MPs at cross-purpose with the leadership collective

File picture: Tshego Lepule/IOL

The No Confidence vote on the President of the Republic on 08 August 2017 was a giant democratic exercise — perhaps the biggest in Presidents Zuma’s 8 years as President. 398 Members of Parliament — From political parties represented in Parliament — all had their say.

The Majority of MPs voted against the motion, effectively saying the President of the Republic, Jacob Zuma, must continue with the work of steering the country forward. This is the will of the Majority an must be respected by all. Given the reflection that all MPs had to do in coming to the decisions that each member made, their decisions were not taken lightly, not least because so many things were said by so many different organizations about the significance of this vote. So there can be no doubt about the results.

After the motion, the work of moving the country forward must continue in earnest. This must involve the full engagement of everyone. The task of moving South Africa forward is not a task that is a single mans burden, it falls on all of us.

Moving South Africa forward in this 4th industrial revolution requires strong, determined and committed Members of Parliament and Cabinet. To engage with the task of building this country half-heatedly will be to concede defeat before we have begun. The more than 26 ANC MP’s who voted for the motion made it absolutely clear about their belief that building a successful and thriving South Africa will only happen if the South African ship is steered by a different captain.

The defeat of the motion means the Minority of MP’s who could not see a successful South Africa under the President Jacob Zuma will neither be committed to such a success or be trusted to commit to it since its very success will render their votes invalid and false. They can only be expected to give a lackluster performance and be hostile to the President and Executive because in fact that is the only way they can be expected to validate their vote of a President that does not have their confidence.

Since the Parliament, through the majority vote made a very clear decision to take a different path from what these over 26 MP’s wanted, as such it follows that Parliament and Cabinet requires fresh leadership to take it into the future.

The country and/ the ANC would not be irrational to expect these MPs to distabilize the Executive in the coming weeks and months, so it would not be prudent or rational for ANC to allow the MP’s and Cabinet Members who can only be expected to work against the President to continue to be part of the leadership collective in steering our country into its next destination.

All the ANC’s narratives, led by the President, such as Radical Economic Transformation and Redistribution of the Land cannot be expected to succeed with a leadership working in cross-purposes and if we are to take any of these policies to their logical conclusion, that will have to happen under a new leadership collective and it is only fair that any big and future decisions that are to be taken in the next few months must happen under this new leadership collective so the process of replacing the No Confidence MP’s must begin in earnest.

Although the success of the motion is not what these MP’s and Cabinet Ministers expected, its success must serve as a message to them that ANC remains with incredible strengths whether you are part of the leadership collective or not.

Democracy is made up of election cycles and no politician will outlast the people. If anyone of us does not fit the vision of that election cycle, there is no reason to seek to collapse the organisation or its constitutional processes. Ours is but to admit that in any given cycle, you may be at cross-purpose with the leadership collective so its only rational to sit that election cycle out and go back to the trenches to strengthen the organisation into the next cycle which will hopefully align to your own preferences.

The bigger lesson however for these MP’s who voted for the Motion is on democracy. Compared to the alternatives, democracy is the best we’ve got. But let’s not kid ourselves: It can be ugly. This is an important lesson for people like Dr Khoza and Derek Hanekom, who have undertones of superior intelligence and elitism. A decision may be driven by thinly-researched, read or understood populist sentiment but it still carries just as much weight as a well-considered, thoughtful one, and election outcomes everywhere reflect this.

When the oath of the ANC membership in rule 4.7 of the ANC Constitution insist on members to respect the Constitution and the structures and to work as loyal members of the Organisation, it is not blind to the fact that sometimes structures of the organisation can seem irrational but it asks you to respect them anyways. When Rule 5.1.3 allows every member to Offer constructive criticism of any member, official, policy programme or activity of the ANC within its structures, again it is aware that you may not be listened to by a structure but continue to speak to them anyway.

How ever high minded your views or ideas over and against ANC structures can be, the ANC constitution makes no exceptions on disobeying them and when that happens, rules of discipline have to kick in.

No one ever said people have to vote for what you consider a more cogent thought, or your thought, however commonsensical or wise you can view such a thought.

The ANC MPs then who feel that they are in cross-purposes with the leadership collective must do the only rational and honourable thing in accordance with their “moral conscience”, resign, and look into the next election cycle.

Nomvula Mokonyane is the Minister of Water & Sanitation and ANC NEC Member