Category Archives: Botswana

August 7 – 13, 2017: Congo cracks down on social media, while Dalai Lama bails on Botswana

drcThe Democratic Republic of Congo last week ordered social media be limited after over a dozen people died in an anti-government riot.

The violence last Monday broke out when the Bundu dia Kongo (BDK) rebel group attacked the main prison in the capital Kinshasa, facing off against police and soldiers.

Later that day, the telecoms chief regulator ordered “technical measures” be taken by internet companies “to restrict to a minimum the capacity to transmit images”, reports Reuters — a move rights groups labelled an attack on freedom of expression.

“Most worryingly, it comes amid a worsening political crisis where the risk of human rights violations and abuses – and therefore the importance of social media as a documentation tool — is high,” said Amnesty International in a statement.

The restrictions were also somewhat conveniently timed to coincide with a two-day stay-away called by the opposition, who are still waiting for a date for the country’s long-overdue national vote to be set.

Communications minister Emery Okundji later said the restrictions – which would soon be eased, he claimed – were necessary “for public safety reasons” as images posted online were “distorting the truth and inciting violence”.

mozambiqueMozambique‘s president Filipe Nyusi last week traveled to the mountain hideout of Afonso Dhlakama, leader of the opposition, to discuss steps towards a lasting peace between the two sides.

Dhlakama’s Renamo party has been warring with government troops since 2013, as he presses for “greater decentralisation of the state and better integration of their people into the police and military”, reports AFP.

According to Mozambique’s news agency AIM, Renamo wants provincial leaders elected rather than appointed — a demand that would require amending the constitution.

“That in turn can only be passed with a two thirds majority in the Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic,” reports AIM. “To achieve the two thirds, the parliamentary groups of the ruling Frelimo Party and of Renamo must agree on the text of the amendment.”

A press statement from the presidency said that the  two leaders “discussed and agreed on the next steps in the peace process, which they hope to be completed by the end of the year” — a development that garnered praise from both the United States, the European Union, and former president Armando Guebeza.

Speaking on Wednesday in the capital Maputo, Guebeza reportedly said, “All of us have been working to and want to see peace in Mozambique. This meeting means that key steps were taken for an effective peace in our country.”

botswanaThe Dalai Lama last week announced he would not be attending an upcoming conference in Botswana, on doctor’s orders.

The Tibetan holy man’s scheduled visit this coming week had angered China, which had pressured Botswana to deny him entry — as South Africa has done several times.

But The Tibetan Post reports that on Friday the Dalai Lama issued a cancellation of his own, citing “exhaustion”.

“Although he had been eagerly looking forward to visiting Gaborone from August 15 to 20… His Holiness has reluctantly had to concede that his 82-year old body was telling him to rest,” the statement said, adding that doctors had told him “to avoid undertaking long journeys for the next few weeks”.

The Dalai Lama also thanked Botswana for its “unwavering principled stand to welcome him to their country, despite overwhelming pressure not to do so”, writes the Washington Post.


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.”

Recommended Reading:

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.”

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.

October 6 – 12, 2014

malawiMalawi last week sentenced a government official to three years in jail for her part in the Cashgate scandal – the first public servant jailed out of about 50 arrested for their magical abilities to transform public funds into giant piles of cash in their pockets and car boots between 2009 and 2013.

About $30 million worth of it.

According to AFP, the first Cashgate convict is Treza Namathanga Senzani, “the former principal secretary in the tourism ministry, [who] pleaded guilty to stealing $150 000 from state coffers”.

Senzani was arrested last year when she issued two government cheques to her private company, “which according to police never had the provision of goods or services to the government,” reports Malawi24.

And the judge was hardcore on this: no “suspended sentence because you’re a first-time offender” cushion. Instead, Senzani got three years for money laundering and nine months for theft, to be served concurrently. (Not that all Malawians think this was harsh enough.)

As the judge noted in this AFP report, “It was an illegal act that had an impact on the economy.”

