Quote of the week

[Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro] possesses, however, few of his predecessor’s resources, lacking not just oil revenue but Chávez’s surplus of charisma, humour and political skill. Maduro, unable to end the crisis, has increasingly sided with the privileged classes against the masses; his security forces are regularly dispatched into barrios to repress militants under the guise of fighting crime. Having lost its majority in Congress, the government, fearing it can’t win at the polls the way Chávez did, cancelled gubernatorial elections that had been set for December last year (though they now appear to be on again). Maduro has convened an assembly to write a new constitution, supposedly with the objective of institutionalising the power of social movements, though it is unlikely to lessen the country’s polarisation.

Greg Grandin
London Review of Books
24 February 2007

Acting Health Minister

The Health Department has approached President Thabo Mbeki to appoint an acting minister while Manto Tshabalala-Msimang recovers in hospital, the South African Broadcasting Corporation reported.


Why then the gnashing of teeth when journalists commented on the Minister’s Health earlier in the week? Sometimes members of the government seem uncomfortable with operating in a country with a free press. Their insticts seem to deny anything they might perceive to be embarrassing and which they think there are not hard “objective” proof for.

What they do not understand is that in a democracy the press and us ordinary voters – if we are responsible citizens – take what government spokespersons say with a pinch of salt. This does not make us Afro-pessimists, just sane, sceptical people who do not trust power not to corrupt.

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