Tag Archives: Politics

Book review: Thoughts on the New South Africa, by Neville Alexander

I used to believe that if you did not know history and how our societies came to be as they are, the world must be infuriating and scary. But from observing ease of those afflicted by the contagious South African moveonism, partly owing to the poor education system, partly from memory’s natural degeneracy between generations, partly from the convenience of forgetting, partly from the various ideologically driven projects to induce forgetting and misremembering, I’ve had to reconsider. Those with that knowledge and understanding are a minority amid a multitude of people who start each new day as though the previous had not been. These few are the only sane people in a room of amnestic madmen. As such, I’m now convinced that it’s only for them, these few who understand the past, its effects on today and what must be done to create a better future, that this world full of forgetting is a maddening place.

Neville Alexander’s collection of essays, Thoughts on the New South Africa, published posthumously in February, six months after his death, bristles with annoyance and a heavy undertone of frustration, understandably so, given that he was among the few I’ve described.

Adding to Alexander’s frustration, I glean, is that his thinking was, no, is far ahead of our time—and, compelled by the sense of community and humility that drew him into an active role in the country’s liberation movement, he could not reasonably withdraw into the insular existence that many in his position might find tempting and mollifying. Continue reading

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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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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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