Ravalomanana's sentencing a draw back

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Pretoria - The sentencing of Madagascar's former President Marc Ravalomanana to hard labour for life may prove to be one more obstacle in the island's attempts to emerge from its current political crisis, says International Relations and Cooperation's Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane.

Briefing the media on Thursday, the minister said that as member of SADC- they were not impressed with any act that would further undermine the return of the political order in that country.

"The outcome of the case should not be isolated to the political development in that country
... I do not think the judgment in absentia would help in resolving the problems."

Ravalomanana, who lives in exile in the country, was sentenced in absentia last weekend by a court in Antananarivo for his part in what are known as the February 7, 2009 killings. The deposed leader was charged with murder and being an accessory to murder, along with 18 other people, some of whom are also in exile.

Nkoana-Mashabane said they were waiting for a report from former Mozambican President and the SADC mediator Joaquim Alberto Chissano into what were the implications of this judgement.

"But the reality is SADC is not impressed with any other activity that further undermines efforts dome to bring stability," Minister Nkoana-Mashabane said, adding that SADC would never give up on efforts to bring peace in that country.

A constitutional crisis erupted in Madagascar when army-backed Andry Rajoelina seized power from President Ravalomanana.

The two leaders signed a power-sharing agreement with two other former presidents in November last year, but Rajoelina has threatened to disband the government and missed several election deadlines he set. Talks aimed at ending the crisis have failed so far.

With regards to the violent riots in Mozambique, the minister said she still needed to consult to see assistance could be provided by South Africa.

Yesterday, chaos broke out when rioters blockaded the route to South Africa and set fire to a petrol station in the Matola suburb, between Maputo and its border. Protestors are up in arms over rising food and fuel prices. Trying to control the unruly crowd, police then opened fire, killing up to seven people and wounding about 27.