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This is not Zimbabwe, yet

This is not Zimbabwe, yet

by Andy Davis / 17.02.2010

It’s like we went to sleep and woke up in Zimbabwe. Granted it seems to have taken 16 years to get here. Scratch that, I’ll discount five for Mandela. The rot only really set in when the big little man with the pipe took over. Up until then it was all rainbow nation building and just one dodgy arms deal. But while we’ve been sleeping, comatose for 11 years, drunk on our new found freedom to consume, the Zanu-fication of the ANC was underway and gathering steam. What I’m referring to is the unfettered arrogance and licentious entitlement of the current crop of ruling party politicians.

And it’s only getting worse, as this week has demonstrated. It all started with a harmless little jog, this dude, Chumani Maxwele a 25 year old student at UCT, and card carrying ANC member, is jogging on De Waal Drive when a whole series of speeding, black 4x4s, with sirens blaring and blue lights flashing, zooms passed him, probably giving him a huge skrik. Like any sane, proud young lion he makes a fist save for his middle finger which extends into the air in meaningful defiance. He flips the cavalcade the bird and probably mutters “fuck you” to himself and carries on jogging. An entirely normal, oft repeated urban response to obnoxious roadhogs. A car in the cavalcade stops, VIP security goons with machine guns jump out, arrest and interrogate him and hold him for 24 hours. You can read the full report in the Sowetan here and the follow up here.

The VIP police seem particularly oblivious to the fact, that as a citizen of South Africa, he has the inalienable constitutional right to express himself freely. His crime, according to the article, “insulting the president”. Despite the fact that he had no idea which fat cat politico was travelling in the blue light convoy. JZ seems awfully touchy these days. But that’s not all, so affronted were the powers at this symbol of disrespect to our supreme leader, the police apparently went on to raid his house and sent “intelligence officers” to interrogate him the next day. A little overkill for just giving someone the finger, ne?

When the rest of all the sane people in the country woke up expecting the government to distance themselves from the actions of a few overzealous and obviously misguided cops, the spokesperson for the ministry of police Zweli Mnisi released this statement.
“No person is permitted to use foul language and swear at another individual, especially as such conduct may lead to promoting hate conduct in the Republic.”

To this, we at Mahala say woza Freedom of Expression Institute and the Constitutional Court! Viva our constitutional rights viva! Because, this my friends is worth fighting for. If there’s one thing we need to protect and defend, it’s the right of young people to say “fuck you”. To protest. To borrow a cliche from Obama, “to speak truth to power”. This cuts to the very core of what pushes our species, and our societies forward. The rebellious voice of the disgruntled youth, the average person in the street who stands up for what they believe in and like the Dude in The Big Lebowski says, “this aggression will just not stand man”. And if we lose this battle, I’m gonna put it all on the line right now, South Africa will not be a country worth living in.

Rage of the Blue Lights

Scarier yet, this is not an isolated incident. In this very same week all the Opposition parties staged a walk-out of Parliament over Mluleki George’s (and their collective) right to say that the president or cabinet couldn’t lead the country in moral behaviour. On their way out another leading opposition politician said, “fuck you”. And since then the debate has reached levels of hysteria. Is it not common for political rivals to sling insults at one another? Since when did the ANC become so delicate and proper. This is not my robust revolutionary movement. Apparently you can’t say the F-word in Parliament, it brings down the decorum of the place, according to the law. But surely you can say it with a gesture on the street, while you’re out jogging and a BMW X5, sirens wailing, rides up your arse and gives you the fright of your life, as it zooms around a corner at 160 kms per hour.

And then in another exercise of radical paranoid political oversensitivity, as if all this pomposity, entitlement and hubris wasn’t enough, over in Durban three publicly commissioned statues of elephants, I kid you not, elephants, have become embroiled in controversy and their production has been suspended (despite being officially commissioned and paid for by the city). The offence, it would seem, is that elephants are associated, in the minds of certain insecure and power-drunk officials in the Ethikwini city council, with the symbol of the Inkatha Freedom Party. Read all about it here.

Yoh! And this is the part where I remind you that just North of the Limpopo, several normal Zimbabweans have been arrested of late for insulting his excellency Robert Gabriel Mugabe. Most famously, Douglas Mwonzora, an MDC parliamentarian and co-chairman of the key parliamentary constitutional commission, who allegedly told MDC supporters that the 85-year-old Mugabe was a goblin. No surprises there. Zimbabwe is a globally reviled military dictatorship masquerading as a government of national unity. South Africa, on the other hand, is a democratic republic ruled by the world’s most hallowed and progressive constitution, about to stage the world’s most prestigious sporting event.

