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
23 March 2009

Oh dear Minister, are you a liar after all?

Poor Minister Ngcondo Balfour. Surely his political career must be at an end. Either that or Jacob Zuma was lying through his teeth when he said that corrupt, dishonest, or lazy politicians will be recalled by the ANC.

I say this because evidence is now emerging that Minister Balfour is at the very least spectacularly incompetent and at worse a liar and a cheat. This is because it has now emerged that the doctors who treated Schabir Shaik never certified that he was terminally ill.

One can only be released from prison for medical parole if doctors have certified that one is terminally ill and Balfour released a statement after the release of Shaik in which he said three  of Shaik’s doctors had confirmed that he had a terminal condition. He also said that if hard evidence emerged to show that the decision was problematic he would refer the decision to the parloe appeal board.

But IOL reports that the lawyer for some of the doctors on whose advice the parole board had claimed to have acted and who Balfour had claimed had certified Shaik’s terminal condition never did such a thing:

“I don’t have any information that (the act) was (satisfied), most certainly not by my clients and not by anyone else who was treating Shaik (at Albert Luthuli),” said lawyer Altus van Rensburg. Van Rensburg represents three of the hospital’s cardiac doctors against whom a complaint has been levelled by the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) on behalf of the Democratic Alliance (DA).

However, Van Rensberg now points out that Ponnusamy was wrongly drawn into the eye of the storm when media reports named him as an ANC member who was potentially sympathetic to Shaik’s cause.

The other two doctors were co-signatories of a medical report last September that recommended that Shaik be granted medical parole – not because he was terminally ill, however, but because there was little more they could do for him. “Shaik was a proverbial hot potato,” said Van Rensberg. “It doesn’t appear that anyone wanted him,” hence his clients’ parole recommendation.

“What they said is, ‘We can’t keep him in the cardiac unit because he doesn’t have a heart problem. He might develop one as a result of his condition, his high blood pressure. And then he can come to the unit and we can treat him there. So we say take him back to Westville prison. If he’s sick, then treat him in the prison hospital. If you don’t want to treat him in the prison hospital because the conditions there are not optimal, then make the conditions optimal or just do something, but we can’t keep a man here who currently doesn’t have cardiac problems’,” Van Rensberg said.

Minister Balfour therefore seems to have been caught out in a blatant and scandalous lie. And the fact that he has not referred the matter to the parole appeal board despite the hard evidence which have emerged which seems to suggest that Shaik was released illegally, means  he lied not once but twice.

Moreover Minister Ngconde Balfour told SABC television that three independent doctors had examined Shaik and named one of them as Dr S Mbanjwa, who, according to the HPCSA database, had not completed his training. This doctors Mbanjwa also needs to be probed of course. Was he the doctor who claimed that Shaik’s condition was irreversable or did Balfour lie about this as well?

Mark my words: Schabir Shaik is not at deaths door. It won’t be long after the election before he is spotted, cigar in the mouth, sipping whiskey with pals. Another medical miracle would have occured – maybe because of the prayers emanating from Rhema Church, that bastion of probity and high moral values.

This means Minister Balfour cannot possibly continue serving as a Minister if the ANC wants to have any credibility as an organisation who keeps its word and is honest, as he has now been exposed as a person who is so spectacularly dishonest that even for the standards of a politician he has lost any credibility he might ever have had.

Which brings us to Mr Jacob Zuma. If he actually puts his money where his mouth is, and if he is really a person who does not only say things to win votes, Balfour must be a gonner. If he fails to act against Balfour, we will know that Zuma is even more of a charlatan than we had previously thought.

Either way, someone will be exposed as deeply dishonest. And this time I am not even talking about that old friend of Jacob Zuma, Schabir Shaik or any of his brothers.

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