Campaign News
Grace Mugabe fined five cows and two goats for improper burial of Zimbabwe dictator PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 10 October 2021 11:50

Grace Mugabe fined five cows and two goats for improper burial of Zimbabwe dictator

Fred Harter – 07/09/2021


The widow of the former Zimbabwe dictator Robert Mugabe is challenging a fine of five cows and two goats imposed by a traditional leader for improperly burying her husband’s body.


Grace Mugabe is also seeking to overturn an order, issued by the same leader in May, to exhume her husband’s body and rebury it at a purpose-built mausoleum in the capital, Harare.


Mugabe, who died in September 2019 aged 95, was buried at his home village of Kutama, 55 miles west of Harare, following weeks of wrangling over where his remains should be laid to rest.


President Mnangagwa had planned for Mugabe to be interred at Hero’s Acre, a national shrine, and members of the ruling Zanu-PF party claimed at the time that the late tyrant’s remains “belong to Zanu-PF first, not the family”.


However, the Mugabe family said that he had wished to be buried at his ancestral home. They also claimed that Mugabe gave orders that Grace should watch over his body until it was buried out of fears that superstitious Zanu-PF members might use his remains “for rituals and witchcraft”.


Since then, senior ruling party officials have repeatedly called for Mugabe to be dug up and reburied at the national site. Some sources have claimed that traditional elders have been offered cars and cash bribes to intervene in the dispute.


Mugabe’s nephew has claimed the real reason Mnangagwa wants to exhume his predecessor’s body is to lay his hands on a mystical sceptre believed to have been buried with Mugabe, which “he [Mnangagwa] believes will give him the authority to be the leader of Zimbabwe”.


After Chief Zvimba fined Grace five cows and two goats and ordered the exhumation in May, Mugabe’s children lodged an appeal against the decision. However, a magistrate upheld the traditional chief’s order last month, prompting Grace to step in with a fresh appeal to the High Court.


Mugabe died in a private clinic in Singapore nearly two years after a military coup ended his 37-year rule. His downfall was prompted by a feud between Mnangagwa and Grace Mugabe, 56, who many ruling party members believed exercised undue influence over her ailing husband.


Mugabe was buried in a steel coffin topped with heavy rectangular blocks and his grave was filled in with concrete. A spokesman for his family said that they wanted to ensure that the casket was “tamper-proof” to prevent grave-robbers from digging it up.

Russian election 2021: Putin’s United Russia clings on to supermajority PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 26 September 2021 14:29

Russian election 2021: Putin’s United Russia clings on to supermajority

Uliana Pavlova 21/09/2021


President Putin’s party has been declared to have won a landslide victory in parliamentary elections, despite polls showing historically low support and amid claims of widespread election fraud.


United Russia won nearly 50 per cent of the national vote, meaning that it will retain a two-thirds “supermajority” in the State Duma, or parliament, and pass laws without the need for alliances. With 99 per cent of ballots counted, the Communist Party was the second largest party with almost 20 per cent of the vote.


The official results were dismissed by opposition groups, who accused the state of gerrymandering through ballot stuffing, the coercion of voters and committing widespread online voting fraud.


In Moscow, an opposition stronghold, early exit polls that showed strong leads for Communist and other candidates endorsed by the jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny under his “smart voting” project. After online votes were tallied, however, candidates from the Kremlin-endorsed list saw huge swings in their favour and won every district. Mikhail Lobanov, a Communist candidate who had been far ahead in polling, said the results were “simply not possible” and his party said that it would not recognise the results.


Kira Yarmysh, Navalny’s spokeswoman, tweeted: “Electronic voting robbed this procedure of even a hint of reality.”

Lyubov Sobol, an ally of Navalny, said: “With such a colossal number of violations, the results of the State Duma elections cannot be recognised as clean, honest or legitimate.”


Independent polling by the Levada Centre before the election showed United Russia on about 15 per cent support in Moscow.


