www.inside-politics.org

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

Month: May, 2012

An Open Letter: Why The Spear is staying up on Inside Politics


FEATURE: Over the past 48 hours a series of people and institutions once dedicated to freedom of expression and tolerance have surrendered their position on The Spear in the face of intimidation and bullying. In each case, an emotional justification has been offered. In many cases it has been accepted, for bullying is felt as intimidation not by the victim alone. I am not taking down The Spear from Inside Politics. What follows is an open letter and explanation as to why.

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Will the ANCWL back Jacob Zuma at Mangaung?


FEATURE: In 2007 and despite much public promising that it would seek to have a woman in the ANC presidency, the ANC woman’s league hypocritically capitulated and supported Jacob Zuma for president. So, what will it do this time round, at Mangaung? What follows is a retrospective, setting out what happened in 2007 and how, repeatedly, the ANCWL would come out on the wrong side of any debate that had at its heart the interests of women.

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First world ambitions, third world realities


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 a 2008 article on copper cable theft, Eskom advertising and how first world ambitions and third world realities often meet in rather brutal fashion in South Africa.

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Mpumalanga declares God the spiritual leader of province


FEATURE: According to the news publication Mpumalanga Today, Mpumalanga Provincial education MEC Reginah Mhaule has signed an agreement on behalf the provincial government dedicating the province to the Christian God and recognising him as the spiritual leader of the province. If the story is true, it is profoundly undemocratic and runs directly against the constitution, which defines South Africa as a secular state and confines the practice of any religion to a strictly private affair.

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On exaggeration


SERIES: The Thing About is a weekly Business Day column designed to discuss democratic ideas, ideals, values and principles from a liberal perspective. What role does exaggeration play in public discourse? For the most part, a problematic one. Very often one’s instinict in countering exaggeration is to use some kind of greater exaggeration in the other direction. And, before you know it, everything is exaggerated and a state of hysteria exists.

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More than 1 in 3 calls to SAPS police stations go unanswered


FEATURE: There are 1 116 police stations listed on the South African Police Services website. For each police station listed there is a telephone number. But do they work? And, if they do work, are they answered? In an attempt to find out, I phoned all 1 116. What follows is a summary of what I found, plus a list of every number called. The results suggest there is a profound problem and, if it’s a quick response you are looking for in an emergency – your chances of getting one aren’t too good.

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‘The Spear’ and the silence of the National Arts Council


FEATURE: The National Arts Council is legally required, among other things, to “uphold and promote the right of any person to freedom in the practice of the arts”. Yet on ‘The Spear’ we have heard not a word from it. How is that possible? How is an entire organisation dedicated to upholding, protecting and promoting the rights of artists able to sit idly by while the right to freedom of artistic expression is under such a direct and wide-ranging assault? It is an indictment and there should be consequences.

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Rationality: our guide through the dark


ARTICLE: Why is rationality important? Well, for one thing, it allows us not only to understand principles (which are by their nature often counter-intuitive) but to apply them to those decisions we make in pursuit of the good life. That is not always easy, because emotion’s pull in the other direction can be powerful. But rationality and reason are the tools we can use to help exercise the best possible judgement.

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SASCO: unaccountable menace


FEATURE: The following article appears as an editorial in the May 2012 edition of ‘In Our Future’, a publication produced by DASO UCT. It deals with the South African Students Congress which, for years, has been a menace to good student governance across the country. As is its want, SASCO’s reaction to the article has been as predictable as it has been deplorable, with the usual volley of threats and intimidation. Nevertheless, the facts remain. It’s an important read, and gives you some insight into the way SASCO – the ANCYL of university politics – behaves, by focusing on one particular incident and SASCO’s response to it.

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On power


SERIES: The Thing About is a weekly Business Day column designed to discuss democratic ideas, ideals, values and principles from a liberal perspective. Today a look at the idea of power and how those in close proximity to it, react to it. For those who seek it out for its own sake, its effect can be dangerous but, rather than outright abuse, it lends itself to maniuplation – of information and behaviour.

