Former DA MP Wilmot James left the party this month to take up a one-year position as a visiting professor of health, security and diplomacy with Columbia University’s College of Physicians & Surgeons in the US. James is an intellectual. He has written or edited 17 books, been published in a long list of academic journals and held several positions and fellowships in the academy. Underpinning it all is a deep love of ideas for their own sake. These sorts of people are in short supply in SA politics. So the Financial Mail sat down with James to discuss intellectualism and politics, and the condition of the relationship between the two. He opens with a bleak observation: "Political parties consume intellectual capital — they don’t produce it." It is hard to argue with that. Certainly President Jacob Zuma, through design and effect, has hollowed out the ANC. Even that is generous. His comments about "clever blacks" and insistence that our universities produce patriots and "progressive ...

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