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African press review 20 May 2011

Local elections in South Africa and domestic politics in Uganda and Kenya grab the headlines in today's newspapers.


The South African press is dominated by an unprecedented turnout in Wednesday’s municipal elections. The Independent Electoral Commission put the turn out at almost 57 per cent, the highest ever for an election of that nature in South Africa.

The ruling ANC secured 62 per cent of the votes overall, the Democratic Alliance 23 per cent, the breakaway Congress of the People 2,4 per cent far behind chief Buthelezi’s Inkatha Freedom Party which bagged 3,6per cent, according to the Mail and Guardian.

TheANC retained 73 per cent of the Eastern Cape heartland according to The Star. The paper however notes that the Democratic Alliance took at least 6 per cent of the black vote nationally.

Business Day says that performance is the clearest sign that the main opposition party had begun shaking off its all-white image.

The Port Elizabeth Herald underlines an ANC protest vote in a ruling party stronghold in the north-west.  The DA increased its number of seats in Tswaing constituency from one in the 2006 local government elections, to seven in 2011. Tswaing is the area where President Jacob Zuma warned that people who turned their backs on the ANC would have to explain themselves to their ancestors when they died.

The Cape Times notes that while millions of people across Cape Town voted, backyard dwellers refused and clashed with heavily armed police for the fourth day running. The paper explains that residents of the shanty towns are fed up with living in other people’s backyards and want to build houses on land, which has been vacant for decades.

The Sowetan headlines on an ANC man who died after winning a former stronghold of the Inkatha Freedom Party. The councillor from Manguzi, in northern Kwa-Zulu Natal died of natural causes in hospital. The paper reports that a by-election would now have to be held to find his replacement

The South African newspapers give extensive coverage to President Barak Obama’s new Middle East policy speech which lends weight to Arab Spring revolutions. The Mail and Guardian underlines that in Thursday's address, president Obama compared shouts of human dignity across the region to America’s birth pangs and old civil rights struggles.

Business Day notes a few radical new policy the address, notably Obama’s proposal that the borders of Israel and Palestine be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps – a plan vigorously opposed by the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Also, The Mail and Guardian predicts a tense period for US-Israeli relations as Obama unveiled his plan just one day before his meeting in the Oval office with the Israeli Prime Minister.

The South African papers report about the arrest again of Ugandan top opposition leader Kizza Besigye to prevent what the authorities said could be a destructive protest march.

The Mail and Guardian quotes Besigye explaining that shortly after he left his home he was stopped by police, who gave him a choice between 'preventive arrest' and jail or returning home. Besigye said he opted to return home. Reports say police have maintained a heavy presence near the residence, patrolling the roads and manning roadblocks.

Uganda’s Daily Monitor states that Besigye is being detained under a colonial law. The paper reports that police invoked the Criminal Procedure Code, dating back to independence to stop Kizza Besigye from leaving his home in Wakiso District. The so-called prevention and detection of crime act allows a police officer aware of a design to commit an offence to arrest, without a magistrate’s orders or warrant.

The Independent celebrates the first-ever election of a woman as speaker of Uganda’s parliament. Rebbeca Alitwala Kadaga of the ruling National Resistance Movement was sworn in as head Uganda’s 9th parliament on Thursday. Kadaga was deputy speaker in the previous house.

The Independent however argues, that in a world that cherishes women’s empowerment or pretends to, her rise to the prestigious position should be seen as a historic moment..
In nearby Kenya the big story in Friday’s newspapers is a police sweep for luxury cars stolen from Europe.

The Daily Nation says agents from Interpol recovered dozens of expensive cars during the month-long operation which ended on Thursday. The paper reports that cartels had been stealing an average of 10 four-by-four wheel vehicles every month and smuggling them to such countries as the DRC, Burundi and Malawi via Tanzania and Uganda.

The operation was prompted by information that Kenya had become the market for stolen cars by one international criminal ring from as far as the United Kingdom, according to the Nairobi-based newspaper

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