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African press review 07 January 2014

South Africa's debt and Robert Mugabe's health are among the stories in today's African papers ...


You thought it was an "arctic vortex" that was causing the big chill in the north-eastern United States? Wrong. According to the front page of this morning's South African financial paper BusinessDay, the martian temperatures are due to a "polar pig"!

When you read the small print, you realise that the two . . . the science-fictiony vortex, and the almost cuddly-sounding pig . . . are basically the same beast. The vortex was the near stationary spiral which created all the cold air over Canada in the first place, the pig is the bulge of cold air that is now threatening 90 per cent of the US with freezing temperatures.

Winter wheat on the Great Plains is among the crops threathened. Natural gas prices in New York have surged 24 per cent since November 1 as the coldest start to the US heating season in 13 years boosted fuel demand.

For the record, the coldest real temperature (as opposed to wind-chill) so far recorded in the US cold spell was -37.7°C at Crane Lake, Minnesota.

On the financial weather front, BusinessDay reports that ratings agency Moody’s has re-affirmed the Baa1 grading for South African government debt, with a negative outlook.

The news is good for the economy since it entails no downgrade, which would have made government debt more expensive because higher interest rates would have become payable.

The decision follows that made by another international ratings agency, Standard & Poor’s, in December, to keep South Africa’s credit rating unchanged at triple-B. Standard & Poor’s also maintained a negative outlook on the rating.

The negative outlook means the agencies suspect that things are likely to get worse rather than better in the medium term. The two agencies cite continued tension over the government’s economic policy within the ruling tripartite alliance and heightened uncertainty over the outcome of this tension in the run-up to this year’s national election.

Rumours of Robert Mugabe's illness have been greatly exaggerated.

Zimbabwe’s ruling Zanu (PF) party yesterday denied weekend reports that President Robert Mugabe had collapsed.

Mugabe, who won a seventh consecutive term in office in July last year, will turn 90 next month.

Zanu (PF) deputy director of information Psychology Maziwisa said media reports speculating on Mugabe’s health were intended to cause "false alarm and despondency".

Rwanda’s foreign minister says her government has no sympathy for the slain former spy chief who had a falling out with Rwanda’s president and was murdered in South Africa last week.

Louise Mushikiwabo said in Twitter messages that Patrick Karegeya was a “self-declared” enemy of Rwanda.

Karegeya's body was discovered last Wednesday in an up-market Johannesburg hotel. Police suspect he might have been strangled and have launched a murder investigation.

The teachers' strike threatened for Kenya didn't happen yesterday as the new school term began, but that doesn't mean the war is over.

According to this morning's Standard newspaper, the Kenya National Union of Teachers has accepted a call to negotiate over the promotion of its members, but warned that they would not back down on their demands.

It was not clear what motivated the usually combative union to defer the strike notice, but it indicated that it had received an invitation from the Teachers Service Commission for talks tomorrow.

The union is demanding the promotion of at least 53,000 teachers who it says have qualified for promotion after further studies.

The main story in the Nairobi-based Daily Nation says South Sudanese rivals negotiating a ceasefire to end raging conflict hold the fate of their young nation in their hands, one of the country's most respected religious leaders has said.

"Our people are dying all over, and for what?" said Daniel Deng Bul, the Episcopal Archbishop of South Sudan and one of the most senior spiritual leaders in the young nation.

Over three weeks of conflict have taken South Sudan to the brink of all-out civil war.

Dossier: Independence for South Sudan

Peace talks between South Sudan's government and rebels finally started in Ethiopia on Monday, after days of negotiation where the rivals met separately with mediators to agree an agenda for the talks.

The Nation also reports that former Zimbabwe Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has been left by his wife for undisclosed personal reasons   just over a year after he married her under controversial circumstances.

Tsvangirai, who lost the presidential election to Robert Mugabe last July, married Elizabeth Macheka in September, 2012.

The couple were forced to perform a traditional marriage ceremony after the Movement for Democratic Change leader was sued by one of his lovers, Ms Lorcadia Karimatsenga, who proved that they were customarily married.



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