A big impact. In the wake of Cashgate, foreign donors announced they would no longer be gracing Malawi with their dollars. To put this in context, the approximately $150 million Malawi received in foreign aid before Cashgate made up a sizeable 40 PERCENT of the national budget.

Senzani’s jailing could be the first step in bringing those donors back.

Last week, Germany said it would fund a $25 million audit into just what happened to all the money – but warned it wouldn’t be signing cheques until the loopholes that allowed Cashgate to happen in the first place were sealed.

zimbabweTechnically, she’s only in the running to lead Zanu-PF’s Women’s League.

But Zimbabwean First Lady Grace Mugabe made media waves last week as she travelled around the country on her “Meet the People Tour”.

And Grace – now commonly referred to in the state-owned media as “Dr Mugabe”, what with her being a PhD-prodigy and all – is making her ambitions known. Women’s League? Psh.

“You would see me quiet, a young girl, what did you think I was doing? I was learning,” she said at a rally last week, reports Zimbabwean paper NewsDay. “So what is shocking you today? You made me what I am, I was copying from you. You are not supposed to be shocked, I am seeing a higher post.”

Honestly, though, that’s mild compared to everything else Grace told us about herself last week, like:

  • that she’s all about clean governance
    White people came to me with $10 million to stop the land reform programme. I said to them don’t ever come back to me. I chucked them out of my office and almost spat at their faces. They thought I was a soft target on the programme.”
  • that she’s an avid agriculturalist
    “Nobody will remove me from the farm which I took. Blood will be spilt if anyone attempts to remove me from that farm . . . I took that farm personally because even after I told ministers and government officials that I wanted a farm, they did not allocate me land and instead told me they thought I was joking.”
  • but nobody buys her yoghurt
    “I manufacture yoghurt but no one buys it… You can’t even find a person who can buy a packet of milk.”
  • that she’s kind of a racist
    “A Zimbabwean lady got married to a Chinese national and they had a child. A few weeks later, the child died and the aunt who was mourning kept saying she knew that the child was going to die within a very short period. After some interrogations the aunt said the death of the child was obvious because Chinese products were not durable.”
  • and that she’s basically Lord Varys
    “In fact my spies are too many, even a person seated next you might be my spy so be careful, I know what you are doing.”


mozambiqueIt’s election time in Mozambique on Wednesday, and the news is all about Afonso Dhlakama, leader of the sometime-rebel-but-currently-respectable-opposition-party Renamo. Up until a month or two ago, Dhlakama was still living in the bush, insistent the ruling Frelimo was out to get him and running intermittent skirmishes with government troops.

Now he’s running the show, speaking in front of crowds of thousands. Just read some of the descriptions from this AFP report:

  • “Footage broadcast on national television showed capacity crowds in the coal-rich Tete province where people crowded onto rooftops to see Dhlakama.”
  • “Thousands packed the airport of the second largest city of Beira on Sunday, broke through security cordons and streamed onto the tarmac when his plane landed.”
  • “ ‘I personally thought he was marginalised,’ said Antonio Francisco, a researcher at Mozambique’s Institute for Social and Economic Studies. But ‘he has resuscitated himself politically’ and his campaign is like an ’emotional tsunami’.”

According to the Africa Elections Project, though, the crowds won’t matter: Frelimo is still expected to win.

Mauritius, meanwhile, dissolved its Parliament last week in the run-up to an election to change all elections, reports AFP. At the moment, Mauritians vote for a party, just like in South Africa, and Parliament then decides who will be president. But the Prime Minister’s Labour Party and the opposition Movement Militant Mauricien (MMM) have teamed up with the goal of introducing a bill that would allow for separate presidential elections, like in America.

And two weeks before Botswana goes to the polls, president Ian Khama predicted his ruling Botswana Democratic Party will (again) win by a comfortable margin.

