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Is SA, inexorably, on the slide-path to a destination named Venezuela or Zimbabwe? On Tuesday, this parallel was top of mind for some when parliament voted — after just 86 minutes of debate — to adopt a report recommending amendment of the constitution to permit expropriation of land without compensation. But where this journey will end remains speculative. One reason for the uncertainty of final outcome must be that there is no precision when invoking historical analogy or geographic parallels. In 1961, South American historians Will and Ariel Durant reminded us that “history smiles at all attempts to force its flows into theoretical patterns or logical grooves; it plays havoc with our generalisations; breaks all our rules”. Warming to the theme that “history is baroque”, Israeli statesman Abba Eban wrote in 1998: “The fiasco of Munich does not invalidate all negotiated compromises. The failure of the Vietnam War does not eliminate the need for armed resistance to aggression in bet...

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