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
30 December 2009

What went right in 2009

(1) South Africa had another free and fair election (it’s fourth!) without any serious violence and the fourth democratic President was inaugurated soon afterwards.

(2) The government decisively changed direction on HIV/AIDS and President Jacob Zuma appointed a health minister who clearly understands that the problem of HIV needs to be dealt with in a comprehensive manner.

(3) Nkosazana Zuma has begun to change things around at the Department of Home Affairs. A friend of mine received her passport only 4 weeks after submitting her application!

(4) The South African banking system weathered the international financial crisis very well and the SA government did not need to pump billions of dollars into the system as was required by the USA, the UK and some European countries.

(5) A free press and independent electronic media continued to thrive and to present a variety of news, exposes and opinion, sometimes harshly critical of the foibles of the governing party and sometimes singing its praises.

(6) Some members of the tripartite alliance began exposing Julius Malema as the self-serving, headline-grabbing, tenderpreneur that he is.

(7) The selection of a new Chief Justice and four new judges to the Constitutional Court proceeded without unnecessary controversy and several good candidates were appointed to the positions while a certain Judge President were clearly not a serious contender for appointment.

(8) A vibrant civil society continued to thrive and to challenge seemingly unlawful decisions made by the President and y constitutional institutions such as the Judicial Services Commission in various courts across South Africa.

(9) South Africa successfully hosted the Confederations Cup and the various soccer stadiums for 2010 Fifa World Cup were completed on time.

(10) Many South Africans quietly continued to build bridges and build the nation by giving of their time and money to address the poverty and deprivation of fellow South Africans.

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