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Last August, as the dramatic results of the municipal government election sank in, a consensus quickly formed among SA’s commentariat. The ANC lost in three metros, it was said, because of the horror of Jacob Zuma’s presidency. If the organisation was to save itself, it would have to throw him out, and fast. I am not sure this consensus is right. A large chunk of the ANC’s urban constituency deserted it not because Zuma is president but because many people have, at the profoundest level, lost faith in politics. The difference is enormous, the potential consequences far-reaching and largely unheralded. I wish to illustrate this with a story. Last December I found myself in lobola negotiations between two families in an Ekurhuleni township. Both families were modestly well off: the head of the bride’s party was a technician at a parastatal; the head of the groom’s was a policeman. The families had never met before — they were strangers when the talks began. The two sides negotiated qu...

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