www.inside-politics.org

Analysis of and commentary on South African politics from a liberal perspective.

The Sowetan, Zuma and Zille: A critique


FEATURE: Shortly after her 2009 election as Western Cape Premier, the Sowetan newspaper decided to make an issue out of Helen Zille. Because it didn’t have anything suitable, it decided rather to manufacture some news. So it took a comment Zille had made about President Zuma and blew it out of all proportion, setting off a media frenzy. What follows below is a 2009 article on the incident, setting out how the Sowetan manipulated ‘the news’ in order, presumably, to do nothing more than sell newspapers.

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On moral outrage and bad journalism


FEATURE: In late 2010 the DA removed Sowetan journalist Anna Majavu from its mailing lists. In 2011, the mainstream press found out and the response, fuelled by the ANC, was so hysterical looking back it puts the outcry over The Spear in a whole different light. We seem to specialise in hysteria and moral outrage in South Africa. In the 2011 article below, I responded to all the vitriol and tried to put the decision in its proper perspective. I note with some irony that today the DA is still around, Anna Majavu, however, has abandoned South Africa for Australia.

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How personal bias corrupts ‘expert’ opinion


FEATURE: The Erasmus Commission was set up by the former ANC Premier of the Western Cape, Ebrahim Rasool, to probe the allegation that the DA-led coalition in the City of Cape Town – and Cape Town Mayor and DA leader Helen Zille in particular – had improperly used public funds to spy on their political opponents, despite the City having initiated an independent investigation into the matter, which cleared the administration and the DA of any wrongdoing. It was, after the City of Cape Town took it to court, found to be unlawful, as the DA had argued all along. Not so Pierre de Vos, however, despite being a ‘legal expert’ almost everything he said about the commission was wrong. The reason: a particular bias he holds for politicians, Helen Zille and the DA, which rendered his ability properly to analyse what was happening null and void. Here a 2008 article showing how.

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Small, smaller, smallest: The decline of SA’s minority parties


FEATURE: What follows is a brief 2009 election overview of the results of the five more established smaller parties: the African Christian Democratic Party, Freedom Front Plus, United Democratic Movement, Independent Democrats and the Inkatha Freedom Party. Outside of the ANC, DA and COPE, they constitute the five next biggest (or smallest) parties in the National Assembly. It suggests that, come 2014, there is little point to them standing in every province. Doing so might allow them the pretense of being ‘national’ but, in reality, their results are so poor as to render it a foolish exercise.

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Trevor Manuel and the ghost between the lines


FEATURE: Trevor Manuel, like Thabo Mbeki before him, is no stranger to mispresentation in order to try and make his point. In 2009 he took issue with a number of critics who suggested that Springbok coach Pieter de Villiers was not up to the job, acussing them, effectively, of racism. On one such occassion he responded to Business Day editor Peter Bruce with an argument that not only warped what Bruce had actually said, but contradicted his previous position in doing so. In the article below I tried to set out why his argument was both flawed and devious.

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Like trying to sew the head back onto a chicken


FEATURE: Throughout Thabo Mbeki’s time as President he failed properly to consult other parties, as the Constitution requires, when making judicial appointments. But if Mbeki was bad, Jacob Zuma has been far worse. Things came to a head in August 2009, when Zuma – as prone to gaff as he is contempt – announced his decision for Chief Justice before consulting, indeed before he had even notified the relevant parties. His mistake was explained away by all and sundry but if you take a little more time to look at events, it becomes clear that it was deliberate. In this 2009 article, below, I show how.

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Mbeki as Jekyll and Hyde


FEATURE: The book, ‘The strange case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’ provides a helpful metaphor in better understanding the relationship between the two offices which defined Mbeki’s time at the apex of South African politics. In this 2008 article I looked at these two positions held by former President Thabo Mbeki – ANC president and South African president – and offered some insights as to how they merged, to the detriment of his own aspirations and South Africa’s democracy.

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The many-tentacled cash cow, and other mangled metaphors


FEATURE: Before there was Marius Fransman – the reigning king of convolution – there was Edwin Naidu, who would, week-in and week-out, generate for the Sunday Independent a series of metaphors so mangled they would produce in equal quantities much laughter and confusion. And not just mixed metaphors but a wide range of cliches, unoriginal and over-used, if that isn’t redundant.  In the 2008 article below, I look at some of them and set out just how bizarre and devoid of meaning many of them are. So, if you want to see why Vodacom is a many-tentacled cash cow, read on!

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The sad decline of the Sunday Times II


FEATURE: This is the second piece I wrote in 2009 about the decline of the Sunday Times. It concerned a story given exclusively to the Sunday Times, by the Democratic Alliance, which it turned down in a rather incoherent fashion, only for the story subsequently to be prominently carried by other print, radio and television media outlets. The question I tried to answer was: had the Sunday Times lost the ability properly to identify the news?

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The sad decline of the Sunday Times I


FEATURE: Over the past decade or so, the Sunday Times has suffered sustained damage to its reputation, as number of internal problems manifested in a series of external crises, most of which revolved around stories that were simply not up to scratch. In 2009, I wrote about two such examples, the first of which follows below. Essentially the newspaper served up a seven week old story as if it were breaking news, ignoring everything that had been said about it up to that point in doing so.

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The HSF: Losing Focus


FEATURE: For a period of time during the late 2000s, the Helen Suzman Foundation seemed to lose its ideological direction somewhat. Today it is once again on a firm liberal footing. The reason was that its Director, former DA MP Raenette Taljaard, seemed so concerned with ‘facilitating debate’ that the HSF effectively became a platform for government policy, as opposed to liberal thought. To illustrate the problem, in 2009 I wrote the following article, which looked at one edition of Focus (The HSF’s flagship publication). It contained no less than five speeches by Jacob Zuma. And that was just the beginning of the problem.

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Zuma’s speech-making: Grasping in the dark


FEATURE: President Jacob Zuma’s speech-making has, for some time now, been the source of much criticism. Not only is it dull and dreary but the content – particularly when it comes to matters of state – is so generic and vague as to render it almost meaningless. In a nutshell, he says nothing and he says it in painstaking fashion. I wrote this article in response to the President’s 2010 State of the Nation address, one of many lowpoints. In it I argue this kind of blandness can only be excused as bad speech-making up to a point – if a public representative is deliberately vague, concealing the facts, that is dishonest and the attitude of a dissembler.

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The logical errors of Pierre de Vos


FEATURE: When personal bias fuels analysis, as opposed to facts and evidence, inevitably one falls prey to logical error – because reason does not support your position, you are forced to rely on illogical claims. In the article below, written in 2008, I look at some of the logical mistakes made in an argument put forward by Pierre de Vos, about Helen’s Zille’s opposition to the establishment of the Erasmus Commission. Ultimately, the Commission was found to be unlawful by the courts but, at the time, de Vos was convinced the Democratic Alliance was hiding something. The result was a rather messy argument.

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