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

Month: August, 2012

Maintenance


MAINTENANCE: This message is essentially for those people who subscribe to Inside Politics via e-mail. I shall over the course of the weekend upload to the site a range of older articles I have written in the past and which I would like to archive on Inside Politics – between 10 and 15 pieces. For each one you shall get an e-mail, for which I apologise. I am doing it over the weekend, so that it will be less burdensome for you than it would during a weekday. On the upside, on Monday, hopefully there will be a range of articles you might not have read before and which, although somewhat outdated, might still be of interest to you. I think they are all important and, in the future, will be helpful for me to refer back to. Thank you for your understanding.

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South African Political Dictionary: Cadre employment and cadre deployment


SERIES: I have noticed over the past few weeks a number of political analysts and commentators using the phrase ‘cadre employment’ when, in fact, they mean ‘cadre deployment’. An intentional euphemism or not, it is perhaps worth properly defining and legitimating. It could explain much about the ANC’s attitude to tenders, for example. But, whether defined or not, it should be distinguished from ‘cadre deployment’ which is something else entirely. I try to explain the difference below.

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SA Journalism: Prizes for everyone


FEATURE: Yet another round of South African journalism awards has just passed. Did you know there are some 82 of them? That’s an awards ceremony every four and a half days. Is South African journalism really such a worthy recipient of so much self-reflecting praise? Look at the Fourth Estate more closely and it seems rife with problems. But it would be you alone looking, certainly the mainstream media, despite so many protestations about its import and the value of self-regulation, is the last institution to cast a critical gaze over its own condition. But with so many awards on offer, why would it? Not when it can rather remind itself every few days just how excellent it truly is.

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The new Zuma painting: What have we learnt since ‘The Spear’?


FEATURE: The new ‘controversial’ painting of President Zuma, by Ayanda Mabulu, provides for us an interesting benchmark, against which we can measure what effect Brett Murray’s The Spear had on South Africa. Put another way: what did we learn from The Spear? Has our capacity for tolerance increased or decreased? And is our commitment to Freedom of Expression enhanced or denuded as a result of it? Time will provide the full answer to those questions. In the meantime, here are a few preliminary thoughts.

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The new painting of Jacob Zuma, by Ayanda Mabulu


FEATURE: President Zuma has brought this on himself. It is unfortunate, because much of the debate about this new painting (currently on exhibition at the AVA Gallery in Cape Town) will not be about the quality of the art, but all those euphemisms the ANC evokes to suppress freedom of expression – dignity, respect, culture, etc. I feel duty bound to post the picture, then, for two reasons: one, to demonstrate some consistency on this issue and two, to take a stand for freedom of expression, in the same way I did over The Spear. Thus, what follows below is the new painting of President Jacob Zuma, by artist Ayanda Mabulu. Read this blog to see it and, if you do, and you are sensitive about such things, make the choice to be offended and test your own tolerance and constitutional commitment. Choice is the essence of freedom, here is yours.

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On panic


SERIES: The Thing About is a weekly Business Day column designed to discuss democratic ideas, ideals, values and principles from a liberal perspective. Panic is often offered up as an explanation for rash action, but is it always a legitimate excuse? The answer to that question boils down to a determination as to whether or not a person could reasonably be expected to have been aware of their panic and, in turn, acted to control it. And, when it comes to widespread moral panic, the difference between good and bad leaders is often best defined by their approach to such problems.

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The Billion Rand President: A R1m day in the life of President Zuma


FEATURE: The privileges afforded President Zuma by the Ministerial Handbook – VIP protection; jet and helicopter flights; spousal support; etc – cost the taxpayer at least R522 million per five year term, or R105 million per year. If President Zuma is elected for a second term, his cost will escalate above, at least, R1 billion. To better illustrate how these various expenses mount up in practical terms, I have constructed a 24 hour day in the life of the President and then costed his various movements. Our imagined day works out at just over R1.1 million – to see how, read on [VIDEO and graphics included].

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Freedom cannot ever be completely controlled


ARTICLE: We should righlty fear control. Its limiting effect on freedom is, ultimately, a limiting effect on our unique nature and character as individuals. Its only purpose should be to safegaurd freedom itself, so that it might be best used and expressed. At our core, we are all free. It is true the nature of that freedom might be limited, even severly, but outside of death no constraint on freedom can ever be absolute and that is a glorious thing.

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Zero Worship


FEATURE: The manic adulation heaped unthinkingly on all our Olympians seems to have died down somewhat. And the events at Lonmin Mine adjusted our reaction to the endlessly repeated refrain that the Olympics ‘united’ us as a nation. So, perhaps now is as good a time as any to ask: did we really do that well at the Olympics? Is six medals the epitome of excellence or have we settled for mediocrity? In the article below, I argue South Africans seriously needs to readjust their expectations if we want to succeed and stop celebrating the average.

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On political analysis


SERIES: The Thing About is a weekly Business Day column designed to discuss democratic ideas, ideals, values and principles from a liberal perspective. Political analysis is a critical part of any healthy democracy. But understanding political decisions, as well as those things that motivate them, requires a certain amount of discretion: to be able to discern an honest motivation from a dishonest one. Too often, however, all political motivation is disregarded entirely as ill-concieved.

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The Billion Rand President: Update – R8.1m added in ‘Ferry Flights’


FEATURE: As and when new information comes to light, I shall aim to update and maintain ‘The Zuma Balance Sheet’ – the total costs of those privileges afforded President Zuma by the Ministerial Handbook. A new set of information about ‘Ferry Flights’ – empty flights by the Presidential Jet Inkwazi – has just been revealed by the DA. I have added the costs to the total. For the upwardly revised totals, read on.

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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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On unity


SERIES: It’s hard these days, particularly in an environment where collectivism and nationalism hold so much sway, to go for any length of time without hearing a call for ‘unity’. It sounds good enough, but few take time to think about what such a call actually entails. What would a society look like that was absolutely unified? Surely it would be absolutely uniform in turn? When viewed in that light, the idea of unity takes on a different effect.

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The cheap moralising of Eusebius McKaiser


FEATURE: Political analyst Eusebius McKaiser has written an article, based on a recent lecture he gave, in which he argues that ‘spineless’ liberals retreat because they are scared of black intimidation. The way he makes his point, however, is deeply disingenuous. Indeed, he manipulates his text (changing the original point he made in his talk) to do so. In the process, he makes no sense and ‘lo and behold’, as he would say, contradicts himself. Read on to see how.

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On change


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 change – something which is very often resisted on the basis that the unknown is the source of unease and, to venture into it, is to risk the comfort of the status quo. So change often shares a particular relationship with both bravery and loss.

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Journalism 101: 1st Check facts; 2nd Write opinion


FEATURE: Chris Gibbons has written for the Daily Maverick an article which revolves around a central premise that is completely wrong. Thus, the whole article is wrong; likewise, all the conclusions he draws from it are wrongheaded. It’s a good example of poor journalism, not merely because the facts are all over the place, but because it relies so heavily on clichéd ideas that, given a moments consideration, are revealed to be flawed. Here is my response.

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On statistics


SERIES: Because they are far more objective in nature, statistics have a certain kind of power. That is, they allow those not entirely familiar with a situation to comment on it with authority, even insightfully. Little wonder, then, nationalists don’t like statistics and try to control and manipulate them. Ultimately, however, its a losing battle. Here’s why.

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