Al Jazeera English South Africa
Al Jazeera English
Will Zambia be first African nation to default during pandemic? - Aljazeera.com
Zambia inched closer to defaulting on its dollar bonds, in global test case for nations struggling to service debts.
Zambia moved closer to becoming the first African nation to default on its dollar bonds since the onset of the coronavirus, making it a test case for nations worldwide battling to meet obligations to a range of lenders from bondholders to Chinese state banks. Holders of Zambias $3 billion of Eurobonds will vote next week on the countrys request for a six-month interest-payment holiday. A core croup of creditors have already rejected the proposal, prompting Zambia to say Tuesday it wont be able to service its $3 billion of Eurobonds unless it gets the relief. At the heart of the matter is how commercial creditors are treated in a planned restructure. Eurobond holders want the government to sign up for an economic program with the International Monetary Fund before tackling its commercial debt. But Zambias debt levels are significantly above the Washington-based lenders thresholds, and a general election in 10 months makes deep spending cuts less likely. There are also questions about transparency around borrowing from China, which accounts for roughly a third of the nations $12 billion of external debt. Demanding Transparency Zambia is between a rock and a hard place with the IMF demanding transparency on Chinese loans and the political economy going into the elections next year that makes them reluctant to pull back from infrastructure projects, mostly Chinese backed, said Ron Raychaudhuri, an emerging-market fund manager at APG Asset Management in Amsterdam. Some Chinese lenders also seem to be reluctant to allow a moratorium until arrears are dealt with. The Group of 20 agreed Wednesday to renew a debt-relief initiative for the poorest countries through at least the first half of 2021, according to the World Bank president David Malpass, who warned that may not be enough as the coronavirus pandemic entrenches poverty. Read more: G-20 Extends Debt Relief Program Amid Warnings Its Not Enough Zambias Eurobonds slumped for a second day on Wednesday, and are trading below half their face value. Notes due 2024 plunged 7% to 44.4 cents on the dollar by 4:13 p.m. in London. A coupon of $42.5 million on these securities is due on Wednesday, though there is a 30-day grace period before the country is technically in default. Eurobond holders are due to meet on Oct. 20 to vote on the standstill proposal. Rafael Molina, an adviser to a group holding about 40% of the Eurobonds, declined to comment on Wednesday. We have yet to receive enough details from Zambian officials to vote on the consent, said Kevin Daly, investment director at Aberdeen Standard Investments, which owns Zambian bonds. I think having a dialog would be more constructive than issuing press releases. In Africa, more than a dozen countries are in talks with China to freeze debt payments under a debt service suspension initiative agreed by the Group of 20 leading economies in April. Much of those negotiations, however, are done behind closed doors, raising complaints from commercial creditors worried that China will win better terms in upcoming debt restructuring. It seems unlikely that the government will receive its deferral request, Neville Mandimika and Daniel Kavishe, Johannesburg-based analysts at Rand Merchant Bank, said in a client note. To ensure smooth debt management, the government must involve China and its agencies in its deliberations. The only foreign-currency debt that Zambia will continue to pay on time is to multilateral agencies and debt for a few priority projects that have an immediate economic and social impact, Fredson Yamba, the secretary to the Treasury, said in an emailed statement Tuesday. The country is already $485 million in arrears on foreign debt, including $183 million to bilateral lenders and $256 million on commercial loans, according to the finance ministry. Should Zambia fail to reach an agreement with its commercial creditors, including holders of its Eurobonds, on the terms of the appropriate standstills, the Republic with its limited fiscal space will be unable to make payments, Yamba said. If bondholders approve the standstill, Zambia will recognize interest accruing on deferred coupons in the restructuring process, at a rate to be determined in good faith with noteholders, Yamba said. With assistance from Alonso Soto.
Moon rising: 8 nations sign lunar settlements, exploration pact - Aljazeera.com
Eight countries have signed a pact to govern lunar exploration, including human settlements on the moon’s surface.
