A shallow anatomy of SA’s political and electoral structure

I am becoming increasingly aware that most South Africans don’t full understand the structure of Government in South Africa and how our electoral system works. Below I have attempted to summarise this as best I can.

Government in South Africa comprises 3 separate but related spheres:

  • Local Government = Municipalities and the elected Public Representatives (politicians) are councillors.
  • Provincial Government = Provinces and the Public Representatives (politicians) are MPL’s (members of the provincial legislature)
  • National Government = South African Government and the Public Representatives (politcians) are MP’s (Members of Parliament)

In Local Governments, half the councillors are directly elected to represent the people living in municipalities’s wards and the other half are “Proportional Representation” or PR councillors and are chosen by the party on the basis of the % the political party won. Thus there are twice as many councillors as there are wards in a municipality. Usually PR councillors are “deployed” to shadow the ward councillor in another ward with a view to winning the voters of that ward over in the next election.

Only in Local Government is any politician elected directly – ie. you vote for a person. In the rest of the spheres the political parties choose who will be appointed.

Thus, if a politician must be replaced in the Provincial or National spheres, the party just replaces them.

In the local sphere however, because ward councillors are directly elected, a by-election must take to allow the community to elect a new person to represent their community.

All SA reps are elected for 5 year terms.

Address at Glenwood High School Senior Speech and Prize Giving Ceremony


Last night I had the privilege of addressing the classes of 2009 and 2010 at the Glenwood High School Senior Speech and Prize Giving Ceremony.

22 October, 2009

Mr Kershaw and the rest of the Glenwood Family which has and continues to play such an important role in my life, thank you for inviting me to speak here this evening.

Before I get going, I would like to acknowledge my friend and business partner, Carl Petzer, who has put up with me and my flavour of insanity for well over ten years now.  I am sorry he cannot be here tonight.

I came to Glenwood in 1995, a very nervous and geeky young 12 year old and made a new but strange home in Gibson House.  My time at Glenwood brought with it some of the most important learning experiences of my life.  Particularly, in Gibson House, like all true family, I was given a new set of brothers who I never chose to have; people who are now friends of mine for life – people who made my life richer than it would ever otherwise have been.

So when I say it is a privilege to come and address you today, I mean it.  Glenwood is, in my completely impartial opinion, of course, one of the finest educational institutions on the continent, and consistently produces, amongst others, strong leaders.  Glenwood Old Boys hold leadership roles in business, politics and sport all over South Africa and the rest of the world.

Ours is a unique institution which marries solid middle class values with the lofty inspiration that we can all make a difference in this world.  Wherever I go, I am proud to call myself a Glenwood Old Boy.

So briefly, my background is that of a typical English speaking South African family, from ex-Rhodesians stock, lived in KZN/North Coast most of my life, schooled in Umhali and here at Glenwood, tried but failed spectacularly to get a degree at University but through the sport of rowing got invaluable life experience or what I like to call a QBE instead. QBE stands for Qualified by Experience – it’s the sort of thing that people who didn’t manage to get a Degree come up with to make themselves feel better.

University was however, a fantastic and valuable experience for me.  I started in 2000, fresh out of Glenwood and starry eyed, enrolled for a Computer Science Degree at the University of Natal.  Computer Science was a disastrous choice motivated by the same sort of faulty logic that saw me choose Geography instead of History at high school: what will be most worthwhile to you in the job market.

I say faulty logic because I honestly believe that far more important to the criteria for making such decisions is whether there isn’t another course which you actually find 100 times more interesting than maths, more maths, some applied maths and some operations research which is another way of them assigning more maths to you without calling it maths. In my case, this should have been clear.  Maths at School was not a strong point of mine and that made sense because quite frankly I wasn’t the slightest interested by the subject.  (I finished at Glenwood with 4 A’s, a B and a D if I recall correctly.  The D was for Maths and I think they made a mistake in giving me that!)

People do better at things they enjoy doing.  Now that’s what I call sound logic.  Do what you enjoy, and you will be good at it.  That just makes sense.

