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
27 November 2006

ANC more important than the Constitution?

Mr Jacob Zuma is today reported in Die Burger as saying that the ANC is more important than even the Constitution and that ANC members should not use the Constitution to attack each other.

If this is accurately reported, it is the final proof that Mr Zuma really is not fit to become the President of South Africa. In fact, I think anyone who genuinely believes that his or her organisation is more important than the Constitution (and can therefore be disregarded when dealing with organisation members) should not hold any public office in South Africa.

I would not even want such a person to be given an estate’s agent’s licence.

No wonder Mr. Zuma is in trouble with the law. If one thinks one’s own organisation is above the highest law of the land, it should not come as a surprise to find oneself of the wrong side of the criminal law.

Section 83 of the Constitution states that the President must “uphold, defend and respect the Constitution as the supreme law of the Republic”. If Mr Zuma were t be elected President will he always uphold, defend and respect the Constitution – or only when it does not hurt or affect members of the ANC?

Maybe Mr. Zuma was misquoted.

Maybe he did not mean to undermine the basic tenets of the Rule of Law, a principle that states at the very least that no one or no institution is above the law. Maybe he only meant that while the ANC members must always obey the Constitution and other legal rules they must love the ANC more than the Constitution and the law.

But even then I would say that it is irresponsible (and very un-statesmanlike) to tell supporters that your party is more important than the Constitution. It undermines respect for that Constitution and sends a signal that the party is above the law.

This is not a signal we want to send to councillors who sit on tender committees and must decide whether to award the tender to their ANC friend or to the most deserving applicant.

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