Tuesday, August 10, 2010
From Creamer Media in Johannesburg, I'm Amy Witherden.
South Africa is braced for a major public sector workers strike today, with unions representing more than one-million civil servants backing a one-day stayaway to demand higher pay.
Marches are planned for Cape Town and Pretoria, as part of a "total shutdown of the public service", according to the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu). Everything from schools to public offices to immigration centres are expected to be affected, although essential services such as police and hospitals are likely to run on a skeleton staff.
Cosatu and its member unions have threatened to drag the industrial action beyond Tuesday, if government does not meet its demands of an 8,6% pay hike - twice the current rate of inflation - and a R1 000 monthly housing stipend. The government is offering 7% and R630 a month for housing, although analysts believe that it is likely to raise its offer rather than risk a repeat of a prolonged 2007 civil service strike that hit the economy hard.
The World Bank on Monday, urged countries to refrain from imposing policies that could trigger a new global food price crisis as drought-hit Russia said that it could extend a grain export ban into next year.
World Bank MD Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said that the sharp spike in grain prices since last week did not amount to a crisis yet, but emphasised that increased food price volatility would hurt poorer countries. She said that the World Bank would activate a food fund when the board, currently in recess, reconvenes in early September, in case the situation worsened.
Okonjo-Iweala said that the World Bank is conducting a survey of vulnerable countries amid reports that exporters have cancelled wheat contracts to Bangladesh and are reviewing contracted wheat supplies to Egypt, the world's largest wheat importer.
She said that flooding in India, Pakistan and China has also raised food supply concerns. "We don't see a crisis yet and are hoping to head it off by asking countries not to undertake policies that will precipitate a crisis," she said.
Britain is blocking a move to place two alleged Somali pirate commanders on a United Nations (UN) sanctions list, fearing that it could hurt the British shipping industry.
Britain has asked for a "technical hold" to be placed on a US proposal to add Abshir Abdillahi and Mohamed Abdi Garaad to the list of people subject to sanctions under UN Security Council Resolution 1844, in order to give the British government time to look into the legal implications of implementing the measures.
The UK's Foreign Office says that it does not condone the payment of ransoms and supports strong action against known pirates. However, it is not illegal under British law to pay ransom and if the two alleged pirate commanders are added to the list, it could create a legal conflict for British-based companies by outlawing ransom payments that ended up in the hands of the two suspects.
Also making headlines:
Angola's ruling Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola is to examine a report accusing members of the President's inner circle of corruption.
South African President Jacob Zuma said on Women's Day that the mere recognition of women's rights is not enough, and that government would focus on improving access to socioeconomic rights.
And, early results show that Rwandan President Paul Kagame will win re-election by a landslide, after an election campaign that rights groups and opponents said was marred by repression and violence against critics.
That's a roundup of news making headlines today.