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Analysis of and commentary on South African politics from a liberal perspective. Winner: Best Political Blog 2012.

Category: Accountability

The selective moral outrage of Trevor Manuel


TrevorManuelFEATURE: Trevor Manuel has made a point over the last two years of openly criticising the ANC and the ANC government on a range of different issues. Each time his outspoken ‘honesty’ has been met with much praise and acclaim. But it is selective moral outrage on Manuel’s part and, if he really is interested in setting himself apart from the ANC, then he has much explaining to do – starting with his years of complicit silence as Thabo Mbeki damaged the foundations of our democracy.

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The New Age and the commercialisation of accountability


AccountabilityFEATURE: Much has been made of the extent to which corporates and parastatals have sponsored the New Age business breakfasts, and rightfully so. Here, however, is another take on the significance of these occasions: what we are seeing the commercialisation of President’s question time – money in exchange for the chance, seemingly, to interrogate the head of state. It represents the ANC’s ideal response to the necessity of accountability: you can’t have it, but you can pay for the pretence of it.

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2012 Government Spend on Entertainment – Updates: 5 Departments; R2 152 000


FEATURE: It is annual report season and that means, among other important indicators, it is possible to gauge how national departments have spent public money over the course of the last financial year. Earlier this year, I set out how much the ANC government was spending on entertainment – just under R50 million in 2011 – and, as the new 2012 reports are tabled, I shall keep a running total of how much is spent this time around. Here follows the second such update, with five departments having tabled their reports [with PDF table at end].

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The Billion Rand President: How much Jacob Zuma costs the taxpayer


FEATURE: Cars, jets, VIP protection, spousal support, almost every week a new figure emerges suggesting that those privileges afforded President Zuma (and other members of the executive) are costing the taxpayer much money; but how much exactly is hard to say. No one has ever tried to total it all. The Presidency has certainly done everything in its power to shield the information. I have given it my best shot in the article below. It was a very difficult exercise but, using the Ministerial Handbook as a guide and by being very conservative, I have generated a total figure. To see it all set out, how much President Zuma costs per year and per term, and whether or not you think it’s excessive, read on.

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The Billion Rand President: Facts and Figures


FEATURE: As set out in detail in a previous article, the privileges afforded President Jacob Zuma by the Ministerial Handbook – cars, flights, accommodation, security, etc – total at least R514 million over the course of a five year term, or R102 million annually. Over two terms he would cost the public in excess of at least R1 billion. What follows below are a set of facts and figures drawn from those totals, as well as some comparative illustrations of what the various totals are equivalent to.

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Fresh off Twitter: Round 2 – the ANC again abuses power in eThekwini


FEATURE: Round 2 – more proof of how the ANC in eThekwini abuses power and undermines democracy, all of it fresh off Twitter where it has just happened. Read the summary and timelines of four DA councillors who describe how a Council meeting was hijacked, proper procedure ignored, oversight suppressed and the ANC’s agenda pushed through regardless. We don’t spend enough time focussing on what happens in local councils, if eThekwini is anything to go by, we have a lot to worry about.

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7 of the worst: How the ANC rewards corruption


FEATURE: Jacob Zuma yesterday used his speech to the ANC’s 2012 policy conference to speak out against what he called ‘alien tendencies’ in the party – things like corruption and the abuse of power. Who did he think he was kidding? Zuma has himself rewarded those very things. By way of illustration, here is a list of seven ANC MPs, all found guilty in the Travelgate scandal, all re-elected, most rewarded with promotion (by Zuma) and including their salaries – so you can see just how much political loyalty costs.

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How Sadtu and the SACE have damaged accountability in SA education


FEATURE: The South African Council for Educators is the primary institution charged with upholding accountability in South African education. It does so by enforcing a Code of Professional Ethics for educators. Or, at least, that is what it is supposed to do. In truth, however, it has effectively fired just 97 educators in 12 years. At the heart of the problem is Sadtu, which dominates the SACE council and ethics committee. Its influence, together with the SACE’s wrongheaded approach, has rendered educator accountability in South African education a farce. Read on to see how.

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The DA’s 2006 bill to hold unions accountable


SERIES: The instantaneous and dramatic nature of current affairs lends itself to a kind of historical amnesia, one where the captivating nature of those things unfolding today, causes one to forget the bigger picture. From the Archives aims to put forward the odd reminder that, more often than not, history is merely repeating itself. In all likelihood, somewhere, someone has already experienced and commented on those all-consuming issues that appear to have materialised only yesterday. Today, the DA’s 2006 Private Members Bill designed to hold unions accountable for any damage caused during striking, an idea recently endorsed by the Constitutional Court.

