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
17 March 2007

Thabo Mbeki on the money

President Thabo Mbeki’s letter from the President published yesterday, hits all the right notes. In a reasoned but passionate letter on racism, Mbeki makes the link between racism and the fear of crime. Money quote:

[T]he fact of the matter is that we still have a significant proportion of people among the white minority, but by no means everybody who is white, that continues to live in fear of the black, and especially African majority. For this section of our population, that does not “find it too difficult to revert to the accustomed world of fear of the future”, every reported incident of crime communicates the frightening and expected message that – the kaffirs are coming!

Unlike past letters on racism in which President Mbeki made excellent points on racism, only to misuse the insights to attack some of his critics, this letter is mostly free of the sarcasm and tarring of all with the same brush. I was reminded of his notorious letter about the media being “the fishers of corrupt men”, in which he made very valid points about racism, only to use these to argue that when the media exposes corruption it is inevitably based on racism.

Having had the misfortune this week to listen to a few minutes of the phone in programme with Nicky van der Berg on Radio Sonder Grense (don’t ask), the words of our President seem particularly apt. Some among us (as he used to say!) really have not acc epted the humanity of their fellow South Africans.

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