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African press review 22 February 2016


South Africans are being warned that this week's budget will have to be a tough one. Uganda's newly reelected president celebrates victory by calling the opposition a bunch of bad losers. And Egyptian police try to arrest a four-year-old child, sentenced to 28 years in jail for public order offences.


The front page of South African financial paper BusinessDay warns that Wednesday's budget has been drafted with a view to keeping the country's sovereign credit rating out of the junk zone.

The agencies Fitch and Standard & Poor's both consider South Africa to be on the last rung of the investment grade scale.

International agencies have highlighted concerns about fiscal sustainability in an economy which has shrunk dramatically because of government failure to prioritise economic growth.

The Johannesburg-based paper says that softer global economic activity and downward revisions of South Africa’s growth outlook by the South African Reserve Bank and the IMF will force the Treasury to lower its own expectations and slow down the money supply.

Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan is widely expected to announce a new foreign exchange control and tax amnesty in his budget speech on Wednesday in a bid to encourage taxpayers who have not disclosed billions of rands' worth of offshore assets to declare them and pay the due tax.

The move would help to reduce the government’s revenue shortfall, as well as broaden the tax base for future years.

BusinessDay also gives the front-page honours to Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni. Yesterday Museveni celebrated extending his three decades in power and dismissed opposition claims of poll rigging and criticism by the international community.

Uganda’s veteran leader was declared the winner of the country’s presidential election with 61 per cent of the vote on Saturday, far ahead of the 35 per cent won by detained opposition leader Kizza Besigye, whose house was surrounded by police in riot gear as the results were announced.

Former prime minister Amama Mbabazi was a distant third with just over one per cent of the vote.

Besigye, who was detained three times in the past week, and whose party headquarters were stormed on Friday by police firing tear gas, has slammed the results as a fraud and appealed to the international community not to recognise them.

International observers raised concerns over the proceedings, saying that Uganda’s electoral commission lacked transparency and accusing the police of heavy-handed treatment of the opposition.

Regional paper The East African notes the criticism by international, European and Commonwealth observers but says that the election was generally praised by African observer teams as being peaceful and free and fair.

The main story in the Kampala-based Daily Monitor reads "Russia hails Museveni win," with the small print explaining that Moscow is convinced the election results have proved that there is broad national support for the government’s course towards stable political and socio-economic development.

Washington has slammed the elections and called for the release of Kizza Besigye.

Several African leaders extended their congratulations. Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta wished Museveni "every success as he serves his nation for another term", while Burundi's embattled President Pierre Nkurunziza offered his "warmest congratulations" for the "well-deserved reelection."

Nkurunziza's reelection for a third term plunged his own nation into chaos, with scores dead and 300,000 people displaced.

Down the front page, The Monitor has an intriguing headline: "Museveni celebrates poll win with his cows".

The story explains that the newly reelected leader yesterday marked the extension of his three decades in power with a walk with his beloved long-horned cows.

The top story in this morning's Cairo-based Egypt Independent newspaper reports that the father of a four-year-old boy convicted of violence and sentenced to 28 years in prison has himself been remanded in custody for refusing to hand over his child to police.

Ahmed Qurani was convicted by the Western Cairo Military Court following violence at Fayoum in 2014, when the boy was actually one and a half years old. The boy, who lawyers say was mistakenly included on the list of defendants, was convicted along with 115 others of violence related to assaults on military intelligence and health ministry facilities.

Press reports quote Qurani’s lawyers as saying that the court refused to consider the boy’s birth certificate, submitted as evidence that the child could not logically had been involved in the violence.

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