ANC side­lines con­sti­tu­tion and its own pro­cesses in se­cret ‘talks’

Party puts it­self above coun­try in the way it is han­dling the ‘tran­si­tion’

Sunday Times - - Opinion - By LUKHONA MN­GUNI Mn­guni is a PhD can­di­date in the Mau­rice Webb Race Re­la­tions Unit at the Uni­ver­sity of KwaZulu-Na­tal.

● Some peo­ple have been say­ing South Africa is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing its own Zim­babwe mo­ment. The point be­ing made is that Cyril Ramaphosa’s at­tempts to ne­go­ti­ate Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma’s exit re­sem­ble a silent, quasi coup d’état.

It is not clear what struc­ture of the ANC gave Ramaphosa the man­date to in­di­vid­u­ally ne­go­ti­ate an exit with a com­pro­mised and dis­cred­ited pres­i­dent.

This un­cer­tainty has led to un­prece­dented po­lit­i­cal de­vel­op­ments that have put the work of the state on hold and led to a lead­er­ship vac­uum as the head of state and gov­ern­ment is grounded by the newly elected ANC pres­i­dent.

The post­pone­ment of the state of the na­tion ad­dress and the can­cel­la­tion of the ANC’s spe­cial na­tional ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee meet­ing were clear in­di­ca­tors Ramaphosa wants to han­dle Zuma’s exit on his own terms. This shifted fo­cus from the ANC to its pres­i­dent.

The ANC has al­ways stated, through its pre­vi­ous sec­re­tary-gen­eral Gwede Man­tashe, that it can only ap­peal to the con­science of its de­ployed pres­i­dent of the coun­try to re­sign. This cor­rect ob­ser­va­tion has clearly been lost on Ramaphosa.

Zuma’s na­tion­wide un­pop­u­lar­ity stems from how he has mis­gov­erned the coun­try, with a legacy of cor­rup­tion per­pet­u­ated through a po­lit­i­cal syn­di­cate that led to what is now known as state cap­ture.

His re­call was al­ways go­ing to be an ur­gent task for the new lead­er­ship of the ANC. How­ever, the process towards achiev­ing it would be im­por­tant. What we have seen is in­sub­or­di­na­tion against both the coun­try’s con­sti­tu­tion and ANC party pro­cesses.

The pres­i­dent of the coun­try is elected by the Na­tional Assem­bly, upon which he or she ceases to be an MP. Un­like for or­di­nary MPs, the con­sti­tu­tion is de­signed so that the re­moval of the pres­i­dent is not based on ar­bi­trary machi­na­tions of their party. Sec­tions 89 (im­peach­ment) and 102 (mo­tion of no con­fi­dence) spell out clearly the con­di­tions un­der which a pres­i­dent should be re­called.

No one has au­thor­ity to force the pres­i­dent to re­sign, not even their de­ploy­ing po­lit­i­cal party.

When the ANC’s NEC in Septem­ber 2008 com­mit­ted such an ac­tion, giv­ing Thabo Mbeki a dead­line to re­sign, it was tan­ta­mount to a coup.

This point was made by the Rev Frank Chikane in his reflections about the events when he was di­rec­tor­gen­eral in the Pres­i­dency. The prin­ci­ple holds true to­day, ir­re­spec­tive of our feel­ings about Zuma. The coun­try has al­lowed Ramaphosa to trans­gress con­sti­tu­tion­al­ism through a eu­phemism about “talks on han­dling the tran­si­tion”. This tran­si­tion rests on a fic­ti­tious ar­gu­ment about two cen­tres of power.

The ANC wants so­ci­ety to be­lieve that Zuma must go sim­ply be­cause there is a new lead­er­ship at Luthuli House. This ar­gu­ment is op­por­tunis­tic as it is de­signed to mask Zuma’s in­ad­e­qua­cies.

The party is in­ward look­ing, fur­ther creat­ing dis­tance be­tween it­self and so­ci­ety by be­ing disin­gen­u­ous on the rea­sons for a Zuma re­call. If in­deed the prob­lem is two cen­tres of power, that is for the ANC to re­solve with­out drag­ging the coun­try and state in­sti­tu­tions into it. Zuma, the “con­sti­tu­tional delin­quent”, as de­scribed by EFF MP Mbuyiseni Nd­lozi, is ex­ploit­ing this. He re­sists leav­ing of­fice by drag­ging out the “talks” and pos­si­bly mak­ing bizarre de­mands. He knows that con­sti­tu­tion­ally, Ramaphosa has no au­thor­ity to em­bark on the path he chose.

