In the midst of former president Jacob Zuma’s slow-motion removal from power in February, a memory came to me of a scorching afternoon in the summer of 1984. I was in the back seat of a car, a 14-year-old boy on holiday in Cape Town. In the front were two elderly relatives, chatting away. We turned a corner on a city street to find that we were facing Table Mountain, full on, in all its splendour. My relatives fell silent for a moment and marvelled. "Here’s something they can’t f*** up," one finally said to the other. It was unclear whether "they" were the Afrikaners who then ruled SA or the blacks who would inevitably come to rule it some day. For a certain generation of world-weary Jewish men, others were destined always to run the country, and they were destined, too, to mess it up.It was Zuma who triggered this memory. For my relatives’ racist imaginations probably conjured up just such a black president. What does it mean that a flesh-and-blood black leader has caricatured whit...

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