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21 August 2017 15:48 (South Africa)
South Africa

Elections: DA’s Mmusi Maimane files papers to demand early national poll

  • Marianne Merten
    Marianne-Merten.jpg
    Marianne Merten
  • South Africa
Photo: Leader of the DA (Democratic Alliance) Maimane Mmusi speaks prior to a motion of no confidence vote against South African President Jacob Zuma in a sitting of parliament in Cape Town, South Africa 08 August 2017.  Mark Wessels / POOL (EPA)

In the game of motions, the DA on Thursday files its parliamentary papers for an early election in terms of Section 50(1) of the Constitution. DA leader Mmusi Maimane said the ANC may have won the no confidence vote in Parliament, but it has lost the confidence of South Africans, who must now have the opportunity to have their say at the ballot box. “Bring it on!” he said on Women’s Day. By MARIANNE MERTEN.

If Tuesday’s constitutional motion of no confidence showed anything it is that the ANC closes ranks – regardless of its fractures and factions, and misgivings about the leadership of its president Jacob Zuma, embroiled in a series of scandals for years now, and the damage wrecked as the ANC is increasingly linked to corruption, including State Capture and the #GuptaLeaks.

Yes, at least 35 governing party MPs chose to support the motion in a secret ballot that facilitated a vote of conscience, or to abstain. Is this breaking of ranks significant? In many ways it is. But anyone is sorely mistaken for thinking there could be an open break in favour of the DA, or the broader opposition, among those in the ANC deeply concerned about the state of their party in the times of #GuptaLeaks, the spread and depth of corruption and money in politics, in provincial and local governments and the ANC government’s inability to fundamentally change South Africa’s underlying structural dynamics, perpetuating unemployment, poverty and inequality.

A day after the no confidence motion was defeated with 198 votes against, 177 for and nine abstentions, the DA announced its next move: a motion to dissolve Parliament to go to elections early, possibly in terms of Section 50 of the Constitution once three years since the last elections have passed.

(Tuesday) Jacob Zuma survived yet again, protected by the party that elected him twice and shielded him from accountability countless times. South Africa now needs a new beginning. We believe the voters should now have the chance to express their opinion about the conduct of the ANC in defending Jacob Zuma,” said Maimane. “We are sure that the ANC has lost the confidence of the majority of South Africans. We say, bring it on! Let’s fight an election for the future of our country, and let’s do it now. By the time Jacob Zuma has destroyed the ANC completely, and the country, it will be too late. Let’s let the country choose a new beginning, now.”

But in deciding to bring this motion, the DA effectively proves the ANC correct when the governing party said it wanted to topple a democratically elected ANC government. And the ANC did not waste much time on Wednesday to make exactly that point, saying it was correct to have voted against the no confidence motion. “This move by the DA exposes what the ANC has always stated, that the motion of no confidence in President Zuma is not about the President but an attempt at regime change through Parliament,” the Office of the ANC Chief Whip in Parliament said in a statement. “This planned motion by the DA shows that the DA does not respect our democracy and the electorate of South Africa… We will defeat this planned motion as we have defeated all other attempts by the opposition to overthrow our popularly elected government.”

The rhetoric of an opposition-driven coup d’etat and regime change that not only dominated the ANC parliamentary debate on Tuesday – itself a deep worry in a constitutional democracy which permits motions of no confidence – but also the days of mobilistation in defence of the ANC and the revolution.

Not only was such spin on public display outside Parliament in the aftermath of the no confidence votes, where Zuma thanked his supporters, saying the “ANC is big” and would win in 2019, again. It was again on display in Galeshewe, Kimberley, where Zuma delivered the national Women’s Day address. “Zuma, Zuma, Zuma!” the crowd chanted before he could start talking. Earlier ANC Women’s League president Bathabile Dlamini, who is also Social Development Minister, picked up the rhetoric, describing Zuma as “tortured” and “persecuted” for leading the ANC. “The enemy started its tricks long ago…” she told the audience, adding the enemy knew it could not oust him or the ANC. Northern Cape Premier Sylvia Lucas had set the tone, hailing Zuma: “We are here to show them you are our president.”

Orchestrated, no doubt, but directly connected into the long-standing, and to date, successful victim narrative that saw Zuma supported during his 2005 rape trial and, following his acquittal, into the ANC top post at the 2007 Polokwane ANC national conference.

How such orchestration by known supporters of Zuma plays itself out in the four months to the December ANC conference remains to be seen, as questions remain as to whether a new leadership, unencumbered by scandal and State Capture, first is elected, and second, could at least start rebuilding the ANC.

Would an early election change what commentators have described as an abiding loyalty to the ANC, marked by the choice of staying away from the polls rather than switching to other parties?

A quick comparison between the 2009 and 2014 election results posted by the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) shows the ANC lost around 300,000 votes, and dropped from 65.9% of polling support to 62%, but remained the largest party. This despite the DA boosting its numbers to just over four million, from 2.9-million, and the EFF clinching 1.1-million votes in its debut as other opposition parties haemorrhaged support, with Cope the biggest loser.

In the August 2016 local government elections the ANC dropped to 54% in the wake of the Nkandla debacle and other scandals, loosing control of Johannesburg, Tshwane and Nelson Mandela Bay Metro. A look at the IEC results shows the ANC lost half a million votes, down to 6-million, in comparison to the DA increasing its support to 26.9%, or 8-million votes, up from 23.94% and 6.3-million votes.

So the ANC’s voting support is in decline, but not sufficiently so to dramatically change the political landscape. The DA may be tone deaf to such dynamics, or just wanting to push the point in a stunt to appeal to its electoral base. DM

Photo: Leader of the DA (Democratic Alliance) Maimane Mmusi speaks prior to a motion of no confidence vote against South African President Jacob Zuma in a sitting of parliament in Cape Town, South Africa 08 August 2017. Mark Wessels / POOL (EPA)

  • Marianne Merten
    Marianne-Merten.jpg
    Marianne Merten
  • South Africa

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