So what happened to the glorious, principled revolution spearheaded by giants like Tambo, Sisulu, Biko, Hani and Mandela? Can you imagine any of those guys behaving like this? Since when did Africa’s, “tried and tested revolutionary movement” become so sensitive to a bit of criticism… and such a flippen bully.

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  1. QMan84 says:

    I’m blacker than Wesley Snipes with his fists in the air but the current ‘bling’ crop has me thinking of bailing out on my own country.

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  2. Andy says:

    Don’t leave Qman… not without at least fighting for the old man’s dream

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  3. This old man? says:


    the Extraordinary Gazette dated the 29th January promulgated the long awaited Indigenisation & Economic Empowerment Regulations
    (which will be linked into the Act with our next update the 28th February) before these Regs come into force on the 1st March, in terms of which :-
    1. Every existing business (whether incorporated or not), partnership, association, sole proprietor with an asset value of US$ 500 000 or more shall submit by the 15th April, 2010 to the Minister of Youth,Indigenisation & Empowerment a 6 page Form (annexing full details on separate sheets) disclosing its workings and Plan for ensuring that within 5 years it will be owned or controlled by Indigenous persons to the extent of at least 51% ;
    2. – Failure to do so, after a further 30 days of reminder, will render the owner of the business/every Director guilty of an offence and liable to a fine +/or imprisonment for up to 5 years;
    3. Merged or restructured/unbundled businesses shall submit a different Form within 30 days;
    4. Foreign/domestic Investors shall submit the same Form as 1 above;
    5. Goods + Services procured under the Procurement Act to be contracted with Indigenous Zimbabweans under the same penalty as 2 above ;
    6. the Minister may appoint his own Valuator if suspecting figures below US$ 500 000;
    7.Persons guilty of acting as Fronts will suffer the same penalty as in 2 above.

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  4. Anonymous says:

    Banana Republic!!!

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  5. Kurt says:

    WORD!!! speak it brother, speak it!

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  6. Jason says:

    What is an indigenous Zimbabwean?

    The Shona were there, who were then defeated by the Ndebele (who were fleeing Shaka, coming North) in 1830s. That’s called colonisation.

    Then 50 years on old CJ Rhodes pulled in, from 1880 to 1965 the Brits ruled the place.

    So the English were there longer than the Ndebele – Robert Mugabe is a half-breed Shona – does the above law apply only to Shona Zimbabweans?

    Bob himself is half Malawian.

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  7. bro nomad says:

    Just a thought – does Maxwele have the right to sue for wrongful arrest and is a socially-conscious human rights body in SA willing to foot the bill for this? If these transgressions are not pursued legally and aggressively, more arrogant bullying by the authorities will surely follow?

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  8. bro nomad says:

    And another thought – if a large number of people at a presidential gathering gave JZ the finger, would all of them get arrested or would some serious soul-searching take place?

    As they say – an injury to one is an injury to all.

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  9. woteva says:

    think, think, talk, talk = no action. we’re fucked. inmates running the asylum, etc, etc. good luck in “protesting” our way back to “democracy”. the only thing those fucking cunts understand is the end of a gun. end of wishy-washy story.

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  10. Anonymous says:

    @woteva agreed except for the bit about a gun, but it would be a good idea for any freedom loving intelligent person to get out of this country and let those idiots(the people in power are for the most part very very unintelligent) wonder what happened after 10 more years.

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  11. Andy says:

    cannot agree less with anonymous and wateva… this is not a thread about simplistic ANC bashing, insult throwing and shitty veiled talk about killing politicians and how hopeless the situation is – check yourself woteva. If you want to stay here, as I do, then you have to take responsibility for the situation, be the solution and stand up for what you believe in. I hate this negative, “just run it’s fucked” attitude you people have. It’s totally unproductive, lazy, ignorant and really if you feel that way, have the balls to follow through, run, don’t sit on a comments board and try and make everyone feel the same way, so you got someone to run with. That’s herd mentality right there. This piece does not represent your negativity. I am positive about the future of South Africa, and the rest of the continent. So positive in fact that I’m not willing to leave the future of this country in the bumbling hands of politicians. We got rights. We need to use them.
    now fokof til you get a clue

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  12. Locco says:


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  13. Swartskaap says:

    kak hiermee! Hierdie is ook my land!

