On 1 December, the day headlines would traditionally be dominated by HIV/Aids coverage, local news media were focused on the attempt to impeach Western Cape Premier Helen Zille. It was never likely to succeed, given the DA’s position in the provincial legislature, and by day end Zille’s spokesperson said there was “nothing more that could be done” to the premier. By MARELISE VAN DER MERWE.
After a number of tense days, the ANC’s bid to have Premier Zille impeached was ultimately unsuccessful on Tuesday. The party failed to convince 28 members of the legislature to vote for impeachment – instead, the DA voted to amend the motion for full endorsement of the premier. In the end, 23 members voted to change the motion and 14 voted against it, while 23 endorsed Zille fully. The debate, which was perhaps always destined to comprise more puff than due process, involved both sides throwing a few choice punches.
“The ANC has no case. They have no grounds to bring forward this issue,” Zille’s spokesperson, Michael Mpofu, said.
Zille maintained the impeachment motion made a mockery of the provincial legislature, and that the ANC had made “wild accusations” that were the “dead opposite” of the truth. She alleged that ANC Western Cape leader, Marius Fransman, was using “desperate” tactics as unsavoury details about him were being uncovered. He should submit to a lifestyle audit, she added. The motion was “pathetic”, chief whip, Mark Wiley, said.
According to Wiley, Fransman had failed to meet a deadline to declare his assets for two years, and should prove that he had not received funding from gangsters. Speaking to Daily Maverick, Mpofu said the onus was on the ANC to prove that it was not associating with gangsters.
“The Mail & Guardian reported it, but the ANC is not denying it,” he said. “If these allegations were not true they should have raised the issue with the press ombudsman or sued the Mail & Guardian.”
“A notorious underworld figure closely associated with members of the Zuma family allegedly told other gang bosses that President Zuma is ‘just like us’,” Zille added. “This is what a newspaper has reported. Will President Zuma sue this newspaper? Will he set the record straight, or is the record already set straight by the newspaper reports?”
From the ANC’s side, however, there was by no means silence. “You are a liar; Zille lies,” one member shouted during proceedings on Tuesday; another added, “You must rot in hell!”
Fransman said the tender specifications for Paul Scheepers were so wide that there was far too much room for interception. He further said Scheepers did not have the appropriate tax clearance. Richard Dyantyi reiterated the charge that a public servant should not be hired to provide client services.
“It is clear that [Zille] is not fit for purpose to proceed as premier, that she transgressed laws and that her misconduct in the whole spy saga is so serious that Zille must fall,” Fransman originally charged.
Earlier in the day, the party had accused Speaker, Sharna Fernandez, of being unfair when she failed to move the debate ahead in proceedings. The DA, however, voted against it. “Where is the justice in that?” Fransman complained.
Fernandez reminded him that such changes had to be decided on unanimously. On Twitter, Zille countered:
“The ANC is abusing the Legislature again. They did not ask for a change of programme in the Programming Committee, and are demanding it now.”
She added that the ANC sounded like they had been drinking “im-peach-ment Mampoer”.
Zille went through the day sounding remarkably confident, following the strongly worded essay she had earlier penned, entitled “Anatomy of an impeachment debate”.
The motion to impeach Zille was brought forward in terms of Section 130 (3) of the Constitution. According to this, a provincial legislature, by a resolution adopted with a supporting vote of at least two-thirds of its members, may remove the Premier from office on grounds of:
(a) a serious violation of the Constitution or the law;
(b) serious misconduct; or
(c) inability to perform the functions of office.
“I am fascinated to hear how they will try to motivate (let alone prove) any of the above. The state has not even charged me, let alone found me guilty of a serious violation of the constitution or the law, or any form of misconduct (let alone serious misconduct). And it will be interesting to see what evidence the ANC will produce to prove that I am unable to fulfil my functions,” Zille wrote.
“I go into a debate tomorrow, not knowing what law or which section of the Constitution I am alleged to have violated. I have no idea what the basis is of any “serious misconduct” I am alleged to have committed. And I have no idea where I have failed to fulfil my functions. It violates the principles of natural justice to make me answer unspecified (yet extremely serious) allegations.”
The ANC Western Cape’s Facebook page did not have any news updates following the vote, but was still sporting a photo of Zille with the caption Die über Spion, Fuhrer von der West Kaap (the top spy and Fuhrer of the Western Cape).
While Zille was facing the motion to impeach, the DA launched its counter-offensive, namely a march on the ANC’s offices at Sahara House to protest President Jacob Zuma and other ANC leaders’ alleged relationship with gang leaders.
“We must find out whether Quinton ‘Mr Big’ Marinus had his tax problems ‘sorted’ by President Zuma. That would be reason for impeachment,” she Tweeted regarding the march.
It was a fairly small gathering of perhaps a hundred people, and the premier was told to “Voetsek”, both verbally and by middle digit.
The premier, however, was unfazed, and delivered her speech.
“We are gathered here today with a clear message on behalf of the people of this province, who live in the most violent and drug-ridden communities in South Africa,” she said.
“We are here to say to Zuma’s National Government: Give the people the boots on the ground they need, give them the resources in their police stations, give them detectives, give them cops who are capable of combating gangs, give them station commanders who genuinely care about working with the community, give them hope, give them safety, give them the reassurance that the highest office in the land is not plotting with gangsters to starve our people of desperately needed policing resources.”
In the Western Cape, there is roughly one gang-related murder a day (not counting attempted murders) and there were approximately 100,000 gang members in 2013. Children as young as 14 are arrested on gang-related murder charges. Almost two-thirds of Cape Town’s murders took place in just 10 of the 60npolice station precincts in the city, according to the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) – most of these falling in gang-ridden areas. Throughout the country, many police stations are under-resourced.
“We are here to defend the development that can take place, and the opportunities that can open up for people when government cares, so that freedom can reign in Manenberg, Mitchells Plein, Nyanga, Khayelitsha, Atlantis, Paarl, Masiphumelele, Gugulethu, Delft, Mfuleni, and Bishop Lavis.
“If President Zuma is meeting and colluding with gang bosses for political purposes, he is setting an example that others will follow. Then we should not be surprised by reports and affidavits that senior police officers allegedly do the same thing,” Zille said.
Last week, the Hawks confirmed that they were investigating Scheepers regarding how he came to possess a “grabber”, the controversial device which can be used to intercept mobile phone calls, SMSes, e-mails and some apps.
Scheepers, a “spook”, was suspended from the SAPS following his arrest in May. Allegations surfaced that Scheepers had used the grabber to intercept cellphones belonging to Zille’s Cabinet, and certain DA councillors that the premier regarded as potential opposition. Zille countered that she had hired Scheepers solely to debug DA members’ phones.
Mpofu told Daily Maverick that a motion to impeach was the most severe action that could be taken against the premier; failing this, “there is nothing further that can be done to her”.
“It’s political grandstanding. Just yesterday they shifted the goalposts.
“It’s something they’ve been ‘working on’ for a while, but there can be nothing outside of it. It’s the end of it for them. It’s really quite a feeble attempt for a day’s worth of coverage, in our opinion.” DM
Photo: Helen Zille arrives for the State of the Nation address at parliament, Cape Town, South Africa, 17 June 2014. EPA/NIC BOTHMA.