Ten-year-old me is just dying to bring you the latest out of Madagascar, where BABY SPICE IS DOING SUPER IMPORTANT HUMANITARIAN STUFF for Unicef.

The organisation is trying to raise awareness about maternal and newborn tetanus. And to show just how important it is, they brought on Emma Bunton: a woman best known for wearing her hair in pigtails in the late 1990s. (Though she seems to have done away with that look now – check these pics on the Telegraph’s website: angelic humanitarian profile pics for daaays.)

Oh, gods - "Baby Spice meets Mother Theresa" in the top right is just too fantastic.

Oh, gods – “Baby Spice meets Mother Theresa” on the top right. I just can’t.

Look, I’m not judging because, more importantly, Bunton’s using her new global platform to – totally innocently and not at all Publicity Stuntishly – drop hints about a Spice Girls Reunion.

Now that’s news I want to hear.

September 29 – October 5, 2014

lesothoElections will be held two years early in Lesotho as the country heads to the polls to resolve its ongoing political crisis.

Prime Minister Thomas Thabane suspended Parliament in June to block a vote of no confidence after losing the support of his deputy Mothetjoa Metsing, leader of one of the main partners in his coalition government.

Now, it seems South Africa’s deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa has helped negotiate a way out of the conflict with a plan unveiled last week.

According to the Maseru Facilitation Declaration, the rival factions have committed to the reopening of Parliament on October 17, when only election plans will be discussed nobody will sneakily try to oust Thabane. It will then be dissolved in early December for the parties to begin campaigning. And in late February next year, the country will vote.

But will this be enough?

As journalist and activist Levi Kabwato notes in this piece, it’s unlikely any party will earn the necessary 61 percent for an outright majority – which will leave the country with a fragile, hung Parliament all over again.

“The pitfall of this, therefore, is that in March or April 2015, Lesotho may actually be back where it is now, plunged deep in a continuation of the current political crisis. So, should Ramaphosa be patting himself on the back after all?”

Meanwhile, the country’s security situation was only vaguely addressed at the announcement. The failed-quasi-‘coup’ at the end of August was heralded by an army attack on police headquarters – and last Tuesday, just TWO DAYS before the elections announcement, there was another shoot-out between the army and the police.

How will conflict between the army and the police force be resolved? And while we’re on that, just who is in charge of the army – Thabane’s appointee Maaparankoe Mahao or former chief Tlali Kamoli, accused of escaping for the hills with looted weaponry after the non-coup?

Ramaphosa will reportedly meet with Kamoli in the coming week.

swazilandA woman made homeless during a series of forced evictions attempted public suicide in Swaziland last week. This after she and 15 other families were thrown off land where the government is building Biotechnology Park, a 158-hectare project partially funded by Taiwan, to serve as an innovation hub in the country – specifically for food production.

But according to the South African Litigation Centre, the evictions were illegal.

“On 8 September 2014 this interim order [to evict the residents] was made final and the residents immediately lodged an appeal to the order,” writes SALC lawyer Caroline James. “Appeals to eviction orders ordinarily stay the execution of the orders, and so this should have prohibited the government officials from evicting any person named in the eviction order.”

It didn’t.

The woman, whose family of ten is now homeless, was restrained before she could harm herself, reports the Times of Swaziland: “She was heard screaming: “Ngingamane ngife (it’s better to die).”

Southern Africa performed best in the newly released Ibrahim Index of African Governance – with Lesotho, South Africa, the Seychelles and Namibia all in the top ten (Zimbabwe drags us down considerably at #46).

The rankings are determined by four categories: Safety & Rule of Law, Participation & Human Rights, Sustainable Economic Opportunity, and Human Development. And in fact it was SADC island state Mauritius that took the top spot, with a score of 81.7 out of 100.

botswanaAn interesting country to look at, though, is Botswana, coming it at #3.

It comes out tops specifically in the Safety & Rule of Law category and, as this piece notes, is “one of few African countries to transform its mineral wealth into political stability and widespread gains for its citizens”.