Navalny’s smart voting strategy aimed to unseat United Russia candidates by publishing a list of alternative candidates a few days before the elections. The Kremlin forced the US tech giants Google and Apple to remove an associated app from its app stores on Friday and accused the US government of collusion in the project.


Navalny’s organisations were banned as “extremist” before the election, his top allies were arrested or fled and anyone associated with his groups was kept from running.


The US State Department cast doubt on the integrity of Russia’s parliamentary election today, saying that a crackdown on critics by the government had “prevented the Russian people from exercising their civil and political rights”.


Ned Price, the State Department spokesman, said: “The September 17-19 Duma elections in the Russian Federation took place under conditions not conducive to free and fair proceedings.”


At a celebratory rally at United Russia’s headquarters broadcast on state television, Sergei Sobyanin, the mayor of Moscow and an ally of the Russian leader, shouted: “Putin! Putin! Putin!” to a receptive crowd that echoed his chant.

Golos, an election watchdog accused by the authorities of being a foreign agent, recorded thousands of violations, including threats against observers and ballot stuffing, blatant examples of which circulated on social media. Some individuals were shown on camera appearing to deposit bundles of votes in urns.


Meanwhile, in elections in Chechnya, the pro-Kremlin leader Ramzan Kadyrov gained 99.7 per cent of votes to retain his position.

Hakainde Hichilema vows to free Zambia from corruption PDF Print E-mail
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Saturday, 28 August 2021 20:15

Hakainde Hichilema vows to free Zambia from corruption

Jane Flanagan, Cape Town – 25/08/2021


Zambia’s new president was sworn in yesterday following his landslide election victory, in front of a VIP guest list that put Africa’s autocrats on notice.


Hakainde Hichilema, 59, took the oath of office in the capital Lusaka before jubilant supporters, heads of state and their political rivals in an acknowledgment of the new president’s lengthy stint as a political outsider.


On his sixth bid for the presidency, Hichilema defeated the incumbent Edgar Lungu, 64, by almost one million votes – despite restrictions on campaigning, a crackdown on his supporters and reported attempts at rigging in favour of Lungu’s party.


As the packed Heroes Stadium clapped and roared approval, Hichilema told the crowd: “Democracy is the way to go — for Zambia, the people of Africa and the world.” He pledged to root out corruption, invest in education and rebuild an economy buckling under a $12 billion debt mountain.


“No Zambian should go to be hungry,” the leader told his supporters, who call him “HH” or “Bally” — an informal term for father.


The majority for his United Party for National Development marked Zambia’s third transfer of power through the ballot box since the founding president Kenneth Kaunda stood down after reluctantly agreeing to multi-party elections.


Hichilema has been arrested many times since he switched from a successful business career to politics, but he thanked his predecessor for his service and peaceful surrender of power, against all predictions that Lungu would attempt to cling on.


“I came to witness the total burying of Lungu and corruption,” said Mateyo Simukonda, 36, who had travelled overnight from the country’s mining heartlands to watch the ceremony. “We have now put him [Lungu] to rest and let him rest in peace.”


Growing repression and economic mismanagement during Lungu’s six years in office had prompted fears that Zambia would become a “new Zimbabwe”. Debt as a share of GDP rose on his watch from 34 per cent to 110 per cent, diverting budgets from basic services and sending food prices sharply upwards.


Although ruling party efforts to hinder Hichilema’s campaign left him “effectively competing with one hand tied behind his back”, according to Sishuwa Sishuwa, from the University of Zambia, strategic deals with smaller opposition parties and the huge turnout of 71 per cent delivered a victory that was too big to be stolen.


The opposition victory comes at a time when democracy is generally receding worldwide and African dictators are making the most of pandemic restrictions. It also follows last year’s overturning of a stolen election in Malawi, and the trend has unsettled some.


President Mnangagwa of Zimbabwe, whose main rival, Nelson Chamisa, joined him in the Lusaka stadium, has already warned opponents not to harbour similar ambitions. Commenting on a picture of Zimbabwe’s opposition leader with the new Zambian president, Mnangagwa’s information secretary compared Chamisa to a bridesmaid who never becomes the bride.


