Category Archives: Mozambique

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.

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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.

May 1 – 7, 2017: ‘Beginning of peace’ in Mozambique

mozambiqueAfter three years of sporadic violence that left an unknown number dead and thousands fleeing, Mozambique‘s ever-warring political parties are finally calling it.

Ruling party Frelimo and the main opposition/sometime militant group Renamo have a long, messy history. As in 15 years and 1 million bodies of civil war. But peace only held for so long, with Renamo turning violent circa 2013 in their accusations of government corruption.

A disputed 2014 Frelimo election win, an opposition mountain hide-out and rounds upon rounds of circular peace talks later, Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama last week announced “an indefinite truce”.

“It is not the end of the war, but it is the beginning of the end,” Dhlakama said, according to AFP.

The truce comes just as the latest ceasefire was due to expire.

But Dhlakama said this would be a ceasefire “without a deadline”, reported Reuters.

Cynics would be forgiven for their skepticism.


tanzaniaA bus crash in Tanzania last week killed 35 people — 32 of them schoolchildren on a trip to write mock high school entrance tests, reports AFP.

The bus plunged into a gorge in wet weather, also killing the driver and two teachers.

Reports AP: “Children’s bodies were laid out along the paved road after being pulled from the wreckage, their faces covered. They appeared to be in school uniforms.”

Early investigations are pinning the accident on the driver’s speeding; Tanzania’s Daily News also reports that the bus had been stopped by police earlier in the journey for overloading and that “having been delayed, the bus was left behind by other school buses, prompting the driver to speed up to reach Karatu on time.”

“I cannot speak further,” the school’s principal Innocent Mushi told the Daily News. “My heart is heavy. This is the worst thing to have ever happened to my life.”


swazilandBreathe a sigh of relief, South Africa. We are no longer the most unequal society in the world.

An Oxfam report released last week passed that unenviable crown on to Swaziland — though as an absolute monarchy, they do dig crowns.

“Its government has failed to put measures in place to tackle inequality, with poor scores for social spending and progressive taxation, and a poor record on labour rights,” says Oxfam.

Don’t feel too smug, though. South Africa placed third in the list, just behind Nigeria. And the report as a whole is pretty damning of the continent’s failure to capitalise on their boom years to eradicate inequality.

Says Oxfam, “African governments, donor governments and multilateral institutions providing advice and finance had opportunities to ensure that the last decade of growth was more equal” — and they didn’t.

“In 2017, growth across many countries in sub-Saharan Africa is forecast by the IMF at its lowest level in more than 20 years, especially for those reliant on high commodity prices. Just as African countries had choices during the boom years, the choices they make in the years ahead will determine whether this economic outlook spells disaster for poverty reduction and inequality. This could be an opportunity born of the necessity to rethink the commodity-heavy shape of growth for some, for oil-importing countries to take advantage of low prices, and for all to invest in a more mixed job-creating economy that works for everyone.”


madagascarParts of Madagascar were in March hit by a tropical cyclone that left at least 50 dead, nearly 200 wounded, and 100,000 displaced by floods.

The real tragedy, though?

Ice cream prices in the United States are soaring.

According to a Boston Globe report, Cyclone Enawo wreaked vanilla crops, one of the Indian Ocean island’s main exports. And now ice cream shops are feeling the pinch,

“Aaron Cohen, the owner of Gracie’s Ice Cream in Somerville, used to buy vacuum-packed bags of beans for his vanilla ice cream at a rate of $72 a pound. He says that those same packs would now cost him $320, and that’s led him to scramble for alternatives.”

Parlours now say they have to pass that cost on to their customers, with one shop telling CBS last week that prices for an individual cone could increase from”25 to 50 cents”.

What’s the word I’m looking for here? Ah, yes. Shem.

You can read the United Nations’ situation report on the real impacts of Cyclone Enawo here. And then you can read Malagasy photographer Rijasolo’s account of photographing the labour-intensive vanilla industry here, and decide if it’s fair for ice cream shops to feel testy about prices when workers on the ground are earning $1.50 a day.


Recommended reading:

  • This intense New York Times read on Chinese interests in Africa, where quietly-getting-on-with-things Namibia is the staging ground for some of the ‘new colonist’s’ biggest projects: “Just north of Swakopmund, a Chinese telemetry station sprouts from the desert floor… in Walvis Bay, a state-owned Chinese company is building an artificial peninsula the size of 40 baseball fields as part of a vast port expansion. Other Chinese projects nearby include new highways, a shopping mall, a granite factory and a $400 million fuel depot…”
  • This Southern Times article on electioneering ahead of Lesotho‘s vote next month — if only for the mad swirl of acronyms fighting it out for ultimate alphabetical dominance. A preview? “The DC, LCD and PFD pact will see the DC contesting in 54 of the tiny kingdom’s 80 constituencies while the LCD will vie for 25 constituencies, while the PFD will be helped to wrestle its Qalo constituency stronghold from the opposition ABC.” Um. Huh?
  • And this quick Bloomberg read on the DRC‘s contracting of an Israeli firm to handle the PR mess that is their non-existent election.

April 3 – 9, 2017: And we’re back!

It’s been a good 2.5 years since I put out the last SADC Wrap, and the mound of southern African news that has piled up in my inbox is… daunting. 

Deep breath, and here we go.

drcIn our top story this week, Democratic Republic of the Congo President Joseph Kabila lobbed a solid FU at the opposition last week when he appointed the wrong man prime minister in the country’s unity government.

Now, the last time I wrote about Kabila was September 2014, when an opposition politician was jailed for making speeches against the president’s ambitions to run for an unconstitutional third term.

