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

Tag: Excellence

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.

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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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Politics and innovation


FEATURE: Innovation is one of those words frequently used but less frequently thought through. In politics in particular, it is used almost exclusively with regards to policy. That is good and necessary, but what about political parties themselves, and the ideologies they espouse? Why is innovation an important principle in a democracy? Why should it be promoted and protected, and what are its benefits? In the short paper below I look at the idea and why it is important.

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The eternal battle between outcomes and processes


ARTICLE: What is more important – an outcome or the process designed to achieve it? How you answer that question will say a lot about you. Those primarily concerned with outcomes are usually responsible for change and, with it, progress. Those overly concerned with processes usually stifle progress, unable as they are to understand its purpose in the first place (to generate an outcome) – or to adapt when it fails. South Africa today places far too much emphasis on process. Indeed, in politics we have a process for everything (a tribunal, a committee, a review, a commission, an investigation, etc) but when it comes to outcomes – and with that accoutability – well, they are far harder to find. So it is worth exploring the relationship between these two things, to try and better understand the role each plays.

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What would a society mired in mediocrity look like?


ARTICLE: Mediocrity is a devilish thing – pervasive and insidious and yet so ill-defined. It is relatively easy to understand what excellence is, much harder though to define its nemesis. What I have tried to do in the article below is describe what a society firmly in mediocrity’s grip might look like. It is a helpful exercise, if only because it makes it easier to understand the important role excellence plays and its general effect.

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Excellence as an antidote


ARTICLE: In the piece below Wilmot James makes a fairly profound point: that excellence and its pursuit can be a mechanism through which reconciliation can be achieved. That is, to my mind, an entirely original approach. And quite true too: for a country that suffers low self esteem and over which victimhood has such a strong hold, what can be a better anecdote than setting high standards and then achieving them? Something to think about.

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UCT Admissions: The DASO alternative


DOCUMENT: The University of Cape Town has for sometime now been the centre of much attention as a result of its race-based admissions policy. In a response to that debate, the UCT council recently established a Commission into UCT Students Admissions on the Admissions Policy and called for public submissions. What follows below is the submission from the Democratic Alliance Student Organisation at UCT, in which the case is made, rather than race-based selection, a basket of socio-economic indicators be used – an alternative approach to redress, based on equality of opportunity.

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Learning the hard way


FEATURE: When Jackie Selebi was appointed police commissioner in 1999, and despite much evidence suggesting his appointment would be problematic – least of all that he was first an foremost an Mbeki loyalist, not an expert – the decison was widely welcomed by the mainstream press. Today, Selebi’s successor, Bheki Cele, is also disgraced and so it worth asking: what did the press say about his 2009 appointment? Did they praise it? Or where they critical? Because the problem with the appointment was essentially the same. Have a read and find out.

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The language of meritocracy


FEATURE: To what degree is South Africa a country that embraces and embodies excellence? That is, to what degree are those things fundamental to a meritocracy inherent to South African public discourse and its political culture? In the piece below the DA’s Federal Chair, Wilmot James, looks at this question and tries to understand both where we stand as country in this regard and what the Democratic Alliance has to do, in order to better embrace excellence and its benefits.

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