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African press review 23 January 2018


There's still no clarity on the likely fate of South African President Jacob Zuma. Oxfam wants that country's government to do more to close the gap between rich and poor. Will United Nations peacekeepers soon have the right to use lethal force to protect themselves? And is the relationship between politics and the judiciary in Kenya a healthy one?

Confusion reigns on the future of South African president Jacob Zuma.

According to the front page of this morning's Johannesburg-based financial paper BusinessDay, there is broad agreement in the ruling African National Congress that Zuma should go but no consensus about how or when.

ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule and his deputy Jesse Duarte were adamant yesterday that no decision had been taken on Zuma’s exit. This despite numerous sources saying that an overwhelming majority of speakers at last week’s two-day meeting of the ruling party's national executive committee (NEC) supported his early removal.

Magashule said the NEC had not “arrived at a decision” about whether Zuma should stay or go. Duarte said the matter of Zuma’s removal was raised by six NEC members out of a total of 80. Various other committee members spoke of the possibility of the president's voluntary resignation, while others said he should be asked to step down.

BusinessDay spoke to a number of sources who said there was broad agreement that Zuma should be asked to step down as head of state and that the party’s national officials, headed by newly-elected president Cyril Ramaphosa, should manage the process.

It is expected that the officials will ask Zuma to resign warning him that the matter will otherwise be referred to parliament, where the president would face a motion of no confidence or impeachment. Impeachment would result in Zuma losing his benefits.

Close the gap call from Oxfam

The international food charity Oxfam has urged South Africa to reduce the wealth gap.

In the wake of Oxfam's report on global wealth, released yesterday to coincide with the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the organisation identifies wage inequality as the biggest contributor to South Africa's social crisis.

“Dangerous, poorly paid work for the many is supporting extreme wealth for the few,” says the report. "Women are in the worst work, and almost all the super-rich are men."

Oxfam South Africa leaders called for action to narrow the inequality gap, conceding that some interventions by the South African government, such as the national minimum wage, could help.

South Africa's national minimum wage comes into effect in May.

Will UN peacekeepers kill to defend themselves?

Kenya's Daily Nation gives the top of the front page to the news, announced yesterday, that the United Nations is considering a change to the rules of engagement for its peacekeeping forces.

According to a UN report published yesterday, blue-helmet peacekeepers should no longer shy away from using force to reverse a trend of escalating fatalities.

Casualties have spiked since 2013, with 195 personnel in UN peacekeeping missions killed by acts of violence   more than during any other five-year period in history. Last year saw the highest number of fatalities since 1994, with 56 deaths.

As missions face threatened budget cuts from the Trump administration in Washington, the report says troops are too often in a defensive posture and need to take the initiative to eliminate threats to their own security.

Calm to keep politics out of Kenya's courts

Two eminent judges yesterday warned Kenya of the political risks it faces for failing to cure the weaknesses in its electoral system.

According to the Nairobi-based Standard newspaper, retired South African judge Johann Kriegler, who probed the flawed 2007 polls warned the nation against trying to solve political problems in the corridors of justice.

Kriegler, a former Independent Review Commission chairman, said Kenya had become obsessed with the law as a means of resolving political disputes, thus triggering unending power struggles.

And Chief Justice David Maraga raised the flag on gaps in the law relating to the annulment of a presidential election and the withdrawal of a candidate from the race for the top job.

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