African press review 24 May 2012

How the troubled euro is working to the rand's advantage, the row over South African PresidentZuma's genitals and the effects of a new disease hitting kenyas maize crop are the top stories in Africa's newspapers


There's an apparent contradiction in the main headline in today's South African financial newspaper, BusinessDay.

The headline says "Factories ‘ecstatic’ as euro crisis hits rand".

Dossier: Eurozone in crisis

The basic facts are simple enough: the rand fell yesterday to its lowest against the US dollar in almost six months, and the Johannesburg Stock Exchange remained on the back foot as concern over the fate of the eurozone rattled global markets. That's the bad news.

But, the BusinessDay article continues, the fall in value was welcomed as a boost to South Africa’s flagging manufacturing sector. Earlier this month, Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies said he backed industry’s call for intervention to weaken the rand.

Exporters have for years complained about the strength of the local currency, which they say has compromised export competitiveness.

Over the past twelve months, the rand has lost more than 21 per cent to the dollar. Analysts say the South African currency faces volatility in the months ahead, as the euro crisis unfolds.

The Jacob Zuma painting case shows no signs of going away quietly.

According to today's Sowetan, the trial of two men accused of vandalising a painting depicting President Jacob Zuma with his genitals exposed was postponed in the Hillbrow Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday.

The matter was postponed to 28 June to allow for further investigation. The ANC's case calling for the now damaged painting to be removed from public view is due to be heard later today in the South Gauteng High Court.

Meanwhile, the security guard who arrested one of the men who allegedly defaced the controversial painting has himself been taken into custody.

The guard was filmed head-butting and flipping Louis Mabokela onto the floor after he had allegedly defaced The Spear with black paint in the Goodman Gallery.

A second man, Barend la Grange, who made red crosses over the painting was arrested with no apparent violence.

Just in case anyone has not fully understood the situation, Barend la Grange is a middle-aged white man and Louis Mabokela is a black taxi driver from Limpopo.

One last thing on the controversial painting saga. Brett Murray's image, provocatively entitled The Spear, is part of an exhibition called Hail to the Thief. According to an opinion piece in BusinessDay, the exhibition carries an aggressive message about a hijacked popular struggle, with crass materialism motivating the elite which currently governs South Africa.

One painting, President and Sons Ltd, can be seen as a reference to Zuma’s son, Duduzane, who was part of a failed empowerment scheme that would have made him an instant multimillionaire.

The rest of the exhibition can be summed up as extreme comment on the state of affairs in the ruling party, says BusinessDay.

ANC leaders have on numerous occasions complained that money is increasingly being used to buy votes in leadership elections. Yet Brett Murray’s parody, a piece with the word "sold" over an ANC emblem, is seen as too harsh, perhaps simply because it comes from an outsider, and even worse, a outsider who is white.

According to the main story in today's Kenyan Daily Nation, a new disease is devastating Kenya’s maize crop and threatens the country’s food security. Already, 40 per cent of the crop in the South Rift is infected and the fungus causing the disease is spreading fast to the rest of the country, according to government experts.

The Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service has identified the disease as leaf stripe, caused by a microscopic fungus. In a report to the Ministry of Agriculture, the Inspectorate has called for all the infected crop to be destroyed and affected farmers compensated by the government.

The Inspectorate also recommends that the government buys all the grain from affected areas and moves it under security escort to milling facilities to ensure that none of it is replanted.

And just in case we Europeans start to feel that austerity is a matter exclusive to the troubled suburbs of Athens, this morning's Daily Monitor in Kampala reports that, with barely three weeks to Budget Day, the government has little room for manoeuvre as it prepares to propose further cuts in government spending while hunting hard for extra shillings from a tax-fatigued public, according to an opinion poll.

Confidence in the overall health of the economy has also declined, with the same poll indicating that 65 per cent of respondents expressed a negative opinion compared to 35 per cent who believe it has gotten better over the past 12 months. Less than two out of every ten Ugandans believe their personal economic situation has improved over the last year, meaning that eight in ten believe it has become worse.

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