February 2009

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In Search of Politicians That Can Deliver: Is Performance Management the Answer?

Picture: Nick Boalch Ebrahim-Khalil Hassen - The truism, same context, different outcomes, applies to the performance of politicians. A select number of politicians have excelled in South Africa, but the public remains unconvinced that the performance of government has improved.  Interestingly, across perception surveys, there is a decline in the approval ratings of governments over the last five years. An important proposal has been floated to improve the performance of our government, by having politicians with executive...

Not Even Obama Can Take On Special Interests

Feminist writer Naomi Wolf discusses the ethical challenges President Barack Obama faces in dealing with special interest groups representing intelligence, surveillance and the defense industry. "I trust his intentions are good, but he's playing with fire," she says. Wolf argues that what's needed is a massive grassroots- based democracy movement to hold Obama and the American Congress' feet to the fire to keep the pressure on so that reforms are not superficial. She contends that...

Rural Local Government at the Crossroads

Picture: Sideshow_NYC Stephen Greenberg - Local government is the interface between the state and citizens in any country. In rural South Africa, this interface is extremely weak as a result of the power of sectional interests and a local government system that reinforces accountability to party rather than constituency. The lack of legitimacy and responsiveness of local government was a weak point under apartheid, and the widespread struggle for democratic local representation was one of the most important factors in the downfall...

Slumdog Millionaire: A Hollow Message of Social Justice

Picture: Gosub Mitu Sengupta - Danny Boyle's "Slumdog Millionaire", perhaps one of the most celebrated films in recent times, tells the rags-to-rajah story of a love-struck Indian boy, Jamal, who, with a little help from "destiny," triumphs over his wretched beginnings in Mumbai's squalid slums. Riding on a wave of rave reviews, "Slumdog" has now won Hollywood's highest tribute, the Academy Award for Best Picture, along with seven more Oscars, including one for Best Director. These...

Bigotry is More Than a Subculture in South Africa

Picture: Liliana Segura Saliem Fakir - An Austrian colleague of mine relays a dinner story. We are talking over lunch at a little side cafe in idyllic Stellenbosch. There was a discussion about Obama and the historic moment for the United States when he took the presidential oath. Obama holds great symbolic significance to all black and other non-white people of the world. It is an important affirmation because he rose through the ranks on the basis of merit. But many whites also voted for him. He is of course a highly...

Protests Against Racist Obama Cartoon

On Thursday, 19 February 2009, hundreds of protestors gathered outside the offices of the New York Post for the second day in a row, after the newspaper published a cartoon caricaturing President Barack Obama as a chimpanzee. The cartoon depicts two white policemen with a smoking gun standing over the body of a dead chimpanzee, with one of the police officers saying to the other "They'll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill." On the page before the...