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
18 July 2007

Should sins of the wife be visited on husband?

The wife of ANC Western Cape secretary Mcebisi Skwatsha (pictured) has paid a fine of R1 000 after pleading guilty to theft. Nolusapho Skwatsha admitted reversing the transactions of four people who had paid their television licences at the post office at parliament, where she was employed. She then pocketed the money.

Skwatsha initially represented herself during the proceedings, but a later application for a Legal Aid Board lawyer was granted. Her attorney would not comment when contacted by the Cape Times.

Now, I am not a great fan of Mr. Skwatsha, who is part of the Africanist faction in the Western Cape ANC and who seems to be a rather ungenerous and shifty individual. But should Mr. Skwatsha be judged and condemned for something his wife did?

When the wife of Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Aziz Pahad was twice caught for drunken driving, I felt quite sorry for the guy. He was obviously married to an alcoholic, so I did not feel he should in any way be blamed for what his wife did.

Why do I then think this case is different? Is it because I do not like Mr. Skwatsha, or is it because the crime here was a premeditated act of dishonesty perpetrated by someone who probably got a job at the post office in Parliament because of her husbands connections?

The theft by his wife does and should reflect badly on the Cape secretary of the ANC and on the ANC itself. After all, Mr. Skwatsha chose to marry a woman with a deeply flawed grasp of public morality. At best it reflects badly on his judgment of character. At worst it suggests that he might share the lack of public morals displayed by his wife.

She also worked in the post office at Parliament and perpetrated the theft there. This suggests that she was placed in a position of trust because of her connections with the ANC and Parliament.

If the ANC had a better grasp of what kind of public morality was expected from public officials, Mr. Skwatsha would issue a statement to say that in the spirit of ubuntu he stands by his wife, but that what she did was despicable because it completely abused the public trust placed in her and that the ANC condemns such dishonesty in the strongest possible terms.

So far no such statement has been issued. Instead Mrs. Skwatsha first denied that she was married to the ANC secretary and then refused to answer the phone. This suggests that Mr. Skwatsha is not wanting to deal with the matter as he will probably claim it is a private matter that has nothing to do with the voters.

Of course being married to a convicted thief must be embarrassing – especially if one is a public official and a political leader. The only honorouble way to deal with it is to deal with it. By hiding away one may well create the impression that one is complicit with one’s spouse or that one shares the criminal attitude of one’s spouse. Surely that is not the impression Mr. Skwatsha wants to convey?

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