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African press review 23 January 2014

Strikes over wages in South Africa's mines, Rwandan president Paul Kagame's views on treason and Kenya's controversial media law - all in today's papers ..


South Africa first this morning, and there's bad news and good news in the mining sector.

First, the bad news. According to the Johannesburg-based financial paper, BusinessDay, more than 100,000 platinum workers are set to strike after the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union dug in its heels on its wage demands, which the companies have warned are unrealistic.

The strike is to start today, despite last-ditch efforts by a government team led by Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe to mediate a compromise deal.

Union president Joseph Mathunjwa on Wednesday confirmed that the strike would proceed. The union is committed to strike action that is free of violence and intimidation.

The good news is that a parallel strike by the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union in the gold sector, due to start yesterday, was put on hold until later this month. Workers and management are waiting for a court decision on the legality of the strike call.

BusinessDay's editorial says these disputes are not really about wages, because the motivation of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union is primarily political.

Union president Joseph Mathunjwa sees the battle for the rand equivalent of an 850 euro monthly minimum wage as a fight against the system, which he says is essentially unchanged since the days of Prime ministers Jan Smuts and Hendrik Verwoerd.

He wants to dismantle what he calls the "apartheid system of salaries" and an ownership structure he says results in profits being repatriated offshore, leaving workers struggling to survive below the poverty line.

The question of whether the companies involved can afford to double the monthly minimum wage is almost irrelevant.

Regional newspaper, The East African, carries a long interview with the Rwandan president, Paul Kagame, in the course of which the Rwandan leader is asked to justify a recent statement to the effect that treason has consequences.

Was there any link to what happened in South Africa to Patrick Karegeya, the former Rwandan director of external intelligence who defected and was found murdered in a South African hotel?

The president answers that he made his comment in a religious context (he was speaking in church), and that his remark had been misunderstood.

But he goes on to say that betraying a cause and a people, should have consequences.

"When you betray the government, you betray the people of Rwanda. The fact that these people live in exile has consequences. They are not at peace," the president said.

"These Karegeyas and others belong to an organisation that has been killing people in Rwanda. There’s evidence. A mountain of evidence."

In Kenya, the war of words between opposition leader Raila Odinga and the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission continues.

Kenya's post-election violence 2007-8

For those who came in late, Odinga last weekend accused the army of helping to rig the last presidential poll, which saw Uhuru Kenyatta elected. Earlier this week, the electoral body and the Secretary to the Cabinet, Francis Kimemia, demanded that the former Prime Minister retract his claim and apologise.

According to the daily Standard, Raila Odinga's party CORD yesterday said there'd be no apology, insisting that Kimemia has no authority to comment on political matters and that the IEBC's reputation was no longer intact.

Also in the Standard, news that Kenyan journalists have filed a case challenging the newly-enacted media law.

The Kenya Union of Journalists, the Kenya Editors Guild, and the Kenya Correspondents Association want the Information and Communications (Amendment) Act 2013 rendered unlawful.

The complainants claim the new law infringes press freedom as guaranteed by the Kenyan constitution.

Under the headline "85 grannies finally granted 240-acre land," the Standard reports that a Nyeri court has declared 85 elderly people as the legitimate owners of 240 acres of land that had been in contention.

The occupants were almost evicted from the land in 2010, following a High Court ruling that declared them to be squatters. The dispute has been going on for the past 30 years.

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