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African press review 1 November 2012

5 min

The South African economy and Kenya's election preparations are among two of the stories in today's newspapers.

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There's bad news for the South African economy on the front page of the Johannesburg-based financial paper, BusinessDay.

South Africa’s trade deficit ballooned in September to its widest level in nearly four years, reinforcing concerns that the rand could weaken sharply if the country fails to attract sufficient foreign capital inflows to cover the gap.

THE BATTLE FOR LIBYA

The difference between the value of exports and imports for the month was the rand equivalent of nearly one and a quarter billion euros, the ninth deficit in a row, according to figures released on Wednesday by the South African Revenue Service.

A weaker rand is not beneficial at a time when the government is about to raise funds for a big infrastructure programme and global oil prices are high. But the Reserve Bank could help to attract foreign capital, says BusinessDay, by keeping interest rates higher than in other developing countries.

The South African mining company, Lonmin, on Wednesday gave notice to unions that it intends to restructure operations and cut employee costs   which it said could result in redundancies and other cutbacks.

The announcement follows the recent six-week strike at the company’s Marikana mine. The post-strike settlement led to an 11 per cent escalation of the wage bill, which analysts had warned could lead to cost trimming.

Ironically, workers in the job categories at the centre of the illegal strike will not be affected, with the cuts falling among senior skilled employees.

Meanwhile, dismissed Anglo American Platinum workers said on Wednesday that they were determined to continue their strike until the demand for a 1,400 euro monthly wage is met.

South African food company Tongatt Hulett’s biggest increase in sugar production in the six months to September was from Zimbabwe, where the government is trying to impose its indigenisation policy on the group.

Business Day reported on Monday that the Harare government had given Tongaat’s operations in Zimbabwe 14 days to comply with indigenisation laws or risk being kicked out. In broad terms, the company must sell 51 per cent of its shares to local interests, in this case workers at two Tongatt subsidiaries, and the communities around the company's sugar processing plants.

Tongaat’s Zimbabwe operations last year contributed one third of the agricultural group's overall profit .

According to a separate story in BusinessDay, South Africa has hit rock bottom in an international survey of the quality of maths and science education.

The World Economic Forum’s annual report on financial development, released yesterday, placed South Africa last in a ranking of 62 countries in the quality of maths and science education. Last year, South Africa was placed second-last, before Yemen.

The BusinessDay report says concern is mounting as to whether the education system is producing a sufficient number of graduates in the hard sciences to support South Africa’s growth and development.

The only bit of good news I can find in BusinessDay is the report that the African National Congress, its expelled youth league president Julius Malema, lobby group AfriForum and the South African farmers’ union have agreed that, instead of a ban on the use of the song Dubula iBhunu (or Shoot the Boer), the ANC will encourage its members to avoid singing songs with hurtful lyrics.

In Kenya, The Standard reports that the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission is expected to receive the long-awaited Biometric Voter Registration kits early Thursday, ending fears the electoral body could opt for a return to the manual system.

The delivery of the kits will come as a major relief to the commission, which is already sweating to meet key timelines in preparation for the 4 March General Election.

The devices will enable the electronic registration of Kenya's estimated 18 million voters.

The Daily Nation reports the Judges and Magistrates Vetting Board is to go to the Supreme Court in the fight to keep its clean-up of the Judiciary alive.

On Tuesday, the High Court declared that it had jurisdiction over the vetting process and blocked the sacking of five judges which had been vetted and found unsuitable by the Board.

The ruling has been widely criticised.

The Board says it will by-pass the Court of Appeal and go directly to the Supreme Court to contest the ruling which gave the High Court jurisdiction to supervise and review their decisions.

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