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
10 July 2008

“Political conspiracy” = “yes I am guilty”

I have a new rule for deciphering the utterances of politicians. As soon as one says that he or she is the victim of a political conspiracy, I replace the words “political conspiracy” with the words “yes I am guilty”. The way in which politicians cry “conspiracy” when they are caught stealing our money is becoming tedious and laughable. Come up with something more original guys!

The latest example is our dear Minister of Sport, Makhenkesi Stofile, who was fingered for corruption in the Eastern Cape in a report of a Commission of enquiry appointed by premier Nosimo Balindlela and headed by respected Judge, Ronnie Pillay. The Daily Dispatch got hold of the report and published it today.

Stofile’s wife Nambitha is linked to two entities – the Triple Trust Organisation and the Anti-Poverty Foundation – which received a total of R760000 from the Premier’s Fund.

“Instructions to disburse funds from this account appear to have proceeded based on written instruction received from Premier Stofile,” said Pillay. He found that other companies apparently owned by Nambitha – Masakhane Security and Mpumalanga Construction – also received lucrative government tenders totalling R17.8m.

Other loans apparently to the Stofile family include R31500 to Naude Stofile for purchasing stock for Stofile Trading Store and Cafe in Idutywa; R900000 to Linda Michael Stofile to open a Spar supermarket in Alice; and an amount – with interest – of R455489 to Andile Stofile and his wife, Toliwe Laetticia Stofile, to purchase equipment for a funeral parlour.

It might well be that Stofile did nothing wrong and that he is innocent. I was prepared to hear his side of the story and then to see whether I thought the report might have gotten it wrong. After all judges sometimes make mistakes – one just have to read some of the decisions of John Hlophe to realise this. But then the Mail & Guardian reported tonight that Stofile rejected the findings of the report “with the contempt that it deserves” before continuing:

“I just want to assure the people of the Eastern Cape that just as previous attempts to tarnish my image failed, even this one will be exposed for the political conspiracy it is.

Call me cynical, but it was right there that I started believing every word in that report. But our Minister is a bit slow. If he was a bit quicker on the draw he would have “pulled a Hlophe” (I am copyrighting this term!) and would have alleged that the conspiracy is the result of his tireless efforts to integrate sport and that the report was therefore all part of a racist plot by those people resisting transformation in sport. After all, Pillay is an Indian and therefore not really black. Aren’t Indians so to speak Chinese? Maybe he will think about that excuse tomorrow.

I would be more prone to give him the benefit of the doubt if he actually gave a real excuse and explained why these payments were legitimate. In the absence of such an explanation and in the presence of the “conspiracy” defense, I can only conclude that he is guilty as sin. From now on as soon as someone uses the conspiracy defense I will suspect that they are guilty of what they have been accused of. And if they point out how the process was flawed and how their rights were trampled on, without addressing the substance of the allegations, I will pretty much know that they did what they are accused of.

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