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

Tag: Culture

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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Biko’s archetype: Are you a ‘real black’?


InsidePoliticsFEATURE: We are currently involved, as ever, in an intense discussion about identity. On the one hand we have a series of prejudiced comments about sexual orientation (Mulholland), race (Schutte), culture and gender (Zuma); on the other, the various responses to them. But such debates are nothing new, especially when it comes to race and culture. The debate addressing what it is to be a ‘real black’ or ‘African’, for example, is far older than South Africa’s new democracy. And so it is worth returning to its origins. In the article below I look at the writings of one of the key thinkers behind Black Consciousness – Steve Biko – and his views on the subject, before concluding they are no different from or less problematic than those more recent comments about which so many are rightfully outraged.

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Appearance and reality: Liberal values in democratic South Africa


FEATURE: The Helen Suzman Foundation (www.hsf.org.za) has just produced edition 65 of its Journal, Focus. The edition is titled ‘On Liberty’ and devoted to exploring some of the challenges, both social and political, which have confronted South African liberalism. You can find a full copy of the edition here (PDF). Among of a range of pieces by the likes of Bobby Godsell, Charles Simkins, John Matisonn and Michael Cardo (I see Pallo Jordan even makes an appearance) is the piece I wrote, below, on liberal values and how they are often the subject of subtle negotiation, almost always to their detriment.

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First world ambitions, third world realities


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. In all likelihood, somewhere, someone has already experienced and commented on those all-consuming issues that appear to have materialised only yesterday. Today a 2008 article on copper cable theft, Eskom advertising and how first world ambitions and third world realities often meet in rather brutal fashion in South Africa.

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