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Archive for the tag “Jacob Zuma”

Zuma Must Fall

No, I’m not going to add my own little rant to all the others explaining why Zuma’s presidency is bad for the country. My 2c worth is about the #ZumaMustFall movement, rather than about Zuma himself.

Zuma’s shortcomings have been explained far more eloquently by others than by anything I can say — by Barney Pityana here, and by Zwelinzima Vavi here. As Zwelinzima Vavi puts it,

We are on a rollercoaster without a driver, and we are about to come off the rails! The captains of the ship of state are about to run aground, and are completely discredited and enjoy no credibility or moral authority with those they are supposed to protect and represent

HumptyZumaOne interesting thing about the #ZumaMustFall movement is that it is not driven by opposition parties trying to make political capital out of Zuma’s latest blunder. Their voices have been drowned out by a clamour from all kinds of people, mainly on social media like Twitter and Facebook. Many of these voices have been from people who have hitherto supported the ANC, and who played a significant part in the freedom struggle. It is becoming clearer to many that the ANC today is not the old ANC of Mandela, Tambo and Sisulu. The credo of the old ANC was The People Shall Govern. The credo of the new ANC of the tenderpreneurs is The Guptas shall govern.

This may look like the beginning of a popular movement, but we need to remember that the Twitterati do not represent the broad masses of the people. The Twitterati are predominantly middle class, and it is middle-class people who are most sensitive to the immediate effects of Zuma’s blunder, such as the fall in the value of the Rand, which has been almost as spectacular as P.W. Botha’s Rubicon Rand of 30 years ago.

The middle class are aware of these things, because they know that it will increase the cost of their next overseas holiday, or the cost of imported goods that they were planning to buy — the new tablet computer or home theatre or whatever.

Because of this, some have said that the only people who will be affected by the economic fallout from this are white capitalists, and that the rest of the people need not worry. But over the next few months we will see how it could begin to affect others.

The intelligentsia are already aware of it because the victory they gained a few short months ago from the #FeesMustFall movement can be wiped out because milliards of Rand have vanished from the economy within the space of a day or two.

The working class may became aware of it when the price of petrol rises, and taxi fares increase, but that will be sufficiently long after Zuma’s blunder for the cause and effect link to be less obvious. Perhaps it will need some rousing populist rhetoric from Julius Malema and Co to make that connection clear.

Perhaps the last people to become aware of it will be the rural peasants. The benefits of democracy may have taken longest to trickle down to them, but on the positive side the disasters take longer to trickle down too.

I suspect that something similar will happen here to what happened in Zimbabwe 15-20 years ago. There the immediate trigger was the eagerness of their rulers to intervene in the Congo civil war. Foreign military adventures are expensive, and caused foreign exchange reserves to fall. That meant there was not enough money to buy fuel, and rationing was introduced. Businesses that depended on exports began to fold, and unemployment increased. The working class revolted and formed the MDC, and Zanu found its electoral support dwindling in a referendum which they lost. To prevent the losses spreading to the rural areas, they confiscated land from commercial farmers and redistributed it to peasants so they would continue to support them (and to party cronies, of course). The commercial farms produced mainly export crops, so foreign exchange reserves dwindled still further, and it became a vicious circle.

The same thing could happen here, if the value of the Rand drops further, the price of fuel will rise, and rationing may have to be introduced. Transport costs, for both goods and people, will rise, and a similar vicious circle could develop here. And the working class here could become aware of what had caused the problem, as they did in Zimbabwe. But bear in mind that millions of Zimbabweans voted with their feet and came to South Africa. Perhaps they can go back to Zimbabwe, but where can the South Africans go?

Dr Azar Jammine, one of the country’s top economists, explains more of the possible economic consequences of Zuma’s bluder in an article here. Dr Jammine also explains why he thinks that the populist economics proposed by the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) will not be a solution either, but the ANC has never had a populist economic policy; it has been neoliberal, and indeed thoroughly Thatcherist for the last 15 years at least, as this article by Andile Mngxitama points out.[1]

I don’t think the ANC has been quite as bad as Andile Mngxitama suggests, though. It did not suddenly change overnight (even though the abandonment of the RDP may have given that impression). But people like Kader Asmal worked very hard to bring clean water to every community, and there are many people who have continued to support similar ideals. If there weren’t, our country would be in a much worse state. Such people have sometimes been sidelined and displaced by the new tenderpreneur class, but many of them are still around, and still working for the ideals that the ANC, at its best, was fighting for 25 years ago. So perhaps a few of them may take courage from recent events, as this article suggests — Zuma’s opponents have smelled blood | News24:

There is a possibility that we would look back at the Nene/Van Rooyen debacle in the not so distant future and conclude that although our economy had lost billions through Zuma’s bizarre decision, it represented a turning point. It broke the back of Zuma’s power in the ANC and gave the top brass in the Cabinet and Luthuli House their mojo back. It is hard to see how Zuma can ever again make damaging decisions or statements without being corrected by his party.

