Author Archives: kristenvanschie

July 17 – 23, 2017: Tanzania crackdown continues as Malawi jails former minister

tanzaniaTanzania last week arrested a leading opposition figure, days after he called President John Magufuli a “dictator”.

Tundu Lissu, chief whip of the main opposition party Chadema, called on the international community at a press conference last Monday to cut off aid to the country.

“The dictator and his government” needed to be “isolated politically, diplomatically and economically,” Lissu reportedly said, according to TRT World.

He was arrested three days later at the Julius Nyerere International Airport in the capital Dar Es Salaam.

A police spokesperson told AP Lissu was being questioned over “making anti-government speeches that could lead to unrest”.

Lissu is the second Chadema MP arrested in July alone.

Earlier this month, Halima Mdee was taken in for questioning after calling on citizens to “denounce this tendency of President John Pombe Magufuli who thinks his declarations are law”.

Insulting the president has been a criminal offence in Tanzania since 2015.

The Tanganyika Lawyers Society, of which Lissu is president, released a statement condemning the arrest of people “when they air their personal views”, reported The Citizen.

Government spokesman Hassan Abbas’ response? “The government will not accept that someone, or a group of people, abuse the freedom of expression”.


malawiFive months after he was fired over his alleged role in a $35 million maize importing scandal, Malawi‘s former agriculture minister was last week arrested and charged with corruption.

George Chaponda has since been released on bail and will appear in court next month after an inquiry found “he had flouted procedures by hiring a private broker to import the maize”, reports the Nyasa Times. “He is also accused of sourcing the grain, in contravention of ministerial rules, for personal gain.”

According to Xinhua, the maize was procured from Zambia at a time when the El Nino-induced drought had left millions of Malawians food insecure.

When investigators raided Chaponda’s home in February, reports the agency, “they found and confiscated 58,000 US dollars and 124 million Malawian Kwachas of local currency (about 171,100 dollars) in stacks of cash stashed in suitcases”.


angolaLawmakers in Angola last week greatly curtailed the powers of the executive, passing a law that limits the president’s ability to remove security chiefs from their posts.

And the opposition isn’t happy.

The law, which does not apply to the current head of state, was passed just weeks before the long-ruling Jose Eduardo dos Santos steps down — and paves the way for him to extend his hold on the country long after he leaves the job, the opposition says.

“It’s unacceptable to have this law curtails the power of future president,” Unita MP Miranda Jamba told Bloomberg.

“It means that the president will not be able to remove them from their posts,” CASE-CE MP Andre Mendes de Carvalho told AFP.

Dos Santos is not running in the August 23 poll, having just returned from his second medical visit to Europe this year.

July 10 – 16, 2017: Magufuli marches on against mines

tanzaniaTanzania‘s president John Magufuli last week left mining houses reeling after signing into law a set of bills that would radically alter the playing field.

The new laws allow the country to renegotiate all of its current mining contracts, increase royalties, and partially nationalise mining projects.

“The laws also deny the rights of mining companies to seek international arbitration and relief in the event of a dispute with the Government”, reports The West Australian.

And mining companies aren’t happy.

AngloGold Ashanti announced it would kick off arbitration proceedings to protect its assets in Tanzania — which include the company’s largest gold mine, Geita — claiming it had “no choice”.

Tanzania’s move is not without merit, though. Speaking to Business Day, CEO of the Tanzania-based mining house Kibo, Louis Coetzee, said that the investor-baiting legislation of the 1990s was out of date with an industry that had since matured, stoking “tensions between government and the industry”.

The new laws are the latest move in an ongoing battle between Magafuli and the industry.

In May, he fired his mining minister after unveiling a report claiming mining companies were understating the value of their exports and thus avoiding paying taxes.

Mineral sands exports have been banned since March.

And until things are “put in order”, Magufuli says new mining licenses will have to wait.

“We must benefit from our God-given minerals,” the president told a rally in his hometown, reports Reuters. “That is why we must safeguard our natural resource wealth to ensure we do not end up with empty mining pits.”


zambiaZambia‘s parliament last week approved and extended by three months a partial state of emergency, even as civil society warned it would be used to stifle dissent.

