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African press review 17 May 2012

4 min

Zuma stands firm on SA's youth wage ... or does he? Are SA trade union's intolerant? Kenya lowers its growth hopes. And how safe are Uganda's anti-retrovirals?

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The main headline in South Africa's financial paper, BusinessDay, reads "Zuma backs youth wage but Cosatu stands firm".

The story says that President Jacob Zuma is determined that the government will go ahead with the wage subsidy to cut youth unemployment but the final design of the subsidy plan could still be negotiated.

Zuma also hinted that rules could be established to address concerns raised by the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), which has objected to the subsidy on the grounds that it's a form of slave labour and will lead to class warfare.

The opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) has repeatedly said that Cosatu rather than the African National Congress is driving government policy.

The issue of the wage subsidy was thrust into the limelight when DA and Cosatu supporters were involved in street battles this week, as the DA tried to march on Cosatu House to highlight the union federation’s opposition to the scheme.

The DA says the youth wage subsidy will create at least 423,000 jobs for young South Africans. The opposition alliance says Cosatu doesn't want the wage subsidy because it will threaten the job security of its older members.

Cosatu appears unlikely to budge. Emboldened by recent government climbdowns at its insistence, Cosatu said yesterday it would continue to try to influence economic policy, which includes persuading the government to abandon the subsidy.

On its analysis pages, BusinessDay says this week's clashes near Cosatu House in Johannesburg are a further sign of the ingrained intolerance of the South African labour movement and is a worrying development in a democracy that already faces other threats.

Because of the nature of intra-alliance politics, the article continues, the ANC cannot be seen to be criticising Cosatu for its opposition to the wage subsidy, despite the fact that the subsidy is supported by both Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and President Jacob Zuma.

The piece ends by saying that there are historical parallels with 1980s Thatcherite Britain, ruled by the Conservative Party, for which working-class people voted because they believed the party’s economic message. If the DA can make the point that it is Cosatu that is preventing young people from getting jobs, then this week's march will be deemed a success.

Kenya has slashed its 2012 economic growth projections to 3.5-4.5 per cent from last month’s forecast of 5.2 per cent, ahead of the 2012-13 budget expected to be read in the middle of next month.

The reduction in growth forecast is blamed on inflationary pressure, high lending rates and political risks ahead of the general election   as well as on the crisis in Europe.

Data in the 2012 Economic Survey released on Tuesday shows that the Kenyan economy slowed from 5.8 per cent to 4.4 per cent last year.

In the business section of the Kenyan Daily Nation, news that Virgin Atlantic is to end flights between Nairobi and London in September.

In a statement on Wednesday, the airline said increasing costs and a challenging economic environment during the past five years in both Kenya and Europe had led to the decision.

Virgin says its last flight will operate from Nairobi on 24 September and from London Heathrow on 23 September.

In Uganda The Daly Monitor reports that, of the 300,000 Aids sufferers currently taking anti-retroviral medication, some are taking drugs which are not suitable.

The National Drug Authority is investigating the safety of anti-retroviral drugs in an effort to understand whether the anti-retrovirals are safe for the patients and also to ensure that health workers start recording the adverse effects of drugs on patients as a safeguard against future legal action.

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