Cyril Ramaphosa was at the European parliament in Strasbourg last week extolling the virtues of democracy, liberty, respect for human rights and freedoms and the rule of law. It was an eloquent speech but unfortunately he was preaching to the converted.

“SA, Africa and the EU,” he said, “are bound by shared values of democracy and respect for human rights.” Not quite. Pity he didn’t tell that to Lindiwe Sisulu, his minister of international relations and co-operation. Better still he should preach the good news to his fellow African leaders.

Last week Angela Quintal, a South African citizen working for the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), and her Kenyan colleague Muthoki Mumo, were in Dar es Salaam when unfriendly visitors arrived unexpectedly at their hotel. Initially they were told the group were immigration officials but they turned out to be the feared security personnel who’ve become a law unto themselves since John Magufuli became president.

The two were taken to a secret location where they were interrogated and verbally abused for five hours. Their passports and cellphones were removed from them. Fortunately, Quintal had alerted her employers in New York and fellow journalists, who immediately spread the word about their predicament. The two might have been detained for much longer, even indefinitely, but for the international uproar which seemed to catch the Tanzanians by surprise. The journalists were eventually driven back to their hotel at three in the morning. It was pleasing to hear how our diplomats, especially Thami Mseleku, the high commissioner, moved swiftly to get the pair out of custody. He got their passports back and helped them to the airport and out of the country. And chests swelled a tad when it was reported that Sisulu had given instructions that she be kept informed every step of the way about the fate of the journalists. At last, one thought, our government was doing right by its people caught up...

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