Category Archives: Swaziland

July 24 – 30, 2017: HIV breakthrough for Swaziland, while Grace pushes Mugabe for a name

swazilandSwaziland last week released remarkable findings into its fight against Aids, with new figures showing the country’s infection rate has dropped dramatically in recent years.

The number of infected adults in Swaziland went from 31 percent in 2011 to 27 percent in 2016 — still a high figure, but one which shows that the virus is spreading far more slowly through the population: 46 percent slower.

Swaziland’s health minister Velephi Okello unveiled the data at a press conference in Paris, attributing the success to the government’s commitment to get those living with HIV onto antiretroviral drugs (ARVs).

“We have more than doubled the number of people who have started on anti-retroviral treatment, and we have also almost doubled the number of men who have been circumcised in the country,” she said, according to AFP.

The magazine Science explains that the consistent use of ARVs  drives down the levels of HIV in the blood: “In response, the risk of an infected person transmitting the virus plummets.”

The room reportedly “erupted into hoots and applause” when the findings were announced.


zimbabweZimbabwe‘s Grace Mugabe last week called on her nonagenarian husband to name his successor, telling a crowd that “his word” on the matter was “final”.

The First Lady, who just turned 52, has been a visible force in Zimbabwean politics in recent years, sabotaging rivals within the ruling ZANU-PF and quickly rising in party ranks.

President Robert Mugabe has refrained from naming a successor, even as his medical trips abroad become more frequent and his public behaviour more frail.

At a rally for the party’s women’s league last week, which she heads, Grace said her husband must not be “afraid” to name names.

Quotes Deutsche Welle: “Tell us who is your choice, which horse we should back. We will rise in our numbers and openly support that horse. Why should our horse be concealed?”

And NewsDay: “Tell us who you want to lead us and we will campaign for that person. We just want your word and it’s done. You must not be scared.”

Not so, say the ZANU-PF veterans, who quickly called for the First Lady’s expulsion from the party, reports VOA.

“Mrs Mugabe must know that the final word about some of these issues cannot be determined by Mugabe,” he said the group’s secretary-general Victor Matematanda “People of Zimbabwe, you will vote for a person of your choice and in ZANU-PF the same will happen.”


tanzaniaTanzania last week announced together with Kenya the end of a tit-for-tat trade spat — but quickly failed to follow through.

The back-and-forth bans began with Kenyan restrictions in April on Tanzanian gas and wheat flour.

“Tanzania reciprocated by slapping a ban on Kenyan tyres, margarine and fermented milk,” reports The Citizen. “Tanzania also banned overland transport of maize from Zambia into Kenya, which is experiencing one of the severest shortages of the staple.”

The announcement last week of the lifting of restrictions “ended months of losses for businesses on both sides of the border”, reports Kenya’s The Standard.

It didn’t last long.

Before the week was up, Kenyan traders were already finding their products still restricted — including milk from a dairy from belonging to the country’s president, Uhuru Kenyatta.

Reports The Standard: “It would appear Sunday’s meeting to the restrictions that have driven a wedge between the two countries, where Kenya is the bigger loser on the strength of being a bigger exporter, have not borne any fruit.”

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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 17 – 23, 2017: Tens of thousands flee DRC fighting

drcWe start off this week’s edition in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where ongoing fighting between the army and a group called the Kamuina Nsapu militia has seen 11,000 people flee across the border into Angola.

The conflict is centred around the Kasai region — made up of five provinces — which borders Angola’s north-east corner.

Some 9,000 of those refugees arrived just in April, said the United Nations’ refugee agency last week.

The UN also revealed it had uncovered 17 new mass graves, including the bodies of dozens of children. This brings the total number of graves discovered to 40, with an estimated 400 dead, reports Al Jazeera.

In addition to the 11,000 refugees, over a million people have been displaced within the DRC by the fighting. An estimated 62,000 of those were reported just last week, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

President Joseph Kabila, meanwhile, distracted by his fight to extend his long-since-expired presidency, is providing little leadership on the issue.

“The Kasai region… is one of the DRC’s poorest, and usually far off the radar of politicians and diplomats in the distant capital, Kinshasa,” writes Hans Hoebeke in this Crisis Group piece. “This insurgency has its origins in local tensions in Kasai-Central province. However, it has quickly tapped into the long-running political and socio-economic frustration in the Kasai provinces, and is also tied to national politics. The national and provincial governments’ legitimacy in the region is particularly weak.”

That piece is slightly dated, but I highly recommend it for insights into what (and who) Kamuina Nsapu is. It’s a long backstory full of pricked pride, urban vs rural tensions, and an assassination, but well worth the read if you want to understand this issue beyond just “DRC Gone Mad: The Sequel”.

As so quickly happens in all conflicts, there are no innocents left. Kamuina Nsapu is recruiting child soldiers, while the armed forces are mowing them down.


zimbabweZimbabwe last week celebrated the 37th anniversary of its independence from the United Kingdom.

Depending on which article you read, President Robert Mugabe was either paranoid (“I wish to urge you to remain vigilant… the enemy is ever ready to pounce”), celebratory (“now we enjoy the fruits of our independence and we can now call ourselves the masters of our own destiny”), or bizarrely conciliatory, making what EWN called “a rare call for unity and tolerance of political differences”.

