We’ve been a distant franchise of a Dutch corporation, a productive asset for a British mining operation, a loyal client of American and British financiers and French arms dealers, and a piggy bank for three brothers from Utar Pradesh. But this thing we call “South Africa”, that politicians use to frighten and enrage and divide us, is simply a holding company.

I know it’s not a pleasant idea, but in a capitalist world built on a great creaking, rocking scaffold of debt, everyone is owned by someone else.

Depending on whom you ask and who’s paying them, the identity of South Africa’s current president varies wildly. Julius Malema, for example, keeps insisting that our real president is Pravin Gordhan. Half of the ANC will tell you that it’s really Jacob Zuma, or at least should be. And if you buy him lunch at Wimpy and dry-clean his camouflage onesie, Carl Niehaus will tell the world it’s you. All of them are, of course, hopelessly mistaken. Because, as of last week, the real president of South Africa is Xi Xinping.China’s decision to pour enormous sums of money into the ANC’s two en-suite toilets (Eskom and Transnet) has raised a few alarms. Some commentators are worried about the terms of the loans: Peter Bruce cited the recent case in which Sri Lanka surrendered an entire port to China after it failed to repay its debt. At what point, we wonder, will Richards Bay become the People’s Democratic Revolutionary Harbour Facility (African Sub-Directorate) Number 6b? I understand these c...

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