ATHENS, GREECE—It started at the end of February with the unheard-of cancellation of Carnival. Clean Monday weekend in Greece—March 2 this year—marks the culmination of Carnival and beginning of Lent. (Instead of a penitent Ash Wednesday, Orthodox Lent begins with a cleansing meatless feast of pickles, salads, and seafood, punctuated with the flying of kites.) My husband and I and our two kids, now fifteen and ten, usually leave Athens for the long weekend and head to a nearby Saronic island off Aegina, where we rent a place. I thought the island might defy the ban, surely meant for large-scale parades, such as in Patras.… Seguir leyendo »
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South Africa goes to the polls on Wednesday in its fifth general election since the advent of democracy in 1994. I will hold my nose and vote for the African National Congress, once the party of Nelson Mandela.
I once passionately supported the A.N.C. I abandoned it a decade ago because of its arrogance, its muddle-headed policy and the way it turned my country into a kleptocracy, so soon after it delivered us so stunningly into democracy. In the past three elections I have voted for opposition parties because of the need to break the A.N.C.’s corrupting stranglehold on power. But the situation facing South Africa’s president, Cyril Ramaphosa, has brought me back, at least for now.… Seguir leyendo »
Last Monday in Johannesburg, Cyril Ramaphosa, one of South Africa’s wealthiest men, narrowly won a party election to succeed the corrupt and compromised Jacob Zuma as president of the ruling African National Congress (ANC). This puts him in line to become the country’s fifth democratically-elected president. Many think he should have been the second: he was Nelson Mandela’s preferred heir, but was displaced by Zuma and his predecessor, Thabo Mbeki, in 1994. He has been playing the long game ever since.
Zuma’s term as president of the country does not end until mid-2019. But Ramaphosa could unseat him within weeks—and get him prosecuted and, potentially, put behind bars.… Seguir leyendo »
“Jesus is back!” This tweet was widely shared in South Africa as voters in last week’s local government elections delivered a body blow to the ruling African National Congress party.
In 2004, Jacob G. Zuma, then deputy president, predicted that the A.N.C. “would rule South Africa until Jesus comes back.” Now, 12 years later, under Mr. Zuma’s presidency, the A.N.C. slumped to 54.4 percent of the vote, down from 62.9 percent five years ago. The party has lost control of 27 municipalities, including four of the country’s eight major cities, among them Johannesburg, the economic center; the municipality of Pretoria (officially known as Tshwane), the executive and administrative capital; and Nelson Mandela Bay.… Seguir leyendo »
On Thursday, the 11 judges of South Africa’s Constitutional Court ruled unanimously that President Jacob G. Zuma had broken his oath of office. Mr. Zuma, the court found, had used his position to enrich himself and his family improperly, and had refused to abide by an earlier finding against him from the constitutionally mandated public protector. He had thus, said Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng, “failed to uphold, defend and respect the Constitution as the supreme law of the land.”
The matter had been brought to the court by the two major opposition parties, the left-wing Economic Freedom Fighters and the right-of-center Democratic Alliance.… Seguir leyendo »
On April 9, a larger-than-life bronze statue of Cecil John Rhodes was removed from its perch at the University of Cape Town. Before the statue was hoisted into a truck and taken away, the black university students who had successfully demanded its removal washed it, symbolically, with the blood of their ancestors. “Rhodes Must Fall!” became their rallying cry. Since then, the radical opposition party Economic Freedom Fighters has mounted an ad-hoc campaign defacing other memorials across South Africa.
The British-born Rhodes, who died in 1902, is the father of the modern South African state and its most identifiable symbol of colonial depredation.… Seguir leyendo »
In South Africa today, as the country celebrates the 20th anniversary of its democracy and prepares for elections, two deeply flawed folk heroes — one venal, the other violent — have commandeered the headlines. The president, Jacob Zuma, was recently found by the Public Protector, an independent constitutional body, to have misappropriated $20 million to upgrade his private home. And Oscar Pistorius, a double amputee who awed the world with his speed running on prosthetic legs, is being tried for murder in the killing of his girlfriend.
With Nelson Mandela dead and his African National Congress increasingly troubled, Pistorius and Zuma have, distressingly, become the poster boys for South Africa’s 20 Years of Freedom celebrations.… Seguir leyendo »
The Russian port city Arkhangelsk (population 350,000) is on the White Sea, 1,230 kilometers north of Moscow. A key Allied supply line to the Soviets in both world wars, it was also the departure point for the first Soviet gulag. The city is a paradox: inaccessible for most of the year, but historically a point of contact between Russia and the world. Still, it is grim, and visiting it gives a glimpse of what Soviet deprivation must have felt like. The lumber industry that once supported the city all but collapsed in the post-Communist era.
Recently, as a blizzard whipped through the city, I met a 22-year-old bus conductor named Varya.… Seguir leyendo »
In the visitors’ Center at Cape Town’s new Green Point Stadium there is a quote by former president Thabo Mbeki: “The World Cup will be remembered as a moment when Africa stood tall and resolutely turned the tide of centuries of poverty and conflict.” Archbishop Desmond Tutu believes the tournament to be “as important as Obama getting into the White House” for black people; Nelson Mandela has personally selected (we are told) and participated in the recording of a song for the opening ceremony.
The redemptive expectations are huge — as is the optimism, since the Bafana Bafana, the South African team, beat Denmark in a friendly match over the weekend.… Seguir leyendo »
Jacob Zuma is an affable man justly lauded for attempting to recreate Nelson Mandela’s reconciliatory style in the aftermath of Thabo Mbeki’s deeply divisive tenure. In this context, the new South African president’s prickly attack on neocolonial British attitudes towards «barbaric» Africans was remarkable. It was reminiscent of Mbeki himself, and even Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe.
The column that provoked the attack, by the Mail’s Stephen Robinson, was indeed an instance of the kind of sarky condescension with which Zuma takes issue. But by rising to the bait at the outset of his most important foreign tour yet, Zuma manifested a dawning truth about his fledgling presidency: he is weak and embattled, not least by the latest revelations about his messy personal life.… Seguir leyendo »
Remember one thing as South Africa prepares to go to the polls this week and the world grapples with the ascendancy of the African National Congress leader Jacob Zuma: South Africa is not Zimbabwe.
In South Africa, no one doubts that Wednesday’s elections will be free and fair. While there is an unacceptable degree of government corruption, there is no evidence of the wholesale kleptocracy of Robert Mugabe’s elite. While there has been the abuse of the organs of state by the ruling ANC, there is not the state terror of Mugabe’s Zanu-PF. And while there is a clear left bias to Zuma’s ANC, there is no suggestion of the kind of voluntarist experimentation that has brought Zimbabwe to its knees.… Seguir leyendo »