I’m not exactly enthralled by the thought of Cyril Ramaphosa being our next president — he has too much blood on his hands after Marikana — but I don’t think he would be quite as recklessly irresponsible.


Notes

[1] My own view of populist, neoliberal and socialist economics is not really relevant to this article, and in any case I’m not an economist, but if anyone was wondering, I’m against the privatisation mania of neoliberal economics, and I’m against the nationalisation mania of populist economics.

  • I believe that some things should never be nationalised: mining and manufacturing, for example.
  • I believe that some things should never be privatised: e.g. transport and communications infrastructure (roads, railways, posts and telecommunications). Privatised toll roads are an abomination. Deregulated heavy goods transport leads to potholes and disused railway lines etc.
  • Other things may be a mixture of one or the other — education, farming, wholesale and retail trade, service industries, health care, banking etc. My preference for many of those sectors is private enterprise socialism — building societies and credit unions for banking, for example, cooperatives for farming and retail trade, and so on.

 

 

 

The official Mandela memorial: how embarrassing

I didn’t go to the official Mandela memorial service yesterday. I watched it on TV. I thought about going, but it was raining, and I had neither umbrella nor raincoat.

Many people said (on Twitter) that they were embarrassed by the booing of Jacob Zuma, but for me that was one of the few redeeming features of the event.

We organised a rugby world cup in 1995, and Nelson Mandela attended the final at the FNB stadium, and we won. The following year we organised the the soccer African Cup of Nations at the FNB stadium, with twice as many teams, and we won. We organised the cricket world cup, and we organised the soccer world cup in 2010, and the organisers did us proud.

But the memorial service for South Africa’s greatest president was chaotic, amateurish and embarrassing.  I watched it on eNCA news, and the broadcast was incompetent and disrespectful, with speakers being interrupted to show the presenters (Nikiwe Bikitsha and Jeremy Maggs) chatting to each other or to other random people. Sometimes they were telling us what was happening instead of showing us.

It didn’t start off too badly, though it did start an hour late. I didn’t notice that at the time, but I did notice that even though it started an hour late, US President Barack Obama arrived later still. That seems to be an American habit, because the start of Nelson Mandela’s inauguration was delayed by ten minutes because US Vice-President Al Gore was late. We make jokes about “African time”, but African-American time seems to be something else.

It was noticable that some people in the crowd booed and made the soccer substitution sign when President Jacob Zuma appeared, but former president Thabo Mbeki got much louder cheers. I’ve seen the booing and the substitution sign (rolling hands) at soccer matches when there is an unpopular player, or someone makes a stupid mistake, and probably quite a large part of the crowd were soccer fans, and were used to doing that kind of thing at that venue.

Was it an appropriate occasion?

Well after the Soweto massacre in 1976 funerals of political activists were also political demonstrations, and that became part of the culture of funerals in many parts of South Africa, In his first speech after his release from prison Nelson Mandela paid tribute to the efforts of the people, which had gone him released, and the political demonstrations at funerals were part of those efforts, so I think those who are complaining that it was “inappropriate” are forgetting our own recent history.

Another point is that the recent debacle over toll roads has shown, especially to the people of Gauteng, that the ANC leadership is not prepared to listen to the people, and forced e-tolls on Gauteng in the very week that Nelson Mandela died. The ANC provincial and national leadership was gathered as a captive audience, and such an opportunity might never arise again. It was simply too good to be missed.

Some conspiracy theorists have suggested that it was organised and orchestrated in advance. Perhaps it was a flashmob, gathered by tweets and SMS messages. If so, it would appear to have been better organised than the memorial service itself. But I think there is a simpler explanation. It was a soccer stadium, and people were used to going to it to watch football matches. Soccer fans knew what to do without having to be told.

The memorial service opened with prayers and tributes by Jewish, Hindu and Muslim clergy. So far so good.

Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma spoke, and could hardly be heard, even on TV, because the crowd were walking in and out, singing and dancing, or talking or tweeting on cell phones. The editor of City Press tweeted that it was a long walk to a woman president, if that was how much attention was being paid. Someone tweeted that a sound engineer would be fired. The eNCA cameras showed the speaker, but not the deaf interpreter, which was another piece of incompetence. But it seems that the incompetence was worse than I thought, because even though the deaf interpreter was there, he was so incompetent that no deaf people could understand him. The one redeeming feature was that the broadcasters managed to get the lip sync right, which DStv hardly ever manages to do.

By the time US president Barack Obama got up to speak (after he eventually arrived) many in the crowd were already leaving, and the singing and dancing continued for a while until people realised that he actually had something to say. That was perhaps where watching on TV was better. I knew from his first election campaign that he was a good orator, but a year into his second term I was also aware that many of the things he promised so earnestly have not come to pass. He spoke of the imprisonment of Nelson Mandela on Robben Island, and I was acutely aware of his unfulfilled promise to close Guantanamo Bay.

As he continued speaking, the crowd began to quieten down, and fewer people moved to the exits. Whatever the gap between words and reality, the spoken words themselves wove a spell. He was followed by the Vice President of China, the President of Brazil, and of India. All of the BRICS were there. No, not quite. There was no sign of anyone from Russia, no one at all.

The crowd seemed to listen more attentively to the President of Brazil, even though she spoke Portuguese and it was interpreted. Perhaps it might not be such a long walk to a woman president after all. Perhaps we just need the right woman. I thought of Mamphela Ramphele, but we’ll be lucky just to get her into parliament, where she can perhaps be heard.

The move to the exits resumed. It looked as though the home team was losing, and so it was, as things went steadily downhill.

President Zuma spoke. The content of his speech was not bad, but his delivery, especially after Barack Obama, was atrocious. He barely looked at his audience, and read his speech painfully slowly. And even when he did look up there was no eye-contact, as there had been with Barack Obama, because he wore dark glasses which made him look like a Mafia gangster.

As usual, Zapiro gets it right

As usual, Zapiro gets it right

Then came a Bible reading, about Elijah going to heaven and leaving his mantle to Elisha, but Jacob Zuma made an unconvincing Elisha, and the delivery was as bad as Zuma’s, so the reading flopped too.

And then a bloke started to sing a Xhosa hymn, Lisalis’ idinga lakho. I recall it from my Anglican days as the only singable hymn in the Xhosa hymn book. All the others were translated from English, and in every single one the rhythm of the words classhed with the rhythm of the music, syncopation on steroids. Lisalis’ idinga lakho was written by a Xhosa speaker, and so the words and music fitted. Perhaps for that reason it was Nelson Mandela’s favourite hymn. But why, O why, could the organisers of the event not muster up a decent choir to lead the singing of it? It is a well-known hymn, and most of the people in the stadium would have joined in and it could have sounded magnificent, like a Welsh rugby match, perhaps, and not like a faded away old soldier’s funeral in a funeral parlour chapel with five old soldiers, and one of them playing the last post on a cell phone.

And then followed the sermon by Nikwe Bikisha and Jeremy Maggs Ivan Abrahams, which I didn’t hear, though those who did tell me I didn’t miss much.

Anglican bishop Desmond Tutu gave the final blessing, which was at least a little better. It really needed someone who knew a little about liturgy.

Some have said that the booing of Zuma spoiled the event, but nothing spoiled it as much as the bad organisation and dull speeches. As for the booing, I think the best comment is here It’s our party and we’ll boo if we want to | Daily Maverick

I’m glad I’m Orthodox, and I hope my funeral will be a little bit better than that. It really was embarrassingly badly organised, especially after we had successfully organised world cup matches in cricket, rugby and soccer.

We did have a memorial service for Nelson Mandela in church on Sunday, and that was much better too

Making political capital out of the miners’ strike

Violent clashes between police and striking miners at the Lonmin mine at Marikana in North-West Province, and between members of rival unions, have left 34 dead (at the last count) and many more injured. This has shocked most people in South Africa. After 18 years of talk of transformation, can we say that anything as been transformed from the old South Africa? Are the police that shot striking miners at Marikana in 2012 any better than those who shot protesters against the pass laws at Sharpeville in 1960? What has been transformed?

In such circumstances it’s all to easy to join the blame game.