Eight countries have signed an international pact for moon exploration called the Artemis Accords, NASA announced on Tuesday, a win for the US space agency as it works to shape standards for building long-term settlements on the lunar surface. The accords, named after NASAs Artemis moon programme, seek to build on existing international space law by establishing safety zones that would surround future moon bases to prevent conflict between states operating there, and by allowing private companies to own the lunar resources they mine. The United States, Australia, Canada, Japan, Luxembourg, Italy, the United Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates signed the bilateral agreements during an annual space conference on Tuesday following months of talks. The US is working to cultivate allies for its plan to return astronauts to the moon by 2024. What were trying to do is establish norms of behaviour that every nation can agree to, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine told reporters. He said the accords are consistent with a 1967 treaty holding that the moon and other celestial bodies are exempt from national claims of ownership. We are operationalising the Outer Space Treaty for the purposes of creating the broadest, most inclusive, largest coalition of human spaceflight in the history of humankind, Bridenstine said. The Trump administration and governments of other spacefaring countries see the moon as a strategic asset. The moon also has value for long-term scientific research that could enable future missions to Mars activities that fall under a regime of international space law widely viewed as outdated. In 2019, US Vice President Mike Pence directed NASA to return humans to the moon by 2024 cutting the agencys previous timeline in half and build a long-term human presence on the lunar surface. The NASA programme, expected to cost tens of billions of dollars, will send robotic rovers to the surface of the moon before an eventual human landing. NASA also plans to build a Lunar Gateway, a space station orbiting the moon. Plans call for it to be constructed by a mix of NASA contractors and international partners.
Celebrations at South Africa airports as borders reopen - Al Jazeera English
Performers danced in arrivals area, jets of water sprayed onto plane to welcome first flight in more than six months.
International flights have landed in South Africa for the first time in more than six months, touching down amid a flurry of celebrations as coronavirus-linked travel restrictions lifted. Jets of water were sprayed in an arc to welcome an Emirates flight from Dubai as it touched down in the coastal city of Cape Town on Thursday. In the arrivals areas, performers danced and played jolly music as the crew walked out in a welter of South African flags. An Ethiopian Airlines flight landed shortly after jetting in from Addis Ababa. I am so happy to be back, my life is here, said Nigerian postgraduate student Destiny Ugo who has been stuck abroad since a family visit in April and unable to resume his research at the University of Cape Town. I thought I was going to stay [home] for two weeks but I ended up staying for eight months. Africas most industrialised economy sealed its borders at the start of a strict lockdown in late March to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus. Restrictions on movement and business have been gradually eased since May, but international borders stayed shut until October 1 to avoid admitting infections from abroad. German carrier Lufthansa was the first European airline to resume operations into South Africa, with a flight from Frankfurt landing at Johannesburgs OR Tambo international airport at 8:30am local time (06:30 GMT). Planes also flew in from Kenya, Zambia and neighbouring Zimbabwe. An Emirates aircraft is sprayed with water by fire-engines after landing at the Cape Town International airport after flying from Dubai [Rodger Bosch/AFP] The travel ban dealt a heavy blow to the tourist industry, which usually employs about 1.5 million people and contributes more than 8.5 percent to the gross domestic product (GDP), according to the Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA). In July, the group estimated that each day the industry was restrained, it represented a loss of 748 million rand ($45m) in tourist expenditure. More than 600,000 direct jobs have been axed as a result. Tourists from more than 50 nations with high infection rates remain banned for the time being, including major sources of foreign visitors such as the United Kingdom, Russia and the United States. Those travel restrictions will be reviewed every two weeks. COVID-19 infections and deaths south of the Sahara have remained low compared with the rest of the world. South Africa has been relatively hard-hit, with 674,339 infections and 16,734 deaths recorded to date just less than half the total number of cases detected on the continent.
'There will be blood': Xenophobia in S Africa routine and lethal - Al Jazeera English
Human Rights Watch report documents xenophobic violence in South Africa, urges government to take urgent measures.
