South Africa

The birch forests and heaths across Estonia are echoing with gunfire, explosions and the heavy crump of artillery as the tiny Baltic state holds the largest war games of its independent history

South Africa’s president Jacob Zuma is mired in scandals that have tarnished his and the ANC’s reputation, as a recent wave of xenophobic violence puts his record under fresh scrutiny

South Korea is facing a dilemma over Jehovah’s Witnesses, who conscientiously object to military service but have hope of a softening judicial stance towards their boycott

A team of Syrian investigators have risked their lives to collect secret government documents that provide evidence of war crimes by Bashar al-Assad and his regime. Will an international court ever hear their cases? (Guardian)

The most surprising event of this political era is what hasn’t happened. The world has not turned left despite the financial crisis and widening inequality, writes David Brooks in the New York Times  Read more

The scramble by European countries to join China’s new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank is a powerful symbol of the eastward shift of global power

Soldiers of fortune from apartheid-era South Africa that inspired the Hollywood thriller ‘Blood Diamond’ are starring in Nigeria’s attempt to flush out Boko Haram terrorists

Saudi Arabia’s military intervention in Yemen’s civil conflict has turned up the heat on a simmering cold war between regional Sunni Arab states and their Shia rival, Iran

If the cries of ‘Je suis Charlie’ were sincere, the western world would be convulsed with worry and anger about the Wallström affair, argues Nick Cohen (The Spectator)

Chad’s strongman president, Idriss Déby, says Nigeria is absent in the fight against Boko Haram as Chadian troops defend Nigerian territory from the extremists (New York Times)  Read more

Senzo Meyiwa, the captain of South Africa’s national football team, was clearly a popular and talented player whose star was on the rise.

So when South Africans woke up to the news that the 27-year-old goalkeeper had been shot and killed in what appears to be an attempted robbery at his girlfriend’s house on Sunday evening, it is little surprise that there was an explosion of grief.

Television stations provided blanket coverage. The presidency quickly offered its condolences, with President Jacob Zuma saying “the law enforcement authorities must leave no stone unturned in finding his killers.”

At a hastily arranged press conference, Riah Phiyega, the national police chief, announced there was a R250,000 reward for information leading to the capture of the killers. Ephraim “Shakes” Mashaba, the national football coach, broke down in tears as he recalled a young man who was “was a team player, he was everything.”

The sad truth is that fast on the back of the Oscar Pistorius trial, a promising, young life has been lost in tragic circumstances, while South Africa once again draws international attention for all the wrong reasons. Read more

(c) WEF

Every year, there is debate at Davos about what is hot – and what is decidedly not. This year, the emerging markets are definitely in the second camp.

Never mind the fact that the streets of Davos are full of cheery posters proclaiming the joys of Malaysia, India or Brazil – or that Nigerian food was being served to Davos delegates at lunch (complete with snail stew.) Also ignore the determinedly upbeat messages emanating from a host of officials from the BRICs nations.

Behind the chirpy smiles, a new mood of anxiety is stalking the emerging markets delegations, amplified by the recent dramas around Argentina. And that marks a stark contrast to recent years, when the emerging markets were regarded as the new saviours of global growth – and their leaders strutted around the Davos corridors with pride. Read more

(Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Thousands gathered in Soweto’s enormous stadium for a lively memorial service celebrating Nelson Mandela’s life yesterday but much of the news focused on the behaviour of the attendees rather than on Madiba’s legacy.

The memorial event was overshadowed by the crowd’s hostile reaction to South African president Jacob Zuma, a historic handshake between US and Cuban leaders and shameless selfies as western leaders hogged the limelight. In a surreal turn of events, it emerged that the man interpreting the proceedings live on television for deaf viewers was a hoax.

Here are some reports and analysis on the significance of the day and the high jinks in the audience. Read more

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

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.

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In response to the backlash, the ANC felt the need to explain itself in a statement the following day. Read more

By Gideon Rachman

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

These articles caught our eye today:

Violence in South African mining and the Julian Assange embassy imbroglio

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.

Here are our picks to take you into the weekend:

 

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