[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.
CASAC STATEMENT: Removal of Willie Hofmeyr as the head of the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) and his replacement by Willem Heath.
Under the leadership of Hofmeyr the SIU, despite its limited mandate, became one of the key structures in the fight against corruption. We note that Willem Heath has had a close relationship with President Zuma, having acted as an advisor to Zuma when he was being investigated by the erstwhile Scorpions on allegations of corruption. Whilst as head of the SIU he will only investigate matters that are referred to him by the President, his independent judgment will be compromised.
In the light of the Constitutional Court judgment in the Glenister case calling for an effective independent body to fight corruption, this decision by the President can only serve to weaken the states capacity to tackle corruption.
This appointment marks another step in the process of rewarding individuals, whose independence has been compromised, dating back to the appointment of Menzi Simelane as the National Director of Public Prosecutions.
Our country needs a robust, fearless criminal justice sector in order to deal effectively with crime and corruption. This move by the President is a set-back in that quest.
Lawson Naidoo – 073 158 5736
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