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
17 March 2007

Thabo Mbeki on the money

President Thabo Mbeki’s letter from the President published yesterday, hits all the right notes. In a reasoned but passionate letter on racism, Mbeki makes the link between racism and the fear of crime. Money quote:

[T]he fact of the matter is that we still have a significant proportion of people among the white minority, but by no means everybody who is white, that continues to live in fear of the black, and especially African majority. For this section of our population, that does not “find it too difficult to revert to the accustomed world of fear of the future”, every reported incident of crime communicates the frightening and expected message that – the kaffirs are coming!

Unlike past letters on racism in which President Mbeki made excellent points on racism, only to misuse the insights to attack some of his critics, this letter is mostly free of the sarcasm and tarring of all with the same brush. I was reminded of his notorious letter about the media being “the fishers of corrupt men”, in which he made very valid points about racism, only to use these to argue that when the media exposes corruption it is inevitably based on racism.

Having had the misfortune this week to listen to a few minutes of the phone in programme with Nicky van der Berg on Radio Sonder Grense (don’t ask), the words of our President seem particularly apt. Some among us (as he used to say!) really have not acc epted the humanity of their fellow South Africans.

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