On how black anger and white obliviousness are used to foreground race in post-apartheid South Africa

My essay on how black anger, white obliviousness and the expedience of politics have foregrounded race in public dialogue in South Africa has just been published on Mampoer Shorts. It’s a 10,000-word “short”, so snazzy book-like cover aside, you should be able to read it in under two hours. It builds on an opinion piece I wrote earlier this year for the Daily Maverick at the height of debacle over Brett Murray’s ‘The Spear’. Read it, give me your thoughts, and if I haven’t died of shame from the self-promotion I’ll be engaging in during the coming weeks, consider me immortal. Also, in that instance, let me know if you’d like to be involved in a follow-on project I’ll be doing along the same theme next year. But for now, here’s an excerpt. The full essay is available on Mampoer for $2.99. Continue reading

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Let me be clear, because some responses suggest I was not in my recent column for the International New York Times: from just about every assessment, the City of Cape Town and the Western Cape are consistently rated among the top performing South African metros and provinces respectively in terms of governance and levels of service delivery. That said, if the Democratic Alliance had its way, this should be the only basis by which the metro and province it governs are to be assessed: relative to other metros and provinces. If the African National Congress had its way, Cape Town and the Western Cape are to be assessed independently, with no reference to the other metros and provinces the ANC itself governs.

This is a political gambit I, as a thinking, observant, politically unaffiliated resident of Cape Town and a citizen of South Africa, am under no obligation and have no desire to play. None of us, really, are under an obligation to play this game, yet we do because many of us support political parties like we do soccer clubs: blindly. Continue reading

A “radical intellectual” replies: No, Ms de Lille, Cape Town is no benchmark for social justice

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Apartheid denial, the reader and rage

I.

Former ambassador to Argentina and Business Day columnist Tony Leon said in a radio interview with Eusebius McKaiser yesterday that he agreed with the statement: Corruption was rife under apartheid. However, that is not what he said in his column, the subject of the radio interview.

In the column, Leon argued that the National Party did not tolerate corruption and, to the extent it did, those caught were not shielded from punishment by their political party affiliation. He also said that corruption and the lack of consequence for it came in the wake of democracy in 1994.

Tell me, how can corruption be rife yet not tolerated in a system that doesn’t let perpetrators get away? There’s a leak in the logic here only explainable by saying that the National Party, to a large extent, turned a massive blind eye to corruption, which would undermine the premise of Leon’s argument. Hold up his view that the present-day sickening cycle of corruption with no consequences came in the wake of 1994 against his agreeing that corruption was rife under apartheid and you’ll realise that precious little of what he’s said makes sense.

Here is Leon in his own words, emphasis my own:

The NP promoted and prosecuted a political system which oppressed and disfigured this country, and its security apparatus did far worse. But it was not so forgiving of its own members who looted public office for personal ends. And to the extent that it turned a blind eye, it did not interfere when the departments of justice and correctional services indicted and processed its members, some of them very prominent indeed.

Like the entire column, the statement is an elegant cascade of questionable elisions and untruths couched in truths and built on a false premise that caused those who rightly read with the context of Leon’s time in public office to question his motivation for writing it.

Continue reading

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Do the honourable thing and step down, Mr Vavi

At the time of writing Zwelinzima Vavi is still general secretary of Cosatu, the country’s largest trade union federation and powerful ally to the governing ANC. He is reportedly scheduled to appear before some form of Cosatu internal process today to answer to charges of sexual harassment in the workplace and other additional charges are being lined up. Before the news broke, he laboured for months to publicly portray himself as the target of various political conspiracies and now, after the story went public, he maintains that what happened was an act of sexual infidelity between two consenting adults for which he is sorry.

However, from what he as admitted to so far, there is a strong prima facie case against him. Continue reading

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