Bureau Chief, Southern Africa
Marius's Feed
May 25, 2010

Q+A: Could strikes hit South Africa during World Cup?

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South African transport workers, on strike for a third week, have threatened to call for sympathy walkouts at the national airline and elsewhere less than three weeks before the soccer World Cup kicks off.

The strike at rail and logistics group Transnet has curtailed exports of metals, cars, wine and fruit to Asia and Europe. The government said farmers had lost over $127 million due to the strike, putting jobs in the agriculture sector at risk.. Even football body FIFA said imports of some equipment for the World Cup had been affected.

May 25, 2010

Q+A-Could strikes, protests hit S.Africa during World Cup?

JOHANNESBURG, May 25 (Reuters) – South African transport
workers, on strike for a third week, have threatened to call for
sympathy walkouts at the national airline and elsewhere less
than three weeks before the soccer World Cup kicks off.

The strike at rail and logistics group Transnet [TRAN.UL]
has curtailed exports of metals, cars, wine and fruit to Asia
and Europe. The government said farmers had lost over $127
million due to the strike, putting jobs in the agriculture
sector at risk. [ID:nLDE64O15L]. Even football body FIFA said
imports of some equipment for the World Cup had been affected.

May 4, 2010

Zimbabwe slowly returning to normality

HARARE, May 4 (Reuters) – The hordes of black-market currency traders in Zimbabwe’s capital Harare have gone out of business.

Just over a year ago, Zimbabwe had the world’s worst modern-day hyperinflation and the national currency was worthless.

Streets in central Harare were lined with black-market traders exchanging huge wads of Zimbabwean dollars for U.S. dollars or South Africa rand.

One trader, who did so well illegally dealing in foreign exchange he could afford to take a second wife, has taken up his old job as a taxi driver.

"Life has become so difficult and there is no meaningful business to sustain my life. In the past, no matter how difficult it was, you could always get some money, but not now. Raising a dollar has become hard labour," said Derick Chiwapura who traded foreign exchange at a Harare shopping mall.

Today, shops in the capital are fully stocked with goods which anyone can buy as long as they pay in U.S. dollars. Zimbabwe’s government allowed the use of multiple currencies in early 2009, effectively making the dollar the official currency.

Harare’s streets are markedly cleaner than they were six months ago, grocery shops have sprung up all over the capital — offering goods at prices comparable to neighbouring South Africa — and there are more new vehicles on the roads.

But much-needed investment from abroad remains absent and the country’s stock exchange has seen foreign investors retreat after the introduction of regulations calling for foreign-owned companies to transfer a majority stake to Zimbabweans.

Zimbabwe moved to implement the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act that requires foreign firms to sell a 51 percent stake to local blacks at the end of January.

"The foreigners are sniffing around. You can see that from the full hotels but nothing will happen until the economy picks up," said one banker in Harare.



BILLIONS NEEDED

Zimbabwe’s power-sharing government, set up by President Robert Mugabe and his rival Morgan Tsvangirai, now the country’s prime minister, has estimated around $10 billion is needed to repair the economy.

Foreign investors are also reluctant to pledge funds without faster political reform. Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party and Tsvangirai’s MDC continue to bicker over the pace of reforms and appointments of senior state officials.

One area where change is yet to happen is the country’s state media. State-owned Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation recently ran Mugabe’s speech on the occasion of the country’s 30th independence anniversary as the main news item — for four days in a row.

And every reference to him on state television is prefixed with: "His Excellency, The President, Head of Government and Commander-in-chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Force".

Bankers and the country’s stock exchange say the economy can only recover if there is significant foreign investment but the controversial empowerment regulations have spooked investors.

"We are hearing that the regulations are going to be reviewed but the unfortunate thing is, investors don’t wait for you. They will go elsewhere," said Zimbabwe Stock Exchange Chief Executive Officer Emmanuel Munyukwi.

At the height of Zimbabwe’s economic crisis in 2008, the ZSE experienced a boom as many Zimbabweans saw the exchange as their only hedge against runaway inflation.

Munyukwi said this was a nightmare for the exchange.

"When you start seeing vendors in the street playing the stock market, you know something is wrong. We were seeing guys selling bananas in the stock market foyer checking stock prices".

For many Zimbabweans, not much has changed in the past year.

Unemployment remains above 80 percent, state employees are paid no more than $150 a month and electricity cuts occur daily.