President Masisi of Botswana was more gracious and gave a seat on his plane to the ceremony to Dumelang Saleshando, the leader of his opposition.

Hakainde Hichilema: I’ll recharge economy says new Zambian leader PDF Print E-mail
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Saturday, 21 August 2021 18:11

Hakainde Hichilema: I’ll recharge economy says new Zambian leader

Jonathan Clayton Wednesday 18August 2021


Zambia’s president-elect is planning on soaring global demand for electric car batteries to ignite his country’s sluggish economy and help power it to a new future. 


Hakainde Hichilema, or “HH” as he is popularly known, won a landslide victory in last week’s poll largely as a result of the votes of millions of young unemployed Zambians angered by the economic misery resulting from the failed policies of the outgoing president, Edgar Lungu.


Chanting “We want jobs”, many unemployed graduates wore their graduation gowns to the polling stations to drive home the point. Hichilema, 59, knows their anger will be turned against him if he fails in his stated aim of creating an annual economic growth rate of 10 per cent.


In his acceptance speech on Monday, he pledged major structural and policy changes in all sectors but particularly mining. Zambia is the second largest copper producer in Africa but it also has large reserves of the minor metal, cobalt — a crucial element in lithium car batteries used to power the new generation of carbon-free electric vehicles.


Electric car producers such as Tesla are stepping up production to meet demand. Mining analysts say alternatives to cobalt are limited and unlikely to be sufficient to prevent a global deficit. The other global supplier is Democratic Republic of Congo, which borders Zambia’s northwestern copper belt, but the use of child miners and other human rights issues deters buyers.


Unlike Congo, Zambia has the capacity to refine cobalt on a large scale for use in battery manufacturing. During the campaign Hichilema pledged to revive the country’s refining capability, which he said had been run into the ground by the previous administration.


“It will be an enormous task but it will be done,” he said.


Under Lungu, foreign investors shied away from Zambia, which defaulted on its debt last November. Hichilema, a former businessman with an MBA from the University of Birmingham, has pledged to reduce state control of industry and reduce Zambia’s reliance on Chinese infrastructure projects.

The Times view on Hakainde Hichilema’s election: Zambian Democracy PDF Print E-mail
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Saturday, 21 August 2021 18:03

The Times view on Hakainde Hichilema’s election: Zambian Democracy

A decisive victory for an economic reformer is good new for sub-Saharan Africa

Wednesday, 18 August 2021


Democracy rests on the willingness of the incumbent to respect constitutional procedures and, if defeated, to relinquish office. Since Edgar Lungu was elected president of Zambia in 2015, he has shown a disturbing propensity for repression, prompting fears that a further electoral victory would cement him in a state of arbitrary power.


Mr Lungu has indeed sought to hinder and impede his opponents. He has blocked the internet, used Covid as an excuse to restrict opposition rallies and deployed troops throughout the country, allegedly to maintain order. Despite these efforts he has not prevailed. Hakainde Hichilema, a businessman, instead won last week’s presidential election by a handsome margin of almost a million votes. The final count and Mr Lungu’s speedy concession surprised many who predicted a tight contest and a drawn-out dispute over the validity of the result.


It is good news for Zambia and Africa. Mr Lungu’s illiberal conduct failed to secure him victory, and he appears to have been punished for demonstrable economic mismanagement. During his six years in office, government debt as a share of GDP has risen from 34 per cent to 110 per cent and annual inflation reached 25 per cent in July, slashing the real incomes of Zambians. Mr Hichilema faces a tremendous challenge in embarking on structural reforms of the economy, but gives every indication of understanding the need to promote productive enterprise and market mechanisms to do so.


Since Kenneth Kaunda stood down in 1991, elections in Zambia have been competitively contested with a peaceful transition of power. Mr Hichilema’s willingness to challenge a failed and increasingly authoritarian president instils hope that Africa can realise its economic potential and democracy can improve the lives of its people.

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