- Sipho Hlongwane
Words fail us in the face of Islamic State’s (IS) destruction of ancient treasures in Syria and Iraq, captured in their own videos last week and released to an uncomprehending world. We are on surer ground with their clips of beheadings and mass executions; all but the most fanatical adherents to IS’ extreme interpretation of Sunni Islam have been united in revulsion at their grisly spectacle. But on the violent end of things much more permanent than us – things built to last for hundreds even thousands of years, importing meaning to the myths and narratives we create about ourselves – we grasp for an appropriate response, writes TERENCE MCNAMEE.
Amnesty International released its annual report on Wednesday, noting a pattern of abuse and force being used to crush dissent in Southern Africa. There were positives, but as 2015 has already seen a rise in the activity of armed groups and state force on the continent, the pattern is worrying. By GREG NICOLSON.
The recent disclosure by the Al Jazeera broadcast network and the UK’s Guardian newspaper of espionage and intelligence shenanigans, mostly connected to South Africa in some way, has triggered the author’s recollection of some nearly forgotten memories of his encounters with those in the shadow world, back in the depths of the Cold War. Ian Fleming’s world it most definitely was not. By J BROOKS SPECTOR.
The shocking 19 February arrest on coup charges of the mayor of Caracas, Antonio Ledezma, marks a sharp new drop in the downward spiral of Venezuela since protests and harsh repression erupted in its main cities nearly one year ago. To find stability, Venezuela needs urgent help from its friends to build political consensus. So far mostly silent, regional states and organisations, as well as the international community at large, must act firmly, not with unilateral sanctions, but with pressure for dialogue between the two sides. By JAVIER CIURLIZZA, Latin America Programme Director at the INTERNATIONAL CRISIS GROUP.
One day—many moons from now—our descendants, if they are free men, will build great monuments in honour of the humble flash drive. A day after Laura Poitras’ Edward Snowden picture Citizenfour won best documentary at the Academy Awards ceremony, another data dump is upon us. This time, the files seem culled from a South African State Security Agency’s (SSA) archives. Who jacked the docs? No one knows yet. But we do know that they’re heavy on Iran and Israel, only days before Benjamin Netanyahu heads to Washington to make a speech before a Republican-led Congress. RICHARD POPLAK spoke to ex-spymaster Ronnie Kasrils in order to figure things out.
A very different European economic landscape beckons after the victory by Alexis Tsipras’ Syriza and the decision by the European Central Bank to begin a programme of quantitative easing in a desperate effort to goose the snoozing European economy. J. BROOKS SPECTOR tries to put these developments into perspective.
“Fire in the belly” may be an overused term in the world of politics, but Barack Obama seemed to have his set at high for Tuesday’s State of the Union message to the US Congress. Of course a Republican Congress may well douse some of those flames in the weeks and months to come. J. BROOKS SPECTOR takes a first look at the speech.
The US Supreme Court has decided to add a surprise to the American political system that could have interesting impacts on the presidential selection process – besides the possibility of a major societal change. J. BROOKS SPECTOR takes a look at this unexpected decision to tackle the vexed question of national legal acceptance of same-sex marriage.
The horrific murders carried out this week against the staff of the French satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo, and at a Kosher supermarket in Paris, follow a number of attacks carried out in the name of Islam. These include attacks by individuals, such as the attack on a cafe in Sydney Australia, and the Canadian parliament in Ottawa. Is this violence rooted in Islam, or do we need recourse to a larger narrative to understand what is taking place? By ERIC DAVIS.
The question of whether Prophet Muhammad can be depicted in Islam is something that perhaps most Muslims have failed to explain. With every cartoon or drawing, most people wonder why Muslims are in such an uproar – and admittedly, in some cases in a manner that is frankly unbefitting of the Prophet himself. By A’EYSHA KASSIEM for GROUNDUP.
Charlie Hebdo journalist Laurent Leger is no stranger to South African newspaper readers. Over the last ten years or so, as a freelancer, Laurent has written several reports for South African newspapers on the French connection in the arms deal, and also on failed attempts to find the killers of ANC Paris representative Dulcie September. By ALIDE DASNOIS for GROUNDUP.
According to foreign minister Wang Yi, when it comes to Africa, China’s intentions are entirely benevolent. It cares about Africa’s environment, it cares about Africa’s long term interests and it certainly doesn’t harbour any nasty neo-colonial intentions. He would say that, of course. But how wrong is he really? By SIMON ALLISON.
Wednesday’s deadly attack on French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo forces publishers and media practitioners worldwide to consider how far they are willing to go to uphold freedom of expression. REBECCA DAVIS spoke to South African editors, and the country’s most famous cartoonist, to find out whether the Charlie Hebdo attack would make them less likely to take risks with provocative content in future.
The beginning of a new year encourages J. BROOKS SPECTOR to offer a whole eyrar of black swans; those unknowable events - that once they happen - will have enormous impact on the world we live in. So, read further and see what is on the list, or, perhaps, add yet others to the bunch. Then we can reconvene at this venue at the end of December 2015 so as to see which ones came to be true.