So, in my case, Computer Science lasted 6 months and out of my four subjects, I passed one: Geology.  So for the next 6 months, I did what I loved: I rowed.  I coached rowing.  I fixed rowing boats.  I dated a rowing girl.  I was, in a word, committed to rowing and the rowing club, and I loved it.  Of course, I was also working to pay for all this rowing, incidentally here at Glenwood keeping the computer network in shape.

Then, at the beginning of the next year, I decided with all this rowing and computering, the only way I had a hope of getting a Degree was by signing up for something I truly enjoyed, so I signed up for a Bachelor of Arts in History and English.  Those are things I truly enjoy, and the marks reflected that.  At the end of my second year, however, I decided to leave varsity and move fulltime into the little business myself and my school friend, Carl Petzer, had started.

So in the end, I never did get that University Degree, but I did get 3 years of experience in a University Sports Club which taught me more about people, politics, leadership, South Africa and especially about myself than I ever would have had I just been an academic student.  Whether you get to University or not, I urge you all to get involved in a Sports Club if you can, or a public benefit organisation like Round Table or similar, where through teamwork you achieve more than you’d ever have been able to achieve alone.  That sort of life experience will serve you well in whatever else you choose to do with your life.

Carl and I started our business, THUSA, 8 years ago.  While we have in no way arrived or made it big, we have lived and learned on our journey which far too few South Africans choose to take: that of the entrepreneur.  Today THUSA employs almost 30 people and we make a difference to hundreds of clients through our commitment to taking care of them on a day to day basis.  Most important though, is the fact that we love our work and the people we work with.  We wake up in the morning and feel excited to get into the office; and ask anyone who’s been through life a little and they will tell you that loving what you do is something worth working for!

During our journey we’ve learned a few lessons:

We’ve learned to have faith in and trust the people you lead, empower them to do things better than you ever could yourself; and if you need, pay them more than you pay yourself.

We’ve learned to identify those instances where good enough will just have to do – especially when your plate is overloaded.

But, we’ve also learned to instil a culture of continuous and cyclical review and improvement so that good enough becomes better, better becomes excellent, and one day excellent may just become the best.

We’ve learned to make use of technology.  Success in the 21st century will very likely involve you having an understanding of social networking and design as much as it will rely on your hard work and guts.  The Internet and the technologies which have spawned from it are well and truly part and parcel of the way the world is doing business, and the design choices you make, visually and practically, affect your message, profile and offering.

We’ve learned to network and communicate.  The way humans connect and interact via the Internet builds a body of data which makes up your ever growing online profile.  Things you share with your friends and comments you make will stick, so think about them; maintain your credibility and stay on message.

The power of the mind and personal determination is something which never ceases to amaze me and I’d like to relate a simple story from my teenage years which I feel was important.

I was a boarder at high school and for the first couple of years was quite a reserved and very homesick young lad.  One of my tactics for getting back home was falling ill and being sent home to recuperate; something which happened a few times each term.

But something else was also happening during that time: I derived ever improving self confidence through my growing skill and ability with computer networks and the subsequent responsibility which the school placed in my hands as one of the few boys helping to maintain the IT infrastructure.  This confidence started flowing into the rest of my life and by the middle of 4th Form/Std 8/Grade 10, I decided I wanted to be a prefect.

So one morning shortly thereafter I woke up with a scratchy throat, normally the precursor to some terrible infection which would see me back home in Ballito, and right there and then I decided to shake it off and get on with the day.  By the time breakfast was over, there was no more sore throat.  If I went home 50 times during my first 2.5 years at boarding school then during the second 2.5 years I maybe went home 4 times.  Instead, I stayed behind, read, learned, worked, honed my skill with IT and grew in confidence.  At the end of my penultimate year at high school, I was selected as one of the 6 form 5 boys who would form the core of the prefect body the next year.  A trivial achievement in general terms, but symbolically one of the most important in my life.