But as Africa analyst Liesl Louw-Vaudran writes in this piece (that’s *well* worth reading in its entirety), an investor-friendly image internationally does not necessarily translate to squeaky clean behaviour back home.

She writes that civil society organisations dispute the rankings “because the Botswana government was increasingly restricting basic freedoms of expression and was unwilling to engage civil society organisations in the country”.

“In the latest attack on the media in Botswana, the Sunday Standard editor Outsa Mokone was arrested last month and charged with sedition following an article in the newspaper about [president Ian] Khama’s alleged involvement in a car crash.”

The journalist who wrote that article is now living in exile after receiving information his life was in danger, telling the Daily Maverick‘s Simon Allison: “The intimidation of journalists hasn’t been in the form of physical harassment before, it has always been in the form of using the legal system to silence us. But now it has taken a new form. It’s now getting into physical threats, threats of harm. Right now we have an administration in Botswana that is inward-looking, intolerant to dissent and divergent views.”

As this editorial on Mmegi Online noted: “Lack of progressive legislations such as freedom of information law, declaration of assets and liabilities laws, State political party funding, and many other laws is a clear sign of deficiency in our democratic setup. Further, lack of accountability by those in power; recent attack on the independent press, and abuse of State resources by the ruling party at the disadvantage of their opponents is a worrying development.”

And all of this in the weeks leading up to the country’s elections at the end of the month? Interesting times.


Tanzania approved a new draft constitution last week, passed without the input of opposition parties who are already voicing their dissent.

There’s some good and some bad to the new constitution. The gender gap will be narrowed, but birthright citizenship will also go out the window.

But according to Reuters, civil society and opposition politicians “say the version passed on Thursday is too limited and does not establish a federal system that many wanted”. They’ve called for nationwide protests.

According to VOA, “Critics say the government appears to be rushing to complete the new constitution. They contend the draft constitution is unlikely to lead to a governing document that represents the will of the people.”

And the local Guardian quoted a professor involved in the original drafting of the constitution as saying that the version passed last week was quite different to what they’d intended.

“I fear this passed draft constitution cannot lead to a good governing document that represents the will of the people… The proposed constitution is contrary to the targets that we set for ourselves, to get a good constitution.”

mozambiqueCivil society groups in Mozambique warned last week about the possibility of violence when the elections results are announced later this month.

The country goes to the polls on October 15. A SADC observer mission was deployed there last week and campaigning is well under way.

But civil society is warning police to be on guard and unbiased in the coming weeks, after supporters of the ruling party Frelimo attacked the motorcade of another party’s presidential candidate two weeks ago. When his supporters protested in turn, they were violently dispersed by police.

Meanwhile, leader of opposition party Renamo, Afonso Dhlakama, was wooing potential voters last week with a speech that kind of terrifies: “When I try to serve you, along comes a little machine and provokes me. When I am President, nobody will provoke me and even if they do, nothing will happen to me because I will have all the laws and everything else under control.”

Meanwhile, Namibia announced last week that it will hold parliamentary and presidential elections on November 28. Namibians overseas will vote on November 14.

And Amal Alamuddin and George Clooney are reportedly/allegedly/gossipingly honeymooning in the Seychelles. If that’s not news, I don’t know what is.

September 22 – 28, 2014

zambiaIf you’re a regular reader of the SADC Wrap, you’ll be familiar with the ongoing rumours about Zambian president Michael Sata’s health… and, you know, General State of Aliveness (is he? isn’t he? who knows?).

He’s missed numerous public appearances including the US-Africa Leaders Summit and took what government labelled a “working holiday” in Israel earlier this year (despite Israeli reports that he was actually in hospital there).

Zambian diplomats abroad were even reportedly ordered to fast from “online publications spreading falsehoods” and only stream the state broadcaster for information on Sata’s health.

