In 100 years’ time a young South African researching our history will come upon a trove of material documenting what is about to go down in the country in the next few days. In the archive will be a roll call and a public record of those who spoke out, those who supported the current ANC leadership as embodied in President Jacob Zuma and his cronies, and those who chose to remain silent. No matter whether the vote is secret, open or happens at all, the lines have been drawn, hands have been shown. By MARIANNE THAMM.
The 101 ANC Stalwarts – as they have become known – including all the survivors of the Rivonia Treason Trial, between them, have a rich and deep institutional memory.
These are all veterans who have been nourished by the party that is today a hollowed-out shattered shell of what it once was. On Sunday they penned an open letter to ANC MPs on the eve of the Motion of No Confidence debate in President Zuma in Parliament on Tuesday – the party’s “moment of truth”, they say.
The letter is heavy with the weight of the history the stalwarts understand will burden the event.
“With Parliament preparing itself for one its most important sessions since our young democracy came into being, the eyes of the nation and indeed of all democrats focus on each and every one of you who will take your seats on that day, ready to make your mark in the history books,” wrote the stalwarts to ANC MPs.
The statement comes a few days after that of family of the late Dullah Omar, the young democracy’s first Minister of Justice, who publicly requested that the ANC remove Omar’s name from an ANC Western Cape Metro region which announced it would be marching in support of President Jacob Zuma on Tuesday.
On Sunday another group of veterans, those from the United Democratic Front (UDF) “of the 80s in the Western Cape” also issued a statement saluting those ANC MPs who have taken the “bold” step to declare their support of the Motion of No Confidence “in favour of our people and our beloved country”.
The UDF stalwarts too acknowledge that “we have reached this moment in our history” and that the “principled stance” would “turn the course of history in favour of all freedom loving people who value democracy and deserve your leadership”.
The Office of Bishop Malusi Mpumlwana, General Secretary of the South African Council Of Churches (SACC) which spearheaded the fight against apartheid as well as played an important role in the country’s negotiations in the 1990s, also issued a statement calling on MPs to “rise above party politics and use their vote to uphold the best interests of the constituencies they are called to serve”.
Bishop Mpumlwana said that the SACC hoped this would be an opportunity to “turn the tide on questionable leadership practices not to be squandered on political filibustering; but rather be viewed as another chance to end the rampant corruption encapsulated by the much lamented state capture we find ourselves in”.
The council termed Zuma’s leadership “immoral” and called on people of faith to join organised marches and symbols of protest for “the end of the Zuma Presidency” which was viewed as “necessary for national renewal, rebuilding trust in our institutions and the tackling of the myriad of challenges plaguing the country”.
Religious leaders had met in April last year after the Constitutional Court ruling which found that Zuma had violated his oath of office with regard to the Public Protectors findings on Nkandla.
“At that time we cited a number of moral issues that persuaded us that we needed to advise President Zuma to use the ConCourt judgment as a moment for him to step aside. This was before the gargantuan Guptagate that has now embroiled and mired the governmental environment, with even greater loss of trust and confidence in the decision processes of the Office of the President..”
Bishop Mpumlwana said the public cry for a “positive vote on this matter” arose because “unlike in any other vote in the Assembly, where the majority party is predictably going to vote for its policies, this is a vote by members on the efficacy and morality of government, where the majority party’s own record in government would be remedied. Therefore, the fear that members of the majority party would be sanctioned for voting with their consciences suggests that the members’ duty to the nation must be subordinated to the ill considered interests of a party”.
The recently-formed South African Federation of Trade Unions called on its members, “the workers and every South African disgusted by the current pillaging of the resources linked to President Jacob Zuma and his cronies linked to his administration, to join the civil society led marches tomorrow the 7 August in Cape Town and in every corner of the country.”
This was, read a statement issued by SAFTU General Secretary Zwelinzima Vavi, Deputy General Secretary Moleko Phakedi and Acting Spokesperson Patrick Craven, a position “fully mandated” by the founding congress of SAFTU.
“We are not abstainers but soldiers in the front rows of the people’s army to stop our country becoming a kleptocracy. We shall form part of all genuine efforts of our people to stop Zuma and his cronies from stealing the dreams of our people.”
But the statement that speaks most plaintively and directly to ANC MPs is that by the stalwarts who remind them that “the guideline of how you should approach your role on the day, as required of you in terms of the Constitution of the Republic, was outlined in the clearest of terms by the Chief Justice in the Constitutional Court determination regarding whether the Speaker had powers to provide for a secret ballot during voting on the motion of no confidence against (in this case) President Jacob Zuma.
“As Stalwarts and Veterans of the ANC, we acknowledge that this will probably be one of the most important, if not difficult, ballots you are called upon to cast your vote in. However, your burden should be made easier by the covenant you struck with the people of South Africa when you swore allegiance to the Constitution and, as a Member of Parliament, pledged never to conduct yourself in a manner that will diminish its integrity and thus that of the republic of South Africa.”
The elders warned that South Africans were aware that the “sanctity and security” of the state was “under direct attack from a felonious nexus of politicians, state officials and privateers. We are witness to larceny on a grand scale, leaving the country not only impoverished, but also increasingly in the hands of criminalised and compromised governance.”
The motion of no-confidence in President Jacob Zuma, said the party stalwarts, is an inevitable outcome of the myriad scandals in which the president had “regrettably embroiled himself and his office and which continue to dog him and his executive, with ongoing revelations that leave little doubt as to their veracity”.
“To replace the obligation of advancing the ANC’s historic mission with the burden of defending the unacceptable and indefensible is inconceivable, but sadly that is the reality you are confronted with. But when the time comes for you to cast your vote on the motion of no confidence, it will ultimately come down to your own personal commitment to our country, and consequently the ANC, and a recognition that you are prepared to uphold and to help and contribute to the restoration of the highest ethical standards and values society expects of our organisation and its parliamentarians.”
The statement ends with a sincere and heartfelt plea: “So, 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, not only of the country but that of the ANC as an act that struck a blow for the rescuing of the ANC… The time is now!” DM
Original photo: South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma arrives with Speaker of Parliament Baleka Mbete to give his State of the Nation address at the opening session of Parliament in Cape Town, February 11, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings