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 (III)

Now it is time for listeners to ask questions so maybe we will get some serious questions.

  1. Petrus phones and say “we were happy with the President” but why cant he give somebody else a chance. The President gives a ridiculous answer: the members will decide, this is how they elected Mandela, for example and this is democracy, it is not for Thabo Mbeki to decide whether to stand or not to stand again. But the President may have a choice of course and could have decided – like Mandela – not to encourage the members to elect him again in which case they would not have nominated him. He failed to do that, so his answer does not hold water.

  2. Dealing with questioners seems to be beyond the SABC’s technical abilities so many callers do not seem to make it on the air. Many callers who phone in wish the President luck in the election and complaining about the “others” who are sending out negative messages. The President says we should always respect the truth (but not on the arms deal of course) and “while there are some among us who are campaign on the basis of lies it iss a mistake to think that people are fools because in the end the truth will come out” and they will vote for the right person.

  3. A questioner says we should bring back the death penalty because that will stop crime. The President says yes crime is a big problem and, yes, let us discuss all issues relevant to this but the Constitutional Court has said we cannot have the death penalty and this is the ANC position as well. I quietly cheer on the President for his principled stance. It is much better than the answer given by Jacob Zuma last week when he said people’s views on the death penalty could be tested, which seems to suggest that if the people demand the return of the death penalty Mr Zuma will oblige.

Suddenly it is all over and I am not sure I am much the wiser. The President clearly aimed at sounding “Presidential”, but may have inadvertently come off as boring and distant. He is obviously a policy wonk, and I am not sure that plays well with ANC delegates because it could easily sounds as if he is not really caring about peoples’ problems when he gives a technical answer to a problem raised by a caller.

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