Category Archives: Lesotho

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.

May 29 – June 4, 2017: Lesotho votes and Dos Santos returns

lesothoFor the third time in five years, Lesotho headed to the polls on Saturday to pick a new government after Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili’s ruling coalition collapsed.

His chief rival, former Prime Minister Tom Thabane, had no reservations about the outcome.

“We are going to win this election, if it is free and fair,” he told AFP.

Even so, Thabane’s likely to rely on the same web of delicate alliances that brought Mosisili to power in 2015 — despite his Democratic Congress winning fewer seats than Thabane’s All Basotho Congress.

“A coalition is the most likely outcome, but it is unlikely to be a successful one,” analyst Charles Fogelman told AFP. “Both of the previous coalitions have collapsed under the weight of succession and power battles, and it is hard to imagine future coalitions not doing the same.”

The election marks the latest event in the rollercoaster ride that is Lesotho politics, set off by a 2014 army-led quasi-coup that sent then-Prime Minister Thabane fleeing across the border into South Africa.

How the army will react to the results of Saturday’s poll is anybody’s guess.

“The prospect of a Thabane victory is extremely worrying to partisan pro-Mosisili army officers who have several skeletons in the cupboard which could come clattering out,” writes Peter Fabricius for the Institute for Security Studies.

On election day, a handful of soldiers loitered outside polling stations in the capital Maseru, fully armed.

“Why would there be soldiers in a peaceful exercise of democratic rights? There has not been a security concern,” an opposition spokesman told VOA. “Why are they fully armed? So the first impression is that they are there to intimidate.”


drcThe Democratic Republic of Congo‘s government last week okayed the use of an experimental Ebola vaccine as it fights its eighth outbreak of the disease.

The vaccine is called rVSV-ZEBOV and, reports Nature, it was developed using a strain of the virus that hit the country in 1995: “This is nearly identical to the strain circulating in the country now. The protein triggers a person’s immune system to produce antibodies that fight the virus.”

If deployed, the plan would be to vaccinate the high-risk healthcare workers dealing with suspected Ebola cases.

But the same isolation of the affected community that has in the past helped contain the country’s Ebola scares provides quite an obstacle to actually deploying the vaccine. The affected region doesn’t have tarred roads or electricity — quite the hurdle for a vaccine that needs to be stored at -80°C.

But it’s a stumbling block that may never need be overcome. At least for now.

Health minister Olly Ilunga Kalenga said last week the outbreak was now under control, with no new cases reported in 21 days. The last confirmed case was reported on May 11 — the same day the World Health Organisation was first notified of the outbreak. Says the latest WHO report:

“As of 1 June, 72 contacts remain under follow up for signs and symptoms of Ebola. Modelling suggests the risk of further cases is currently low but not negligible, and decreases with each day without new confirmed/probable cases.”

Recommended Reading: 
This fascinating piece from Science on the researchers searching for the origins of the Ebola virus — and where hides between outbreaks: “The virus’s natural history is a mystery, says virologist Vincent Munster, sitting outside his tent in the darkening jungle. ‘We know everything about its replication cycle but fricking nothing about where it comes from and how it causes outbreaks.'”


angolaAngola‘s president Jose Eduardo Dos Santos last week returned home after nearly a month abroad, an absence that sparked reports of his suffering stroke or dying, while his daughter Isabel took furiously to social media insisting he was very much alive.

The government has confirmed, however, that the 74-year-old president was in fact seeking medical treatment while in Spain.

“You know that there are moments in everyone’s lives when we don’t feel well. But he is fine. He is in Spain but when he is better he will return,” foreign minister Georges Chikoti told RFI. “President Dos Santos has regular checkups in Spain so it is perfectly normal for him to be there.”


zimbabweAnd Robert Mugabe kicked off his election campaign last week, wooing youth at a soccer stadium south of Harare one year before Zimbabwe heads to the polls.

“Two hundred buses and trucks have been laid on to bring supporters to the venue,” reported News24. “Youths, women and war veterans are understood to have been invited.”

To say he received a warm reception would be something of an understatement.

Addressing the crowd of thousands, the leader of ZANU-PF’s youth wing Kudzanayi Chipanga called Mugabe an “angel” who was “representing God here on Earth”.

“Mugabe, his wife Grace and Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa nodded in disbelief,” reported NewsDay.

Chipanga continued: “I promise you, people, that when we go to heaven don’t be surprised to see Robert Gabriel Mugabe standing beside God vetting people into heaven.”


