African press review 22 March 2016


Why do Kenyan media leave coverage of major news for foreigners? South Africa's state broadcaster is accused of self-censorship over alleged influence-peddling by the Gupta family and a telecoms are at the centre of a row in Zimbabwe.


Kenyan paper The Nation has a thought-provoking opinion piece this morning.

The author, Rasna Warah,wonders why a foreigner, rather than a Kenyan, is making a film about the September 2013 Westgate shopping mall attack.

Apart from the fact that the film on the Westgate attack will most likely be told from a Western perspective and will have a plot that clearly separates the good guys from the bad guys without exploring other aspects of these guys’ personalities, her fear is that this film will reinforce every stereotype there is of Somalis, terrorists and Kenyans.

That said, while local TV channels did a good job of giving a blow-by-blow account of the four-day siege on the Westgate mall, they fell terribly short on in-depth analysis, investigative reporting and historical background, she says.

The high cost of making films may explain why Kenyans shy away from big-budget movies, but what explains their unwillingness to tell their stories in other types of media, even when these stories are staring them in the face?

For instance, why was a story about the US drone that killed 150 al-Shebab fighters in Somalia a couple of weeks ago buried in the inside pages of this newspaper instead of displayed prominently?

Why did the local media underplay a story about child abuse in Kenya that made headlines internationally? Is it because child abuse has become so commonplace in Kenya that it is not considered worth reporting? 

The child abuse stories generated debate overseas on whether charities based in Kenya are used as a cover by paedophiles. 

No such debate took place in the Kenyan media.

Rasna Warah is honest enough to admit that she can't answer these questions.

But they certainly warrant attention in Kenya and elsewhere in Africa.

SABC accused of self-censorship on Guptas

The Gupta family is back in the news in South Africa.

The Sowetan reports that the opposition Democratic Alliance wants answers from the Communications Minister Faith Muthambi on questions related to the Gupta family.

The Guptas relocated to South Africa from India in 1993, just as white minority rule was ending and the country was opening up to the rest of the world. 

In India they were small businessmen.

In South Africa their company Sahara Group now has an annual turnover of about 200 million rand and employs some 10,000 people.

They've built on a computer business to amass stakes in uranium, gold and coal mines, a luxury game lodge, an engineering company, a newspaper and a 24-hour news TV station. 

The Guptas have employed or been in business with at least three of President Jacob Zuma’s immediate family, including his son Duduzane, and Zuma is accused of allowing the family to wield undue influence.

In the latest twist The Sowetan tells us there are questions about apparent political meddling that led to the canning of the On the Record with Vuyo Mvoko show, which‚ the Alliance said‚ “would have…portrayed the African National Congress and President Jacob Zuma in a ‘negative light’ ”.

The cancellation by SABC came ahead of what was promoted as a “live show on state capture and the Guptas”.

South Africa's press is fairly lively, so no doubt we'll hear more about the Guptas and their alleged influence-peddling.

More murky business in Zimbabwe

The Herald carries has a vivid report on NetOne, the country's leading mobile provider.

Maggots continue crawling from the NetOne can of worms, the paper informs readers, amid revelations that former managers, led by suspended chief executive Reward Kangai, owned Firstel cellular, which owes the government-owned operator 11 million dollars.

It is alleged that Firstel Cellular was used as a conduit to siphon money from NetOne.

Several bank accounts were being operated in the name of NetOne without the knowledge of the board of directors.

The two companies had a service agreement with Firstel mandated to find customers and remit income to NetOne.

The Herald is government-owned.

So one imagines this is less about exposing murky business dealings - no shortage of those in Zimbabwe - than parroting the government line.

People in positions of power thieving from government?

Surely not!


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