In the factional politicking towards the ANC December national elective conference, some circles are now pushing for the ANC MPs who broke the party line and voted for, or abstained in, last week’s no confidence motion in President Jacob Zuma to be disciplined. The vote was secret, and the ballot papers neither carried serial numbers nor MPs’ names. So unless someone confesses, how votes were cast remains speculation. But that’s not really the point. It is the silencing of those critical of the current state of ANC affairs. By MARIANNE MERTEN.
On Tuesday MPs return to work at Parliament, but last week’s no confidence motion vote of 198 against, 177 for and nine abstentions remains a talking point. The numbers show that at least 35 ANC MPs broke the party line and voted with the opposition, or abstained. Even as the ANC celebrated the defeat of the secret ballot no confidence motion on the back of cracking the whip with regime change and coup d’etat rhetoric, came the calls for disciplinary proceedings against those who failed to toe the party line.
On Monday a joint meeting between the ANC Provincial Working Committees (PWCs) of KwaZulu-Natal and Free State, widely regarded as Zuma allies, decided there must be “an urgent investigation” and that “those who are found guilty of undermining the party line be punished”.
According to a joint statement, “The attacks on the President of the ANC and the Republic, Comrade Jacob Zuma, are attacks towards the ANC… (T)he enemy of the ANC has infiltrated both the ANC and the alliance, causing the ANC to fight from within.”
The KwaZulu-Natal ANC drew a line in the sand shortly after last Tuesday’s no confidence vote in Parliament. “It is our firm view that during this hour of challenges and difficulties our movement must close rank while acting firm against those furthering divisions. We have faith in the capacity of the office of the secretary-general, Cde Gwede Mantashe, to investigate and discipline all those MPs who betrayed the party line.”
The ANC Youth League followed suit, saying: “…the ANC cannot be expected to fold its arms when within its midst, it harbours opposition forces who are willing to collapse their own government; we are calling for the removal of those MPs, especially those who have publicly rediscovered their conscience, which places them outside of the mandate of the organisation”.
And on Sunday Zuma also raised disciplinary action at the ANC cadres’ forum in Pongola in northern KwaZulu-Natal. “The issue of what happened in Parliament is something I will discuss with the officials. My business is that as the president I will express my dissatisfaction about the conduct of some members and why,” Zuma is quoted as saying in The Times. “You hear a person saying, ‘I’m following my conscience’. Please do not have your conscience, have an ANC conscience. The unity of the ANC is key and paramount to solving problems.”
According to the SABC, Zuma also said that if the party discipline was broken, “the ANC must take you to the disciplinary committee…”, adding later, “People who have double agendas within the ANC must leave those who are loyal to the party.”
Whether Zuma raised his dissatisfaction at Monday’s regular meeting of the top six officials, or whether it was discussed at the ANC National Working Committee (NWC), is in many ways immaterial. Even if there was a firm decision to discipline those ANC MPs who failed to toe the party line, it would have to be signed off by the National Executive Commission (NEC), the governing party’s top decision-making structure between national conferences. The next meeting is about six weeks away, and the bottom line remains that the vote was secret – and untraceable.
The ANC in Parliament said it would analyse the secret ballot vote, and why more of its MPs were absent aside from the six apologies officially received. It cautioned against simply going with circulated lists of ANC MPs, who did not toe the party line, which included parliamentarians who had died or left Parliament. Such lists were “bogus” and should be dismissed, the ANC parliamentary caucus said, adding that it was “a dangerous ploy to incite mistrust and initiate a witch hunt”.
But the threat of the big stick of disciplinary action now hangs over an ANC parliamentary caucus that is as divided as the governing party. And there’s a chill at a time when MPs are meant to be dealing with the #GuptaLeaks and other instances of corruption, service delivery failures and firm oversight of, among other things, governance and financial turmoil at SAA or the Central Energy Fund as part of Parliament’s constitutional mandate.
The flip side of the ANC arguing for the defeat of the opposition motion of no confidence in Zuma, aside from invoking regime change rhetoric to close the ANC ranks, was action on the recognised public concerns linked to #GuptaLeaks and corruption. And so, in the run-up to the no confidence motion, various ANC leaders publicly and repeatedly indicated support for an urgent commission of inquiry into state capture. In reality, this cannot go ahead until after October when Zuma’s court review of the Public Protector’s State of Capture remedial action is heard – while also emphasising steps by parliamentary committees.
This assurance of parliamentary action followed official instructions in June to four committees to “urgently” deal with state capture claims and to “ensure immediate engagement with the concerned ministers to ensure that Parliament gets to the bottom of the allegations”. According to House Chairperson for Committees Cedric Frolick: “The committees have been urged to begin with the work and report their recommendations to the House urgently.”
To date only the public enterprises committee has prepared for an inquiry into Eskom, including the debacle of coal contracts linked to Gupta-associated companies and Brian Molefe’s controversial return to head the power utility after a three-month stint as an ANC MP. The exact terms of reference and dates for this inquiry are expected to emerge on Wednesday.
The transport committee previously cited a jam-packed legislative programme, while no indication of such inquiries was forthcoming from the mineral resources committee.
The home affairs committee in late June accepted a briefing by Home Affairs Director-General Mkuseli Apleni on the naturalisation of various Gupta family members through a legally permissible ministerial discretion by its former minister Malusi Gigaba, who is now Finance Minister. Despite acknowledgement then that the department had failed to submit this list to Parliament, as is legally required, it’s taken some six weeks. On Monday it was finally submitted to Parliament, confirming that while several Gupta family members were granted naturalised citizenship, Ajay Gupta was not among them.
This uneven progress in the committees directed to get to the bottom of State Capture highlights that the ANC parliamentary caucus is not above the fractures of the governing ANC, and is closely tied also to the State Capture saga and its links between the Gupta family, its businesses and associates to politicians and senior public service officials in Zuma’s administration. Never mind other scandals linked to Zuma such as the Nkandla debacle.
In the factional jockeying ahead of the December ANC national elective conference, the invocation of disciplinary action is a handy tool to direct the Byzantine manoeuvrings in a specific direction, as was the closing of ranks against what was styled as an attack on the governing party. How this plays out, also at Parliament, remains to be seen. DM
Photo: Booths are set up on the National Assembly floor for the secret vote on the motion of no confidence in president Jacob Zuma, which took place a week ago. The ballot papers neither carried serial numbers nor MPs’ names. So unless someone confesses, how votes were cast remains speculation. Photo: Leila Dougan/(Daily Maverick Chronicle)