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African press review 17 March 2018


As Jacob Zuma hogs the legal limelight in South Africa, there's a new twist in the tragic saga of the Marikana massacre. And there are divergent views on the significance of the diplomatic thaw between Kenyan arch-rivals, Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga.

The South African National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) is obviously much in the news this morning in the wake of yesterday's decision to pursue former president Jacob Zuma on a variety of corruption charges.

But the fuss about Zuma has overshadowed another story involving the NPA and the Marikana case, the investigation into the August 2012 demonstration by striking miners in which 34 people lost their lives.

According to the Johannesburg-based financial paper BusinessDay, a senior officer who criticised the police’s handling of the Marikana massacre is now accused of deliberately misleading the Farlam inquiry into the killings.

The National Prosecuting Authority accuses Lt-Col Salmon Vermaak of lying to the Farlam commission by allegedly failing to disclose that "he gave instructions to junior officers to shoot at a group of striking miners who were fleeing".

In other words‚ the state accuses Vermaak of ordering police officers to shoot fleeing miners in the back.

The former North West deputy police commissioner William Mpembe, six other police officers and two private security guards are currently being tried for murder and attempted murder in connection with killings which took place in the days leading up to the Marikana confrontation.

As yet no one has been charged in connection with the massacre itself.

Can Ramaphosa save the nation's remaining credit rating?

And South Africa will learn soon whether Cyril Ramaphosa’s first month as president has saved the country’s last remaining investment-grade rating. Even if it hasn’t, says BusinessDay, a broader rise in optimism should limit the damage.

Moody’s, with a downgrade review on South Africa since November, is to make a decision by 23 March.

A cut to junk status, following downgrades by Standard & Poor's and Fitch, will see the country ejected from the World Government Bond Index, triggering up to the rand equivalent of seven billion euros in selling by foreign investors.

For a government, losing investment grade status means certain types of investors   usually big pension funds   are mandated to buy only high-grade debt. They are thus forced to sell any bonds which are downgraded to junk.

Rwanda's Muslim clerics want to turn up the volume

Rwanda's Muslim leaders have said they will appeal the government's decision to ban the use of loudspeakers for the call to prayer. They say the ban infringes their right to worship.

An adviser to the Mufti of Rwanda quoted in regional paper the East African says the ban violates Islamic liturgical practices. He also says the authorities in Kigali should have consulted the Muslim community before reaching their decision.

The mosque order came just days after the Rwanda Governance Board, which regulates faith-based organisations, closed more than 700 Christian churches and one mosque over building safety, hygiene and noise pollution.

Brave new world or end of an era?

There are two different views in the Kenyan press in the wake of the joint address to the nation by President Uhuru Kenyatta and his political archrival Raila Odinga.

The Daily Nation says that the historic handshake between the men who clashed twice in last year's disputed presidential election has stabilised the value of the shilling, boosted the Nairobi stock market, and turned the struggling tourism sector around.

The only cloud on the horizon for the Nation comes in the form of alleged victims of police brutality during election-related violence. They remain pessimistic about the "romance" between the two leaders and are demanding a public apology from Kenyatta for the members of their families killed by police, as well as cash reparation.

Over at the Standard, the handshake between the former rivals raises the question of the very survival of the opposition alliance.

"Is Nasa dead?" reads the Standard's main headline, with the report saying National Super Alliance co-principals Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka have maintained that the coalition is still intact.

The report quotes a coalition stalwart as saying that, contrary to what many Kenyans believe, the handshake between Uhuru and Raila does not mean the Orange Democratic Movement leader has joined Jubilee, the presidential party.

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