Who are the good guys and who are the bad guys in all this?

But the more you learn about what happened and is happening there, the more you realize that it’s not at all simple. There are no good guys and bad guys. There’s good and bad in all. So before pronouncing judgement, it is wise to learn a bit more about the issues and what is at stake, and what led to the strike. One fairly good article on this topic is here: Daily Maverick – Beyond the chaos at Marikana: The search for the real issues.

I’m sure that it doesn’t tell the full story, and things have moved on since then, and much of it has been overtaken by subsequent events, but it is worth reading anyway.

Can this be compared with Sharpeville?

Yes and no. The Sharpeville protesters were unarmed, and most were shot in the back; the Marikana strikers were armed, though most with “traditional weapons”. One can hope that there will be a Commission of Inquiry, and that it will not suffer the same constraints as the Sharpeville one.

The miners, we are told, are striking because they want an increase from R4000 a month to R12500 a month. How does R4000 a month compare with 1960?

Back then, when we decimalised our currency, and exchanged pounds shillings and pence for Rands and cents, underground miners used to earn between 15c and 35c a shift. That was roughly about R4.00 a month. If they are earning R4000 a month, that is 1000 times more.

Of course back then the Rand was worth a lot more than it is now. Again, at a rough guiess, I’d say it was worth 100 times more. A Rand today is worth what a cent was worth back then.

How do I measure?

In 1961 an omelet and chips in a downtown Joburg restaurasnt cost 35c, as did a plate of mince and rice. You’d be lucky to get the equivalent for R35.00 today. A bottle of Coke or Fanta or Sparletta cost 5c, as did a cup of coffee or a daily newspaper. You’d be lucky to get any of those for R5.00 today. A hamburger cost 15c — equivalent to the daily pay of the lowest paid miners at the time (the miners did get food in the hostels).

So if you multiplied the pay by 100 it would be R400 a month today, not R4000. But I don’t know if the miners of today who are earning R4000 a month are still getting free board and lodging. And even those who got free board and lodging on the job back then often had families at home elsewhere. So if they had a wife and three children, they could feed themselves on a quarter of a hamburger each per day.

So are the miners justified in striking? Are they justified in aerming themselves? Are they justified in killing those they regard as scabs? Are the police justified in shooting them?

I don’t know. If such questions are to be answered, let a judicial Commission of Inquiry look into it.

But there are some things about this that do seem more unequivocally bad — people who are not directly involved trying to cash in and make political capital out of it.

For example, there’s one of those photos doing the rounds on Facebook, which is both disingenuous and malicious.

Why is it bad?

  • The farmers were killed by criminals; the miners were killed by the police who are supposed to be catching the criminals.
  • The miners were killed on one day; the farmers were killed over a long period.
  • If one is going to make a thing about occupational groups, then one might as well acknowledge that the criminals picked on the farmers because the thought they were rich; the miners killed by the police were striking because they were poor.

So that picture is intended to spread disinformation, and to encourage the uninformed to spread disinformation. It’s not that murdering farmers is not a bad thing, but rather that those who are ostensibly campaigning against it are trying to promote their cause by using thoroughly dishonest pictures like the one above.

Another example of someone trying to cash in on the situation to make political capital is here: Malema at Marikana: ‘Many will die’ – Mail & Guardian Online:

Julius Malema wasn’t pulling punches, when he spoke to several thousand Marikana mineworkers on Saturday. President Jacob Zuma should step down, he said, as should Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa.

ANC National Executive Committee member Cyril Ramaphosa came in for a drubbing as well – with the implication that he was partially responsible for the deaths of the strikers killed this week.

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) were sellouts, he said, and police had no excuse for using live ammunition.

Julius Malema seems to see this as his ticket out of the political wilderness.

Politicians’ genitals: private or public parts?

In the same week controversy has erupted in both Canada and South Africa over the depiction of the genitals of politicical leaders of those countries in works of art.

In Canada ‘Well hung’ nude Harper painting sparks mixed reactions | Toronto SUN:

A nude painting of Canada’s prime minister has politicians and Tim Hortons employees cracking jokes, pundits crying foul and one federal department reportedly offering up cash.

Titled Emperor Haute Couture, the portrait hanging in a Kingston, Ont., public library shows a full monty Stephen Harper, leaning back on a chaise lounge chair surrounded by a doting team with a terrier at his feet, about to sip a steaming Tim Hortons coffee.

