Can No. 1 be impeached?
The DA claims there are grounds to call for President Jacob Zuma
Last week in Brazil, hundreds of thousands of citizens took to the streets to call for the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff. They are blaming her for failing to eradicate corruption and for presiding over the worst economic crisis faced by the country in more than two decades. They are demanding that she be removed from office.
The movement to oust Rousseff has been led by ordinary Brazilians who have grown tired of a government they believe is not delivering on its mandate. Importantly, while not everyone shares this view of Rousseff, the mass demonstrations have been allowed to proceed peacefully, with all parties respecting democratic rights and freedoms.
Simultaneously, last week the DA received confirmation that its motion of impeachment against President Jacob Zuma would be debated this coming Tuesday.
The DA has called for the president’s removal, in terms of the Constitution, because of his executive’s decision to ignore an order of the North Gauteng High Court by allowing Sudan’s president, Omar al-Bashir, to escape South Africa on June 15. By disregarding a judicial order, the government disregarded the Constitution.
The al-Bashir matter will form the basis of the motion against the president, but it symbolises the much wider failings of Zuma’s leadership. The president has much in common with Rousseff, having led South Africa down a corrupt road to an economic crisis.
The problem is that the motion was only published after National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete was threatened with legal action over her irrational and biased attempts to block it. Instead of welcoming the debate on the role played by the executive in al-Bashir’s escape in the spirit of democratic accountability, Mbete hid behind the defunct sub judice rule in a bid to prevent it. In doing so, she sought to shield the president.
A democracy is only as strong as its institutions. The motion is important in so far as it makes use of these institutions to hold the government to account. But as long as deployed ANC cadres and its majority in Parliament protect their own rather than honouring the Constitution, the legitimacy of these institutions is undermined and their function constrained.
Our democracy has been greatly undermined by the president and his executive, who have dodged accountability on Nkandla, Marikana, al-Bashir and the economic crisis. The example set by the president, through his disregard for institutions such as the Public Protector, creates a political climate that condones institutional disdain and corruption at all levels. This is particularly destructive at a local government level, where it results in service-delivery failures.
Moreover, it serves to decrease economic confidence by increasing the perception of corruption and political instability. This ultimately results in job losses. To strengthen our democracy, we need to remove those who undermine it. This must start with the president. There is an important lesson to be learnt from what is happening in Brazil in this regard. Democratic change must come from the bottom up. From the voters.
The only way the DA will be able to bring about real change and deliver a society based on freedom, fairness and opportunity is if the voters empower us to do so.
I take hope in the recent victories in by-elections in ANC strongholds, such as Nelsville in Mpumalanga, where the DA went from 31% in 2013 to 54% this year. The tide is turning against the ANC.
The DA cannot win this fight alone, but together we can succeed in realising a South Africa where our political freedoms are matched by economic opportunities. That is the DA’s vision for our country.