Another very influential experience of mine was last year while I was fortunate to be a participant on the two month long Mozambique section of the Kingsley Holgate Outside Edge Humanitarian Expedition.  During May 2008 we spent a few days travelling through the far northern coastal area of Mozambique, a couple of hundred kilometres south of Tanzania.  The area is extremely poor with practically no infrastructure, no shops, virtually no employed people, and extremely basic schools if the village was lucky.  Kids would roam the dusty tracks through the villages chewing on a cassava root.  Some had not seen white people before and were intrigued.  We handed out hundreds of mosquito nets and spectacles to people in this area to aid in the fight against Malaria and give sight to people who had never been able to see properly before.

Shortly after this experience, I was sitting on a beach in Pemba, Northern Mozambique, and started getting the first bits of news of what sounded like Xenophobic attacks happening in South Africa.  As the picture became clear, I was overcome by a deep and tragic sense of disappointment in the people of our country.  South Africans had so much more than the people I had just visited and yet they were massacring their African brothers and sisters.  I wished at that moment that every South African was able to have seen what I’d seen in the days before; and wanted from that moment forth to help normal South Africans appreciate just how much we have as a nation.

I believe that one of the key answers to the prosperous future of this country lies in the hands of the entrepreneur and their small businesses, guided by hard working and responsible political leadership.  Small businesses are massive employers and important centres of innovation, and the great economic powers of the world were built by 20th century small businesses. Small businesses in South Africa are innovating and making waves around the world, but we need more of them, we need more gutsy young men and women to follow their dreams and start their own businesses.

I don’t think it matters whether people are born to lead or learn it along the way.  Remember that nothing is more common than wasted talent, and nothing more inspiring than down to earth, hard working people making a success of their lives through sheer guts and determination.

I encourage you all, when the time comes, take calculated risks and then jump in because sometimes all there is that separates a leader from everyone else is guts, the guts to jump in and do everything you can to make something work out.

And if your mission is especially inspiring but far too large for you to undertake on your own, you might find that people will fall in around you, follow your lead and help you make things happen.  People want to be part of something, especially if it is doing some good in the world.

This great country of ours, South Africa, is a particular passion of mine.  We have much to be proud of in this country, and much, much more work to do as a nation before we realise the unity that has been so spoken of over the past 20 years.  The rainbow nation remains under construction and needs good people to help the nation building process along.  Good South Africans need to use each day to break racial, sexist, classist stereotypes.  Good South Africans need to acknowledge the inequality that exists in our society and ensure they are doing their bit to help someone less fortunate than themselves.  Good South Africans need to be doing these things every day, until they become integrated components of our South African culture.

In a country where so very many people are poor and have next to nothing, it does seem almost criminal that very rich South Africans spend and waste money so frivolously on luxuries.  It seems to me that expensive imported cars and massive hotel bills run counter to the spirit of compassion and nation building which is required to give a leg up to all those South Africans who have little or nothing to start with.

I would like to encourage all of you to take an active interest in the politics of this country.  As boring as politics can seem to most and as frustrating as it is for those who do take note of what is going on, I urge you to ensure you know why you are voting and who you are voting for.  Remember also that if you choose not to vote, you are forfeiting your right to complain should you feel things aren’t going the way you’d like them to in South Africa.

For many of you here today you’ll be making choices in the future about what it is you’re going to do with your lives and more importantly, how it is you’re going to live your life.  You could take the 20st century approach of trying to make as much money as possible at the expense of as many people as possible, but perhaps the 21st century approach needs to be built upon compassion instead of greed.

Whatever it is you want to do, you need to decide how it is that you want to do it.  How many people will you trample over in the process, or hopefully, how many lives you improve in the process?  How much of your advantage will you use to other people’s advantage as well?  This does not mean being Mother Theresa, but it does suggest that one should find opportunities to use the skills and resources at their disposal to help other people improve their lot.

We live in a world today where the human problems of the future are dominated by the poor, the “have-nots”, and it becomes all of our responsibilities as people who “have” to work to solve those problems.  Now some of you might have just said to yourself, “But I am poor”.  I can assure you that compared to the majority in the rest of the country, while like them you might actually not have much money, you are educationally rich and advantaged having spent time in an institution like this one.  Your insight, experiences and the influence of the many good people around you have already given you an advantage many people will never have.

Use that advantage to make the world a better place.

