Week of Hell Spoils South African Bid to Shine
Two murders in South Africa lit a touchpaper of protests that spoiled President Cyril Ramaphosa’s bid to showcase the continent’s top investment destination.
The shooting of a South African taxi driver allegedly by a Nigerian drug dealer ignited a wave of violence against African immigrants and looting as political and business leaders arrived in Cape Town for a World Economic Forum in Africa meeting, prompting condemnation from regional governments.
That was followed by large demonstrations against femicide — a woman is murdered every three hours and 40,000 rapes are reported in South Africa each year — after the killing of 19-year-old student Uyinene Mrwetyana, who was violated and bludgeoned to death at a post office.
While he pledged yesterday to tackle the violence, the optimism that came after the fall of Jacob Zuma’s scandal-ridden administration is turning into a grim realization that progress in South Africa is coming very slowly — if at all.
Embattled leader | It’s been a miserable week for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, with a string of losses in Parliament compounded by the resignation of his own brother from the government. His crisis may deepen today, as opposition parties discuss blocking the premier’s bid to hold a general election on Oct. 15. If they can delay it to the end of the month, they hope to force Johnson to seek a Brexit deferral during the campaign — something he said he’d “rather be dead in a ditch” than do.
Hired guns | Hundreds of mercenaries hired by a wealthy ally of President Vladimir Putin are massing near the northwestern Syrian city of Idlib as part of a planned Russian offensive to help Syria’s army retake the last major stronghold held by jihadist rebels. As Stepan Kravchenko and Henry Meyer report, the fighters answer to a businessman known as Putin’s chef, with a full-scale assault expected within weeks.
Limited action | While several mass shootings in the U.S. have stepped up pressure on Congress for tougher gun laws, prospects for significant action are limited. As Laura Litvan explains, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has made clear nothing will move without a clear signal from President Donald Trump, who’s backpedaled on his previous statements suggesting support for tighter background checks.
Pressuring the referee | Trump’s trade war with China is threatening to draw one of the global economy’s neutral referees into the fray: the International Monetary Fund. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has been quietly pushing the fund to endorse Washington’s view that China is a currency manipulator, just weeks after it found the yuan to be fairly valued.
Saudi influencers | Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has been trying to rehabilitate Saudi Arabia’s image after the global censure that followed last year’s killing of newspaper columnist Jamal Khashoggi. Officials have courted or pressured Saudi artists to help and plowed millions of dollars into lobbying politicians and hosting pop concerts. And as Vivian Nereim writes, influencers are playing a key role in spreading the message.
What to Watch
- Hong Kong’s airport urged protesters not to target the transport hub ahead of another weekend of anti-China demonstrations. Fitch today downgraded Hong Kong as an issuer of long-term, foreign currency debt for the first time since 1995, citing the recent turmoil.
Chancellor Angela Merkel told Chinese Premier Li Keqiang that Germany remains open for business to Chinese investors even as her government raises barriers to investments in sensitive areas.
And finally ... Robert Mugabe, the long-time Zimbabwean leader who died today at the age of 95, was the archetypal hero turned villain. A leading political driver of the 1970s independence war that ended white-minority rule, Mugabe became an international outcast for overseeing allegedly rigged elections and economic collapse. He resigned in November 2017 after the military seized control and his party threatened to impeach him. As political analyst Charles Rukuni summed up his career, “He ushered in independence and brought a lot of hope but destroyed everything he built.”
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