The emergency powers now granted are purportedly aimed at giving authorities more reach to investigate a string of fires that President Edgar Lungu has labelled as “sabotage” by “people who are hell-bent on just bringing chaos into the country”.

At a press conference last week, the police announced that they’ve now made 11 arrests in connection with a fire at Lusaka’s main City Market — and backed up Lungu’s claims.

“I wish to inform the nation that findings of the investigation taken so far by the team revealed the cause of fire was as a result of a deliberate ignition by unscrupulous people with premeditated intentions,” Inspector General of Police Kakoma Kanganja said, according to Zambia’s Daily Mail.

“This means that the investigations have eliminated the possibility of an electrical fault or an accident as the cause of the inferno. Therefore, this incident is purely an act of arson.”

But Zambia’s Civil Society Constitution Agenda warned that the investigations may be compromised by the government’s claims, saying in a statement:

“We are left to wonder whether the investigative wings would to bold enough to give a report different from what has been already pronounced in public by government officials if they found that the cause of the fire at city market was not what these officials have said.”

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Zambia and the International Monetary Fund have long been haggling over a deal that could see the country granted a bailout package of billions. But Lungu seemed unconcerned at a recent press conference about how the IMF would react to the partial state of emergency. “If they want to go because of this, they can go,” he told reporters. In this piece, the Zambia Institute for Policy Analysis and Research argues that while Zambia may not need the IMF package, it definitely wants it — no matter what Lungu says.


drcThe opposition in the Democratic Republic of Congo expressed outrage last week after news broke that the country was unlikely to hold elections this year.

President Joseph Kabila’s term has long since expired, with the government citing funding constraints and voter registration delays as reasons for postponing last year’s vote.

After a series of violent protests, the state and opposition agreed to form a unity government to work towards holding the election this year instead.

It’s not gone well.

Kabila has never committed to a date for the vote, and last weekend the head of the country’s electoral commission warned that it would probably miss the 2017 deadline.

According to German agency DW, opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi reacted to the news by calling it “a declaration of war on the Congolese people”, while several United Nations’ Security Council members insisted the country “hold free, fair, and inclusive elections by the end of the year and without further delay”.

Said the US deputy ambassador to the UN, Michele Sison: “We are ready to take additional action to sanction those who stand in the way of DRC’s first democratic transition of power.”


botswanaAnd Botswana has been warned by China over an upcoming visit by the Dalai Lama.

The Tibetan holy man is set to meet with President Ian Khama during his time in the country next month, when he will be attending a three-day conference in the capital Gaborone.

According to AFP, the government said in a statement that Botswana “will be extending the normal courtesies for visiting dignitaries” and that “His Excellency (President Khama) will meet the Dalai Lama when he is in Botswana”.

But Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Friday that the Dalai Lama wears “the cloak of religion” to engage in “anti-China, separatist activities”, reports Reuters: “We hope the relevant country can clearly recognise the essence of who the Dalai Lama is, earnestly respect China’s core concerns, and make the correct decision on this issue.”

July 3 – 9, 2017: Zambia’s state of almost-emergency and Malawi stampede kills 8

Zambia‘s president Edgar Lungu dominated the headlines last week after declaring a partial state of emergency.

If approved by the national assembly, Lungu will be armed with broad powers allowing authorities to impose curfews, ban meetings, censor publications and search premises without a warrant.

The declaration Wednesday came after an early-morning fire gutted over 1,300 stalls in the capital’s City Market, reported the Lusaka Timesthe latest incident over the last year that Lungu has labelled as “sabotage”.

In a speech the following day, the president said his latest move would give the police “more clout” in their investigations and insisted it was not intended to target the opposition.

If so, his timing couldn’t be worse — or raise eyebrows any higher. His main rival, Hakainde Hichilema of the United Party for National Development (UPND), has been jailed since April on a traffic-related treason charge, while 48 UPND lawmakers are currently suspended for boycotting a Lungu speech earlier this year.


malawiEight people were killed in a stampede in Malawi last week when police fired teargas into a crowd of thousands gathered outside the national stadium for the country’s independence day celebrations.

