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.
“For the UK, the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s did mark the first sustained period since the 19th century when GDP per head rose more than in the other large European economies. Unfortunately, the post-crisis economic malaise, the high inequality, the persistent regional imbalances and the over-reliance on an unstable financial sector mar this success.”
2) SOCIETY Hugo Young was a political columnist for the Guardian from 1984 until 2003, and wrote a biography of Margaret Thatcher, One of Us. Two weeks before he died, in 2003, he wrote this piece about Thatcher and her legacy. The Guardian published it on Monday. Young praises Thatcher’s self-confidence, and how little she cared if people liked her – a quality he notes is markedly lacking in today’s politicians. But he worries about the change in British social attitudes that she fostered: Read more
The Brics started life as a marketing gimmick dreamt up by Goldman Sachs to promote emerging markets, but the notion has taken on a life of its own and this group of nations – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – are now a formal organisation who have just met for their fifth summit. In this week’s podcast, Gideon Rachman is joined by Stefan Wagstyl, editor of beyondbrics, and Andrew England, South Africa correspondent, reporting from Durban, where the group has agreed to set up a Brics-led development bank. But do the Brics matter, what unites and divides these nations, and are we likely to still be discussing this group in ten years’ time? Read more
America’s shale oil boom is now so big it is visible from space— night-time satellite images show North Dakota’s Bakken shale shining almost as brightly as Chicago. They highlight how development has outpaced investment in infrastructure that manages the unwanted associated gas released alongside oil production.
When Saudi religious police closed an educational exhibit of plaster dinosaurs, a Twitter hashtag #Dammam-Hayaa-Closes-Dinosaur-Show soon started generating theories about the reason for closure — an indication that the vigilantes might be heading the same way as the dinosaurs.
One year it even prompted speculation that the Sudanese-born philanthropist and pioneer of African telecoms had run out of money. He had not. Rather, the criteria for the award had to be stiff if it was to have any credibility on a continent with a long history of tyranny and mismanagement. The intent was not just to encourage personal integrity and conformity to democratic principles among African heads of state but to reward transformational leadership. So, it should be no surprise that there have been some fallow years like this one.
Moreover, when it comes to leadership there is a global deficit. If a similar prize had been on offer in Europe in the same period, it would been a struggle to find an irreproachable candidate. In three out of the six years since the Mo Ibrahim prize was launched there have been winners. For the most part, African leaders are more accountable now than they were. In some cases they have been instrumental in turning their countries around. 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
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