In South Africa, on the same day, came the news that ‘Portrait of Zuma is below the belt’ – Politics | IOL News:

The ANC is outraged at a portrait that shows President Jacob Zuma, in the pose of Lenin, with his genitals hanging out. And the party is headed to court to force the artist Brett Murray, the Goodman Gallery and the City Press newspaper to remove the portrait.

The Goodman Gallery said Murray will not comment and will let the art “speak for itself”.

The 1.85m-high piece, priced at R136 000 and titled The Spear, was first reported on by City Press and a picture of the portrait was printed and displayed on its website.

Perhaps conspiracy theorists will see something significant in the fact that both the above newspaper reports were published on the same day.

In South Africa attempts to have the Zuma painting removed have been criticised as attacks on the constitutional right to freedom of speech.

The Bill of Rights states:

16. Freedom of expression
  1. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression, which includes ­
    1. freedom of the press and other media;
    2. freedom to receive or impart information or ideas;
    3. freedom of artistic creativity; and
    4. academic freedom and freedom of scientific research.

  2. The right in subsection (1) does not extend to ­
    1. propaganda for war;
    2. incitement of imminent violence; or
    3. advocacy of hatred that is based on race, ethnicity, gender or religion, and that constitutes incitement to cause harm.

But in this case there is an earlier section of the constitution that might be in conflict:

10. Human dignity

Everyone has inherent dignity and the right to have their dignity respected and protected.

So if the matter ever gets as far as the Constitutional Court, it will be interesting to see which constitutional principle prevails.

But it is certainly not the first time that politicians’ genitalia have been the subject of political satire. Back at the time of the Rainbow Warrior affair a newspaper cartoon depicted French President François Mitterrand with his fly open and a very erect nuclear missile protruding. He was flanked by the leaders of other nuclear powers, and I think the caption was “Mine’s bigger than yours.” I forget which newspaper it was in.

And of course in South Africa there is the political cartoonist Zapiro, who for a long time depicted Jacob Zuma with a shower protruding from his head, after Zuma had said that having a shower was his way of taking precautions against HIV/Aids.

But last week’s art offerings seem to have been of a somewhat different order.

And, like the Bill of Rights, I find myself in two minds over the whole thing.

On the one hand, I think that both as the State President and also as a human being, Jacob Zuma has the right to dignity and privacy guaranteed by our constitution. Even though he holds public office, he has the right not to have his private parts treated as public and exposed to public view.

And this is akin to the principle behind the recent phone hacking scandal in the UK, in which the former newspaper executve, Rebekah Brooks, has been charged with perverting the course of justice.

Can one by-pass this principle by calling it “art”? And where does one draw the line between the work of artists and that of paparazzi?

On the other hand, I recall the trial of Johannesburg artist Harold Rubin for “blasphemy” back in 1963. The Wikipedia article, however doesn’t do either him or his work justice, and omits to mention that his exhibition was opened by Brother Roger, CR, an Anglican monk of the Community of the Resurrection, who was later pulled off a train to give evidence at his trial, and whose evidence probably played an important part in his subsequent aquittal. The picture in question, with the title “My Jesus”, did not, as the Wikipedia article claims, have the head of a monster, but showed a human being on a cross undergoing extreme suffering. This is not the way Orthodox Christian ikons depict Jesus Christ on the cross, but Harold Rubin was not a Christian, but a Jew, though the life and death of Jesus possibly had more significance to him than it did to most Jews, something that he tried to express in his picture.

The legal system at the time certainly did try to curtail Harold Rubin’s freedom of expression, but then at that time we had no Bill of rights. And the Bill of Rights we now have explicitly guarantees the freedom of artistic expression. But Harold Rubin was no paparazzo, and I believe, as did Brother Roger (who knew much more about art than I do), that it was a genuine work of art. I’m not so sure about last week’s offerings.

Zuma sells SA sovereignty to stop two old men having a party

The pettiness of the refusal of the government to give a visa to the Dalai Lama to stop two old men having a party puts us back to square one.

As Mamphela Ramphele puts it Ramphele backs Tutu on Dalai Lama – Times LIVE:

“Isn’t it ironic, that when he’s celebrating his 80th birthday, the most fundamental right — the right to association — is being taken away from him?

“He can’t have a party with his friends and they are just old men,” Ramphele said on Monday evening at a candlelight vigil outside Parliament to put pressure on the government to grant the visa.

