South Africa, under the decidedly average eye of the ANC government, slipped quietly through a phase of decline a while ago, and deep into profound crisis. The cure, so many would have it, was the election of Cyril Ramaphosa. With him would come excellence and accountability, efficiency and outcomes. Alas, it is not to be. What is coming is a great age of mediocrity. And the flag bearer appears to be Ramaphosa himself. The primary form this will take is compromise. Compromise, in the best sense of the idea, is of course a critical political tool. Politics is the art of the possible, and the ability to compromise, without violating your bottom line, is how progress is often generated or assured. But compromise without a bottom line is nothing more than appeasement. And if you are in the business of appeasement, bottom lines mean next to nothing. It is how principles and values die. The president’s Cabinet reshuffle makes the case. Ramaphosa was always going to be constrained by the p...

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