World Politics

It works every time: when in a corner, attack the West

Never underestimate the electoral hay ultranationalist leaders harvest by attacking “the West” when their at-risk regimes are imperilled. I recall November 1977 when I was a first-year student at Wits University, observing hardline nationalist prime minister John Vorster deliver a furious speech at the Film Trust Arena in Johannesburg on the eve of the white [...]

Ramaphosa’s game of bluff despite the mirror behind him

British statesman Roy Jenkins wrote of the life and career of French soldier-leader Charles de Gaulle that “compared with his companions on the world stage [De Gaulle] had mostly to play a poor hand from a weak seat”, adding that “he behaved in a way which, seeking grandeur, invited ridicule, yet always escaped it. He was [...]

There’s a mess all right, but unfortunately no Messiah

February’s explosive eNCA interview with former Eskom CEO André de Ruyter sucked all the oxygen from the ailing body politic. Understandably, since his assertions on high-level corruption and criminality were entirely plausible. His claims on the complicity of at least two cabinet ministers, and the connivance of a third who ignored it, in the malfeasance [...]

Illiberal democracy has come home to roost in SA

In 1997, a decade before he became a global media star on CNN, Fareed Zakaria wrote an influential article for the journal, Foreign Affairs. Titled, The Rise of Illiberal Democracy, Zakaria’s article commenced with an observation from the hard-driving US diplomat, the late Richard Holbooke, who brokered a peace deal in war-torn, ethnically inflamed Bosnia. He asked of [...]

Cyril and Joe share a secret electoral sauce

The political fortunes of Joe Biden, who has just turned 80 and is the oldest president in the history of the US, are partly explained by comparative advantage. One of his favourite quips is: “Don’t compare me to the almighty, compare me to the alternative.” In his 2020 presidential victory and in the US midterms [...]

Bill Browder and Tony Leon argue that money, not morality, dictates South Africa’s support for Vladimir Putin

King Charles III has conferred a signal honour on South Africa’s president, Cyril Ramaphosa. He has invited him on a state visit to Britain this month, the first by a foreign leader since the king came to the throne. That is in spite of South Africa’s refusal to condemn Russia’s merciless war in Ukraine. In [...]

Democracy is slowly chipping away at the denialists in the US

Last Tuesday, election day for the mid-terms in the US, found famed American historian and presidential envoy Deborah Lipstadt thousands of kilometres from home. Instead, she was addressing a seminar at the Kaplan Centre for Jewish Studies at the University of Cape Town. Lipstadt, who achieved celluloid fame via her portrayal by Rachel Weisz in [...]

Youthful nations are infatuated with good old lies — why?

A flurry of elections — two just held and one next week — in three hugely significant geostrategic countries — tells us quite a bit about the universalism of current politics and some striking similarities between contests fought locally but felt globally. Brazil is the sprawling giant of South America, and despite its sub-par growth [...]

The empire strikes back, and it could very well be the UK’s saviour

I arrived in London on Tuesday, the day of a political revolution. Not that any observer would have noticed from the apparent autumnal normalcy of the bustling UK capital, abuzz with busy shoppers, snarled traffic and crisp weather. But it was a day of extraordinary change. Out went Liz Truss, the shortest serving and most [...]

What will kick off SA’s Arab spring?

In 2011 Xi Jinping was simply vice-president of China, before ascending to the top post as party general secretary (or supreme leader), to which he is set to be affirmed for a third term by his Communist Party at its 20th national congress. Back then he hosted a visit to his country by Joe Biden, [...]

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