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
21 September 2008

The President speaks….

President Thabo Mbeki’s speech to the nation tonight was both dignified and Presidential. But as is often the case with his Presidential speeches he did not really say anything new or earth shattering.

However, in an oblique way the speech seemed to reply to his critics and offer a defense of his tenure as President. For me it was telling that the President said that “all our citizens must respect the Rule of Law and Human Rights”. The President also spoke about the need for moral regeneration and the need to respect the value system of ubuntu which means “we must all act in the manner that respect the dignity of every human being”.

This seems like a very vague kind of criticism of Jacob Zuma and some of his supporters and perhaps it expresses – indirectly at least – a view that President Mbeki was not treated fairly by the ANC. It is of course ironic that this was exactly the complaint lodged by Jacob Zuma and his supporters after he was fired by Mbeki and charged by the NPA.

This kind of argument seems to me misplaced and not in line with the principles of openness and accountability. As the Constitutional Court has said before, when a person is accused of wrongdoing his or her dignity will inevitably be affected. No one has a right not to be accused so to argue that everyone must always be treated with dignity can be viewed as a plea for impunity.

When he spoke about the Nicholson judgment it is striking that he prefaced his remarks with the statement that his government has always respected and defended the independence of the judiciary.- even when the executive had strong views about cases.

He also denied that he or the executive had ever interfered with or compromised the rights of the NPA to decide who to prosecute or not to prosecute and categorically stated that this also applied to the “painful matter” of the prosecution of Jacob Zuma. I wonder what the Zuma people will say about that.

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