African press review 4 August 2011

Text by: Carla Westerheide
4 min

It's not all sweetness and light in Uganda - but is the sugar crisis good for democracy? Johannesburg brings out the big guns to tackle spiritual squatters. Is there famine in Kenya? how Hurricane Katrina helped Zimbabwe's crocodile farmers.

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We begin in Uganda with the Daily Monitor, which explains “Why the sugar crisis is good for our democracy”.

Sugar prices in the country have been skyrocketing and many supermarkets had to limit the amount of sugar a person can buy in recent weeks, due to a cane shortage. While the article says that might make life more difficult for Ugandans, it has done a great deal for democracy in the country.

As long as the country’s economy grew at a steady pace, politicians – and especially the leading NRM party – had little to worry about and could be sure to be reelected. But the shortage has “slowly helped citizens draw connections between their personal circumstances and the actions (or inactions) of their elected representatives”.

That is why Uganda’s cabinet will convene on the issue today, hoping to come up with a way to fight inflation. This is still in the Daily Monitor that says Uganda has had one of the strongest growth rates in the region, because of a recent economic plan and because of international aid.

That’s no longer the case.

The Chairperson of the National Economy Committee said yesterday that the country’s cabinet cannot solve the crisis alone and will have to meet with economic experts. He compared the country’s economy to a sick person on intravenous drip and “a patient you cannot rush to treat without a proper diagnosis".

The Star in South Africa reports that "Johannesburg gets tough on illegal occupants”. And these are not your ordinary squatters living in empty houses; they are religious groups who illegally occupy government buildings owned by the city. Officials are bringing out the big guns, sending in law enforcement to kick out these spiritual lodgers.

In Kenya, the Daily Nation writes that there is no famine in the country.

But if you look at the photo of the starving child that illustrates the article, it becomes clear that the author doesn’t necessarily agree with the statement. The United Nations has declared famine in neighbouring Somalia, but says Kenya is “only” facing a severe food shortage. According to the article, some 3.5 million Kenyans suffer from food shortages and 1.2 million people are at emergency level and are unable to meet basic needs.   

Who knew that Hurricane Katrina, which hit the United States in 2005, would have a positive effect on Zimbabwe’s economy? According to Zimbabwean newspaper The Herald, the hurricane has “thrown a lifeline to the local crocodile industry”.

Much of the crocodile population in the United States was killed during the hurricane, making way for Zimbabwe to step in and fill the gap. So far, they are still struggling to supply Asia and Europe with crocodile skins for handbags and shoes, saying demand is just too high. The Mwenzi Crocodile Project in Zimbabwe now plans to increase breeding to meet future demand. It currently slaughters some 150 animals every day.

This story might not have made it onto the front page, but it did make the back page of The Star in South Africa: “Bunny scares children.”
In Idaho in the United States, police told a man he had to stop wearing a bunny suit after people complained he was frightening children. People also complained about the fact that the 34-year-old would sometimes wear a tutu with his suit. His neighbours described him as eccentric but harmless, while the man simply told police that he enjoys wearing the costume but understands that others could disagree with his choice of clothing.

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