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African press review 15 May 2014


Strikers' show of force in South Africa, Boko Haram extremists' abduction of more than 200 schoolgirls in Nigeria and a controversial HIV/Aids Prevention programme in Uganda are all topics in today's African papers.

The main story in South African financial paper, BusinessDay, is headlined "Strikers' show of force". We're talking platinum, obviously.

According to the Johannesburg-based daily, striking miners yesterday shunned the employers’ call for them to return to work, gathering instead in their thousands at Wonderkop Stadium at Marikana, near Rustenburg, in a show of force demonstrating their commitment to the industrial action.

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

Anglo American, Impala Platinum and Lonmin have been trying to negotiate directly with employees since the beginning of the 16-week strike, and have increased their efforts since the rejection by the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union, last week, of the latest offer on basic wages. Lonmin announced earlier this week that the company was preparing a partial re-opening. Yesterday a company spokeswoman refused to say how many former strikers had returned to work.

Implats, which has closed its operations for the duration of the strike and has been polling workers via SMS, also refused to reveal statistics. A spokesman said while a majority of workers had indicated in the poll that they wanted to return to work, when asked whether they would actually do so in the current circumstances, most declined.

There have been a number of fatal incidents, believed to be strike-related, in the platinum belt since last weekend.

At Amplats, where a "safe passage programme" has been running throughout the strike to escort non-strikers to work, the company said attendance was increasing slowly.

On its African pages, BusinessDay reports that Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan faces an uncertain political future after attracting a torrent of criticism over his handling of Boko Haram extremists’ abduction of more than 200 schoolgirls.

According to the South African paper, the Nigerian leader was already on the back foot before Boko Haram kidnapped 276 girls from the remote northeastern town of Chibok last month, sparking a global social media campaign and international outrage.

Jonathan's People’s Democratic Party has been hit by mass defections, eroding his power base and parliamentary majority and strengthening the hand of the main opposition All Progressives Congress.

The 56-year-old Jonathan is still expected to declare his candidacy for next year’s elections and seek a second term in office, but with anger growing over the government’s lack of response in the first weeks after the kidnapping, some commentators say his political stock has been irreparably damaged.

The South African tabloid, the Sowetan, gives pride of place to the news that Swaziland's King Mswati III has increased his annual household budget for 2014 by more than 10 per cent, to 55 million euros.

The budget of the king, whose personal fortune is estimated at around 200 million euros, makes provisions for his salary, his mother's upkeep and royal aides. The report avoids any mention of the cost of having fourteen wives.

The budget includes provisions for construction work on palaces that will cost the tax payer about 10 million euros.

Al-Shebab - who are they?

The royal budget is not debated in parliament but is simply presented to the king himself and to the Royal Board of Trustees chaired by the minister of finance.

Over 60 percent of Swaziland's 1.2 million people live on less than one euro a day.

On the front page of the Ugandan Daily Monitor, we learn that the controversial HIV/Aids Prevention and Control Bill, which was endorsed by Parliament two days ago, has attracted more dissenting voices. The latest criticism comes from Human Rights Watch, the Health Global Advocacy Project and the Uganda Network on Law and Ethics. Critics say the legislation is “deeply flawed” and promotes “discrimination”.

The activists have vowed to petition President Museveni to ask him not to assent to the Act. The President has up to 90 days to sign the Bill so that it becomes an Act of Parliament.

The government insisted yesterday that the Bill is a “positive one” and that the concerns raised by the activists can be rectified during the Bill’s implementation stage.

The executive director of the Uganda Network on Law and Ethics says that, if the country is to address its HIV epidemic effectively, it needs to create partnerships with people living with HIV, not criminalise them, and exclude them from policy making.

Health professionals and rights activists stormed out of Parliament on Tuesday, saying the well-intentioned Bill will not serve its purpose because it will deter people from testing and using other HIV-related services.

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