If the ANC does not remove President Jacob Zuma from power, there is only one course of honour left to them. Having gone on record with what they believe, they have to act on those beliefs. They have to do what was once unthinkable and resign from the ANC.
I do not say this lightly. Many of them were integral players in one of the most peaceful and successful transitions to democracy in the history of the world. They have all fought for and paid enormous prices for the ANC. They nailed their colours to the mast of the ANC when it was a liberation movement and they have stayed true to it while it has been the party of government. But times, people and parties change – ideals don’t.
Trevor Manuel – “I think it is in all of our interests that the president actually steps aside.”
Ahmed Kathrada – “Today I appeal to our president to submit to the will of the people and resign.”
Mathews Phosa – “The whole country now waits with bated breath to hear whether he‚ and my party‚ the ANC‚ will do the right thing and relieve us of this crippling nightmare.”
Pravin Ghordan – “The Constitution that we have is the embodiment of a social contract that we have with our people. Once our actions are seen to be contrary to this important document of our democracy, you must know we have moved away from our duty to serve our people. We have broken the contract.”
Naledi Pandor – “He (Chris Hani) would be horrified to learn that his organisation has corruption as part of the exercise of political office, by some within it.”
Cheryl Carolus speaking alongside 20 leading figures outside the Constitutional Court – “The ANC has to take responsibility. This has happened on our watch. For the sake of the ANC and the country, we have to take a stand against this man’s behaviour.”
Given that the ANC NEC, the Cabinet, and the entire ANC parliamentary caucus unanimously supported Jacob Zuma after the ConCourt ruling, the likelihood of the “ANC of the present” doing what all these revered leaders have asked is almost nonexistent. Ghordan, Rhamaphosa, Pandor, all fully endorsed the ANC official line “that the president was guilty only of being improperly informed” (an act of omission).
A lot of people say that the ANC is “autocorrecting from the inside” and that the “insider critics” are waiting for that to happen. They point to the removal of Van Rooyen from the finance ministry and the successful isolation of the Guptas as acts “from within” to reduce the power of Jacob Zuma.
But that raises more questions than it answers. Which of the several factions within the ANC is correcting what? How is encouraging autocorrection within a ruling party different to the idea of the same thing in China, which is not a democracy? How can the people who are now in power correct mistakes without losing their power base and their livelihood? And most important of all – what kind of example does encouraging “covert” action give to the people who they fought to give democracy to?
With all sincere respect to their individual and collective history, sacrifice and achievements I ask the question that everyone seems to be afraid of asking. Do these venerable members of the “ANC of the past” have the courage to break with the “ANC of the present”?
By speaking out and calling for the president’s resignation or removal they are telling us that they are informed, aware and believe that the president did wrong, and the party is doing wrong by keeping him in power. So surely for them not to act would also be an “act of omission”?
These powerful, connected and respected leaders have provided South Africa and the ANC with a clear moral compass by which to steer. Will they have the courage to take the next step as the party does nothing to rectify this betrayal of what they fought for?
If they all resign, will it hurt the ANC at the polls, in government, and cause major disruption? Yes, this is highly likely. But if the ANC is to overcome the “cancer of corruption”, (which is a global symptom of “absolute power corrupting absolutely”), it is going to have to undergo fundamental change. This will involve disruption, pain and loss. That is the nature of change in an organisation; you have to diagnose, operate, recuperate, and then rehabilitate to become healthy again.
If they do not resign, then they are merely doing what the “ANC of the present” is doing. Instead of putting South Africa first, they are being loyal to the party, no matter what. Intentionally or not, they are sending the message that South Africans must support the ANC, and keep it in power – even if the party has betrayed its own ideals, its past and its supporters. It is time to apply the same rules to themselves that they apply to Jacob Zuma and the ANC. They have to act.
I believe that they must Follow Through, Do the Right Thing or be Judged By History.
Some of these voices belong to the greatest citizens our country has produced. Knowing that what I ask will be extraordinarily painful I gently remind them, “All that is needed for evil to happen is for good people to do nothing”. DM