Hunger Stalks Southern Africa As Climate Crisis Deepens

Small farmer and single mother Imelda Hicoombolwa removes weeds from her field in Kaumba on January 21, 2020.  Guillem Sartorio / AFP

 

The spectre of want is haunting Zimbabwe, Zambia and South Africa as they grapple with a long and devastating drought.

AFP reporters who travelled across the three countries saw widespread suffering in rural areas where successive harvests have been hit by lack of rain or shortened rainfall seasons.

Across the 16-nation southern African region, 45 million people are “gravely food insecure,” the World Food Programme (WFP) said on January 16. In some regions, the drought is three years old — in others, five.

In the Zambian village of Simumbwe, hundreds waited for food to be distributed by the NGO World Vision and the UN.

“The children ask me: ‘What are we going to eat?'” said Loveness Haneumba, a mother of five.

“I answer: ‘Just wait. Let me look around’.”

A teacher, Teddy Siafweba, said about 15 children in his class were absent that day because of hunger. In the classroom next door, about 30 were missing — nearly half of the rollcall of 70.

In South Africa’s Northern Cape province, at the gateway of the Kalahari desert, the wild animals are used to extreme temperatures but even they are succumbing to the conditions.

According to Wildlife Ranching South Africa, two-thirds of wild animals in the province have died in the last three years.

In two years, half of the 4,500 buffaloes, hippopotamuses and kudus at the Thuru Lodge game farm near Groblershoop have disappeared.

The average rainfall here is 250 millimetres (one inch) a year.

“But 250 millimetres, that’s what we have had in five years,” said its manager, Burger Schoeman.

At the top of a hill that overlooked the 22,000-hectare (54,000-acre) private reserve, two huge holes served as mass graves.

The drought represents a financial black hole for the lodge, which spends 200,000 rand (12,000 euros) per month to feed the animals while cancelling the reservations of tourists on the lookout for “trophies.”

“We need to offer a fair hunt. Hunters can’t shoot weak animals,” said Schoeman.

Johan Steenkamp, a 52-year-old farmer with a spread of 6,000 hectares, said he had lost up to 70 percent of his stock.

Sheep still give birth, but they abandon their newborn lambs.

“They have no milk,” Steenkamp said. “They leave them there.”

Hand-in-hand with the desperation are signs of hope as some farmers adapt to climate shock.

Three years ago, Imelda Hicoombolwa, a single Zambian mother and small farmer, gambled on agricultural diversification, opting for nutritious vegetables and using techniques adapted to climate change.

“Food is not a problem. I have it,” she beamed.

Before 2017, Hicoombolwa cultivated almost only maize. Today, she harvests cowpeas, which need very little water, as well as peanuts, pumpkins and sunflowers.

“I can make 18,000 kwacha (1,100 euros, $1,222) a year. Before, I was making 8,000 kwacha a year,” she said. “Before, the children were missing school because I could not always pay the tuition fees. Not any more.”

AFP

Zambian President Reduces His Wages As Energy Prices Rise

Zambian President Edgar Lungu gives a press briefing on July 6, 2017 at the Zambian State House in Lusaka. DAWOOD SALIM / AFP

 

Zambian President Edgar Lungu cut his salary and those of senior cabinet ministers Friday, as higher electricity and fuel prices take effect, his office said.

The price of petrol gained 10 percent to 17.62 kwacha ($1.27) per litre on Thursday, while that for diesel fuel rose by 9.6 percent to 15.59 kwacha.

The cost of electricity is to soar by 115 per cent starting January 1.

The stiff hikes for electricity and fuel have sparked an uproar on social media where many Zambians vented their anger.

The cut in the president’s salary and those of senior ministers is in the range of 15 to 20 per cent.

“The money realised will go into cushioning the impact on the vulnerable in society. The money realised from this decision will go towards ameliorating the impact that the increase would have brought on the masses,” Lungu’s press aide Isaac Chipampe said in a statement.

Lungu said he was aware of the suffering that the Zambians were going through as a result of the tariff hikes but expressed confidence that the economy would rebound in 2020 owing to measures that the government has put in place.

They include reducing travel by senior government officials.

AFP

President Lungu Kicks As US Criticises Zambia Over Gay Sex Sentence

Zambian President Edgar Lungu gives a press briefing on July 6, 2017 at the Zambian State House in Lusaka. DAWOOD SALIM / AFP

 

Zambian President Edgar Lungu wants the US to recall its ambassador to Lusaka for criticising the southern African nation over a 15-year jail term slapped on two gay men for consensual sex.

