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African press review 15November 2012


Why South African farm workers will get a wage rise. But is it enough? Is there a foreign plot to push back Kenya's election? Will two million youngsters be unable to vote? And why has Uganda closed a border crossing into DRC?

The main story in South Africa's financial paper BusinessDay is headlined "Scramble to raise farm wages amid Cape havoc".

The small print explains that the government on Wednesday announced an immediate review of minimum wages for all farm workers as part of a deal in which trade unions representing striking Western Cape farm workers agreed to a return to work today.

The development follows a day of unprecedented and frequently violent protest action by farm workers in the Western Cape, in which one worker was confirmed dead as a result of police action in Wolseley, 90 kilometres northeast of Cape Town.

Western Cape premier Helen Zille warned that the province was "heading for anarchy", saying that thousands of jobs could be lost.

According to BusinessDay, the promised wage review will have profound implications for the agricultural sector, for which the labour minister has set a minimum wage of six euros a day. It could also push up food prices and inflation and have a knock-on effect on other minimum wages.

Western Cape farm workers are demanding 13 euros a day. If they find the new minimum wage, expected to be confirmed within two weeks, unacceptable, they will resume the strike on 4 December.

In a related article, BusinessDay reports that AgriSA, the federal agricultural trade association, said on Wednesday that it believes forces not related to farming are fuelling protests, making labour relations on farms much worse and endangering lives and food services.

"Outside influences with little interest in the welfare of agriculture and workers are abusing the minimum wage issue to promote labour unrest, which in the short and long term will have dire consequences for those who have a direct interest in agriculture," AgriSA president Johannes Möller said on Wednesday.

Other factors in the dispute reportedly include competing unions striving to get a foothold in agriculture, tensions related to the insecure work status of Lesotho and Zimbabwean nationals, the alleged mobilisation of unemployed people and those unrelated to the issue for political gain and unsatisfactory service delivery by local government.

There's a remarkable story on the front page of this morning's Kenyan Standard.

Under the headline "Ruto alleges ploy to postpone polls date", we learn that the United Republican Party claims that an influential foreign country is behind a plot to push the Kenyan elections from March to August next year.

The party says it has credible evidence of the plan to scuttle the 4 March election date and have the polls held six months later, as the foreign nation allegedly is keen to ensure that its preferred candidate is elected.

The party refused to name the country it claims is behind the scheme but said it would soon do so.

Ruto told a press conference yesterday that representatives of the foreign nation have been meeting members of the clergy, civil society groups and some political parties to sell the idea of postponing the polls. He said the scheme was based on claims that the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission was ill-prepared to conduct credible elections.

“These are merchants of darkness, impunity and retrogression who want to take us backward," said Ruto of the interfering outside forces. "They must be told that Kenyans are competent enough and are more than ready to elect their leaders in March.”

The main story in The Standard points to a real problem for those trying to organise next year's elections.

An estimate two million young people won't be able to register to vote unless they are issued with identity cards.

Next Monday the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission begins biometric voter registration to create a new voters’ register. According to the commission, the so-called "waiting cards", temporary documents issued to those who have applied for ID cards, are not recognised under Kenyan law as valid for registration as a voter.

Regional paper The East African reports that Uganda has closed its border with the DRC at Bunagana post following reports that M23 rebels have been taxing trucks coming from Uganda.

According to The East African, sources told Kampala's Daily Monitor newspaper earlier this week that trucks heading to the DRC were stopped by the Ugandan military in an effort to deny M23 rebels a source of revenue.

Army spokesperson, Colonel Felix Kulayigye, confirmed the incident, saying the border had been closed on the orders of President Yoweri Museveni.

The closure will see Uganda lose hundreds of millions of dollars through trade with eastern DRC.

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