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African press review 2 May 2015


Labour Day reminds South Africa of the universal nature of the job market, while Nigerian unionists remind President-elect Muhammadu Buhari of his campaign promise to create 3 million jobs in a year. Meanwhile, toothpaste smiles for Kenyans after President Uhuru Kenyatta unveils a 12 per cent pay rise for the country’s lowest incomes.

The Nation leads with the presidential gift to the lowest rung of Kenya’s workforce, explaining that Kenyatta presented the package as a well-deserved prize for hard-working Kenyans.

According to the Nairobi-based publication, Kenyatta also gave assurances that the government is working to enforce parity and equality in the terms and conditions of salaries for public servants. The newspaper raises what appeared to be a point of irritation for the president: the fact that the clamour for wage increases was neither pegged on the cost of living nor on productivity.

Standard Digital also salutes the good news Kenyatta brought for thousands of poor workers, after he “resurfaced from a week-long retreat at the Sagana State Lodge”. The paper notes that Labour Day celebrations were peppered with political undertones. Kenyatta slammed the opposition for persistent criticism of his two-year-old administration. The opposition has been a thorn in the flesh of the Jubilee administration following runaway insecurity and the failure to deal with terror.

Some Kenyan papers satirise the ebullient style of Kenyan union leader Francis Atwoli as he teased Kenyatta at the May Day rally at Uhuru Square in Nairobi. “I see he is wearing an expensive imported suit," Atwoli said, adding that “in there, in his wallet, there’s something good for the workers”.

More significantly Standard Digital points out that this was the first time Kenyatta chaired a Labour Day parade since taking office.

In Nigeria, Premium Times leads with a promise by the head of the Nigerian Labour Congress to hold President-elect Buhari and his All Progressives Congress party accountable for the 3 million jobs per year they promised workers during the election campaign. Nigeria Labour Congress President Ayuba Wabba was reportedly speaking at a joint Labour Day rally in Abuja on Friday and advised the government, which is to be inaugurated 29 May, to view development from the prism of tapping into the abundant economic potential offered by the entrepreneurial drive of Nigerians.

Punch focused its coverage of May Day in Nigeria on a rather rowdy celebration in Lagos where a dispute over rally venues between the state police commissioner and the unions caused a traffic jam at strategic city junctions.

According to The Nation, the electricity employees were barred from entering the National Stadium Surulere while a group of 21 union affiliates congregated on the popular Western Avenue Road in the absence of officials invited.

Vanguard says their absence may have contributed in getting the workers in the right fiery mood. The placards bore different messages such as, “Buhari, we demand change from power poverty to power prosperity, electrify Nigeria”, “Protect our enamelware industries,” and “Stop fuel importation”, among others.

In South Africa, where leaders are trying to stem xenophobic attacks by youths accusing foreigners of taking their jobs, City Press publishes a video clip honouring workers worldwide. In an editorial Mail and Guardian says this is the time to embrace working class unity and to challenge the status quo of capitalist expression.

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