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Albie Sachs on South African art in 2000


SERIES: A good quote can hold within it a thousand separate insights, just as surely as some poorly constructed thought can reveal someone as a fool. Quotable Quotes looks at what is said, what was said and, on occasion, how the two compare. In this edition, a quote from 2000, from former ANC stalwart and Justice Albie Sachs about South African art and how it was independent of political hegemony and correctness; an appraisal that stands in stark contrast to the ANC’s recent response to ‘The Spear’.

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An essay on mediocrity


SERIES: One from the archives. What follows below is a 2009 essay I wrote on the nature and effect of mediocrity on a society. How does what is set out in the essay apply to South Africa? Are we a society caught in its warm embrace? There can be little doubt that its influence is powerful, the question is: is it so well-entrenched its effect cannot be reversed? Perhaps if we understood it a little better, we would be better equipped to counter the pervasive way in which it seeps into public life.

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The painting, the institution and the individual


FEATURE: The various responses to the painting of Jacob Zuma constantly confuse public office with the behaviour of the individual holding that office – the assumption is that because someone represents an institution they automatically get all the public respect associated with it. The latest is a statement by Zuma’s children. This is, of course, wrong. In fact, quite the opposite is true. In this short piece, I explain why.

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The Jacob Zuma painting and the idea of respect


ARTICLE: Much has already been made of the Jacob Zuma painting and the idea of respect. The argument goes like this: Jacob Zuma is the President, he should be respected. Therefore, the painting should be removed. That ‘argument’ is often used in South Africa. Routinely we fundamentally misunderstand what respect is. We think it is something that can be demanded, not earned. But the moment you accept that line of thinking, you are on a sure path to some or other anti-democratic state of affairs.

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The painting of President Zuma


PICTURE: Today the ANC released a statement about a painting of President Zuma by artist by Brett Murray which, among other things, says: “We have this morning instructed our lawyers to approach our courts to compel Brett Murray and Goodman Gallery to remove the portrait from display as well as from their website and destroy all printed promotional material. We have also detected that this distasteful and vulgar portrait of the President has been displayed on a weekend newspaper and its website, we again have instructed our lawyers to request the said newspaper to remove the portrait from their website.” Well, in support of the constitutional right to free expression and in opposition to the ANC’s tyrannical attitude, here is the painting in question.

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Politics and innovation


FEATURE: Innovation is one of those words frequently used but less frequently thought through. In politics in particular, it is used almost exclusively with regards to policy. That is good and necessary, but what about political parties themselves, and the ideologies they espouse? Why is innovation an important principle in a democracy? Why should it be promoted and protected, and what are its benefits? In the short paper below I look at the idea and why it is important.

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The media’s stony silence on racism concerning the DA


FEATURE: Here is a question: Is Lindiwe Mazibuko a ‘house nigger’? That might seem like a grotesque enquiry but it is one that has been openly asked of her on Twitter. That together with a myriad other forms of racial abuse and hatred. But is it met with the same intensity of outrage that follows any perceived slight on the DA’s part? Not a chance. DA public representatives, and its black members in particular, are routinely labeled everything from ‘darkie’ to ‘kaffir’. My question is, what is the media going to do about it?

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On low self esteem


SERIES: The Thing About is a weekly Business Day column designed to discuss democratic ideas, ideals, values and principles from a liberal perspective. What are the effects of low self esteem? It is a permanent force in our lives. Unrestrained its impact on our approach to control can be dramatic. On the one hand, driving a desire for power and respect; on the other, it is able to reduce someone to a victim, unable to act and inhibited by self doubt.

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Is the ANC its own harshest critic?


FEATURE: President Zuma’s election as ANC President ushered in a new era in ANC politics. Gone were the days of tight party discipline and the seemingly unified, focused communication that defined Mbeki’s reign. Now it openly and, on a regular basis, criticises itself – often in the harshest terms. Unfortunately, it has little to do with improvement and everything to do with political posturing and so, in the run-up to Mangaung, we can expect more of it, not less.

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The Western Cape’s response to draft Public Protector report


FEATURE: Below I have posted the Western Cape Government’s response to those stories carried in today’s press on the Public Protector’s draft report on the TBWA communications tender, undertaken by the Western Cape Government. It includes a statement from Western Cape Premier and Democratic Alliance Leader Helen Zille, followed by a legal opinion on the veracity of the draft report from senior counsel, Advocate Geoff Budlender.