But things really came to a head last week when Newsweek reported Sata died while in New York attending the United Nations General Assembly – a rumour sparked by Sata’s failure to pitch for his speech.

Turns out that wasn’t true, as the reporter noted minutes later.

Turns out, Sata didn’t die, but he was reportedly on the edge.

According to Zambian Watchdog, Sata’s wife Christine Kaseba called 911, quoting an unnamed intelligence source: “Dr. Kaseba, (a medical doctor) together with the President’s personal doctors realized that her husband’s condition was terrible and even passed on hence her distress call to 911, calling for emergency help. It was at that time that the American doctors rushed to the hotel and took over the treatment, luckily enough they were able to resuscitate him though his chances of survival still remain at 50-50.”

Police also confirmed Sata was never hospitalized, but did need medical help.

Not that the Zambian government is having any of it.

Instead, vice president Guy Scott said Sata’s health was “entirely normal” – which is probably true if you adjust “normal” for the health of a 77-year-old.

“I spoke to the president this morning,” Scott reportedly said. “He has not received any emergency or specialist medical treatment.”

botswanaThree candidates have been approved for Botswana‘s presidential elections next month, including President Ian Khama. He’ll be pitted against Dumelang Saleshando of the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) and Duma Boko of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), reports the Botswana Press Agency.

Don’t expect any surprises come October 24, though.

Much like the ANC in South Africa, Khama’s Botswana Democratic Party is expected to keep its comfortable majority nearly 50 years after it first came to power.

“The 24 October election is likely to be one-sided affair as usual with the BDP expected to easily win again, as always since independence,” reports the African Elections Project.

lesothoA month after Lesotho‘s political crisis was flung onto the global stage – a parliament suspended, a Prime Minister escaped, a military versus a police force, a general gone rogue (you can read it all here) – the country’s leaders are allegedly determined to fix what they broke.

I say allegedly because every deal reached so far as been neatly tossed aside and ignored.

But this time, it’s for realzies, says South Africa’s deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa, who’s playing peacemaker in the whole mess and moving the country towards elections.

Returning last week from a visit to Lesotho, Ramaphosa said, “I’m encouraged by the tenure and the way of the discussions and all the parties are committed to implement decisions that were taken by SADC summit leaders.”

South Africa sent police officers to fill the security vacuum in the wake of the country’s political crisis, and now Namibia’s sending its own cops through too while, hilariously, absolute monarchy Swaziland will contribute troops (eclipsed in hilarity only by that paragon of well-run elections Zimbabwe sending election observers to Mozambique).

Meanwhile, Michael J Jordan for AFP scored an interview with Lesotho prince Seeiso Bereng Seeiso, baby bro to King Letsie III.

Unsurprisingly, he reckons the monarchy could fix Lesotho – if it had more powers.

“Where are we as a nation, that whenever we have a political fall-out, we always need foreign intervention?” he said. “Let’s step back and ask: ‘Are there any internal mechanisms, or voices of reason, amongst us?’ Yes, there is someone among us who can step into that role to mediate, His Majesty… Allow His Majesty to slam on the brakes, when needed.”

drcWhile Ebola continues to ravage West Africa – and with really alarming estimates of the disease’s possible trajectory – some good news of out the Democratic Republic of Congo, where a separate strain of the disease seems to be coming under control.

The DRC had its seventh outbreak of the disease in August, and the number of infected jumped rapidly from about a dozen to over 60 at the beginning of September. But an article early last week said there had been no new cases reported in the 12 days prior, while another said 27 people had recovered from the disease. Consider that in proportion to the size of the outbreak: 70 in the DRC, as of last Wednesday, as opposed to the over 6500 cases in West Africa.

“The current epidemic is the seventh to have broken out in DRC and possibly explains why the health practitioners might have found it easier to contain,” explained one report. “A quarantine zone was immediately established in a 100-km radius around Boende District, where the cases were reported, to prevent the virus from spreading farther.”

malawiA year after Cashgate – when a number of civil servants were caught with literal stacks of hard cash looted from government coffers – Malawi‘s president Peter Mutharika is trying to win back the foreign aid that ran dry in the wake of the scandal.

