WHEN FEAR AND EVIL TRUMP PRINCIPLE
Aug 22, 2017
Politics in Zuma’s South Africa is the gift that keeps on giving.
Hardly a day goes by when the President and his acolytes don’t make the headlines for all the wrong reasons. Not only has the President and his men and women pushed and crossed the limits of the Constitution of the land but ethical and moral bounds are traversed with glee. The nation, again and again, hopes that this is the end of the road, but alas, more is in store as a wounded ANC limps listlessly toward its own Policy Conference in December 2017.
The result of the secret ballot has unleashed a torrent of invectives and hate by comrade on comrade. Much of this has coalesced around the person of Dr Makhosi Khoza, who dared to put her head above the parapet and in her own words, “I’m being persecuted because I can no longer toe the party line. I cannot accept corruption, looting, a disregard for the people who brought us to power and the propping up of growing kleptocracy.”
For Dr Khoza and a few others who are surely going to be “smoked out” for daring to put principle above power, the price for the immediate future is bleak. Her disciplinary hearing will take place on the 10 September 2017 and the charge is that of “defiance of political authority”. The ANC will of course have to elect a new chair of its disciplinary committee as Minister Derek Hanekom is also persona non-grata for expressing similar sentiments as the 30-odd MPs who voted with their conscience on 8 August 2017.
Juxtapose the charge against Dr Khoza, based on consideration of principle and country, with the impending slew of court dates in the President’s diary - including the following - and one is gobsmacked:
- 5 September 2017 - Contitutional Court Impeachment case;
- 15 September 2017 - Appeal against 783 fraud and corruption cases;
- 23 - 25 October 2017 - Hearing on State Capture.
A telling indicator, among others, of the fear and mean-spiritedness gripping the Zuma faction is that of the firing of Dr Khoza from her position of chair of the Portfolio Committee on Public Administration. This, through no fault of her own but only because the Minister of Public Administration, her Director-General and five ANC MPs refused to accept the authority of a fellow ANC member who chose to exercise principle and vote with her conscience. Perhaps an ancillary explanation for the Minister’s absence is her disdain for accountability and transparency in respect of the allegations of misuse of funds and nepotism levelled against her.
The flagrant disregard and downright disdain for the Rules of Parliament were in full effect on 15 August 2017 by the Zuma caucus and the delicious irony that ensued. While lukewarm censure for the ‘unbecoming’ act of absence without apology was meted out to the group, Dr Khoza was fired a few days later as chair of the Portfolio Committee. Ironically, self-confessed serial assaulter of women, Mduduzi Manana is still a Member of Parliament, despite his belated resignation as Deputy Minister of Higher Education.
A witch-hunt appears to be in full swing to expose errant ANC MPs who dared to put principle above the President in the Motion of No Confidence. Potential and planned disciplinary action against the dissidents has by most reasoned accounts no basis in law, nor can a political party stand head and shoulders above the Constitution of the land as was reiterated by the Constitutional Court. Of concern too, is the posture taken by the ANC Secretary-General, Gwede Mantashe, with regard to the disciplinary action against Derek Hanekom, that the party is bigger than the individual, in tacit condonation of the party’s failings.
The President’s response to the result of the no-confidence vote was a chilling, “those who collaborate with counter-revolutionaries should be disciplined. Please do not vote with your conscience, have an ANC conscience”. Perhaps the President’s people omitted to tell the man that there is no longer one ANC, that there is no longer confidence, faith or trust in his ANC and that the electorate has grown more discerning and judicious about where and how it will vote come 2019.
Perhaps the biggest take-away from the secret ballot saga is how fear and a reign of terror have become poor substitutes for democratic, moral and ethical leadership and where the private moral compass of good men and women is challenged. We have strayed far from the words and deeds of President Nelson Mandela, who wrote that, “Those who conduct themselves with morality, integrity and consistency need not fear the forces of inhumanity and cruelty.” Perhaps the “dissidents” in the ANC will rise and take cognizance of the words of a great man whose pride in placing the highest premium on principles over personal power will triumph.
Ms Zohra Dawood is Director, Centre for Unity in Diversity.