Upon Zuma re­fus­ing to re­sign when ap­proached by the ANC top six, the party should have called an NEC meet­ing to agree on his re­call and gone to the Na­tional Assem­bly to ta­ble a mo­tion of no con­fi­dence.

This is called a cen­ter­ing process and con­sti­tu­tion­al­ism. In­stead, this new lead­er­ship fell into Zuma’s trap and re­lied on meet­ings whose de­tails may never be fully dis­closed to the pub­lic. In so do­ing, Ramaphosa sac­ri­ficed a part of his cred­i­bil­ity. One does not make a pact with the devil and hope to come out un­scathed. One can­not even be­gin to re­as­sure the coun­try that Ramaphosa did not agree to cer­tain de­mands by Zuma that could one day come back to haunt his lead­er­ship.

Through this ap­proach of clan­des­tine meet­ings Zuma will for­ever be a cloud over the fu­ture of this coun­try. The prob­lem is not Zuma but an ANC un­able and un­will­ing to cen­tre con­sti­tu­tion­al­ism.

This was made clear by ANC trea­surer-gen­eral Paul Mashatile. Speak­ing to in­vestors in Cape Town, he cat­e­gor­i­cally stated that the ANC had no ap­petite to oust Zuma through a par­lia­men­tary process.

Part of this comes from the de­sire to pos­ture the ANC as in charge and wield­ing power even over a rogue pres­i­dent. On the other hand, the ANC may have been fear­ful that some of its MPs would vote against the di­rec­tive of the party.

MPs now have some refuge in the Con­sti­tu­tional Court’s judg­ment on the se­cret bal­lot. They can refuse to be re­moved from of­fice sim­ply be­cause they voted in a way that their party did not like.

The ANC is ex­pected to act within the law. This time it has failed to do that, as it has on many oc­ca­sions since Zuma be­came its pres­i­dent. The events of the past week show the dan­gers of a democ­racy dom­i­nated by one party.

South Africans, ahead of 2019, need to think deeply about how the po­lit­i­cal land­scape ought to be re­de­fined. The ANC as a po­lit­i­cal party is not about to be healed of its cor­ro­sive fac­tion­al­ism and in­ter­nal power strug­gles. Th­ese are go­ing to am­plify un­til its next na­tional gen­eral coun­cil in 2020 and na­tional elec­tive con­fer­ence in 2022.

Even in the ab­sence of Zuma at the helm, the 106year-old lib­er­a­tion move­ment is un­able to think big­ger than it­self.

The pri­mary rea­son the party wants to re­move

Zuma is its fear that it may lose the elec­tions in 2019. It is less about all the many rea­sons that have been put for­ward by op­po­si­tion par­ties and com­pelling rea­sons de­rived from court judg­ments that led to mas­sive pub­lic protests call­ing for Zuma to leave of­fice.

The ANC stood by and de­fended Zuma, ac­cus­ing civil so­ci­ety or­gan­i­sa­tions of lead­ing some form of colour rev­o­lu­tion in­tended at regime change.

South Africans must be wary not to al­low the sidelin­ing of con­sti­tu­tion­al­ism as the un­tan­gling of Zuma’s stran­gle­hold on state in­sti­tu­tions is be­ing con­ducted by the new ANC lead­er­ship.

There must be great vig­i­lance never to al­low the ANC to put it­self first, ahead of the coun­try, as this will breed a new set of prob­lems that would con­tinue to erode the rule of law and un­der­mine pub­lic ac­count­abil­ity. This would lead to a form of qua­si­dic­ta­tor­ship run from Luthuli House.

This was ev­i­dent in Mashatile’s re­marks when he said the buck stops at Luthuli House. That is un­true. In the ex­er­cise of pub­lic of­fice, the buck stops in par­lia­ment — a song that needs to be played on re­peat un­til it sinks in prop­erly for the new ANC lead­er­ship.

Pic­ture: GCIS

Cyril Ramaphosa, the new pres­i­dent of the ANC, and Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma at the pres­i­den­tial guest­house in Pre­to­ria ear­lier this month. Has the party’s new leader fallen into Zuma’s trap?

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.