Sleeping was not an option for Syed in early September last year. For three days and night, the Bangladeshi shop owner in central Johannesburg said he had to stand guard to protect his store during an outbreak of xenophobic violence that saw rioters throw stones and other objects at him and other businesspeople in the area. Syed said the shopkeepers had called the police but they showed up only on the third day. By then, more than 1,000 Bangladeshi shops were looted, he added. His account is one of the dozens included in a report released on Thursday by the Human Rights Watch (HRW), documenting mob attacks on migrant communities in South Africa by people who are angry at the dire economic and living conditions they are experiencing. According to the findings in the HRW report, xenophobic harassment and violence against other Africans and Asians living in the country are routine and sometimes lethal. Foreigners are scapegoated and blamed for economic insecurity, crime and government failures to deliver services, the report said. Non-South Africans are also being accused of stealing jobs and women, depleting the country's basic services, spreading diseases and running crime syndicates. "The xenophobic actions constitute a betrayal of the South African constitutional promise," said Kristie Ueda, an HRW researcher and author of the report. "The constitution promises human dignity and non-racialism. Non-nationals come to South Africa because there is this promise that they will be live freely and equality. But this idea has been betrayed," she added, referring to the "overarching trend of indifference" towards victims of xenophobic incidents. "This sometimes take the form of flat-out denial and sometimes even the form of tacit approval." 'Fire and blood' At least 12 people were killed and thousands displaced in a week of violence from September 2 to 9 when foreign-owned businesses were looted in different parts of Johannesburg. The rioting was accompanied by protests calling on foreigners to leave. HRW said interviewees forwarded it WhatsApp texts and voice messages they had received in the days before the violence threatening it would become "deadly" and that "there will be fire and blood" if foreigners did not leave. It was far from the first such incident in recent years. In 2017, violent anti-immigrant protests broke out in the capital, Pretoria, while in 2015, another wave of xenophobic attacks in different parts of the country killed several people and displaced thousands. Angela Mudukuti, a Zimbabwean human rights lawyer, said, "Xenophobia affects all Black foreigners in South Africa. It permeates every layer of society creating a uniquely hostile society that does nothing but drive a wedge between the rest of the continent and South Africa." Counterfeit and documentation raids For its report, HRW interviewed 51 people including victims, lawyers and activists between March 2019 and March 2020 in the Western Cape, Gauteng and Kwazulu-Natal provinces, the areas hit the hardest by xenophobic violence since the end of apartheid in 1994 until 2018, according to the Xenowatch monitoring group. Non-South Africans interviewed by HRW also said the government and law enforcement officials have used counterfeit goods and documentation raids as a cover for xenophobic harassment and attacks. They believe their shops have been disproportionately targeted by authorities conducting raids, during which police have used tear gas and rubber bullets, according to the report. Police would storm shops suspected of selling counterfeit goods with the goal of destroying or removing such goods from the market. But while the government says such operations protect the local economy and jobs, shopkeepers and sellers in central Johannesburg told HRW that the police sold confiscated goods back to them after ransacking their shops. Al Jazeera contacted the Department of Home Affairs for comment but has not received a response at the time of publication. On January 14, Aaron Motsoaledi, health minister at the time and the current minister of home affairs, said, "We are not xenophobic as a department and as a country." Plan to combat xenophobia In March 2019, the government launched the National Action Plan to Combat Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance (NAP). The five-year plan's goal is to improve the protection of foreigners and their access to justice, as well as raise public awareness and understanding of xenophobia. The NAP recommends creating mechanisms to ensure foreigners receive services they are entitled to, facilitating their integration and embracing a humane and dignified approach to managing migrants, refugees and asylum seekers. Still, xenophobic violence has continued in the first year of the plan's existence. "The NAP is more of a description of the problem with very broad and vague recommendations for anti-prejudice initiatives. It's not a series of programmes with budgets," said Steven Gordon, a senior researcher at the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), decrying a "lack of measurable instruments that can be said to be implemented". Commenting on the HRW's findings, Gordon said what is particularly striking is their similarity to the documentations included in a report released by the HRW back in 1998. "Many of the issues are the same," he said. "For example, the issue of government underplaying the problem and the problems faced by vulnerable migrants like refugees and asylum seekers as well as the institutional resistance from officeholders." Sharon Ekambaram, the head of the refugee and migrant rights programme at Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR), which runs walk-in law clinics for refugees and migrants in several cities, described South Africa's asylum system as "failed". Ekambaram said over the past year the refugee reception office in Musina, a town in Limpopo province, had a 100 percent rejection rate of asylum seekers and of people seeking refugee status. "The quality of decision-making by officials is informed by xenophobia," Ekambaram argued. According to Ekambaram, xenophobic sentiments are increasingly spread through social media. Certain statements by politicians have also exacerbated the problem, she said, referring to a November 2018 statement made by Motsoaledi that the South African health system is "overburdened" by foreign nationals. "The government is in denial of the xenophobia in our country. It has to recognise that hatred of foreigners is being fuelled in communities. There has to be consequences for those who loot and attack," she said. Ueda, meanwhile, recommended urgent measures to improve the situation for foreigners. "One barrier to basic services is obtaining the right documentation. The government should extend the validity of an asylum seeker permit to alleviate challenges foreigners face with the renewal of documents." Other HRW recommendations include the formal monitoring of the NAP's implementation and the establishment of an accountability mechanism, as well the government acknowledging the existence of xenophobia in public statements.
