African Press Review 28 May 2014

Egypt’s authorities bust a gut to get voters to the polls. Zuma is under fire in the SA press. And there are doubts as to whether Nigeria’s government really knows where the kidnapped schoolgirls are.

Poor old Mohamed Morsi!

The deposed Egyptian president was bouncing off the walls of his cell like a fly in a jar as he watched TV coverage of the first day of elections to replace him. He even refused food on Monday. We don’t know if he watched yesterday’s coverage but he’s going to have to put up with a third day of voting in an election which he, at least, feels is a complete waste of time.

Because of the disappointing turnout on the first and second days of the presidential election, a judicial source says the High Elections Committee has decided to extend the poll for a third day until Wednesday, with voting extended until 9.00pm last night.

The committee said the elections were extended because of the heat wave, the increasing pressure on polling stations in the evening and the difficulty of extending the voting hours until late at night.

The Egyptian authorities can hardly be blamed for the poor turnout. The transport ministry issued a decision yesterday, exempting citizens using railway services without tickets from fines throughout the day. Then the cabinet decided that Tuesday should be declared a national holiday to facilitate the participation of citizens in the presidential elections. There are even, according to this morning’s Cairo-based Egypt Independent, plans to fine those who fail to vote. A penalty of 50 euros has been suggested by the election commission secretariat.

The opinion pages in South African financial paper BusinessDay continue to give President Jacob Zuma a hard time in the wake of this week’s cabinet reshuffle.

Zuma has taken special care to guard against an internal party rebellion but, in doing so, the danger might be that he has selected a few too many people who agree with him, especially when he gets it wrong.

The South African online service News24 gives top billing to the fact that the national economy shrank in the first quarter of this year, the first quarterly contraction since the recession five years ago, as mining output plummeted due to the protracted strike in the platinum sector.

The economic decline presents a challenge for new Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene who has to steer an economy that has struggled to grow by more than two per cent annually or generate significant numbers of new jobs since the 2009 recession.

BusinessDay’s labour news pages report that new Mineral Resources Minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi pledged yesterday to mediate in the platinum strike, now in its fifth month. The minister says the government needs to start treating the strike-leading Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union with respect.

News24 also reports that US authorities in Washington yesterday said they do not have any information that would support Nigeria’s claim that it knows the whereabouts of the schoolgirls kidnapped last month by Boko Haram. US and European officials have voiced scepticism about the statement.

It is known that the US has provided technical intelligence, including information from spy aircraft and satellites, to the Nigerian authorities. But officials in Washington say that, as far as they know, the intelligence systems had not produced precise or credible information establishing the girls’ location.

The same officials said that if the Nigerians had obtained such information from informants on the ground, it has not been shared with US and allied agencies.

One impediment to finding the girls is that, since their abduction seven weeks ago, they have been broken up into small groups.

Boko Haram is also believed to be hiding them in densely forested terrain near the border with Cameroon where it is difficult for modern technical intelligence systems to gather information. So says News24, but you have to wonder if there’s anywhere on the planet safe from the gaze of Uncle Sam.

Source : Radio France Internationale