Quote of the week

Both the constructive disagreement intrinsic to science and the adversarial scrutiny necessary to politics disappear in this invocation of science as the ultimate authority – this trick will become familiar in the coming months. An extraordinary emergency requires extraordinary powers; no one disagrees with that. But it is politics, not science, which grants these powers legitimacy. How long will they endure?

James Butler
London Review of Books
24 February 2007

Acting Health Minister

The Health Department has approached President Thabo Mbeki to appoint an acting minister while Manto Tshabalala-Msimang recovers in hospital, the South African Broadcasting Corporation reported.


Why then the gnashing of teeth when journalists commented on the Minister’s Health earlier in the week? Sometimes members of the government seem uncomfortable with operating in a country with a free press. Their insticts seem to deny anything they might perceive to be embarrassing and which they think there are not hard “objective” proof for.

What they do not understand is that in a democracy the press and us ordinary voters – if we are responsible citizens – take what government spokespersons say with a pinch of salt. This does not make us Afro-pessimists, just sane, sceptical people who do not trust power not to corrupt.

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