“Eight people — seven children aged around eight years old, and one adult died,” police spokesman James Kadadzera told news agency AFP.

Another 62 injured were being treated in hospital.

“Gates at the 40,000-capacity stadium were supposed to open at 06:30 local time to allow free entry of people — but there was a delay of about three hours,” reported the BBC. “However, thousands had already turned up, and some tried to force their way in, prompting the police to fire tear gas.:

According to the Nyasa Times, “hundreds of people rushed at one of the stadium gates, causing some to fall and be trampled underfoot.”

The stadium’s manager told the newspaper the accident would have happened if the gates had opened on time.

President Peter Mutharika cancelled a speech he was scheduled to give at the stadium, but the planned football match went ahead.


tanzaniaTanzanian authorities last week arrested an opposition politician for insulting the president — a criminal offence in a country that is increasingly attracting attention for all the wrong reasons.

Halima Mdee of the main opposition Chadema party was jailed after after making a speech about, ahem ahem, the government’s autocratic tendencies — which have included a strong anti-LGBTI stance and the expulsion of pregnant schoolgirls.

“We should denounce this tendency of President John Pombe Magufuli who thinks his declarations are law,” she reportedly said. “If we continue to do nothing, one day he will order Tanzanians to walk barefoot or topless, because he knows he has the support of police… We must absolutely put the breaks on this president.”

Going a long way in helping prove her point, a local district commissioner the next day order Mdee be “questioned and sent to court to explain the insults she made against our president”, reports Reuters.

Insulting the president has been a criminal offence in Tanzania since 2015.

According to Reuters: “More than 10 people, including university students and a lecturer, have been charged in court over the past few months with insulting the president via social networking platform like WhatsApp… It is punishable by up to three years in jail, a fine of around $3,000 or both.”


angolaAnd Angola‘s president is back in Spain just one month after returning from an extended medical stay there.

The 74-year-old Jose Eduardo dos Santos, who has said he will not be running in next month’s election, has ruled the country since 1979.

His last trip to Spain was plagued with rumours that he had suffered a stroke abroad and it was weeks before the government admitted he had been seeking medical treatment there.

His latest trip to Barcelona, they said, was a “private visit”.

According to AFP, the presidency said in a statement, “President dos Santos left Luanda on Monday for a private visit to the Kingdom of Spain for personal business.”

They did not say when he would return.

June 26 – July, 2017: Zimbabwe jails #ThisFlag pastor again

Pastor and activist Evan Mawarire was arrested in Zimbabwe last Monday after attending a protest by medical students against rising university fees.

Mawarire’s lawyer told AFP the pastor had been charged with disorderly conduct.

He was released two days later and is expected back in court on July 19.

Mawarire rose to prominence last year after leading the #ThisFlag protests against the government — which saw him detained and subsequently flee to the US for several months.

According to Reuters, “the 40-year-old preacher is also due to stand trial in September on separate charges of plotting to overthrow the government and insulting the national flag”.

His involvement in the student protest last week came after a planned doubling in tuition fees.

Three student leaders were arrested.

Reports News24: “University authorities accused the protesters of throwing stones during the demonstration. Hundreds of medical students were ordered to leave their residences on Monday evening, and some had to sleep out in the open or take shelter at a local church… The students’ evictions came at the worst possible time, as the medical students were this week due to begin writing exams.”


tanzaniaTanzania last week confirmed its plans to forge ahead with a hydropower plant in a World Heritage site, despite years of opposition to the project.

In a statement released last week, President John Magufuli said he “wants construction of this project to start as quickly as possible and produce an abundant supply of electricity to speed up the development of the country”, reports CNBC Africa.

The 2,100-megawatt plant is set to be built along Rufiji River in the Selous Game Reserve in the country’s south-east, reports The Citizen.