There’s nothing quite like worldly perspective to help us realise that we truly do live in a beautiful land of hope and opportunity.  If you get the opportunity, travel your country and travel the world if you can.  And if you do have the privilege of travelling or living abroad, please avoid being one of those South Africans who feel the need to rubbish the land they come from simply to justify their not being there.  Go abroad, work with the best, and then come back and help secure the future of this wonderful country.

Remember, South Africans are now free and welcome citizens of the world, so when you travel, you can travel with your head held high, and if you choose to emigrate, for whatever reason, your decision should be respected.

But, for me, it is those people who choose to stay here in South Africa, despite some of the frustration and uncertainty, and do what they can to make this country a better place that deserve the respect and recognition.  There are many unsung heroes who each day get down to doing the simple but important tasks which must be done to make this country see the progress it needs.

I think there are great examples of such people sitting behind me right now.  People who could be using their skills to be earning significantly more money elsewhere, but they don’t, because they believe that what they are doing, shaping and moulding your lives, is a worthwhile cause.  Those are the sorts of people this country needs to salute every day, the sort of people I salute every day.

Mr Kershaw and his team are dedicated to giving you all the tools you need to succeed.  Myself and my colleagues are working ward to change politics in South Africa so that it works for and not against the rainbow nation.  People all over South Africa are doing their bit for this country.

So, all that remains is to ask you, how are you going to use your advantage to make South Africa a better place?

Perhaps that is a good question to guide your decisions in the future.

Thank you for listening.

a rare tie-wearing occasion!
A rare tie-wearing occasion!

Good Luck Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma, Mr President.

There is something about Jacob Zuma which makes me feel genuine hope for the ability of the ANC to do good on the promises they have made for the coming 5 years.  At the same time, I am confident that someone who has gone to the lengths he has to stay out of court, must have something to answer to, but we would not be the first country in the world to have a head of state with a cloud above their head – Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi has been the subject of several criminal allegations and court cases.

So, while still firmly seated in the opposition camp and convinced he should have the charges against him tested in a court of law, I wish Jacob Zuma well as he embarks on his new challenge as President of the Republic of South Africa.

Sir, your political responsibility is a privilege and opportunity afforded to very few.  Execute your duties well and in the interests of all South Africans.  Show us what it means to be a civil servant.  Indeed, usher the return of “civil” back to “civil servant” and your term will have been one well spent.

– Msholozi ushaya isqueakie takkie

A POEM FOR JZ by Mark Berger

O JZ dear JZ
Our new leader you are
From humble beginnings
You’ve really come far.

And now is your time
To shine and be strong
And make a real difference
And prove them all wrong.

We hope you will show us
The man that you are
With the mind of a politician
And the voice of a rock star.

The ladies will swoon
And many will say
That you use much less botox
Than Zille of the DA.

You’ve shrugged off the charges
You’ve given us hope
You even have managed
To fight off the COPE.

We hope you are firm
We hope you are fair
We hope you will never
Put colour in your hair.

We hope you can calm us
When voices are shrill
We hope you get along
with Patricia de Lille.

As well as the opposition
Who will question you so
And challenge your decisions
To ensure that we grow.

For we really do need you
And you really need us
But who really needs
The Freedom Front Plus?

Our politicians are many
Their ideas are too
But it’s not what they say
It’s about what they DO!

We want you to solve
The serious dilemma
Of that very strange man
Called Julius Malema.

And also the Taxis
Who break all the rules
And endanger our lives
And drive like real fools.

We need lots of jobs
And houses and things
And maybe in our parks
For the kids, some swings?

We need much less crime
And violence and fear
And much less of those who
Make corruption their career.

We want service delivery
And efficiency and speed
And competent people
We do urgently need.

To run the departments
Which impact the lives
Of our sons and our daughters
And our parents and wives.

And Africa she needs us
To show her the way
Out of gradual decline
And rapid decay.

But don’t try to fix Africa
By neglecting the South
As was tried by Mbeki
With his pipe in his mouth.

Our economy is strong
And it can still get stronger
If the minister of finance
Could just stay a bit longer?

Cause we want this to work
And we need you to win
And make better lives for those
Who voted you in.

Without grabbing the farmland
Without calling for war
Without making the mistakes
Of Mad Bob next door.