May 22 – 28: On Maimanes and mining ministers

zambiaThe ongoing concerns around Zambia‘s democratic integrity forced their way into South African headlines last week when Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane was refused entry to the country to attend the treason trial of his Zambian counterpart.

Hakainde Hichilema, 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 last month.

There’s no love lost between Hichilema and Lungu. The pair faced off in a hotly contested and sometimes violent presidential race last year. Hichilema later unsuccessfully challenged Lungu’s win in the courts.

With bail not an option for prisoners charged with treason, Hichilema has now been in jail for over 40 days, his case postponed several times over.

Never one to waste a PR opportunity, Maimane embraced continental brotherhood just in time for Africa Day, saying in a statement: “We will stand up for democracy and the rule of law on the African continent and we will be there in person to show our support for Mr Hichilema. We also call on the Zambian government to drop these trumped up charges against the Leader of the Opposition, and release him from prison.”

But Maimane never made it off the plane and back home Zambia’s High Commissioner defended the incident, saying Maimane had threatened to “pressure our courts of law in Zambia”.

Meanwhile, back in Zambia, Hichilema’s trial was once again postponed. He’ll be back in court June 12.


tanzaniaTanzania‘s president John Magufuli last week fired his mining minister after unveiling a report claiming mining company’s were understating the value of their exports and thus avoiding paying taxes.

AFP reports that both Sospeter Muhongo, who is “a friend and ally of the president”, and Dominic Rwekaza, head of the country’s minerals audit agency, were axed.

Magufuli said of the fired Muhongo: “The minister is my friend and I like him very much but I will not forgive him for this.”

“The probe team has also recommended that the government reinforces the ban on mineral sand exports until the right royalties are paid to the State, while investigations and legal steps are taken against employees involved,” reported Tanzania Daily News.

Magufuli banned mineral sands exports in March.

One company particularly hurt by the report is Canadian mining firm Acacia — its stocks dropped some 14 percent on the London Stock Exchange last week, reports CNBC, and it’s losing a reported $1 million a day because of the ban.

The company refutes the report’s findings, saying in a statement of the claim that two of their Tanzanian gold mines produce some 1.5 million oz of gold annually:

“This would mean they are the two largest gold producers in the world; that Acacia is the world’s third largest gold producer, and that Acacia produces more gold from just three mines than companies like AngloGold Ashanti produce from 19 mines, Goldcorp from 11 mines, and Kinross from its nine mines… In conclusion, we do not understand the findings of the Committee and believe that they contain significant discrepancies compared to all previous data analysed.”


drcA study released last week by the Norwegian Refugee Council found that over 900,000 people in the Democratic Republic of Congo fled their homes last year because of conflict — a figure that topped displacement numbers in both Syria and Iraq.

Alexandra Black from the NRC’s Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) told RFI that researchers were surprised by the results: “We’ve been monitoring Syria, Iraq and Yemen and they’ve been consistently having very high numbers of internal displacements every year. So when the DRC came up, we were taken by surprise and, at the same time, we aren’t really surprised because this is really a protracted crisis, one that’s been largely ignored, the underlined drivers have not been addressed.”

To blame are ongoing conflicts in North and South Kivu, and a new outbreak of violence in the Kasai provinces that in just the last few months has sent 20,000 refugees across the border into Angola.

In fact, sub-Saharan Africa as a whole was worse off than the Middle East. Says the report: “Of the 6.9 million new internal displacements by conflict in 2016, 2.6 million took place in Sub-Saharan Africa, and 2.1 million in the Middle East and North Africa.”

You can read the full report here.


lesothoAnd finally SADC has warned Lesotho that it will take action if anyone fails to accept the results of the upcoming vote.

The country will go to the polls for the third time in five years this Saturday after a bumpy few years set off by an alleged coup attempt in 2014.

The latest round of polling comes after the ruling coalition collapsed and Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili called for an early election to dodge a no-confidence vote in parliament.

“The stakes are very high in these elections… it will be the most competitive election ever in my view,” political scientist Dr Motlamelle Kapa told the SABC.

Mosisili’s Democratic Congress party took its time but has finally signed a pledge to accept the outcome of the June 3 vote. The army has likewise assured everybody its not planning another coup if the election doesn’t go Mosisili’s way, reports the Lesotho Times.

Launching the SADC observer mission last week, Tanzanian foreign minister Augustine Mahiga said, “After three elections in five years, the fatigued voters deserve a different and durable outcome.”


October 13 – 19, 2014

madagascarIt was news nobody saw coming. Last Monday morning, and totally unexpectedly, former president Marc Ravalomanana announced he’d returned to Madagascar after five years living in exile in South Africa.

