www.inside-politics.org

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

On expression


TheThingAboutSERIES: The Thing About is a weekly Business Day column designed to discuss democratic ideas, ideals, values and principles from a liberal perspective. We spend much time, in a myriad different ways, expressing ourselves to the world at large. But what, actually, is it to express an idea? And does a thought change when we verbalise it, from some abstract inclination to something more concrete? If this does happen, it’s a process we often don’t pay enough attention to.

Read the rest of this entry »

On foresight


SERIES: The Thing About is a weekly Business Day column designed to discuss democratic ideas, ideals, values and principles from a liberal perspective. I am back and normal posting will resume from tomorrow. In the meantime, here is yesterday’s column, on the idea of foresight and how it works. The ability to foresee things can often be mistaken for guesswork. The difference between foresight and randomness is reason and being able to argue forcefully, the ability to use language and logic to present a prediction.

Read the rest of this entry »

On specialness


SERIES: The Thing About is a weekly Business Day column designed to discuss democratic ideas, ideals, values and principles from a liberal perspective. I am currently overseas until the end of this week, so please forgive the limited posting. Here is this week’s column, on specialness and how the idea is often misused, certainly over-used – to the extent that everything (and hence nothing) is actually special at all.

Read the rest of this entry »

What separates the knowledgeable from the ignorant?


ARTICLE: It is difficult to think of two more different people than the person who pursues knowledge and the person who safeguards their own ignorance. If knowledge and its pursuit is not properly promoted and protected an entire society can become caught in ignorance’s false sense of comfort. Curiosity is curtailed, innovation stifled and difference outlawed, and that will bring an end to progress in turn. So it is well worth considering the question: What separates the knowledgeable from the ignorant?

Read the rest of this entry »

By the Numbers


SERIES: Some light reading for a Friday: 10 interesting numbers from current affairs and politics that tell a story. Did you know that 20.5% of people in Emfuleni Municipality in Gauteng believe it is legitimate for a man to beat a woman “if she is unfaithful”, the highest proportion of any municipality in the province? For this fact and a range of other curious and disturbing numbers, read on. Below the graphic is the full list of numbers and, in each case, the source from where they originate.

Read the rest of this entry »

On the nature of victimhood


ARTICLE: There is a strong case to be made that South Africa is nation of victims. And here I do not mean in the literal sense – for there are many who can objectively be described as victims of some great injustice – I mean as an attitude – victimhood: we suffer low self-esteem, we lack agency and we generally see circumstance as our ever-present tormentor. This is to our great disadvantage, for victimhood is a sure path to apathy and, with it, further injustice.

Read the rest of this entry »

On gullibility


SERIES: The Thing About is a weekly Business Day column designed to discuss democratic ideas, ideals, values and principles from a liberal perspective. At some point or other in our lives everyone is gullible but what separates those people who are consistently gullible from those who are not? The ability to learn from experience is important, likewise the need not to be deferential in the face of political correctness and orthodoxy.

Read the rest of this entry »

Zuma’s minority rights gaffe: What HANSARD says


FEATURE: In a desperate attempt to recast President Zuma’s profoundly undemocratic comments about minority rights, the Presidency yesterday released a statement that does nothing more than completely and utterly misrepresent what the President actually said. But we now have definitive proof, the unrevised HANSARD of President’s Question Time is avaliable, and you can read what he said word-for-word. Flowing from that, in turn, are a number of questions about Zuma’s attitude to nature of union’s undemocratic structure, which someone should put to him.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Ten Commandments according to Jacob Zuma


FEATURE: Jacob Zuma has, over the last five years, spent much time advocating his and the ANC’s religious credentials: that his is a party endorsed by God, that it will rule till the end of days, that its enemies will suffer damnation, that he is like Jesus, even that an ANC membership card is a ticket into heaven. I have organised all his religious rhetoric into ten key ideas – everything Jacob Zuma has ever said about the ANC and religion. Not only does it serve as a helpful archive but jointly and separately his statements paint a picture of a profoundly undemocratic leader with scant regard for the constitution or the basic tenets of democracy [GRAPHIC included].

Read the rest of this entry »

2012 Government Spend on Entertainment – Update: 7 Departments; R2 520 000


FEATURE: It is annual report season and that means, among other important indicators, it is possible to gauge how national departments have spent public money over the course of the last financial year. Earlier this year, I set out how much the ANC government was spending on entertainment – just under R50 million in 2011 – and, as the new 2012 reports are tabled, I shall keep a running total of how much is spent this time around. Here follows the third such update, with seven departments having tabled their reports [with PDF table at end].

Read the rest of this entry »

By the Numbers


SERIES: Some light reading for a Friday: 10 interesting numbers from current affairs and politics that tell a story. Did you know the Free State Government is spending some R15 million in 2012 to upgrade Free State premier Ace Magashule’s house? For this fact and a range of other curious numbers, read on. Below the graphic is the full list of numbers and, in each case, the source from where they originate.

Read the rest of this entry »

The ANC Chief Whip: Where there’s smoke, there’s fire


FEATURE: Why did the ANC react so extremely to criticism of its Chief Whip last week? Remember, this is the same party that ignored far more serious criticisms in the past. Something about the public airing of this latest problem – that the ANC Chief Whip has attended just 11 of 19 key parliamentary meetings – really upset the ANC. One explanation, which seems plausible on the evidence, is that his dire performance provides the perfect opportunity to “redeploy” someone the powers that be do not believe has the right political loyalties come Mangaung.

