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
17 April 2007

Zuma’s rejects court of public opinion

Jacob Zuma said today that he will not withdraw his multi-million Rand defamation case against several media outlets. Addressing the Cape Town Press Club, he complained

“You cannot tell me that the media has the right to take the place of judges, and actually try people and say, ‘This one is guilty.'” Zuma said he had gone to court, a judge looked at the facts before him and found him not guilty, but “you guys continued to find me guilty”.

I am not aware of anyone in the media pronouncing Mr Zuma guilty of a crime. He might still be convicted of fraud and corruption like his former financial advisor Shabir Shaik, but for now he is not a convicted criminal.

This does not mean that in the court of public opinion he cannot be judged by his actions and associations. Mr Zuma does not seem to understand that in a constitutional democracy the media has a right – no a duty – to be critical of politicians who behave like fools and charlatans. This in no way infringes on that politician’s constitutional right to be presumed innocent by a court of law.

We do not need a court to tell us that Mr Zuma should not be President. We know a person who takes money from a convicted crook and then does favours for him is bad news. We know that a man who exploits his position of power and influence to have sex with a vulnerable women – a daughter of a comrade – who is a third his age, is not worthy of our respect.

It has nothing to do with criminal guilt and everything to do with basic common sense. Now, if only Swelenzima Vavi and Blade Nzimande could get a common sense transplant and realize that they are hurting the progressive cause by their support for Mr Zuma, we might actually get an ANC President in December that we deserve.

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