Category Archives: Politics

A quick word on the anomaly that is the politics profession

Politics is anomalous in terms of modern professions. Today most professionals — especially those whose work has a direct bearing on the well-being of the public — have been corralled towards ascribing to industry-wide codes of ethics and been placed under the stewardship of industry bodies (often at the behest of politicians) that uphold ethical behaviour and enforce professional conduct.
But the modern politician, despite being at the centre of innumerable scandal and failures of ethics, continues to coast along under the radar, without being subjected to demands that better behaviour and higher standards be codified into the profession. Yes, once in public office, politicians are subject to whatever oaths apply, however, a significant amount of the activities undertaken by politicians occurs outside of office and almost always these activities are directed towards attaining office. It is thus strange that these activities are deemed “private” and outside the purview of independent scrutiny, when they have a direct bearing on how and whether a politician will behave ethically and operate at the requisite standard of professionalism once in office.
Where is the King III or the Sarbanes-Oxley for politicians?
Nowhere, that’s where. It occurred to me the other day that few modern professions, save for those deemed illegal, like sex work, have escaped scrutiny in this way. I am curious as to why. What makes the career of a politician special enough to enjoy this privilege? I must admit. I’m drawing blanks, and that’s because no justifiable reason exists for this anomaly. That the anomaly exists points to a critical flaw in how democracy has been conceptualised, as the responsibility for making the laws that govern societies is delegated primarily to a group of people in whose interest it is not to scrutinise and regulate their own collective behaviour. And it’s a shame. This democracy thing sounds really nice on paper otherwise.
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What’s behind liberalism’s unseemly attack on ubuntu?

Bearing witness to South African’s supposed liberal party’s members debate on ubuntu has been a bit like watching the ugly sisters trying on the glass slipper. It doesn’t fit yet they keep trying and blame the shoe for being the wrong size.

“Ubuntu is ill defined and Africanness is not in the dictionary, so we can’t say whether they’re compatible with liberalism,” one group says. “And anyway there’s no such thing as ubuntu because it’s a vague politically correct abstraction and even if there were, as far as liberalism is concerned, there is no such thing as ubuntu because it is collectivist.”

The other group fires back. “Ubuntu is ill defined but there’s enough to say it is a liberal value because it’s about human solidarity, just like liberalism. It is not inherently collectivist because subscribers to the notion self-identify as such. And ubuntu can be expressed outwards, from the individual as part of a community and not imposed on an individual by a community. And anyway liberalism is not static.” Continue reading

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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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