ANC’s open dis­sent a breath of fresh air

Business Day - - FRONT PAGE - XOLISA PHILLIP

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.

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