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
21 March 2007

Castro is not amused….

That is Castro Ngobese, national spokesperson for the Young Communist League of South Africa. He is not amused at all.

Mr Ngobese seems to have taken umbrage at my letter, published in the Business Day on Friday in which I rubbished the lament of Ranjeni Munusami that the media was being unfair to Mr Jacob Zuma. He writes in a letter to Business Day on Tuesday:

One would assume that a professor in a law faculty would be more mindful of condemning a person on the basis of evidence presented against a second person, particularly if the first person has not had the opportunity to respond to any of the allegations made against him. Not so with Prof Pierre de Vos, who argues in his letter that African National Congress (ANC) deputy president Jacob Zuma deserves to be convicted in the court of public opinion based on what emerged during Schabir Shaik’s trial, Zuma has made his own bad press, (March 16).

The trial judge appointed to preside over Zuma’s case struck the matter off the court roll as the state was unable to present the evidence it presented against Shaik. In other words, the evidence from the Shaik trial was insufficient and unworthy for the state to present against Zuma. The evidence against Zuma is hearsay and untested.

It is, therefore, irrelevant what the Supreme Court of Appeal or any other court has to say on this matter. The fact remains that when Zuma presented himself before the high court, the state could not present a case against him. And therefore, neither the media nor the National Prosecuting Authority have any business trying to perpetuate the lie that Zuma is guilty of any criminal offence.

Of course, I said nothing whatsoever about the criminal guilt of Mr Zuma, but I did point out that certain factual findings were made by the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) that poses rather awkward questions for Mr Zuma and his avid supporters, like our enthusiastic but uninformed (not so?) young Castro. What on earth did he do with that R1.5 million Shaik gave him and why o why did he meet with a armsdeal crook?

The fact that the case against Mr Zuma has for the time being been struck from the role, is a technical matter and does not, of course, in any way reflect on the factual findings made by the five judges in the SCA. The fact that Mr Ngobese suggests that it does, demonstrates either a spectacular ignorance of the judicial proccess or serves as a sad reminder of the blindness that overcome so many who feel that power is within their grasp.

My point was, of course, that these findings – although not having any direct bearing on the criminal innocence or guilt of Mr Zuma – reflect very badly on Mr Zuma and fatally taints his credibility and his image.

Mr Zuma has never specifically denied any of the facts on which the Shaik conviction is based and whether he is ever charged or convicted of a crime is really irrelevant to the question of whether Mr Zuma is a wise, honest and trustworthy person that we would trust to become the President of our country.

Based on the facts now confirmed by the SCA – and not ever denied by my dear young Castro or Mr Zuma – I would not even trust Mr Zuma to sell me a second hand car, let alone a future. If Mr Ngobese is too blind to see the image problem posed by the Shaik verdict for Mr Zuma, he should be told that DeNile is not only a river in Egypt.

For those of us on the progressive side of politics in South Africa, it is particularly sad to see how the traditional principled champions of the left (Cosatu/SACP) have thrown all principle to the wind to support a populist charlatan with absolutely no credible left credentials, merely because that man happens not to be Thabo Mbeki. This is worse even than when Tony Leon climbed into bed with Kortbroek because we expected that of Mr Leon but I, for one, never expected the left to sell out their principles like this.

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