Foreign Policy Blogs

Labor Day Links

If you are reading this in the United States, Happy Labor Day! For the rest of the world, Happy Monday! (And n.b. Labor Day is a holiday in which we celebrate those who toil by not toiling.) In recent weeks I took a bit of a late-summer hiatus from blogging, but I plan to be back writing regularly with the onset of September. Here are a few stories that have piled up in my browser tabs, with commentary as apt.

Rodney Sieh, the publisher and editor in chief of FrontPage Africa, a Liberia-based publication that seems to have found a new model for journalism in West Africa, recently found himself in jail on charges of libel. He tells his story in The New York Times.

Although he is still listed in critical condition, Nelson Mandela has returned to his Johannesburg home where he will continue to receive intensive treatment. Over the course of the (South African) winter a macabre death watch surrounding Madiba kicked in — I ran into a couple of journalists from the BBC in Melville and they told me that they were there solely because they believed Mandela was going to pass soon. I know that many South Africans found the western media descending on the hospital to represent little more than vultures. Hopefully Mandela is at peace in more comfortable surroundings in Houghton.

Add a fractured People’s Democratic Party to the many divisions that pock Nigerian politics. Goodluck Jonathan’s PDP has been in power since 1998, gingerly skirting the country’s North-South, Christian-Muslim divides. But Jonathan’s declaration that he plans to run for another term in 2015 has split his party apart. Whether this is permanent or temporary remains to be seen, but it does not bode well for stability in a country that desperately needs it.

South Africa’s National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) plans to go on strike starting tomorrow if the Chamber of Mines does not meet their demands for significant pay increases. Just over a year after Marikana, the last thing the country needs is a protracted conflict in the mining sector. But the mine workers are not blind. They see the immense wealth that their labor extracts and rightfully want a reasonable share for their work.

In the latest issue of Foreign Affairs Larry Diamond and Jack Mosbacher have an important, provocative piece on the massive expansion of oil production across Africa and the potential resource curse that it represents. Their solution to the rent-seeking wealth that this boon represents is direct payments to the citizens of the countries that benefit (or, given the nature of who benefits from oil extraction, “benefit”) from these new-found riches.

In the Mail & Guardian struggle veteran Gavin Evans reviews the fourth, updated edition of ANC stalwart Ronnie Kasril’s memoir. He finds two fundamental changes from previous volumes — Kasrils provides the real names of his struggle comrades, where previously he had given their code names, and in a new introduction he pulls few punches, including taking a few shots at Mandela (while at the same time oddly landing no blows against Thabo Mbeki).




Derek Catsam

Derek Catsam is a Professor of history and Kathlyn Cosper Dunagan Professor in the Humanities at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin. He is also Senior Research Associate at Rhodes University. Derek writes about race and politics in the United States and Africa, sports, and terrorism. He is currently working on books on bus boycotts in the United States and South Africa in the 1940s and 1950s and on the 1981 South African Springbok rugby team's tour to the US. He is the author of three books, dozens of scholarly articles and reviews, and has published widely on current affairs in African, American, and European publications. He has lived, worked, and travelled extensively throughout southern Africa. He writes about politics, sports, travel, pop culture, and just about anything else that comes to mind.

Areas of Focus:
Africa; Zimbabwe; South Africa; Apartheid