A whopping 40 percent of Malawi’s national budget comes from aid, but much of that was withheld over the last year. Apparently donors weren’t thrilled their money was being stolen. Go figure.

And at the United Nations General Assembly in New York last week, Mutharika was reportedly at pains to woo those donors.

According to the Maravi Post, the president said after a meeting with EU diplomats, “We have done everything that a responsible government should do and we have the hope that there is light at the end of the tunnel.”

Mutharika also defended Malawi’s messy presidential elections earlier this year, which saw Joyce Banda ousted despite trying to nullify the elections entirely when it looked like she might lose.

“Malawi has come out of the election must stronger than before,” said Mutharika.

mozambiqueOver 20 elephants were killed in Mozambique in the first two weeks of September, a devastating number given the massive toll poaching has already taken on the continent’s elephant population.

And according to AFP, they’re just some of the between 1500 and 1800 elephants killed each year by poachers in the country, quoting an environmentalist saying, “The killing of elephants in the north of Mozambique… is reaching proportions never seen before. The killing of elephants is being industrialised.”

The news comes as Mozambique kicks off its second elephant census. According to APA, the first census in 2008 had the population at 22 000, but that number is now expected to be down to 19 000.

August 25 – 31, 2014

lesothoUsually, when I get that little Google Alerts email in my inbox letting me know Lesotho‘s been in the news, it has to do with their football team.

Not so this week, with the Mountain Kingdom making its way into world headlines for a maybe-it-was-maybe-it-wasn’t coup on Saturday morning.

If you missed it, here’s a quick summary: Maseru residents woke early Saturday to the sound of gunfire in the capital after the army surrounded police headquarters. Radio stations were jammed (except for the Catholic channel, which apparently carried on with a broadcast about marriage). Prime Minister Thomas Thabane spoke out from South Africa – to which he’d escaped in the early hours of the morning on a tip-off – crying coup. The military denied it, saying sure, they’d surrounded police HQ and fired shots, but that was all part of disarming the cops who wanted to give weapons to allegedly rabble-rousing youths who were planning on disrupting an anti-Thabane protest march scheduled for Monday.

This is still an unfolding story, so the gaps in the story are continually being filled – little details like Thabane wanting to fire the army chief on Friday, just the day before the Could-Be-Coup, and an assassination attempt on the man who would be his replacement (!!).

But this is also a story that goes months back, maybe even years. See, Lesotho’s 2012 elections resulted in a hung parliament that led to a coalition between three parties (NOTE: there are so many different political parties involved in this fracas that I’m not even going to begin saying which is which here). It’s the tensions in this coalition that are behind the weekend’s events. Thabane’s coalition partners aren’t thrilled with his leadership and an attempt to introduce a motion of no confidence in him earlier this year was thoroughly swatted aside when he simply suspended Parliament for nine months instead. And that’s what that aforementioned anti-Thabane protest march was all about: forcing him to reopen Parliament.

Recommended reading:

  • The best resource to keep up-to-date with this has to be the Lesotho Times – I cannot recommend their coverage enough: it’s rolling and nuanced and thoroughly up-to-date for the reader who wants to really know the nitty-gritty of this tale. You can follow their reports months back.
  • For a quick Dummies’ Guide for the background to all this, I put out a Special Edition SADC Wrap over the weekend that explains it all in basic, tongue-in-cheek detail (I also did a more serious piece for Al Jazeera on the same topic for people who don’t want to deal with my sense of humour).
  • This remarkable piece on IOL also gives a brilliant explanation of how we got to this point (my name is on this piece, too, but really I contributed the bare minimum – all credit has to go to IOL foreign editor Peter Fabricius and our Lesotho correspondent Basildon Peta, who just overflow with experience and knowledge).
  • SABC also a correspondent in Maseru in the form of Nthakoane Ngatane – she’s been tweeting and blogging updates on the Parliamentary crisis for months and is absolutely worth the follow.

zambiaZambian president Michael Sata is apparently still alive after months of speculation about his absence on any public platform, apparently due to his ill health. It’s led to discussions about who would succeed Sata should he die – the deputy Guy Scott? The justice minister Wynter Kabimba? The finance minister Alexander Chikwanda?

