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African press review 13 April 2018


New taxes for mobile phone users in Uganda. A union group contests the fairness of South Africa's minimum wage. Five more African athletes go missing from the Commonwealth Games in Australia. And Zimbabwe wonders what to do with Bob's books and belongings.

The Ugandan government is planning to tax social media users on a daily basis.

According to a report on the front page of regional newspaper the East African, State Minister for Planning David Bahati yesterday said the fee of 100 Ugandan shillings (less than 0.2 euros) will be charged every day on each SIM card that connects to the internet for social media.

President Yoweri Museveni recently revealed that the government was planning to introduce taxes on social media platforms such as WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Skype and Viber, claiming that people use these platforms mainly for "gossip".

Social media users, including human rights activists and opposition leaders, have criticised the new tax proposals as “diversionary, deceptive, injurious to individual freedoms and burdensome”.

The Kampala government has also introduced a one percent tax on mobile money transactions. The fee will be charged on all withdrawals and deposits.

Fighting talk from South African unions

The South African Federation of Trade Unions will celebrate its one-year anniversary by “making South African ungovernable” unless the government scraps the national minimum wage in its current format and introduces fair labour laws, today's Mail & Guardian tells us.

The federation, which represents 30 unions and around 800 000 workers, took aim at everyone from President Cyril Ramaphosa to rival labour group, the Congress of South African Trade Unions.

Saftu general secretary Zwelinsima Vavi mocked Ramaphosa as “the buffalo” saying the president was once a hero for trade unionists but had been “coopted” by multinational corporations. The buffalo remark refers to an infamous auction bid in 2012 when Ramaphosa offered to pay the rand equivalent of 1.2 million euros for a buffalo.

Saftu marched on parliament yesterday, calling for the implementation of a “living wage” instead of the current hourly rate which is less than 1.50 euros for most workers in the country.

The federation is also challenging amendments to the Labour Relations Act, which would make it easier for employers to end long-running strikes.

Mobile music drives residents mad

Bizarre headline of the month, perhaps the century, award goes to South Africa's BusinessDay for "The road to madness is paved with a piano".

BusinessDay in fact lifted the story from the BBC but decided that the original headline, "Dutch 'singing road' closed after neighbours' complaints", was just too ordinary. So they added their own hint of madness.

The idea was simply to improve road safety: special strips on the surface would play a tune when cars drove over them at the correct speed.

But residents of a nearby village in the Netherlands said the noise was driving them mad.

One called it "psychological torture". Another said cars were going faster to see if the song played at double speed.

After pressure, officials closed the "singing road" just one day after it had been officially opened.

For the road to play the anthem of the northern province of Friesland, cars had to drive at the speed limit of 60km/h.

More African athletes go misssing in Australia

Five more African athletes may have vanished from the Commonwealth Games, organisers said yesterday. This follows the news that eight competitors from Cameroon were suspected of fleeing a day earlier.

Australian organisers confirmed reports that athletes from Rwanda and Uganda were thought to have gone missing, while they were also trying to verify the whereabouts of two squash players from Sierra Leone.

More than 100 athletes overstayed their visas after the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

Mugabe leaves his books and belongings behind

Zimbabwe's former president Robert Mugabe has yet to move out of an official residence in Harare five months after he was ousted from power, according to an official statement yesterday.

Presidential spokesman George Charamba said Mugabe had still had not removed his belongings from Zimbabwe House, a residential wing next to the presidential offices at State House.

"We don't want to create the impression that we are chasing him away," Charamba said, adding that the 94-year-old former president was currently in Singapore for one of his regular health checks.

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