He was quickly arrested and is reportedly being held at an unknown location.

“They were heavily armed with automatic rifles and were wearing balaclavas to disguise their identities,” Ravalomanana’s son reportedly said in a statement. “They did not say what they were charging him with or where they were taking him.”

Ravalomanana’s wife has now called on her country to “rise up” against his detention, reports AFP.

But to understand all this, we need to back up to early 2009, when anti-government protests were shaking the capital, Antananarivo. The strikes were initiated by Andry Rajoelina, a young media tycoon – and mayor of Antananarivo – who had a problem with Ravalomanana’s politics and plans, calling him a dictator. When the president shut down one of his TV stations, Rajoelina called people to the streets. The situation fell rapidly to pieces. Stores were looted. Government TV stations were burned. People died. A week into the unrest, Rajoelina declared himself ruler of Madagascar. A week after that, the protesters marched on the presidential palace. Police opened fire – with live ammunition. Dozens were killed. A month later, another presidential palace was stormed – this time by the military – and the coup was complete.

Since then, Ravalomanana’s been in South Africa and, in his absence, has been found guilty and sentenced to life in prison for ordering the shooting of the protesters.

Now Madagascar’s only just stabilised after all this. It held democratic elections last year and is slowly winning back the favour of the investors and international community who turned their backs on the country. And now – Ravalomanana.

The AU’s condemned his return, calling it an “unnecessary provocation”, reports AFP.

And this piece from IOL’s foreign editor Peter Fabricius raises some fascinating questions about just how Ravalomanana even left South Africa:

“His passport is being held by South African authorities… So it seems he did not pass through any immigration. He was also supposed to be under surveillance by South African intelligence. But he somehow gave them the slip, in circumstances which have aroused some suspicion of complicity by the authorities, which they deny. A private intelligence source said he travelled to Pietermaritzburg to visit his son at school there; drove to Durban’s King Shaka airport; flew to Lanseria airport, and from there to Skukuza airport in Kruger National Park. After that a private charter ferried him to a disused military airstrip south of Madagascar’s capital Antananarivo.”

It’s a great piece and is well worth the long read.


lesotho

It finally happened. Four months after prime minister Thomas Thabane suspended parliament to avoid a vote of no confidence that would have seen him ousted – and after twice reneging on regional agreements to reconvene it – Lesotho‘s parliament was reopened on Friday.

One opposition parliamentarian told AFP: “Democracy begins again… There was no longer democracy in this country but now we can get back to representing our people.”

The agreement to (finally and actually) open parliament’s doors was announced by South African deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa last month after weeks of acting as intermediary between the rival factions in Lesotho’s hung government .

IOL correspondent Basildon Peta gives a helluva interesting behind-the-scenes look at how Friday’s outcome was achieved:

“On his first visit he faced a barrage of criticism from all parties he was meant to reconcile… They suggested Ramaphosa was ignorant of the workings of a Westminister-type parliamentary democracy in which no confidence motions are routine.”

Parliament will remain open for only a short while before dissolving for early elections in February next year, which are hoped will lift Lesotho out of its political deadlock.


drcOver twenty people were killed last week when a rebel group reportedly conducted raids on the north-east DRC town of Beni.

VOA quotes an army spokesman as saying that the fighters snuck into homes at night and “people were killed with knives and machetes.”

AFP reports that most of the victims were women and children, “hacked and clubbed to death”.

The Allied Democratic Forces and the National Army for the Liberation of Uganda (ADF-NALU) has been blamed for the attack, a rebel group pushed out of Uganda by that county’s army and a persistent threat to Congolese towns in the region for years. In December last year, the same group was blamed for another attack in the region that left 40 dead.

The UN representative in the country Martin Kobler called for “decisive joint military actions” from UN and Congolese forces to bring the group to justice.


mozambique

For all the months of conflict and negotiation and peace treaties that preceded them, Mozambique pulled off relatively peaceful elections last Wednesday with the tally so far pointing to ruling party Frelimo staying in power.

SADC and AU observers seem satisfied that the process was generally “free, fair, and credible”.

But the opposition is having none of it, and started disputing the results before they were even counted.

On election day, the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM) alleged it had caught Frelimo members stuffing ballot boxes.

By Friday, with 25 percent of the vote in and Frelimo way ahead, sometime-rebel-group-but-currently-political-party Renamo had already declared: “We don’t accept the results. The results should be annulled and new elections held.

Then on Saturday came local media reports claiming Renamo supporters had physically destroyed 44 polling stations on elections day – affecting thousands of voters.

