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
6 June 2007

Zuma is fading fast

It is always dangerous to predict what will happen in politics and more so when one is foolish enough to want to make predictions about the ANC Presidential succession. But I am a brave man, so I will predict that Jacob Zuma’s Presidential bid is done for.

First Mr. Zuma’s legal troubles seem to be multiplying. He recently suffered several defeats in court, which may not be relevant for his ultimate criminal innocence or guilt, but which are further tarnishing his standing in the community. Mr. Zuma’s lawyers are playing a high stakes game in which they are trying to achieve two things.

More immediately, they wish to prevent Mr. Zuma from being charged until after the December conference. This will allow Mr. Zuma to stand for President of the ANC without being an accused in a criminal case and will allow this supporters to talk darkly about a conspiracy.

In the long term, the lawyers want to wear down the less well resourced NPA by challenging its every move and admitting nothing. They hope that this scorched earth policy will allow them to claim that Mr. Zuma is a victim of state shenanigans and will also force the state into stupid mistakes.

In order to save time and money, Schabir Shaik’s lawyer, Kemp J Kemp, made many admissions on his behalf and allowed many documents to be submitted by the state because they decided challenging the authenticity of every document when some of them are clearly authentic would tarnish Mr Shaik’s credibility. Unlike Zuma, Shaik also did not have access to millions of Rand to pay his lawyers.

But with Mr. Zuma, Kemp J Kemp and his cohorts are doing exactly the opposite and the results will be predictable. In the court of public opinion, at least, people will begin to ask questions about a strategy in which obvious facts and truths are denied by the potential accused. People are already starting to ask: If Mr. Zuma is so bloody innocent, why is he so bloody desperate to stop the state from investigating the case? Even if this strategy brings legal success, it is bound to bring political ruin.

There is a second reason why, in my opinion, Mr. Zuma is done for. Despite ANC delegates deciding this race. he still needs the media to give him a platform. But it seems to me that both the print media and the electronic media – even His Masters Voice! – have now turned against him. They now either ignore him or criticise him – and the criticism is often scathing. That is why he has launched quixotic defamation actions against several newspapers: he is trying to intimidate the medi into giving him better coverage. Fat chance.

This souring of the media is nicely encapsulated in a post on Prof Anton Harber’s Blog. He contrasts the performances of President Mbeki and Jacob Zuma at the international gathering of publishers in Cape Town this week and say Mbeki was astute and careful while Zuma was clueless. This kind of comment illustrates just how disillusioned main stream opinion is with Mr. Zuma and also suggest how elites will try and spin this before the conference. Surely not even the delegates to the ANC conference in December will be immune from all this negative publicity?

Goodbye Jacob. Interested in that diplomatic posting to Tjikitjikistan yet?

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