The Party and State: Where does the power lie?

The ANC has welcomed the 2018 budget delivered by Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba calling it progressive a people-centred. Picture: Sizwe Ndingane

A new dispensation had dawned in South Africa in 1994. They call it DEMOCRACY. In the context of governance, democracy is defined as “The government of the people, from the people by the people.” Ours is a CONSTITUTIONAL DEMOCRACY. A party representative in that. Now here lies the complexity of this relationship. 

Constitutional democracy means that the constitution reigns supreme. The constitution of the Republic is not the rule book of or for a certain section of the people in the political divide but for the people of South Africa in their entirety. This means that over and above the fact that everyone needs to adhere to its precepts and spirit, including the one in power, in the power machinations and distribution, the constitution is the source book where from he or she who exercise power on behalf of the state must derive. This notwithstanding the fact that he or she who may occupy the seat of government rode on the back of his or her or their political party. 

The party on the other hand, would like to have a hold on the one who holds and wields power of the state. They are the ruling party after all. To put it clear: The constitution demands that it be the only book consulted in the execution of power and authority on behalf of the state to its citizens. The party demands that decisions taken by their representatives in government be those they are mandated them to take otherwise they recall those representatives, as we have seen in the recent past. 

It’s a complicated relationship. Then where exactly does the power lie? Where should it lie? Are political parties in government interfering in the affairs of state when they demand their interests be put up first? 

The constitution of the Republic make no provision for any other centre of power except that in the Union Buildings. It is the only centre of power. It should be the only centre of power. Not Luthuli House or EFF House in Braamfontein or DA House in Cape Town. It demands that the affairs of the state be exercised by those duly authorised to do so without any interference from private citizens, private institutions and or political organisations. 

But we know that practically, this is not the case. There’s lot of interference from these groupings in the exercise of state power. There’s so much consultation of private entities by those who are supposed to exercise power on behalf of the people and there’s so much demand by private groupings to be consulted before decisions are made on behalf of the people. 

The ANC removed it’s deployed into presidency, Thabo Mbeki, and Mbeki succumbed to the power that was coming outside of the house that elected him to be the president. The provincial premiers like Nosimo Balindlela were recalled not by the president who appointed them but by the party outside of the legislature. Another recall of a sitting president was effected outside the National Assembly and he also succumbed. The recent appointments of cabinet by president Ramaphosa can be said to have been the composition of consultation of the organisation outside the National Assembly. It was not solely and entirely his choosing. Alliance partners are happy they were consulted. The ANC is happy. 

The alliance partners are not happy that they were not consulted with regard to the increase of value added tax from 14% to 15%. The budget is prepared by the minister of finance and the budgeting process includes cabinet and not consultation with private organisations. 

This is not limited to the ANC, the governing party. In the metros where DA is ruling, we have seen power exercised outside council chambers. City of Cape Town being the latest example albeit that it didn’t win, thanks to opposition parties helping to rescue the Mayor. The EFF would also tell their councillors and even MPs how to vote and call to account their councillors and MPs who did not tow the line. 

All political parties are guilty of interference with the affairs of the state. They should be charged of treason. Am I taking it too far? Well…

Maybe a change in electoral system may bring the citizen real power into their hands. For now, in theory, power lies in the Union Buildings. In practice, power is outside government. In Luthuli House and other houses. Until power in practice is returned to the people, the country will see what it has passed through in the recent history. 

Sivu Kose is the Managing Director of Yiza Sibonisane Trading (PTY) Ltd