The multiparty coalition needs cool heads and a spirit of compromise

Last week’s opposition get-together at Emperor’s Palace (previously World Trade Centre) in Kempton Park provided fodder for both cheerleaders and cynics about prospects for a post-ANC future in South Africa. For the sceptics, there was plenty of evidence that this “sideshow”, to quote our esteemed president, will not move the voting dial much in 2024. [...]

‘Nonaligned’, ‘pick up the rand’, ‘president’: when words mean fokol

American dissident and writer James Baldwin once noted you can judge the state of a nation’s educational level by the quality of its political speech. By this metric, and on both measures, SA today scores off the charts. Hot on the heels of the global report (Progress in International Reading Literacy Study) revealing that 81% [...]

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 [...]

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 [...]

Things fall apart as weak Ramaphosa channels his inner Graaff

Douglas Gibson, veteran combatant of the internecine wars that felled the once mighty, now long vanished, United Party, offered a pithy put-down on the equivocating and irresolute leadership style of its long-serving chief, Sir De Villiers Graaff. “When in doubt, Div would appoint a committee,” he recalls. Cyril Ramaphosa claimed in his state of the nation [...]

With Ramaphosa’s zugzwang, it’s goodbye to the new dawn

Goodbye To All That was the title of the 1929 autobiography of war-traumatised Robert Graves, the acclaimed writer and poet, which he described as his “bitter leave-taking of England”. It is a useful obituary note for the presidency of Cyril Ramaphosa. Technically, like Mark Twain’s reported death, this might seem greatly exaggerated. But only in the [...]

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 [...]

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 [...]

Truss me on this one, Liz: new dawns get old fast

Newly elected (by the tiny universe of her own party members) British PM Liz Truss has surfed to power on a blue wave of Conservative support, though by a lesser margin than polls predicted, or any of her recent predecessors enjoyed. Still, a win is a win, and though she might soon founder on the [...]

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