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
8 November 2006

Youth League strikes again

The ANC Youth League and the Young Communist League held a press conference today. Business Day reports as follows on this:

Jacob Zuma has emerged unscathed from the Supreme Court of Appeal’s dismissal of Schabir Shaik’s appeal against his corruption convictions, the African National Congress (ANC) Youth League said today.

“The Supreme Court of Appeal passed the unequivocal message that the person found guilty was Mr Shaik and not [ANC deputy president] Zuma,” league president Fikile Mbalula told a news conference in Johannesburg.

I think for once I agree with the Youth League. The Court was extremely careful to focus on the guilt of Shaik and to make clear that they are finding that Shaik had the intention to commit corruption and bribery. But then the Youth League continues as follows:

Mbalula said judge Craig Howie’s ruling on Monday did nothing to enhance or diminish the possibility of the National Prosecuting Authority recharging Zuma for corruption.

“Any re-charging of Zuma would constitute a witchhunt, a fishing expedition that would effectively perpetuate the NPA’s continued leap from one disaster to another.”

Here Mr Mbablula’s wishful thinking overshadow his common sense. Any cursory reading of the judgment shows that the judgment found beyond reasonable doubt that Mr Zuma received more than a million Rand an from Shaik to subsidise an extravagant lifestyle, and then used his power and prestige as ANC Deputy President and then as Deputy President of the country to assist his friend in his business dealings. It also found the encrypted fax was rightly admitted.

The jugdment clearly bolsters the state’s case, but more importantly, it diminishes Zuma’s political standing because it makes clear there was (and still is) a case for him to answer and that the charges brought against him was thus not a witchhunt (and obviously not a fishing expedition because that is just logically impossible).

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