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
28 December 2007

Zuma indicted?

My usually reliable sources tell me that Jacob Zuma was indicted today on several charges stretching beyond the fraud and corruption charges brought against Schabir Shaik and extending to racketeering and tax fraud. Apparently Mr Zuma’s lawyer, Roger Hullay has confirmed this. It will be reported tonight on ETV news.

The timing is curious. In the absence of any news on charges being brought against Police Commissioner Jackie Selebi, the haste with which charges are being brought seems to suggest that the NPA and (perhaps its political masters) were scared that Mr Zuma and the newly emboldened ANC NEC would try and stop charges being brought against him. They felt that time was of the essence and thus had to move before the ANC NEC met for the first time.

It does create new legal and political trouble for Mr Zuma as it suggests that the raids on his premises and that of his lawyers has uncovered new evidence of possible wrongdoing on his part. Like Al Capone who was eventually brought down by tax evasion charges, Mr Zuma might yet be brought low not by the original charges of fraud and corruption but the ancillary charges now added to the charge sheet.

Am I the only one to see the hand of Presidnet Thabo Mbeki in all of this? With the principled Vusi Pikoli out of the way and with the hapless, buffoonish, Mokoted Mpshe, acting as head of the NPA, it might well be that the president has placed some serious pressure on him to charge Zuma as soon as possible. No stories here of the MInister of Justice not being available to receive information from the NPA about possible charges. And why is it being done on a Friday between Christmas and New Year.

For those who believe in the conspiracy against Zuma this will be a final straw in giving proof of that conspiracy. But of course, even if there is a conspiracy and even if we all believe there to be one, if Mr Zuma is convicted, he will not be able to become President and Mr Mbeki would have “won” the battle (if not the war) against the Zuma camp.

All in all, a peculiar development. And you heard it here first!

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