With votes still being counted and Frelimo still in the lead, Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama reiterated on Sunday that he was the real winner of the elections, while MDM’s Daviz Simango said, “No conscious citizen in the world can state that the Mozambican elections were free and fair.

Meanwhile, UN head Ban Ki-moon, always full of the lolz and the practical advice, has asked everybody to “continue working together”. Okay, Mr Ban, but only ‘cos you asked nicely.

Here’s a quick read on the three men vying to be president. (Spoiler alert: It’ll be Nyusi.)


namibia

Namibia confirmed last week that it has started dehorning rhinos in the fight against poaching. This comes after the country lost a record-breaking number this year (brace yourself, South Africans): 14.

Over a third of the world’s black rhino population is based in Namibia, reports Bloomberg, and about 500 white rhinos. And 14 poached animals may seem paltry compared to the hundreds South Africa clocks up in poached carcasses each year. But for a country that lost only ten rhinos over a period of ten years, 14 so far this year is quite a rise.

“It is a worrying situation that could rapidly escalate if counter-measures are not effectively put in place,” head of the WWF in Namibia Chris Weaver told Vice News.

Namibia’s deputy environment and tourism minister Pohamba Shifeta told the Namibian Sun “because rhino horn grows back, the ministry will assess the situation in a few years and decide whether or not to dehorn the rhinos again”.


swaziland

Just months after the country lost a crucial trade deal with the United States for failing to protect labour rights, King Mswati III has shut down all Swaziland‘s labour organisations. And it’s not just the unions affected. According to IOL, the move also hits the Federation of Swaziland Business Community and the Federation of Swaziland Employers and Chamber of Commerce – which in turn means government organs like the Wages Council, or Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration Commission can’t function.

The government’s pinning the decision on a piece of legislation called the Industrial Relations Act, passed in 2000 but which they’ve now decided 14 years on doesn’t make provisions for unions or federations to exist.

Clarifying the issue for the media, labour and social security minister Winnie Magagula offered the explanation that while trade unions and business federations have not been banned, they are technically illegal – and will remain illegal until an upcomig amendment to the Act is passed.

A union protest planned for Friday was banned by the cops, and then later called off by the unions themselves.

“To be specific, we want to prepare for the war that has been declared against us and our members,” one union boss told the Times of Swaziland. “However, this does not mean that the march will be violent. We will stick to the plan of having a peaceful march but we will be prepared for anything, including war.”


angola

In the same week that Angola was elected to serve for two years on the Security Council, the International Energy Agency (IEA) predicted the country could become Africa’s biggest oil producer from 2016. It’s a shift that will be down not so much to Angola’s increasing production as to the growing instability in the continent’s current top oil producer, Nigeria.

“The IEA estimated that Nigeria currently loses 150 000 barrels a day to oil theft, the equivalent of $5 billion a year,” reports the Wall Street Journal. “On top of that, regulatory uncertainty… has led to delays in investment decisions.”

The IEA report said 30 percent of oil and gas discoveries around the world in the last five years had been made in Africa – but warned that not much of this wealth was making its way to the people of the continent. (For an Angola-specific picture of this, read this AfricaReport article.)

“Africa has long been plagued by the resource curse, where abundant oil, gas and minerals in places like Equatorial Guinea or the Republic of Congo have made a select few rich, led to widespread corruption and left the majority of citizens poor,” reported Fortune. “The energy resources have also sparked conflict in countries such as Sudan and Nigeria, and have contributed to years of coups and political unrest. That trend is set to continue… unless countries tackle the range of problems that hinder the energy sector, from widespread oil theft… to electricity tariffs across the region, which are among the highest in the world.”


zimbabwe

And the Amazing Grace Mugabe Show dominated Zimbabwe‘s news last week, with the First Lady delivering a Subtweet Speech of note against her husband’s deputy and one of the top contenders vying to inherit his presidential throne, deputy president Joice Mujuru.

Quotable Quotes courtesy this New Zimbabwe report:

  • “Those positions which you hold were given to you and you can be removed. It is possible.”
  • “You say when Mugabe is gone you will take over his estate, come and take it today. What is stopping you from doing so since you use this road when you go to your home and the gates are open?”
  • “You lead factions, you extort companies and you are involved in illicit diamond deals, so you cannot say you are not corrupt.”

And my favourite, if only for the irony of it all: “A very senior leader wasting time spreading malicious gossip about the First Lady instead of working to address the country’s problems. You should be ashamed of yourself!

I would say this means Dr Mugabe’s sided with the succession race’s other top contender, justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa. But given that she’s announced her own intention to vie for the post, all bets are off.


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

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.