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

Category: Public Speaking

Absolute South Africa


CriticismFEATURE: In many ways South Africa is a land of absolutes. We have come to talk in extremes. It is a kind of fundamentalism. The Trevor Manuel, Jacob Zuma exchange – about whether or not we can blame apartheid for our current condition – is a case in point. It is, ultimately, a false choice. Some things can be blamed on apartheid, others not. But that kind of nuance often seems lost on us and, as a result, reason has suffered a cruel blow. In its place, ignorance is entrenching its grip on our debate.

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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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Mbeki’s 1994 TV debate nightmare


SERIES: In this edition of From the Archives: As the Republican Party process to determine a presidential candidate plays itself out in America, with a seemingly endless stream of televised debates, it is worth asking why we don’t enjoy a similar culture of public debate in South Africa. Why did Jacob Zuma and Helen Zille not debate each other on live television in the run-up to the 2009 election? The answer to that question is a complex one, and a lot, I suspect, to do with Zuma himself. But the ANC more generally has never really advocated for this kind of thing, certainly Mbeki fought it tooth and nail – and he was no Jacob Zuma. Why? One reason is the ANC’s obvious attitude to debate but, with regards to Mbeki, the answer might be a little more personal. Here follows a retrospective on the first and only time democratic South Africa presidential candidates debated on live TV – in the run-up to the 1994 election.

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The emperor has no clothes


FEATURE: Recently it has been argued by a number of commentators that Preisdent Jacob Zuma’s dull and dreary speeches are not the product of ineptitude, but just, well, the way things are done in the ANC. This article responds to that argument by focusing on one of its advocates and a particular piece from the Daily Maverick.

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