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African press review 24 May 2016


South Africa put on quite a disply last week for the Standard & Poor's ratings investigators . . . a pitched battle in parliament, a threat to imprison the finance minister, arson at the University of Johannesburg. Tensions remain high between Uganda and the DRC along the Lake Albert border. And Kizza Besigye's wife believes the life of the Ugandan opposition leader may be in danger.


The editorial in South African financial paper BusinessDay is headlined "South Africa shows its worst to Standard & Poor's."

Members of the financial agency's sovereign rating committee were in the country last week for an assessment ahead of a decision on South Africa's credit status.

BusinessDay says a downgrade would be likely to take the country over the edge of the ratings cliff, with dire consequences for the rand, bond yields, borrowing costs and economic growth.

Despite the importance of the Standard & Poor's decision, according to the Johannesburg-based daily, the country once again put on display numerous dysfunctional snapshots of its institutions.

First, there was a report of the planned arrest of Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan for alleged misdeeds committed when he was boss of the South African Revenue Service.

Then we had mayhem in Parliament as the Economic Freedom Fighters and security officials exchanged blows in yet another unseemly confrontation.

An arson attack at the University of Johannesburg caused damage running to millions of rand. And there were violent protests at Fort Hare university as well.

Says BusinessDay, the Treasury, law-enforcement agencies, Parliament and universities are crucial institutions in a democracy, yet all have become contested terrain because of battles within the ruling elite.

Ratings agency Moody’s still considers South Africa to be two notches into investment grade. But Standard & Poor's has the country just one above junk status and on a negative outlook.

South Africa still divided, 25 years after apartheid

Also in BusinessDay, a report that South Africa remains deeply segregated, 25 years after apartheid.

According to official statistics, the legacy of apartheid still has a hold on the social structure of South African urban space. Nelson Mandela Bay, which includes Port Elizabeth and Uitenhage, is the most segregated of the six largest municipalities‚ followed by eThekwini‚ Cape Town, Ekurhuleni and Tshwane. Johannesburg is the least racially segregated city.

Uganda threatens to use force against DRC soldiers

The Daily Monitor in Kampala says the Ugandan government has threatened to use military force against soldiers of the Democratic Republic of Congo if there is another attack on citizens on Ugandan soil.

The threat comes three days after Congolese soldiers entered Uganda’s territory on Lake Albert and killed four police marines while they were patrolling the border.

The officers were responding to an illegal fishing incident by Congolese nationals in Ugandan waters when they were ambushed by Congolese soldiers. After they were ambushed, their rifles and police boat were seized. Their bodies are still in Bunia General Hospital in eastern DRC.

Is the life of Ugandan opposition leader Kizza Besigye in danger?

Also in the Monitor, Winnie Byanyima, wife of Forum for Democratic Change party presidential candidate Kizza Besigye, has put government on notice over the life of her detained husband, warning that the police may try to gain access to Luzira prison to harm him.

In a statement released after she was allowed access to Besigye at the weekend, Byanyima said she is worried about the life of President Yoweri Museveni’s leading  challenger because he is in “the hands of a scared and increasingly desperate regime”.

Byanyima specifically accused the judiciary of being “complicit in the abuse of state processes to persecute Besigye”.

Officials in the prisons service and judiciary have dismissed the claims, insisting that neither institution is being used by the executive to fix Museveni’s political opponents.

Why did Nigeria's president cancel his trip to Lagos?

The main story in the Nigerian Guardian asks why President Mohammadu Buhari cancelled his scheduled official visit to Lagos.

The presidency yesterday insisted the last-minute cancellation had nothing to do with illness. It maintained its official position that scheduling difficulties led to the postponement.

It is being suggested, says the Guardian, that security officials in the administration did not want to take chances in Lagos with the Nigeria Labour Congress strike still in progress as the president could have been subjected to embarrassment. The cancellation was announced before the congress called off the strike.

The presidency confirmed that Buhari would now visit Lagos after the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

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