Daniel Foote came under fire in Zambia after he expressed horror over the high court ruling late last month and urged Lusaka to review laws that discriminate against minority groups.

“You need to know that we have complained officially to the American government and we are waiting for their response because we don’t want such people in our midst,” Lungu said in comments on state-owned radio.

His press aide Isaac Chipampe late on Sunday said the protest letter Lungu was referring was the same one issued by Foreign Minister Joseph Malanji.

“The government is still waiting for a response from the United States government concerning the complaint,” said Chipampe.

Foote had told a news conference that Zambia, which relies on overseas aid, wanted diplomats “with open pocketbooks and closed mouths.”

Homosexuality is outlawed in the southern African country which also faces a high HIV burden.

Over the last 15 years, the US has provided more than $4 billion (3.6 billion euros) to fight  HIV/AIDS in Zambia.

AFP

U-23 AFCON: Nigeria Bounce Back To Beat Zambia

The Nigerian team celebrate one of their goals against Zambia in Cairo on November 12, 2019. Photo: Twitter- @thenff

 

 

Reigning champions, Nigeria returned to contention for a place in the semi-finals of the third Africa U-23 Cup of Nations after coming from a goal down to beat Zambia 3-1 in Cairo on Tuesday.

With a quarter of an hour gone, it appeared to be going away for the defending champions as they sat pointlessly and at the bottom of Group B.

Goals from three former U-17 World Cup winners, however, shot Nigeria to second in the group and with a good chance of toppling leaders South Africa when both teams clash at the same Al-Salam Stadium on Friday evening.

Zambia, who drew 0-0 with South Africa in a southern African derby on an opening day, were given a morale-boosting shot when Patson Daka, who also features for the country’s senior team, Chipolopolo, scored in the 11th minute to increase the worries of Nigerians.

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But Orji Okwonkwo levelled for the Olympic Eagles five minutes later, and then Kelechi Nwakali, captain of the Nigeria U-17 team that won the FIFA World Cup in Chile four years ago, with Okwonkwo also a major act, slammed in a superb free kick in the 65th minute to put Nigeria ahead for the first time in the tournament.

Germany-based forward Taiwo Awoniyi, who also won the U-17 World Cup in 2013 and who arrived in Egypt only on Sunday night, made it three on the stroke of 90 minutes to make Nigerians breathe easier.

South Africa, 1-0 winners over Cote d’Ivoire in the group’s earlier match, top the pool with four points (following their 0-0 opening day result with Zambia), and will contend with the inspired Nigerians on Friday.

Cote d’Ivoire, on three points like Nigeria but with less number of goals, will also battle Zambia, with only one point on Friday.

Victory against South Africa will steer Nigeria into the semi-finals and closer to a ticket to the Men’s football tournament of next year’s Olympics.

The top three teams at the tournament will qualify to represent Africa at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

Xenophobia: Zambian Students Storm South Africa Embassy, Destroy Properties

Zambia’s university students burn the sign outside the South African Embassy in Lusaka on September 4, 2019, during a demonstration to protest against xenophobic attacks on foreign nationals in the Rainbow Nation. SALIM DAWOOD / AFP

 

Angered by the recent xenophobic attacks, some Zambian students on Wednesday took to the South African Embassy in Lusaka, the country’s capital.

The visibly-angry students of the Rainbow nation defied huge police presence and approached the embassy to achieve their aim.

Despite being addressed by the Zambian general Police inspector Kakoma Kanganja and his police team, the citizens seems not to be pleased with his remark.

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The action comes shortly after Zambia has cancelled an international friendly football match which was slated for Lusaka next weekend against South Africa.

“This is because of the security concerns, you never know what can happen,” Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) secretary-general Adrian Kashala, told AFP. “We want to be sure of the security of (the) visiting team”.

The attacks on foreign stores began a day after South African truckers started a nationwide strike on Sunday to protest against the employment of foreign drivers. They blocked roads and torched foreign-driven vehicles mainly in the southwestern KwaZulu-Natal province.

See photos from the protest below:

Zambia Cancel International Friendly With South Africa

 

Zambia have cancelled an international friendly football match which was slated for Lusaka next weekend against South Africa.

The cancellation follows a renewed violence against foreigners in the country which has left at least five killed and 189 others arrested.

“This is because of the security concerns, you never know what can happen,” Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) secretary-general Adrian Kashala, told AFP. “We want to be sure of the security of (the) visiting team”.

