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African press review 28 April 2014

Reports of a coup within Zimbabwe's opposition MDC party, a call to boycott the upcoming elections in Egypt and remembering South Africa's first democratic elections 20 years ago - all in today's papers ...


Zimbabwe first this morning, where there seems to be more than a spot of trouble in the ranks of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change.

According to the privately-owned Harare newspaper, NewsDay, an internal coup yesterday saw the party’s national council vote to suspend leader Morgan Tsvangarai and six other officials, including the national chairman and the party spokesman. The simple headline to a very complicated story reads "Drama as Biti stages coup".

The MDC has seen some serious infighting since its heavy electoral loss to President Robert Mugabe and the Zanu PF party in last July’s general elections.

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Tsvangirai had earlier suspended or expelled several party stalwarts after a group lead by deputy treasurer-general, Elton Mangoma, wrote to Tsvangirai asking him to step down, claiming the former prime minister was no longer an asset to the party. Yesterday's suspension of the entire leadership loyal to Tsvangirai was a reaction to that earlier sacking, by members who believe that proper democratic procedures had not been followed.

Party secretary-general Tendai Biti said the seven (the most recent lot) had been suspended because they had violated the founding principles of the party. He went on to say that the MDC had been hijacked by "a dangerous fascist clique" working against the people of Zimbabwe.

National spokesman Douglas Mwonzora, one of the seven leaders suspended yesterday, reacted by denying the legitimacy of the so-called MDC national council which sacked him. He described the weekend meeting as a culmination of an elaborate progamme of covert operations by State security agents, the ruling Zanu PF, President Robert Mugabe and a few malcontents from the MDC led by Welshman Ncube wishing to destabilize the party. Their resolutions are meaningless and impotent, he said. Tsvangirai and his leadership will remain in office. Or not. We'll keep you informed.

Dossier: Revolution in Egypt

The main story in this morning's Egypt Independent is a reaction from Grand Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayyeb of Cairo's Al-Azhar Mosque, congratulating the Palestinian people for the reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas.

Last week, the two biggest Palestinian movements, at odds since 2007, announced that they had reached an agreement on reconciliation. The spiritual head of the oldest mosque and islamic university also expressed support for any steps that contribute to restoring Palestine's legitimate rights, as well as the establishment of a Palestinian state.

Grand Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayyeb added that Azhar is ready to support any steps that could achieve Palestinian national unity, as well as security and peace in the region and the world.

Also in the Egypt Independent, a report that the National Alliance to Support Legitimacy, the organisation behind demonstrations calling for the return of ousted President Mohamed Morsi, has urged its supporters to boycott the presidential elections due in four weeks' time.

The alliance says that Morsi, who spent only one year in power, was elected by the free will of the people and by fair constitutional procedures supervised and declared by the state's institutions. The base their call for a boycott on the claim that the presidential post is not vacant.

Yesterday was Freedom Day in South Africa. Not surprisingly, BusinessDay gives pride of place to yesterday's speech by President Jacob Zuma to mark 20 years since the country held its first non-racial democratic elections in 1994.

Zuma said that the nation has made great progress in improving the lives of its people since the dawn of democracy and will continue to progress on all fronts in the future to improve the conditions of those who still feel the sting of apartheid oppression.

Special guest Namibian President Hifikepunye Pohamba hailed South Africa’s 20 years of democracy as an example of reconciliation, peace and justice for all nations.

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