Dark side of se­cret bal­lot

The Star Early Edition - - WORLD -

SOUTH Africans will be wait­ing with bated breath to­day, ahead of a vote by se­cret bal­lot by MPs in Par­lia­ment, fol­low­ing a de­bate in a mo­tion of no con­fi­dence against Ja­cob Zuma.

Count­less cases could be made out for him to be re­moved from of­fice – and all would be valid.

Chief among these is that his lead­er­ship of the coun­try has been unin­spired. His term of of­fice has been blighted by al­le­ga­tions of cor­rup­tion and the ad­di­tion of a new term to the lex­i­con of poor gov­er­nance: state cap­ture. And by shuf­fling and reshuf­fling his cab­i­net, he has driven the South African econ­omy to a po­si­tion of junk sta­tus.

Zuma has been un­der siege from within and with­out. The tri­par­tite al­liance is in shreds. Both the SACP and Cosatu have called re­lent­lessly for his re­moval. He has been crit­i­cised by mem­bers of his own party – even from within his cab­i­net. And key pres­i­den­tial ap­point­ments have been over­turned by the courts.

This week, ANC stal­warts and vet­er­ans made a plea to the MPs who hold the key to Zuma’s fu­ture – those who rep­re­sent the party. It would come down to their com­mit­ment to the coun­try and the ANC, the stal­warts and vet­er­ans said in a let­ter.

“Your bur­den should be made easier by the covenant you struck with the peo­ple of South Africa when you swore allegiance to the con­sti­tu­tion,” they said. “As you ap­proach the mo­ment of truth, please ap­pre­ci­ate that the per­sonal de­ci­sion you make in this vote of no con­fi­dence will not sim­ply be judged in the weeks to come, but will be writ­ten into the his­tory.”

ANC chief whip Jack­son Mthembu said vot­ing in favour of the mo­tion would be tan­ta­mount to throw­ing a nu­clear bomb at South Africa.

We be­lieve the ANC must take re­spon­si­bil­ity for Zuma’s hold on the pres­i­dency. It has the power to re­call a pres­i­dent, as it did with Thabo Mbeki. But it chose to keep Zuma in the pres­i­dency.

To­day’s vote holds grave con­se­quences for democ­racy, but not be­cause of Zuma’s in­cum­bency. We be­lieve the threat to democ­racy lies in the no­tion of a prece­dent-set­ting se­cret bal­lot.

What would hap­pen, we won­der, if, say, in five, 10 or 15 years’ time, a se­cret bal­lot is pro­posed to ex­tend a pres­i­dent’s term of of­fice, or to bring back the death penalty, or, heaven for­bid, to pass a se­ries of laws dis­crim­i­nat­ing against a par­tic­u­lar group?

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