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African press review 15 October 2012

The implications of the latest downgrading of South Africa's economy and commentary about Kofi Annan's recently published autobiography both feature in today's papers.

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The main story in this morning's Johannesburg-based financial paper, BusinessDay, warns that market repercussions are likely this week after the financial agency Standard & Poor’s downgraded South Africa’s sovereign credit rating. The agency says strikes in the mining sector are likely to threaten the country’s economic policy framework.

Standard & Poor’s kept a negative outlook on its BBB rating for South Africa, saying that "the political, economic and fiscal ramifications of South Africa’s social tensions could deteriorate" beyond its expectations.

Dossier: Eurozone in crisis

The decision by Standard & Poor’s followed a downgrade by Moody’s two weeks ago, but its new rating puts South Africa one level below the credit assessments of the other two top rating agencies, Moody’s and Fitch.

S&P’s rating for South Africa is two notches above the level classified as "junk", which refers to government bonds that are considered speculative rather than investment grade.

Credit ratings help determine the cost of borrowing and affect investor appetite for local assets, such as equities, bonds and currencies.

Also back in the news is South Africa's Public Protector, Thuli Madonsela, the national ombudswoman. According to BusinessDay, Madonsela says she has been told there is a move by senior African National Congress members to drive her out of office, with the person orchestrating the campaign against her having been promised a job within the ruling party.

A person, whose name Madonsela knows, is allegedly asking members of the public to come up with a petition to have her impeached, in return for which key members of the ANC have promised that person a job.

Just last week, Madonsela published the results of her probe into On-Point - a front company in which sacked ANC Youth League president, Julius Malema, has shares - revealing that the company had profitted from government engineering tenders worth over four million euros, despite having no employees, no equipment and no track record. She has recommended legal action against the owners of On-Point, accusing them of fraud and the theft of public money.

Deputy public protector, Mamiki Shai, has presented a dossier to Parliament which contains allegations that Madonsela interfered with and soft-peddled investigations into areas run by the opposition Democratic Alliance.

Madonsela has set up a task team to investigate the allegations against her. That team will be convened by the chair of the good governance and integrity committee, none other than Mamiki Shai.

According to The Daily Nation in Kenya, two people are dead following a gunfight near the home of Mombasa Republican Council leader Omar Mwamnuadzi earlier this Monday morning. Weapons were also recovered.

According to a police official, Mwamnuadzi and 12 others have been arrested.

The Mombasa Republican Council has been campaigning since 2008 for the independence of Kenya's Coast province.

The Daily Nation also reports that Kenyan Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta has hired a British 'spin doctor’ to help deflect the criticism of those who feel that Kenyatta should not stand for election because he faces serious charges at the International Criminal Court.

It was revealed on Sunday that Kenyatta has appointed Ed Straite, a former adviser to Britain’s Finance Minister, George Osborne, to boost his public image in the face of concerns that he should not be running for Kenya’s highest office.

Kenyatta is one of four Kenyans accused of crimes against humanity for thier alleged roles in the post-election violence in 2008.

In Uganda, anyone with the money to spare can, from today, buy shares in Umeme, the national electricity company.

According to regional paper, The East African, the 60 million euros offer will see Actis, the London-based private equity firm sell its 38 per cent stake in Umeme to the general public. Actis currently owns 100 per cent of the electricity distributor.

Umeme’s shares will go on sale at 10 cents each, with the offer closing on 7 November.

The East African also reports on Kofi Annan's recently published autobiography, A Life in War and Peace.

According to the regional paper, Annan has a diplomat’s way of being economical with what he reveals, and a politician’s knack of self-serving storytelling.

He was at the centre of key global events of our time, from the crises in the Middle East and Bosnia, to East Timor, Darfur, Kosovo, Iraq, Somalia and, perhaps most tragically, Rwanda.

It is clear, says The East African, that the one topic that will forever haunt Annan's conscience is Rwanda. He was the head of UN peacekeeping operations at the time of the 1994 genocide and his inaction has since been the subject of savage criticism.

Annan is blamed for withdrawing the UN military contingent from Rwanda once the genocide started. By the time the United Nations got around to agreeing another peacekeeping mission for the country, over 800,000 people had been massacred.

Four months before the genocide began, the UN force commander in Rwanda, General Romeo Dallaire, told Annan’s office that he had impeccable intelligence that a blueprint for the exterminationof Rwanda's Tutsis had been prepared.

Dallaire also knew the location of a major arms cache in Kigali to be used by the Interahamwe Hutu militia, which the UN commander proposed to raid.

Not only did Annan’s office order the general to lay off, there was no follow-up to the subsequent and increasingly desperate warnings from the commander on the calamity that was approaching.

But, says The East African, the Rwanda chapter as told by Annan in his memoir is a long narrative of self-justification.

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