Nelson Mandela a few days after being released from jail in 1990 (TREVOR SAMSON/AFP/Getty Images)
As the world mourns for Nelson Mandela, tributes have poured in from the many people around the world who encountered South Africa’s beloved anti-apartheid hero. Here are some personal encounters and memories of South Africa’s first black president. Read more
(Chris Jackson/Getty Images)
Among all the many tributes to Nelson Mandela. the one I enjoyed most was the testimony of his daughter, Makaziwe, whose interview with the BBC was broadcast on Newsnight last night. That was because she spoke about Mandela as a man, rather than a mythical figure. Amidst her love and admiration, she was also able to acknowledge his flaws: the inevitable neglect of his family that came with devotion to the “struggle”; the emotional distance he maintained, even from his children, as an element of the personal strength that had allowed him to survive imprisonment.
That reminder that Nelson Mandela was a man, before he became a myth, was particularly interesting to me as the child of South African parents – who were students in Johannesburg in the 1950s, when Mandela was a vital figure in anti-apartheid politics. My father says he remembers seeing Mandela speak on campus at Wits University. Other key figures in the anti-apartheid struggle – Oliver Tambo, Joe Slovo and Steve Biko – later became family friends. Read more
♦ South Africa began a period of mourning for Nelson Mandela, the country’s first black president, as the world joined the grieving for the beloved anti-apartheid hero. FT news editor Alec Russell looked at the meaning of the Madiba magic.
♦ When the US Congress wanted to oppose the South African regime with the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act, Dick Cheney was among the Republicans who voted against it. He has said he doesn’t regret it: “The ANC was then viewed as a terrorist organisation… I don’t have any problems at all with the vote I cast 20 years ago.”
♦ Chinese citizens mourned Nelson Mandela, but also took to the Internet to ask awkward questions about their own human rights leaders.
♦ If the US Congress succeeds in striking a US budget deal in the coming days, it will cement Paul Ryan’s role as chief economic policy maker for the Republican party.
♦ General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the defence minister who led the coup against Mohammed Morsi in Egypt, has won the Time reader poll for person of the year – beating Miley Cyrus. Read more
Some young Ukrainians involved in Kiev’s mass anti-government protests like to jump up and down to the chant “If you’re not jumping, you’re a Moskal” – Moskal being a derogatory term for a Russian.
Others display a poster denouncing the Ukrainian government’s riot police force, known as the Berkut (golden eagle): “The Berkut are a pro-Soviet junta, the youth is for Europe.”
No wonder the authorities in Moscow, not to mention Ukrainian government ministers and police chiefs, are hardening their language against the demonstrators camped on Kiev’s Independence Square. They see the protests as a western-backed, anti-Russian conspiracy that will have to be throttled sooner or later. Read more
China and Japan in the struggle of the century
Aerial posturing over disputed territories in the East China Sea has caused concern among the international community. After China declared an air identification zone over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, the US despatched two B-52 bombers in an apparent show of defiance, but has instructed its civilian airlines to respect the zone. In this week’s podcast, Gideon Rachman is joined by Jamil Anderlini, Beijing bureau chief, and Geoff Dyer, US foreign policy correspondent to shed light on the situation
Michael Peel meets the leader of Thailand’s popular rising, Suthep Thaugsuban, who outlines his plan to shut down the government by having his supporters surround official buildings.
Egypt has shut off transit tunnels into Gaza, cutting the Palestinian territory off from vital cheap fuel supplies. In recent days officials and analysts in Gaza and international bodies, including the UN, have warned of a worsening humanitarian crisis in the territory. Read more
Marco Rubio in Washington DC (Getty)
Marco Rubio is running for president. Or, at least, that is the conclusion I drew from watching him give a speech on foreign policy at Chatham House in London, on Wednesday. The senator from Florida has not actually declared his candidacy yet. But giving “statesmanlike” speeches on world affairs in London is the kind of thing you do, if you want to burnish your credentials as a potential commander-in-chief.
So how did Rubio go down? Well, the audience was satisfyingly large – people were literally standing in the aisles. The senator himself gave a performance of two halves: a terrible speech, but a confident performance in the Q&A. Read more
Hassan Rouhani, Iran’s centrist president, last week marked his government’s 100th day in office by releasing a report on the economy. It painted a grim picture, but rather than blame this on international sanctions Mr Rouhani said the populist policies of his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad, were largely responsible for the mess.
Mr Ahmadi-Nejad’s government enjoyed a record $600bn in oil revenues during eight years in office – the equivalent of what the country had earned in the century since it first discovered oil.
Despite the boost in income, Mr Rouhani said he inherited an empty treasury, at least $80bn in debt and a combination of high inflation (40 per cent) and economic stagnation (the economy shrank by 5.8 per cent), which was unprecedented in the past 50 years. “The previous government was the wealthiest and most indebted government,” he said.
Many economists are asking how any government can inflict such damage on an economy during an oil boom, with some saying Mr Ahmadi-Nejad’s policies should be taught in economics courses to show how a populist president can turn golden opportunities into disasters. Read more
♦ Indian women are showing a new confidence and combativeness – a sign of India’s first genuinely popular feminist awakening.
♦ World Child Cancer helps bring birthday hopes to a young girl with cancer in Ghana – the FT’s Xan Rice tells her story and looks at how the work of the organisation.
♦ Count Anton-Wolfgang von Faber-Castell explains how his mid-size family firm, which makes wooden pencils, stays globally competitive against threats from sophisticated Chinese competitors, the stagnant euro zone economy and shifts in technology.
♦ Independent news website Mada Masr looks back at the life of dissident Egyptian poet Ahmad Fouad Negm who died yesterday: ” He seemed to never stop loving life and hating dictators and making jokes through the darkest of conditions.” Read more
Familiar calls rang out this week to halt the decline in western countries’ performances in global education rankings. It seemed on first glance that the rise of the intensive east Asian model of schooling has only accelerated. However, the results from PISA (The Programme for International Student Assessment) come with plenty of caveats – as amply summarised by Sam Freedman of TeachFirst here.
Along with statistical shortcomings – only about 10 per cent of students answered all the questions on reading – there are also broader critiques. Accurately comparing the educational systems of countries with staggeringly different cultural norms, school systems and input hours may be an impossible task. The rankings also focus narrowly on the maths, science and reading skills of students in everyday situations. There is no evaluation of students’ ability to master technology for instance – surely a key skill for the knowledge economy. Read more