Political firestorm over DA ‘burning’ SA flag, not a peep about ANC ‘invasion’ of KZN

The late Frederik Van Zyl Slabbert, who led the official opposition in Parliament from 1979 until his resignation in 1986, was critical of my term of office in the same position. At the time of my own resignation, years later in 2007, he suggested that my political and parliamentary style was "pure Westminster". The debate on what [...]

When legends overshadow truth: Beyond blaming Zuma

Geoffrey Wheatcroft, writer, and historian, noted in 2018 in the New York Review of Books that "the encrustations of mythologising and hero worship have gone beyond the point that they can be easily corrected". This phenomenon was neatly summarised in a line at the end of the 1962 Hollywood blockbuster movie, The man who shot Liberty Valance: When the legend becomes fact, [...]

Spectre of ANC-EFF coalition: Low probability, high anxiety

After the fog of war lifted from the industrial-scale slaughter which characterised the killing fields of the First World War, which ended in 1918, a psychoanalyst offered an acute observation. Sometimes, he suggested, the difference whether a soldier was awarded a medal for gallantry or was executed for cowardice, "depended in which direction the person [...]

Cough syrup slogan saga: Lessons beyond health

The political history of South Africa during the apogee of apartheid in the 1960s and early 1970s is well canvassed, even if interpretations remain deeply contested. Less attention is paid to the cultural dimension of living under a dour state-imposed Calvinism – no television, no Sunday sport or entertainment, and a draconian censorship regime which [...]

Whom you plan to vote for is a small question that has massive implications

Last week's death of social psychologist Daniel Kahneman, 90, was commemorated by economists across the world even though he never studied economics even as an undergraduate. But he did win the 2002 Nobel Prize for economic science. Puzzles, biases and paradoxes were core to Kahneman's insights. In fact, he, along with his lifetime collaborator Amos [...]

Are Pandor’s Iran comments just ignorance, indifference or wilful blindness?

US President Ronald Reagan is attributed as once wisely noting that: "Politics is simple yet hard to do." Even more so in the international arena, as South Africa's contortions in the United States on the bilateral relationship revealed. Last week, International Relations Minister Naledi Pandor was in the news for two apparently related reasons. Domestically, she [...]

National’ needs to be removed from the party label ‘African National Congress’

Last Friday evening, I attended a dinner in Cape Town addressed by the writer and associate editor of the conservative magazine, The Spectator, Douglas K Murray, and author of the best-seller "The Madness of Crowds". In an interview there with Gareth Cliff, Murray suggested that South Africa's case against Israel on genocide charges before the [...]

Chameleon Cyril adopts different colours over NHI

The death last week of pioneering sociologist Professor Edward Webster occasioned distant memories of my 20-year-old self as a student in his industrial sociology class at Wits University. Eddie as he was universally called, was a Marxist academic, as were many in the faculty - but you did not need to drink his ideological Kool-Aid [...]

There are no straight lines in politics. Voters will get 3 versions of the ANC on 29 May

More than a decade back, I had a memorable dinner in Buenos Aires with a former White House speechwriter for President George W Bush. One of the guests present asked him what it was like to work for the 43rd President of the United States. Bush was famously regarded by voters as being both a [...]

Israel and South Africa: Many ironies at play as ‘hard cases make bad law’

No end of ironies emanate from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) proceedings launched by South Africa last week against Israel charging the Jewish state with genocide in Gaza. First, The Hague seat of the ICJ named "the Peace Palace" was ground zero for its opposite - a ferocious emotive attack on the words, conduct, [...]

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