The UN’s cultural arm UNESCO has repeatedly called for the project to be cancelled, warning it could harm the game reserve.

But it’s a project the government considers vital to development.

According to the United Nations Development Programme, just “2% of rural people and 39% of urban people have access to electricity” in Tanzania: “The current energy demand and supply balance reflects the country’s low level of industrialization and development.”

Magufuli said in his statement that experts from Ethiopia were visiting Tanzania to share their expertise on hydropower projects, reports AFP.


malawiMalawi last week became the first country in the world to open a humanitarian drone corridor after a successful test-run last year using drones to deliver blood samples for HIV testing.

Unicef says the corridor at Kasungu, some two hours from the capital Lilongwe, will look to generate aerial images for monitoring crises, to deliver supplies like vaccines and medicine, and to extend Wi-Fi signals in cut-off areas.

“Malawi has limited road access to rural areas even at the best of times, and after a flash flood earth roads can turn to rivers, completely cutting off affected communities,” the agency said in a statement. “With UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) we can easily fly over the affected area and see clearly what the impact has been on the ground. This is cheaper and better resolution than satellite images.”

According to Mail & Guardian, officials in Malawi had some convincing to do to sell residents on the idea of the corridor.

“Before we did the sensitisation people thought we were introducing satanism,” one official told the paper. “After we did the sensitisation, they said it’s for the common good.”

June 19 – 25, 2017: Mozambique millions missing, while UN pushes for DRC-Kasai investigation

mozambiqueAn audit report released at the weekend into Mozambique‘s ongoing undisclosed debt saga revealed some $500 million that still can’t be sufficiently accounted for.

The audit by US firm Kroll was commissioned after it was revealed last year that Mozambique had secretly borrowed billions — a scandal that saw the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and numerous donors cut off aid to the country.

“The audit found that three firms linked to Mozambique’s defence and intelligence services had borrowed $2 billion to buy maritime surveillance equipment and vessels, in 2013 and 2014,” reports AFP.

But, according to Xinhua, Kroll said there still “gaps” in understanding “how exactly the $2 billion dollars were spent”.

“Until the inconsistencies are resolved, and satisfactory documentation is provided, at least 500 million dollars of expenditure of a potentially sensitive nature remains unaudited and unexplained,” the report said.

Mozambique has now launched a investigation into the missing millions.


drcThe United Nations will be sending a team of experts to investigate the ongoing violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo‘s Kasai region, where some 3,300 have been killed since last August.

The resolution by the UN’s Human Rights Council came not without significant push-back from the DRC, which insisted any investigation that excluded Congolese authorities would be “unacceptable”.

Reports the New York Times, “European Union members had initially pushed for a tougher resolution calling for an international investigation on the scale of a commission of inquiry, but they dropped that proposal when it became clear that it lacked African support and Congolese ministers said they would not let its members into the country.”

“Do you want experts to go into a foreign country without reporting to the national authorities?” justice minister Alexis Thambwe Mwamba told reporters in Geneva earlier in the week, according to Reuters. “How will they get visas? How will they get access to the countryside? The best way would be to go towards a solution that is acceptable for everyone… If you think you can do the investigation without us, go ahead.”

According to the resolution passed, the DRC will now take the lead on the investigation with the UN providing “technical and logistical support”.

“The victims – those who have been killed, maimed, subjected to terrible violence and forced from their homes – deserve justice,” said the UN’s human rights head Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein in a statement.


angolaA Portuguese court ruled last week that Angola‘s vice president Manuel Vicente must face charges of corruption and money laundering.

Vicente is accused of bribing Portuguese officials during his tenure as head of the state oil agency Sonangal from 1999 to 2012.

“The attorney-general’s office says that Mr Vicente paid $810,000 (nearly R10.5 million) in bribes to shut down corruption investigations that he was facing,” reports the BBC. “The alleged bribes were made to Portugal’s former public prosecutor Orlando Figueira, who also faces charges as part of ‘Operation Fizz’.”

The charges against Vicente, first laid in February, were described  at the time by Angola’s foreign ministry as “a serious attack” on the country, “likely to disrupt the good relations existing between the two states”.