The attacks on foreign stores began a day after South African truckers started a nationwide strike on Sunday to protest against the employment of foreign drivers. They blocked roads and torched foreign-driven vehicles mainly in the southwestern KwaZulu-Natal province.

Although South Africa’s President, Cyril Ramaphosa, has vowed to clamp down on the perpetrators of the attacks after the African Union, Nigeria and Zambia condemned the attacks.

In a video address broadcast on Twitter, Ramaphosa said attacks on businesses run by “foreign nationals is something totally unacceptable, something that we cannot allow to happen in South Africa.”

“I want it to stop immediately,” said Ramaphosa, adding that the violence had “no justification.”

Separately, African Union chairperson Moussa Faki condemned the violence “in the strongest terms” but said he was encouraged “by arrests already made by the South African authorities”.

Deputy President David Mabuza condemned all attacks on foreign nationals.

“We are a nation founded on the values of ubuntu (humanity) as espoused by our founding father, President Nelson Mandela… we should always resist the temptation of being overwhelmed by hatred,” he said in Cape Town on Tuesday.

Sporadic violence against foreign-owned stores and enterprises has a long history in South Africa, where many locals blame immigrants for high unemployment.

Zambian President Sacks Finance Minister

 

Zambia’s President Edgar Lungu has fired Finance Minister Margaret Mwanakatwe, a statement from the presidency said Monday, as the economy grows at its slowest rate in 20 years.

Mwanakatwe, 57, was appointed only last year but was removed on Sunday without any reason given and replaced by central bank deputy governor Bwalya Ng’andu.

“I hereby terminate your appointment as minister of finance,” Lungu stated in his letter to Mwanakatwe according to the statement.

Ng’andu was sworn in on Monday, in a move welcomed by international investment markets with Zambia’s Eurobonds rising sharply. The price of its $750 million of securities due in September 2022 rose 5.2 percent on Monday, according to Bloomberg News.

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Zambia has struggled with falling prices of copper, its key export, and disputes with mining companies, with its foreign exchange reserves plunging and debt rising.

Lungu on Monday called for Zambians to “work as a team and stabilise the economy.”

But main opposition party UPND spokesman Charles Kakoma told AFP that Lungu’s government wasted money and a “cosmetic change” of ministers would not improve the economy.

AFP

Court Grants Bail To Zambian Lawmaker Charged With Hate Speech

 

A Zambian court bailed a fierce critic of President Edgar Lungu on Tuesday after he was charged with telling an ethnic Indian that he was stealing local jobs.

Chishimba Kambwili, who is still an MP in the ruling party, will go on trial on April 8 for showing hatred, ridicule or contempt for a person because of their race.

Kambwili allegedly told road worker Rajesh Kumar Verma, an Indian national, that his occupation should be reserved for indigenous Zambians.

A clip purporting to show the incident on February 19 went viral on social media, prompting the government to issue a rebuke.

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“I deny the charge,” Kambwili told magistrate Humphrey Chitalu on Tuesday in a courtroom filled with scores of his supporters and some opposition leaders.

Opposition United Party for National Development leader Hakainde Hichilema was among those present.

Kambwili was required to pay bail worth the equivalent of $200 (176 euros).

“We want to save this country from thieves, crooks… we will continue speaking for you people. These jobs are not meant for foreigners but Zambians,” Kambwili said outside court.

“How can you allow a foreigner to get jobs meant for Zambians? Shame on you Lungu.”

Hichilema called on Zambians to protect each other from Lungu who is accused by opponents of using the justice system to stifle critics.

“We must be concerned with each other’s welfare, and let’s unite to kick the brutal regime,” Hichilema said.

If convicted Kambwili faces up to two years imprisonment.

Minister Denies Charges Amid Corruption Trial In Zambia

 

Zambia’s Infrastructure Minister Ronald Chitotela denied corruption charges in court on Tuesday following his arrest a fortnight ago in a rare case of a government official being pursued by investigators.

Chitotela, who was arrested by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) along with three others, faces two corruption charges for allegedly concealing ownership of two properties “reasonably suspected of being proceeds of crime”.

“I understand the charge and plead not guilty,” Chitotela, 47, told magistrate David Simusamba who ordered he stand trial from March 20.

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His co-accused also pleaded not guilty to the charges, which potentially carry a prison term of up to five years on conviction.

The properties in question are in  Lusaka’s upmarket suburbs of Makeni and Ibex Hill areas.

