South Africa: The Diplomatic Dance Is Sometimes a Really Twitchy Tango

analysis

The role of a particular South African diplomat (and their personal opinions) seems to have turned into a topic of some heated public discourse and debate. Diplomats, however, should not become the story. They have real work to do. Now it is time to make productive use of this little contretemps and move on.

There is an old adage about diplomats that goes like this: A diplomat is a man (or now, a woman) who is sent abroad to lie for his (or her) country. Wags, of course, have rejigged that language and syntax to point to the possibilities of more intimate encounters by diplomats, but we'll just leave that thought parked.

The current contretemps surrounding some reported social messaging by the South African ambassador to Denmark, Zindzi Mandela, and the resulting angry discourse -- for and against the ideas therein -- on social media, talk radio, and now, apparently, in some court filings as well -- stems, at least in part, from some fundamental misapprehensions about what ambassadors and diplomats actually do -- or should do -- in the course of their duties.

So, let us start with some basics. Diplomats are effectively the human extension of a nation's...

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