That’s exactly the kind of petty nastiness one had come to expect from the National Party government. And it’s worse, because our constitution now upholds the rights to freedom of religion, freedom of travel, and freedom of association — all of which are trashed by this act. The old National Party was not as cynically hypocritical as that. They made no bones about it — any foreign religious leader was a persona non grata, and found it very difficult to get a visa. And any Nobel Peace Prize winner, domestic or foreign, was the same, and so the combination would not have much hope.

I suggest that any Southern African religious bodies hosting international conferences to which foreign religious leaders may be invited should seriously think of moving the venue to Botswana or Namibia, or they may find that their speakers are unable to attend. That would include the congress of the Southern African Missiological Society, due to be held in January 2012.

The petty spitefulness of stopping two pensioners having a party, however, is overshadowed by the implications for South African sovereignty. Zuma, who was elected ANC leader by promising to be all things to all men and courting universal popularity, is now finding that popularity gurgling down the drain, and trying to shore it up by disciplinary hearings of his most vociferous critics, but not daring to contradict his (and our) colonial masters.

As a student I sometimes enjoyed listening to Radio Peking (as it was spelt in those days), denouncing US imperialism as “a paper tiger, a bean curd tiger”. But Chinese imperialism seems to be lapping up South Africa like bean curd.

The Dalai Lama visited South Africa when Nelson Mandela was president, and again when Thabo Mbeki was president. Why not now? And above all, why stop him from coming to Desmond Tutu’s brithday party?

I lose my zest to look my best when I read the daily news

The heading is a line from Jeremy Taylor’s song Confession

Well one fine day I’ll make my way
to 10 Downing Street
Good day, I’ll say, I’ve come a long way
excuse my naked feet
But I lack, you see, the energy
to buy a pair of shoes
I lose my zest to look my best
when I read the daily news
’cause it appears you’ve got an atom bomb
that’ll blow us all to hell and gone
If I’ve gotta die then why should I
give a damn if my boots aren’t on?

If the daily news was depressing fifty years ago when Taylor composed his song, it’s just as depressing today, though for a somewhat different reason.

Back then it was depressing over things that mattered, like atom bombs.

Now it is depressing over things that don’t matter so much.

Back then there were important issues at stake, life and death issues, one could say.

Now it’s just about the personalities of politicians jockeying for position.

Three years ago Julius Malema was saying he would kill for Jacob Zuma. Now it seems there’s nothing he’d like better than to step over Zuma’s dead body and into his shoes.

The two big stories for the last fortnight have been Julius Malema’s disciplinary hearing for bringing the ANC into disrepute, and Zuma’s appointment of Mogoeng Mogoeng as Chief Justice.

But what are they about really? are there any really important issues at stake?

I don’t think so.

I think that the central issue in both is Jacob Zuma’s attempt to curb ambitious or potential rivals, to surround himself with yes-men and distance himself from potential no-men. Thabo Mbeki was accused of doing the same thing when he tried to slap down and discredit Zuma. Zuma bounced back, and perhaps Malema will too.

About the appointment of Mogoeng Mogoeng as chief justice, I think veteran journalist Allister Sparks put his finger on it when he wrote BusinessDay – ALLISTER SPARKS: At home and abroad:

Zuma has bypassed Judge Dikgang Moseneke, the deputy president of the court, whom the legal profession is almost unanimous in regarding as the obvious choice, and named a highly controversial figure instead.

Why? It is difficult to escape the conclusion that the president has a personal prejudice against Moseneke. This is the second time he has bypassed the most respected legal mind on the court, who also happens to be in pole position for the senior job.

Moreover, it is believed Zuma approached three other judges before turning to Mogoeng, and that all declined the job. Could it be they, too, recognised Moseneke as the obvious candidate and were uncomfortable about accepting it ahead of him? If that is the case, it means Moseneke didn’t even figure among the top four potential candidates in the president’s mind. In fact it means Zuma has blackballed him.

One is left to assume this is probably because Moseneke is not a member of the African National Congress (ANC), but was once a protege of the ANC’s great rival, the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC).

If Moseneke were Chief Justice, there might be the danger that he would exercise an independent judicial mind, and not be swayed too much by the interests of the ruling clique of the ruling party. It wasn’t so much that Zuma was desperate to have Mogoeng, but rather he was desperate not to have Moseneke.

