Magazine article The Spectator


Magazine article The Spectator


Article excerpt

Righting African wrongs

From Mr Tony Leon, MP

Sir: Dr Essop Pahad, MP, Minister in the Presidency, South African Government, has now internationalised his usual domestic cocktail of bilious rhetoric, scurrilous innuendo and half-baked assertion (Letters, 30 September).

He claims that my party `has just comfortably merged with P.W. Botha's old crowd'. The truth is that the New National party has aligned itself with the Democratic party under my leadership and based on the liberal democratic principles that have, in essence, served the South African opposition cause since Helen Suzman's magnificent lone stand in the 1960s. Not only is Dr Pahad highly economical with the actualite but he is a hypocrite to boot. Dr Pahad himself served in a coalition government with the National party from 1994 to 1997. Furthermore, many of the `old crowd of P.W Botha' are happily nuzzling up directly to Dr Pahad and Mr Mbeki's ANC, the notorious former foreign minister of apartheid, Mr Pik Botha, being but the most recent and notable example of this tendency. The remnant of `P.W. Botha's old crowd' which remain in the South African body politic are responsible for the bully-boy tactics being employed by the President's office.

It is also noteworthy that, before my party concluded its consolidation of the opposition some three months ago, President Mbeki's ANC was in hot pursuit of the New National party, offering them every inducement to break their coalition agreement with the Democratic party in the Western Cape and to hand over the province to the ANC, thereby ensuring that the ANC controlled all nine provinces in South Africa. To their credit the New National party resisted.

Dr Pahad also claims that in the late 1970s my party was `still grappling with the principle of one person, one vote'. In fact, by 1978 our predecessor party had accepted the principle of universal franchise for every citizen in South Africa, thereby becoming the first, and only, party in the apartheid parliament to have taken what was, then, a very bold step. Ironically, at the same time the ANC did not admit non-Africans into its inner councils and national executive and had no place or time for a Bill of Rights in its constitutional thinking.

Tony Leon

Leader of the Official Opposition, Parliament of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa

From Mr Bernard Dunstan, RA

Sir: Mark Glazebrook, writing about the new Saatchi exhibition (Arts, 23 September), seems to think that there is nothing nowadays between `cheeky, outrageous . . . even disgusting art' and `a diet of safe, uncreative, unsurprising gentility'. A rather poor lookout, if so; but has he really looked? Apparently there are established galleries in London which are never visited by critics from one show to the next, and I can't believe there is nothing worth considering in them.

Perhaps he should get around a bit more?

Bernard Dunstan

Kew, Richmond, Surrey

Bruce's bad habit

From Dr P.G. Urben

Sir: `Cigarettes are far more dangerous than all the other drugs put together.' Whatever Bruce Anderson (Politics, 7 October) was on when he wrote that is itself dangerous.

Several times a year, a teenager dies of a single social dose of Ecstasy, but never of a single cigarette. The same is true of solvent-- sniffing. No cigarette ever persuaded its user that he could fly if he jumped from a high place - unlike LSD. They do not even grossly affect the reflexes and vision of drivers.

Historically, tobacco was the pipe of peace but not the incentive of assassination. Cigarettes are acutely harmless, but chronitally hazardous. Smoke 40 a day for 40 years and the smoking, but not the nicotine, may kill you. Some other drugs are smoked, but we simply don't have the statistical data from which to determine chronic effects. Many have yet to build up a 40-year habit.

Mr Anderson knows this perfectly well but cannot draw simple conclusions thence since his habit - politics - has destroyed his brain. …

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