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African press review 8 December 2014

Diamonds and land in Zimbabwe, the economy in South Africa, teachers in Kenya and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt - all in today's papers around the continent...

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Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe was re-appointed leader of the ruling party at the weekend, while his wife Grace got to be head of Zanu-PF's women's wing.

No surprises there, you might be tempted to say. But the front page of this morning's Harare-based, privately-owned NewsDay says Zanu-PF is broke and owes nearly ten million euros in bank loans and phone bills.

NewsDay also reports that fresh details on how Vice-President Joyce Mujuru allegedly tried to oust President Robert Mugabe were yesterday revealed with Speaker of Parliament Jacob Mudenda saying the plot started in 2009.

Mudenda said that Zanu-PF had been hijacked by members funded by the United States and Europe with a view to removing Mugabe from power.

There's no mention of Zimbabwe's ruling party's financial woes on the front page of the government-owned Harare Herald. There, we learn that Zimbabwean mining companies have won back nearly 40 million euros worth of diamonds, seized in Europe three months ago by a South African firm in a dispute over mining rights.

The story goes on to warn, however, that the money won't immediately be returned to Harare because there's a second case, involving fourteen commercial farmers who claim they were illegally evicted from their lands under Zimbabwe's land re-distribution scheme. Their case is due to be heard at the European Court later this month, and the gems will stay in Antwerp until a decision is made on their claim for over 50 million euros in compensation.

In South Africa, the Johannesburg-based financial paper, BusinessDay, looks forward to a week in which crucial economic data will be announced before institutions close for the festive season.

The most sensitive announcement will be ratings agency Fitch’s decision on whether or not to downgrade South Africa’s sovereign credit status. Also eagerly awaited is the current account deficit for the third quarter, which the Reserve Bank will release in its quarterly bulletin later this morning.

A downgrade appears unlikely, though a senior Fitch representative has said that poor government finances were weighing on South Africa’s ability to attract investment.

Last month, Moody’s Investors Service downgraded the Pretoria government’s sovereign credit rating by one notch to B-double A-2, but changed its outlook to "stable" from "negative".

Kenya's post-election violence 2007-8

In Uganda, the front page of the Daily Monitor reports that three hippos from the river Nile have invaded farms in Amuru district, destroying bean plantations worth millions of shillings.

The hippos also killed a calf and one cow. Locals are said to be living in fear of attack by the animals, and are unable to work on their farms.

The front page of the Kenyan Standard newspaper carries a pledge by president Uhuru Kenyatta to support his deputy William Ruto until charges against Ruto at the International Criminal Court are dropped.

Ruto faces trial before the ICC for his alleged role in the 2008 post-election violence.

Last Friday, International Court Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda withdrew charges against the president for lack of evidence. Yesterday, ruling coalition leaders sought to counter speculation that the unity of the government would be tested by the fact that Ruto remains accused of complicity in organising the 2008 violence.

And, if you're on your way out to school in Kenya right now, be warned that teachers will be asked by their union officials tomorrow to approve a nationwide strike next month to press for higher pay, the promotion of 53,000 tutors and the recruitment of 40,000 others. The Standard says the main union representing Kenyan school teachers has said it is prepared for an epic battle

In Cairo, the Egypt Independent gives details on yesterday's court decision to sentence to death four members of the blacklisted Muslim Brotherhood in connection with the killing of protesters who stormed the Brotherhood's Cairo headquarters in June last year.

The four men were convicted of killing, inciting to kill, possessing guns and live ammunition and joining an armed group to terrorise people.

Prosecutors said 12 protesters were killed when they clashed with Morsi supporters during the storming of the offices. More than 90 protesters were wounded.

Sunday's sentences are preliminary and will be forwarded to the country's mufti, or top Muslim cleric, to be ratified.

Decisions on 14 other defendants in the case, including Muslim Brotherhood chief Mohamed Badie and his deputies, will be made at the next hearing on 28 February, a court official said.

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