People: Mandela outraged at presidential servants' salaries

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OUTRAGED to learn that some of his household staff earn only 850 rand a month - about pounds 150 - Nelson Mandela has promised them a pay rise. 'I can't lead a government where people live like slaves,' the South African President said in a speech on Monday.

Mr Mandela said he asked about staff salaries at the presidential residence in Pretoria and 'I could not believe what I heard.' At least 16 workers earned R850 a month, including a woman with five children who had worked at the presidential mansion for 23 years. 'This is a matter which cannot continue,' he said.

The minimum wage for domestic workers in South Africa is R400 a month, although many farm labourers make less than that. The country's average monthly wage is about R1,200, a figure that obscures the vast gap in pay between blacks and whites. Whites generally earn at least five times as much as blacks.

Mr Mandela, whose monthly pay and perks total R62,500, is sensitive to the growing criticism about salaries. Some members of his well-heeled white audience on Monday night, may not be, however. Although they nodded and applauded his comments, few among them were thought to pay their own maids much more than the President's employees earn.

WAS Gulbuddin Hekmatyar seriously wounded in a recent air attack? The Afghan news agency Bakhtar says he was, but television viewers will have to make up their own minds. The leader of the Hizbe Islami faction was seen on local television late on Wednesday, pictured from the waist up and seated at a desk, with no obvious signs of serious head injuries or paralysis of the tongue as reported earlier by Bakhtar.

Abdul Ali Mazari, leader of the Hezb-i-Wahdat faction, which is allied with Mr Hekmatyar, denied any injury to the opposition leader in the attack by government planes last Friday.

'Absolutely not. He was not wounded at all,' Mr Mazari said.

A Bakhtar spokesman, while admitting Mr Hekmatyar was 'not badly wounded' after all, nevertheless insisted that he was hit in the leg by shrapnel, and speculated that was why he was shown seated while on television.

According to Mr Mazari, Mr Hekmatyar made no direct reference to being wounded, but had agreed to appear on television in answer to state 'propaganda'.

A GERMAN politician has managed to gain a lot of exposure in the run-up to the federal elections in October. Thomas Krueger has plastered Berlin with campaign posters of himself in the nude, bearing the slogan: 'An honest politician with nothing to hide.' Mr Krueger, a Berlin minister for youth and family, kicked off his campaign for a seat in parliament on Wednesday standing beside a life-size poster of himself wearing nothing but his beard. He is a member of the opposition Social Democrats, the SPD.

(Photograph omitted)