Eusebius McKaiser, well-known broadcaster, author, and now also contributor and political analyst for TimesLIVE, hosts a weekly podcast that journeys to the heart of major news items, dissecting politics, law, and ethics.
Eusebius is known for sharp debate, and this podcast is no different. It will inform, entertain, explain and frame evidence-informed debates about the major stories of the week.
Mcebisi Jonas: ANC suffers a 'crisis of reason, crisis of perspective'
Former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas says SA needs to be alert to “democratic backsliding”. He was a guest on Eusebius on TimesLIVE, where he teased the concept, discussing it within the context of realpolitik. Jonas said we often erroneously think democracies or states collapse only when there is, for example, a military coup. Democracies, he argued, can be weakened by people who use democratic processes to gain access to the state, then weaken it for anti-democratic ends.
He focused on three indicators of backsliding. First, unethical leaders can hijack democratic processes and contest for positions to capture power. This is then used for anti-democratic purposes. Second, democratic institutions can be hollowed out and compromised to repurpose them for anti-democratic ends. Third, state-sponsored violence and the politicisation of state security apparatus can be used to quash political opposition and civil society.
When asked how SA fares relative to these indicators, Jonas said despite ratings agencies not downgrading the country further, it is important to carefully examine the signs of democratic backsliding in our politics. He and McKaiser ended the podcast with a spirited debate, specifically about whether the ANC, as a political and ruling party, is capable of renewing itself and leading the country away from backsliding indicators.
Jonas conceded that the ANC suffers a “crisis of reason” and one of “perspective”. He also said such is the disconnect between the party and communities it is meant to serve that its policy conference was akin to listening to people at Sun City pontificating about life in Soweto.
Makashule Gana quits DA and explains why
Makashule Gana has today resigned both as a member of the Democratic Alliance and as a member of the Gauteng legislature. He spoke to TimesLIVE contributor and analyst Eusebius McKaiser about the reasons behind this decision.
Gana has been a member of the party for twenty years, and occupied many leadership and governance positions during that time. He has served as DA Youth leader, deputy federal chairperson, and as an elections campaign manager. He has been a councillor representing the party in Johannesburg, as well as serving as a member of parliament (national assembly and national council of provinces).
In a wide-ranging interview on Eusebius on TimesLIVE, Gana argues that the DA is no longer interested in growth, but is focusing only on consolidation of its existing electoral support base. He cites several by-elections in recent times, including in Nelson Mandela Bay, where the party had not contested. Gana claims that these examples are exemplary of a party that no longer has ambition, and therefore could not unseat the ANC.
When pressure tested by McKaiser as to why a party he had been a part of for two decades, including his own occupation of senior leadership positions within it, could suddenly be described as not appealing to a wide-ranging demographic of voters, Gana claims that there is a growing gap between what the party claims it is about and how it actually behaves politically.
What’s in a name? Well, If you call yourselves “Taliban”, there is a lot in it.
Umkhonto weSizwe and ANC veteran Mavuso Msimang was a guest on Eusebius on TimesLIVE, discussing the importance of language and naming in politics after the victory of the Taliban slate in the recent ANC KwaZulu-Natal leadership contests.
Msimang had penned a general lament about the poor quality of political leadership in KwaZulu-Natal. It included a comment about why it is regrettable to self-refer as Taliban when naming a group contesting for political positions in a democratic society.
Msimang, prompted by host McKaiser, said conventions around naming signal your ideological positioning to the political market, and therefore should not to be regarded as frivolous and unimportant.
He shared examples of political names, such as ones that might include a reference, to a Christian God, that would immediately establish a political party's identity.
Given that words matter, the name Taliban, argued Msimang, conjures imagery of forces that are violent and misogynistic rather than ones that share the kind of values the ANC asserts, including sensitivity to gender justice.
McKaiser suggested the political victory of this slate in KwaZulu-Natal must surely signal a bigger problem within the ANC itself?
Msimang said it is disturbing the nomenclature had hardly caused a stir within the ANC, and said he, as a veteran, could therefore not defend the ANC as theoretically capable of redirecting on these kinds of issues.
The discussion ended with Msimang and McKaiser drawing links between the naming controversy, and a general commitment, or lack thereof, to considerations of ethics within ANC leadership structures.
ANC divided on whether ethics should matter in politics
You might be perplexed by the debate in the governing ANC on the step-aside rule. Should the rule stay or go? What does the rule say? What should the public make of this “debate”, which has become a hot-button issue at the policy conference in Johannesburg?
In this audio explainer, TimesLIVE contributor and analyst Eusebius McKaiser grapples with the difference between law and ethics. He argues ethics must be distinguished from law. In turn, ethical leadership in our body politic is important. He explains this broader context in which a step-aside rule can be formulated.
He also explains the ethical intuitions behind such a rule, and how it might be implemented. This explainer audio ends with a provocative discussion about why many ANC comrades resist embracing a culture of voluntarily stepping aside when they are implicated in wrongdoing. Sceptically, McKaiser concludes that poor regard for the general value and importance of ethical leadership accounts for why the ANC is divided over an issue that ought not to be a controversial matter.
A festival of ideas or dress rehearsal for elective conference?
In this episode of Eusebius on TimesLIVE, he is joined by fellow political analyst Ebrahim Fakir, and they debate whether the ANC's policy conference this weekend will produce honest and productive debate on policy.
Fakir has written a trenchant critique of the ANC's obsession, as he sees it, with externalising its problems. The ANC, argues Fakir, still posits “colonialism of a special kind” as the prism through which to understand contemporary ills in society.
This approach, he argues, is anachronistic and dishonest, because it does not adequately refer to ANC governance failures which are the major drivers of our poor economic and socioeconomic indices.
McKaiser and Fakir also discuss the past failures of the party to implement policies already adopted and which are now being repackaged for hackneyed discussion this weekend.
An example of this, which McKaiser wrote about on TimesLIVE, is the ANC's discussion document on “organisational renewal”. In 2012, the ANC committed to a “decade of renewal” which, argues McKaiser, has not played out as the party resolved. This led McKaiser and Fakir to also debate the extent to which the ANC's policy stocktaking, and debates, can be regarded as a bona fide festival of ideas.
Fakir concedes that, though in his view the post-1994 era is still too short an historical period to talk about ANC conference patterns, McKaiser is justified in asserting that the conference, like ones before it, is best seen as a dress rehearsal for the elective conference scheduled for the end of this year.
They end the discussion by reflecting on why, despite these analytic and political problems with the ANC, citizens interested in the state of the nation and in the health of our democracy have no choice but to keep tabs on what happens at ANC conferences.
Do you agree with Fakir and McKaiser? Have a listen, and assess their analysis for yourself.
Should the SA passport be decolonised?
Koffi Kouakou, an African analyst and senior research fellow at The Centre for Africa-China Studies, said the SA passport should be changed to eliminate the use of French on the cover.
He said there are significant symbolic, cultural, economic and geopolitical reasons for his proposal.
Eusebius McKaiser, not convinced by the significance of this proposal, invited Kouakou to his TimesLIVE podcast to debate the matter.