We’re a Banana Republic
I’m hearing some say
But I think we are more like
A Choc Nut sundae.

With some white and some brown
And some nuts in between
And a warm, rich black topping
With a dollop of cream.

So we hope you’re a fighter
Who will fight the good fight
For the blacks and the coloureds
And indians and whites

We hope you will lead us
With vision and grace
So we can become
A much better place.

Yes you are our leader
And we wish you the best
As the next few years
Put you to the test.

So we send you best wishes
And hope you do well
And as they say in the classics

Good Luck Msholozi!

What is the Open Opportunity Society for All?

“Realising The Open Opportunity Society For All: A Policy Platform”, June 2008, Ryan Coetzee – Democratic Alliance


The Democratic Alliance’s vision for South Africa is of “an Open Opportunity Society for All”, a society in which every person has the right, the space and the capability to be himself, develop herself and pursue his own ends as an equal and fully legitimate citizen of South Africa.

Our updated policy platform – the Open Opportunity Society in Action – gives substance to that vision.

The purpose of this introduction is to fill out our understanding of the Open Opportunity Society for All, providing a clear exposition of the values and ideas on which it is based.


The three components of the Open Opportunity Society for All

The term “Open Opportunity Society for All” brings together three key concepts – individual freedom under the rule of law, opportunity with responsibility and full equality for all – and in doing so, creates a fourth concept that underpins our vision of the proper relationship between individuals, the state and society in South Africa today. Our vision is grounded in the idea that every human being has a right to dignity. Human dignity is the foundational concept that informs our values and vision.

An open society

There are six key components of an open society:

  • A constitution that enshrines the rule of law, individual rights and freedoms and the separation of powers;
  • Transparency and accountability, without which governments abuse their power and compromise the freedoms enshrined in the constitution;
  • Security of person and property;
  • An independent and free-thinking civil society, including a free and independent media and a free and independent political opposition that is loyal to the constitutional order;
  • A general tolerance of difference on the part of the population; and
  • An economy that is characterised primarily by the free choices of individuals.

The two key ideas that unite these five components are the related ideas of individual freedom and the limitation of state power. They are related because an extension of state power necessitates a limitation of individual freedom and vice versa. In other words, an open society is one in which individuals are free to be themselves and pursue their own ends, and in which both the law and the attitudes of the population provide the space for them so to be.

In protecting and promoting an open society in South Africa, the Democratic Alliance must identify and oppose attempts to limit the space for individual freedom and actively promote the extension of such space.

An opportunity society

Every person in an open society enjoys the same formal freedoms, but those freedoms can be impossible to take advantage of in practice if the people concerned do not have the wherewithal – the money, power and opportunity – actually to be themselves, to develop themselves and to pursue their own ends.

For example, how can a child really be herself, develop herself and pursue her own ends if she is born into poverty, without the prospect of a decent education, without access to basic healthcare, with little prospect of gainful employment, without the money to fight for her rights in a court, constrained all the while by cultural traditions that pay little heed to her own wishes?

What is required then is for people to be offered the opportunity to develop the capabilities needed to take advantage of the formal freedoms they enjoy; the wherewithal actually to be themselves, to develop themselves and to pursue their own ends.

In an opportunity society, therefore, your path in life is not determined by the circumstances of your birth, including both your material and “demographic” circumstances, but rather by your talents and by your efforts. That is why, in an opportunity society, a child born in poverty should nevertheless be able to become a brain surgeon, provided he has the talent and puts in the effort required to succeed.

Both civil society and the state have a role to play in creating opportunity for citizens, while individuals have a responsibility to make use of the opportunities on offer.

The proper relationship between the state and the individual in an Open Opportunity Society for All is outlined below, and this relationship is given concrete expression in our policy platform.

First, however, the final concept in the Open opportunity Society – the idea that South Africa is “for all”, or as Nelson Mandela famously said, “belongs to all who live in it, both black and white.”

A society for all its people

There is a long history of racial and ethnic division in South Africa; of racist discrimination; of racial suspicion and competition.