    All I’ve ever known is Africa , I’m a twelfth generation Afrikaner and I love my country and I have no problem sharing it.


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  14. papa bear says:

    Yo Mahala, where’s the petition. Your points are solid, but how to take it to the next step baas?

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  15. Pauly says:

    a wake up call of note. powerfully written thank you

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  16. David Steynberg says:

    These intimidation tactics and government insecurities smack of old Apartheid practices – if you don’t stay in line, dan moet jy buk jou bliksem!
    While the whole blue light brigade incident isn’t funny, you can’t help but find the irony in the fact that Maxwele himself is an ANC card-carrier. But, before the anti-ANC guys get excited at my anticipated finger-pointing, I’d like to explain the irony as I see it.
    Surely, if you’re one of the general populance who X-marked your spot next to JZ’s head-and-shoulders in last year’s elections, then surely you have maybe even more right to show your dissaproval at the inconsiderate poli in the back seat! Hold especially your own leaders accountable.
    But, like Andy, Maxwele and the media have said, the tinted windows could have hidden any one of our ministers (incluing ‘ol Helen). But, ja, I know from my own experience when jogging, sometimes you do skrik your pants when a Putco bus, Sandtonite Land Rover or Metro ST whizzes past you and your only defence is to either curse under your breath or to flip the finch!

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  17. woteva says:

    Did i say I was leaving? No. I’m staying too, I’d much rather live here than is some sterilized country like the US or USA. As much kak as there is here, I still love it.
    Is this a site for only positive people? I’m afraid that different folks have differing levels of negativity and positivity. Negativity towards SA extends doesn’t mean that the person is a SA-hater, it means they are a probably a negative person, unfortunately, due to numerous factors, upbringing, experiences, etc. If this is a site for positives only, cool, let me know that and I’lll cruise off to a site where I can post my negativity interspersed with drops of occasional positivity.

    Btw…the ANC did not come to power peacefully.

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  18. Andy says:

    Of course it’s not only about being positive. Just don’t want this thread to start gathering the kinds of disgruntled anti-SA, “oh we’re fucked” comments that you find under most of the political articles and features on sites like news 24, M&G, IOL etc.

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  19. Murray says:

    South Africa: till death/inaction do us part.

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  20. Niel says:

    Thank you, Andy.

    “Everybody’s heard about the word / bird bird bird, the bird is the word!”

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  21. Anonymous says:

    JZ should read this piece

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  22. The Oracle says:

    Very good. Glad that we are now using the F word correctly instead of
    mouthing it for effect in some ridiculous song. F*** by itself is weak but
    F*** Off is wonderfully strong. Keep telling them all to F*** Off.

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  23. Kong says:

    Yoh are you the same poeps commenting on News24 and IOL? eish..

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  24. any day now says:

    andy of course the rot was here long before, this country is built on rot which has festered; its moral integrity hardly existed unless of course you believe that somehow that system was good for all of us. U decide rot and police state OR rot and at least you van say what you want!

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  25. Lisa says:

    I’m with you 100% andy

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  26. The dude says:

    Politicians have only there own interests at heart. They do not care about you, although they pretend to…The real power lies with the people and they are terrified that the people will wake up and to this fact and tell them to F,,k off! So Strong arm tactics, wars, pollutants in the water, vaccines etc. etc. are used against you. Education is left brain only, how well you can remember and regurgitate determines how well you do at school. Controlled distribution of news the world over. People microchiped – no thanks!!

    There is a very sinister ‘shadow government’ who are looking for world control. Politicians and world leaders are mainly their puppets. If you doubt this just read David Icke, he’s been trying to expose this for the last 20yrs.

    We are now approaching the end game. The powers that be do not want you to want you to know that you have any power to get back. But people are waking up and are discovering that they are sovereign, powerful and beautiful. Politicians and bankers watch out! -TheDude

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  27. finger fighter says:

    Anyone here know the President’s transport schedule in Cape Town? I’m thinking about ‘pulling’ a zap sign flashmob.

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  28. Tom Wood says:

    Great piece, but I tire of the crude comparisons that people like to draw between Zim and SA. It’s the whole SA-is-the-new-Zim argument favoured by casual racists and right wing lunatics (although I am not labelling the author of this article as either of these). There are so few similarities between the two countries and this argument is fast becoming SA’s version of the ‘Reductio ad Hitlerum” argument. Nonetheless, it is true that our politicians need to be put in their place, need to be given a collective middle finger and a mighty ‘fuck you’.

