Simon Barber

A response to Breytenbach

Just read Breyten Breytenbach’s piece in Harpers. If you don’t have anything nice to say, shut up, is not a piece of advice I’ve generally taken. But this time I’ll make an exception and talk about another poet, the American Carl Sandburg, and his ode to Chicago, where he worked as a reporter. If you…

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Social media and the election

I’m just back from a magical eight day tour of South Africa with a group of great American bloggers and South Africa’s own Nick Haralambous, one of the geniuses behind Zoopy, Africa’s YouTube. The idea was to create some interesting content about aspects of the country that often get missed by old media, and have…

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Blogging South Africa

A group of American bloggers will be arriving at the end of the month to create what the International Marketing Council hopes will be some very entertaining and informative web content – words, pictures, audio and video — about South Africa. The idea is have a dozen smart, creative and credible people record their impressions…

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Understanding the kabuki of Mbeki’s diplomacy

How, exactly, is the UN Security Council going to contribute to the resolution of the crisis in Zimbabwe? What would a special envoy say to Mugabe and his securocrats that would have any more impact than the messages already being sent — in no small part thanks to Thabo Mbeki’s reviled diplomacy — by SADC…

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The Silicon Valley of sun

In May 1961, President Kennedy addressed a special session of the US Congress. It was the height of the Cold War. There was a sense in the land that the US was falling behind and needed to pick up its game. Kennedy announced a number of initiatives, mostly now forgotten. The last, however, has proved…

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Team SA

I’m a fan of American football. I like the mix of chess, athletic grace and brute force. I like the stop-start nature of the game. I like the tension as the team with the ball get set to make their third attempt to move 10 yards in three plays or lose possession if they fail….

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A man of substance

If Barack Obama wins Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary — and after his decisive showing in the Iowa caucuses last week, his chances look very strong — it will be time to start thinking seriously about President Obama. The prospect appeals. Not to Bill Clinton, of course. He has been telling reporters Obama is unelectable and…

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Zuma memes

In the US coverage of President Thabo Mbeki, you constantly bump into words such as “aloof”, “technocratic”, “professorial” and, with regard to Aids in particular, “eccentric”. These are strands of the DNA of the dominant memes about him over here. Jacob Zuma’s memes are still in flux, which means he still has some control over…

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Polokwane viewed from Washington

What does Jacob Zuma’s election as president of the ANC do for South Africa’s overall image in the United States? At first blush the answer has to be: “Not a lot.” The things he said at his rape trial, the machine-gun song and the possibility of him still being tried for corruption all figured prominently…

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OK, doctor, how are you going to spin this?

These are interesting times for those of us in the business of explaining South Africa to rest of the world. Here’s what our current politics look like to someone who reads the Washington Post or the New York Times and listens to National Public Radio (that would be your high-end United States news consumer): The…

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