Every year around this time South Africans engage in the macabre ritual of monitoring the road-death body count, exchanging anecdotes about the hell run on the country's highways and relating the latest tales about the record fines being dished out by the traffic police.
During one of those interactions that have become a regular feature among members of the club of Southern African liberation movements, a delegation from Namibia's ruling Swapo posed a question that confounded some ANC leaders: how does the ANC go about grooming leadership and managing its succession process?
The most perturbing aspects of the reaction from those in authority to revelations that Deputy President Jacob Zuma is being investigated by the Scorpions unit have been the contrived silence and egg-dancing. Zuma has glibly declared his innocence and proclaimed his right to remain silent until he is called to stand before a court of law. The National Directorate of Public Prosecutions, under whose wing the Scorpions unit falls, conveniently says it does not comment on investigations into specific individuals and refuses to confirm what is already public knowledge --that it has put written questions to certain individuals about Zuma's conduct and movements.
The rumour mill has been working overtime during the past three weeks as Wits University employees, journalists and everyone else who can cadge some media space try to figure out what has been going on at the topmost levels of one of this country's academic showpieces.
When South Africa embarks on the campaign named Sixteen Days of Activism against Gender Violence later this month there will be much hand-wringing and pious declarations from across the political and social spectrum.
In recent weeks public discourse has been dominated by news and debates about the strategies South Africa should use to fight poverty. Drivenby soaring food prices, reports of grinding poverty in our rural provinces and ideological battles within the ruling African National Congress alliance, this debate has rightly come to occupy South Africa's political centre stage.
The New National Party trumpeted its triumph over the Democratic Alliance as a victory for those committed to the improvement of poor people's quality of life. The African National Congress hailed the week's developments as a boon for the cause of non-racialism and the efficient delivery of social services.
This week's Commonwealth "troika" meeting in Abuja made one thing abundantly clear -- it is game up in Zimbabwe. Unconstitutional and often violent land seizures will continue to the end; while human rights and governance abuses will continue for as long as the ruling party needs them. President Robert Mugabe has calculated well: South Africa, the region and the continent -- and their representatives in the Commonwealth have dependably shielded him. South Africa insists it is powerless to act. It had an opportunity to do something in Abuja, and called pass.
This week yet more cases of grotesque gender violence hit the headlines -- the savage rapes of two girls aged three and six. The attack on one of the girls resulted in injuries that medical personnel described as among the worst they have ever seen.
In an interview with the SABC, Minister of Trade and Industry Alec Erwin responded to our story last week about the inflated value ascribed to many of the offset projects linked to the arms deal. He said: "The Mail & Guardian article was factually inaccurate in a whole range of ways ... The figures about a drop in exports are just wrong. We don't respond to such grossly inaccurate and speculative nonsense."
One might think from the triumphalism of South Africa's media that peace came this week to the Democratic Republic of Congo. Let us be honest with ourselves: this is the first step in the proverbial journey of a thousand miles.
This is a time for self-reflection by the Mail & Guardian and all who work for it. As of this week, we are no longer owned by a large foreign company, the Guardian Media Group. The paper is now the property of a small Botswana-based company owned by Trevor Ncube, a Zimbabwean publisher.
The late African National Congress stalwart, Oliver Tambo, once said: ''The nation that does not look after its youth has no future.'' At the funeral of the late Peter Mokaba, ANC Youth League president Malusi Gigaba called for the youth of this country to boycott the Mail & Guardian for allegedly having written unfavourably about Mokaba (''Two faces of Mokaba'', June 14). Unfortunately, Gigaba did not say whether the story was true or false.
Well, the grubby crazy truth is almost out. Back in 1998 President Thabo Mbeki gave South Africans a categorical assurance. It dealt with Virodene, a loony anti-Aids remedy with no credibility among scientists, which was already known to be based on a toxic industrial solvent...
On the face of it, the chanting of "Kill the Boer! Kill the farmer!" at Peter Mokaba's funeral last weekend -- and its indulgence by African National Congress leaders -- ran directly counter to the government's professed reconciliation policy.