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
30 March 2007

Mbeki plotting power grab?

A fascinating article in the Business Day today analyses some of the policy proposals for reorganising the ANC. It argues that these proposals are not aimed at “clipping Mbeki’s wings” as the Sunday Times has reported but rather to do the opposite:

Instead, it seems to imply that the ANC must make it possible for Mbeki’s inner circle in the state presidency to continue to rule SA after 2009. If this interpretation is correct, the document signals one of the most audacious factional drives for power in the history of the modern ANC.

The genius of the paper is that it endorses familiar leftist criticisms of Mbeki’s first decade in power. Too much power has been vested in one man. The movement’s presidency has usurped powers rightfully belonging to its secretary-general. Government ministers have become distant from the people. The ANC has lost the capacity to make policy and to monitor its implementation.

The remedy for a decade of centralisation in President Thabo Mbeki’s conjoined state and ANC presidencies, the document suggests, is the creation of two centres of power. Rather than being subordinated to the state, the ANC must become more than its match. Indeed, the “integration” between state and party “should be based on the principle that the ANC is the ultimate strategic centre of power”.

The article concludes that the notion that Mbeki should remain ANC president, more or less in perpetuity, seems to be gaining ground. So too does the idea that the control by his inner circle of government policy and appointments must be sustained after 2009. It would be fascinating to hear what Mbeki’s people say about this article. Be sure that Vavi and company is circulating it to all as I write.

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