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

Category: Culture

Jacob Zuma: The man who walks in two worlds


JacobZumaSPEECH: This past Thursday I delivered an address on President Jacob Zuma to The Cape Town Press Club. For those interested, a copy of that speech follows below. It speaks to some of the themes identified in my book, “Clever Blacks, Jesus and Nkandla: The real Jacob Zuma in his own words”, and looks at the extent to which the fourth estate meaningfully interrogates Zuma’s various problematic religious and cultural convictions.

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An erosion of the DA’s liberal values: A response


InsidePoliticsFEATURE: Some two months ago I argued that an article by the DA’s national spokesperson, advocating for Ubuntu and ‘Africaness’, was illiberal and worrisome, with regards to the party’s ideological direction. Although the DA itself has not responded, a number of other people have. Below is a summation of those responses and the reasons why the majority are both wrong and wrongheaded.

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Jacob Zuma’s top ten most disturbing cultural quotes


JacobZumaFEATURE: President Jacob Zuma, the highest custodian of the human rights principles and values set out in our constitution, spends a great deal of time undermining them, by advocating for a series of ‘African’ cultural beliefs that, almost without exception, are prejudiced in some way. If not prejudiced then so poorly articulated they cause an inevitable outrage and his political minders – the spokespeople in the ANC and the Presidency – are sent in to clean up after the damage he has caused. Below is a list of examples and, in each case, the kind of damage control that followed.

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Burning books: The African way


imagesFEATURE: Much has rightly been made of the destruction of key texts and manuscripts held at Timbuktu; much less of the spate of library burning in South Africa over the last four years. Why is that? I have compiled an archive of libraries burnt in South Africa during this period and, in the piece below, argue that while we are quick to express passion about ‘African’ cultural ideals, we have little to say about book burning in our country and what it says about our actual cultural attitude to knowledge and education.

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An erosion of the DA’s liberal values 2?


InsidePoliticsFEATURE: Two days ago I wrote an opinion piece on the DA and the extent to which collectivist ideas and archetypes – Ubuntu and ‘Africaness’ in particular – were becoming increasingly well-entrenched in its language; that it had failed to define those ideas and that they were in conflict with its core liberal beliefs. That opinion has been met by no official response from the DA, signalling either agreement or a politically expedient silence. To further make my case, a transcript of a radio interview with the national spokesperson adds further weight to my argument. Seeing as the DA is unwilling to debate the matter, cased closed, I would say.

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An erosion of the DA’s liberal values?


InsidePoliticsFEATURE: In yesterday’s Sunday Times, DA national spokesperson Mmusi Maimane wrote an article which, while attempting to advocate against stereotyping, ended up doing exactly that; seemingly the reflection of his own personal views about ‘Africaness’, Ubuntu and the inherent characteristics of ‘Africans’. It is troubling and indicative of a broader challenge facing the party: how best to safeguard its core beliefs and values without pandering to ‘identity politics’ and group identity.

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Blade, the SACP and the idea of respect


RespectFEATURE: The idea of ‘respect’ is one profoundly misunderstood in South Africa. Not just misunderstood, however, but deliberately misused as a euphemism for deference, in order to give the demand of respect a more acceptable veneer. Leading the charge in this respect is Blade Nzimande and the SACP and a recent exchange between Nzimande and a caller on radio is as revealing in this regard as it is disturbing. So it is worth unpacking the idea in a bit more detail in order to better understand that underlying all these various calls for respect is a deeply authoritarian impulse and the abdication of personal responsibility.

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Culture, culture everywhere and not a drop to drink


FreedomARTICLE: ‘My culture’, ‘our culture’, ‘one must respect culture’, ‘in our culture’, these are some of the phrases that dominate South African public discourse. But ask anyone to define exactly what they mean by their culture, its precise parameters, values and principles, and you will find yourself staring at a blank face. It is the ultimate ‘get out jail free card’ in any argument (perhaps along with race), evoked in an unthinking manner, as if beyond scrutiny or criticism from first principles. Morally untouchable. Were we more honest about the general nature of many such cultures, we would, no doubt, be fairly horrified.

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