In order to transcend this past, and usher in an era in which people are judged by their character, their effort and their contribution, and not by their race, we believe that attitude and policy should be based on the following:

  • An absolute rejection of discrimination on grounds of race and other characteristics of birth;
  • A clear acknowledgement that there is a long history of racial discrimination and oppression in South Africa, that it was wrong and that positive action is now required to make it right. That positive action must be targeted at individuals who still suffer the effects of discrimination, not at groups. It must provide opportunity to the disadvantaged without shutting off opportunity to the advantaged;
  • A clear acknowledgement that all South Africans are legitimate and enjoy full moral equality – that is what it means to say South Africa “belongs” to all who live in it; and
  • The active protection and promotion of the language and culture of all South Africans.


The proper relationship between the state and the individual in an Open Opportunity Society for All

In acting to extend opportunity to all, the state must ensure that it does not compromise the freedom of the individual. To do so would be to shut down the open society. On the other hand, to neglect those without the wherewithal to direct their own lives in the name of freedom is to shut down the opportunity society.

Therefore, in an opportunity society that also values individual freedom, the state’s role must be to facilitate, not direct, the activity of citizens; if it provides services, it must seek to expand choice, not determine choices; it must not simply “deliver” to a passive citizenry, which takes what it is lucky enough to get, but must allow the citizenry to determine which opportunities it requires; it must encourage independence, not dependence.

In other words, the free, independent, active individual is at the heart of the opportunity society, both in determining the opportunities required and in taking advantage of them.

Each policy put forward by the DA will tease out more concretely the relationship between the state and individuals in that area. But in each case, our policies will:

  • Seek to give citizens a say in determining the opportunities and intervention they require from the state, not determine for citizens what they need;
  • Expand choice, not contract it;
  • Require people to take personal responsibility for making use of their opportunities, not reward laziness or a sense of entitlement;
  • Promote excellence in performance;
  • Not be accepting of mediocrity;
  • Promote independence and the attainment of self-reliance, not dependence and passivity;
  • Be grounded in care and compassion for people, not coldness or callousness.
  • Respect and promote the history and culture of all South Africans, not privilege some over others, whether explicitly or implicitly;
  • Reject discrimination on grounds of race and other characteristics of birth, and not engage in practices that re-racialise South Africa; and
  • Promote redress for those individuals who today suffer the consequences of past discrimination, but not shut off opportunities for the advantaged in the process.



The DA’s vision for South Africa is achievable. Our cause is to promote it and, through winning support for it, to put it into action.

We believe it is a compelling vision, harnessing all that is best in human kind, grounded in a rightly optimistic view of our capacity to live well together, and to succeed.

Our policy programme gives concrete expression to our vision. On the one hand, it is conservative: it seeks to protect the gains we have made in establishing a democratic society under a constitution; on the other hand, it is an agenda for radical change: it seeks a fundamental transformation of South Africa, from the racial division, abuse of state power, patronage and dependence of the past to a society in which every person really does have the right, the space and the opportunity to be themselves, develop themselves and pursue their own ends.

Phew! Moses’ Arch is Complete

The beautiful Arch over the new Moses Mabhida soccer stadium is complete.  And resting on itself.  And not falling over.  Wicked.

durban.gov.za says, “The arch, which consists of 56 separate 10m pieces stands 106m high, weighs 3500 tons is symbolic of the South African flag – the two legs on the southern side of the stadium come together to form a single footing on the northern side, symbolising the unity of a once divided nation through sport. A high-tech cable car has been designed to take visitors to the highest point of the arch where they can take in panoramic views of the city. Standing 30 storeys tall, the arch is the same height as one of Durban’s tallest buildings – John Ross house overlooking the harbour.

The last piece fitted this morning weighed 60 tons and the arch pieces had to be opened by 5cm’s on either side to accommodate this final section.”  Read the rest of the article here.

Here’s poor photo taken from the King’s Park swimming pool parking lot this morning (What a glorious day in Africa!):


Moses Mabhida Stadium's Arch is complete!
Moses Mabhida Stadium's Arch is complete!

Here’s an idea what the completed stadium will look like:


An artists impression of the completed stadium
An artist's impression of the completed stadium