South Africa heading towards becoming a failed state: Report - Aljazeera.com
Risk consultancy blames apartheid-era laws for high inequality and post-independence gov'ts for failing to create jobs.
South Africa faces a precipitous economic and political collapse by 2030 unless it changes its economic model and implements growth-friendly policies, according to Eunomix Business & Economics Ltd. Using a range of measures, the Johannesburg-based political and economic risk consultancy forecasts the country will rank near the bottom of a table of more than 180 countries in terms of security, similar to Nigeria and Ukraine, and have prosperity akin to Bangladesh or Ivory Coast. That's a significant decline from its current position, though it should fare better on governance and welfare measures. "Bar a meaningful change of trajectory, South Africa will be a failed state by 2030," Eunomix said in a report. The consultancy blames a structure created during the White-minority apartheid era that was designed to exclude the Black majority, creating one of the world's most unequal societies. Since the advent of democracy in 1994, the ruling African National Congress perpetuated that situation by rejecting job-intensive growth policies and instead raising wages and subsidizing the poor through welfare, Eunomix said. While less than a quarter of the population is in work, South Africa's wage bill as a percentage of gross domestic product significantly exceeds that of countries such as India, Thailand and the Philippines. Eunomix's recommendation for South Africa's government is to adopt a "dual-track" strategy of developing and maintaining high levels of social support and paying for it by adopting an aggressive special economic zone policy, which boosts growth and employment, albeit at lower wages. The ANC's strategy is "a dichotomy born of apartheid, resistance and crystallized by ideological puritanism and entrenched interests," the consultancy said. "The country should not choose between imagined opposites. It should adopt a dual-track approach that reconciles them." President Cyril Ramaphosa is "very clear" about the need for inclusive growth that addresses inequality, unemployment and poverty, his spokesman Tyrone Seale said by phone on Wednesday. "Government, business, labor and communities are currently working on an economic recovery plan," he said. "As South Africa we are clear about our plan to reboot the economy and the need to involve all South Africans." Former President Jacob Zuma ushered in a decade of low growth when he focused on increasing the role of the state, instead of supporting a private-sector led recovery after the global economic crisis of 2008, Eunomix said. Prolonged policy uncertainty in areas ranging from mining to telecommunications compounded the slowdown. The economic impact of recurrent power cuts, rising unemployment and the loss of the last investment-grade rating on South Africa's debt have only been exacerbated by the coronavirus outbreak. "The pandemic is the last nail in the coffin of strategic fiasco," Eunomix said. "The economy is unsustainably narrow and shallow. It rests on a small and declining working population burdened by very high debt and taxes."
Zimbabwe opposition MP, Job Sikhala, arrested by police: Party - Al Jazeera English
Sikhala, an outspoken government critic, went into hiding in late July after he appeared on a police wanted list.
