South Africa: African Press Review 2 April 2013

South African soldiers in the Central African Republic creating tension; the source of Namibia's Namib desert, and Kenyans looking to immigrate to the US may have a harder time, headlined papers across Africa today.

The main story in today's South African financial paper, BusinessDay, is headlined "Democratic Alliance calls for Parliament to halt Central African Republic deployment".

The small print explains that the row over the presence of South African soldiers in the Central African Republic has intensified, with the Democratic Alliance calling for Parliament to terminate what the opposition calls the South African defence forces "presidential employment". The ruling African National Congress has strenuously denied that South Africa's soldiers were protecting its business interests.

Two weeks ago, 13 South African National Defence Force members were killed in combat with Seleka coalition rebels advancing on the CAR capital of Bangui. A memorial service for the soldiers is to be held in Pretoria later today.

Since the fighting, questions have been asked about the deployment and why South Africa's soldiers were in combat to support dictatorial president François Bozizé, who has since been deposed.

Weekend media reports suggested the soldiers were defending mining interests in a country rich in diamonds, uranium and oil, but the government said 400 troops were present due to a bilateral defence accord with Bozizé. Some reports have alleged that the ANC's investment arm, Chancellor House, has business interests in the Central African Republic.

South African president Jacob Zuma is set to attend an emergency summit of central African states in Chad on Wednesday to discuss the CAR crisis.

The BusinessDay story I really like is headlined "Namib's fairies get a little help from ants".

It turns out that the mysterious "fairy circles" that pockmark the Namib desert may be the work of termites, according to research from a German scientist.

Fairy circles are barren patches of sand surrounded by a ring of grass, and are found in a narrow belt on the eastern edge of the Namib desert that stretches for 2,000 kilometers from northern South Africa to Angola. They have baffled scientists for decades and several theories for their origin have been suggested - ranging from plant toxins to insect activity.

Last year University of Pretoria scientists suggested that the circles might be due to natural gas bubbling to the surface.

Now Professor Norbert Juergens of Hamburg University has put forward a new hypothesis. He says the circles are caused by lowly sand termites.

BusinessDay also looks at yesterday's decision by India's top court to dismiss Swiss drugmaker Novartis's attempt to win patent protection for its cancer drug Glivec. The Johannesburg based paper says this is a serious blow to Western pharmaceutical companies, which have been increasingly focusing on India to drive sales.

The decision also sets a benchmark for several intellectual property disputes in India, where many patented drugs are beyond the means of most of its 1.2-billion people, 40 percent of whom earn less than one euro per day.

India's domestic drugs market is the 14th largest globally, and has recently grown nearly14 percent every year.

The value of shares in Novartis India lost more than five percent in the wake of the verdict.

A front page story in the Kenyan Standard says the 'Green Card' which gives foreigners the right to live and work in the United States, could soon be abolished.

According to the Nairobi based daily, the annual diversity visa lottery (which is the official name for the Green Card scheme) will cease to exist if Congress endorses a measure passed late last week by lawmakers in the lower house.

The House of Representatives on Friday voted to cancel the annual diversity visa lottery and instead give available immigration visas to foreigners who earn advanced degrees from American universities.

Says The Standard, if Congress passes the law, it would be a big blow to thousands of Kenyans who dream of migrating to the United States to start a new life.

Africa has been a major beneficiary since the program started. Thousands of Kenyans enter the lottery every year with an estimated five thousands qualifying and migrating to the US annually.

The main story in sister paper The Daily Nation also looks at Kenya-US relations, but from a different angle.

A State Department official said on Monday in Washington that the United States "will look carefully at the actions of Kenya's leaders and government" in the coming months.

"We cannot ignore the serious charges that have been set out in the ICC indictment, and will calibrate our engagement accordingly," added Hilary Renner, the department's spokeswoman for African affairs.

Renner's comments in an e-mail message to the Nation suggest that the Obama administration intends to make good on earlier warnings of "consequences" that would ensue for US relations with Kenya if certain candidates - understood to be Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto - were elected.

The State Department did not specify how it will adjust US engagement with a Kenya led by a president and vice-president both facing trial in The Hague on charges of crimes against humanity.

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