South African Politics

State dysfunction got airborne with Ramaphosa’s DRC flight of fancy

Last weekend, the Sunday Times ran a front-page exposé by Erika Gibson on the saga of high-flying Cyril Ramaphosa. His office splurged R2.6m to hire a 320-passenger SAA Airbus A340 to transport 12 people, including the president, to a single meeting in Kinshasa, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the report said. A day late [...]

SA’s US policy is foreign to say the least

Remarks this week by international relations minister Naledi Pandor represent a rhetorical Venn diagram between her intelligence and experience on the one hand, and her obligation to parrot the party line, encased by impractical commitments and ideological rigidities on the other. This awkward intersection was on full display during the visit to Pretoria on Monday [...]

The ANC’s policy phantasms won’t fly

On Monday , South Africans, wearied and depressed by endless electricity blackouts in the heart of winter, were offered by President Cyril Ramaphosa yet another solution — this time in the form of a “10-point power crisis plan”.  Most folk are caught between the hope that this time, against all odds and expectation, the plan [...]

OK, now for the 10-point credibility plan, Mr President

Just hours after President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Monday evening announcement of a “10-point power crisis plan”, educationist and public commentator Jonathan Jansen commissioned an online survey. Jansen asked respondents how confident they were that in respect of the “bold announcements of the president to fix the energy crisis that this time words will become actions?” Of [...]

Waiting for Ramaphosa goes from Phala Phala party to a black Christmas

The death of acclaimed film critic Barry Ronge in early July was a jarring reminder to me of how he held our English 1 class at Wits University spellbound with his wit and articulacy 42 years ago. Ronge’s lecture topic back then was “the theatre of the absurd” — at the time very voguish with its [...]

Look who’s afraid of change while Conservatives keep it fresh

Writing this column from London amid an intense heatwave, the meltdown in the British Conservative Party offers no end of lessons for politicians and polities everywhere. Last Thursday Boris Johnson’s gravity-defying political survivalism was brought crashing down to earth as he was forcibly ejected — “by the herd”, as he dubbed his Tory colleagues — [...]

It’s when the moderate centre is quiet that extremists flourish

There are a lot of reasons right now to read or reread the works of Canadian author, Margaret Atwood. Her 1985 theological dystopian novel The Handmaid’s Tale, recently brought to the screen as a miniseries, obtained fresh urgency in the light of the extraordinary US Supreme Court decision last week to remove the constitutional right to [...]

The scandal surrounding Cyril has opened yet another gate

At the recent Franschhoek Literary Festival, I watched a fascinating interview with mega-bestselling author (320-million books sold to date) Jeffrey Archer and local radio host John Maytham. The most interesting part of the discussion with the spry-looking 82-year-old author was his description of his daily work routine: at an age when most in his cohort [...]

After succeeding Meyer Kahn, Cyril Ramaphosa failed to take heed of his wisdom

Meyer Kahn, who died in Johannesburg last week, was described by a close friend and business colleague as “an ordinary man possessed of quite extraordinary abilities”. That handsome tribute to a business leader and former executive chair of SA Breweries, who with CEO Graham Mackay co-piloted SAB (later SABMiller and now merged into AB InBev) [...]

It’s time the state stopped spin doctoring and started doctoring

Reading director general of government communications Phumla Williams’s defence of SA’s desirability as an “investment destination of choice” reminded me of the rejoinder of Upton Sinclair. In 1935 this American Pulitzer Prize-winning author and political activist wrote: “It is difficult to get a person to understand something when their salary depends on them not understanding [...]

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