Opinionista Mmusi Maimane 13 August 2017

The DA will do what is right, not what is popular

The DA has a duty to the people of this country, and we will continue to perform this duty regardless of the odds of success, and regardless of the popularity of our actions among critical voices.

OnTuesday 8 August, the ANC in Parliament rejected the DA’s Motion of No Confidence in President Zuma by 198 votes to 177. Roughly 40 ANC Members of Parliament voted to fire Zuma, but still the overwhelming majority of ANC MPs supported the President again and kept him in office. They did this despite the clear damage Zuma is doing to South Africa with every passing day that he remains in office.

The story of the Zuma presidency is written in rising unemployment, deepening poverty, and the evil of corruption and state capture. That the ANC continues to protect this President is evidence enough that Jacob Zuma is merely a symptom of the venality that now defines the ANC.

It is clear that the South African public has lost confidence in Jacob Zuma and is fast losing confidence in the party that sustains him in power. We had continued to hope that the ANC would do the right thing and fire Zuma. But now that they have proved yet again that they will not, the obvious next step is to give the country the opportunity to do so. Indeed, this is the most democratic thing to do. When a government clearly has lost the mandate on which is was elected, it should seek a new mandate, or let a different party win a mandate and govern. This is how democracy works.

That is why the DA has proposed an early election, to test the ANC’s mandate and give the people the opportunity to do what their elected government simply will not do: fire Jacob Zuma. History has shown that it often takes a while for commentators and critics to acknowledge the success of the DA’s strategy, whether in Parliament, in court or on the campaign trail. I suppose time will tell, as it always does.

It has often been said that the drafters of our Constitution were somewhat naïve when it came to affording the President of the Republic sweeping powers of appointment. It is argued that they were writing the document with a Nelson Mandela in mind, as opposed to a Jacob Zuma.

The way in which Zuma effortlessly captured crucial institutions of democracy by deploying cadres loyal to him is testament to this oversight. It’s also the only reason he has not yet stood trial on hundreds of charges of corruption.

But that doesn’t mean these drafters had no premonition at all of a president or government losing its way. Because there is a very clear provision in the Constitution that allows for voters to go back to the polls before the end of a five-year term of office, should there be sufficient reason to believe that the government no longer represents the will of the people or no longer acts in their interest.

What many suspected about Jacob Zuma and his enablers within the ANC structures at the time of our last elections in 2014 has now been confirmed beyond any doubt: Zuma has sold our country out to corrupt individuals for personal gain. It is now clear that the ANC that still occupies 249 of the 400 seats in Parliament is not the legitimate government millions of South Africans thought they were voting for three years ago.

Section 50 of our Constitution makes provision for this very situation by allowing the people to re-elect their government without having to wait for the full five-year term to lapse. It states that a majority in Parliament can call for an early election, as long as at least three years have passed since the last election. And this is what the DA has called for in the wake of the ANC’s defence of Zuma in Tuesday’s No Confidence vote.

The fact that the ANC describes this action, along with our Motion of No Confidence, as attempts at regime change – and even go so far as calling it a coup d’etat – paints a grim picture of both their understanding and their acceptance of our country’s legitimate democratic processes. It is disappointing that these inflammatory remarks were not placed in the media spotlight to a greater extent.

Equally disappointing was the immediate reaction from some voices in the media, as well as other opposition parties, to label our action as “political grandstanding”. I have said this before, and I will continue to say it: The DA has a duty to the people of this country, and we will continue to perform this duty regardless of the odds of success, and regardless of the popularity of our actions among critical voices.

If Tuesday’s Motion of No Confidence proved one thing, it is that our continued efforts to use every possible democratic avenue at our disposal to get rid of a corrupt government are paying dividends. It would not have happened had we listened to those who told us, time and time again, to stop these “frivolous” motions.

For years the same voices who now criticise our call for an early election also criticised our attempts to pass No Confidence votes. These voices were eerily silent on Tuesday evening.

And just as the DA is not the only or the first party to table a Motion of No Confidence in the President – both Cope and Agang have done so in the past – we are also not the first party to call for early elections. The

EFF didn’t have a sufficient grasp of the constitutional requirements to do so when they proposed it in November last year, as the minimum three years had not yet lapsed. And their suggestion of mass resignations to trigger the collapse of the National Assembly is also an embarrassing misread of Sections 46 and 50 of the Constitution.

But the point is, their intention to hit the reset button by replacing our failed government in early elections was clear and correct, even if their understanding of how to do so was not. As were the same calls made in 2016 by the UDM and Cope. As were the intentions of non-political bodies such as the SA Council of Churches, which also called for early elections two months ago.

We need to do whatever our Constitution permits to end this disastrous chapter in our country’s history. We believe the will of the people will send Jacob Zuma’s ANC packing.

We cannot simply go on with our day-to-day lives as though this government under Jacob Zuma is legitimate. We cannot withdraw ourselves from democratic processes just because the ANC has stopped playing by the rules.

We cannot ignore the will of the people just because it appears difficult.

And we certainly cannot wait until 2019. Every single day under this government means misery and ruin for more South Africans, and those elections are still around 600 days away.

We will continue to serve the people of South Africa as we ave always done, and we will not choose our actions by what others deem popular or expedient. And for now, these actions include lobbying members of both the ANC and other opposition parties to support a resolution to hold an early election. DM

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