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

Tag: Jacob Zuma

The ANC, religion and ‘the truth’


SPEECH: This past Tuesday I delivered an address on the ANC, religion and ‘the truth’. For those interested, a copy of that speech follows below. It argues that there is much to be understand about the ANC when it is viewed not as a political party but a religious movement and explores what happens when a party which once held a monopoly over ‘the truth’ suffers a crisis of legitimacy?

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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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Dealing with apartheid’s legacy: The Lee/Manuel correspondence


TrevorManuelFEATURE: Much has been made of Trevor Manuel’s recent comments on apartheid and whether or not it constitutes a valid excuse for poor service delivery. One area relevant to the debate, on which Manuel has been very outspoken in the past but did not address in his speech, is quotas in sport. In 2005 he set out his views in an exchange of letters with DA MP Donald Lee. I have set them all out in this article. Thus, one question perhaps worth putting to Manuel today, is whether or not he still thinks they are necessary.

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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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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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The New Age and the commercialisation of accountability


AccountabilityFEATURE: Much has been made of the extent to which corporates and parastatals have sponsored the New Age business breakfasts, and rightfully so. Here, however, is another take on the significance of these occasions: what we are seeing the commercialisation of President’s question time – money in exchange for the chance, seemingly, to interrogate the head of state. It represents the ANC’s ideal response to the necessity of accountability: you can’t have it, but you can pay for the pretence of it.

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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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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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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.

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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].

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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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.

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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.

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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].

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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.

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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.

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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.

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36 Quotes from Jacob Zuma


FEATURE: I have been looking through the various wise things Jacob Zuma has said, in particular, before his election to the Presidency in 2009. And, seeing as I have them all to hand, I thought I would put together a list of some of his more infamous statements. I was struck by how often he came out in defence of President Mbeki’s HIV/Aids denialism, specifically as Deputy President. That said, in no particular order, here are 36 quotes from Jacob Zuma.

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Zuma’s Zapiro investment strategy


FEATURE: Jacob Zuma’s defamation case against Zapiro – the cartoonist Jonathan Shapiro (not David, ANCWL) – is due to be heard by the courts in October. In the meantime, Zapiro is enjoying some rather intense political attention after he suggested, in a more recent cartoon, Zuma is a ‘dick’. In the article below, Adv. Mark Oppenheimer looks at Zuma’s prospects for success with regards to Zapiro’s ‘raping’ of Lady Justice cartoon; and it appears the President faces an uphill legal battle if he is to win. Here’s why.

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7 of the worst: How the ANC rewards corruption


FEATURE: Jacob Zuma yesterday used his speech to the ANC’s 2012 policy conference to speak out against what he called ‘alien tendencies’ in the party – things like corruption and the abuse of power. Who did he think he was kidding? Zuma has himself rewarded those very things. By way of illustration, here is a list of seven ANC MPs, all found guilty in the Travelgate scandal, all re-elected, most rewarded with promotion (by Zuma) and including their salaries – so you can see just how much political loyalty costs.

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Some curious facts from a ballooning presidency


ARTICLE: It is often stated that the ANC is centralising power in the presidency. But what do the facts say? One way to find out is to look at its annual reports over time, which list the number of staff it employs. Sure enough, the evidence illustrates it is an ever-increasing bureaucracy. In fact, it has more than doubled in size over the last nine years. With that has come an increase in support staff, a great many of whom are dedicated to comfort rather than policy.

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An Open Letter: Why The Spear is staying up on Inside Politics


FEATURE: Over the past 48 hours a series of people and institutions once dedicated to freedom of expression and tolerance have surrendered their position on The Spear in the face of intimidation and bullying. In each case, an emotional justification has been offered. In many cases it has been accepted, for bullying is felt as intimidation not by the victim alone. I am not taking down The Spear from Inside Politics. What follows is an open letter and explanation as to why.

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‘The Spear’ and the silence of the National Arts Council


FEATURE: The National Arts Council is legally required, among other things, to “uphold and promote the right of any person to freedom in the practice of the arts”. Yet on ‘The Spear’ we have heard not a word from it. How is that possible? How is an entire organisation dedicated to upholding, protecting and promoting the rights of artists able to sit idly by while the right to freedom of artistic expression is under such a direct and wide-ranging assault? It is an indictment and there should be consequences.

