Africa

The SADC Wrap: On Maimane and mining ministers

By Kristen Van Schie 28 May 2017

From across Southern Africa – KRISTEN VAN SCHIE brings you a weekly round-up of news making regional waves.

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

Hakainde Hichilema, leader of the opposition United Party for National Development (UPND), faces treason charges after his motorcade allegedly failed to give way to President Edgar Lungu’s as the two headed to an event last month.

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

As one member of Lungu’s cabinet said last week: What has caused all this is that refusal to acknowledge the election of president Edgar Changwa Lungu.”

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

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

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

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

Tanzanias president John Magufuli last week fired his mining minister after unveiling a report claiming mining companies were understating the value of their exports and thus avoiding paying taxes.

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

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

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

Magufuli banned mineral sands exports in March.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can read the full report here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo: Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta (L) looks on as visiting Tanzanian President John Magufuli (R) delivers his speech during the official commissioning ceremony of the Nairobi Southern Bypass road in Nairobi, Kenya, 01 November 2016. EPA/DANIEL IRUNGU

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