That’s what’s so depressing about the daily news nowadays. It’s not about big issues any more, but only about the ambitions of politicians to retain or grab power, and the shifting alliances as they do so. Oh yes, Julius Malema talks of nationalising the mines and the spirit of the Freedom Charter. But it might be more in the spirit of the Freedom Charter if the RDP were to be revived. Nationalising the mines might have been a viable option in 1955. All it would achieve now would be to saddle the taxpayers with nearly fully amortised assets, and the liabilities of solving the problems of acid water. So I suspect that is just empty rhetoric to try to gain support.

Yesterday was the anniversary of the death of Steve Biko. Would it have made a difference if he had lived? Or would have have immersed himself in a medical career, as Dikgamg Moseneke has immersed himself in his legal one?

Are todays politicians like children dressing up in their mothers’ clothes, going around saying “I’m the king of the castle, you’re the dirty rascal”? Trying to walk around in shoes several sizes too big for them, shoes once worn by people like Oliver and Adelaide Tambo, Walter and Albertina Sisulu?

When I read the daily news it certainly looks like it, but are the media telling us the truth?

Perhaps we should follow Bishop Nick Baines when he says, “And most of us have a life to live and work to do and will leave this media game (for, entertaining though it obviously is, that is all it is) to the media.”

Is it just a media game, part of the entertainment that the media provide for the masses?

Bishop Nick writes (Game off | Nick Baines’s Blog) about a different setting, a different group of newspapers, and a different group of people, but perhaps what he writes is true of the media here too.

And, as he says, “Despite the accurately vague language that is used in these reports, it is sadly inevitable that many people will think them credible. I don’t blame the writers for amusing themselves in this way, but the readers need to ask themselves a few questions.”

Religion and politics

Religion and politics don’t mix — well that’s what the pietistic evangelicals of the religious right used to tell us back in the days of apartheid. Therefore, they concluded, Christians should not criticise political leaders and their policy of apartheid and the ethnic cleansing that resulted from it. “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s”.

Now the boot is on the other foot, and it is the secular humanists and the “new atheists” who are saying that religion and politics don’t mix, and one gets the impression that if they had their way there would be two voters rolls, an A roll for atheists, to elect 350 members of parliament, and a B roll for agnostics, who would be allowed to elect 50 members of parliament, and the rest would have no vote at all, and everyone knows that all war, hatred and oppression in the world has been caused by religion, and until the superstitious have come to their senses they should not be allowed to vote.

But what about the politicians themselves?

Over the last week there have been several news items about prominant politicians and their religious views, practices or utterances, to wit Vladimir Putin, Barack Obama and Jacob Zuma. These have been interesting, but even more interesting have been the responses.

Let’s start with Jake the Fake. So far no one has put it better than Tinyiko Sam Maluleke’s Blog – Thinking Allowed!: Welcome to Jacob Zuma’s Heaven:

“When you vote for the ANC, you are also choosing to go to heaven. When you don’t vote for the ANC you should know that you are choosing that man who carries a fork … who cooks people.” Thus spake the son of God to loud cheers and unstoppable giggles. And not for the first time, mind you. He spoke before, he is speaking now and he will speak again. How many times before, has he underlined the intimate relationship between the ANC and the Lord? With uncharacteristic calm and collection, our Jacob has pointed out that until the Lord returns, the ANC will rule. To the ANC has ruling authority been granted during this interim period of uncertainly — the in-between period — the period between the ascension of Jesus and the return of Jesus. Only those who hide in the ark called ANC will survive the trials and tribulations of the current age! You have heard it said before that Jesus will return to fetch the righteous and the holy, but in Mthatha last Friday, Jacob the son of God said to you, Jesus will return to fetch those clad in the black, green and gold.

‘Nuff said. If you want to read more, go and read the rest of it on Tinyiko’s blog.

Then there was this: Putin on Mount Athos pilgrimage:

Russian President Vladimir Putin has visited the monastic community of Mount Athos in Greece, one of Orthodox Christianity’s holiest sites.

He was the first Russian leader to visit the male-only community, on a narrow, rocky peninsula east of Thessaloniki, Russian TV reported.

The trip was part of Mr Putin’s two-day visit to Greece.

He has openly embraced the Orthodox faith, despite having served the atheist Soviet regime as a KGB officer.

Well, I suppose that makes him an apostate atheist, but at least he has gone to the source, unlike the days when the leader of the Russian Communist Party, anxious to acquire some of the magic pixie dust that fell from the church, which public opinion polls showed was more trusted by the people than politicians, decided to visit a church one day for a photo-op, and lit a candle with his cigarette lighter.

