Sunday, August 31, 2014

How much more abuse can the constitution take from Zuma?

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31 August 2014 | Tony Leon | Original Publication:  Sunday Times

Our President’s manoeuvres are sailing ever closer to the wind

It is not clear what reading matter President Jacob Zuma’s Kremlin hosts provided for him at the Dacha where he rested during this week’s visit to Russia. The timing of the trip is doubtless a coincidence, but he certainly chose a useful moment to escape from local difficulties, ranging from an unbowed Public Protector, an uber- aggressive Economic Freedom Fighters’ leader and the smoking gun perhaps lurking in the spy tapes. 

But it is certain that Zuma was not given sight of the article which journalist Philip Stephens published recently in the Financial Times.  He had also gone to Moscow, but neither for a rest nor to nudge along unnecessary nuclear power station contracts.   Stephens went there to try to divine why Zuma’s host, President Vladimir Putin, was behaving as he has been these past months: annexing Crimea, arming  rebels in Eastern Ukraine, banning McDonalds hamburgers  and even eclipsing South Africa’s sclerotic  GDP growth which in Russia is likely this year to spiral down to zero percent.

Stephens quoted the aphorism of a local who explained Putin’s hostility to his neighbours and the West as being a case of “when you don’t know what to do, you do what you know.” Putin is not the last or first leader who, confronted by the unknown, seeks refuge in the familiar.

The South African presidency seems to have taken this Russian recipe and applied anabolic steroids to the formula. Perhaps not for nothing was Zuma’s pre-presidential legal approach, when escaping the coils of looming corruption charges,  dubbed the “Stalingrad strategy.” But combat by exhaustion, delay  and destruction is one thing when you are fingered for the criminal dock, and quite another  when you are the president charged with upholding and enforcing the constitution. President Richard Nixon tried much of the same thing during the imploding Watergate crisis.  But  he was undone by his own voice on a tape, not admittedly by the voices of others, as in the case of the local spy-tapes, which might or might not provide a rational basis for the non-prosecution of the president on the corruption charges which cleared Zuma’s path to the presidency.

But before any of that unspools after the Democratic Alliance’s victory in the Supreme Court of Appeal on Thursday, which could disprove the National Prosecuting Authority claim of a conspiracy against Zuma, and the springboard (or excuse depending on your viewpoint) for dropping the corruption charges, there is the matter of Nkandla, Parliament and the Public Protector.  Here matters are both, simultaneously, more   and less straightforward. It’s literally a matter of what she said and he didn’t say or do.

Thuli Madonsela in an explosive letter last weekend, and the origins for its appearance onto the front pages remains contested, stated very plainly that the President’s response to her report on Nkandla which required him to repay an undetermined amount for the costs of improving his private residence amounted, in essence, to a non-response and an evasion of its central findings.

Weary readers might recall that Zuma’s response was to instruct a subordinate, the minister of Police,  to determine his culpability for any of the costs. What she didn’t say, but which the author Upton Sinclair once famously did, is that “it is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” So, it’s an interesting stratagem to get a minister who enjoys the perks and privileges of office to decide whether the person, on whom his continuance in high office solely depends, needs to pay back multiple amounts of money.

But Madonsela actually went further; she suggested not only might this be a bad idea, but in fact it was ‘illegal’ since it conferred on the minister powers which he did not have and which usurped the powers of the court, the only institution which could review her findings. Second-guessing by a cabinet minister, in other words, is not just poor form but is, on her interpretation, unconstitutional. 

Naturally the African National Congress launched a ‘fight back’, by labelling her response to the president’s non-response as “undermining parliament”, pursuing a ‘personal matter’ and ‘playing to the gallery’ among other sins. Madonsela in response stated that this was a direct assault on her office and independence in violation of the constitution which proscribes any interference in the functioning of her office.

At this stage in proceedings, including the EFF’s interruption of proceedings in parliament two Thursdays ago, we might well ask the essential question: how much more damage can the constitutional instruments designed to combat corruption and rein in the abuse of office withstand, especially from those charged with protecting them?

Long ago, and not in Russia, but from its nemesis ,the United States, ,a famous, independent  voice of warning  sounded in a dissenting judgment against the encroachment of the state pursuing improper  ends . In 1928,  Justice Louis Brandeis wrote,  “Our government…teaches the whole people by its example. If the government becomes the lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for the law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy.”