What’s happened since then? The government put off the scheduled 2016 elections citing funding issues and major delays in voter registration. Understandably, the opposition felt otherwise about this. Strikes turned violent. People died. But come the end of 2016, Kabila was still sitting pretty as president.

Then, on the last day of the year, the two sides came to an agreement: Kabila would form a unity government with the opposition, and together they would work towards ensuring elections were held before the end of 2017.

And then the opposition leader died.

It was nothing nefarious. Étienne Tshisekedi wa Mulumba, of the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UPSD), was 84 years old and in Belgium at the time. But “a power struggle erupted over who should succeed him”, reported the New York Times — Tshisekedi’s son Felix, or someone else?

Enter Kabila, who decided he would not accept Felix Tshisekedi alone as the opposition coalition’s candidate for Prime Minister. No: they would have to submit three names and he would make his pick.

That announcement came Friday. But instead of appointing Tshisekedi Junior, Kabila chose Bruno Tshibala — a former UPSD member pushed from the party for opposing Tshisekedi as natural successor to his father. Analysts say this is likely to only divide the opposition further.

Reports the Times:

Israel Mutala, a political analyst, said Mr Tshibala’s appointment “risks exacerbating” the political crisis and was likely to increase divisions within the opposition. Mr Kabila’s move “gave power to a fringe minority” of the opposition, Mr Mutala said, and seemed to undermine the spirit of the agreement reached in December, the details of which have still not been fully carried out.

And this from Al Jazeera:

Tshisekedi’s son, Felix, who replaced his father as president of the Rassemblement, said Kabila violated the deal by not naming a candidate of the alliance’s choosing.

“We continue to demand the application of the December 31, 2016 accord,” he told Reuters news agency. “The nomination of Bruno Tshibala is a departure from the accord.”

Read more on this: 

This is a dense and ongoing story of an opposition rent by factional battles, with Kabila seemingly cast in the role of Grand Puppet Master. I highly recommend this Crisis Group brief if you want a deeper understanding of the situation. It’s a long one, but contains some great insights into how Kabila is somehow still in power.

This is also a good read on the man who should have been king: Tshisekedi Junior. It certainly highlights why some in the opposition would have stood against him. Case in point: “At 53, the younger Tshisekedi has spent most of his life in Belgium. He has never held public office (though he was elected to parliament in 2011 and boycotted his seat at the direction of his father) and only moved into a leadership role in the UDPS as its national secretary for external relations in 2008. For most of his professional life, he toiled in relative obscurity within the party’s European diaspora organizations.”

(Note that both pieces are slightly dated as they were written before Tshibala was named Prime Minister.)


seychelles

Seychelles found itself at the centre of the ongoing Trump-Russia love-in after a Washington Post report last week that said (and I’m just going to copy-paste this paragraph straight from the story because, man, is it convoluted) “the United Arab Emirates arranged a secret meeting in January between Blackwater founder Erik Prince and a Russian close to President Vladi­mir Putin as part of an apparent effort to establish a back-channel line of communication between Moscow and President-elect Donald Trump, according to US, European and Arab officials”.

The site of this meeting? Seychelles.

Now, I’m not going to go into too much depth over this because it’s more a US-Russia story than it is an African story, but I will leave you with this incredible tidbit about Seychelles from the country’s own foreign affairs minister:

“I wouldn’t be surprised at all,” said Barry Faure, the Seychelles secretary of state for foreign affairs. “The Seychelles is the kind of place where you can have a good time away from the eyes of the media. That’s even printed in our tourism marketing. But I guess this time you smelled something.”


malawiA study on abortion in Malawi revealed an estimated 141,000 abortions were performed in the country in 2015. This despite it being illegal to have an abortion in Malawi unless the mother’s life is in danger.

Clearly, that law isn’t working. Says co-author Dr Chisale Mhango of the University of Malawi’s College of Medicine: “Restrictive abortion laws do not stop abortion from occurring, they just drive it underground, forcing women to resort to clandestine procedures, which are often unsafe.”

You can read the Guttmacher Institute’s study here, but I’ll leave you with some choice findings:

  • In Malawi in 2015, 39 percent of pregnancies ended in planned births, 30 percent in unplanned births, 16 percent in abortion and 15 percent in miscarriages.
  • Out of the estimated 141,000 abortions performed in Malawi in 2015, approximately 60 percent resulted in complications that required medical treatment in a health facility.
  • An estimated one-third of the women who experienced complications from an abortion did not receive the medical treatment they needed.

mozambiqueAn ongoing audit into Mozambique‘s massive undisclosed debt — a scandal that saw the International Monetary Fund cut off aid to the country — has now come knocking at the door of former president Armando Guebuza.

According to Bloomberg, the attorney general wrote to the country’s banks requesting account information about Guebuza and 17 other people, though what that means for the former statesman remains unclear.

Guebuza ruled Mozambique from 2005 to 2015, when his former finance minister Filipe Nyusi succeeded him as the successful Frelimo candidate in the country’s general election.


Recommended reading:

  • This story from Madagascar on a subsistence farmer who was denied a visa to travel to the UK, where he planned to speak at the Rio Tinto AGM to expose the “devastating impact” the company’s mines have had on on his community.
  • This Buzzfeed piece from Tanzania on the country’s LGBT community, which for the last year has faced a troubling crackdown. Health workers fear this could reverse the country’s fight against HIV as key populations go to ground. (Don’t worry. It’s not a listicle.)
  • And this New York Times story out of both Namibia and Botswana, where former US president George Bush the Younger traveled last week to tout the successes of his Aids relief programme, Pepfar — and his fight to preserve the “best part of his legacy” at a time when Trump is going in deep with the budget cutting shears.

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.


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.”

grace-varys


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.