During the South African War, British officers who were considered a liability at the front were sent to Stellenbosch, the idea being that if they were shuffling papers and filing reports they couldn’t accidentally lose the war. This practice soon became a verb: if you had been “stellenbosched” you could assume that everyone thought you were terrible at your job, a liability to others, and that your superiors wanted to send you far away without actually firing you.

Ace Magashule has been stellenbosched, almost literally. Sent to the Western Cape to campaign for the ANC, the godfather of the Free State is pootling about in the leafy backwaters of a province that holds him and his party in such low regard already that he can’t really do much more damage. Yes, journalists will throng about him and residents will gape, but that’s to be expected when the living dead lurch up to your house and peer into your fridge.  It is a measure of the man, however, that he is still managing to make headlines. Carefully and specifically sent somewhere to be invisible, he has donned a rhetorical jumpsuit bedazzled with sequins that spell out “BULLSHIT!” and is producing the sort of razzle-dazzle you’d expect from a seller of weapons-grade snake oil. Mac Maharaj’s favourite response – that some misdeed had “been taken out of context” – was phased out, presumably because the top brass didn’t know what “context” meant. In the end, all they could manage was “terminal...

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