Hundreds of Chitotela’s supporters chanted outside the court.

AFP

12 Chinese Workers Arrested For Growing Cannabis In Zambia

Zambian anti-drug authorities have arrested 12 Chinese construction workers for allegedly cultivating cannabis without a permit, a top government official said on Thursday.

The group was based in the city of Chipata in Zambia’s Eastern Province where they were building a studio for the state-run Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation.

“It’s really regrettable that the 12 (were) arrested for alleged cultivation of cannabis,” the provincial government permanent secretary Chanda Kasolo told AFP.

“The arrest is really regrettable as it will delay the construction works,” said Kasolo.

The Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC) said in a statement that the 12 were arrested on Monday and 6.2 kilos of plants uprooted.

Growing, dealing and consumption of cannabis for recreational purposes is illegal in Zambia.

But growing cannabis for medicinal purposes is allowed provided permission is granted by the health ministry.

If convicted, the 12 face a maximum jail sentence of five years.

Anti-Chinese sentiment in Zambia has grown over lucrative contracts awarded to Beijing, especially in the construction sector, and government borrowing from the Asian giant.

AFP

Court Backs Zambia’s President Seeking Re-Election In 2021

Zambia’s President, Edgar Lungu

 

Zambia’s top court ruled Friday that President Edgar Lungu is eligible to run for re-election in 2021 polls after an opposition party argued he would exceed the constitution’s two term limit.

Lungu completed former president Michael Sata’s term after he died in 2015 before winning a full term in his own right in 2016.

“The presidential tenure starting on January 25, 2015 to September 13, 2016 cannot be considered as a full term,” said constitutional court judge Hildah Chibomba.

Lungu announced in January 2017 that he would seek a fresh five-year term in 2021, prompting opposition parties to block him.

The opposition United Party for National Development and the Law Association of Zambia lawyers’ association argued he was ineligible to run, having effectively served across two terms.

Three other opposition parties simply sought the court’s opinion on the matter.

“I hope the debate comes to an end. This is a victory for Lungu, it’s a victory for the (ruling) Patriotic Front and a victory for the people of Zambia,” said the party’s secretary general Davies Mwila who spoke outside court.

Hundreds of Lungu’s supporters celebrated outside the court following its ruling.

In 2017 Lungu warned Zambia’s judges against blocking him from running in the 2021 vote, saying a judicial intervention like that seen in Kenya could plunge the country into chaos.

Kenya was rocked by two months of political drama and acrimony, triggered by the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn an election in August 2017 over widespread irregularities.

President Lungu has been accused of piling up foreign debt and cracking down on dissent since winning the contested election in 2016.

Zambia’s opposition has accused Lungu of increasingly authoritarian behaviour as several politicians and activists critical of his regime have faced legal action.

AFP

Police Defend Anti-Graft Protesters In Zambia

 

A senior Zambian police commander defended on Monday the right to protest of six activists on trial for staging a demonstration at parliament over a $42 million firefighting procurement deal.

Hip-hop star Chama Fumba, known as Pilato, led last year’s picket over fire engines costing $1 million (880,000 euros) each, seen as emblematic of corruption fostered by President Edgar Lungu.

“The accused have a constitutional right to demonstrate and they complied with the Public Order Act,” said Lusaka province deputy police commissioner Geoffrey Kunda in evidence to Lusaka magistrates’ court.

Kunda said his office failed to respond to a notice given by the protesters signalling their intention to picket parliament during the finance minister’s budget speech on September 29, 2017.

“I think it could have been an omission on our part. That was an omission and not deliberate,” Kunda said.

He added that an attempt to verbally ban the march may have led to the situation and the arrests of the campaigners.

The six have pleaded not guilty to charges of disobeying a lawful order and insisted they had a right to protest within the grounds of parliament.

Magistrate Mwaka Mikalile ordered that the trial should continue on November 29 and 30.

“Since 2017 we have had scandal after scandal… Can our money stop being stolen?” asked accused activist Laura Miti, speaking outside court.

“As long as we are here and the thieves are not here we will continue to protest.”

Fumba was arrested in May when he returned to Zambia from South Africa, where he had fled after his hit song, “Koswe Mumpoto” (Rat in the Pot), drew angry reactions from supporters of Zambia’s ruling Patriotic Front (PF) party.

The track was widely interpreted as a protest song accusing President Edgar Lungu and his government of being corrupt.

Zambia’s opposition has accused Lungu of increasingly authoritarian behaviour.

AFP