Opinionista Paul Trewhela 21 February 2021

An alliance of political traditions is needed now to dissolve the threat posed by the tea party gang

Just as Churchill, Stalin and Roosevelt formed an unlikely alliance against Nazi Germany, South Africa needs a broad coalition against the common enemy that threatens to destroy the rule of law, the Constitution and democracy. This is the reality of the threat posed by the grouping led by Jacob Zuma, Ace Magashule, Julius Malema and Kebby Maphatsoe.

When Adolf Hitler invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, Winston Churchill immediately proposed an alliance to Joseph Stalin – despite fundamental differences in their politics – which in the end, after they were joined by Franklin D Roosevelt’s administration in the US, defeated Nazi Germany.

Britain’s military victory over the forces of Nazi Germany at El-Alamein in north Africa in November 1942 was complemented by the crushing of Hitler’s army at Stalingrad on the River Volga in February 1943. These defeats held Nazi Germany in check. Japan’s surrender to the US in September 1945 after the atom-bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki then brought World War 2 to an end.

Put very starkly, that is how the fascist drive for world domination was overcome. Without a coalition or alliance of different societies, it could never have happened.

In the same way, a broad coalition or alliance between different historical traditions is what is needed in South Africa right now against a common enemy that threatens to destroy the rule of law, the Constitution and democracy.

This is the reality of the threat posed by the grouping led by Jacob Zuma, Ace Magashule, Julius Malema and Kebby Maphatsoe, which seeks to overturn the constitutional settlement created under the leadership of Nelson Mandela.

Despite major and important differences – not as great, though, as between Stalin and Churchill – there is a broad area of agreement across a wide spectrum of South African politics that seeks to protect these fundamentals: the rule of law, the Constitution and democracy. This range of common interest includes the government of Cyril Ramaphosa, which under great strain has protected the judicial process – not least the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture led by Judge Raymond Zondo – as well as freedom of speech, freedom of the media and free elections.

These vital achievements of the constitutional process between 1990 and 1994 have survived in South Africa – unlike in Zimbabwe – despite attrition even from the top of government, in particular through politically licensed corruption, especially in the form of theft of public money.

With each of these leaders now defying legal process, there are serious issues to be investigated which only an independent and impartial judicial inquiry can carry out.

South Africa now faces its most serious crisis of democracy since the beginning of universal franchise in April 1994.

At the same time, the most important process of democratic reform since 1994 is under way, following the ruling by Judge Mbuyiseli Madlanga in the Constitutional Court in June last year – in response to an application by the New Nation Movement – that the Electoral Act 73 of 1998 is unconstitutional by excluding citizens from standing as individuals for election to the National Assembly and provincial legislatures. The court ordered Parliament to amend this legislation within two years.

This in turn has refocused attention on the majority report of the Electoral Task Team, headed by Frederik van Zyl Slabbert, issued in January 2003, which recommended individual accountability to voters in three-quarters of all seats in the National Assembly and provincial legislatures through election of politicians by name in large, multimember constituencies, so as to secure far more public control over politicians. The report has been sat on by the ANC government for nearly 20 years while its rapacious politicians greedily ruled the roost, shielded from the people by party control of MPs enshrined in the Electoral Act.

There is already a mobilisation within the ANC and among MK veterans who are confronting this threat. This is clear from the statement “Leaders have an obligation to lead by example and defend the constitutional order” issued by the MK National Council (Gauteng branch) on 12 February in support of the ANC Veterans’ League as well as uMkhonto weSizwe veterans in the Eastern Cape.

Either the country now goes forward or it goes disastrously back. Just as when Germany invaded the Soviet Union, there is no middle way.

Ramaphosa’s government must strengthen its backbone to enforce the rule of law and judicial process, using the legitimate force of state where necessary. To support any such action which may become necessary, a huge mass education and conscientisation of the people for democratic government is now vital, in the same way that the Mass Democratic Movement achieved its loose alliance in the late 1980s.

If the Zuma/Magashule/Malema/Maphatsoe grouping wins – or even if it holds out, untouched, for a lengthy period – investment will flood out of the county. The mass of the people, the poorest above all, will find themselves in poverty far worse than at any time under the apartheid regime. Total destitution is the only “Radical Economic Transformation” that the protagonists of State Capture can offer.

There is already a mobilisation within the ANC and among MK veterans who are confronting this threat. This is clear from the statement “Leaders have an obligation to lead by example and defend the constitutional order” issued by the MK National Council (Gauteng branch) on 12 February in support of the ANC Veterans’ League as well as uMkhonto weSizwe veterans in the Eastern Cape.

