26 July 2017

African Press Review 26 July 2017

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The authorities in Nigeria say President Muhammadu Buhari is in fine fettle and will be back to work once the doctors say OK. There's more criticism of South Africa's mining minister. And Tanzania denies supporting the opposition in the run-up to Kenya's elections.

Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari will return to his official duties as soon as doctors advise that he can end his medical leave, according to a statement from the presidency yesterday.

Against a background of conflicting reports on the health of the 74-year-old president, his office released a photograph last weekend - the first for almost three months - showing a smiling Buhari looking less gaunt than when he was last seen on television in Nigeria.

Buhari left Abuja for London on 7 May for treatment of an unspecified illness, his second trip abroad this year for health reasons. The first trip, also to London, lasted nearly two months.

Buhari, a former military ruler who took office in May 2015, handed over to his deputy, Yemi Osinbajo, to allay concerns about a possible power vacuum in his absence.

The refusal of officials to disclose details of Buhari's illness has triggered fierce speculation in Nigeria's media and on social media over the last few months about whether he will seek a second term in the 2019 election.

Lots of bad news in South Africa

There's not much good news on the top of the front page of South African financial paper BusinessDay.

A new downgrade could be on the way.

The Public Investment Corporation believes a further sovereign downgrade of South Africa by international credit ratings agencies is highly likely because of sluggish growth and low confidence, which are hurting investment and consumer spending.

The corporation, which has two trillion rand under management, is the investment manager for the Government Employees Pension Fund, the Unemployment Insurance Fund and the Compensation Commission.

It has warned that South Africa runs the risk of being excluded from the world government bond index if all the agencies downgrade the domestic credit rating to below investment grade.

So far only Fitch has downgraded South Africa's long-term local currency rating to subinvestment grade, while Standard & Poor's and Moody's rate South Africa at one notch above junk.

There's trouble in the mining sector

BusinessDay's editorial says the actions of Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane have already done huge damage to share prices.

The paper says 65 percent of South Africa's platinum mines are unprofitable and a further five percent are marginal. The gold industry is not looking much better.

The Mining Charter, which is intended to shift the ownership of South Africa's mines away from white-owned multinationals, will, says BusinessDay, halt any and all of the transformative black empowerment deal-making the minister hopes to achieve.

The risk was highlighted when it emerged that the moratorium on transferring mineral rights could block Anglo American Platinum's sale of its Union mine to black-owned Siyanda Resources and prevent another deal involving Amplats and beleaguered empowerment player Atlatsa Resources, which could help to bail out Atlatsa.

Says BusinessDay, the moratorium will have dire consequences for jobs and livelihoods in an industry that is already seeing closures and job losses.

The industry overseer, the South African Chamber of Mines yesterday lodged an urgent application to halt the minister's proposals to "restrict" the granting of new mineral and prospecting rights, freezing mining transactions.

What will US health spending cuts mean to South Africa?

And the South African Department of Health is anxiously waiting to see if the US Congress approves President Donald Trump's proposed cuts to global health programmes, because its decision could reduce donor support for HIV/Aidstreatment in South Africa.

The US is the world's biggest contributor to the global fight against HIV/Aids and in 2016 contributed nearly five billion dollars. Trump's proposed 2018 budget would shave almost $1bn off this figure.

South Africa has the world's biggest HIV/Aids burden, with more than seven million people living with the disease. Unlike many other countries in sub-Saharan Africa, South Africa funds the lion's share of its HIV/Aids programmes itself.

The US is currently the biggest international donor to South Africa's HIV/Aids programmes.

Tanzania denies accusations of interference in Kenyan elections

The Tanzanian government has denied that President John Magufuli is interfering in Kenya's election by supporting National Super Alliance flagbearer Raila Odinga.

However, the Tanzanian opposition was yesterday adamant that Magufuli was backing the Kenyans and accused Odinga of supporting a "dictator".

The controversy follows Tanzanian opposition fears, some reported in the Daily Nation, that Magufuli, a personal friend of Odinga, is providing financial and strategy support for the Nasa campaign.

On Monday Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Minister Augustine Mahiga told The Citizen, a Nation Media Group Publication, in Dar es Salaam that reports linking Tanzania with its neighbour's elections which are 13 days away were "false".

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