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A sentence construction so subtle that at any other time in South African history it would have gone unnoticed articulates with chilling precision the nation’s condition: vertiginous, bewildering, elucidating — like the acid trip to which Mickey Newbury’s 1960s song refers. The subtle shift is from a previously assumed incidental corrupting influence by business people on politicians to that of business people having acquired political cronies. The phrase, "a sustained attack by corrupt business people and their political cronies", occurs in an editorial comment in Business Day about Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s report on the Bankorp-Absa lifeboat. It might have referred to any of the bewildering number of instances in which President Jacob Zuma’s cabal has been reduced to mere cronies and an international syndicate is elevated to puppet master and de facto ruler.The shift in emphasis is important because, even if unintended, it reduces the gravity of the charges against Zu...

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