“He called for Zimbabweans to respect each other,” EWN continued, adding Mugabe “told tens of thousands gathered in Harare… that people have a right to belong to a party of their choice”.

How that call for unity is expressing itself, though, may not be to the 93-year-old’s liking.

As the ruling ZANU-PF party is riven by infighting, opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai spent last week forging alliances with smaller parties — including that of Joice Mujuru, the once-upon-a-time heir to Mugabe’s throne who was ousted from Zanu-PF in 2014 after a concerted and vicious campaign by the president’s wife, Grace.

But in such a deal, who would be king?

“Any opposition bloc would first have to overcome fierce rivalries within their various camps, and then hold together in an intense and often violent political landscape dominated by Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party,” surmised News24.

Anything less than unity would mean near-inevitable victory for Mugabe.”


swazilandSwaziland‘s King Mswati III caused a tizz last week when he spoke out against divorce.

For all we know, the monarch was simply playing to the crowd of gathered pastors at an Easter event when he said, according to the Times of Swaziland, “In our culture, once you marry someone, there is no turning back.”

But in a country where the king rules by decree, it was interpreted — and widely reported — as a “ban” on divorce.

“It is not necessarily a decree,” the Swaziland Solidarity Network’s Lucky Lukhele told eNCA. “However, given the vast powers that the king has it may sound as it is. Remember that he’s also a chairperson of the judiciary commission…”

The royal house has since denied those reports and said the king was just talking “about issues of national interest for families especially, and for the strengthening of Swazi culture”.

Whatever Mswati may have meant, marriage laws in Swaziland are a problem — particularly for women. Consider this explanation from the Southern Africa Litigation Centre on why they’re challenging the country’s Marriage Act:

“Under the common law marital power, a married woman cannot conclude contracts without her husband’s permission, she cannot represent herself in civil suits, and she cannot administer property. This restriction on the right to conclude contracts includes restrictions on the ability to access bank loans, mortgages, and financial credit generally. Common law marital power therefore relegates married women to the legal status of minors under the guardianship of their husbands.”

A new marriage bill has been drafted. But don’t hold your breath. Swaziland’s sexual offences bill has still not been enacted 8 years after it was developed, says Human Rights Watch. And another bill on women and girls’ protection — also not yet enacted — does not take into account marital rape.


zambiaFollowing up on last week’s lead, Zambian opposition politician Hakainde Hichilema remains behind bars on treason charges after his convoy failed to give way to that of President Edgar Lungu as both long-time rivals headed to an event a couple weeks back.

Hichilema appeared in court on Wednesday when his lawyers argued that the treason charge should be thrown out.

AFP quotes court documents saying that Hichilema “on unknown dates but between 10 October 2016 and 8 April 2017 and whilst acting together with other persons unknown did endeavour to overthrow by unlawful means the government of Edgar Lungu”.

The matter was postponed to later this week.

Until then, an increasingly autocratic Lungu — who narrowly beat Hichilema in last year’s presidential vote — has instructed his cabinet and members of tge ruling Patriotic Front party to shut it.

“President Lungu said that only Minister of Foreign Affairs Harry Kalaba will handle issues that are of interest to diplomats accredited to Zambia,” reports ZNBC. “He says it is important to restrict the number of people commenting on the issue because it is a judicial case which should be left entirely to the judiciary.”


angolaAnd in Angola, seven activists were arrested last week for protesting for transparent elections, reports AFP.

The country is set to head to the polls later this year, an auspicious event if only because long-ruling President Eduardo dos Santos has said he will not run for the post he’s held since 1979.

Of course, until that actually happens, it remains the dissent-crushing Angola we’ve come to know and love. Which includes sentencing people to 45 days behind bars “for the offences of rebellion and association with criminals”.

Fun.

 

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 1 – 7, 2014

lesothoIt’s been over a week since an apparent coup attempt woke the world up to the existence of Lesotho, and by now the headlines have died well down. But they shouldn’t have.

Since then, the fired military chief Tlali Kamoli fingered as behind those early Saturday morning gunshots when the Lesotho Defence Force surrounded police headquarters in Maseru and sent Prime Minister Thomas Thabane scuttling across the border into South Africa – well, he’s seized a loot of weapons and made off into the mountains.

His replacement and the new army boss Lieutenant General Maaparankoe Mahao is now saying the only option is “military action” against Kamoli.

How they plan on doing that I’m not too sure because apart from depleting the country’s armouries, Kamoli also reportedly has control over “Lesotho’s elite special forces unit of around 40 highly-trained troops, as well as the military’s intelligence division”.

Meanwhile, an agreement reached earlier in the week for Thabane to reinstate the Parliament he suspended in June is already in jeopardy. Instead, Thabane’s now gone and told the AFP, “The situation in the country is not stable, how do we re-open parliament under these conditions?” Never mind that his suspending Parliament is what precipitated the crisis in the first place.

Not that anybody should be too surprised. SADC got Thabane to agree to open Parliament two months ago, and he never followed through on it then, either. Nor does it deal with a general gone rogue.

