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

Month: July, 2012

Appearance and reality: Liberal values in democratic South Africa


FEATURE: The Helen Suzman Foundation (www.hsf.org.za) has just produced edition 65 of its Journal, Focus. The edition is titled ‘On Liberty’ and devoted to exploring some of the challenges, both social and political, which have confronted South African liberalism. You can find a full copy of the edition here (PDF). Among of a range of pieces by the likes of Bobby Godsell, Charles Simkins, John Matisonn and Michael Cardo (I see Pallo Jordan even makes an appearance) is the piece I wrote, below, on liberal values and how they are often the subject of subtle negotiation, almost always to their detriment.

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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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On arrogance


SERIES: The Thing About is a weekly Business Day column designed to discuss democratic ideas, ideals, values and principles from a liberal perspective. A common accusation today is to accuse someone of being ‘arrogant’. In doing so, however, arrogance is often confused with boldness and, in truth, it is the powerful who, not wanting to be contradicted, evoke the idea of arrogance to defend themselves.

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Johannesburg and nationalism: 1890 vs 2012


FEATURE: There are many parallels between the ANC’s particular brand of African nationalism and the nationalism practiced by previous governments in South Africa’s past. It is a comparison not often made but one which holds many lessons. Consider Johannesburg in the late 1800s for example: under the control of a nationalist administration it faced and created numerous problems which we face today and a description of the city back then, which follows below, sounds eerily familiar.

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On cant


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 cant – when high ideals are evoked and language used merely to give the impression some grand plan is unfolding when, in truth, there exists a substantial gulf between what is said and what is actually done.

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How loyalty is used and abused


ARTICLE: Is there a difference between being loyal to a friend and being loyal to a country or cause? The principle is the same but the way in which loyalty is used by friends and governments differs greatly. Governments, particularly nationalist governments, demand loyalty; just as they demand evidence of it. What they fail to understand, however, is that all they are doing is encouraging obedience.

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The Ubuntu cuttlefish


FEATURE: In response to a recent article by Andrew Donaldson, titled ‘Let’s never mention Ubuntu again’, Barbara Nussbaum (former member of the Ubuntu Panel, which was part of the National Heritage Council of South Africa) has penned a long and ultimately meaningless response. In the article below I have responded to Nussbaum in turn and provided a general critique of Ubuntu – an idea I argue is ill-defined and, besides, redundant, in light of the Bill of Human Rights.

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36 Quotes from Jacob Zuma


FEATURE: I have been looking through the various wise things Jacob Zuma has said, in particular, before his election to the Presidency in 2009. And, seeing as I have them all to hand, I thought I would put together a list of some of his more infamous statements. I was struck by how often he came out in defence of President Mbeki’s HIV/Aids denialism, specifically as Deputy President. That said, in no particular order, here are 36 quotes from Jacob Zuma.

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On diversity


SERIES: The Thing About is a weekly Business Day column designed to discuss democratic ideas, ideals, values and principles from a liberal perspective. At the social cohesion summit, President Jacob Zuma told the audience, “we have to build one national identity out of multiple identities”. It was a thought typical of nationalistic thinking, which routinely fails to understand diversity and its importance.

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Zuma’s Zapiro investment strategy


FEATURE: Jacob Zuma’s defamation case against Zapiro – the cartoonist Jonathan Shapiro (not David, ANCWL) – is due to be heard by the courts in October. In the meantime, Zapiro is enjoying some rather intense political attention after he suggested, in a more recent cartoon, Zuma is a ‘dick’. In the article below, Adv. Mark Oppenheimer looks at Zuma’s prospects for success with regards to Zapiro’s ‘raping’ of Lady Justice cartoon; and it appears the President faces an uphill legal battle if he is to win. Here’s why.

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Consultation requires an open mind


ARTICLE: We are often told that, in order to achieve a certain outcome, there will be a process of consultation. But is this word commonly understood to mean there is the possibility an initial position might change, or to mean that one’s initial position has merely been successfully communicated? There is a strong case to be made there exists some serious confusion about consultation’s purpose, sometimes with serious consequences.

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The ANC’s top 20 violent fights


FEATURE: Everyone knows the ANC is factionalised and infighting is rife but how bad is it? We hear scattered reports of violence and mayhem at ANC meetings but do we have the full picture? In an attempt to demonstrate just how serious the divisions are and to what extent the party is, literally, at war with itself, I present the ANC’s top 20 violent fights: a range of examples of how the party has turned in on itself over the past few years and the bloody consequences.

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On clichés


SERIES: The Thing About is a weekly Business Day column designed to discuss democratic ideas, ideals, values and principles from a liberal perspective. Cliches are now so common their effect has been denuded of its value – instead of enliving debate, they dull it down. And, with their over-use, has come the uncritical perception they suggest wisdom and knowledge. A perception often abused by those whom evoke and hide behind their empty meaning.

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Why has Cape Town hosted Bafana Bafana just four times in 19 years?


FEATURE: Did you know Cape Town has hosted Bafana Bafana just four times in 19 years? That is a fairly remarkable fact. The city is hardly the sporting backwaters. In fact, almost every argument you can come up with against Cape Town hosting the national soccer team does not, on the evidence, appear to hold any weight. To see who has hosted the most games and why Cape Town deserves to see the national team more often, read on.

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