Wise and prophetic words in America then and for South Africa right now.



Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Big Read: Nazi or just plain nasty?

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27 Aug 2014 | Tony Leon | The Times

Since there are very few clean hands in the chaotic scenes from parliament on Thursday, when the Economic Freedom Fighters disrupted President Jacob Zuma's question time, we can cast the net wide to finger the underminers of our democracy.
ECHOES IN RED: Nazi Party deputies in the Reichstag in Berlin in 1933. Before it came to power the party created disorder on the streets and in parliament
"Those who howl loudest today have themselves excavated under the foundations of our parliamentary democracy"

One unlikely, admittedly marginal, suspect on the wanted list is the mild-mannered and urbane minister of tourism, Derek Hanekom. You might recall that in May 2010, as chairman of the ANC disciplinary committee, he sentenced Julius Malema - at a time when his party thought it could contain his outsize ego inside its tent - to a course in "anger management" as "remedial action of a corrective nature" for criticising Zuma. Well, the country and the world saw last week, at least before parliament cut the live feed, just what a crashing failure that correction proved to be.
Then we have the ANC secretary-general, Gwede Mantashe. Some weeks back, the EFF politics of mayhem and chaos was getting a dry run in and around the Gauteng legislature (before its advance into the hallowed portals of the National Assembly). Mantashe compared their conduct to that of the Nazis, drawing howls of outrage from Juju and Co. But Mantashe was onto something with that analogy, especially for those who do not see the clear and present danger of the EFF's disruptive and anarchic tactics.

Mantashe was wrong to compare the EFF's end goals to the unique evil of the Third Reich but he was right on their tactical similarities.
In his Concise History of Nazi Germany, Joseph Bendersky explains - in immaculate detail - how the Nazi Party conducted itself in the Reichstag (parliament) of the Weimar Republic between 1930 and 1932, the crucial period when Hitler's party had only 18% support but enjoyed outsize attention, not least through its outlandish tactics.

The party pursed what Bendersky calls a dual strategy: it disrupted and paralysed the existing republican political system, while trying to use the same democratic system and electoral processes to win control of the very system it was so energetically undermining.
"They intimidated their opponents, they created disorder in the streets and they kept themselves in the public eye." If Malema has not read this history he is certainly doing a good job of copying it in both spirit and letter.

Inside parliament, the Nazi deputies "used obstruction tactics to hamper the governmental process. Nazi deputies disrupted parliamentary sessions with catcalls and unnecessary debates on points of order, and they opposed every attempt at serious legislation,'' Bendersky writes.
It was precisely because Germany witnessed its pre-war democratic institutions being trashed by profoundly undemocratic forces within that when, on the ashes of the vanquished Reich, a new order was created in 1949 the drafters of the federal basic law or constitution were very careful. It prohibited any entity from fundamentally undermining "the democratic basic order". That is how both the resurrected Nazi Party and the West German Communist Party were banned by the federal constitutional court.

Our own constitution does not contain an equivalent clause. If it did, there is every likelihood that the EFF would be proscribed.
But before Mantashe and other ruling-party heavies get too self-righteous, they would do well to take a long, hard look in the mirror. Because although Malema's tactics shock, and perhaps even rather thrill, weary taxpayers who wouldn't dream of voting EFF but who admire the way Malema puts Zuma to the sword, there is nothing hidden about the EFF playbook. They have the subtlety of a sledgehammer or a jackboot. But what of the more insidious undermining of parliament as a serious institution, one that the constitution mandates as the most important forum of governmental accountability in the land?

Here indeed Malema's now nemesis, the ANC, should take a deep bow. It is worth remembering that those who today howl loudest at the EFF's disruptiveness and disrespect for democratic decency have themselves with great enthusiasm and deliberation excavated under the foundations of our parliamentary democracy.
It was not the EFF that turned a democratic parliament into a forum of non-debate and threadbare accountability. It was not the EFF that scrapped parliamentary interpellations. It was not the EFF that decided it was proper for its national chairman to be also the Speaker of parliament and the person in charge of its institutional independence.

According to the chief whip of the official opposition, John Steenhuizen, it was not the EFF either that in 2013, in splendid defiance of the constitution, ensured that only 17% of all oral questions submitted to ministers were actually answered by them in the House.
Nor was it the EFF that steamrollered 53 bills through parliament last year, of which "only 20 were properly debated by the House, in just 28 hours".

