Each week award-winning journalist KRISTEN VAN SCHIE brings you all the news that’s worth knowing from across the SADC region. Here is this week’s SADC Wrap.
Sanity prevailed in Mozambique last week with the government and opposition party/rebel group Renamo signing an agreement to stand down after weeks of violent clashes.
Bloomberg reports this is a “total agreement”, quoting agriculture minister Jose Pacheco saying that “no one will be hunted or prosecuted for their role in the violence”. Hm. I wonder how the families of the eight civilians killed in the clashes feel about that?
Meanwhile, the ruling party’s presidential candidate Filipe Nyussi spent some time last week hanging out with Uncle Bob across the border. Robert Mugabe, who celebrated another year in power after the anniversary of his big win in Zimbabwe‘s elections last year, threw his weight behind the ruling Frelimo party,saying: “Zanu-PF and Frelimo are one, so their candidate is our candidate.”
Botswana opposition politician Gomolemo Motswaledi was killed in a car accident last Wednesday. Motswaledi, aged 44, was president of the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD), a party born of a split from President Ian Khama’s ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP). He was set to run as the candidate for deputy president for an umbrella group of opposition parties in the country’s October elections.
A reportedly shocked Khama called his rival “young and full of promise”. But the conspiracy theories came out quickly.
The Voice reported Motswaledi was travelling from South Africa to Gaborone for a meeting at the time of the accident, and that local police were “clueless to what could have caused the fatal accident”. The report also included claims by alleged eyewitnesses who say they saw “a suspicious looking man wearing a balaclava and a Pringle sweater at the scene before the arrival of the police”.
It also has another article listing the conspiracy theories, including, “He was bewitched by political rivals with strong witchcraft from Delta Marine Spirits.” (But seriously, give it a read.)
Yesterday, the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) called for an independent inquiry into Motswaledi’s death, saying, “As UDC we are aware that political assassinations are common towards elections. We must exhaust all avenues in our quest to determine what could have caused the death of this valiant man.”
You’ll remember in June everybody went into a tizz at the idea that our little landlocked neighbour was having another coup. It wasn’t but things still ain’t looking great, with the ruling coalition splitting apart at the seams.
The excellent Nthakoana Ngatane blogged about Zuma’s visit, where he said, “We are the only neighbour and if the situation is not stable in Lesotho we feel it, so that’s why the concern.” And apparently, King Letsie is also really quite concerned about the whole thing. (If you’re at all interested in keeping up with politics from the Mountain Kingdom, you should be following Ngatane on Twitter – @nthakoana.)
But if you really want to understand just why South Africa is “feeling it”, this paragraph from a Business Day piece cuts to the core of the issue: “Lesotho’s political instability comes at a critical time for the water security of the Vaal River supply area, Gauteng and surrounds, which supports a substantial proportion of South Africa’s economy … Although Lesotho’s politicians had initially pressed for an early start, the imminence of the project has seen Lesotho’s politics heat up. The formal issue is whether Lesotho is getting a fair deal from the project, but more important is the informal issue, the political economy of who in Lesotho will get the benefits.”
According to The Namibian, over 100 passengers of one particular flight (coming in from Jo’burg, by the way) were held in quarantine for four hours at Hosea Kutako International Airport on Friday morning, on suspicion that one passenger was displaying symptoms.
‘Course, it was all a false alarm, as evidenced by this amazing explanation of what was actually wrong: “The suspected passenger had an allergic reaction after eating food that contained fish. He is, however, clear now.”
(This Vice piece from last week is a great CTFD article, with some cutting words for Western media at the end, too, if you’re into that.)
Now this is pretty cool: Zambians can now get free Internet with a new app called Internet.org. It doesn’t open up The Whole Internet, just certain sites like AccuWeather and Google, but also some local Zambian news and jobs pages.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg saidof the app, “Soon, everyone will be able to use the internet for free to find jobs, get help with reproductive health and other aspects of health, and use tools like Facebook to stay connected with the people they love.”
A week after he and journalist Bheki Makhubu were jailed for writing articles critical of Swaziland‘s judiciary (full background here), human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko wrote an open letter to US President Barack Obama.
Writing from what he describes as his “lousy, lonely and uncomfortable jail cell” in Sidvwashini prison in Mbabane, Maseko implores Obama to instigate sanctions against Swaziland’s King Mswati III.
You can read the full letter here and it’s really an excellent summary of Swaziland’s undemocratic woes, for those new to the issue.
And yeah, I’ll admit to getting a little journo-tearful at some of Maseko’s words.
“This oppression in Swaziland must be overthrown,” he writes. “With ‘hope’ as you say, Yes We Can.”
Kristen van Schie is a South African journalist working at the Weekend Argus in Cape Town. Raised in Namibia, the United Arab Emirates and South Africa, she has reported from the Central African Republic, Somalia, Syria, Namibia, Vietnam, Antarctica, and a ship in the Indian Ocean. She is a three-time winner at the Sikuvile Journalism Awards, South Africa’s premier newspaper awards. She blogs about news from the region at The SADC Wrap.