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African press review 16 February 2015

Was the loss of cellphone signal as MPs protested during Zuma’s State-of-the-Nation address just a glitch? Will diamond prices regain their glitter? Who’s to blame for Kenya’s TV blackout? And why have Syrian and Palestinian refugees declared a hunger strike in Egypt?


The South African publication Mail & Guardian’s lead story is related to the cellphone jamming controversy during South African President Jacob Zuma’s State-of-the-Nation address on Thursday. 

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It reports on the minister of International Relations and Co-operation Maite Nkoana-Mashabane terming the loss of cellphone signal as nothing more than a technical glitch.

Nkoana-Mashabane further said that the violence that marred the event would not dissuade foreign investors or tourists from coming to South Africa.

While Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom is quoted as saying that he and his colleagues were surprised to find the cellphone signal disappear, Telecommunications Minister Siyabonga Cwele remarked he had no idea about reports that a signal scrambling device was noticed in the House.

Zuma’s speech was overshadowed by the signal-jamming incident as MPs from the Economic Freedom Fighters were evicted from the chamber, an act that was widely condemned.

Meanwhile, BusinessDay reports on the effects of the South African government’s decision to reopen the issue of pricing of minerals. It quotes Mark Cutifani, CEO of the mining company Anglo American, as saying that the government’s decision has created mistrust and put its credibility at risk internationally.

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Speaking of minerals, BusinessDay carries a report on the hardest mineral in nature, the diamond. It quotes Phillipe Mellier, CEO of De Beers, as saying that diamond prices are set to recover later this year and that the current sluggishness would continue till the end of the first quarter of this year.

Mellier said that consumption in the US market and the Chinese New Year, which starts on Thursday, are the two factors that will determine diamond prices.

Kenya’s Standard reports on the standoff between the government and three media houses.

Kenyans were left staring at blank TV sets for the second day running on Sunday with the Cabinet Secretary for Information Fred Matiangi accusing the three media houses, Standard Group, Nation Media Group and Royal Media Services of attempting to blackmail the government by switching off their transmission.

The media houses in turn blamed the government for the blackout saying the Communications Authority of Kenya was keen on repossessing their frequencies in order to allocate them to their favourite players in the industry.

Egypt’s Daily News reports on 50 Syrian and Palestinian refugees detained in an Alexandria jail who haveannounced a hunger strike to protest inhumane treatment.

According to the report, 73 refugees, including women and children, have spent over 100 days in detention at Karmooz police station in Alexandria.

It quotes a detainee as saying that 50 of the detained refugees started an open-ended hunger strike a week ago.


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