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
22 October 2007

Mbeki and the world cup victory

Was I being too sensitive and cynical for noticing how some of the members of the England Rugby team seemed to walk right past President Thabo Mbeki during the handing out of the medals?

I almost felt sorry for him: there he was, short and wooden – looking as comfortable as Al Gore during a Presidential debate – and, quite frankly, a bit disheveled in his Springbok outfit. I suppose he was sadly trying (unsuccessfully) to emulate Madiba at the 1995 World Cup, standing next to Nicholas Sarkozy and Gordon Brown and looking decidedly uncomfortable.

Then some of the England players just walked right past him, with him, grabbing on to their sleeves to get the chance to congratulate them on losing.

It seems to me like a textbook display of the subliminal racism that Mbeki himself talks about so often and get so upset and obsessed with. It is as if the England players, after shaking hands with the French President and their own Prime Minister, did not even see our President and for what reason? Surely not only because he was not dressed in a suit. Could it be that they thought this little man was not important because he was black?

In any case, I found it sad. Sadder still was the President’s body language throughout the celebrations. Even when he was lifted shoulder high and he hoisted the world cup he did not look very comfortable. Decidedly out of his element.

But surely the South African victory must boost the President’s chances of being re-elected President of the ANC. The Springbok victory has erased some of the doom and gloom that was hanging over South Africa and, for the time being at least, is making us all a little bit optimistic.

This could change the mood of some delegates going to Limpopo and who knows, might influence the election. How ironic it would be if the African Nationalist’s chances of re-election is boosted by the winning of the world cup by a team who is decidedly pale in complexion.

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