African press review 18 March 2016


South African leader Jacob Zuma was in parliament yesterday, assuring the nation that he's still in charge. This because the scions of an industrial empire have allegedly been offering ministerial appointments and putting pressure on other political figures. Zuma says he's the boss.


The trials and tribulations of South African President Jacob Zuma are all over the front page of the Johannesburg-based financial paper, BusinessDay. In fact, Zuma is front page news across the continent this morning.

According to BusinessDay, Zuma remains defiant as a political storm rages over the Gupta family’s influence over cabinet appointments.

The three Gupta brothers arrived in South Africa from India's northern state of Uttar Pradesh in 1993, just as white minority rule was ending and the country was opening up to the rest of the world. They now control a company group with an annual turnover of about 20 million euros and employ some 10,000 people in computing, mining, air travel, energy, technology and media.

All of which is good. Less good is the recent bombshell dropped by Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas that the Guptas had offered him the job of finance minister.

Who's really in charge?

In addition to Jonas, former MP Vytjie Mentor, former public enterprises minister Barbara Hogan, and Public Service and Administration Minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi all say the Guptas had put pressure on them.

Zuma confidently told Parliament yesterday that he was the only person who hired and fired ministers.

Contributing to the problem is the fact that Bongi Ngema-Zuma, one of the president's wives, used to work for the Gupta-controlled JIC Mining Services as a communications officer. Duduzile Zuma, his daughter, has been a director of the main Gupta company, and his son Duduzane is still on the board of several Gupta-owned companies.

Business leaders called on the African National Congress (ANC) to "act quickly and decisively to restore confidence in the office of the president; to protect South Africa’s constitutional democracy; and to promote the rule of law".

They also warned that investor confidence was being undermined as South Africa remains at risk of a further downgrade by international rating agencies.

In a separate report, BusinessDay says the Gupta family has enlisted the services of the London-based lobbying and public relations firm, Bell Pottinger, whose executives once claimed they were capable of drowning out negative coverage and influencing public opinion through unorthodox means.

Trouble with the neighbours

Regional paper The East African reports that Sudan will close its recently reopened border with South Sudan, if the south persists in its support for armed rebel groups.

Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir ordered the opening of his country's border with South Sudan in January for the first time since the South's secession in 2011, paving the way for better economic links between the two nations.

The threat to shut the border again came just one day before peace talks due to begin today in Addis Ababa between the Sudanese government, the country's largest opposition party and several major armed rebel groups.

Khartoum accuses South Sudan of backing a rebellion in the western Darfur region and a separate but linked insurgency in Blue Nile and South Kordofan. South Sudan denies the allegations.

Burundi hits bottom

At the bleak end of the United Nations' 2016 World Happiness Report, Burundi is ranked as as the most miserable state globally, worse even than Syria or Afghanistan.

Seven other countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Togo, Benin, Rwanda, Guinea, Liberia, Tanzania and Madagascar make up the bottom ten, as the world's least happy countries.

The Nairobi-based Daily Nation covers the same story, reporting that Somalis are happier than Kenyans, in spite of having endured war for more than two decades.

Ranked at 76 globally in the 2015 World Happiness Report, Somalia is the happiest country in the region, with Kenya trailing at 122.

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