As a president with a penchant for foreign policy, Thabo Mbeki probably envisaged that his toughest speeches, his defining moments, would come as he spoke at the podium of the United Nations or on the panels of the G8. Instead, his defining moment, his toughest speech, came in Cape Town this week in Parliament.
Stephen Ward (the Profumo Scandal). Gordon Liddy and E Howard Hunt (Watergate). Now, you can add the name of Schabir Shaik. Small men, all of them, with their 15 inglorious minutes of infamy. But with big trials and with big consequences that overshadowed their pathetic samples of human fallibility.
It is always gratifying to see big business tightening its belt, and Absa should be praised for its decision not to pay extravagant fees to an advertising agency to handle its "My bank" campaign. Indeed, it has become abundantly clear that Absa has not only economised by eschewing professional copywriters altogether, but has empowered previously marginalised camps by entrusting its re-branding to a band of rhesus monkeys chained to typewriters and supervised by crack addicts.
The question is not really whether Jacob will jump and when. The real question --arising out of the Hillary Squires judgement on MK stalwart Schabir Shaik -- is who, or what, will ultimately have to jump with him. Or rather, who will be prepared to do so. The African National Congress, now the seat of power, has long had a shady relationship with the moral imperatives of struggle culture.
This week South Africa was caught in the maelstrom of its gravest post-apartheid political crisis. It is a defining moment -- what we do now will determine what kind of country future generations of South Africans inhabit. As it grappled with what to do about Deputy President Jacob Zuma, the African National Congress was more publicly split than on any other issue it has faced in government.
I was with Ali G the other day. I had collected him from the airport as he landed from Kazakhstan, and he was carrying a magazine with its title "i" turned upside down so it looked like an exclamation mark. Nifty. On the cover stood four young, black people in designer suits. The headline read: "The Colour of Money". He informed me that this was "breaking news", in a Kazakh accent â€” charming.
The African National Congress tried to swat away the <i>Mail & Guardian</i>'s Oilgate revelations last week like some pesky insect. But like the persistent gadflies that we are, we won't disappear that easily. Hiding behind a paper-thin set of excuses, the party has argued that there is nothing wrong with a private company making donations to a political party.
One of the government's pressing dilemmas is what to do about South Africa's growing energy demands, given that the country's power generation capacity will peak in two years' time. The authorities have undertaken to supply 80% of households with electricity by 2014, and abundant cheap energy is a prerequisite for economic progress. Yet none of the options is entirely unproblematic.
"Judge Sisi Khampepe has her work cut out. Any process of deciding on the future institutional location of the Scorpions is going to be a difficult one. By most accounts she is well-suited to the task and all the complexities, both legal and political, which it brings," writes Richard Calland.
"After a somewhat neurotic start, the local mini-series, <i>Hard Copy</i>, has settled into its scaffolding and now ranks in the very short list of worthy productions to have emanated from SABC television. It's economically shot and scripted, The characters resolve authentically and maintain their individuality", writes Robert Kirby.
<i>Batho pele</i> (putting people first); <i>motho kemotho kabatho</i> (a human being is a human being because of others); ubuntu â€¦ admirable words, fine concepts, but meaningless in a society apparently devoid of capacity, compassion or concern. How many people have the energy or the means, asks Pat Schwartz, to fight a callous and careless bureaucracy?
Britain's <i>Guardian</i> newspaper remarked this week that the election of Pope Benedict XVI "will clamp the cold hand of foreboding round the hearts of all who care about the developing world". Indeed. It was also a bitter disappointment for forward-looking Catholics who want their church to contribute to the material upliftment of the world's hungry and disease-afflicted billions, rather than merely minister to their immortal souls.
The death and extraordinary worldwide outpouring of grief and ecstatic praise at the burial of Pope John Paul II in Rome brings the issue I raised on agnosticism recently to an unexpected focus. So what is this agnosticism? Being less than confident in my own understanding of the condition that I had staked a claim to, I took the precaution of looking it up in the dictionary.
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