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  29. fail says:

    it’s so fucking tedious when people respond to intelligent, competent reporting on valid issues by misinterpreting it as a secret handshake that gives the go-ahead to cowardly, snipey, racist bleating. and believe they are agreeing with the points raised in the argument. how depressing for the journalist. ugh.

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  30. Twakkie says:

    Ja i reckon a zap flash mob would be sick!!

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  31. Storm says:

    Great piece Andy, good to see that it hit a nerve with so many people, now lets just hope they take it to their MP’s – if they no who they are?

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  32. Yho! says:

    Not to mention closing off streets for the opening of parliament! Smacks of RGM (aka Sir Rob) comandering planes and shutting down Harare airport to go shopping in Paris.

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  33. Swartskaap says:

    Lets be honest and admit that the very prolonged opinions formed and expressed here about the failures of the present government is obviously well understood by the readership but is still at a total loss by the majority of our country and maybe its part of some sinister plane to keep them uninformed. How many South Africans have never even used a computer before never mind reading an article on mahala.

    I also don’t totally agree with what Tom said.We are still far from being a ZIM government even if half the zim population is in South Africa ,but its very impotent that we Criticizes our leader and show we disapprove of failure instead of our abandonment of freedom and our country.

    Final note : We need to come to the realization that all the ethnic groups in South Africa form a symbiotic relationship.If one of us fall – we all fall

    VREDE 🙂

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  34. StereoTheist says:

    “Crimen injuria is a crime under South African common law, defined to be the act of “unlawfully, intentionally and seriously impairing the dignity of another”…umm, isn’t that exactly what these thugs did to Chumani Maxwele? …

    // I’m an ignorant white boy who’s barely black enough to read this site, so could anyone please supply the correct pronunciation for his name? i’d like to know how to say it right//

    …@ Swartskaap: on the 2nd last bit, WOORD! couldn’t have said it better:)

    …@the dude: do NOT use The Dude’s name in vain! David Icke is a former-goalie-current-whackjob, but check out informationliberation.com anyway…

    We should do more than “watch this one closely”, Zap Flashmobs! are a small but necessary first step, but then we need a Zap T-Shirt on the back of every student in this country, a sort of reverse Che Guevara branded on the chest of every hipster (soon to be found on every shirt in Mr. Price )…First one that makes it is SA’s own Shepard Fairey…I’m being redundant now, but the situation appears to me thus: if you’ve got one raised finger, then you’ve got a problem: if you’ve got a hundred thousand raised fingers, you’ve got a MOVEMENT!.
    Thanks for the piece Andy! Peace

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  35. Carlotta says:

    Ah damn, I do a lot of research and come across a lot of shit – thanks to incompetance in govt – that won’t see the light of day…yet! give it 10 more years and we’re royally fucked. There’s a lack of political will – Govt is writing too many laws, criminilising too many people. So govt wants growth, and to prove it, they shove things through without proper process and thinking, are too arrogant to see the value of institutional history and work, putting people in positions of power who do not have the experience to rule – they may have the ability, aptitude and intelligence, but this does not make you competant automatically – attitude and experience and understanding process – transition and growth is organic – plant the seed but the tree will not be there tomorrow – oh and need I add that if you are in a position of power you need to work – but greed dictates that focus is elsewhere. This brings down a lot of good people in govt and other positions that can make a real difference. Has our govt sold this country out for a pittance… you bet! What did our golden tata sell out? What did Mbeki sell out? What did JZ sell out? A country is only as strong as it’s leadership….and a show of brutality is clear sign that SA govt lacks it.

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  36. Anonymous says:

    Everyone should pull a zap at the blue light brigade when they pass to teach them not to waste everyone’s time with their nonsense. What can they do then?

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  37. […] This is not Zimbabwe, yet | Mahala. var addthis_language = ‘en’;var addthis_options = ‘facebook, email, twitter, more’; Filed […]

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  38. oh dear says:

    A momentarily upright middle finger offends a perpetually erect prick?

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  39. Nas says:

    Perhaps our most basic form of protest here is exactly what Anonymous (the last one way down here) suggests: pulling a zap at “them”; whoever “they” may be. That’d just be a start, of course.

