Dark side of secret ballot
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?