SADC Wrap: Murder mystery in Lesotho while MPs suspended in Zambia
From murder in Lesotho to a massive prison break in the DRC, the suspension of opposition MPs in Zambia and a rumpus in Mozambique over costly cars for lawmakers – KRISTEN VAN SCHIE brings you a weekly round-up of regional news.
Thomas Thabane was on Friday inaugurated as Lesotho’s prime minister, just two days after his estranged wife was murdered.
The police have remained largely mum on Lipolelo Thabane’s death, confirming only that a 58-year-old woman was shot and killed while driving home with a friend.
“While it remains unclear who the perpetrators are, there are suspicions that the death was politically motivated,” writes Global Risk Insights.
In an environment of political tension and little real information, rumours have flourished. Competing conspiracy theories blame either Thabane’s enemies – or the Thabane camp itself.
In early 2015, during Thabane’s first go-round as PM, a court ruled that First Lady privileges should be bestowed on Lipolelo, and not Thabane’s young, new, customary wife.
“While PM Thabane’s opponents in the outgoing government and military may be behind the murder, Lipolelo Thabane may have also been killed by allies of the Prime Minister in order to tie up any loose ends,” writes Global Risk Insights. “An additional theory is that the incident was a random murder, yet the victim and timing raises considerable suspicions.”
After a quasi-coup in 2014, two collapsed coalition governments and three elections in five years, it was this stability that Thabane emphasised in his speech.
“One looks forward to a stable, normal and internationally accepted five-year cycle between elections,” he said, according to News24.
Zambia last week suspended 48 opposition lawmakers for boycotting a speech by President Edgar Lungu earlier this year.
Reuters reports that the parliamentarians from the United Party for National Development (UPND) have been suspended for 30 days – without pay.
Speaker Patrick Matibini challenged the MPs – who contested Lungu’s electoral win last year in court – to “resign on moral grounds if you do not recognise that there is a legitimately elected government”, slamming what he called their “irrational and morally unjustified behaviour”.
Matibini has also asked the police to investigate UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema for his “disparaging and contemptuous remarks”, according to Zambia Reports.
Hichilema is already behind bars and has been for months, facing a treason charge after a traffic altercation with Lungu in May.
Political analyst Mcdonald Chipenzi told German agency Deutsche Welle there was “no law currently in place that compels or mandates members of parliament to be in the house at the point when the presidential speech is being delivered”.
“This is a decision meant to appease the appointing authority,” he added.
Numerous groups have decried the Zambian government’s increasingly authoritarian behaviour, with a coalition of churches last week releasing a statement calling the country a “dictatorship”.
The government has reacted indifferently.
“What crisis?” Lungu reportedly said Friday. “There is no crisis.”
Over 900 inmates escaped last week after gunmen attacked a prison in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Deutsche Welle reports that only 30 of the prisoners remain, with 11 people – including eight security officers – killed in the gunfight.
Kangwayi Prison is in North Kivu, a region troubled by violence. Many of the escapees were fighters from the Allied Democratic Forced rebel group, which has terrorised the area.
“According to the UN, the ADF has engaged in numerous violations of human rights law including recruitment of child soldiers, abduction, murder, maiming and rape,” reports Deutsche Welle. “More than 60,000 people have been displaced due to fighting and looting.”
This is just the latest in a string of jailbreaks in the country.
According to Reuters, 4,000 prisoners escaped a high-security prison in the capital Kinshasa last month.
And Mozambique is under fire after spending nearly $4-million on luxury cars for its lawmakers.
According to the BBC, social media was on fire last week over the 18 Mercedes-Benz cars which went to members – both ruling and opposition – of the the governing body of the country’s parliament.
This when the country is very much facing the possibility of a liquidity crisis over its public debt, says the Economist Intelligence Unit.
In a response that will sound familiar to South Africans, the finance ministry’s national budget director Rogerio Nkomo said the lawmakers were “entitled” to the cars. DM