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African press review 20 March 2014


South Africa's Nkandla report on President Jacob Zuma's illegal use of public funds, Kampala Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago held by police and a school ghost story in Kenya, are all topics in today's African papers.

The so-called Nkandla report on President Jacob Zuma's illegal use of public funds to finance the renovation of his private residence is literally all over the South African front pages this morning.

The main story in the Johannesburg-based financial paper, BusinessDay, says government ministers yesterday sidestepped the question of taking responsibility and resigning after the release of Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s damning report on the use of more than 16 million euros of taxpayers’ money to pay for the upgrades to President Zuma’s private home in KwaZulu-Natal.

Slideshow Mandela

The Police Minister and the men in charge at Public Works and Defence have all come in for criticism for their parts in the affair.

A government task force has been set up to study the report. The opposition Democratic Alliance has called for Zuma’s impeachment.

On its news analysis pages, BusinessDay says the president himself emerges relatively unscathed.

While the report makes decisive findings on how at every single point, every government department and (almost) every official involved bungled their part of the process, Zuma’s integrity and ethical failure are questioned only moderately, according to BusinessDay.

Madonsela makes what the financial daily calls "a big leap of faith" when she finds Zuma did not mislead Parliament when he told MPs that he and his family had paid for every building at the homestead, and also when she finds he made "a bona fide mistake" in thinking the discussion was only about the dwellings, and not the entire development.

As for any potential backlash at the polls, BusinessDay says "the masses" are often not much bothered about the public accountability issues that the chattering classes froth on about, so the impact on support for the ruling ANC is hard to anticipate.

Kenya's post-election violence 2007-8

Finally, in an article headlined "South Africa stands at a precipice of its own making over Nkandla," BusinessDay says the way in which the African National Congress, Zuma himself and the Parliament they control proceed from here on is what really matters.

The public has a justifiable expectation that Parliament will seek answers from the country’s top citizen, and will then take the necessary action to ensure that the interests of all South Africans are protected.

Further down the BusinessDay front page, it's reported that about a fifth of South Africa’s annual platinum production has been lost in the strike that has cost the country the rand equivalent of nearly one billion euros, and prices are now starting to reflect market concerns.

The world’s three largest platinum producers and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union have hardened their positions on basic pay, with no end in sight to the strike, which has now entered its ninth week.

In Uganda, the top story in this morning's Daily Monitor says police are still holding Kampala Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago after barring him from attending a rally organised by opposition politicians.

Lukwago was arrested as he left his Wakaliga home to attend a consultative rally at Katwe, a city suburb. He was brought to Jinja Road Police Station.

The Monitor says police also prevented other politicians and activists from attending the rally. They included former FDC leader Kizza Besigye. Besigye’s home in Kasangati was sealed off, with police barricading the road and preventing all access.

Dr Besigye asked whether Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi’s recent comments that Ugandans should not be arrested because of their personal opinions applied only to supporters of the ruling party.

Yesterday's rally had been called to promote a boycott of upcoming elections for the post of Mayor of Kampala, the job from which Erias Lukwago was controversially sacked last year.

In Kenya, the Standard daily newspaper reports that 800 students at Lutsangani Secondary school in Kilifi County have been sent home after they protested the alleged invasion of the school by ghosts.

The students said they started experiencing the problems last Friday night and, from that time, have not been able to sleep properly in their dormitories.

Students in the mixed secondary school claim some of their colleagues have been mysteriously removed from dormitories at night and later found dumped under baobab trees around the school. The school is to remain closed until Monday.

On a brighter note, the Standard says Kenya university staff called off their seven-day strike on Wednesday evening, bringing to an end the crisis that has led to closure of some campuses.

The university vice-chancellors have agreed to pay outstanding allowances and increments by the end of May.

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