Stop waiting for a saviour
South Africans are still waiting for Parliament to vote on a motion of no confidence in the president. It’s time to stop relying on politicians to effect a change – it’s time to carry out our democratic duty and take this issue to Parliament as members of
andso we wait – again – on politicians and hallowed men and women masquerading as leaders to choose us, South Africans, above their own self-interest and greed. They seldom do. This time we are waiting on the Speaker of the National Assembly Baleka Mbete to decide the fate of the latest motion of no confidence in the president – a decision that will in all likelihood be heavily influenced by the ANC’s policy conference scheduled for end of June (before this issue of finweek went to print).
The conference will be the first platform where the battle lines will be drawn for the ANC factions. Leadership ambitions will inevitably take centre stage. Ahead of the event, ANC heavyweight Lindiwe Sisulu already cautioned against the conference “serving as a proxy war instead of doing the work of formulating policies that will change the lives of South Africans”.
Mbete has hinted at her own presidential ambitions. So how the dice falls in this first roll in the gamble that is factional politics in South Africa, will be telling of the road the Speaker may possibly take. In a statement released by Parliament, Mbete indicated that she is considering the matter.
Cynics would argue she is just buying time. With Parliament going into its mid-year recess it is unlikely that this decision will be made soon despite opposition parties’ insistence regarding the motion’s urgency. Mbete will also have to consult Parliament’s rules committee in deciding whether to have the motion through a secret ballot or not.
It is common cause that the ANC caucus in Parliament is divided, with some of its members having broken ranks by publicly condemning the state of the party’s current leadership. The ANC is also on record stating in Parliament that it trusts its MPs to toe the party line, regardless of whether the ballot is secret or not. President Jacob Zuma himself made it clear during question time in Parliament to all and indirectly and most importantly to Mbete as Speaker, that he believes the motion should be handled the same way it has always been – openly.
This after Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng in his ruling over the secret ballot case stated clearly the context wherein Mbete’s decision should be made. Mogoeng said it was up to the Speaker to ensure such a motion is a “genuine motion for the effective enforcement of accountability”. So what would constitute such a motion? If the Speaker’s credibility has been called into question many times, can we really trust her to do the right thing that will benefit South Africans?
Again we are waiting on political messiahs to save us from a president whose demise we have misguidedly made synonymous with the magic bullet for all of SA’s problems. It is not.
This motion, whether by secret ballot or not, will not remove Zuma from power. Like all the no confidence motions preceding it, it will be political grandstanding at best. The ANC, at its leadership conference in December, will ultimately decide Zuma’s fate. Not Parliament.
We should all stop indulging in “what ifs” from the comfort of our armchairs; stop disinheriting the most valuable commodity in any participatory democracy – our agency as a voter. There are no political messiahs that will save us. We only have ourselves to rely on.
Our democratic duty does not end at the ballot box, so in the month of July, while we wait on direction for the motion that may or may not be taken via a secret ballot and which may or may not remove the president, we will have the opportunity to do something other than just wishing.
Parliament’s constituency period is scheduled for 3 to 31 July and all MPs will have to go back to engage the public they represent. This presents an opportunity for citizens to effect some form of accountability from MPs themselves – the same (faceless) MPs we put our faith in.
So let’s engage them ourselves and drive home the very issues we feel cheated out of by our elected representatives. Let’s move away from wishful thinking and misguided anger, and make democracy practical. Let’s change research statistics that only about 3% of South Africans know the name of their local MP, and very few of us even know where the local constituency offices are. Do you?
Call me naïve, but this basic pragmatism trumps wishful thinking and rhetoric any day. (Visit www.pa.org.za to find your elected representatives.) We cannot afford to just sit back and wait on the political messiahs to choose us. They seldom will. It’s not personal, it’s just politics. Let’s choose us ourselves by effecting proper accountability we all yearn for. That is active citizenry. That is what will save us. We have an opportunity in July. Let’s use that opportunity. Speaker of the National Assembly
We cannot afford to just sit back and wait on the political messiahs to choose us. They seldom will. It’s not personal, it’s just politics. Let’s choose ourselves.
ANC stalwart and human settlements minister
Mogoeng Mogoeng Chief Justice