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There is formal and informal power in SA and, more often than not, it is informal power that holds sway. It is a negotiation for the most part, between principle and pragmatism. Principle has as its totem the constitution. Pragmatism has self-interest. But, when the dust has settled, inevitably it is self-interest that is left standing while principle lies battered and beaten beneath its feet. Afterwards, there are grand debates about how it should all have played out. But, really, there was only ever one winner.

You see this conflict everywhere. Typically there is a personality at the centre — some temporal embodiment of self-interest. Jacob Zuma, however, is the metonym for the problem. His battle is decades old now, and for the first time in a long while you feel principle has the upper hand. But don’t confuse a courtroom with a prison cell. They are two very different things. Already the forces for pragmatism are hard at work to circumvent any possibility that the latte...

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