The “exclusive” footage by SABC, South Africa’s state broadcaster, was rich in content as the country’s top leaders chuckled to the background of clicking and flashing cameras.
There was President Jacob Zuma, his shirt undone at the neck, looking relaxed and carefree. His deputy in the ruling African National Congress, Cyril Ramaphosa, appeared equally jovial and casual.
But there was one major problem – the centrepiece of the clip, Nelson Mandela, looked anything but happy. Rather, the revered former liberation leader and South Africa’s first black president stared vacantly into the distance, frail and apparently unaware of the commotion around him.
The result was the unseemly spectacle of a bunch of politicians parading themselves around an old man lauded as a national treasure, causing a storm of outrage to erupt on social media.
Mandela survived 27 years in prison only to become a prisoner of the ANC marketing machine.
Over the past three years, conventional wisdom divided the world’s major economies into two basic groups – the Brics and the sicks. The US and the EU were sick – struggling with high unemployment, low growth and frightening debts. By contrast the Brics (Brazil, Russia, India, China and, by some reckonings, South Africa) were much more dynamic. Investors, businessmen and western politicians made regular pilgrimages there, to gaze at the future. Read more
Police surround fallen miners near the Marikana platinum mine on August 16 (AFP/GettyImages)
by Ruona Agbroko
Mining has always been a dangerous business. But the tragedy that unfolded last month in Marikana, South Africa, threw a new and harsh light on the lives of those who spend their days toiling in the dark. On August 16, 34 workers were killed and 78 were wounded when police opened fire during clashes over pay at a platinum mine in Marikana, South Africa. The violence evoked painful memories of state brutality during the apartheid era, and prompted a debate around how much progress the country has made in tackling inequality. As South Africa produces about 80 per cent of the world’s platinum supply, the unrest continues to spook global commodities markets, pushing up platinum prices and dragging gold futures up too. Three weeks after the killings, crisis resolution talks have restarted, but will they succeed? And what will be the long term legacy of Marikana? Read more
As the standoff over the extradition of Julian Assange continues London, John Paul Rathbone, Latin America editor, tells Gideon Rachman what Ecuador stands to gain – and lose – from giving the Wikileaks founder asylum in its embassy. Also: Alec Russell, former Johannesburg bureau chief, explains the violence and turmoil in the South African mining industry and its historical context. Read more
It is hard not to be struck by how uniformly negative the foreign coverage of the centenary celebrations of the African National Congress has been. Until recently, the ANC was regularly lauded as one of the world’s most successful and honourable liberation movements. But this piece by the FT’s own Andrew England, rightly highlights some of the ANC’s recent lows, including the terrible new media law. Meanwhile Richard Dowden, a veteran Africa-watcher who covered the ANC in exile with great sympathy, is unsparing in his critique. Dowden highlights the policy of “Black Economic Empowerment” as a potent source of corruption. Read more
Gideon became chief foreign affairs columnist for the Financial Times in July 2006. He joined the FT after a 15-year career at The Economist, which included spells as a foreign correspondent in Brussels, Washington and Bangkok. He also edited The Economist’s business and Asia sections.
His particular interests include American foreign policy, the European Union and globalisation