You do not need to condone Malema's tactics to understand the seething frustrations that erupted last week in parliament; nor why they enjoy such widespread support.
Leon is the author of Opposite Mandela (Jonathan Ball) Follow him on Twitter: @TonyLeonSA OR on Facebook:


Monday, August 25, 2014

Street Fighter Not Tweet Fighter: Ray Hartley Chats to Tony Leon About Opposite Mandela

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Ray Harley | 25 August 2014 | Books Live

Opposite Mandela, Tony Leon (Jonathan Ball Publishers)
By Ray Hartley for the Sunday Times

This book represents another step in Tony Leon’s transformation from party partisan to dignified national eminence.

The first step was captured in his book Accidental Ambassador, about his time as Jacob Zuma’s man in Argentina. For the first time, Leon found himself representing the nation, and not a political party, and it was an adjustment he found surprisingly easy to make. When he returned to the country to launch his book, he had mellowed.

Now he has mellowed some more. Opposite Mandela goes back to the uneasy time he spent as leader of the opposition in a Parliament dominated by a man who had for all intents and purposes been canonized for his role in the transition to democracy.

When I meet Leon in the foyer of the Hyatt Hotel in Rosebank, Johannesburg, he has a ready anecdote to illustrate his new position above the buzz of party politics.

“Lindiwe Mazibuko, Helen Zille and Mmusi Maimane all attended my book launch in Cape Town,” he says. Mazibuko had resigned from the DA to take up a Harvard scholarship amidst talk that she was to be replaced as parliamentary leader by Maimane. Leon apparently offered all sides refuge from a party where the air was thick with intrigue and hurt.

But he can’t resist getting a mild dig in. “I would have just wished Lindiwe well and moved on,” he says of Zille’s decision to address her party caucus with a list of Mazibuko’s weaknesses.

Leon expresses relief that he was a leader “in a pre-Twitter age”, sparing him Zille’s sometimes ill-considered 140-character responses to some or other baiting on the social network.

 “I often felt deeply wronged,” he says. But he had senior party leaders who talked him down before he took the fight to the streets (or, in Zille’s case, the tweets).

 In Mandela, Leon found his toughest challenge. “He was the fiercest of ANC partisans and I don’t think any organisation came close to eclipsing it. On the other hand, he genuinely had strong democratic impulses. Mandela was a leader. He was quite prepared to go against the grain,” he says.

 Leon lists the events that illustrate this: The decision to begin negotiations with the apartheid government; the decision to wear the Springbok jersey at the 1995 World Cup; His reconciliatory response to the Chris Hani assassination; and his decision to abandon nationalization.

 It was, he says a different time. “When Mandela was president, the ANC was just starting out in government and not as surefooted as now. There were titans in the world then – Donny Gordon, Harry Oppenheimer, Anton Rupert. The business community was thought to be a very important stakeholder.”

The DA, which then had the reputation as the party with the ear of business, punched above its paltry 1,7 percent of the 1994 vote. It was, he says, “a small party with all the disadvantages of a large party”.

By the time Mandela’s term of office ended, this had all changed and Leon was the de facto leader of the opposition as the National Party began to disintegrate, caught between its role in the government of national unity and its place on the opposition benches.

The result was that Leon found himself courted by Mandela, who kept in close contact and even once offered him a cabinet position. There are few who would have turned down such an offer from the uber statesman, but Leon said no.

Far from breaking his relationship with Mandela, this had the effect of strengthening it. Mandela knew he was tempting Leon to abandon his principles in exchange for the proximity to power and when Leon turned it down, Mandela respected him more for his stance.

Leon and Mandela shared, it turned out, the desire to take the road less travelled. “Maybe constancy is for the dull,” he says.

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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Of Mickey and Goofy: standing opposite Madiba

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AUCKLAND PARK – Madiba called him Mickey Mouse, and he called the iconic man ‘Goofy.’ Politicians, Tony Leon says, aren’t always mature.

Kirsten van Jaarsveld | 21 August 2014 12:00 | Northcliff Melville Times

If you think of the name Tony Leon you might think of Helen Zille’s predecessor – the man who led the Democratic Alliance from 1999 to 2002. You might think of the South African ambassador to Argentina. And you might think of the man who stood opposite Nelson Mandela during his time as president, as the leader of the opposition.

