I read The Financial Times because they cover the news that is essential to capital and those who rule us. For example, last week, while the occasional story about South Africa online is either about Die Antwoord’s performance on David Letterman (awkward), Julius Malema’s disciplinary hearing (I thought we were done with him) or who was wearing what at President Jacob Zuma’s State of the Nation address (what did he say?), the FT focuses on what really matters: What is the South African ruling party thinking about doing to the mining industry. They’ve had at least 2 stories last week from their Johannesburg correspondent Andrew England on the subject and an editorial on Friday. Though the stories and editorial are full of deliberate biases and timely leaks, the long and short of it is that, despite Malema’s rhetoric, the ANC is ruling out nationalization and instead is thinking about “ways in which mining profits can be redistributed more fairly.” This includes “a resource rent tax of 50 per cent.” (The FT approves of course.) That said, there’s something I don’t get about the FT: its op-ed or “Comment” page.

Take last week. First they had Mohamed el Baradai, the liberal Egyptian scientist who was hoping to run for president post-Mubarak, but has now withdrawn to a role in civil society. (He wants to train young liberals to run in future elections.) His column was timely as it coincided with the one year anniversary of the fall of Mubarak on February 11. El Baradai soberly reviewed recent events and then added this:

Some are sceptical about the influence of the Islamists. After decades of banishment from the political scene, they have no experience in governing. Before the revolution, we fought together; in the new Egypt, we have differing perspectives. On the eve of January 28 last year, two of their leaders were arrested leaving my home. One is now the speaker of the parliament. I called him last week to wish him success. I predict the Islamists will embrace other political factions, support free markets and be pragmatic.

So, you may disagree with his politics, but he lives in Egypt and knows the ground and is politically astute.

Then Thursday, the page ran an op-ed by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the American-based Somali writer (her husband is Niall Ferguson) to present what amounted to a counterargument. If you expected some nuance from her, what she predictably presented was her usual collection of Islamic stereotypes. (We’re not surprised of course.)

If that was not enough, in between, they had Dambisa Moyo–who gave us the badly argued “Dead Aid” book–write that what Africa needs right now is more free market capitalism.

Further Reading

No more caricatures

Engaging seriously with Winnie Madikizela-Mandela’s life could help us understand how South Africa got where it is and where it’s going.