From Zambia to Malawi, Tanzania to Angola, KRISTEN VAN SCHIE brings you a weekly round-up of regional news.
Zambia’s president Edgar Lungu dominated the headlines last week after declaring a partial state of emergency.
If approved by the national assembly, Lungu will be armed with broad powers allowing authorities to impose curfews, ban meetings, censor publications and search premises without a warrant.
The declaration on Wednesday 5 July came after an early morning fire gutted over 1,300 stalls in the capital’s City Market, reported the Lusaka Times, the latest incident over the last year that Lungu has labelled “sabotage”.
In a speech the following day, the president said his latest move would give the police “more clout” in their investigations and insisted it was not intended to target the opposition.
If so, his timing couldn’t be worse – or raise eyebrows any higher. His main rival, Hakainde Hichilema of the United Party for National Development (UPND), has been jailed since April on a traffic-related treason charge, while 48 UPND lawmakers are currently suspended for boycotting a Lungu speech earlier this year.
Eight people were killed in a stampede in Malawi on Thursday 6 July when police fired tear gas into a crowd of thousands gathered outside the national stadium for the country’s independence day celebrations.
“Eight people – seven children aged around eight years old, and one adult died,” police spokesman James Kadadzera told news agency AFP.
Another 62 injured were being treated in hospital.
“Gates at the 40,000-capacity stadium were supposed to open at 06:30 local time to allow free entry of people, but there was a delay of about three hours,” reported the BBC. “However, thousands had already turned up, and some tried to force their way in, prompting the police to fire tear gas.”
The stadium’s manager told the newspaper the accident would have happened if the gates had opened on time.
President Peter Mutharika cancelled a speech he was scheduled to give at the stadium, but the planned football match went ahead.
Tanzanian authorities last week arrested an opposition politician for insulting the president, a criminal offence in a country that is increasingly attracting attention for all the wrong reasons.
Halima Mdee of the main opposition Chadema party was jailed after after making a speech about, ahem ahem, the government’s autocratic tendencies – which have included a strong anti-LGBTI stance and the expulsion of pregnant schoolgirls.
“We should denounce this tendency of President John Pombe Magufuli who thinks his declarations are law,” she reportedly said on Monday. “If we continue to do nothing, one day he will order Tanzanians to walk barefoot or topless, because he knows he has the support of police… We must absolutely put the brakes on this president.”
Going a long way in helping to prove Mdee’s point, a local district commissioner the next day order Mdee be “questioned and sent to court to explain the insults she made against our president”, reports Reuters.
Insulting the president has been a criminal offence in Tanzania since 2015.
According to Reuters: “More than 10 people, including university students and a lecturer, have been charged in court over the past few months with insulting the president via social networking platform like WhatsApp… It is punishable by up to three years in jail, a fine of around $3,000, or both.”
And Angola’s president Jose Eduardo dos Santos is back in Spain just one month after returning from an extended medical stay there.
The 74-year-old, who has said he will not be running in next month’s election, has ruled the country since 1979.
His last trip to Spain was plagued with rumours that he had suffered a stroke abroad, and it was weeks before the government admitted he had been seeking medical treatment there.
His latest trip to Barcelona, they said, was a “private visit”.
According to AFP, the presidency said in a statement, “President dos Santos left Luanda on Monday for a private visit to the Kingdom of Spain for personal business.”
They did not say when he would return. DM
Photo: The President of Zambia, Edgar Chagwa Lungu, attends a meeting with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin (unseen) at the President’s residence in Jerusalem, 28 February 2017. EPA/ABIR SULTAN