Zimbabwean security forces have arrested a legislator and outspoken opposition leader who went into hiding in late July after appearing on a police wanted list. The Movement for Democratic Change-Alliance (MDC-A), the country's largest opposition party, tweeted on Friday that its vice chairman, Job Sikhala, was arrested but gave no details. The state-run daily Herald cited police confirming Sikhala, who is also a lawyer, was arrested in the western Harare suburb of Tynwald. Sikhala is one of more than a dozen anti-government activists who went into hiding after police issued an alert seeking information leading to their arrest ahead of anti-government protests planned for July 31. His party and the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights said he was charged with inciting public violence for allegedly backing the protest. His arrest came as another opposition politician and government critic, Jacob Ngarivhume, was denied bail for the third time since being arrested for calling the protests. The demonstrations were banned because of Zimbabwe's anti-coronavirus measures. Ngarivhume made a last-ditch attempt to secure his release, arguing that the demonstrations had remained peaceful. But a magistrate rejected this argument and said Ngarivhume remained a danger to society as he could organise protests if let out on bail. Ngarivhume, the leader of Transform Zimbabwe, has been in jail since July 20 on charges of inciting public violence. More than a dozen demonstrators who tried to protest, were detained from the streets. They were charged with inciting violence and then freed on bail.
Tobacco companies sue South African government over smoking ban - Al Jazeera English
As lockdown ban on the sale of tobacco lifts, firms launch lawsuits over 'bizarre and irregular' prohibition.
Johannesburg, South Africa - Tobacco companies are determined to move forward with litigation against the South African government for its banning of tobacco products during the nearly five-month coronavirus lockdown. The tobacco ban - the only one of its kind worldwide - was imposed under the 2002 Disaster Management Act, the government justifying it on health grounds based on advice from its medical experts as well as from the World Health Organization (WHO). South Africa's ban on the sale of tobacco products and alcohol was lifted on Monday, as part of the easing of measures imposed to combat the coronavirus pandemic in South Africa. The Fair Trade Independent Tobacco Association (FITA), an organisation representing 80 percent of cigarette manufacturers in South Africa, brought forward a court application on May 4 against the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. FITA said there is no rational connection between the cigarette ban and the aim of the state of disaster declaration which is to prevent the spread of COVID-19. But organisations such as the Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA) and the Heart and Stroke Foundation of South Africa have supported the ban. Litigation going forward The Pretoria High Court dismissed FITA's challenge on June 26, ruling that Dlamini-Zuma acted reasonably with a view to save lives when she banned tobacco products. On Friday, the Supreme Court granted FITA the right to appeal. FITA's president, Sinenhlanhla Mnguni, said the association would proceed with its lawsuit. FITA initially wanted to compel the government to reintroduce the sale of tobacco products but, since the ban was removed on Monday, it now seeks an order prohibiting the government from banning tobacco sales again, should South Africa move to a stricter lockdown in the future. According to FITA, Dlamini-Zuma was not empowered to ban tobacco products under the Disaster Management Act, which they said only empowers the minister to make regulations "rationally connected" to preventing or controlling the COVID-19 pandemic. The Disaster Management Act was previously used to halt xenophobic attacks against foreigners in South Africa in June 2008. It was also invoked during the 2010-2011 floods in different parts of the country. Speaking to Al Jazeera, Mnguni said: "Medical evidence does not support the minister's decision to ban tobacco products," and the move was made in a non-consultative and "undemocratic" way. By banning tobacco, Mnguni argued, the government went against the main objective of lockdown, which was to prevent people from moving around, pushing them to go out and seek cigarettes on the black market, a trade that increased sharply over recent months. BATSA - a unit of British American Tobacco - described the ban as "bizarre and irregular". According to BATSA, South Africa lost $36m in taxes during every day of the tobacco ban. In April, BATSA initiated a legal challenge against the tobacco ban but the case was withdrawn in May. BATSA said in a statement it would pursue further discussions with the government. Evidence According to Safs Abdool Karim, senior researcher at the Wits University Centre for Health Economics, those opposing the ban may have the constitution on their side. Although it has been suggested smokers are more vulnerable to contracting COVID-19, no evidence has been brought to the court proving that smoking during the lockdown specifically increases people's susceptibility to COVID-19, Abdool Karim said. "We do not know conclusively what the link between COVID and smoking is," said Abdool Karim. Legal experts said the tobacco ban could be unconstitutional and FITA's court challenge has a good chance of success. Pierre de Vos, professor of constitutional law at the University of Cape Town, told Al Jazeera: "The legal problem for the government is that to be legally valid, the ban must be shown to be rational, and that means there must be at least some evidence that the ban would reduce the spread of COVID-19, or reduce the fatalities of those succumbing to the disease." Noting there is ample evidence that smoking is bad for people's health and there is also some proof that smokers are more likely to succumb to coronavirus than non-smokers, he said: "But I am not sure there is evidence that a short-term ban on the sale of cigarettes is in any way linked to achieving one or more of the [anti-coronavirus] goals set out above. "For this reason, I would not be surprised if the government loses one or both of the cases currently before the courts," he said.