You’d be right on all counts.

Leon was at the University of Johannesburg to discuss his book Opposite Mandela: Encounters with South Africa’s icon on 19 August. What, Leon asked, made this book different from the legions of books about the great man?
“No one has written a book about Mandela, viewing him from the opposite side,” he explained.

“I had perhaps the most difficult job in the world, leading a party in opposition to Saint Madiba.”

An example of the man’s greatness, Leon said, happened during the elections in 1994.
“The reality on that day was that our freedom didn’t seem assured at all,” he said.

“There were bombs at the Johannesburg airport – then called Jan Smuts – and in downtown Johannesburg. The elections were marred by political violence and a break-down in the counting system. The outcome of the elections in Natal were on a knife’s edge, and so Mandela went to Natal to cast his ballot there at the grand age of 68. Political violence was the worst in that province.
“There were serious allegations of ballot tampering there, and the ANC (African National Congress) were convinced it was being robbed of a famous victory. The party called a meeting at Luthuli House, and insisted that a press conference should be called to tell the world of the injustice in the elections. Mandela was silent throughout the meeting. Then suddenly he spoke. He said: ‘We will say nothing that declares this election void. We will say this election is free and fair. Prepare our people in Natal to lose’. He realised sometimes that there were moments and acts that were more crucial than the interests of the party – and often put the country ahead of the party.”

Mandela, Leon said, was a combination of three people – the extraordinary man who put national interests before the regime; the humble man who took Hendrik Verwoerd’s wife Betsie for coffee and also a ruthless and shrewd politician.
“Mandela enjoyed discourse, he liked partaking in the Parliamentary Punch and Judy Show,” Leon said.

“He was so embracing and so inclusive, but he froze you out if you crossed certain lines. To run a political organisation you have to be able to bring out the knife and wheel it. He did that.”

Leon said that Madiba was mightily irritated when he criticised his administration, regardless of his embracing nature. “One day in Parliament he suddenly said, ‘This DP (Democratic Party), they’re just a Mickey Mouse organisation’.”
Leon returned the slur. “Well if that is so Mr President, you lead a Goofy government.”

A few weeks later Leon found himself at Milpark Hospital about to undergo coronary bypass surgery and there was a knock at the door. A famous voice said, ‘Hallo Mickey Mouse, this is Goofy.’ It was Mandela.
“The operation was very successful, speeded on by the extraordinary embrace of Nelson Mandela,” Leon said, smiling.

“We should look upon him and learn from the examples that he has left behind. He may very well have been the last of the great men.”

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Africa offers evidence of the folly of ‘war to end all wars’

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14 Aug 2014 | Tony Leon | Original Publication:  BDlive

Africa was a ‘sideshow’ compared with the immensity of destruction and the ritualised killing fields in the trenches of Belgium and France, writes Tony Leon
THE recent centenary of the outbreak of the First World War brought back to mind my Grandpa Jack (Jack Leon, 1892-1983). Of imperishable memory to his grandchildren and others, he would enliven our early childhood with his tales of some wonder and much hardship from his experiences as a foot soldier in the Great War, the so-called "war to end all wars", which profoundly it did not.

My grandfather was one of about 150,000 white soldiers and more than 80,000 black compatriots who served in the Union Defence Force in the wide-ranging theatres of combat across Southern Africa and beyond, when they answered the call of Empire to push back, or push out, Kaiser Wilhelm’s colonial empire in Africa. Jack endured considerable hardship in today’s Tanzania — which back then rejoiced in the name German East Africa — and was captured by the Germans shortly before hostilities ended. He recounted his "days of thirst" when, in the absence of any water provided by his captors, he and his comrades sucked stones and dew off the grass in a desperate attempt to keep hydrated. But he was lucky to have returned alive, as opposed to those South Africans who went to France, where, in the epic battle of Delville Wood in 1916, nearly two-thirds of South Africa’s combatants were killed or severely injured.
Africa was more incidental than central to the war aims of either the winning "Entente Powers" side (the UK, France, Russia, Italy, Serbia and the US) or the losing "Central Powers" (the German Empire, the Hapsburg Monarchy, the Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria). But, as the world soon enough discovered, there was no end of consequences from this global conflict, some of which — from Syria to Palestine to Ukraine — enflame the world today.