Reports Reuters: “State-run media called the investigation ‘revenge by the former colonial master’ and ‘neo-colonialism’.”

Angolan authorities have reportedly refused to play ball since then, but last week’s ruling saw the charges declared valid with an order that all suspects should stand trial.


tanzaniaTanzania‘s president John Magufuli last week said that schoolgirls who fall pregnant will not be allowed to continue their education after giving birth.

In a speech that has angered women’s rights NGOs, Magufuli said the girls should instead “join vocational training colleges or seek loans and become small entrepreneurs”, reported The Citizen.

“I give money for a student to study for free, and then she gets pregnant, gives birth and after that, returns to school. No, not under my mandate,” the president was quoted as saying by AFP.

He continued: “If we allow young mothers back into public schools we will one day have Standard One pupils rushing back home to breastfeed their babies. This way, we will destroy this nation.”

A Human Rights Watch report released last week found that over 15,000 girls drop out of Tanzanian schools every year due to pregnancy.


botswanaBotswana‘s former president Ketumile Masire died last week after a short stay in the intensive care unit of a Gaborone hospital.

Masire was elected into power in 1980, where he remained until he chose to step down in 1998.

Reuters called him “an instrumental figure in establishing the southern African country’s image as a stable African democracy”.

“He was Botswana’s longest serving president, and was credited with introducing Botswana’s two-term limit on ruling presidents and the automatic succession by the vice-president on the retirement of the sitting head of state,” reports HuffPost.

June 12 – 18, 2017: Murder mystery in Lesotho while MPs suspended in Zambia

lesothoThomas Thabane was on Friday inaugurated as Lesotho‘s prime minister, just two days after his estranged wife was murdered.

The police have remained largely mum on Lipolelo Thabane’s death, confirming only that a 58-year-old woman was shot and killed while driving home with a friend.

“While it remains unclear who the perpetrators are, there are suspicions that the death was politically motivated,” writes Global Risk Insights.

In an environment of political tension and little real information, rumours have flourished. Competing conspiracy theories blame either Thabane’s enemies – or the Thabane camp itself.

In early 2015, during Thabane’s first go-round as PM, a court ruled that First Lady privileges should be bestowed on Lipolelo, and not Thabane’s young, new, customary wife.

“While PM Thabane’s opponents in the outgoing government and military may be behind the murder, Lipolelo Thabane may have also been killed by allies of the Prime Minister in order to tie up any loose ends,” writes Global Risk Insights. “An additional theory is that the incident was a random murder, yet the victim and timing raises considerable suspicions.”

According to African Independent, Thabane marked a moment’s silence for his wife at the inauguration, insisting on the need for police reform “to restore peace and stability in this country”.

After a quasi-coup in 2014, two collapsed coalition governments and three elections in five years, it was this stability that Thabane emphasised in his speech.

“One looks forward to a stable, normal and internationally accepted five-year cycle between elections,” he said, according to News24.


zambiaZambia last week suspended 48 opposition lawmakers for boycotting a speech by President Edgar Lungu earlier this year.

Reuters reports that the parliamentarians from the United Party for National Development (UPND) have been suspended for 30 days – without pay.

Speaker Patrick Matibini challenged the MPs – who have contested Lungu’s electoral win last year in court – to “resign on moral grounds if you do not recognize that there is a legitimately elected government”, slamming what he called their “irrational and morally unjustified behaviour”.

Matibini has also asked the police to investigate UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema for his “disparaging and contemptuous remarks”, according to Zambia Reports.

Hichilema is already behind bars and has been for months, facing a treason charge after a traffic altercation with Lungu in May.

Political analyst Macdonald Chipenzi told German agency Deutsche Welle there was “no law currently in place that compels or mandates members of parliament to be in the house at the point when the presidential speech is being delivered”.

“This is a decision meant to appease the appointing authority,” he added.

Numerous groups have decried the Zambian government’s increasingly authoritarian behaviour, with a coalition of churches last week releasing a statement calling the country a “dictatorship”.