Well, Sata threw a spanner into the works like a grumpy old man screaming “I’m not dead yet!” by firing Kabimba, thought by some (mainly himself, it seems) as the favourite in the race.

Recommended reading:

  • Zambia Reports is an excellent resource for anybody interested in the country’s news, and this specific piece claims to give some insider info on what Sata said to Kabimba after the firing: “You know the answers to all your questions. You think I am foolish, I have been watching you from time back, I have seen what kind of an element you are, you and your friends, I shall fix all of you one by one. I know you wanted me dead while you acted illegally as president so you could take over but God didn’t allow you.” Joh.
  • It’s another Peter Fabricius punt, but this great piece of his on the ISS website (published just before Sata was fired) is a very good read for anybody wanting to understand the succession battle that’s been playing out over the last few months: “The divisions between the factions are evidently deepened by personal, tribal and ideological animosities… Because of the ideological differences between the rival factions jostling to succeed Sata, the succession struggle could, in theory, have significant implications for investors and the economy.”

swazilandA Twitter account inspired by Wikileaks is exposing the high life of Swaziland‘s monarchy. Swazi Leaks has been tweeting pictures of police beating protesters and, more tellingly, pictures of King Mswati III’s children living it up abroad. “The king has an annual household budget of around $60 million (45 million euros) in a country where about 60 percent of the population live on less than $1 a day,” writes Neo Maditla for AFP. The country is routinely lambasted for labour and human rights abuses. Political parties are banned and a number of journalists and activists are currently behind bars.

malawiMalawi ministers last week requested a 600 percent increase in their salaries. President Peter Mutharika quickly nipped that in the bud. According to the Nyasa Times, the president’s spokesman said Mutharika “finds it unethical to raise ministers’ salaries when the cost of living is not only high for them, but for every Malawian”. The ministers were asking for K3.5 million (that’s Malawian kwachas, by the way), about $8800 or nearly R95 000. Yes, ridiculous. But also keep in mind that these guys currently only earn K600 000 – that’s just over $1500 or R16 000 a month. (Somebody tell the Generations actors.)

drcThe DRC confirmed two Ebola cases last week, but said they were unrelated to the current epidemic in West Africa that has so far killed over 1500. According to reports, a quarantine was quickly imposed – this is the DRC’s seventh Ebola outbreak, so by now they should know what they’re doing. In fact, two weeks ago they even offered their assistance to the West African countries currently battling the disease. But even this isolated case in the DRC is already having knock-on effects: according to reports coming out of Zambia, a group of truckers coming through the country from the DRC are stuck on the border between Zambia and Botswana. This after Botswana imposed travel restrictions on anyone coming in from Ebola-affected countries.

namibiaAnd a protest in Namibia turned violent last week, ending in the shooting of a 26-year-old woman, Frieda Ndatipo. She was part of a crowd of “struggle kids” – children of fighters killed in Namibia’s battle for independence – protesting for jobs outside the headquarters of the ruling party. “The shoot-out erupted after the seemingly peaceful crowd of demonstrators allegedly opened fire on the policemen, who were in the process of searching the group for weapons,” reported local newspaper The Namibian. The protesters also reportedly “had stones and sticks on them when they were searched”, according to police. The struggle kids deny this. You can read the interview The Namibian did with Ndatipo’s family and friends here: “But how do you shoot somebody who is running away and who is posing no threat to you? I really don’t understand this. Someone must explain this to me. These children are campaigning for their rights. Their parents died for this country.”