TIMES SELECT TODAY | Tony Leon: how Mmusi dodged bullet | Why NEC members are sweating

The ANC national executive committee meets for the first time this weekend since the start of the state capture inquiry.

In years gone by there used to be a comradely atmosphere when the senior-most leaders of the ANC congregated – hugs, small talk and raucous laughter at frivolous jokes.

Now, some NEC members from opposing factions do not even greet each other. There are awkward silences if they happen to encounter each other at the door or at the coffee station.

Last week in London I attended a dinner with some starring members of the British political establishment. The entire menu of conversations covered Brexit, and that was a day before Theresa May was ambushed by the European Union leaders in Saltzburg.

Now a messy divorce of unfathomable complexity has just become, well, even more complex and far messier.On the subject of Britain’s divorce from Europe, one of my table companions passed on a popular saying from his parliament: “When it comes to debates that go on well beyond their bore-by date, everything may now have been said, but it has not yet been said by everyone.”

Cue here to all current topics in our political debate back home: land reform (700,000 unprocessed written submissions, and now a 30-page tome from Thabo Mbeki, who specialises in long-form epistles); Cyril’s new/false dawn (depending on your prejudice); ditto his stimulus package/damp squib. There is not much left to say which has not been pronounced upon – and lack of knowledge is no inhibitor.

People are saying unkind things about the statue donated to the United Nations by Cyril Ramaphosa, but let’s give credit where credit is due: if you ever wondered what a Samuel L Jackson impersonator would look like doing an impression of Robert De Niro in Goodfellas, then this statue is absolute perfection.

Despite what you might assume by looking at the object, this isn’t the sculptors’ first attempt at making a statue. It’s not even their first go at Mandela: Andre Prinsloo and Ruhan Janse van Vuuren are also responsible for the 9m colossus in the gardens of the Union Buildings, a literal monument to dismal political art and proof that if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

That statue features sort-of-Mandela with his arms stretched out in a Christ-like gesture of compassion and welcome. The new one has upped the stakes, and the arms, by having Samuel L De Niro reaching for the skies: smiling down at the floor, his hands in the air, he gives the impression of a good-natured grandfather witnessing some sort of comical domestic disaster unfolding on the carpet in front of him, like a tea tray being dropped or someone tripping over the dog or Jacob Zuma being appointed as president by the ANC.

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