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African press review 30 August 2012


What's a Lesotho official doing at talks on SA's miners' strike? Should Tony Blair be arrested? And a look at upwardly mobile nightwatchmen in Kenya and Ghana.

South Africa's Mail and Guardian has sent a correspondent to Rustenburg, close to the Lonmin Marikana mine in North-West Province, to report on the negotiations between unions, non-union employees and representatives from the Labour Ministry.

The journalist catches up with an official from Lesotho on the sidelines of the talks and informs readers that three miners from the landlocked country died in the showdown between police and strikers a fortnight ago.

High Commissioner Dineo Ntoane tells the Mail and Guardian that he is attending the talks, which are expected to last until Friday "to represent the interests of the Basothos".

Being completely surrounded by the much larger South Africa means that for generations miners from Lesotho have gone to work in the mines there.

Of the 250 miners arrested over the violence, 25 are from Lesotho, according to the article.

Staying in South Africa, a story published by the national news agency, SAPA, about a rights group that is pressing for the arrest of Tony Blair, the former British prime minister, has been widely covered in the press.

The leader of the group, the Society for the Protection of Our Constitution, tells SAPA, "We filed a complaint with the SA Police Service yesterday and a 'crimes against the state' docket was opened."

The article says the group is convinced South Africa has the jurisdiction to arrest Blair for war crimes because he and his ally, George Bush Jr, were found guilty in absentia of crimes against humanity by a court in Malaysia last year.

Blair is in South Africa to attend a leadership conference where he is a keynote speaker. He can expect to be heckled by Muslim protestors, the article says.

Dossier: Sharia wars - Boko Haram v the military in northern Nigeria

Whether he’ll actually be arrested is anyone’s guess, as the article merely confirms that the police are looking into the matter.

Presumably Blair is feeling dejected on a personal level after Archbishop Desmond Tutu snubbed him by turning down an invitation to the conference.

Moving now to Kenya, where The Nation prints a lengthy profile of a man who has gone "from watchman to court clerk".

I suspect the reporter was inspired by a story from across the continent in Ghana where the journalist of the year has just been announced and is the son of a night watchman.

The watchman featured in The Nation barely managed to finish primary school. He went on to do a medley of menial jobs. But luck would have it that local law courts were taking on casual labourers seven years ago.

Interestingly, the catalyst for this guy forging ahead was the disdain  shown to him for being a mere watchman. He recounts how he had to, "put up with rude people every day, who didn’t seem to understand why me, a mere watchman, would ask them to queue or obey other rules".

This kind of attitude towards watchmen persists across the continent, I’ve witnessed it myself.

Then this watchman is rejected by a woman who finds out what his profession is. It was this heartbreak that led him to enrol in evening classes. From there he convinced the court to employ him as a clerk.

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