu, a government vehicle inspector who was charged after fining a judge for misusing an official vehicle.

Last week, Makhubu called the proceedings a “kangaroo court”, while Maseko said he had come to the realization that the State’s only intention was to put him behind bars.
The US State Department put out a statement urging the Swazi judiciary to uphold the law, while Nobel Prize-winner Desmond Tutu put his signature to an international petition ordering the release of political prisoners.

Who to follow:
The Makhubu-Maseko case is back in court on Tuesday and there are some choice quotes coming out of it, including Makhubu declaring that “an environment that produces the Mark Zuckerbergs of life is one that allows free thinking”.
Mary Pais da Silva (@Pais_Mary), human rights activist Velaphi Mamba (@BlackMambaV) and journalist Welcome Dlamini (@WelcomeDlamini1 – who’s also totally rocking a profile picture of himself with South African public protector Thuli Madonsela) have been live-tweeting from court.

Recommended reading:

  • For more background, the team over at the Southern Africa Litigation Centre have put together a good timeline (though it seems to stop in April).
  • Maseko’s 27-page statement on his arrest can be found here.

Malawi’s new president Peter Mutharika and his ousted opponent Joyce Banda managed to throw a few last barbs after a fraught election. At his inauguration, Mutharika got all uppity when Banda didn’t pitch for the ceremony, though she said she wasn’t even invited, and besides, he stole her presidential ride.

peter“I regret that the former president has declined to come and hand over power to me. I was looking forward to shaking her hand. I have to come to her with an olive branch in my hand. Don’t let it drop.”

– Peter Mutharika

joyce“The day before the swearing-in ceremony, all the official vehicles were withdrawn. But it is not that she has not attended out of malice, she issued a press statement congratulating him… That alone is enough.”

– Joyce Banda’s spokesperson, Tusekele Mwanyongo

You can read Mutharika’s full inauguration speech here.

Of course, the spectre of the stuff-up that was the elections is still hanging in the air. As Edward Chileka noted in this piece, “For the sake of future elections and future generations, we must interrogate into the just ended electoral process so that we learn what went wrong and right. Did the will of the people prevail?”

Meanwhile, of the 457 councillors voted in only 56 were women.

mozambiqueWe reported that first attack in our update last week and now it’s official: Mozambique opposition party/rebel group Renamo has called off a ceasefire with government forces that has existed since May, after a recent verbal flare-up in hostilities.  They’ve spent the week attacking a military convoy that they say was sent to kill their leader-in-hiding, Afonso Dhlakama.  An ambush on a stretch of highway on Tuesday killed three.

Of course, it was the victims’ own fault – Renamo spokesman Antonio Muchanga said people really shouldn’t be using the roads at the moment because of the conflict: “As from this moment Renamo will not be responsible for what happens on that stretch of road. So we draw the attention of the users of the road to take care in circulating in that region.”

Yes, COMMUTERS: stop driving where we’re warring.

madagascarMadagascar just cannot seem to catch a break environmentally.
Then, we had TOADOCALYPSE.
And now, we have these newly discovered and really unnecessarily large millipedes. They don’t seem to be planning on taking over the island like everything else: they’re just endangered before we’ve even had a chance to be sufficiently grossed out by them.

UN envoys seem alarmed that DRC president Joseph Kabila hasn’t named a date for the country’s presidential elections – which are supposed to happen before the end of 2016. Could he be seeking a third term?

zambiaIn the same week that Zambia denied reports that president Michael Sata’s health was deteriorating, it’s ordered its diplomats abroad to stop reading online news. Seriously. Instead, they should get all their info by streaming the state-owned Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC) because the international media is spreading evil “falsehoods” about the country.

President Robert Mugabe was presented with two awards this week by the European Council on Tourism and Trade for Zimbabwe just being so awesome a tourist destination. (Key paragraph in this story: “The ECCT is not affiliated to the EU, which is a political and economic bloc of mostly Western European countries that have imposed illegal sanctions on Zimbabwe in response to Harare’s revolutionary land reform programme.”)

namibiaNamibian activist Chief Kuaima Riruako passed away at the age of 79. He’ll be remembered for his long campaign to hold the German government to account for its genocide against the Herero people, who rose up in revolt against their colonisers in the early 1900s. Germany apologised in 2004, but has yet submit to calls for financial compensation.