Can No. 1 be im­peached?

The DA claims there are grounds to call for Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma

CityPress - - Voices - Voices@ city­press. co. za Maimane is leader of the DA. Fol­low him on Twit­ter @mmusimaima­ne

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.

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