Tuesday 7 May 2024 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Tuesday. 7/5/2024

The Monocle Minute

The Opinion

Politics / Andrew Mueller

Time to change?

Since South Africa embraced democracy 30 years ago, its elections have been scarcely less predictable than Russia’s. The African National Congress (ANC), which led the fight to dismantle apartheid, has won a comfortable majority in all of them. South Africa has entrenched itself as a member of a curious, contradictory cohort: one-party democracies. These are not the same as one-party states.One-party democracies are those countries where citizens are at liberty to vote for whoever they like but continue to return the same mob to government. In Singapore, the People’s Action Party has governed since 1959. In Mexico, every president between 1929 and 2000 was a member of the same bunch, though the Institutional Revolutionary Party did change its name a couple of times along the way.

South Africans vote again on 29 May and pre-election polling suggests that the ANC might find itself in the unprecedented position of having to do more than show up and remind everybody that it was the party of Nelson Mandela. Support for the ANC may have dipped below 40 per cent. If that holds, it will still win more votes than anyone else but might have to govern in coalition with another party.

Embracing change? An ANC supporter hugs South Africa’s president Cyril Ramaphosa

Image: Getty Images/Reuters
Image: Getty Images/Reuters

This would be good for South Africa in that the ANC is long overdue a humbling. It has grown complacent and corrupt, and has governed pretty badly: there is no reason why a country of South Africa’s immense potential should be enduring unemployment north of 30 per cent and chronic power outages. But it could also be bad in that the ANC’S likeliest means of staying in charge might be an alliance with the Economic Freedom Fighters, whose populist leader, Julius Malema, regards Robert Mugabe as a role model.

Long stretches in power are usually bad for political parties, for politicians and for the countries that they govern. It is hard to recall any government or leader who really hit their stride after a decade or more in office. The loyalty that gives them third, fourth and fifth chances is generally woefully misplaced. This year has one of the busiest and most consequential election calendars on record. Voters would likely be doing themselves and the world a favour by observing a simple, ruthless mantra: if in doubt, throw ’em out.

Andrew Mueller is a contributing editor at Monocle and presenter of ‘The Foreign Desk’ on Monocle Radio. A longer version of this piece appears in Monocle’s May issue. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.

The Briefings


Slick business

Canada’s long-delayed Trans Mountain pipeline began commercial operations last week in a bid to boost crude-oil exports and increase national gross domestic product. The new 1,173km-long pipeline is set to carry crude from Alberta to the port of Burnaby, British Columbia, en route to Pacific Rim markets. Canada, the world’s fourth-largest oil producer, is poised to post the biggest growth in petroleum production of any country this year. This might prove an advantage for prime minister Justin Trudeau ahead of next year’s elections, who has been criticised by opposition leader Pierre Poilievre for his management of the economy. Exporting Canadian crude, however, damages Trudeau’s relationship with the Liberal Party’s environmental base – and hurts Canada’s global image as an environmental superpower. What’s more, any accidental oil spill in the waters shared between British Columbia and Washington could spark an international incident with Canada’s closest ally. Trudeau must be careful not to slip on the oil slicks ahead.

Facing the music: Angelina Mango

Image: Getty Images


Setting the stage

Everyone’s favourite celebration of Europop kitsch is back. The hotly anticipated 68th edition of the Eurovision Song Contest, hosted by the southern Swedish city of Malmö, kicks off today and culminates with a winner being decided on Saturday night. This year’s event, however, hasn’t been without its controversy. The war in Gaza has heightened tensions around Israel’s participation in the competition; organisers have already said they reserve the right to remove Palestinian flags at the show.

Speculation remains over which song might take home the top prize, though Italian singer-songwriter Angelina Mango’s La Noia and Swiss non-binary performer Nemo’s The Code are among the bookies’ favourites. Even countries with an outside chance of victory are getting into the spirit. Armenia might never have achieved better than fourth place but that won’t stop its citizens – 70 per cent of whom are expected to tune into the final – from pinning their hopes on duo Ladaniva. That’s what we call dedication.

Monocle Radio’s senior correspondent, Fernando Augusto Pacheco, will be visiting Malmö this week. For all Eurovision analysis, including interviews with contestants, tune in to Monocle Radio.


Urban fabric

Experimentation has been central to the Issey Miyake brand and it continues to inform the company at sub-labels such as A-Poc Able, which is now preparing for global expansion. Led by Yoshiyuki Miyamae at the Issey Miyake building in Tokyo, the 17-strong team works on new textiles and collaborations with creatives from a range of disciplines. Collaborators include artist Tadanori Yokoo and a start-up from Keio University whose new artificial-intelligence (AI) algorithm can design clothes with minimal fabric waste.

“AI brought fresh perspectives and suggested ideas that we wouldn’t have thought of otherwise,” Miyamae tells Monocle. The brand has also joined forces with Fujifilm and the University of Tokyo to work on a metallic ink that can be printed on film and used for accessories. While Miyamae pushes fashion’s boundaries, he never forgets about creating desirable clothes. “Beauty is key,” he says.

For more on A-Poc Able and the brand’s push to innovate the industry, pick up a copy of Monocle’s May issue, which is out now.

Beyond the Headlines

Q&A / Tom Ellis

Voice of a nation

Tom Ellis is editor in chief of the Kathimerini English Edition. Monocle caught up with him at this year’s Delphi Economic Forum to talk about what makes the summit such a success, the coverage that it brings and what makes the English edition of Kathimerini stand out.

What do you think makes the Delphi Economic Forum such a success?
The forum attracts almost 3,000 people. By Greek standards, this is extraordinary. The location and history give it some allure. I have talked to people in Washington and Brussels about the conference and there are many who admit that they attend because it’s not based in a major city such as Athens or Thessaloniki. What makes this forum different is that it draws a large number of leaders, ministers, journalists and academics from all over the world. In that sense, it’s the most important conference to be at in Greece.

What does it feel like to cover the conference as one of the country’s most important newspapers?
Over the period of just a few days, you have the chance to meet people who you already know but also many major personalities who you would not meet otherwise. In 2022, for example, Tony Blair was here and spoke with the executive editor of Kathimerini, Alexis Papahelas. There is also an opportunity to participate in talks about major global issues.

When it comes to the ‘Kathimerini English Edition’, how does the coverage differ from its Greek edition?
For Kathimerini, its job in Greece is to inform citizens about what’s happening in the world. Our job for the English edition is to inform our international audience what is happening within Greece. Our readers’ locations range from Washington, Brussels and even China. With the English edition, readers pay the most attention to cultural news, which differs from Kathimerini in Greece, whose main audiences focus on the economy and politics.

For our full interview with Tom Ellis, tune in to the latest episode 610 of ‘The Stack’ on Monocle Radio.

Monocle Films / Hospitality

Ikuchijima: Japanese island revival

The best hospitality projects delight visitors as much as locals. In this vein, businessman Yuta Oka transformed a series of historic buildings in the small town of Setoda into charming inns, a coffee roaster, a public bathhouse and more. Join us on a jaunt to the Seto Inland Sea.


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