ONE of the heartening things about the new South Africa is the degree to which ordinary people and civic organisations have been prepared to empower themselves in the face of state incapacity, incompetence or sheer unwillingness to act. Individual homeowners, for instance, have made their own security arrangements and, in some instances, banded together to patrol an area when the police have been unable to contain crime. There are certain codes used in diplomacy. The picture of Mbeki, a seraphic smile on his face, fondly holding President Robert Mugabe’s hand, did not require any decoding. He’s in Mugabe’s pocket and the initial South African government reaction to the arrival off Durban of a Chinese ship, the An Yue Jiang, laden with arms for Zimbabwe, was equally sympathetic.