Not long after al-Qaeda took down the twin towers in New York and with them, collaterally, the rand, the great Peter Bruce, then editor of this newspaper, informed me that he could no longer afford a correspondent in Washington — so I went to work for Thabo Mbeki. The 2002 World Economic Forum was held in New York rather than Davos as a post-9/11 gesture of solidarity. There, I bumped into presidential spokesman Bheki Khumalo, whom I first met covering an Mbeki visit to Havana. Khumalo — who unlike Mbeki’s foreign minister, the former wife of Jacob Zuma, was splendidly unimpressed by Cuban communism — asked if I would like to do some writing for the chief. With encouragement from Tony Heard, who had been my editor at the Cape Times and was now in the presidency, I sent a proposal to Joel Netshitenzhe, head of the Government Communication and Information System. That led to a contract with the about-to-be-launched International Marketing Council (IMC), later renamed Brand SA. To anyo...

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