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African press review 31 August 2018


Land grabs and silent watchdogs in South Africa. Scamming farmers in Kenya. A new candidate joins the race to become the next president of Nigeria.

In South Africa the divisive issue of expropriation of land without compensation continues to fester.

A headline in BusinessDay quotes Deputy President David Mabuza as saying "Land grabs will not happen."

Although in a sub-headline the paper notes that "There have been some land occupations after the ANC’s announcement that it will push to have expropriation without compensation enacted."

Responding to questions in the National Assembly, Mabuza said the government would use all available legal mechanisms "to ensure that land invasions do not occur".

No everyone is convinced. Far from it, judging by online comments reacting to the story. Here's a taste.

"With the ANC cadres it always depends on the audience, next week he'll come out in full support of what he is opposing now."

"Phew..... I feel much better now, having heard this from such an honourable fellow."

And, “We will amend the constitution and expropriate land without compensation.” “Just kidding.” “We are also committed to fighting corruption.” “Well, only when it’s us who are corrupt.” “But your investment here is incredibly safe.”

Watchdogs don't bark

Beneath the headline "Watchdogs shamefully silent on corporate corruption," BusinessDay's editorial declares, in capital letters no less, that "FOR THOSE WHO LINK CORRUPTION WITH THE PUBLIC SECTOR, THIS WEEK HAS BEEN AN EYE-OPENER."

"I do not think I did anything deliberately wrong". These words, spoken by former Steinhoff CFO Ben la Grange in parliament on Wednesday, are unlikely to provide much comfort to the disgraced company’s investors who have seen the value of their investment plunge by 200 billion rand since the accounting scandal broke in December 2017," the paper opines, 200 billion rand being more than 11.5 billion euros. A tidy sum.

"Yet, in the midst of all these disasters, there is hardly a peep from the regulators," the paper laments.

Corporate SA and the integrity of our markets have taken a battering, BusinessDay concludes. "It has exposed just how slack our regulators are. If we want our market to recover its lost glory, they have to seriously up their game."

Cereal scam

Of course corruption is not confined to South Africa. The Daily Nation in Kenya reports that the anti-graft agency has revealed shocking details on how 11.3 billion shillings meant to buy maize from farmers was instead pilfered through an elaborate scheme involving traders and employees of the National Cereals and Produce Board.

The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission said yesterday that "a big chunk of the money was paid out to a small clique of suppliers, mainly traders, through a scheme where they presented false verification forms."

A Select Committee of the Senate which is investigating was told on yesterday that 10,636 suppliers had delivered their maize to the board.

"However," the Nation reports, 146 of these suppliers were paid 4,5 billion, leaving 10,490 suppliers, most of them genuine farmers, to share the remaining Sh6.8 billion, which in any case was not disbursed.

War on graft

Punch in Nigeria reports that "Senate President Bukola Saraki has formally declared his intention to contest the presidency on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party."

Adding that he's promised a sincere war on graft. “Ours will not be a selective fight against corruption," Saraki says. "The emphasis will be on strengthening institutions, with a particular focus on deterrence.

“We see the fight against corruption as crucial to Nigeria’s economic development.”

The Senate president lamented the poor state of Nigeria’s infrastructure and growing insecurity with acts of terrorism, kidnapping, banditry and sundry other crimes which he said he would tackle if elected.

"Tinpot dictator wannabe"

Vanguard says that Saraki's announcement has divided Nigerians. Online comments include "Saraki and shenanigans. So it was always about the presidency." And "Saraki is a the award-winning for 2018 joker of the year." And "We are NOT fools. Buhari deceived us in a similar way in 2015. We need someone different."

Or, "I’m not sure anyone else is strong enough to defeat Buhari [that's the incumbent Muahmmadu Buhari]. Saraki is a much better option."

And, "Anybody will be better than the tin-pot dictator wannabe we have now. Nigeria must be rescued."

Whatever Nigeria's shortcomings, its press is refreshingly free.

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