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African press review 11 July 2016

South Sudan, the judicial fate of Ugandan opposition leader Kizza Besigye and a warning from the International Monetary Fund that South Africa's "bloated government wage bill" will have to be slashed to avoid budget cuts. These are some of the topics in this morning's African newspapers.


The situation in South Sudan dominates the front page of regional paper the East African.

"Heavy fighting erupts in Juba," is the paper's main headline, with the story saying that former rebels and government soldiers exchanged fire yesterday, two days after gun battles left at least 150 fighters dead.

The heaviest exchanges appear to have been around the headquarters of the United Nations mission to South Sudan.

The UN reports the use of mortars, rocket-propelled grenades and "heavy ground assault weaponry".

Helicopter gunships and tanks are also said to have been deployed.

Gunfire was heard in several other parts of the city throughout the day, including the Gudele neighbourhood, where former rebel leader, now Vice-President Riek Machar is headquartered, and the Tongping area near the international airport.

Regional airline Kenya Airways has suspended flights to Juba, citing the "uncertain security situation", while the US embassy in Juba warned its citizens to stay indoors.

What next for Kizza Besigye?

Ugandan opposition leader Kizza Besigye will find out later today whether he can regain his freedom after nearly two months in jail.

In his bail application Besigye seeks freedom from custody. He was arrested on 11 May following the release of a video on social media in which he allegedly took the oath as the “President of the People” ahead of President Yoweri Museveni’s official swearing-in the following day.

Besigye lost the 18 February election to Museveni but the opposition leader disputed the result, claiming he had actually won a majority of votes cast.

Besigye is currently held in Kampala's Luzira prison and faces charges of treason.

His lawyers will plead for his release on the grounds of his advanced age, he's 60, the prosecution’s slow progress in investigating the allegations against the opposition leader and the apparent lack of readiness by the judicial authorities to proceed with the trial.

Bloated bills bedevil South African growth

The International Monetary Fund has warned that South Africa's "bloated government wage bill" will have to be slashed, failing which the government will be forced to institute across-the-board budget cuts that would damage growth and hurt the poor.

This story is on the front page of the Johannesburg-based paper BusinessDay.

South African public servants are among the highest paid in emerging markets and account for a disproportionate number of the country’s high-income earners.

The IMF, which has cut its forecast for South Africa’s growth to 0.1 percent for 2016 and 1.1 percent in 2017, raised questions in a recent report about the country’s ability to meet the fiscal consolidation targets set out in the February budget.

The ambitious targets, which Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan says will cut the government’s deficit and stabilise public debt over the next three years, were high on the list of factors that helped South Africa avoid ratings downgrades earlier this year.

The IMF’s economists describe public sector pay in South Africa as "generous", with state wages representing 184 percent of per capita Gross Domestic Product   well above the emerging market average.

Zimbabwe accuses foreign powers of strike-mongering

Also in BusinessDay, a report that Zimbabwe yesterday accused the US and French embassies of backing street protests and a national work boycott which closed businesses and paralysed the public transport system last week.

The strike action was the latest in a series of protests over growing economic hardship blamed on the policies of 92-year-old President Robert Mugabe, who has been in power for the past 36 years.

The state-owned Sunday Mail newspaper yesterday quoted Home Affairs Minister Ignatius Chombo as saying that there was involvement of Western embassies in the disturbances. French and US diplomats in Harare are accused of having met cleric Evan Mawarire, one of the organisers of last week’s work boycott.

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