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African press review 19 February 2013


Athlete Oscar Pistorious and political figure Mamphela Ramphele continue to dominate the front pages in South Africa. Accusations fly in the Kenyan election campaign. Dozens die in Sudan fighting. And a mother is jailed for selling her baby.

Pistorious will face the charge of premeditated murder following the death of his girlfriend last Thursday. Reeva Steenkamp was shot dead in his home, at the Silver Woods Country Estate in Pretoria.

Dossier: Africa Cup of Nations 2013

Last year Oscar Pistorius became the first double-leg amputee to compete in the Olympic Games when he ran the 400m race in London, reaching the semi-final, and was part of the South African 4x400m relay team. He also took part in the London Paralympics, where he won two gold medals and one silver.

His bail hearing will be later today in the Pretoria magistrates' court.

An opinion piece in the Johannesburg-based daily BusinessDay is simply, and chillingly, headlined "It looks bad for Oscar Pistorious".

We are informed that Steenkamp was shot more than once while hiding in a bathroom, that a cricket bat spattered with blood was found on the bedroom floor and that Pistorious was the only other person in the house.

We are also told that the athlete is rich and has some powerful lawyers working for him. A former editor of The Sun, in England, is doing his public relations. Their job is to spin their client out of very deep trouble into something more like normal trouble.

Dossier: War in Mali

Expect to hear that Pistorious was drunk or high on steroids, the article suggests. But the writer also refers to his petulance, his rage, the warnings from ex-girlfriends, his inability to lose gracefully, his bizarre diet and his over-the-top lifestyle.

Mamphela Ramphele yesterday announced the formation of a “party political platform” whose first order of business will be to call for reform of South Africa’s electoral system, with the aim of contesting the 2014 national elections.

Admitting she had no funding and a staff of just five, Ramphele yesterday delivered a hard-hitting speech on how the dream of a democratic South Africa had been derailed by poor governance, corruption, nepotism, poverty and powerlessness.

The platform — to be called “Agang” in Sesotho, meaning “Build SA” — will embark on a one-million-signature campaign to ensure that electoral reform is the “first order of business” for parliament after the 2014 election.

In Kenya The Standard reports that Jubilee Coalition presidential candidate Uhuru Kenyatta has questioned the conduct of his political rival Raila Odinga and the role Raila played during the post-election crisis in 2008.

At several election rallies on Monday, the deputy prime minister accused Raila of favouring divisive politics and failing to unite Kenyans during the bloody crisis.

Uhuru further alleged that Raila was out to divide the country with his allegations that key elements in the army and civil service were plotting to rig the elections in favour of Jubilee.

On its international pages The Standard says that fighting broke out in the Sudanese border state of Blue Nile, between the military and rebels trying to overthrow President Omar Hassan al-Bashir on Monday. The government said its forces had killed scores of insurgents.

The rebels gave a different account, saying the government forces had attacked civilian areas.

Dossier: Independence for South Sudan

The conflict in Blue Nile started in September 2011, a few months after neighbouring South Sudan seceded under the 2005 peace deal that ended decades of civil war.

Rebels in Blue Nile and South Kordofan, another Sudanese border state, fought as part of the southern rebel army during that war but were left on the Sudanese side of the border after partition.

Hundreds of thousands of people have fled their homes because of the fighting since 2011.

Events in the two states are difficult to verify independently, the Standard admits, because of government restrictions on media, pointing out that the two sides often give conflicting versions of events.

Sister paper, the Daily Nation, reports that a woman who sold her two-year-old baby for about 110 euros was on Monday jailed for three years.

She pleaded guilty, explaining that she had sold her child because her husband had abandoned them and she could not take care of the baby on her own.

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