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The DA’s 2012 Federal Congress: 1


SERIES: This year the DA will be holding its Federal Congress, the party’s highest decision-making body. I thought, as a helpful guide for those interested, in the press and the party alike, in the run-up to the Congress I would set out the basic facts as to how it will work and what will happen at it. Here then is the first installment in that series, including the date, who can attend and where it will be held. Over the coming months I’ll bring you more information as and when it becomes available.

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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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TARGET MIDVAAL: Postscript: Is the ANC trying to absorb Midvaal into a metro?


POSTSCRIPT: In response to yesterday’s blog, which argued the SIU investigation into Midvaal is biased a reader sent me a story from a community newspaper in Gauteng. If true, it suggests that the ANC has lodged two proposals with the Demarcations Board, to have Midvaal absorbed into what would be an ANC-run metro. Is this the ANC’s latest attempt to circumvent the result of a democratic election?

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Some thoughts on the idea of ‘respect’


ARTICLE: South Africa is obsessed with the idea of ‘respect’. Constantly we read about the need for various things – from culture through to our attitude to certain positions – to be ‘respected’. But respect must be earned, it cannot be enforced or demanded. And that requires behaviour which is worthy of respect in the first place. In the article below I look at the relationship between respect and deference, and between deference and nationalism in turn.

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TARGET MIDVAAL: How the ANC is using the state to target its political opponent


FEATURE: Following the Public Protector’s investigation into the DA-run Midvaal municipality, which found no corruption, President Zuma signed a proclamation authorising the Special Investigations Unit to investigate the exact same charges, except on a grander scale. Midvaal is by some distance the outstanding performer in Gauteng. Why has the President himself deemed it fit for the SIU to investigate Midvaal and not other ANC-run municipalities in Gauteng which, on the exact same criteria Midvaal is being investigated on, fail catastrophically to measure up? The evidence suggests a political agenda. Read on to see the extent of the bias.

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On excellence


SERIES: The Thing About is a weekly Business Day column designed to discuss democratic ideas, ideals, values and principles from a liberal perspective. Today, a brief look at the idea of excellence. In particular, how identifying excellence is often confused with its pursuit. In other words, how a description is conflated with an attitude, why the distinction is important and what role each – being able to identify what is excellent and being able to pursue it – plays in a society.

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SA hockey: 1 Government neglect: 0


FEATURE: Yesterday the South African men’s hockey team joined their female counterparts in successfully qualifying for the London Olympics. Many will have no idea just what a remarkable achievement that is. For years South African hockey has been undermined by the ANC government, financially and politically, to the extent that their players have often had to fund their own training. They have overcome daunting odds. What follows is a tribute to their excellence and a description of the obstacles they have risen above as a result of it.

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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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Understanding a vote-winning brand


FEATURE: In the article below the DA’s Gwen Ngwenya looks at the DA’s brand and its condition. She argues that, in order to understand it, one must do two things: first, look at the evidence (as opposed to mere opinion or speculation) and, second, how it is driven by strong leadership. On both these counts, she argues, the DA’s brand – a diverse party that delivers – is not just strong, but getting stronger.

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Johannesburg’s pothole misery


FEATURE: In late 2011 I documented on Twitter a wide range of potholes as well as other examples of municipal infrastructure decay in Johannesburg. Today, some five months later, I returned and had a look to see if any of them had been dealt with. I am sure anyone who lives in Johannesburg will be able to guess what I found. Read on for a short photographic tour of neglect and deterioration.

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On consequences


SERIES: The Thing About is a weekly Business Day column designed to discuss democratic ideas, ideals, values and principles from a liberal perspective. When corruption takes place, much focus is given to seeking an explanation, much less to ensuring the appropriate consequences follow. Why is this? The answer lies in ones understanding of accountability. In order for the idea to work properly, it must be defined by both things – explanation and consequence. Indeed, each ensures the other has the proper effect, in order to ensure transparency and clean governance. In the short article below I explore why consequences are so important and what happens when they are overlooked in favour of explanation.

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