Rebels seize port in gas-rich northern Mozambique - Al Jazeera English
ISIL-linked fighters capture Mocimboa da Praia port close to a major gas field following days of fighting.
Fighters captured a heavily defended port in the far northern Mozambique town of Mocimboa da Praia, close to the site of natural gas projects worth some $60bn. It was one of several attacks on the town - 60km (37 miles) south of the projects being developed by oil majors like France's Total - this year as fighters with links to the ISIL (ISIS) armed group have stepped up attacks in the region. Its port is used for cargo deliveries to the developments. "The port of Mocimboa da Praia was captured by the terrorists at dawn," the Moz24Horas website reported, while a military source told AFP news agency the small town and its port had "fallen". Mozambique's defence forces (FDS) confirmed "terrorists" launched "sequenced attacks" on several villages surrounding the port over the past week in an attempt to occupy the town. "At the moment, there are ongoing actions to neutralise the terrorists that are using populations in the affected areas as shields," the FDS said in a statement. Attacks in the northern region have already killed at least 1,300 people, according to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED). Displaced people number more than 250,000, according to aid organisations working locally. In its latest weekly report released on Wednesday, ACLED said "insurgents and government security forces have been in more or less constant running battles in the area" for the past week. The attacks started in 2017 in Mocimboa da Praia and have since spread to massive swaths of Cabo Delgado province. The latest attack - the third on the town this year - was claimed by the Islamic State Central Africa Province (ISCAP). The ISIL-affiliated group has the stated goal of establishing a caliphate in the region. ISCAP has claimed several attacks since June 2019 via social media, often posting images of slain soldiers and seized weapons.
Zimbabwe president vows to 'flush out' opponents - Al Jazeera English
Emmerson Mnangagwa takes aim at critics after rights groups reported arrests of activists and opposition members.
Zimbabwe's president has labelled the main opposition party "terrorist" and vowed to continue a crackdown on his opponents. Several opposition members and government critics have been arrested in recent days and rights groups allege security forces have carried out illegal abductions. Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights says it has represented more than 20 people detained since last week, when the military and the police thwarted an anti-government protest that had been scheduled for Friday. In an address on state television Tuesday, President Emmerson Mnangagwa described critics as "a few bad apples" that should be "overcome" and indicated that arrests would continue. "We will overcome attempts at the destabilisation of our society by a few rogue Zimbabweans acting in league with foreign detractors," he said, warning that "bad apples who have attempted to divide our people and to weaken our systems will be flushed out ... Enough is enough." Mnangagwa made the speech as local and international pressure mounted on his administration over allegations of human rights abuses. The hashtag #Zimbabweanlivesmatter has been used in social media to draw attention to the wave of arrests. Fadzayi, Tsitsi, Julie, Terrence, Loveridge, and all the others in Zimbabwes protest may God give you strength and courage in your pursuit of freedom. #ZimbabweanLivesMatter Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (@MaEllenSirleaf) August 4, 2020 'Tipping point' Security agents were deployed in the capital, Harare, and other major cities last week to foil the protest planned for Friday, resulting in empty streets that day. Some people who tweeted in support of the demonstrations or who tried to hold low-key protests were arrested, and some were assaulted and tortured, according to human rights groups and Tendai Biti, spokesman for the main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) Alliance. Biti told AFP news agency the situation had become "untenable". He condemned the government for "closing political space", engaging "massively in corruption" and "abusing the constitution". "We are at a tipping point, something is going to give," Biti said, warning that another military coup could be "around the corner". Investigative journalist Hopewell Chin'ono has been in jail for two weeks after he posted on social media in support of the anti-government demonstration and made a series of allegations of government corruption. Chin'ono awaits a bail hearing this week. Internationally known author Tsitsi Dangarembga was bailed on charges of inciting public violence after staging a small protest. Journalist Mduduzi Mathuthu and several members of the MDC Alliance are in