And then there is Barack Obama.

If Putin was a convert from atheism, Barack Obama, was a convert from agnosticism and, rather touchingly, seems as much concerned about his own family as about religion in the great affairs of state or the fortunes of his party. Barack Obama affirms his Christianity | The Guardian:

The US president told the national prayer breakfast in Washington that he prays for peace in the Middle East – and that he also asks for God’s assistance with his 12-year-old daughter, Malia.

‘Lord, give me patience as I watch Malia go to her first dance, where there will be boys. Lord, let her skirt get longer as she travels to that place,’ Obama recounted.

Obama’s speech today was laced with Biblical references in his most public affirmation of his faith. With many Americans under the illusion that he might be a covert Muslim, Obama explained: ‘I came to know Jesus Christ for myself and embrace him as my Lord and Saviour.’

Obama described his upbringing as ‘not religious’, his father as a non-believer and his mother ‘grew up with a certain scepticism … she only took me to church at Easter and Christmas – sometimes’.

The response of one American (but typical of other responses) to this news was to say “The Koran permits lying if doing so benefits Islam.”

We are urged to pray for rulers and civil authorities, so let us pray for all these leaders. But especially Barack Obama, because he is evidently president of a nation of lunatics.

Political honeymoon is over for Jacob Zuma

Letter from Africa: Political honeymoon is over for Jacob Zuma | World news | guardian.co.uk:

Whereas the former president Thabo Mbeki was an aloof, out-of-touch philosopher king, we were told, Zuma was a massive presence in every sense, a Zulu warrior king so in touch with the people he had already married four of them.

Well, that’s a nice pithy summing up.

But the article goes on to say:

But the political honeymoon has rapidly slipped into a winter of discontent. Doctors, miners, train drivers and workers in the chemical, construction, energy, paper, printing, retail and state broadcasting sectors have downed tools. More than half a million working days were lost due to strikes in the first half of this year, more than twice that in the same period in 2008. Residents have been warned to expect power cuts at home, no buses or trains to get to work and streets piled high with rubbish.

That really makes it sound as though we’re getting more like Europe every day. Last time I visited Greece hardly a day went by without some or other group of striking workers marching to or from Syntagma Square in Athens.

I wondered what Cosatu thought they were doing, throwing their support behind Jacob Zuma in the general election three months ago. I wonder if they are beginning to wonder themselves.

It’s not a train smash, it’s the presidential Inauguration

Yesterday was the inauguration of the fourth president of South Africa since the advent of democracy in 1994. According to some reports, the bash cost R75 million.

All the TV news channels were reporting it non-stop. In the midst of them showing the chairs being arranged and the like, there was one of those ticker-tape things at the bottom of the screen with a fleeting mention of a train crash in which 100 people had been killed, or something. We waited for more news, but there was no chance of it. The preparations for the inauguration were everything, nothing else mattered.

When Nelson Mandela was inaugurated in 1994 we went along and joined in the flag-waving jubilation. It was, after all, a historic occasion. “When the Lord turned again the captivity of Sion: then were we like unto them that dream. Then was our mouth filled with laughter: and our tongue with joy.”

But when Thabo Mbeki was inaugurated in 1999, we stated home, and looked at bits of it on TV. Kgalema Motlanthe was inaugurated without a big fuss being made, and perhaps Jacob Zuma could have had a more low key affair as well.

So, bored with the chair-placing by chair-placing account of the inauguration preparations, I switched to a Brit TV station. They might not tell us about a train crash in our own city, but they could perhaps show us something more interesting thatn a bunch of overpaid politicians with umbrellas.

They were showing a bunch of overpaid politicians who had cheated on their expense accounts, and made our own “travelgate” scandal look positively amateur, and I have to admit that the temptation to schadenfreude was great indeed, after reading the sneering comments of the British Daily Mail’s Peter Hitchens He has four wives and faced 783 corruption charges: PETER HITCHENS on South Africa’s next president | Mail Online:

Once, South Africa dominated the nightly news for weeks on end. Now the liberal media barely mention it. Why not? Because post-apartheid South Africa is a failure.

Well, welcome to the world of failed states, Mr Hitchens.

Oh, and it turned out that the train smash wasn’t so serious either, but they could have told us.

South Africa’s Presidents

This just about sums it up completely.

Hat-tip to Colin Seymour.

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