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Albie Sachs on South African art in 2000


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. In this edition, a quote from 2000, from former ANC stalwart and Justice Albie Sachs about South African art and how it was independent of political hegemony and correctness; an appraisal that stands in stark contrast to the ANC’s recent response to ‘The Spear’.

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The painting, the institution and the individual


FEATURE: The various responses to the painting of Jacob Zuma constantly confuse public office with the behaviour of the individual holding that office – the assumption is that because someone represents an institution they automatically get all the public respect associated with it. The latest is a statement by Zuma’s children. This is, of course, wrong. In fact, quite the opposite is true. In this short piece, I explain why.

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The Jacob Zuma painting and the idea of respect


ARTICLE: Much has already been made of the Jacob Zuma painting and the idea of respect. The argument goes like this: Jacob Zuma is the President, he should be respected. Therefore, the painting should be removed. That ‘argument’ is often used in South Africa. Routinely we fundamentally misunderstand what respect is. We think it is something that can be demanded, not earned. But the moment you accept that line of thinking, you are on a sure path to some or other anti-democratic state of affairs.

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The painting of President Zuma


PICTURE: Today the ANC released a statement about a painting of President Zuma by artist by Brett Murray which, among other things, says: “We have this morning instructed our lawyers to approach our courts to compel Brett Murray and Goodman Gallery to remove the portrait from display as well as from their website and destroy all printed promotional material. We have also detected that this distasteful and vulgar portrait of the President has been displayed on a weekend newspaper and its website, we again have instructed our lawyers to request the said newspaper to remove the portrait from their website.” Well, in support of the constitutional right to free expression and in opposition to the ANC’s tyrannical attitude, here is the painting in question.

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Is the ANC its own harshest critic?


FEATURE: President Zuma’s election as ANC President ushered in a new era in ANC politics. Gone were the days of tight party discipline and the seemingly unified, focused communication that defined Mbeki’s reign. Now it openly and, on a regular basis, criticises itself – often in the harshest terms. Unfortunately, it has little to do with improvement and everything to do with political posturing and so, in the run-up to Mangaung, we can expect more of it, not less.

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The ANC’s all-time top 10 most disturbing quotes


FEATURE: I have compiled into a list what I consider to be the ANC’s 10 most disturbing quotes of the last 18 years. Each one made a significant impact on current affairs and, significantly, revealed the ANC’s real thinking, so they are worth documenting and recalling. But I am open to suggestions. The point of this article is to generate a discussion. So read them and leave your comments. Did Zuma’s shower quote make the list? Malema on nationalisation? Mbeki on Aids? Read on and find out. Also, leave your thoughts on Twitter, I will use the hashtag #ANCQuotes

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A Zuma flip flop: On the arms deal in 2004 and 2012


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. Today, Jacob Zuma and the arms deal. Perhaps his biggest flip flop ever? You be the judge – see what Jacob Zuma said about it when answering questions in 2012 and how that compares his answer, to the exact same question, in 2004.

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South Africa and the Sorites Paradox


FEATURE: The Sorites Paradox posits that, in removing individual grains of sand from a heap, one can never tell the exact point when it stops being a heap and becomes something else. It is also called the ‘little-by-little’ argument and speaks to one of humankind’s great weaknesses: our inability to spot gradual but fundamental change over time. What happens when you apply the paradox to the ANC? Is it the same party it was in 1994? Has it changed fundamentally? If so, when did it happen?

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Was Shiceka fired for promoting the DA?


FEATURE: As part of the speculation preceding President Zuma’s decision to fire former co-operative governance minister Sicelo Shiceka it was reported the ANC was unhappy with the way his department kept highlighting in its reports how well DA governments were performing. Since he has been fired, the national department has produced none of the comparative statistical information it did in the run-up to the 2011 election. So, was the way the minister’s department promoted the DA a contributing factor to his removal from office? And, more to the point, will the ANC government ever make that kind of comparative data available again?

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The other election


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. This time, a retrospective on the other important election involving Jacob Zuma: at the ANC’s 1997 general conference Zuma was elected Deputy President and his formal relationship with Thabo Mbeki was first established. How he got elected, and what he had to say about Mbeki, makes for interesting reading.

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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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Zuma on Jesus and democracy


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. In this edition a look at Jacob Zuma’s ANC centenary speech and how it contradicts some of his earlier ideas on Jesus and the power of the voters.

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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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