Africa

The SADC Wrap: Madagascar plagued, ‘promoting homosexuality’ in Tanzania, Swaziland’s high hopes

By Kristen Van Schie 23 October 2017

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

More than 100 people have been killed in Madagascar’s plague outbreak, says the World Health Organisation.

We’re in a very active phase of this outbreak,” Ibrahima Socé Fall, head of the agency’s Africa emergencies unit, said last week, reports AFP. “We are expecting more cases… we have to continue to be vigilant.”

Plague is an annual event in Madagascar and is easily treated with antibiotics – but this year’s outbreak has hit densely populated urban centres, causing particular concern.

More than 70% of the cases are pneumonic plague, a more virulent form that spreads through coughing, sneezing or spitting and is almost always fatal if untreated,” reports AP. “In some cases, it can kill within 24 hours.”

Several suspected plague cases in Seychelles have meanwhile tested negative, the island’s news agency reported last week.

***

Human rights groups are outraged after a dozen people – including two South Africans – were arrested last week in Tanzania for “promoting homosexuality”.

According to the Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (SAHRDN), the group was meeting at a Dar es Salaam hotel to consult on a legal challenge to a government decision earlier this year to cut back on health services to the LGBTI community.

The network called the arrests a “shameful attempt to stifle freedom of expression” and “an abuse of laws by the Tanzanian authorities”.

Same-sex relationships are illegal in Tanzania and the community has in recent years become a particular target of President John Magafuli’s populism.

Twenty people were arrested last month while attending an HIV workshop.

After last week’s arrests, the government announced it was suspending one of the NGOs involved.

The NGOs insisted the case against its workers had no legal basis and demanded an end to state persecution of lawyers and their clients,” writes AFP. “Tanzania has vowed to deport foreigners campaigning for gay rights in a country where gay male sex is punishable by anything from 30 years to life imprisonment.”

***

A former Lesotho army chief who had earlier this month handed himself over to the police for questioning was last week charged with murder in connection with the 2014 quasi-coup that sparked a years-long cycle of instability in the country.

Tlali Kamoli headed the military from 2012 to 2014. He is widely rumoured to have been the driving force behind several assassinations within the military, including the murder last month of his replacement, Khoantle Motšomotšo.

But it was for the death of a police officer in a 2014 army raid on Lesotho’s police headquarters that Kamoli was charged last week, reports AFP.

According to the Lesotho Times, Kamoli – who was sneaked into court under heavy guard – was later also charged with 14 counts of attempted murder for a string of January 2014 bombings.

***

And a report submitted to Swaziland’s parliament last week estimates that the country could add R20-billion to its economy by legalising cannabis.

The findings come several months after the government deployed a team of lawmakers to study the impacts of dagga legalisation in other countries.

According to the Swazi Observer, the MPs reported an expected tripling of the country’s GDP, with cannabis predicted to haul in 26 times more revenue than the country’s leading agricultural export, sugar. DM

Photo: President Jacob Zuma welcomed by President of the United Republic of Tanzania, His Excellency John Pemba Magafuli at the State House Magogoni. 11 May 2017 (GCIS)

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