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Nelson Mandela shows his personal side in candid new book. South Africa voted back to UN Security Council. Ex-Oprah school employee cleared of abuse charges. Wal-Mart makes a move into Africa. Charlie the smoking chimp quits for good. And new uses for an infamous noisemaker.
Top News: Conversations with Myself, a collection of letters, diaries and recordings that shows a more personal side of Nelson Mandela, went on sale in 22 countries. The memoir, which includes a forward by U.S. President Barack Obama, reveals Mandela’s desperation at missing his family while in prison, his stormy first two marriages and his reluctance to become president.
He also expresses his fears of being beatified as a saint. “One issue that deeply worried me in prison was the false image I unwittingly projected to the outside world; of being regarded as a saint,” Mandela writes in a draft of an unpublished sequel to his autobiography, included in the new book. “I never was one, even on the basis of the earthly definition of a saint as a sinner who keeps trying.”
South Africa was one of five countries elected by the United Nations to join the Security Council for a two-year term, beginning January 1. The Security Council is expected to address a range of African conflicts during its next term, including ones in Zimbabwe, Sudan and Somalia. This will be South Africa’s second stint as a Security Council member; during its first, South Africa was criticized for its refusal to back sanctions against Iran, Burma, Sudan and Zimbabwe.
A former dormitory matron at Oprah Winfrey's school in South Africa has been cleared of charges of abusing girls. Tiny Virginia Makopo was found not guilty on 14 charges related to the sexual and physical abuse of six girls at the school. Winfrey, who opened her Leadership Academy for girls near Johannesburg in 2007, expressed disappointment at the verdict and said she would be “forever proud” of the girls who had testified.
Henry Okah, a former leader of a Nigerian militant group, was arrested in Johannesburg and appeared in court on terrorism charges, following two blasts which killed 12 people in Abuja, Nigeria. Okah, a businessman in South Africa, was previously the leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (Mend), which claimed responsibility for the recent attacks. He was arrested a day after the bombings and accused of being the “mastermind.”
The former head of Nelson Mandela’s charity, who had admitted to receiving uncut diamonds from supermodel Naomi Campbell, is facing criminal charges. Jeremy Ratcliffe appeared in court on charges of contravening the diamond act by illegally possessing the rough stones. The diamonds had come under scrutiny at the war crimes trial of Charles Taylor, former dictator of Liberia, after it was alleged that he had given them as a gift to Campbell while at a dinner hosted by Mandela in 1997.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who won a Nobel Peace Prize for his struggle against apartheid, officially began his retirement after having announced in July that he would retreat from public life on his 79th birthday. Tutu is still known to speak out frequently on current issues in South Africa, most recently condemning a huge increase in the number of rhinos poachedfor their horns.
Money: Wal-Mart began talks with South Africa’s Massmart after making a $4 billion bid to buy the company, a deal that would give the U.S. retailing giant a presence in Africa. Massmart, South Africa's third-largest listed retailer, runs nine different retail and wholesale chains including Game, Makro and Builder’s Warehouse, and has nearly 290 stores, including 24 on the African continent outside of South Africa. However, several of South Africa’s powerful labor unions have expressed concerns about the deal.
South Africa said it would not take unilateral action to weaken its currency amid growing concerns over the strengthening rand. The rand has gained more than 7 percent against the dollar since the beginning of the year, and more than 28 percent since the start of 2009, amid increased demand from the U.S., Japan and Europe for emerging market assets. Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan echoed concerns of a world “currency war” and said he supported global, coordinated action to deal with the problem of appreciating emerging market currencies.
Banking group HSBC walked away from a $8-billion deal to buy Old Mutual’s majority stake in South Africa’s Nedbank, reportedly because of complications during due diligence over the deal. Another British bank, Standard Chartered, is now rumored to be looking at purchasing Nedbank, South Africa’s fourth-biggest lender.
Elsewhere: Charlie the chimpanzee, famous for puffing away on cigarettes, died of natural causes at age 52. Charlie, who lived at the Mangaung Zoo in Bloemfontein, began smoking after visitors threw lit cigarettes into his enclosure. He would mimic smoking with his hand and try to bum cigarettes from visitors, though zoo officials eventually clamped down on this habit. Despite his smoking habit, Charlie lived a decade longer than the average life expectancy for chimpanzees.
A Cape Town ad agency held a design competition to find new ways to use the vuvuzela, the long plastic horn that sounds like a hive of buzzing bees and became notorious during the 2010 soccer World Cup. Ideas for vuvuzela reuse included turning it into chandeliers, table stands, a Christmas tree, a birdfeeder and a muzzle for Mel Gibson.