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There is something terribly cruel about the outlandish promises made by politicians ahead of an election. Of course in most mature democracies the electorate understands what’s going on and the promises tend not to be as outlandish. But it does seem the newer the democracy the more outlandish the promises. Perhaps it should be seen as part of the cost of colonialism. Liberation parties are swept into power by voters who are finally set to enjoy the benefits of democracy and equality. And these parties, unencumbered by experience of the budgetary constraints that come with democracy, offer what the citizens of most mature democracies take for granted: running water, schools without pit latrines, tarred roads, pensions, jobs. But over time competition forces the liberation and post-liberation parties to raise the stakes. Former president Jacob Zuma left the country with corrupt, hugely indebted and ineffective state enterprises, and an enormous bill for free tertiary education. Very f...

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