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
1 December 2009

Apology to President Zuma

Last week on this Blog I critised President Jacob Zuma for purporting to appoint Adv Menzi Simelane as the National Director of Public Prosecutions and pointed out – correctly in my view – that the appointment shows an utter disregard for the Constitution and the law. In my criticism – which I believe to be valid and based on the proven facts and a correct interpretation of the law and the Constitution – I unfortunately reverted to the kind of intemperate language, which sadly has become all too common in our political discourse, by referring to our President as a “gangster”.
 
I regret using such intemperate language, which detracts from the substantive debate regarding the unfitness of Adv Menzi Simelane to hold office as the National Director of Public Prosecutions. I wish to apologise unreservedly to our President for the use of this intemperate language which, as the Presidency points out, does not contribute to the healthy and respectful debate so needed in our democracy.
 
However, I do call on our President to reconsider the appointment of Adv Menzi Simelane as the National Director of Public Prosecutions as this appointment is not in the interest of the country and the smooth running of the criminal justice system. Given the serious questions about Adv Simelane’s fitness to hold office, reasonable people – including myself – will continue to speculate about the true reasons for the appointment which indeed, shows a disregard for the law and the Constitution as well as for the independence of the National Prosecuting Authority.
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