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
5 December 2007

Interview with Thabo Mbeki by SABC (II)

Back after the break and here we go again with softball questions:

  1. A questioner ask the President about the two centers of power and the decision at the ANC Policy Conference in June  this year when the delegates decided that it would be preferable if the President of the ANC was the same as the President of the country. But the President ignores this part of the question in his answer and explains that the ANC is bigger than one person and that there could therefore be no such thing as “two centers of power”. The government merely does what the ANC has decided and this means it is one big happy family. Once again to me this sounds out of touch, as if the President is in denial about the tension between the ANC rank and file and tripartite alliance partners on the one hand, and the government on the other, about specific issues and about the possible tension that might arise when the President of the ANC is different from the President of the country. To be crude this sounds as if human beings in the ANC have no agency and are part of a Borg-like entity (like in Star Trek) which assimilates everyone and allows the Borg to operate as a single collective without any individuality. Surely this is far-fetched? Can the President really believe this or is it politics.

  2. The President says the leadership contest is not a bad thing but if a person wins he must not think that he should then “fix” his “enemies”, because the ANC is bigger than all these possible short-term differences that the camps may have. What is required is for the battle to be fought in a way that would ensure factions are not created. The brave political editor of the SABC of course fails to ask him what he thinks of the attack by one of his lieutenants, Terror Lekota, on Jacob Zuma. This response might have seen a bit rich even without the Lekota attack on Zuma, seeing that the President is seen as a man who always “fix” his enemies in the long term. Ask Tokyo Sexwale, Matthew Posa, Winnie Mandela and, of course, Noziswe Madlala-Routledge. Many people would say this is exactly why Mr Zuma is so popular – because so many people have been “fixed” or is at least perceived to have been “fixed”. Is this a wrong perception and if not, does the President not see the irony of his answer?

  3. The SABC interviewer is getting bold (laughing nervously while asking the question!) by tentatively asking about the “perception” out there that the President had centralised power in his own hands. The President says no one has ever been able to say – when he challenged them – where this perception comes from. In any case, says the President, he consults people in the ANC, including chairs in the Provinces – even when appointing Premiers. The President may not have thought of the possibility, of course, that people are too scared to challenge him and may not have been brave enough to say why they have this perception exactly because of the real or perceived view that he “fixes” those who disagree with him! The ironies abound.

  4. The President is asked about floor crossing and he rambles on explaining in very long and complicated terms how the legislation came about but he first hints that maybe the floor crossing should be scrapped and then he hints that maybe it should not be scrapped. “Lets put all the arguments in one pot and see what comes out of it.” Fence sitting of the highest order, but that makes the President an ordinary politician, like Mr. Zuma or anyone else, I suppose.

  5. No questions from the SABC about any of the hot button issues: HIV/AIDS; Zimbabwe: Jacob Zuma’s view on woman; the fact that the President is seen as aloof and cold; the “conspiracy” against Zuma; the suspension of Vusi Pikoli, the support of the President for Jackie Selebi and Manto Tshabalala-Msimang. Oh well, the political editor of the SABC must be mindful of what happened to Jimmy Matthews and John Perlman and must need his salary more than he needs his self-respect as a journalist.

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