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African press review 10 August 2018


Nigerian politicians to be named in suspected "coup" by the country's spy chief, Lawal Daura. And Zambia faces US sanctions after deporting a Zimbabwe opposition leader seeking political asylum.

We begin in Nigeria, where the attempt by the country's spy chief to arrest senior lawmakers who defected from the ruling party continues to infuriate defenders of democracy.

Vanguard leads with revelations by Nigeria's police inspector general that the head of the powerful State Security services, Lawal Daura, connived with top politicians to block the National Assembly with the hopes of embarrassing the federal government.

According to the newspaper, Ibrahim Idris did not reveal the names of Daura's accomplices in the operation, which has been condemned by the opposition alliance as a coup attempt.

In an editorial titled "Power intoxicates”, Sahara Reporters says that Daura was, before his fall from grace and consequent arrest and interrogation, a powerful figure in the embattled Buhari administration.

According to the newspaper, he was said to be a prominent member of the dreaded Aso Rock cabal wielding extraordinary power in the presidency.

Sahara Reporters describes him as a controversial man and a polarising figure who had enjoyed immunity in his unpatriotic actions and abuse of the democratic system.

In Zimbabwe, the papers are all about the arrest and trial of Tendai Biti, a top official of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

The Bulawayo Chronicle reports that Biti was denied asylum in Zambia, taken back to the Chirundu border post, and handed over to Zimbabwean police.

He faces charges of inciting violence and unlawfully declaring MDC leader Nelson Chamisa as winner of the 30 July presidential elections. If found guilty, he could face up to 10 years in jail, a cash fine, or both.

The state-owned Herald says after being presented before a Harare court on Thursday, Biti was released on bail and ordered to reappear in court this Friday.

Post-poll disappointment in Zimbabwe

Meanwhile, South Africa's Mail and Guardian claims that a crackdown is underway in Zimbabwe, and few are talking about it. The publication says citizens are being rounded up in high-density areas and beaten for allegedly having supported the opposition.

Mail and Guardian says it is hard to understand why an administration that has worked so hard to legitimise itself in the eyes of the international community might take to such brazen methods.

According to the Johannesburg Star, most Zimbabweans had hoped the parliamentary and presidential elections would end the country's pariah status and help usher in an economic recovery. Instead, it has plunged into turmoil reminiscent of contested votes during Robert Mugabe's 37 years of rule, until he was ousted by the military last year.

The Citizen carries a statement from the UN refugee agency expressing “grave concern about the deportation of the "internationally respected former finance minister while trying to claim asylum. The UNHCR reiterated that "forcibly returning refugees and asylum-seekers to their country of origin is a serious violation of international refugee law".

Zambia under fire 

In Zambia, the Times reports that Zambia risks losing aid from the US government following the forced deportation of Biti. This was after the US State Department issued a strongly worded statement about Washington's decision to raise the matter with President Edgar Lungu and review certain aspects of its cooperation with the Zambian government.

According to the Lusaka Times, Zambia receives around 300 million dollars from USAID to be put towards health, HIV/AIDS, agriculture, climate vulnerability, education and improving democratic governance.

Biti’s deportation is likely to come up in talks between South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and Lungu in Lusaka this Friday, according to the Citizen.

Civil servant layoffs in South Africa

The South African press also takes up a bombshell plan by Ramaphosa’s administration to lay off 30,000 public servants.

The Times reports that the treasury has set aside four billion rand for this financial year to kick-start the process of issuing severance packages, which will be carried out over the next three years.

A senior government official is quoted by the newspaper as saying that the layoffs would reduce the government’s salary bill by 20 billion rand.

According to Friday's Mail and Guardian newspaper, the government is under pressure to cut costs due to a struggling economy and ever-growing social burden.

But as the newspaper explains, the move is likely to put Ramaphosa on a collision cause with labour federation COSATU, which supported his bid to become the ANC president in December.

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