Read the rest of this entry »

Debate is about difference, not consensus


ARTICLE: There is a general and increasingly pervasive attitude that the purpose of debate is to secure consensus. That is, rather than a forum to determine which arguments and ideas are the most cogent or insightful, debate is seen as means to compromise and appease. That, however, is to denude debate of its greatest potential contribution: knowledge and understanding. When mere expression is the end, the means (rationality, evidence and reason) suffer in turn. For what is the point of trying to convince if just by speaking you are already fêted?

Read the rest of this entry »

Jacob Zuma on cadre deployment in 1999


SERIES: The instantaneous and dramatic nature of current affairs lends itself to a kind of historical amnesia, one where the captivating nature of those things unfolding today, causes one to forget the bigger picture. From the Archives aims to put forward the odd reminder that, more often than not, history is merely repeating itself. Cadre deployment is rarely spoken about in any detail by the ANC. What follows is a 1999 interview with Jacob Zuma on the subject. Although his answers are often couched in obfuscation, a great many of them are revealling and say much about the ANC’s hegemonic and undemocratic attitude to power and control.

Read the rest of this entry »

On fairness


SERIES: The Thing About is a weekly Business Day column designed to discuss democratic ideas, ideals, values and principles from a liberal perspective. Fairness enjoys a reputation perhaps more generous than is actually deserved. It is, of course, an important idea but, if it is the greater good you are interested in, fairness is no guarantee it will be secured. More likely an existing conflict will be defused. That can be important but it is just as important not to confuse the two.

Read the rest of this entry »

10 Questions with Ryan Coetzee


INTERVIEW: The DA’s Head of Strategy and Special Advisor to the Western Cape Premier, Ryan Coetzee, will soon be working for Britain’s Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, on his party’s strategy in government. I asked him some questions about strategy, why it is important, how best to understand it and whether politics lends itself to a different approach to strategy, as opposed to the way it is practiced in other fields.

Read the rest of this entry »

Reflections of a departing diplomat


SPEECH: Former Leader of the Democratic Alliance and current South African Ambassador to Argentina, Tony Leon, is to vacate his post and return to South Africa at the end of September. What follows below is his farewell speech, delivered to the Argentine Institute for International Relations. In it, he reflects on his term and some of lessons about diplomacy he has learnt during his time in South Africa’s diplomatic core. An interesting insight into the thinking of an Ambassador.

Read the rest of this entry »

2012 Government Spend on Entertainment – Updates: 5 Departments; R2 152 000


FEATURE: It is annual report season and that means, among other important indicators, it is possible to gauge how national departments have spent public money over the course of the last financial year. Earlier this year, I set out how much the ANC government was spending on entertainment – just under R50 million in 2011 – and, as the new 2012 reports are tabled, I shall keep a running total of how much is spent this time around. Here follows the second such update, with five departments having tabled their reports [with PDF table at end].

Read the rest of this entry »

By the Numbers


SERIES: By the Numbers is a new series – a collection of 10 interesting numbers from current affairs and Inside Politics articles. I shall try to run it each Friday (if not every Friday then most Fridays) – hopefully, some more light-hearted reading for the end of the week. Below the main graphic, I have linked to the source of as many of the numbers as possible.

Read the rest of this entry »

ERROR: ANC-run provinces do not compute


FEATURE: Some four months ago – more than 120 days past – I documented how the websites for 18 ANC-run provincial departments were broken. I recently revisted them all again, to see if anything had changed. Nothing had. In fact, 19 are now broken and, of them, 15 have been broken since April (possibly longer). As in April, the only exception was the DA-run Western Cape Government. Its websites not only worked perfectly but were the most user-friendly. That tells you much about the attitude of those governments to transparency and accountablity; for access to government information is your right. To see which didn’t work and why, read on. [GRAPHIC included]

Read the rest of this entry »

2012 Government Spend on Entertainment – Update: 3 Departments; R236 000


FEATURE: It is annual report season and that means, among other important indicators, it is possible to gauge how national departments have spent public money over the course of the last financial year. Earlier this year, I set out how much the ANC government was spending on entertainment – just under R50 millionin 2011 – and, as the new 2012 reports are tabled, I shall keep a running total of how much is spent this time around. Here follows the first such update, with three departments having tabled their reports [with GRAPHIC and PDF table at end].

Read the rest of this entry »

Petrol price increase “indefensible”: ANC


SERIES: A good quote can hold within it a thousand separate insights, just as surely as some poorly constructed thought can reveal someone as a fool. Quotable Quotes looks at what is said, what was said and, on occasion, how the two compare. A lot of people forget but the ANC was once in opposition – from 1990, when it was un-banned, to South Africa’s first democratic election, in April 1994. Perhaps not formally elected but, for that period of time and in the run-up to 94, it assumed the role. Here are a few quotes from the ANC back then. I wonder how the ANC has held up in government against the standard it set when it was in opposition?

Read the rest of this entry »

On political support


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 political support and the public expectations which accompany it: promoting and protecting the public interest. The relationship between these two requirements of public office can be a vexed one, however, for both politicians and the public.

Read the rest of this entry »

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

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!

Read the rest of this entry »

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?

Read the rest of this entry »

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

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].

Read the rest of this entry »

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

%d bloggers like this: