Un­ex­pected win­ners and sore losers

The Star Early Edition - - OPINION & ANALYSIS - Let’s Talk Frankly Power Per­spec­tive

Ta­bane is the au­thor of and host of on Power 98.7 – Sun­days to Thurs­days from 9.30pm to mid­night.

ANY­ONE who truly cares about the ANC and its elec­toral for­tunes in 2019 can­not cel­e­brate the events of last week in Par­lia­ment. Not since 1994 has the ANC in Par­lia­ment been so hu­mil­i­ated, with a united op­po­si­tion walk­ing away as vic­tors in the court of strat­egy and tac­tics, not­with­stand­ing the su­per­fi­cial de­feat of the fa­mous mo­tion of no-con­fi­dence.

The ANC, as a sup­posed leader of so­ci­ety, had its moral bank­ruptcy fully dis­played as the ma­jor­ity of its mem­bers of Par­lia­ment chose party over coun­try even though the choices have never been clearer. What is worse is that there are some in the ANC who gen­uinely be­lieve that this was a vic­tory of some kind over the op­po­si­tion.

Noth­ing could be fur­ther from the truth. Moral lead­er­ship re­quires ex­tra­or­di­nary mea­sures in times of cri­sis and also re­quires men and women of courage to do some­thing that is not busi­ness as usual.

Per­haps our fore­bears an­tic­i­pated mo­ments such as these when they de­signed a sys­tem that al­lows for a se­cret bal­lot. With our his­tory of dis­en­fran­chise­ment such a sys­tem was clearly meant to re­duce the power of party ap­pa­ratchiks even in a party-cen­tred elec­toral sys­tem and to el­e­vate com­mit­ment to the big­ger and broader cause of the peo­ple, as con­tained in the oath of of­fice that in­di­vid­ual mem­bers are ex­pected to take upon as­sum­ing of­fice.

The end­point of such a se­cret vote was a con­fir­ma­tion that our con­sti­tu­tional democ­racy is higher than loy­alty to a mere party line. Ev­ery­one un­der­stood that the dec­la­ra­tion for a se­cret vote was ex­actly meant to al­low mem­bers of Par­lia­ment to vote as they see fit and not nec­es­sar­ily as dic­tated to by their par­ties.

This el­e­ment of our democ­racy is not di­a­met­ri­cally op­posed to our party po­lit­i­cal sys­tem. In fact it can serve to strengthen it by mak­ing po­lit­i­cal par­ties un­der­stand that they don’t have un­fet­tered power over their mem­bers but that ev­ery­one is ex­pected to con­form to the con­sti­tu­tion.

Clearly the ANC seems to need this kind of moral babysit­ting from time to time if the Nkandla bun­gle is any­thing to go by. The ma­jor­ity the ANC wields in Par­lia­ment is clearly not ab­so­lute and has to take into ac­count the con­sti­tu­tional con­scripts of ac­count­abil­ity to the peo­ple. Ig­nor­ing this has al­ready cost the ANC a lit­tle in re­cent times and irked the high­est court in the land.

Given this con­text, three things must be con­sid­ered.

First, the de­ci­sion of the Speaker rises to the chal­lenge of non-par­ti­san­ship be­cause the pos­si­bil­ity of a loss of the vote by the ANC was real un­der the cir­cum­stances. In other words, it is believ­able that the ANC de­sired an open vote be­cause it was in doubt about the bal­ance of forces in its own ranks.

The Speaker did the right thing, lead­ing the way for the other mem­bers to do what is right by the peo­ple rather than what is nar­rowly right by the party. For this she must be com­mended. Af­ter her hor­ri­ble per­for­mance, pre­sid­ing over the fifth demo­cratic Par­lia­ment, she re­deemed her­self suit­ably with this one ac­tion that al­most made Pres­i­dent Zuma suf­fer the con­se­quences of his con­duct for once.

Scep­tics sug­gest that this ac­tion was some­how con­nected to her own mis­placed am­bi­tion to be­come the head of state. I don’t be­lieve that for one minute and refuse to al­low even my own bias about her poor lead­er­ship skills to sway me oth­er­wise. I be­lieve credit must be given where it is due.

Sec­ond, the 26 mem­bers of the ANC who showed the courage of their con­vic­tions must also be com­mended for de­fy­ing a cor­rupted and cap­tured party, bereft of any moral com­pass.

This act might have earned them a place in the an­nals of his­tory. While their ac­tion did not re­sult in the demise of Zuma, it sent a strong warn­ing shot to the loot­ers of the state that their days are truly num­bered. It has also em­bold­ened the op­po­si­tion not to stop try­ing be­cause the ANC will al­ways vote as a united bloc.

It fur­ther­more gave hope to South Africans that they still have some pub­lic rep­re­sen­ta­tives with eth­i­cal back­bones. In a twist of irony, it has also given new hope to some of us who were be­gin­ning to lose hope in the project to save the ANC from it­self.

It is clear that the sal­va­tion of the ANC will not come from its for­mal struc­tures but will come from men and women of in­tegrity who won’t fear to defy the struc­tures if need be.

Fi­nally, any­one who analy­ses the cur­rent ANC care­fully will agree that a mul­ti­plic­ity of ac­tions, es­pe­cially ones un­con­strained by a dog­matic party line, is the only way the ANC can keep its 11-mil­lion voter sup­port base. Hold­ing on to power will re­quire a strat­egy that will ap­peal to the sen­si­bil­i­ties of all those vot­ers and not merely to the card-car­ry­ing mem­bers who might still be pre­cious about re­spect for the party’s ar­chaic demo­cratic cen­tral­ism.

Given this anal­y­sis, it would be dan­ger­ous in the ex­treme for the ANC to con­duct a witch hunt seek­ing to pun­ish those that voted against the party line. This ac­tion will not be pos­si­ble with­out once again break­ing the law. The Con­sti­tu­tional Court has pro­nounced it­self very clearly on the mat­ter of in­tim­i­da­tion and reprisals and the Speaker has also made a clear rul­ing on the mat­ter.

Pun­ish­ing those that voted oth­er­wise would be a vi­o­la­tion of the law and bad PR for the ANC. Some in the ANC seem, how­ever, to have painted them­selves into a cor­ner where they again in­tend to put the party’s moral de­prav­ity on full dis­play. This would nul­lify the good that may come out of this whole saga for the ANC, at a time that it needs ev­ery good will in the world to hold on to power, come 2019.

GET­TING IT RIGHT THIS TIME: Speaker of Par­lia­ment Baleka Mbete re­deemed her­self by opt­ing for a se­cret vote in the Zuma no-con­fi­dence vote, the writer says.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.