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African press review 28 September 2015


South Africa's new mines minister is dogged by controversy even before taking office; Nigeria's Senate president pays the price for "reptilian" politics; and President Muhammadu Buhari announces an immediate trial for oil looters.

We start in Nigeria where the papers are all about the looters and oil thieves following President Muhammadu Buhari’s shock announcement that their trial is imminent. Buhari spoke on Sunday at a meeting with President Xi Jinping of China on the sidelines of the ongoing 70th United Nations General Assembly held in New York.

The Nation says that while Buhari didn’t specify which heads will roll or when their trial will begin, the suspects are all officials of previous Nigerian administrations.

Punch underlines that President Buhari broke the news to the Chinese leader in a gesture of gratitude. It was Chinese warships that intercepted shiploads of crude oil stolen from Nigeria, which were to be sold and the proceeds paid into private accounts.

Is the graft trial of Nigeria’s Senate President Bukola Saraki a witch hunt? Punch considers the argument brought forward by cronies of the wealthy Saraki quite plausible. The paper spoke to the National President of Yoruba Youth Alliance, Jackson Ojo, an outspoken critic of the unprecedented case brought against the Senate president by the Code of Conduct's Tribunal.

Ojo told the paper that Saraki’s alleged false declaration of assets was brought to surface by his political enemies inside the ruling All Progressive Party who didn’t want him to become president of the Senate.

The head of the powerful Yoruba Youth Alliance also warned that if the oligarchs behind the attempt to prosecute Saraki get their way, the trial would not only taint the anti-corruption crusade of President Muhammadu Buhari but also portray Buhari as a vindictive leader.

Vanguard also evokes the unfolding Saraki drama in a stinging front-page article. According to the publication, there is clearly an anti-Saraki plot in President Buhari’s ruling APC party “to punish him for putting himself up for the presidency of the Senate against the expressed wish of his party”.

But that, according to Vanguard, wasn’t his main crime. What the APC found most objectionable, it explains, was that Saraki used the enemy – the Peoples Democratic Party – to accomplish that feat.

And for Vanguard, Saraki went too far which renders his impeachment a real possibility and his 2019 presidential ambitions over, even before the referee blows the whistle. Such is the nature of Nigerian "reptilian politics", concludes the newspaper.

In South Africa, Mail and Guardian raises the dilemma facing the country’s new Mines Minister Mosebenzi Zwane

He is reportedly linked to two scandals involving the politically connected Gupta family which used the strategic Waterkloof airbase to ferry guests into the country for a wedding. Zwane is also widely identified as the man who wrote the letter justifying the Guptas' use of the facility reserved for state guests.

Zwane made headline news as the man who approved the 570 million rand Estina dairy projects, which an associate of the Guptas allegedly opened in his hometown of Vrede in the Free State. The contract was later found by the National Treasury to be irregular and awarded through faulty and possibly corrupt procurement procedure and practice, according to a spokesman for Julius Malema’s Economic Freedom Fighters party.

Mail and Guardian criticises President Jacob Zuma for plucking Zwane from pure obscurity to take the powerful job. Last week the paper regretted that Zuma's political manoeuvrings have little connection with the national interest and more with his own future and looking after family and friends.