Ballad of the ballot

'Why should artists vote for you?" This was the question posed to the fishers-of-votes by arts organisations in different provinces over the past month. Generally, it is pretty hard for arts-related concerns to get on to the radar screens of political parties, but in the game of elections, even artists qualify as players, writes Mike van Graan.

Build it, and they’ll come

Minister of Trade and Industry Alec Erwin's recent statement that Canadian aluminum producer Alcan will shortly announce its decision on whether it will build a R2,2-billion aluminum smelter in the Coega Industrial Development Zone (IDZ) in Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape, failed to inspire confidence.

Monkey me, monkey you

The thing is, we all now fervently believe that it is safe to venture out of the woods. The thing is, it isn't. Consider this. Nosimo Balindlela, provincial minister for sports, arts and culture for the Eastern Cape, has just instituted a civil claim to the tune of R100 000 against a (presumably white) woman, Erika de Beyer, who called her a baboon in the parking lot of an East London shopping centre some time last year.

Onwards — and backwards

Ten years ago today things were touch and go for the country and for the election that would deliver the new South Africa. Democracy almost did not dawn, but with a little Chinese maths and a whole lot of political will South Africa muddled through. It's a different world now.

Why SA needs minimum sentences

The opening of the Constitutional Court in Johannesburg was attended by judges, including chief justices, from all over the world. It was a truly a momentous occasion for South Africa's judiciary. It was, therefore, a pity that many of the distinguished guests did not know that ours is still such an inconsistent judiciary that it often faces reasonable accusations of remaining racist and arbitrary.

National Geographic and other whinges

I'm using my space this week to get a few whinges off my chest. Some commercial and social sins don't deserve a full column. Let's start with <i>National Geographic</i>. And then we'll move onto a gripe about SABC, e.tv and M-Net, closing off with a swipe at DStv's DMX.

How the opposition helps the ANC

To the extent that the ANC will continue to dominate South African politics in the foreseeable future, there has not been any electoral contest since 1994. Predictably and understandably, this raises the ire of opposition parties. After all, they don't want to be seen to be cheering the ANC by conceding this point. But without realising it, they are propping up the ANC in power.

Shnaied by the politics of the day

I hate to claim that this column, after all, always gets things right. But on the other hand, no one else is acknowledging that fact as a fact. Someone has to do it. So, as Percy Sledge once said, let it be me. Jean-Bertrand Aristide, after a few days in the unexplainable limbo of Bangui, capital of the Central African Republic (once "Empire"), has indeed been flown back to the Caribbean.

Second operator blues

The revelation that the second national operator has run into difficulties because of disagreements among shareholders is the latest depressing episode in a long-running saga. According to reports, Kennedy Memani, the chairperson of Nexus Connection, has accused shareholders Communitel and Two Consortium of holding the process to ransom.

The cycle of violence is over for another year

As Ted Kennedy said en route to Chappaquiddick, bad roads do not a bad driver make. It takes more than a rutted Iranian riverbed-cum-highway or an Iraqi shooting gallery to push motorists to the limits of endurance. For that, you need to be in Cape Town on the weekend of the Argus cycle tour.

A dead issue

Opposition parties, desperate for a popular cause on which to challenge the African National Congress and looking anxiously over their right shoulders at each other, have exhumed the death penalty as an issue in this election. It is worth reiterating some of the arguments used by the Constitutional Court in striking down the death penalty nearly 10 years ago.

The noose is no solution to our problems

"Bring back the death penalty," seems to be a popular slogan ahead of the April vote. So what is wrong with this, especially if there appears to be enough voters who would gladly place their crosses next to the candidate who promises to return the noose if he or she is elected? Nothing?

The road to power

Unless social movements -- like the Anti-Privatisation Forum (APF) -- can translate their actions, energies and commitment to a changed and better world into viable organisational vehicles that can contend for political power, their energies will dissipate and the potential to become a powerful force will be wasted.

Common law should not be discarded

The argument that South Africa should abolish Roman-Dutch law -- at the core of much of the justice system of the country -- with something more compatible with its African roots often rears its head. South Africa's common law was polluted by apartheid and the racist rule that preceded 1948, but the Constitution contains the very means of its redemption.

Revolution vs romance

Both South Africa's "rainbow romantics" and its "revolutionary left" suffer from a failure to grasp many of the political realities of the country after apartheid — and this often makes irrelevant their contributions on how to tackle the social and economic challenges facing the nation.

Cake of Good Hope

Festivals have been described as the lifeblood of the arts in this country. They generally have budgets to commission new work. They offer artists real opportunities to generate income. Festivals also provide a barometer of where our artists are at, creatively and thematically. Except for the Mother City of all festivals, which provides more of a barometer of where artists are not, writes Mike van Graan.

One comrade, one company

Ten years on, how the African National Congress chant has changed. This week, we delve further into the heart of ANC Inc to reveal the extent of business involvement of the ANC Youth League. It is an investigation that has taken many weeks to reveal the maze of corporatism that is now the league.

Goodbye Honey

So Honey Mateya, Metrorail CEO, will finally be subjected to scrutiny following his suspension last week. Transnet CEO Maria Ramos may find this a dignified way to facilitate his exit. Mateya was mired in a mess not of his own making. But he did not help himself by using spin to hide the rot.