The statement argues that “a dark cloud is gathering over the republic, threatening stability, and placing at risk, all that we hold dear as a Nation”.

South Africa, it continues, is “a Constitutional State that places the equality before the law at the centre of our daily lives. That all shall be equal before the law is what was promised by the Freedom Charter…”. It describes the Zondo Commission as “the bitter medicine we need as a country to cure ourselves from the corruption virus afflicting us”. With a direct reference to Jacob Zuma, it warns against “the carnage of civil unrest”.

The principal founders of the MK National Council were the former minister of communications and chief of the South African National Defence Force, General Siphiwe Nyanda, and the current Deputy Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Thabang Makwetla.

In an article, “Three questions for Kebby Maphatsoe to answer”, on Politicsweb on 22 September 2014, I noted that two years previously General Nyanda had “described the use of MKMVA personnel under Mr Maphatsoe’s command as that of a ‘private army’” in a report, “‘MKMVA is divisive’ – Nyanda slams ANC’s army veterans”, published in Sunday World on 3 September 2012.

This issue of a “private army” – bluntly described as such by one of the most eminent veterans of uMkhonto weSizwe, and endorsed by the current deputy minister of defence and military veterans – should be a straightforward issue for Cyril Ramaphosa’s government.

The leader of the DA, John Steenhuisen, has also consistently criticised Ramaphosa for the government’s passive response to the threat to rule of law coming from Zuma and Magashule, stating last week “you couldn’t bring yourself to stand up for our Constitution and the rule of law when our former president as well as your party’s current secretary-general [Ace Magashule] and his deputy openly defied and mocked these sacred foundations of our democracy”.

In the same debate in Parliament, the leader of the United Democratic Movement, former Brigadier Bantu Holomisa, said the government should “allow the Zondo commission the time and resources to finish its job. Ultimately, the money stolen must be returned to the people and the guilty must go to jail. SA needs a government that can create decent living conditions and advance the livelihoods of all the people but especially the poor.”

There is no fundamental disagreement here, with a more powerful base across political parties in defence of constitutional democracy than at any time since the beginning of ANC government in 1994.

The time to act is now.

The way forward is reform. DM

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All Comments 3

  • Great article and to the point. It needs the broad-based support to confront this evil bunch of thieves and save this country. Time for Cyril to stop playing Mr Nice Guy and stop placing the unity of his wayward party above the country. I would also add to your example of defeating the Nazis and that is the same broad-based support that was required to defeat the equally odious and murderous communist doctrine.

  • Paul’s picture of a future run by the Zuma/Magashule faction is a scary one, too like the frightening past we oldies experienced under Apartheid. Can Cyril prevail against the forces of evil? There are positive signs — the Zondo Commission being one. But, just as one begins to see the rainbow, huge black clouds re-appear too close for comfort. Trewhela is absolutely spot on. The time to act and reform is now. The problem, though, is are we up to it before we wake up to discover the sell-by date was yesterday?

  • Oh welcome back Paul Trewhela! Where have you been? I wanted to hear again of the desperations of the ANC-in-exile, at the various in-exile African camps, and the knowledge of the travesties of which you know so well, which happened there! AND now this stern, solid and sensible statement carries the same conviction in its tone. You are dead right – an alliance is needed before civic discord turns ugly. And the Constitution -despite its lack of a ‘direct representation’ factor in our electoral processes – needs protection, as we heard the Americans’ Democrats call so passionately, echoing our circumstance.
    What is this I hear about the SADF recruitment, wide numbers of under 23 males wanted, recently announced? Is government fearing civil strife ahead, or is this infamous “fake news”?
    While I support the intent in this opinionista, I do not align myself with communism, not at all, and most certainly not if it might, just might, mean I cannot own my castle, paid for in a tax-creating method by the way – which Crony and the dreaded – and dreadful – Blade want!!! Have you seen The Blade’s home – Phew!
    The Rule of Law is the imperative, in rights, in the search for truth, and in morality. And it has been squeezed out, against the Freedom Charter in many ways. WHAT is the mob-led ANC THINKING!!!

    I am reminded time and again, when the word Constitution arises, of William Penn’s founding statement upon the birth of the State of Pennsylvania, addressing its attempt at a liberal constitution: “be government never so bad, good people will make it work; be government never so good, bad people will twist and warp it to their turn”.

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