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The motion of no confidence – where to now for our beloved ANC?

Dr Zweli Mkhize is the Minister of Health, South Africa.

8 August 2017 was an historic day as the ANC survived a motion of no confidence in its leadership by a significantly narrower than expected margin. Public trust in the ANC will continue to dissipate unless we embark on a process of fundamental renewal.

The ANC has reigned supreme ever since the demise of apartheid more than two decades ago. The very notion of any sort of successful challenge against the ANC government let alone a motion of no confidence in its leadership would have been unfathomable. What unfolded in Parliament would have been dismissed a few years ago as unthinkable and inconceivable or worse still, not just unlikely and unimaginable but definitely impossible.

Yet the dissent among our own shows that this has become a very real possibility. The 8 August 2017 no confidence vote against the president of the ANC marked an historic day for South Africa’s young democracy. It is a stark reminder to us all that the pursuit of democracy and accountability will always prevail both inside and outside the ANC.

The vote for the motion of no confidence yet again follows the democratic processes of Parliament and our Constitution. It preceded the categorical pronouncement by the Speaker Baleka Mbete that the motion must be held by a secret ballot. This must be seen as a clear message to the people of South Africa that the ANC remains committed to the democratic principles of this country – the party constitution and the country’s Constitution. She must be lauded for her role and how she masterfully administered the process. The fact that the decision was unexpected by many in the ruling and opposition parties, hence the opposition was preparing to challenge the speaker in court, attests to the independence with which the matter was managed. The ANC welcomed the decision and supported it – an important indicator that the ANC will always respect the supremacy of the Parliament and the Constitution.

As the leaders of the ANC we cannot be oblivious to the fact that the ANC has survived the motion of no confidence in its leadership by a significantly narrower than expected margin. This is certainly not a time for jubilation but rather warrants reflection and great self-introspection on the current challenges within the party. As ANC leaders we have to go back to the drawing board and reassess our current situation and what it is that we are doing to unite, rebuild, reposition. This is not a negative but a positive sign of a party enshrined in a democracy. Things change, people change, society changes and as a party we will change. The challenge is how best to address these changes and make our party more meaningful, relevant and representative to all of its members.

Voting with opposition is one of the most unacceptable misconduct for any ANC public representative to commit. This invokes internal party disciplinary processes.

Similarly the leadership has to introspect and analyse the seriousness of issues that may lie at the basis of a divided parliamentary caucus and national leadership, in which an opposition motion offers an avenue to deal with challenges we face.

Among the questions we must respond to are the following:

Have we mismanaged issues to the extent that we cannot accept internal mechanism to address challenges we face?

Or, have our interests become so divergent that we are beginning to act as self serving individuals and no longer as a cohesive organisation?

In all we have done, have we always kept the interests of our people and the ANC above everything else?

Whichever answer we may choose we must be aware that the strong bond of trust between our movement and our people has been shaken. We need to look beyond the numbers but deeper within ourselves, if the problem has to be reversed.

Historically, the strength of the ANC has never been derived from numerical strength, but on the contrary, from the superiority of the moral authority that guided its actions and the rationality of the logic of its debate identifying itself as the champion of the people and indisputable leader of society.

As the ANC leadership, this is a watershed moment that we must seize with open arms. It is a time to unite our party and focus on the key deliverables of the party and government. The outcome in parliament further entrenches our long-standing belief that the ANC is in the best position to resolve its own conflicts and its own problems.

The ANC has a long history in our young democracy. The ANC is part of the DNA of South Africa it therefore comes as no surprise that members who felt that the vote of no confidence was an attempt to destroy the ANC, and voted against the motion. Despite the criticism levelled against our voting politic in Parliament, in their eyes, voting in favour of the no confidence was not about what is right for the opposition but what is right for the ANC, the constituency they serve for all the people of South Africa. Like the plethora of commentators and analysts on our television screens and our radio stations – history will tell whether or not we as a party leadership heeded the call and took steps to put right that which needed our immediate attention.

As ANC leaders we must always be guided by the principle that the ANC exists for our people and what is good for our people must be supported by the ANC. We always emphasise that we are members of the ANC, but not members of members. As a leader, I remain committed to the scripture and verse of the ANC as a political party. My allegiance and faith rests not in a single leader or a group inside the ANC, but rather on the objectives of a party that has delivered this country out of the cudgels of the apartheid government. This statement should ideally be representing each and every member of the ANC. Lest we forget that this is a party whose forefathers have died for our democracy and whose members were tortured and murdered for our democracy, the fruits of which we enjoy today and the pursuit of a national democratic society.

Thus, it is within this context that as a leader I remain committed to all things great and honourable of the ANC past, present and future. This pledge of allegiance, however, does not preclude me from noting the challenges that we face or the difficulties in party political leadership.

Public trust in the ANC will continue to dissipate unless we embark on a process of fundamental renewal of the ANC. It is our priority to definitively regain the loyalty and trust of the people. To claim ignorance of mistakes and errors of judgement in this regard would be to absolve myself from the social and moral responsibility I and other leaders have to the people for which we have been called to serve. This remains a political responsibility that I am not willing to abdicate. I therefore state with confidence that the ANC shall be restored to its glory and once again serve as a beacon of hope and freedom for the people of South Africa. We need to face up to irresponsible and irrational actions and statements emanating from our ranks.

This is the year we have dedicated to honouring the legacy of one of the most influential leaders within the ANC, Oliver Reginald Tambo. His words ring true now more than ever: “The fight for freedom must go on until it is won; until our country is free and happy and peaceful as part of the community of man, we cannot rest.” DM


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