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PW: The hard truth

It is important to place on record the kind of man and leader PW Botha really was. He was not "the great demolisher of apartheid", as one news­paper commentator described him. Under mounting international pressure and internal dissent he did dismantle many discriminatory laws. But apartheid was never about segregation --it was about white minority power.

PW Botha was ‘kragdadige’ autocrat

By the early 21st century, Pieter Willem (PW) Botha's name had become a byword for unaccountable government and the autocratic exercise of power. Botha, who died on Tuesday night at his home Die Anker near the Wilderness in the Western Cape, aged 90, was the archetype ''kragdadige'' Afrikaner and a worthy successor to John Vorster, whom he replaced as prime minister.

Small fry often the biggest catch

There is no doubt that the public sees corruption as one of the most serious problems facing our country, and one that directly affects service delivery. The focus is often on high-value actions by officials. Often little attention is paid to the many thousands of smaller acts of corruption, writes special investigating unit head Willie Hofmeyr.

‘You can’t deny death, you can’t fear it’

In November 2004, after the death of pop icon Brenda Fassie, singer Lebo Mathosa told the Mail & Guardian in an interview: ''You can't deny death, you can't fear it. I'm sure God has a better place for us, if you're a believer.'' Two years later, in a twist of fate, 29-year-old Mathosa, like her controversial role model, has moved on to that ''better place''.

Places of death, not life

''On a visit home I collapsed on the night of June 7 and was admitted as an emergency case to the intensive care unit at the Nelson Mandela Hospital. There I was stripped and lay naked in bed under an obviously used sheet for two days until a member of my family managed to bring me some night clothes.''

The Auckland Decalogue

Some years ago -- 1969 I think -- in a revue called <i>Finger Trouble</i>, I had a sketch entitled <i>The Ten Commandments of the SABC</i>. I introduced the sketch by explaining how Dr Piet Meyer, then chairman of the SABC board, would go into the wilderness once a year. What amused me was that, in updating the sketch, how little I had to change its 1969 version.

Court E and Section 16

We at the <i>Mail & Guardian</i> are developing an unhealthy relationship with Court 6 E of the Johannesburg High Court. The court orderlies know us well. Too well. Last Saturday, we were interdicted for the third time in a year and a half.It is an irony that the interdict, brought by the South African Broadcasting Corporation to make us take down a copy of the commission report into blacklisting off our website, came just four days before press freedom day.

Director of Battle of Algiers dies at 86

Italian filmmaker Gillo Pontecorvo, who directed the black-and-white classic The Battle of Algiers, died in Rome on October 12, hospital officials said. He was 86. Pontecorvo died at the Polyclinic Gemelli hospital, said hospital spokesperson Nicola Cerbino. The cause of the death was not given, but reports said he had suffered a heart attack months ago.

Gerry Studds, openly gay congressman, dead at 69

Former United States Republican Gerry Studds, the first openly gay person elected to Congress, died early on October 14 at the Boston Medical Centre, several days after he collapsed while walking his dog, his husband said. Studds fell unconscious on October 3 because of what doctors later determined was a blood clot in his lung, Dean Hara said.

The new India, and other complacent myths

"India is a roaring capitalist success story." So said a recent issue of Foreign Affairs; and earlier this year many business executives and politicians in India celebrated as Lakshmi Mittal, the fifth-richest man in the world, finally succeeded in his hostile takeover of the Luxembourgian steel company Arcelor.

High on the hog

Any South African who uses national highways or main roads in our cities will sooner or later run into a government convoy. Depending on the rank of the politician being taxied, the convoy can stretch from two to eight cars. At the last count, President Thabo Mbeki had eight. Jacob Zuma may be out of government, but he has almost as many.

A march for all

Pride will mix with anger on Saturday as the gay and lesbian community stages its annual pink march through Jozi. The march has moved from one of protest at prejudice in the early Nineties to a celebration of freedom after the Constitution outlawed discrimination against sexual orientation.

Blues great Henry Townsend ‘believed in the music’

Blues guitarist Henry Townsend, who ran away from his family as a boy and stayed in St Louis for a prolific career spanning eight decades, has died at age 96. Townsend died on September 24 2006 of a pulmonary embolism in Grafton, Wisconsin, where he was being honoured by a local blues association.

Golf great Byron Nelson dead at 94

Byron Nelson, who had the greatest year in the history of professional golf when he won 18 tournaments in 1945, including a record 11 in a row, died on Tuesday. He was 94. His death was confirmed by the Tarrant County Medical Examiner's Office. No cause of death was listed on its website.

An anniversary worth marking

The events of September 11 2001, when all those passenger planes thumped into civilian and military targets, taking thousands of civilians with them to their doom, turned out to be a long-awaited wake-up call about the state of the world. What has happened since -- the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq -- has brought it all into sharper focus.

Patricia Kennedy Lawford, sister of JFK, dies at 82

Patricia Kennedy Lawford, the sister of President John F Kennedy and wife of English actor Peter Lawford, who tirelessly supported the political campaigns of her brothers, died on Sunday at the age of 82. A life-long lover of the arts who devoted much of her time to charity work, Lawford died surrounded by family at her home in New York from complications from pneumonia.

Crocodiles 0, stingrays 1

I can't say that Australian "Wildlife Warrior" Steve Irwin's passing inspires even the most transient distress. Rather it is a sense of relief that yet another exploitative human parasite has left us. And a parasite Irwin was. With his blustering invasions of the natural world, he personified slum-grade television.

Jazz star Moses Khumalo ‘had energy and drive’

One of South Africa's foremost young jazz musicians, saxophonist Moses Khumalo (27), was found dead in his house in Honeydew, west of Johannesburg, on Monday September 4, West Rand police said. Khumalo's girlfriend, who last saw the musician on Friday, went to check on him and found his body hanging in the house, police said.

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