Africa was a "sideshow" compared with the immensity of destruction and the ritualised killing fields in the trenches of Belgium and France. It lacked the set-piece battles that history and blood has emorialised and globalised on such bucolic and, until the war, unknown European towns and villages such as Ypres and Passchendaele.

But, as Byron Farwell, in his work, The Great War in Africa, notes, the "butcher’s bill" in Africa was immense, and the theatre of war stretched over thousands of kilometres of inhospitable terrain, and most of the skirmishes were fought by "tattered hungry men in dust and mud".
Africa also provided both the first and the last shots of the Great War, proving yet again that the continent marches to its own rhythm. According to Hew Strachan’s account of the First World War, regimental sergeant-major Ahaji Grushi of the West African Frontier Force entered the history books for firing the first shot in the war, which had been declared by England nine days before. At the end of this global conflagration, about 16-million soldiers and civilians had perished out of a global population of less than 2-billion people. But even after the armistice had been signed by Germany on November 11 1918, the war continued in Africa for two more weeks; only on November 25 in Abercorn (now Mbala) in Northern Rhodesia (Zambia) did Col Paul Emil von Lettow-Vorbeck of the Imperial German Army finally surrender. He earned a footnote in history as the last German commander to do so.

One of the consequences of the war for the then fledgling Union of South Africa was its effect on solidifying the white sense of nationhood here, just as the epic battles, immense loss of life and chains of brotherhood among survivors (or "mateship", as the Australians call it) helped to forge a specific sense of national identity in far-flung dominions of the British realm, from Canada to Australia and New Zealand.
On the other side of the white fence in the Union of South Africa, fighting on the "wrong side", as Boers and bittereinders viewed the decision of Jan Smuts and Louis Botha to enter the lists on the side of the UK, would further light the fires of nationalist resentment. They would smoulder on until the election in 1924 of a Hertzog coalition government and then, with far greater consequence, in 1948, when the politics of resentment would burn into political victory, after the next world war, and the triumph of the National Party.

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa went to France last month to correct a historic injustice; the reinternment of the remains of South African Native Labour Corps member Myengwa Beleza, who, unlike some of his slain white counterparts in the slaughter of Delville Wood, had been denied a final resting place in a military cemetery. This "correction" inspired a lively correspondence in some local newspapers, with military historians indicating that many soldiers, and not just due to the strictures of South African segregation being carried over to France, had also been buried in civilian cemeteries or in unmarked graves.
But without descending down the road recently paved by the South African Democratic Teachers Union and its new history project designed to "manufacture patriotism", the global consequences of the First World War, particularly the terms on which it ended, would also be informed by some localised and almost forgotten events.

Perhaps the greatest "what if?" question from the Great War is both the simplest and most complex: what if it had never happened? RJW Evans, Regius professor of history emeritus at Oxford University, provided his distinguished answer: "This calamitous conflict, more than any other series of events, has shaped the world ever since; without it, we can doubt that communism would have taken hold in Russia, fascism in Italy, and Nazism in Germany, or that global empires would have disintegrated so rapidly and so chaotically."
If, a century later, there is no historical consensus of either its causes or even its necessity, there was no uncertainty about who was blamed for it at its end. The victorious powers at the Paris Conference in 1919 and in the treaty signed in nearby Versailles were unanimous — Germany and its leaders were responsible. And Southern Africa provided a crucial piece of evidence for both this assertion and the carving up of the world order that followed.

To German aggression was added the charge of "barbarity", and the mistreatment of the Belgian civilian population was "exhibit A" on the charge sheet. But from the shadows of forgotten history in 1919, the earlier German genocide of the Herero and Nama people in their colony of South West Africa was added to the bill of indictment.
In David Olusoga and Caspar Erichsen’s riveting book, The Kaiser’s Holocaust, they note: "At Versailles, if only momentarily, the lives of black Africans were regarded as comparable to those of white Europeans. Indeed, the history of German brutality in South West Africa was ‘proof to the civilised world’ that it was ‘duty bound to shackle the monster of German militarism’."

Smuts and Botha marshalled the abundant evidence of such cruelties to make a winning bid for the territory to be mandated to South Africa as a "sacred trust" on the basis that "they had established a white civilisation in a savage continent and had become a great cultural agency all over South Africa".

