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
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
Co-workers and relatives of miners shot at Marikana gather there to mark the first anniversary of their deaths (Getty)
The shooting and killing of 34 striking miners in Marikana a year ago has become a symbol for the growing inequality and civil strife boiling beneath the surface of post-apartheid South Africa.
The massacre at the Marikana platinum mine complex operated by the London-listed company Lonmin occurred six days into a strike in which 10 others had already been killed in clashes, including two policemen. The striking miners, armed with sticks, stones and machetes, were demanding monthly wages of R12,500, a little more than £900, in a country where the average wage is R27,239. Strikers said that they had been warned to leave the area and then were surrounded by coils of razor wire laid down by police. “That’s when they started shooting,” the FT’s Andrew England was told at the time. “It was terrible.” Read more
When US President Barack Obama swept into a packed university auditorium at a campus in Soweto township and addressed his youthful audience, he spoke of a “more prosperous, more confident” Africa. It was, he said, “a region on the move.” He then handed over the baton to young Africans, giving them their chance to probe him at the “town hall”-style gathering at the “Young African Leaders Initiative.” And they did not disappoint.
They may have been addressing the world’s most powerful leader, a man whose election as the US’s first black president inspired a wave of optimism across the continent, but the youngsters from South Africa, Nigeria, Uganda and Kenya – the birthplace of Obama’s father – showed few signs of nerves and certainly no deference. Rather they displayed an articulate confidence – one that reflects the aspirations of a youthful continent that is increasingly enjoying a more prominent role on the global stage. Read more
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.
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.
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.
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