ANC’s open dissent a breath of fresh air
Talk within the ANC of disciplining so-called rebel MPs who voted with opposition parties in Parliament during August’s failed noconfidence vote against President Jacob Zuma has died down.
Apart from former MP Makhosi Khoza, who resigned, backbenchers such as Pravin Gordhan and Derek Hanekom have been delivering critiques of the state of the party relatively unscathed.
That’s not to say that Gordhan and Hanekom voted with the opposition; only Khoza has played open cards on the way her vote had gone on that eventful day in August.
The others have only hinted at votes of conscience, and one can only read between the lines as to what that meant in terms of voting patterns in the motion of no confidence.
Gordhan was spotted last week signing copies of investigative journalist Jacques Pauw’s The President’s Keepers with a wry smile on his face in what could be read as a ringing endorsement of the book’s contents, which are less than flattering about Zuma.
The ANC did not breathe a word about this. The next day Gordhan was in Parliament, going about his business as an ANC MP unbothered.
Debates within the governing party continue to rage about its position in society and whether its handling of the scandals engulfing its president will condemn it to the dustbin of history. It’s a sight to behold, which has elicited catchphrases such as “ANC vs ANC”.
In a year of an elective congress, when the stakes are high and political careers and survival are thrown into a state of flux, more and more cadres have located their conscience and found their voices to speak out against the ills afflicting the governing party.
There is no longer a pretence of organisational discipline, which is a breath of fresh air.
Cadres such as Vytjie Mentor, Mcebisi Jonas and Themba Maseko have gone on multiple platforms as whistleblowers, concerned citizens and aggrieved party members to denounce the capture of government institutions. They have also not held back about the state of the ANC and their diagnoses of the root causes of its decline in recent years.
What is notable and refreshing is that none of them has been threatened with censure by the ANC.
The opposite is true — the floodgates of debate have been kicked wide open, contributing to a growing body of work and disclosures about the nature and form of capture. Contrast this with the DA’s handling of Helen Zille’s tweetgate; the current inquiry led by MP John Steenhuisen into the spat between Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille and councillor JP Smith; and the brewing scandal over membership audits in Gauteng ahead of a leadership contest.
The first instinct for Mmusi Maimane’s DA in the Zille matter was to gag her. The DA has done the same to De Lille and Smith, barring them from all party activities until Steenhuisen is done with his fact-finding mission.
As a result, the DA’s internal inquiry into the Cape Town matter has been a tightly controlled affair that has been shrouded in secrecy. Neither De Lille nor Smith has given an interview to take voters into their confidence about what is eating up the administration in the Mother City.
This is quite strange because the DA likes to style itself as a viable alternative to the ANC: that it is accountable to the public, transparent and runs clean administrations. The opposition party has often sold itself as somewhat different from the ANC in that it promotes a robust internal culture of debate.
However, its tendency to close ranks and draw an iron curtain when scandals erupt suggests a party that talks up a good game but fails to live up to its words when it comes to the crunch. Is accountability too hot to handle for the blue brigade?
Phillip is news editor.