The politicians, meanwhile, are breathlessly charging around the country making even more promises they obviously have no intention of honouring. They’re so busy campaigning, they don’t have the time to talk to protesters or warn against the use of violence.

Jacob Zuma, in one of his many cringeworthy performances in parliament, once described our celebrated constitutional dispensation as “funny democracy” — spitting it out as though it were an insult. And, of course, he was giggling. One was never sure when to take him seriously. But I think what he had in mind was that democracy had become an encumbrance. The vile opposition was always trying to get rid of him with interminable no-confidence votes, instead of leaving him alone to get on with the looting. The Thuma Mina brigade, who now tell us they want to banish corruption from the face of the earth, were behind him, cheering his every utterance. But maybe our democracy, with all its accomplishments, is a bit strange. With a general election almost upon us, the electorate is behaving like a mechanic who has all the right tools at his disposal but struggles to figure out how to use them to get the car started. A significant section of the population has yet to understand that the vote...

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