"Don’t worry gentlemen, we will start the generator and set you up quickly," a Harare restaurant owner told a group of customers who arrived during a power cut. (Additional reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; Editing by Giles Elgood)





Apr 22, 2010

Iran president on controversial visit to Zimbabwe

HARARE (Reuters) – Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad flew into Zimbabwe on Thursday for a two-day visit condemned by President Robert Mugabe’s opponents as a meeting of despots which could further isolate Harare.

Ahmadinejad, whose government is pursuing a nuclear programme despite threats of more United Nations sanctions, was invited by Mugabe to open Zimbabwe’s annual trade fair.

Mar 21, 2010

End violent South African protests-deputy president

JOHANNESBURG, March 21 (Reuters) – Violent South African protests over housing, jobs and lack of basic services had to end, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe said on Sunday, as the country marked the 50th anniversary of the Sharpeville massacre.

For the past two months, protests in poor black townships and shantytowns have become an almost daily occurrence with police using water canons and rubber bullets to disperse protesters armed with rocks and stones.

Motlanthe, speaking at the commemoration of the killing of 69 people at Sharpeville black township a half century ago which thrust apartheid onto the world stage, said a lesson could be learned from those protesters who did not burn libraries and loot public facilities.

"They marched peacefully to the police stations to hand over their pass books — the badges of slavery. Therefore, in a democratic era, I urge you to use democratic institutions available to us to voice our grievances and demands," Motlanthe said.

The massacre of 69 people, many shot in the back by apartheid-era police on March 21, 1960, came after a protest against laws forcing blacks to carry pass books, or identity documents, at all times.

The killing was seen as a turning point in the struggle against apartheid as the African National Congress abandoned non-violent protests and launched an armed struggle against the white-minority government.

Analysts say the protests by poor and unemployed South Africans, many still living in shacks almost 16 years after apartheid ended, could intensify ahead of the soccer World Cup being held in Africa for the first time from June 11-July 11.

The government hopes the World Cup will inject billions of rands into South Africa’s economy after vast amounts have been spent on upgrading infrastructure and building new stadiums.

Bank of America/Merrill Lynch analysts estimate that the World Cup could see about $1.1 billion flowing into the economy.

Motlanthe reiterated that the government aimed to improve the lives of millions of poor South Africans.

"We state that our democratic government undertakes to never ignore the plight of the poor, those without shelter, those without means to an education and those suffering from abuse and neglect," Motlanthe said.

President Jacob Zuma, who promised to improve the lives of the poor while campaigning for election last April, is facing an uphill battle to deliver on those promises soon after South Africa emerged from its first recession in 17 years. (Editing by Janet Lawrence)





Mar 1, 2010

MTN says Nhleko to step down as CEO by 2011

JOHANNESBURG, March 1 (Reuters) – Phuthuma Nhleko, Chief
Executive Officer of South African mobile phone group MTN
<MTNJ.J>, will step down as CEO and group president in March
2011, the group said on Monday.

Nhleko, one of South Africa’s best-known black businessmen
who has been MTN’s CEO since 2002, said in a statement that he
will continue to deliver on MTN strategic priorities and ensure
a thorough handover to his successor until his departure.

Feb 11, 2010

WITNESS: Driving fast with Nelson Mandela

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – There was one prerequisite for journalists reporting on Nelson Mandela in the heady and chaotic days after his release from 27 years in South African jails.

A fast car.

From the day Mandela was released from a prison farm near Cape Town on February 11, 1990, the convoys ferrying him around the country travelled at breakneck speed — making it exceedingly difficult, and almost always illegal, to keep up.

Feb 9, 2010

Two decades after Mandela’s release, South Africa struggles

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – Twenty years after Nelson Mandela was freed from prison, South Africa is a vibrant democracy but the millions still living in poverty are now looking for leadership that can tackle its economic problems.

Mandela’s release on February 11, 1990, after 27 years in apartheid-era jails, set in motion the country’s transformation to democracy which culminated in historic all-race elections in 1994 and his inauguration as the country’s first black leader.

Feb 5, 2010

Afrikaans rappers takes Internet by storm

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – A South African Afrikaans rap group has taken the Internet by storm with explicit in-your-face lyrics, provocative performances and using cyberspace to promote their music.

A website set up by the group, Die Antwoord (The Answer), received millions of visits in the past four days, crashing the server it was hosted on after the group featured on blogs www.boingboing.net and www.dlisted.com

Jan 21, 2010

Nike sees impact from Tiger Woods absence

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – Nike Inc, the top global athletic apparel and footwear maker, expects the absence of world number one golfer Tiger Woods to have a short-term impact on its golf business.

Nike Brand President Charlie Denson said on Thursday the absence of Woods, who has been in hiding since admitting he had cheated on his wife last month, would hurt business.