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
24 September 2009

Medical Miracles (IV)

It has now been 205 days since Schabir Shaik was released on medical parole because he was allegedly “in the final phase of a terminal disease or condition” and was sent home in order “to die a consolatory and dignified death”. (These are nor my words, but the words used in section 79 of the Correctional Services Act.)

Of course, we know that an individual can only be released in terms of section 79 after a medical practitioner treating the criminal had indeed diagnosed that criminal as being in the final stages of a terminal illness. We have also known for a long time that Shaik’s doctors never diagnosed him as being in the final stages of a terminal illness and that he was therefore released unlawfully.

After 205 days as a free man, Shaik remains very much alive. This is no surprise as he never was at deaths door when he was released. Despite the clear evidence that the release was unlawful, the Minister has steadfastly refused to refer the case the the Parole Appeals Board as he was obliged to do, claiming there was no evidence of wrongdoing. (Like the apartheid government who always claimed there was no evidence that the Police tortured and killed the opponents of apartheid, our Minister refuses to see what is before his very own eyes.)

The miracle here is of course not really a medical one at all. The miracle is that Shaik is getting away with this because he once upon a time paid bribes worth millions of Rands to our President, something our society does not seem to care about too much. Who cares that some animals are more equal than others? Who cares that poor, black criminals languish in jail and die there while well connected people like Shaik escape their punishment. Who cares about the principle of equality before the law. After all, there was no equality before the law during the apartheid era, so why should there now be such a thing?

Let us forgive and forget, I say! After all, this is the kind of thing the apartheid government did, so why should we be any better than they were. We have learnt well from our oppressors.

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