Article published the Monday 17 September 2012 - Latest update : Tuesday 18 September 2012

African press review 17 September 2012

By Michael Fitzpatrick

Analysis of the roots of the current crisis in South Africa's mining sector and more on the suspension of executions in The Gambia, all in the African papers today.

It's hard to get away from news of the republic's troubled mining sector in this morning's South African newspapers.

Practically every story on the front page of financial paper BusinessDay has some connection to the labour dispute that has caused dozens of deaths and seen the virtual shut-down of South Africa's gold and platinum industries.

According to BusinessDay columnist, Tim Cohen, the two crucial questions are: what went wrong in the mining sector from a broader perspective? And who is to blame?

Cohen points out that that South Africa’s mining industry has been a shocking underperformer. The mining sector accounted for 21% of GDP in 1970 compared to only 6% today. South Africa’s mining output is lower today than it was in 1994.

Tim Cohen says there are two general explanations for this decline. The first is declining ore quality, combined with deeper and therefore more expensive and less profitable mines.

The second theory is that electricity and other infrastructure shortages have hurt South Africa’s ability to increase production.

Both are true, but neither explanation is adequate, says Cohen. For that, you can blame the Mbeki administration.

The primary aim of the Mbeki government was to turn the mines into a kind of patriotic industrial ghetto which would feed the manufacturing sector with raw materials at low cost. The poor administration of mining licences gave rise to absurd results, huge delays, and rampant corruption.

The current crisis has complex roots. Thuggish policing is obviously a major and tragic contributor. The mining industry’s lack of attention to the social conditions in mining areas is another. Poor leadership by the Zuma administration is a third.

The industry is on its knees, says Cohen. The main story in BusinessDay speaks of investors ‘shunning’ the troubled South African mine sector.

The National Union of Mineworkers is the largest single member of Cosatu, the Confederation of South African Trade Unions, which meets this week for its annual national congress.

BusinessDay warns that the Cosatu leaders have a lot of fires to put out, some of them sufficiently serious to destroy the entire South African trade union structure. Where that would leave the ruling ANC, which crucially depends on Cosatu solidarity, is a big question.

The main story on the front page of the Gambian daily, The Observer, is headlined "President Jammeh agrees suspension of executions".

The article quotes former Senegalese prime minister, Souleymane Ndene Ndiaye, who met the Gambian president late last week, as confirming that there will be no further executions of Gambian death row prisoners, at least for the time being.

Nine prisoners have been executed since August, and another 37 inmates remain on death row. The death penalty was abolished under former President Dawda Jawara, but was reinstated shortly after Jammeh seized power in 1994. Human rights groups say most of those recently executed were political prisoners.


The key word in the latest promise of clemency does appear to be "suspension". A presidential statement quoted by the Reuters news agency said that what happens next will be dictated by the violent crime rate. If that rate declines, the moratorium on the death penalty will be indefinite. But if there is an increase in violent crime, the moratorium will be lifted automatically.

On Friday, a Gambian opposition political group called the National Transitional Council of The Gambia announced plans to create a government in exile in neighbouring Senegal.

Its leader, Sheikh Sidia Bayo, said he was spurred to create the new group by the recent execution of some death-row prisoners.

The aim of the National Transitional Council is to put an end to President Yahya Jammeh's "dictatorship", according to Sheikh Sidia Bayo.

The Standard in Kenya notes that there are exactly 169 days to the next General and Presidential Election. But the daily says that many questions remains about the country’s level of preparedness to hold the poll.

The chairman of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission says those who want the poll date shifted must not use his commission as their excuse.

However, the fear is that IEBC may not be left with sufficient time to plan for such critical programmes as voter registration and education as well as the procurement and implementation of the Biometric Voter Registration System.

The IEBC initially announced it would be carry out registration of the close to 12 million voters in September, but this has not taken place.

tags: African press review - Cosatu - Gambia - Kenya - Mining - Press review - Senegal - South Africa - Yahya Jammeh
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