The government has reacted indifferently.

“What crisis?” Lungu reportedly said Friday. “There is no crisis.”


drcOver 900 inmates escaped last week after gunmen attacked a prison in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Deutsche Welle reports that only 30 of the prisoners remain, with 11 people – including eight security officers – killed in the gunfight.

Kangwayi Prison is in North Kivu, a region troubled by violence. Many of the escapees were fighters from the Allied Democratic Forced rebel group, which has terrorised the area.

“According to the UN, the ADF has engaged in numerous violations of human rights law including recruitment of child soldiers, abduction, murder, maiming and rape,” reports Deutsche Welle. “More than 60,000 people have been displaced due to fighting and looting.”

This is just the latest in a string of jailbreaks in the country.

According to Reuters, 4000 prisoners escaped a high-security prison in the capital Kinshasa last month.


mozambiqueAnd Mozambique is under fire after spending nearly $4 million on luxury cars for its lawmakers.

According to the BBC, social media was on fire last week over the 18 Mercedes-Benz cars which went to members – both ruling and opposition – of the the governing body of the country’s parliament.

This when the country is very much facing the possibility of a liquidity crisis over its public debt, says the Economist Intelligence Unit.

In a response that will sound familiar to South Africans, the finance ministry’s national budget director Rogerio Nkomo said the lawmakers were “entitled” to the cars.

June 5 – 11, 2017: Mosisili out, Hichilema shuffled, and Zim birds banned

lesothoLesotho‘s Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili last week conceded defeat after his rival Tom Thabane came out on top of a snap poll at the weekend.

“We intend to form a government of all Basotho without any form of discrimination, a government that is committed to the rule of law, reunification of the nation, good governance, rebuilding and strengthening of the of the pillars of democracy and abhors corruption in all its forms,” Thabane said in a celebratory press conference, reports the Lesotho Times.

Whether the election will mean an end to Lesotho’s ongoing political crisis remains to be seen.

Up until a few months ago, Thabane was living in exile in South Africa, alleging an army plot to assassinate him. That army has gone nowhere.

Thabane’s All Basotho Convention (ABC) is also dependent on a coalition with three smaller parties to rule, a tenuous position given the election was called because Mosisili’s own ruling coalition collapsed — a coalition that in itself rose up after Thabane’s first go-round as prime minister from 2012 to 2014 came to an end after his then-alliance partners turned on him.

Political and security reforms are vital to avoid a re-repeat of history, observers said.


zambiaZambia‘s main opposition party says the government acted unconstitutionally last week when its jailed leader Hakainde Hichilema was moved to a maximum security prison some 150 kilometres outside the capital Lusaka.

The leader of the opposition United Party for National Development (UPND) faces treason charges after his motorcade allegedly failed to give way to President Edgar Lungu’s as the two headed to an event two months back.

He’ll be back in court this week after a failed attempt to have the charges thrown out.

On Friday, he was moved out of the Lusaka Central Correctional Facility for Mukobeko Maximum Prison.

According to Zambia’s Daily Mail: “A senior government official who asked not to be identified said Hichilema’s transfer was not peculiar because the Zambia Correctional Service can move any person in its custody to any designated facility for various reasons.”

But the UPND claimed in a statement Hichilema was “manhandled” during the transfer and “denied access to his legal representatives”.

“Among the rights of the accused persons is the right to unhindered visitation by their family members and to legal representation,” the party said, adding that the move was thus “unconstitutional”.


zimbabweSouth Africa, Mozambique and Botswana last week banned poultry imports from Zimbabwe after an outbreak of bird flu.

The virus killed 7,000 birds at one of the country’s biggest poultry producers, with a flock of 140,000 then culled to stop the spread, reports the Financial Gazette.

The farm has now been quarantined.

The South African Poultry Association said 140 million chickens would be at risk if the virus jumped the border, reports The Citizen.

But Zimbabwe says it’s not fazed by the bans – according to their own poultry association, they barely even export to South Africa or Botswana anyway.