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An analysis of the Press Ombudsman’s rulings: The best and worst


FEATURE: Which newspapers in South Africa have the most complaints made to the Press Ombudsman upheld against them? In order to answer this question, I analysed all of the last three years worth of rulings on the Ombudsman’s website and categorised them by paper. Want to see who fares best and who fares worst? It is a crude analysis but, I believe, it does offer some valuable insights. For all the answers, read on.

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How parliament misunderstands accountability


ARTICLE: Parliament has produced a guide to help Members better understand committees, how they work and what their purpose is. Central to that is, obviously, the idea of accountability and being able to ensure it takes place. Unfortunately, the guide’s defintion of the concept fundamentally misunderstands what accountability is and so renders the whole exercise somewhat redundant. Read on to see Parliament’s definition of accountability and why it is wrong.

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How the Western Cape takes corruption seriously


ARTICLE: The 2011 State of the Public Service Report sets out in stark detail how reported cases of corruption are ignored by the majority of the public service and those departments responsible for investigating them. Indeed, the percentage of reported cases for which feedback has been received has fallen from 70% to just 10% in six years. The stand out exception? The Western Cape. Read on for some significant statistics.

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How much government spends on entertainment


FEATURE: Every annual report has a line item called ‘Entertainment’ which, according to the Treasury, can include everything from lunches through to gifts and something called ‘Private Entertainment’. So, how much does government spend in this regard? R77 million in two years is the answer. To see who the biggest and smallest spenders are and, importantly, how national expenditure compares to the Western Cape and other provinces, read on. If anything, it is at least an entertaining read.

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Why ANC provincial departments have contempt for you


FEATURE: Annual Reports go directly to accountability and transparency. If they are produced by a government timeously and made easily available to the public and press, it says something about that government’s commitment to those two principles. What follows is an assessment of the extent to which annual reports are available on provincial department websites. In undertaking it, it became apparent that not only were the reports scarce, but that some 18 websites just didn’t work at all. To find out which ones, read on.

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Driving Ms Mbete: Part 2


FEATURE: Having set out the details of former Speaker Baleka Mbete’s fraudulent driver’s licence in Part 1 of this retrospective, today we look at how the press responded at the time. The various editorial comments are helpful not only because they gives a sense of the outrage but because they capture nicely the various ethical considerations at play, which are perhaps lost in a factual account of the incident and, certainly, were lost on the ANC at the time.

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Driving Ms Mbete: Part 1


FEATURE: It is now largely forgotten but in 1997 former Speaker in the National Assembly Baleka Mbete was embroiled in a serious corruption scandal. She was accused of obtaining fraudulently a learner’s and driver’s licence and, among 44 others, required to testify before a Commission of Enquiry into the matter. It is worth recalling the story because it illustrated much about the ANC’s attitude to accountability and executive office – an attitude that is now well entrenched. So, here is a retrospective: how Baleka Mbete got a fraudulent driver’s licence and what the ANC did about it.

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Mbeki’s 1994 TV debate nightmare


SERIES: In this edition of From the Archives: As the Republican Party process to determine a presidential candidate plays itself out in America, with a seemingly endless stream of televised debates, it is worth asking why we don’t enjoy a similar culture of public debate in South Africa. Why did Jacob Zuma and Helen Zille not debate each other on live television in the run-up to the 2009 election? The answer to that question is a complex one, and a lot, I suspect, to do with Zuma himself. But the ANC more generally has never really advocated for this kind of thing, certainly Mbeki fought it tooth and nail – and he was no Jacob Zuma. Why? One reason is the ANC’s obvious attitude to debate but, with regards to Mbeki, the answer might be a little more personal. Here follows a retrospective on the first and only time democratic South Africa presidential candidates debated on live TV – in the run-up to the 1994 election.

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Accountability necesitates explanation and consequence


ARTICLE: The idea of acountability seems to be poorly understood from first principles: there is a perception that it involves little more than explanation. In other words, many assume that simply by explaining what when wrong, one has accounted for it. In fact, it must be accompanied by consequence and the possibility that wrongdoing be met by the requisite action. In the piece below I look at this relationship. For anyone interested in further thoughts on the idea, see this video interview with Lindiwe Mazibuko, about accountability and its nature.

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What constitutes good argument?


ARTICLE: What are the structural characteristics of a good argument? Many of the key ingredients are well known: evidence, reason, logic, language, but how do they all relate? Also, what combination results in a powerful argument and what combination results in a weak argument? I have tried to answer some of these questions in the short piece that follows below.

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