29 January 2013

South Africa: African Press Review 29 January 2013

Labour relations in South Africa and election preparations in Kenya are among the issues covered in today's African newspapers....

Three labour-related stories on the top of the front page of South African financial paper, BusinessDay.

The main headline reads "Mooted 50% farm wage hike 'puts jobs at risk'".

The story follows yesterday's news that the Employment Conditions Commission, which makes recommendations on minimum wages, looks set to suggest a new minimum wage of about 8.50 euros a day for farm workers - that's a rise of more than 50%.

According to research on which the recommendation is based, the wage increase will lead to higher prices for some products in the short to medium term - and significant job losses.

Employers insist that any wage higher than 8.50 euros a day will result in labour-intensive commodities - such as fruit and vegetables - becoming unviable and lead to large-scale job losses.

Farm workers last week called off their strike in the Western Cape, but the Congress of South African Trade Unions has threatened to rekindle it, claiming farmers are dismissing their workers for being absent from work.

A little further down the front page, the news doesn't get any better. "Rand reels from new fears about labour strife, US fiscal cliff" is pretty scary.

The small print explains that concerns about South Africa's socioeconomic problems and labour disputes, and renewed disquiet about the global economy, combined to push the rand past R9.10/$ on Monday - its weakest level against the US currency in nearly four years.

Foreign investors have been selling South Africa's debt since Anglo American Platinum announced that it may have to cut its workforce by 14,000 as it restructures its operations, and as farm workers renewed their wage strike. Investors are wary of a continuation of last year's disputes that led to unofficial strikes across the mining sector.

There was a lot of risk related trade in global markets as a result of concerns over the US fiscal cliff and weak global growth, but the rand has been the worst-hit emerging market currency, say analysts.

And then, in third place, a glimmer of good news: "Amplats bows to state pressure" reads the headline, and the story explains that mining company Anglo American Platinum has bowed to pressure from the African National Congress and the government, agreeing to postpone its plans to sack up to 14,000 employees for 60 days to allow for "detailed consultation".

Things are getting serious as we prepare for the Kenyan elections, due on 4 March.

According to this morning's Nairobi-based Standard, the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (the party we know and love as Cord) yesterday unveiled its ten key pledges to the country in an effort to woo voters.

Prime Minister Raila Odinga presented the document and promised to honour the pledges if elected. Central to the promises, is the creation of wealth and the sharing of public funds equitably.

Implementation of the Constitution is also one of their key promises.

Raila pledged to create more jobs by establishing one major industry in each county and ensure 24-hour economy in major urban centres and remove trade barriers to instill investor confidence.

To realise the goal, Cord government would also give incentives to commercial banks and other financial institutions to encourage them to invest in local industries.

The Standard also reports that Malawi's government has invited bids for its 14-seat presidential jet, which is being sold off as part of cost-cutting measures.

The office of President Joyce Banda says the plane will be sold to the highest bidder.

Her predecessor, the late Bingu wa Mutharika, was widely criticised for buying the jet five years ago at a cost of about 10 million euros.

Donors cut aid to Malawi by five million euros in the wake of the purchase.

President Banda has refused to travel in the jet since she took office last April, following Mutharika's sudden death.

The Monitor in Uganda reports the comments of President Museveni's security advisor, to the effect that people should not be worried about comments made by the Head of State that the army could take over if what the president called "confusion" continues in Parliament.

The security chief joined a growing list of senior officers who have denounced talk about a possible army take-over, saying problems of the 21st century need brains and not guns and bullets.

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