SLR Diary: Leadership death spirals and Westminster’s Nkandla moment

JOHANNESBURG — This week Simon Lincoln Reader breathes new life into Johann Rupert’s PowerFM appearance, questioning why he was there in the first place. He also draws comparisons between Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla apology and the Brexit ‘No Confidence’ vote. Both seemingly non-events. Another great read. – Stuart Lowman

By Simon Lincoln Reader*

Simon Lincoln Reader
Simon Lincoln Reader is based in London

When I was 16, I spent three days working at the Cape Times as a runner. I went to court to watch the trial of the Heidelberg Tavern bombers, met the Mayor and almost accompanied Willem Steenkamp, son of the soldier and well-known newspaperman, on the back of his motorbike to Mossel Bay, where reports of a shark attack had emerged (despite the absence of internet, the quality of journalism was so remarkable then that all it took was a brief analysis from editorial staff to conclude it was a wind-up). Those three days were magical. They have never left me.

The decline of the newspaper is Hemingway’s theory of bankruptcy: initially weakened by the rectitude demanded of the media under the new political dispensation (at inevitable cost to independence), a litigious, oily shyster barged in, who knew nothing about newspapers (save to abuse them as vanity campaigns), called everyone racist, defenestrated respected journalists, wickedly conspired against UCT and shamelessly exaggerated his relationship with Nelson Mandela.

But let’s just be furious with Johann Rupert shall we?


If we’re going to be furious with Johann, let’s at least be honest about why we’re furious: the chances of anyone, in today’s climate, achieving a fraction of his commercial success is unlikely. This we blame upon him, and a few others like him, convinced they have profited off the sweat of our brow, torched the ladder upon which they ascended. In our attempts to thwart despair we have elected officials who lay claim to resistance against people like Johann – but all they’ve ended up doing is thumbing people like Iqbal Survè in our faces. Or stealing from banks.

So Johann is a proxy. We’re furious because we’ve found ourselves in leadership death spirals, where we’re fronted with; forces of evil concealed by retarded ideology (much of Africa, Asia & Latin America); stupidity (UK); unpredictability (US & Russia) and smarmy, politically-correct groupthink (EU countries, Canada, New Zealand and Australia).


But I’d still like to inspect the contents inside the heads of Johann’s advisors, those who either supported or encouraged him to participate in the Power FM event, because I think such a chronic underestimation of the country’s mood qualifies for a little bit of torture, not Uday or Qusay Hussain stuff, just some light waterboarding, or electro-shock therapy, re-align some nerve endings, liven up the old cognition.

Jacob Zuma presented a world of instant gratification, easy access, minimal effort. The truth must be deferred.


The Sunday Times was recently a guest of the European Union Visitors Programme in Brussels. Under Ranjeni Munusamy’s (thinly-veiled pro-EU) column in last week’s edition, it is actually printed ‘Ranjeni Munusamy was a guest of the EU Visitor’s Program’, for which, thank you Sunday Times, that was kind of you. But I guess it would have been poor form to have attached ‘Special thanks to Thoshan Panday for driving us so fast to the non-scene of Johann Booysen’s non-crime in his turquoise Lamborghini’ to any of the paper’s multiple campaigns against the man.


On Sunday, the new Brexit Minister Stephen Barclay declared, on the Andrew Marr Show: there is no reason to delay or postpone the meaningful vote on the Withdrawal Agreement (WA) scheduled for Tuesday. On Tuesday, I bumped into the spouse of a cabinet minister. She told me: Tuesday’s vote is on. At 10:30am I called a journalist who was present at the Downing Street media briefing. He said: the vote is definitely going ahead.

The vote was postponed 9 minutes post the media briefing. It is now alleged that some EU leaders were informed on Sunday.

Theresa survived the vote of confidence prompted by this shambles, by 200 votes to 117. It is worth noting that 140 votes of that 200 are fixtures on the party pay-roll – all emboldened with this troubling, sometimes thuggish, irreconcilably woke ‘conservatism’ central to the Theresa May project.

And so there was a sense of Nkandla about Westminster on Wednesday night – and not because things looked a bit funny. On April Fool’s Day, 2016, we watched one fool addressing the nation on the subject of a damning, unprecedented constitutional court ruling delivered the previous day. Jacob Zuma didn’t need that wretched, mutton-esque folder of labouring, prepared speeches he clearly always loathed (‘but this part on 3rd quarter growth excludes what I really want to say about how a woman should wash herself?’). All he needed to say was: ‘Jus jokin’ and leave. Which is what technically happened on Wednesday.

This age of the career politician is determined to destroy one of democracy’s brightest features: the spontaneous disposal of unpopular power.

  • Simon Lincoln Reader lives in London