    I love this country. I plan on living here till death do us part. And I’ll fight for my (and your) rights. If we all stick by that last bit, we can stop this place from falling to ignorance.

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  40. Blatjang says:

    Swartskaap: Perhaps the way to reach the mass population is to generate additional reportage by organising suggested flash mob activities; or perhaps a facebook group; “fuck you, VIP goons”, where you can upload a webcam grab of your middle finger?

    These activities in themselves might not directly enlighten the general populace with respect to freedom of expression . However, sufficient activity would generate publicity, keeping the story alive in mainstream media and making it clear that not all South Africans will accept the goon squad clampdown on our rights.

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  41. WoganMay.com says:

    Incredible how nobody on this thread has yet debated the flipside of the argument – do we really want the ability to slander and denigrate people in public? I totally get temporary frustration outbursts (hell, I get them a lot), but in all instances they’re directed *away* from the circumstances I’m living in – and more often than not I’m frustrated at something inanimate.

    Yes, imposing national law on expressing your dissatisfaction at people in power? That seems totalitarian (an entirely different point I won’t argue here). This one instance might seem like overkill, but remember, the dude was an ANC member, and in terms of 5.2.g of their constitution (http://www.anc.org.za/show.php?doc=./ancdocs/history/const/const2002.html), “A member of the ANC will (g) Observe discipline, behave honestly and carry out loyally decisions of the majority and decisions of higher bodies.”

    Simply put, he agreed not to behave obscenely in public, a rule he clearly broke. If it were a DA/IFP member, they’d probably have let him go, then launched a 2-week long smear campaign against whichever party.

    But coming back to my original argument, and apart from venting frustration into the atmosphere, I can’t see any positive benefit from being allowed to behave that way towards other people. Every human being has a right to dignity, and the right to be protected from people that might do that dignity harm.

    Here’s something else for you to consider. China is a totalitarian movement that quashes democracy (sometimes with force). The USA is a prime example of democracy and freedom of speech. In the last 18 months the US economy tanked, taking out most of the EU with it. China not only continued their explosive economic growth curve, they agreed to finance the US’ debt by purchasing Treasury bonds.

    And that’s only the tip of the iceberg.

    ~ Wogan

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  42. arnaud says:

    nice thought Wogan.
    Maybe we should indeed respect our own dignity and refrain from being crude, and not have fun..
    After all, its the Struggleparty ‘s prerogative to carry into our democracy the political culture that brought it to power.
    As non ANC citizen I find it difficult to choose a role model to follow: should I take the ANCYL, Selebi, Zuma, Mbeki, Mantashe, Cosatu, the Communists , Veterans or Womens League as role model or the grass roots PEOPLE of Ogies.
    My future will depend which faction I choose.
    Which of these is “the highest body’ emulating the will of Struggle that I may
    become like them: disciplined, honest, loyal..

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  43. Moose says:

    someone get the man a shit hot pro bono lawyer and drag this bullshit to the constitutional court. quick. before they all get replaced by yes men…

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  44. ICEDOCTOR says:


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  45. Anonymous says:

    So, we aren’t allowed to express ourselves in rude gestures, while the man himself sticks his knobbly bit into anything that moves? When politicians demand to be above criticism, that’s when you know you’re in trouble.

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  46. Anonymous says:

    Would a white male finger-puller have faced the same treatment? How deep does racism actually extend? And what’s with the bag on the head thing? What the flowerin’ ferkin??? Shades of Special Forces in apartheid – are those guys still behind the scenes or what… BTW As I read it the rel in this piece of SA to Zim is that I think in both countries it is illegal to insult the president, unlike in some countries, where you can even insult presidents and prime ministers in speech to their faces; they learn to be nice to the people to avoid it, not vice versa. Is this the case?

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  47. Anonymous says:

    WoganMay, whilst you may be correct in your interpretation of teh ANC’s constitution, that is not the law of the land. The state can not be used to uphold the laws and norms of one or other political party; only the law of the land. And the abovementioned excerpt is NOT part of the law of the land.

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  48. Kema says:

    Well done Andy for pushing this issue. We need to work hard to dissuade this kind of nonsense, even at the risk of getting bags stuffed over our heads.

    On a different note, WoganMay, unless I misread your point, you hint at some altruism in China’s “agreement” to purchase US treasury bonds. However, these purchases help keep their own currency pegged against the dollar, assisting their growth curve through the recession.

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