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

Finweek English Edition - - OPINION - Ed­i­to­rial@fin­ Alices­tine Oc­to­ber is a free­lance po­lit­i­cal reporter.

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 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

Baleka Mbete

Lindiwe Sisulu

Mo­go­eng Mo­go­eng Chief Jus­tice

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