As this Lesotho Times editorial notes: “The lame SADC brokered agreement… does not resolve the core of the crisis here. We have any army commander who has mobilised the army to fight if he is fired. We have an army commander who has no respect for the rule of law as evidenced by many of his recent actions, not least his refusal to handover suspects implicated in the attempted murders of innocent people. We have an army commander prepared to kill anyone who disagrees with him… The appropriate way for SADC to deal with the crisis here would have been to at least authorise a peacekeeping force to, among other things, facilitate the return of police officers to their stations and ensure they resume operations, to guarantee the security of all those vulnerable to Lt General Kamoli, and to protect ordinary citizens should he unleash his army for yet another round of bloodshed.”

This 702 podcast gives a great update on the situation from the AFP’s Andrew Beatty:


mozambiqueLeader of Mozambique‘s sometime-opposition-group-sometime-waging-open-war Renamo party Afonso Dhlakama has come out of hiding ahead of the country’s general elections next month, when he will be one of three candidates running for president.

Dhlakama, who has been hiding in the bush since 2012, reportedly arrived in Maputo on Thursday.

According to AFP, he told a large crowd of “over a thousand screaming followers”: “I want to thank you for coming here. On October 15, I want this same crowd. I want you all to vote Afonso Dhlakama, number one and number 2 Renamo!”

It’s been a long process getting here: just a few months ago Renamo fighters were still clashing with government troops, while Dhlakama insisted the Frelimo government was trying to have him killed. After a few months of back and forth negotiations, the parties reached a peace deal last week. Dhlakama and his rival, president Armando Guebeza, both signed that deal Thursday.


madagascarThousands upon many horrifying thousands of locusts descended on Madagascar’s capital city of Antananarivo last week. Hilariously, NPR describes them as “the insects of biblical fame that gobble up crops and ravage landscapes”, as if they’re loveable TV characters from an 80s sitcom you used to watch who just happen to wreak havoc while “gobbling” up your livelihood.

I love how the Malagasy in the video seem so supremely chill about the fact that MILLIONS OF GIGANTIC FLYING INSECTS are, you know, EVERYWHERE, while I’m dying on the other side of my computer screen just looking at them. Compare that to the opening sentence of this piece out of the US on the swarm: “Is this the end of days?

So where do they all come from? Here’s an explanation from a Princeton biologist, as interviewed by NPR: “Locusts don’t like being together. At low density they are quite happy with a solitary lifestyle. When resources are abundant, their populations can grow, and then they are forced to come together as they deplete those resources. So, say, during a drought, they all aggregate together to feed. And that closeness changes their behavior. As they begin bumping into each other, they actually begin to cannibalize each other. Individuals are both trying to eat each other and avoid being eaten. So they form rolling bands that march across the landscape, eating.”


drcThe DRC‘s death toll from Ebola has risen to 31 since it surfaced last month. The outbreak is separate to that currently spreading across West Africa and is reportedly a routine occurrence for the country – this is Ebola Outbreak #7, by the government’s count. In an interview with AFP, the World Health Organisation said there were 53 more suspected cases, while nearly 200 people are under medical watch after coming into contact with the infected.

For now, the disease appears to be contained in a isolated part of the country called Boende, a good 800km away from the capital of Kinshasa, good for keeping all in check – but a mission for health workers attempting to provide care.

“Boende is so isolated that the risk that the highly contagious disease will spread is low, unlike the situation in west Africa, where a raging epidemic has claimed more than 1,500 lives this year, according to the WHO,” wrote AFP in another report. “Yet Boende’s very location in the heart of dense equatorial forest is an obstacle to health workers who need swiftly to quarantine fever victims showing early symptoms like blinding headaches, muscle pain, vomiting and diarrhoea.”


Swaziland‘s King Mswati III has married his fourteenth wife. Queen LaFogiyane was chosen by Africa’s last absolute monarch at last year’s annual reed dance – which was on again last week (one line from this International Business Times piece about the festival was gobsmackingly archaic: “According to reports, the women were topless and wore nothing more than beaded belts, which covered only their private parts while fully exposing their buttocks.”)

swaziland

Boobs and butts fascination aside, more interesting is what South Africa’s own Zulu king Goodwill Zwelethini said while in Swaziland last week.

According to IOL, Zwelethini “spoke strongly in support of Mswati’s absolute monarchy and condemned South Africa’s labour union activities.”

“In a speech broadcast live on the country’s only TV station, which is run by the government, Zwelithini warned that Swazis would destroy their country if they followed South Africa’s example: ‘Do not burn your country, because investors will run away if you do so. Strike actions do not bring money into a household. Strikes bring hunger and suffering. I have seen this happening in my country.’”

Ja, bro. It’s tough living in a constitutional democracy bound by human rights, eh?


And a 78-carat diamond has gone missing in Namibia after a mining strike in August. The Namibia Diamond Trading Co. has reportedly opened a case with the police, but that feels like small comfort. According to Bloomberg, the value of the diamond depends on its quality and size but that another 78-carat diamond from Canada sold for a chill $6 million in 2011. Ouch.


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.”