Events in the political arena over the past number of years point to the decline of the African National Congress (ANC) as a party capable of contributing to a better future for South Africa. This is widely chronicled, on an almost daily basis, by commentators that increasingly include past ANC luminaries such as Kgalema Motlanthe, Matthews Phosa and Frank Chikane. These commentaries bemoan how the party of Albert Luthuli, Oliver Tambo and Nelson Mandela has lost its way and describe, in unsettling detail, how the current ANC of Jacob Zuma, Cyril Ramaphosa and Gwede Mantashe preside over a network of patronage, cronyism and corruption.
For Jacob Zuma’s ANC, Madiba’s aim of building a non-racial future of prosperity and opportunity for all has either been forgotten, or is simply being ignored. As the President stated on two occasions in the past month, the ANC (read himself and his nominated successors) comes before South Africa. His actions, as well as those of many in government and his party, suggest that the ANC’s goal is to retain power at all costs, even if this means more South Africans become unemployed and opportunities for our youth remain few and far between.
In this quest for the retention of control and power, something else has fallen by the wayside: Contesting the opposition on policy, ideas and suggestions as to how to make South Africa a better place. This is evident in Parliament, provincial legislatures and councils across the country, as well as in elections and by-elections.
Examine any ANC attack on its opposition, both where it is in government and where it is in opposition. It no longer seeks and pursues debate on the basis of ideas. On the contrary, it resorts to race, personal ad hominem attacks, intimidation and even gerrymandering. The ANC seems to have acknowledged that it does not have the solutions to our country’s issues, and its behavior across the country indicates that it has given up on the battle of ideas. For a constitutional democracy to flourish, competing political parties should debate alternative philosophies, ideas and policies. The aim here should be to better the country, and the circumstances of its citizens. This not only enables informed citizens to exercise their right to choose their government, it also ensures that governments perform to the best of their ability. This is what South Africa deserves, and it is what drives us in the Democratic Alliance (DA).
The term “loyal opposition” does not refer to a party loyal to the President or its Government. It refers to an opposition loyal to the Constitution; an opposition that represents its voters and all the people of a country to the best of its ability, holding the government to account and proposing different ways of solving a country’s problems. When your opposition is effective, the country benefits.
This is what drives the DA and its national parliamentary caucus. It is why we ask the amount of parliamentary questions we do, it is why we attend our portfolio committees, and it is why we implement a rigorous PDMS (Performance Development and Management System) so that our Members of Parliament (MP) perform to the best of their ability. Yet the ANC resents this. And where it is in opposition, it does not understand what its role is.
Tomorrow, the ANC opposition in the Western Cape Provincial Parliament will be taking an extraordinary step. Clearly short on any ideas as to how respond to the best performing government in the country, they will be tabling a motion of impeachment against Premier Helen Zille. Apparently, the ANC are bringing this motion in terms of Section 130 (3) of the National Constitution which states the following:
130 (3) The legislature of a province, by a resolution adopted with a supporting vote of at least two thirds of its members, may remove the Premier from office only on the grounds of –
(a) a serious violation of the Constitution or the law;
(b) serious misconduct; or
(c) inability to perform the functions of office.
It is unclear how Marius Fransman and his team will seek to prove the above. They have not specified on what basis they are bringing this motion. Premier Zille goes into a debate tomorrow unaware of which law or Constitutional section she is alleged to have violated. And she has no idea where she is alleged to have failed in the performance of her functions of office. But it doesn’t matter to the ANC. They are unable to compete on policy and ideas, so they resort to practices that waste taxpayer’s money.
Two of the most hotly contested Metros in next year’s local government elections will be Nelson Mandela Bay and Tshwane. Here, the mayoral campaigns of the two DA candidates, Athol Trollip and Solly Msimanga, have been launched, and are generating great momentum. The campaigns are positive and are focused on providing solutions to the problems experienced by citizens, as well as paving a way forward towards a better future in the two cities. Confronted with such a serious electoral challenge, what does the ANC do? It doesn’t respond by challenging the DA on the substance of its campaign. It simply does not know how. Instead it resorts to intimidation and violence, as well as the invocation of race.
This past weekend, seemingly unable to counter Athol Trollip’s mayoral campaign on ideas and a vision for Nelson Mandela Bay, a racist smear campaign was launched by the ANC in the press. It is sad that the former liberation movement, founded to confront racism and fight for freedom, resorts so frequently to race in an attempt to divide so that it can retain power. But I sense they will find their attempts to taint Trollip with the “racist brush” will prove to be ineffective. There is a reason why the ANC currently finds itself below 50% in Nelson Mandela Bay. Voters of all demographics recognise that their future is far more secure under the leadership of a party and candidate that stands for non-racialism, freedom and opportunity.
In Tshwane in October, a panicked ANC violently disrupted our preparations for the launch of Solly Msimanga’s mayoral campaign. Again, the ANC demonstrated just how scared they are of losing control and, in the absence of countering our electoral offer with one of their own, what lengths they will go to in order to prevent this from happening.
Yet we were not deterred. Solly has a plan for Tshwane that will bring change that stops corruption, provides better services and creates jobs. We went ahead with our launch and Solly’s mayoral campaign continues to provide hope for a better future for the people in Tshwane.
As Leader of the DA’s parliamentary caucus, I have not been immune to the ANC’s undemocratic and content-free tactics. The DA’s performance in Parliament in exposing the ANC on all fronts has placed the governing party under significant pressure. In response, the ANC sought to raise complaints with the Parliamentary Ethics Committee that I and eleven of my colleagues had failed to disclose donations that were paid to internal party campaigns for our party congress in May this year. This when such donations were fully disclosed internally and, upon receipt of the notice of complaint by the ANC, I submitted full details to Parliament’s registrar of interests.
Yet, we still await full details of all donations received by the numerous ANC members of parliament who stood for election in internal ANC contests this year and in the past. This hypocrisy of the highest order doesn’t fool anyone, not least of which the voters. The Ethics Committee is becoming the ANC’s favourite tool, particularly in Gauteng where Member of the Provincial Legislature, Jack Bloom ,is facing a complaint simply because the ANC cannot counter what he says.
Finally, the ANC has started employing tactics that seek to prevent a fair electoral contest from happening. In actions reminiscent of the National Party, the proposals of the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs to the Municipal Demarcation Board seek to amalgamate certain municipalities where opposition parties were threatening to win or retain control. This “gerrymandering” is a feature of political parties across the world who wish to retain power, yet realise they cannot win the battle of ideas. The demarcations ahead of next year’s municipal elections have particularly affected Tlokwe, where the ANC is facing a significant opposition challenge.
One of my favourite sayings comes from former United States President, Bill Clinton, who stated that what is wrong with South Africa can be fixed with what is right with South Africa. And what is right with South Africa is its people. Yes, as a country, we face some trying times. Yet, as a nation, we have the ideas, ingenuity and determination to make our country succeed.
Zuma’s ANC has given up on ideas and positive solutions for South Africa. And they will seek to retain control through means that undermine the foundations of our democracy and the 1994 consensus. But they will be punished by the voters for this, far sooner than they think. A party that has lost the battle of ideas faces a slippery slope into oblivion. And Zuma’s ANC sliding into oblivion can only be good for South Africa and its future generations. DM