South Africa: Guide to Parliament

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In chapter two of my 2015 book, The Thoughts of an Ordinary Citizen, titled, “The Idiot’s Guide to South African Parliament: a Fear Factor at Play”, I write: “As long as (national speaker Baleka) Mbete and (President Jacob) Zuma are at the helm of their respective incumbencies, the NA would never hold the executive to account.”

A fear factor stems from the fact that MPs cannot exercise their conscience because South Africa uses a party system.

“In a democratic system,” I argue, “MPs should be at liberty to exercise their rights beyond partisanism.” 

Consequently, Pravin Gordhan, Makhosi Khoza, and other ANC MPs who have overtly taken a dim view of Zuma’s leadership cannot vote for his removal as president, fearing reprisal.

Khoza has received death threats for her cue that she would vote for a motion of no confidence in Zuma on August 8.

To drive the fear factor home, I use the disciplinary hearings that the ANC had instituted against Ben Turok and Gloria Borman for walking out and abstaining, respectively, when Parliament voted on a contentious secrecy bill in 2011.

Although their hearings did not reach eventualities, ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe came down hard on them, making it clear that ANC MPs cannot act on “their whims and thought”.

Gordhan, Khoza, and other ANC MPs want Zuma gone. However, due to “an overt voting system (used in Parliament), they cannot vote for his removal”, I write.

They are scared of reprisal. Moreover, they are scared of losing their jobs because Zuma has a constitutional prerogative to fire ministers and deputy ministers who would vote for his removal, if the motion fails.

Regarding the Concourt’s judgment on the motion of no confidence in Zuma, I argue that the problem “lies with a lack of provision in our constitution that enfranchises MPs beyond partisanism, which, in itself, engenders the fear factor”.

In particular, I point out that “when voting for the president, MPs use a secret ballot and a chief justice presides over the proceedings”. The same, I argue, does not happen when MPs vote for the president’s removal from office.

Essentially, Zuma has not only brought our constitution to a reality check, but highlighted a few impediments, included the aforementioned. In other words, his removal without addressing these impediments would not help the course, not by a long shot. His successor, especially Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, would also take advantage of them.

Through her, Zuma wants to govern the country from the grave. Most importantly, he wants to pull the strings within the NPA to avoid prosecution. However, his plan has already backfired on two accounts.

First, the ANC would inevitably lose its grip on power in 2019. Not only that it has further dwindled to 54%in 2016, but also that it has lost the populous Gauteng, where its support has dwindled to 46%.

Followed by KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape, and Western Cape, Gauteng holds sway on a national power. These four provinces would determine the ANC’s fate in 2019.

Adding insult to injury, the psyche of South Africans at large cannot bear another Zuma as president, even if she is a woman. Therefore, a campaign for a female president would have carried more weight if the Zuma faction had fielded someone who commands a high moral ground within the party, its allies, and the public at large. Neither Dlamini Zuma nor Mbete does.

Ideologically, the DA and the EFF may speak past each other, but they have common enemies in Zuma and his clients. With ANC president screaming from the opposition benches as opposition leader in Parliament, the NPA head would take orders from President Mmusi Maimane to arraign them on corruption and other crimes.

Suspending Vusi Pikoli as NPA head, former president Thabo Mbeki cited 179 (6) of the constitution, according to which, he said, a justice minister “exercises final responsibility over” the NPA.

The justice minister acts on behalf of the government, which Mbeki brought to Pikoli’s attention, “must and does have an interest in ensuring that the Prosecuting Authority services the public interest”. That is to say, the NPA’s prosecutorial independence is not sacrosanct.

This highlights a need to incorporate the NPA and the Hawks under the chapter nine institutions. As a result, the NPA head would prosecute without fear or favour.

Second, Zuma may face prosecution before his term of office ends in 2019, unless the motion in him succeeds. Effectively, the court has already reinstated the charges against him. The NPA’s prospects of success at both the SCA and the Concourt are slim, if none.

The charges against him are piling up since former public protector Thuli Madonsela’s release of the State of Capture report and a series of Gupta leaks. A few political parties have laid innumerable charges against him and his clients.

If Dlamini Zuma had indulged in any crime during her visit to Saxonwold, she may also face prosecution. Once a commission of inquiry into state capture sits and deliberates, the skeletons would come out of the closet. In other words, South Africa may have another president with a dark cloud hanging over her head.

Meanwhile, Mbete’s partisanism and vague grasp of house rules justify a call by the EFF for a judge (preferably, a rotational system of judges) to preside over parliamentary sessions and the speaker would assume administrative roles.

During her first tenure as Speaker, Mbete presided over a relatively “sleepy” Parliament. To make her life easier, Mbeki was a law-abiding president. Therefore, she had no reason to protect him from accountability.

Since the EFF’s arrival in Parliament, and Mbuyiseni Ndlozi has woken up International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane and a few other “sleepists”, Mbete’s partisanism and vague grasp of house rules have rendered the house dysfunctional. Hence, it could not hold Zuma to account on the Nkandla matter.

Parliament should have dissolved itself following the Concourt’s damning judgment on Nkandla and called for early elections.

Zuma’s removal while he is still ANC president would create political instability within the country with ripple effects across the board. His removal would create two centres of power between him as ANC president and a new state president, even if he or she comes from the ANC.

In search of long lasting solutions to our problems, the opposition parties should enter into negotiations with Zuma and the ANC to do the following, but not limited to this:

* Withdraw their motion of no confidence in Zuma.

* Have Zuma withdraw his review of the PP’s report and appoint the commission of inquiry with immediate effect.

* Remove ministers and deputy ministers implicated in the state capture and appoint their replacements from the opposition parties to create sort of a government of unity.

* Remove public officials implicated in the Gupta leaks.

* Set up a truth and amnesty commission for those implicated in the state capture to come clean in order to speed up the inquiry.

* Embark on constitutional review to address the aforementioned impediments and others.

* And dissolve the executive personnel at both the NPA and the Hawks for failing to act on state capture and other crimes.

Zuma is a falling wall. The opposition parties should not push the whole wall to fall over the country.

Otherwise, they would have to build it from the debris.


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