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
11 August 2008

On the art of denial and the eloquence of silence….

I see MAN Ferrostaal has issued a statement about the claims by the Sunday Times that it paid a R30 million bribe to the ANC, facilitated by President Thabo Mbeki. The Sunday Times also claimed President Mbeki gave R2 million of this money to Jacob Zuma. The statement by MAN Ferrostaal reads in part:

MAN Ferrostaal never made any payments to SA President Thabo Mbeki, to Jacob Zuma or to any other member of the ANC or to any other public official. MAN Ferrostaal in addition states that the articles mentioned contain a large number of factual errors with regards to MAN Ferrostaal and therefore violates the basics of journalistic accuracy.

The statement does NOT deny that money was paid to the ANC – only that it was not paid to an individual official. If such a denial is issued by a big company it is always important to note what is being denied and what not because it will tell one what the truth might be. The fact that MAN Ferrostaal does not deny giving money to the ANC is basically an admission on its part that it did give money to the ANC. That’s all sorted out then. All we need to know now is why they gave this money, what understanding they reached with ANC leaders about the quid-pro-quo for this payment to the ANC and whether their investment was a good one for their business.

Unless I have missed it, the only person who has now not issued SOME kind of denial about the Sunday Times report is Mr. Jacob Zuma. Wonder why he is so silent. In the absence of a blanket denial from him, his silence speaks rather eloquently about his own involvement in this tawdry affair just as the Presidency’s denial that Mr. Mbeki did not benefit personally from any bribe is rather telling.

One thing is for sure: we have not yet heard the end of the arms deal. As the ANC infighting continues more people will talk. Why don’t the ANC just come out and admit they received money from arms dealers so that the bleeding can stop. The first lesson of how to deal with a scandal is to deny that which can be denied, admit the rest, apologise to the nation and move on. The silence just breeds suspicion and the bleeding will continue.

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