Africa

The SADC Wrap: Zimbabwe jails #ThisFlag pastor again

By Kristen Van Schie 2 July 2017

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

Pastor and activist Evan Mawarire was arrested in Zimbabwe last Monday after attending a protest by medical students against rising university fees.

Mawarire’s lawyer told AFP the pastor had been charged with disorderly conduct.

He was released two days later and is expected back in court on July 19.

Mawarire rose to prominence in 2016 after leading the #ThisFlag protests against the government, which saw him detained. He subsequently fled to the US where he remained for several months.

According to Reuters, “The 40-year-old preacher is also due to stand trial in September on separate charges of plotting to overthrow the government and insulting the national flag.”

His involvement in the student protest last week came after a planned doubling in tuition fees.

Three student leaders were also arrested.

Reports News24: “University authorities accused the protesters of throwing stones during the demonstration. Hundreds of medical students were ordered to leave their residences on Monday evening, and some had to sleep out in the open or take shelter at a local church… The students’ evictions came at the worst possible time, as the medical students were this week due to begin writing exams.”

Tanzania last week confirmed its plans to forge ahead with a hydropower plant in a World Heritage site, despite years of opposition to the project.

In a statement released last week, President John Magufuli said he “wants construction of this project to start as quickly as possible and produce an abundant supply of electricity to speed up the development of the country”, reports CNBC Africa.

The 2,100-megawatt plant is set to be built along Rufiji River in the Selous Game Reserve in the country’s south-east, reports The Citizen.

The UN’s cultural arm Unesco has repeatedly called for the project to be cancelled, warning that it could harm the game reserve.

But it’s a project the government considers vital to development.

According to the United Nations Development Programme, just “2% of rural people and 39% of urban people have access to electricity” in Tanzania: “The current energy demand and supply balance reflects the country’s low level of industrialisation and development.”

Magufuli said in his statement that experts from Ethiopia were visiting Tanzania to share their expertise on hydropower projects, reports AFP.

Malawi last week became the first country in the world to open a humanitarian drone corridor after a successful test-run last year using drones to deliver blood samples for HIV testing.

Unicef says the corridor at Kasungu, some two hours from the capital Lilongwe, will look to generate aerial images for monitoring crises, to deliver supplies like vaccines and medicine, and to extend wi-fi signals in cut-off areas.

Malawi has limited road access to rural areas even at the best of times, and after a flash flood, earth roads can turn to rivers, completely cutting off affected communities,” the agency said in a statement. “With UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) we can easily fly over the affected area and see clearly what the impact has been on the ground. This is cheaper and (provides) better resolution than satellite images.”

According to Mail & Guardian, officials in Malawi had some convincing to do to sell residents on the idea of the corridor.

Before we did the sensitisation, people thought we were introducing satanism,” one official told the paper. “After we did the sensitisation, they said it’s for the common good.” DM

Photo: Pastor Evan Mawarire (Simon Allison/Daily Maverick)

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South Africa is in a very real battle. A political fight where terms such as truth and democracy can seem more of a suggestion as opposed to a necessity.

On one side of the battle are those openly willing to undermine the sovereignty of a democratic society, completely disregarding the weight and power of the oaths declared when they took office. If their mission was to decrease society’s trust in government - mission accomplished.

And on the other side are those who believe in the ethos of a country whose constitution was once declared the most progressive in the world. The hope that truth, justice and accountability in politics, business and society is not simply fairy tale dust sprinkled in great electoral speeches; but rather a cause that needs to be intentionally acted upon every day.

However, it would be an offensive oversight not to acknowledge that right there on the front lines, alongside whistleblowers and civil society, stand the journalists. Armed with only their determination to inform society and defend the truth, caught in the crossfire of shots fired from both sides.

If you believe in supporting the cause and the work of Daily Maverick then take your position on the battleground and sign up to Maverick Insider today.

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