21 February 2013

South Africa: African Press Review 21 February 2013

The Pistorius trial enters its third day. Ramphele is accused of being out of touch. Shares take an optimistic turn. Kenya's chief justice drops a bombshell. And Zambia nationalises a Chinese-owned coalmine. And why you'd be well-advised not to fly to Zambia today.

In South Africa, financial paper BusinessDay details the third day of the Oscar Pistorius bail hearing at Pretoria's Magistrates Court.

The world knows by now that Olympic athlete Pistorious faces murder charges following the death last Thursday of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.

Yesterday, a senior police officer was accused of contaminating the crime scene.

Police witnesses on Wednesday described Pistorius as a flight risk, suggesting that he would flee South Africa if granted bail.

"It is possible," said a police witness, adding, "Lifetime imprisonment is no joke."

He pointed out that the athlete has offshore accounts and a property in Italy. The hearing resumes this morning.

In a piece headlined "Ramphele out of touch with reality", BusinessDay columnist Tim Cohen says it's refreshing and charming that Mamphela Ramphele thinks of politics in the way that she does but it is not reality.

He points to the sad fact that, currently, the Democratic Alliance and the African National Congress account for 91 per cent of all votes cast, leaving many smaller parties on the verge of extinction.

Cohen goes on to describe Ramphele as another caring intellectual with a rather abstract involvement in politics. She clearly believes that logic defeats prejudice, knowledge defeats ignorance and good defeats bad.

Cohen ends his article by saying that politics is a confused, illogical cacophony, not because that's the way it should be, but because that's the way people are.

There's at least a glimmer of good news in the BusinessDay story headlined "Shares at four-year high on hopes of global growth."

The small print explains that signs of an improving international economic recovery lifted world shares to four-and-a-half-year highs on Wednesday. Investors are waiting to see if the US Federal Reserve is going to make any changes to its current loose monetary policy, intended to support the US economy. That announcement is expected later this morning.

The big story in Kenya this morning concerns Chief Justice Willy Mutunga.

According to the Standard, Mutunga yesterday dropped a bombshell in the heat of the ongoing election campaign, saying he had received death threats over a case involving a leading presidential candidate and his running mate.

Mutunga, who is also president of the Kenya Supreme Court, yesterday said he had received death threats from members of the outlawed Mungiki sect over the judiciary's handling of cases involving Jubilee presidential candidate Uhuru Kenyatta and his running mate, William Ruto.

The National Security Advisory Committee is to meet in Nairobi later today to discuss the threats to the chief justice and other judicial officers.

The Zambian government has taken over the running of a Chinese-owned coalmine after revoking its licence because of safety lapses.

The Zambian mining minister, Yamfwa Mukanga, said that the government had cancelled all three licences held by Collum coalmine.

He said the government would continue operating the mines until a suitable investor is found.

China has invested an estimated two billion euros in the Zambian mining industry.

According to Beijing, China has created 50,000 jobs in Zambia, with trade between the two countries reaching three billion euros in 2011.

In Malawi the Nation reports that Kamuzu International and Chileka airports are expected to be shut down today as civil aviation staff join the civil servants' strike that has so far seen public health centres closed and government headquarters in the capital, Lilongwe, forced to closed their doors.

Over 100,000 public workers are demanding a 67 per cent wage increase to match the high cost of living triggered by the recent devaluation of the kwacha and its subsequent flotation against major currencies.

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