PRIOR to the motion of no confidence in President Jacob Zuma in the National Assembly, former finance minister Pravin Gordhan, among others, urged ANC MPs to be guided by their consciences, implying they should break ranks with their party and vote with the opposition.
The thrust of Gordhan’s argument was that under Zuma, the presidency had become corrupt and morally compromised. Therefore a vote against Zuma’s continuance in office would be in the national interest.
The further implication was that voting for Zuma to go would, in the long-term, be in the interest of the ANC. The reasoning was that, unless the party was to return to the values for which the liberation Struggle was fought, it would wreak its own destruction.
The counter-argument by the ANC hierarchy was that ANC MPs were bound by obligation to the voters who had elected them to vote the way the party instructed.
MPs are not elected as individuals, but as members of their party. To vote against the party line would be to overturn the logic of democracy.
A further argument put forward by ANC speakers in the debate was that the opposition was seeking unconstitutional “regime change”. This was correctly challenged. The opposition pointed out the motion had been put in terms of the constitution, and that they were seeking to replace the president, and not the ANC government.
Although the ANC’s argument was manifestly “rubbish” (to quote Wits academic Ivor Sarakinsky), the debate highlighted a very real tension at the heart of South