August 14 – 20, 2017: HH walks free – and so does Grace

zambiaAfter over 120 days behind bars, Zambian opposition politician Hakainde Hichilema was last week released and the treason charges against him dropped.

The United Party for National Development leader — commonly known as “HH” — was arrested in early April following a traffic altercation with President Edgar Lungu’s motorcade, sparking widespread criticism of the ruling Patriotic Front party, which said Hichilema had knowingly put the president’s life in danger.

After months of court delays, the businessman-turned-politician pleaded not guilty to the charges on Monday — but the state immediately withdrew them at his next court appearance just two days later after a deal was brokered by the country’s church leaders and Commonwealth secretary-general Patricia Scotland.

Addressing hundreds of celebrating supporters after his release, Hichilema said he was committed to dialogue, but said he would not rest until fellow UPND members behind bars were also freed.


zimbabweZimbabwe‘s first lady is safely back home after an alleged assault on a South African woman brought the two countries to the edge of a diplomatic crisis.

Grace Mugabe, who was reportedly in the country on a medical visit, is alleged to have beaten Gabriella Engels with a power cord in a Johannesburg hotel room last weekend, where two of the Mugabe sons have been staying.

South Africa put on a public show of retribution, announcing Grace would be charged with assault and issuing an alert at the country’s borders to stop her from fleeing.

Behind the scenes — after allegedly trying to bribe Engels to drop the matter — Grace was quietly granted diplomatic immunity, a development the government held out on announcing until the first lady was long gone.

Reports Daily Maverick: “Officials said Police Minister Fikile Mbalula wanted to charge her but International Relations and Co-operation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane feared this would seriously damage South Africa’s relations with Zimbabwe… the official decision to grant her diplomatic immunity would only be made after she had safely left the country. That would forestall any legal challenges being launched against the immunity.”


tanzaniaProminent elephant conservationist Wayne Lotter was last week murdered in Tanzania.

News24 reports that Lotter, a South African, “was presumably shot dead by poachers” Wednesday night in the capital, Dar es Salaam.

Lotter’s Pams Foundation helped fund anti-poaching activities in the southern African nation, which has TimesLive reports has lost over 66,000 elephants in just ten years.

World-renowned primatologist Jane Goodall called Lotter one of her heroes, adding there was “no doubt” that his work “made a big difference in the fight to save Tanzania’s elephants from the illegal ivory trade”.

“If this cowardly shooting was an attempt to bring the work of the Pams Foundation to an end, it will fail,” she said.


drcSome 200 people are presumed dead after a landslide last Wednesday in the Democratic Republic of Congo buried several villages.

Over 50 bodies had been recovered by the weekend, reports the New York Times, but the mountainous geography of the area in the north-east of the country and a lack of land-moving equipment have hampered rescue efforts.

A local official from the region told Xinhua news agency that there was “no longer any possibility of finding survivors trapped under the rubble”.

Speaking to Reuters, the deputy-governor of the affected province Pacific Keta said, “There are many people submerged whom we were unable to save”.

 

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