The ANC caucus needlessly decided this week to disallow opposition parties an opportunity to use Parliament to table what is essentially an ill-fated motion of no confidence in President Jacob Zuma.
It was, for me, more like the ANC shooting itself in the foot.
The motion is ill-fated because the ANC caucus knows the opposition parties do not have the required numbers to pass it. The caucus’s action was needless because by entertaining the suggestion, the ANC is playing into the hands of the opposition, and becomes complicit in the perpetuation of the saga.
Instead of the story being about the motion, it has now been a series on how the ANC is using or abusing its majority to prevent opposition parties from exercising their rights.
Every opportunity the opposition parties get, they explain why Zuma is unfit to govern. They explain how the R240 million spent at his compound amounts to state-sponsored looting.
They explain how Zuma can’t rationally appoint the right people, especially in the criminal cluster section of the cabinet. Willem Heath and his ill-fated but short stint at the Special Investigating Unit. Menzi Simelane’s “irrational” appointment as National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) boss. Whatever scandal that fuels the belief that Zuma is an incompetent leader is used to justify why the opposition parties must have an opportunity to table this motion.
Had the ANC merely allowed the motion to be tabled without creating a long-running saga, that motion would have been in the news probably twice: first when the announcement was made that it would be tabled, then again when it was tabled.
And that would be the end of the story, especially given that Zuma had already suffered the ignominy of such a motion led by Mvume Dandala early in his administration. Instead, we are now subjected to daily updates on progress on this motion. And it could still go pear-shaped for the ruling party.
Imagine Cope leader Mosiuoa Lekota and other dramatists in the opposition setting up a press conference outside the main entrance to Parliament’s chamber, using the iconic Parliament building as background.
Imagine all of them explaining why they were not allowed to use their constitutional rights to speak in Parliament. Imagine them telling us that the mere fact of them being kicked out of their Parliament was proof of the draconian nature of Zuma’s ANC. Imagine them announcing there that the very decision to bar them would now be challenged in court, because even if Parliament makes laws, it should not be allowed to be a law unto itself.
Just imagine. This story suddenly has many legs and could run for a long time. When reporters later do updates on opposition filing papers in court to challenge this decision, or the ANC filing responding papers, heads of arguments and the like, the common background is an ANC that is seen to be desperately trying to save its incompetent leader who is afraid this motion will embarrass him.
What a disaster this could still be. You’d imagine the ANC has skilful spokespeople who would know these things and who, behind the scenes, would advise and alert the ANC of the potential superstorm before it hits the party.
But alas, all they have is Moloto Mothapo in Parliament and Jackson Mthembu of “Don’t buy City Press, don’t buy” fame.
Can they explain why the Dandala motion was allowed by Parliament and this one not?
Their public response has merely been that the motion is frivolous and a waste of time.
But the truth is that the motion is anything but frivolous. The opposition parties suggested it knowing they do not have the numbers.
They have asked the ANC to allow its members to follow their “conscience” and for the vote to be a secret ballot.
Now, if the ANC was this confident majority party that had faith in the competence of its leader, why would it object to a secret ballot?
Why would it even frustrate attempts to table the motion?
It would indeed be interesting, as some say, to find out how many of those who serve as our representatives in Parliament do in fact believe that Zuma is the most competent leader the ANC can put forward to lead the country until 2019.
The issues that led to the suggested motion must concern all of us. They can’t, as Mothapo suggests, be deemed frivolous.
When the Supreme Court of Appeal says spy tapes and other material used by the NPA to get Zuma off over 700 charges of corruption and related matters should be handed to the DA, this should be done. Enforcing the rule of law can’t be frivolity.
When the NPA’s Sibongile Mzinyathi says the NPA does not have the tapes and the record and this is with Zuma’s lawyer, a civilian who should not have possession of classified material, we must wonder why Mzinyathi does not prosecute Hulley. You also wonder why Zuma, whose competence, which, according to Mothapo, is without question, would allow his lawyer to break the law. For Mothapo and ANC caucus members, these are all frivolous matters.
When Zuma appoints people like Heath and Simelane, with the latter’s appointment declared “irrational” by the Supreme Court of Appeal and the Constitutional Court, why must a questioning of his competence be considered frivolous?
When Zuma builds a mansion for himself costing R240m, flouting regulations in the process, Mothapo wants us to fold our arms and be as disciplined as he is and think of attempts by those trying to direct attention to this daylight looting as frivolous.
In the end, what will matter is not what party functionaries like Mothapo or his handler, chief whip Mathole Motshekga, think.
It will not be about whether or not this motion was finally allowed to pass. It will be about ordinary men and women who have experienced the ANC government’s rule for 20 years.
When they vote for the ANC, the motion will not matter. The houses, water, electricity and other services that the ANC government provided them might sway their decisions.
When they don’t vote for the ANC, it might be because they think that the ANC has, in 20 years, proved that it has lost touch with them.
It relies heavily on Struggle history, and overuses names like Tambo, Sisulu and Mandela to get re-elected when its performance in government is suspect. This much-talked about motion, or the frivolity of Mothapo’s argument against it, will matter not.