28 February 2013

South Africa: African Press Review 28 February 2013

press release

South Africa's budget, the run up to Kenya's elections and iPads for Ugandan parliamentarians are all topics in today's African newspapers...

In South Africa, the budget is the top story this morning.

Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan's 2013 budget was announced in parliament yesterday, against a background of sluggish economic growth, declining tax revenue, a widening budget deficit and higher debt levels.

Kenya's post-election violence 2007-8

The 2013 budget speech follows a year of deteriorating labour relations as evidenced by the Marikana massacre and increased scrutiny by international ratings agencies, which recently downgraded South Africa's economic outlook.

According to financial paper BusinessDay, the budget stuck to the ordinary and the orthodox. It was devoid of major new initiatives, and quietly back-pedalled on suggestions of possible future tax hikes, insisting they would be measured and careful. Minister Gordhan proposed neither dramatic spending increases nor austere cuts, but made it clear that the economic situation is increasingly squeezing the government.

Also in South Africa, the trade union grouping Cosatu has begun an internal investigation into the conduct of its general secretary, Zwelinzima Vavi, following allegations of irregularities in the purchase of the federation's headquarters.

Vavi is an outspoken critic of corruption, even within Cosatu itself, and in the African National Congress. He was instrumental in the founding of the non-governmental graft-busting organisation Corruption Watch.

His criticisms of corruption in the ANC have previously landed him in hot water with the party. The ruling party considered disciplining Vavi in 2010 when he said President Jacob Zuma's administration was soft on graft.

Cosatu's central executive committee held a scheduled meeting in Johannesburg this week where affiliates called for a probe into how Cosatu's four-million-euro Braamfontein headquarters was purchased in 2011.

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They also questioned the conditions under which the federation's Leyds Street building was sold.

Vavi refused to comment on Wednesday night, pointing to a press conference scheduled for later today.

Kenya is officially fully prepared for Monday's polls.

According to this morning's Nairobi-based Standard, preparations include the mobilisation of 99,900 security officers by the National Police Service. Inspector General David Kimaiyo yesterday warned of a zero tolerance policy for anyone trying to disrupt the exercise.

No voter will be allowed to hang around a polling station after casting his or her ballot and Kimaiyo also warned political parties against allowing their supporters to cluster around voting venues.

Sister paper the Daily Nation gives pride of place to a story reporting that International Criminal Court prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has said she has evidence of bribery of a key witness in the Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta's case.

Uhuru is one of four Kenyans accused by the ICC of crimes against humanity during the post-election violence in 2008.

In her submissions, Bensouda claims the critical Witness Four, a former Mungiki leader, who withdrew his testimony after the confirmation hearings, was paid to do so.

This is the witness who said he was present at meetings in State House and the Nairobi Club where Kenyatta and another of the accused, former head of Public Service Francis Muthaura, allegedly planned violence.

In a later statement to the ICC, the witness said he had lied about his presence at the two meetings.

The prosecutor says Witness Four revealed in an interview in May 2012 that he had been offered and accepted money from individuals presenting themselves as representatives of the accused, to withdraw his testimony and provided e-mails and records that confirmed the bribery allegation.

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Regional newspaper the East African reports that the Ugandan Parliament is to spend about 300,000 euros on iPad tablet computers for MPs.

Parliamentary officials say apart from bringing MPs up to speed with evolution in technology, they hope to save money in the long run by cutting printing and other stationery expenses.

Figures from Parliament show that the government spent at least 10 million euros over the last two financial years on computer supplies, printing, stationery, photocopying, binding, postage, courier and other communication costs.

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