15 January 2013

Zimbabwe: African Press Review 15 January 2013

In Zimbabwe, there are suggestions of a police hit squad killing criminal suspects in custody; while over in Kenya, the President has rejected a bill on retirement benefits for politicians, but accepted another bill guaranteeing generous perks for himself.

In Harare, the privately-owned paper Newsday reports that the organisation Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights claims there is a police hit squad killing criminal suspects in custody.

The non-governmental organisation has documented evidence of what appears to be a trend: suspects are arrested, tortured, beaten and shot. It has documented more than a dozen cases in the past two years in which suspects have died under similar circumstances.

Tawanda Zhuwarara, a lawyer with the organisation, said the disturbing pattern suggests the similarities were more than mere coincidence.

Glaring discrepancies between police reports, government-conducted autopsies, the testimonies of relatives and friends, and independent post-mortems point to a possible undeclared countrywide policy to kill suspected criminals.

An un-named senior member of the police is quoted by the Mail & Guardian as saying that criminals have become a "bother and burden to the State", adding that the kill-in-custody policy "is nothing new within the force".

The Daily Nation in Kenya reports Zimbabwe police have arrested the director of a local human rights organisation, accusing him of election fraud.

Zimrights director Okay Machisa is accused of "scanning voter registration certificates with false names and insinuating that these people had been registered as voters."

The Daily Nation points out that, over the years, Zimbabwe police have led a crackdown on non-governmental organisations seen as critical of President Robert Mugabe's rule.

Political tensions are running high in Zimbabwe, which is preparing for elections this year.

In Kenya itself, The Standard reports that President Kibaki on Monday followed up his rejection of the Retirement Benefits Bill 2012 (which would have given each departing MP an 80,000 euro send-off package) by accepting the Presidential Retirement Benefits Bill under which Kibaki will himself pocket a lump sum of 215,000 euros. He will also receive a lifetime monthly pension of nearly 5,000 euros, an entertainment allowance of 2,400 euros and numerous other perks.

In Uganda, The Daily Monitor reports that Congolese political activist Etienne Tshisekedi Mpumbwe has warned that the talks between Kinshasa and the M23 rebels will not bring peace in Kivu, in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Mpumbwe, who is a nephew to the Congolese opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi, also said the Congolese rebels made a mistake by withdrawing from Goma.

Mpumbwe is the vice president of Collectif Des Candidats Discriminés, an association of presidential candidates who lost the election to President Joseph Kabila in 2006.

He blamed President Kabila for the resurgence of the war in eastern Congo, saying the president refused to honour a number of agreements signed between government and the CNDP - the National Congress for the Defence of the People - which is run by the former Congolese army officer, Laurent Nkunda.

The main story in today's edition of the Johannesburg-based financial paper, BusinessDay, reports that wage increases in the mining and farming sectors have not satisfied workers, despite surpassing inflation over the past six to seven years, according to the latest South African Institute of Race Relations survey.

Both sectors have been hard hit by illegal strikes in recent months, with workers demanding large wage increases.

Monthly minimum wages for farm workers increased by over 50 per cent between 2006 and last year, the institute reported in its latest South Africa Survey, which monitors trends in society, politics and the economy. Average monthly salaries for mineworkers climbed by 47 per cent between 2005 and last year.

Nonetheless, the study highlighted that average earnings for blacks are about a third of what they are for whites in South Africa.

According to figures from Statistics South Africa, unemployment for blacks stands at 29 per cent compared to six per cent for whites.

Also in BusinessDay, news that following the completion of its programme to "indigenise" mines, the Zimbabwean government has turned its attention to foreign banks - including Standard Bank and Barclays - and is warning them to hand over 51 per cent of their shares to locals.

The empowerment policy is pivotal to President Robert Mugabe's bid for another term in elections expected this year. His Zanu (PF) party has adopted the policy as a rallying point in its campaign, ignoring calls from investors, economists and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai to amend it.

After the signing of Impala Platinum's indigenisation deal for its Zimplats unit last week, the Empowerment Minister says the next target is the banking sector.

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