The outcome of the most recent motion of no confidence has left President Jacob Zuma both reeling and seething. He remains in office but the crown rests uneasily.
It’s no surprise that President Jacob Zuma did what he does best and almost immediately headed to his KwaZulu-Natal stronghold where he spoke at an ANC Youth League cadres’ forum in uPhongolo.
It’s the heartland of his support and where he feels most comfortable, so he was able to speak with confidence and lash out against those who voted against him. He then went on to quote s25 of the ANC constitution that prohibits members from collaborating with “counter-revolutionary forces”. What, in a constitutional democracy, is a counter-revolutionary force? Zuma was clearly referring to ANC MPs who exercised their conscience. The paranoia comes seeping through. At the same gathering in KwaZulu-Natal he told the crowd, in reference to the #GuptaLeaks emails, “Can’t I have friends? I’m told there are also emails but I’m also waiting to see if any talk about me. I haven’t seen a Zuma email.”
This is perhaps an unsurprising comment since this is a president who has personally enriched himself at the public expense and has repeatedly shown himself to have a complete disregard for the country’s Constitution. Even after the scathing ConCourt judgment on the Nkandla matter, Zuma continued, seemingly unaffected and unconcerned. To him the Constitution is something to be breached, not upheld.
After the “secret ballot” outcome, the ANC announced that it would be disciplining Derek Hanekom, Pravin Gordhan and Makhosi Khoza. Khoza was unceremoniously fired from her position as chair of the Public Service and Administration committee in Parliament at the end of last week. This came after some ANC MPs objected to her position as chair and after she issued a summons for Public Service and Administration minister, Faith Muthambi, to appear before the committee. Muthambi had failed to appear before the committee.
How ironic that the likes of Muthambi and Bathabile Dlamini remain in their positions and Khoza is removed as chair. But that is what the ANC has become – a safe haven for the corrupt, compromised and unethical. Khoza has been an outspoken critic of Zuma and state capture. She was becoming an inconvenient truth-teller. It is clear that Zuma is trying to intimidate those within the ANC who speak up. How shameful that others in the ANC have allowed Khoza to be removed from her position as portfolio committee chair.
This weekend, disciplinary action was also formally instituted against Derek Hanekom.
In a sense, though, Khoza and Hanekom are easy targets. The problem for Zuma is that he can only really guess who the other MPs are who voted against him given that it was a secret ballot. The ConCourt was very clear about the right of an individual MP to follow his/her conscience. On that the ConCourt stated unequivocally that “in the event of conflict between upholding constitutional values and party loyalty, their irrevocable undertaking to in effect serve the people and do only what is in their best interests must prevail”.
If the ANC seeks to enforce internal party discipline against suspected MPs, it will run counter to the Constitution and possibly also the Powers, Privileges and Immunities of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures Act of 2004. The ANC’s own rules and constitution do not trump the country’s Constitution.
But the wounded Zuma is now only interested in shoring up his traditional support base through intimidation and bullying from his presidential perch. December is fast approaching, after all. It’s a strategy that has served him well so far. He will try to exercise his waning political power via his new, uninspiring proxy, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. Dlamini-Zuma echoed Zuma’s words when she said: “No one is above the ANC and anyone who thinks they are above it has lost their consciousness.” She was fervently supported by the feckless Bathabile Dlamini. Dlamini-Zuma will be known by the company she keeps though clearly she is not sufficiently bothered by her own conscience to decline being seen on a platform with someone who has been so reckless with the lives of the poorest in our society.
So, it is worth repeating again that the Constitution of the country trumps any other rule or constitution. It is important for the Speaker to defend the integrity of Parliament by restating this constitutional position. She seems disinclined to do so. As for the President, he is simply being dangerously predictable.
And as Makhosi Khoza said this past week, “Our collective moral signature as a country is our Constitution. We must fight for it.” The battle is clearly on. DM
Judith February is a governance specialist, columnist and lawyer. She is currently based at the Institute for Security Studies and is also a Visiting Fellow at the WITS School of Governance. She was previously executive director of the HSRC's Democracy and Governance unit and also head of the Idasa's South African Governance programme for 12 years. Judith is also a conflict dynamics accredited commercial mediator. Her book, Turning and Turning: Exploring the Complexities of South Africa's Democracy (PanMacmillan) will be released in August 2018.
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