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Strike halted, but labor tensions continue

Unions suspend devastating strike, but a labor alliance with the ANC is on the rocks. Murder rate lowest since end of apartheid. Rugby player charged with murder of policeman. Mining companies warned to increase black ownership. President Zuma’s son in dodgy deal. And “PigSpotter” raises hackles of Johannesburg police.

South African president Jacob Zuma

Top News: South Africa’s powerful trade unions suspended a three-week strike by 1.3 million public servants that saw schools shuttered and hospital services disrupted by violent protests. Union leaders are said to be close to formally ending the strike after the government offered additional enticements to sweeten a deal that would include a 7.5 percent wage increase, short of the 8.6 percent that unions had been seeking, and 800 rand ($112) a month for housing.

The strike strained relations between President Jacob Zuma and his African National Congress party, and the Congress of South African Trade Unions, the country's largest labor federation that helped bring him to power. The ANC and Cosatu have sought to mend the frayed relationship ahead of this week’s key ANC National General Council meetings. There are several controversial issues on the agenda including nationalization of mines and a proposed media appeals tribunal.

The murder rate in violent crime-plagued South Africa declined to the lowest level since the end of apartheid, for the first time dipping below 17,000 a year, according to statistics released by police. The number of murders fell 8.6 percent to 16,834 in the last year ending March 31. That works out to 46 murders a day. There was also a 6.8 percent decline in carjackings, but home robberies rose 1.9 percent and business robberies increased by 4.4 percent.

South Africa's biggest private hospital chain, Netcare, and its chief executive were charged in connection with an alleged organ trafficking ring after a lengthy investigation. Poor Brazilians, Romanians and Israelis were reportedly paid $6,000 for their kidneys, which were then transplanted to wealthy Israelis at South African hospitals.

The South African government said it will be ending the special dispensation that allows Zimbabweans without proper documentation to live in the country. The policy, introduced in March 2007, will end on December 31, and the government is appealing for Zimbabweans to get their documents in order. An estimated 1.5 million to 3 million Zimbabweans are living in South Africa, having left their home country due to economic collapse and political violence under President Robert Mugabe.

Rugby player Bees Roux was charged with killing a policeman. Roux, a prop with Super 14 champions the Blue Bulls, was arrested for allegedly beating Sergeant Ntshimane Johannes Mogale to death on a roadside in Pretoria after being pulled over for drunk driving. Springboks rugby coach Peter de Villiers came under fire after saying that his team “supports Bees Roux 100 per cent.”

Money:  The South African government has warned mining companies that they risk losing their licenses if they fail to meet targets for increasing black ownership in the mining industry.

Amid criticism that friends and family of President Zuma are getting rich off business deals, President Zuma’s son Duduzane said he would give away 70 percent of his stake in a controversial black economic empowerment deal with steelmaker ArcelorMittal SA. Duduzane Zuma, a businessman, came under fire from labor groups after it was announced that he was a beneficiary in the deal, along with the Gupta family, close friends of the president.

Rooibos Ltd., accused of abusing its market dominance in the processing and supplying of the distinctly South African rooibos tea to packers, reached a settlement with the Competition Commission in which it agreed to change certain anticompetitive practices but avoided having to admit to wrongdoing. Rooibos Ltd. controls 90 percent of the market for the tea and a competing firm had complained that it was being shut out. 

Pioneer Hi-Bred, the second-biggest seed company in the United States after Monsanto Co., announced that it had purchased a majority stake in South Africa's Pannar Seed Limited, extending Pioneer's presence in the African market. Pioneer said the deal would help it develop genetically engineered crops tailored to different regions of Africa.

Elsewhere: South African police are on the hunt for “PigSpotter,” a man who has been using Twitter to warn drivers about Johannesburg police speed traps and roadblocks. Praised as a hero by some, police furious at being called “pigs” were looking to arrest the man and charge him for numerous offenses, saying that he must have inside information. The attention by police and media has seen a boom in the number of PigSpotter’s Twitter followers.

South African satire fans mourned the demise of, the country’s version of The Onion. The site, which began in January 2008 and described itself as “the second-best source for made-up news after the SABC,” referring to the beleaguered South African Broadcasting Corporation, was shut due to a lack of advertising. In a typical mock story, the ANC Youth League hailed the closure of as a “brave step forward” for South Africa’s media.