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African press review 29 March 2016


Those security upgrades at Jacob Zuma's farm are back in the news. Does the South African parliament really serve the interests of the people? Seven million Ugandans have never been to school. And why one Egyptian footballer thinks Lionel Messi should be given the boot.


The main story in South African financial paper BusinessDay reports that the opposition Democratic Alliance has called for action against President Jacob Zuma, accusing the South African leader of misleading parliament over upgrades to his private home in Nkandla.

The topic is a fairly worn one by now. Last year, an estimate 11 million euros of public money was spent on improvements to the president's farm in Kwazulu-Natal.

Jacob Zuma assured parliament that neither he nor his family had benefitted from the work carried out.

But, according to Democratic Alliance (DA) leader Mmusi Maimane, an investigation by the Sunday Times newspaper confirms what South Africans have long suspected: Jacob Zuma did indeed benefit from the upgrades which were paid for by the state.

The newspaper reported on a dossier compiled by the Department of Public Works showing that publkic money paid for thatching‚ aluminium doors and window frames‚ tiles‚ paint‚ plastering‚ airconditioning and unexplained "extras". Six doormats were installed at a cost of 1500 rand each, that's 86 euros per mat.

Parliament not doing its job

The editorial in BusinessDay says parliament is failing the nation.

According to the Johannesburg-based daily, last week should have seen one of the most serious parliamentary debates in recent South African history.

After a week of rumours, Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas confirmed that he was offered his boss’s job by members of the powerful Gupta family even before a Cabinet reshuffle became public.

The job was eventually given by President Jacob Zuma to little-known politician Desmond van Rooyen. Van Rooyen was ousted days later. The fact that the Gupta family were offering this key post around only days before the president's nomination opens the possibility that they were doing so at the behest of the president. This should have led to a great parliamentary battle.

As it turns out, the debate was totally without substance. Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane called on Zuma to take responsibility for outsourcing the appointment of Cabinet members unconstitutionally, and to resign. Zuma claimed he had nothing to do with it and told Maimane to seek answers from the Guptas. Maimane accused the president of lying; he was thrown out of Parliament by Speaker Baleka Mbete, and he left with his party. And that was that.

Parliament, says BusinessDay, ought to allow the population to keep the executive in check, and be a forum for the rigorous and thoughtful examination of legislation. But in recent times, it has gradually descended into a kind of game show.

Missing out on school

The Kampala-based Daily Monitor reports that seven million Ugandans have never been to school.

According to the paper, the 2014 national census shows that one in every 10 children of primary school-going age (that's between 6-12 years), had never been to school even with free education which was introduced for primary schools in 1997.

Out of 5,259,200 secondary school-going students of between 13 and 18 years, more than one million, representing 22 per cent had left school without completing the cycle.

Literacy among females was lower (68 per cent) than for males (77 per cent). Literacy is also higher in urban areas (86 per cent) than rural areas (68 per cent).

Poverty, child labour and child marriages are the main factors advanced to explain the statistics.

Messi puts the boot in

Argentinian soccer megastar Lionel Messi’s offer to put his boots up for auction and donate the proceeds to Egypt’s poor has provoked a heated response from former national team captain, Ahmed Hassan. This story is on the front page of the Cairo-based paper The Egypt Independent.

“Egypt’s name is greater than Messi’s shoes,” said Hassan, former midfielder with the Dutch team Anderlecht and longtime leader of the Egyptian squad. “This is hugely insulting to the great country of Egypt. With all respect to him as a football star, we do not need his shoes.”

Messi made the offer during an interview on a Saudi-owned TV channel

The charitable offer, following in a long tradition of star shoe auctions, hit a raw nerve in Egypt for its unfortunate connotations in Arab culture. Shoes are often taken as a symbol of disrespect and insult in Egypt and the wider region.

You will remember that an Iraqi journalist famously threw both his shoes at the then US President George W. Bush during a 2008 press conference in Baghdad.

Bush was unharmed and later told journalists that the shoes had been size 10s.


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