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
20 November 2008

Who’s undermining who?

Gwede Mantashe is a man who knows how to take a gap in order to divert attention from very awkward and unpalatable truths. So it must have come as a godsend when he read an interview with the acting head of the NPA, Mokotedi Mpshe, in last Sunday’s City Press. In the interview, Mpshe is quoted as saying that the NPA had gone through a very rough patch.

The roughness came as a result of criticism, especially towards the NPA for having done this and not having done that. The weight of the roughness came in that this trial (Jacob Zuma’s corruption trial) was a political trial and was difficult for the NPA to handle. Every step that we took, every move that we made had to be analysed or a particular interpretation given to it. But the criticism has – I don’t want to say stopped – but it has scaled down.

Mantashe immediately pounced and said these statements:

clearly confirm once again that the NPA has cast aside all pretence of professionalism or political neutrality – it has come out in the open and has effectively admitted that it is pursuing a political vendetta against President Zuma. This supports the ANC’s longheld view that President Zuma was subjected to political persecution and that the NPA was used as a willing instrument in the violation of President Zuma’s rights.

Now, while Mpshe’s remarks could have been phrased more elegantly, and while it might have been politically unwise to even mention the Zuma case, it is clear from the context of his remarks that he meant that Mr Zuma’s trial had a political dimension and that the NPA was put under severe pressure because the prosecution clearly had political ramifications and was perceived by some as a political trial. The NPA has now also issued a clarifying statement confirming this.

This is not controversial at all – despite what Mantashe seems to suggest. The statement by Mpshe ironically, merely confirms what we all know, namely that the ANC has politicised this trial for its own short-term political advantage.

It is obvious that Mpshe would never have intended to say that the prosecution of Zuma was politically motivated. No one could be that stupid. Not even Mpshe. It is also very clear that Mantashe knows this very well. Why then did he pounce on the statement like this? Maybe because the Nicholson judgment is being appealed and the chances of a successful appeal looks rather good, so Mantashe decided that it was time to  resume the campaign to discredit the NPA and the judiciary to ensure that a judgment against Zuma causes the least political damage.

So, I would not be surprised if Mantashe or others  in the ANC again started attacking the judges sitting in the SCA appeal. After all, if the leader of one’s political party is somebody whose friend is serving a 15 year jail sentence for bribing and corrupting your leader and your leader has done everything possible to prevent himself from facing charges of bribery and corruption, then one would be wise to try and avert attention from that rather unpalatable fact by attacking the very institutions tasked by our constitution to deliver justice.

I am supported in this view by the criticism leveled against Mpshe for saying that he thought that the Nicholson judgment – now being appealed by the very organisation that Mpshe heads!- was wrongly decided. Once again the attack is so over the top that I smell a rat, as Mantashe fulminated:

Even more disturbing Mpshe has shown his utter contempt and disrespect for the rule of law by proclaiming that he would continue to hold that judge Nicholson is “wrong” regardless of the outcome of the NPA’s pending appeal…. Mpshe’s statement is ample evidence that he and the NPA have very little regard for the rule of law and for the rulings of our judiciary. Despite the admonition of Judge Nicholson, Mpse has committed a grave violation of his professional and legal duty as a prosecutor by allowing his judgment on the Zuma matter to be swayed by extraneous political considerations. He has admitted that much in his interview with City Press.

Am I the only one to find this statement so bizarrely over the top that I cannot but wonder whether it was not made with an ulterior motive? Why is it wrong for the NPA boss to say that according to him a judgment that his organisation is currently appealing was wrongly decided? How does this undermine the Rule of Law? How can this statement be deemed to constitute a grave violation of Mpshe’s professional and legal duty? Maybe Mantashe can explain to us what he means, but I am at a loss.

There is nothing wrong with criticising a judgment and saying that the judgment was wrongly decided. If one could never criticise a judgment or say that it was wrongly decided then legal academics would have nothing to talk about or write about. So Mantashe is talking through his nose (or maybe it is through his backside).

Once again, I suspect ulterior motives. Mantashe is now trying to undermine the NPA to try and ensure that the very serious and credible charges against the leader of the ANC is quashed. This he has to do because ordinary people will continue to ask why the ANC is persisting with Jacob Zuma as their Presidential candidate despite the fact that he is possibly facing such serious charges of corruption and bribery. They ANC would want to talk about everything except about these charges, because talking about the charges will remind voters that Zuma is not fit for public office because he has a HUGE ethical question mark hanging over his head.

In the weeks and months to come the ANC will do everything they can – including undermining our constitutional institutions such as the NPA and the judiciary – to try and avert attention from this unpalatable fact. We should not let them get away with this.

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