hiding Amnesty International has meanwhile condemned what it calls the "witch-hunt and repression of peaceful dissent". Zimbabwean human rights activist Jestina Mukoko deplored the lack of accountability among both government and police forces. "We are suffering repression and criminalisation of our rights work," she said, adding that democracy had been "compromised". Rising tensions Mnangagwa came to power after longtime ruler Robert Mugabe was removed from office in a 2017 military takeover. The president, who won a disputed election in July 2018, pledged to revive the country's economy by attracting foreign investment. But popular discontent has grown as the economy implodes. Inflation is more than 700 percent, the second-highest in the world, while the World Food Programme has projected that 60 percent of the population could be food insecure by the end of the year. The coronavirus outbreak has brought a new layer of suffering, and critics have accused Mnangagwa of using COVID-19 as a cover to crack down on dissent. In his speech, Mnangagwa said Zimbabwe's security forces would not relent. "Security services will carry out their duties with appropriate astuteness and resolve. The protection of the right to life is paramount, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and machinations by the destructive terrorist opposition groupings," he said. Mnangagwa pledged to fight corruption and fix the collapsing economy, whose poor performance he blamed on "divisive politics of some opposition elements, illegal economic sanctions, cyclones, droughts and more recently the deadly COVID-19 pandemic."
Zimbabwean author Tsitsi Dangarembga released on bail - Al Jazeera English
Award-winning novelist was arrested while taking part in banned anti-corruption protests.
Tsitsi Dangarembga, an award-winning Zimbabwean author and Booker Prize nominee, has been released on bail after her arrest during an anti-government protest. Eleven other people detained on Friday - including Fadzayi Mahere, a lawyer and spokeswoman for the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change-Alliance party - were also freed on Saturday. They were ordered to return to court on September 18. Dangarembga was charged with incitement to commit violence and breaching anti-coronavirus health regulations after staging a two-woman demonstration in the capital on Friday, the day of planned protests against corruption and a deepening economic crisis. But the streets of Harare, as well as of the second city of Bulawayo, remained deserted as hundreds of soldiers and police officers were deployed to prevent the outlawed demonstrations. On the previous day, police had warned anyone attending would "only have themselves to blame" while President Emmerson Mnangagwa denounced the planned rallies as "an insurrection to overthrow our democratically elected government". Dangarembga was carrying placards calling for reforms and the release of Hopewell Chin'ono, a prominent journalist arrested last week under a government crackdown, "Friends, here is a principle. If you want your suffering to end, you have to act. Action comes from hope. This the principle of faith and action," she had written on Twitter before her arrest, which came days after her latest novel, This Mournable Body, entered the long list for the prestigious Booker Prize. In a statement of on Friday, Amnesty International said, "The brutal assault on political activists and human rights defenders who have had the courage to call out alleged corruption and demand accountability from their government is intensifying." "The persecution of these activists is a blatant abuse of the criminal justice system and mockery of justice." UK Ambassador Melanie Robinson expressed concern over reports of abductions, arrests and threats targeting those exercising their rights. Mnangagwa came to power after a military takeover overthrew President Robert Mugabe, who had ruled Zimbabwe for 37 years. The president, who won a disputed July 2018 election, promised a new start and a revival of the country's shattered economy by attracting foreign investment. But popular anger has grown as Zimbabwe suffers a severe economic crisis marked by hyperinflation, a local currency that is rapidly depreciating against the US dollar and acute foreign exchange shortages. An estimated 90 percent of Zimbabweans are without formal employment. Mnangagwa has also been accused of employing the heavy-handed tactics of his predecessor against political opponents, including banning protests and abducting and arresting critics. Critics also say Mnangagwa is exploiting a COVID-19 lockdown to stifle dissent, after he imposed an overnight curfew and restricted free movement last week. As of Saturday, Zimbabwe has registered 3,169 confirmed coronavirus cases and 67 related deaths, according to data collected by the Johns Hopkins University. More than 1,000 people have recovered.