Africa’s Largest Class Action Law Suit?

“They came on horseback or by foot, trudging through Lesotho’s highlands and clutching tattered identity documents to back their claims that South Africa’s gold mining firms ruined their lungs.”

That’s Ed Cropely via Reuters writing about “the biggest class action suit Africa has ever seen” in  Special Report: From Gold Dust, a Billion Dollar Claim

“It’s hard to estimate the potential size of a silicosis class action. South Africa is the source of 40 percent of all the gold ever mined. At its height in the 1980s the industry employed 500,000 men – two-thirds of them from Lesotho, Mozambique and the Eastern Cape – although production has fallen behind China and Australia and employment since halved. But silicosis can take years to show up and check-ups are at best haphazard. A 2005 study by the National Institute of Occupational Health in Johannesburg, based on autopsies of miners, suggested 52 in every 100 had the disease.”




Elections without parties

Swaziland 2011 - near the Sandlane/Nerston border post.

Did you know that King Mswati of Swaziland is Sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch?  In the national elections scheduled for 2013, Mswati plans to uphold the ban on political parties.  According to this news story, that “flies in the face of international opinion,” but when I was reading, I couldn’t help but wonder why Mswati is even bothering to hold these pseudo-elections.  What does he hope to gain from this?

Ghandi and Lust-Okar (2009) survey the political literature on why authoritarian leaders hold elections.  While many argue that it is to satisfy the international community, it can also be used to spread the spoils of office, or as a signal the potential opposition supporters that resistance is futile. I wonder what Mswati’s reasoning is?

This reminds me of another paper – Hafner-Burton, Hyde, and Jablonski (2011).  Their paper focuses specifically on human rights violations surrounding elections – arguing that leaders engage in violence when they feel threatened.

It is likely that the complete lack of political parties participating in next year’s election will limit how threatened Mswati feels, but I wonder if the extensive protests and call for reforms that Swaziland has experienced since the 2008 elections could potentially lead to Mswati feeling the need to engage in some decidedly un-kingly behavior.



Zimbabwean Street Vendors Clash with Police

“During the first two weeks of January several police officers were left injured and a police post in the centre of town was forced to close during the clashes. … University of Zimbabwe political lecturer who studies political and social trends, Eldred Masunungure, told the local Daily News newspaper that although it is unheard of in Zimbabwe to fight with the police, the fact that civilians are starting to do so is a sign of the times.”

Read the full story HERE.  The author draws an interesting parallel between the start of the Arab Spring and the Zim vendors’ newly found determination to fight police crackdowns.

Flooding in Mpumalanga, South Africa

There are some scary pictures floating around the interwebs about the flooding in South Africa, yet it didn’t even make it into the headlines of any of my regularly perused news sources.  Thank goodness for Facebook!

This picture from shows what was previously a bridge* over the Crocodile River in the Kruger National Park.  Rain has fallen at an almost unwordly rate. “Over the past 48 hours, 109mm of rain was recorded around Mbombela, 139mm around Skukuza and 270.9mm around Hoedspruit.”

For those of us who speak in inches – 109mm is more than 4 inches and 270mm translates to more than 10 inches.  Crossing my fingers that the rain slows down soon!

*I would like to point out that I’m fairly certain the bridge in the picture above is a low water bridge.  Look at THIS picture and see if you agree.



The torrential downpours and flooding also hit Mozambique and Malawi placing thousands in danger.