Sixty years after my grandfather joined up, I, alongside most white matriculants, was conscripted into the South African Defence Force, which in 1975 had as its core military objective securing the borders of South West Africa. It proved to be as futile and unattainable a goal as many of the military objectives of the "war to end all wars".
Leon is the author of Opposite Mandela (Jonathan Ball) Follow him on Twitter: @TonyLeonSA OR on Facebook:

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Big Read: The ANC's three-card trick

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12 Aug 2014 | Tony Leon | Original Publication:  The Times

During my brief training four years ago on how to be an ambassador - which, contrary to expectation, did not include instruction into how to hold a knife and fork or how to seat big wigs at the dining table - I did pick up at least one piece of useful advice.

No man is so short as he who stands on his dignity

One of the old-timers at Pretoria's diplomatic academy told me that most of my ambassadorial colleagues were "very short". When I expressed some surprise at this observation, he rejoined: "Yes, no man is so short as he who stands on his dignity", a reminder of how many diplomats obsess more about issues of their status than matters of substance.

And then he added a useful reminder: "Those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind." There is, for example, the rather ridiculous, but harmless, local and overseas habit of keeping the title "Ambassador" long after your diplomatic service ends, a practice that certain of my former colleagues from the world of diplomacy apparently cling to with cuticle-like intensity well into retirement.

I reminded my instructor that I had spent more than two decades in parliament and politics. This is an ecosystem where bowing and scraping before the titled classes of "Minister" and "Premier" and dozens of others lower down the political food chain, but blessed with some or other appellation, is now so hard-wired into the national dialogue, and even into everyday conversation, that this new world held no terrors for me in the matter of ritualised protocol.

Political titles are as suddenly conferred as they are removed and the waters pass over quickly enough as once-titled office-holders learn another lesson: there is nothing as ex as an ex. But those whose hard study and intellectual excellence entitle them to use the prefix "Doctor" have a longer shelf-life, indeed life-long entitlement, in the titled world of status enhancement.

An academic or medical doctorate is the high-water mark of intellectual attainment and its title-holders are regarded, sometimes incorrectly it is true, as possessors of great wisdom or achievement.

But this is not really the context of either the controversy or the reaction to the apparent lack of entitlement of the titled "Dr" Pallo Jordan. Since the revelation in the Sunday Times about 10 days ago that the honourable member of parliament and the former minister had apparently neither a postgraduate nor any certified degrees at all, South Africa has been treated to the familiar three-card trick. Traditionally, this is the sleight of hand practised by card sharps, who induce a gullible "mark" to part with his money by misdirecting him in the search for the queen.

So the essence of the disclosure about Jordan had nothing do with his intelligence, his intellect or his contribution to the struggle. It had everything to do with claims he made to a title he was, on the face of it, not entitled to use, and which has been his calling card on all official documentation and in every debate in which the voluble politician has featured.

Instead of dealing with the merits of this matter, essentially one of fraud or wrongful misstatement, the public has been treated to the South African equivalent of the three-card trick. The first card is to change the conversation and there was no shortage of players here.

Appropriate to his first name, Baby Tyawa, acting secretary of parliament, offered this childish rejoinder: "Parliament does not make requirements for members to have a degree or PhD."

This spectacular illogicality is simply an evasion. Parliament does, believe it or not, require its members to be "honourable" and presumably the inquiry about Jordan was triggered by concerns of dishonourable conduct.

Then the academic cavalcade rode into support. Former ANC politician and now academic head of the Wits School of Education Mary Metcalfe dismissed the brouhaha on the basis that "Pallo's intellectual contribution and standing is leap years ahead of many PhD holders in this country". This novel card has endless possibilities, not least for doctoral students under Aunty Mary's care.

But, as The Times editorialised this week, the most notable comment of all has been the non-comment of the man at the centre of it all. Jordan appears not to feel the obligation to offer any explanation at all.

The third card then is the impunity card, very familiar to our local audience: deeds have no consequences.

Last week, in the US, senator John Walsh of Montana was forced to quit his senate race not because he did not have the PhD he claimed, but because it was revealed that he plagiarised substantial portions of it.

Perhaps he should immigrate here, and resume his political career in the land of no consequences.

Leon is the author of Opposite Mandela (Jonathan Ball) Follow him on Twitter: @TonyLeonSA OR on Facebook: