Gaye Davis and Shanti Aboobaker
Veteran ANC MP Ben Turok could face disciplinary proceedings by the ANC after publicly explaining why he broke party ranks and did not vote for the Protection of State Information Bill on Tuesday.
His party colleague Gloria Borman, who abstained, may also be carpeted – but it is Turok who is the focus of the ire of ANC MPs, some of whom were yesterday demanding a special caucus meeting be held today and immediate action against the party stalwart.
He slipped out of the chamber just before the voting started on Tuesday, returning later. For this he might have got away with a slap on the wrist from caucus officials, who had imposed a three-line whip on ANC MPs.
However, Turok went on to explain his stance on SAfm yesterday morning, during which he urged that passage of the bill be delayed for further consideration.
His suggestion that some of his party colleagues may have voted blindly for the bill is understood to have enraged some members of the caucus.
Unusually, official comment yesterday came from ANC national spokesman Jackson Mthembu, who said: “The conduct of comrades like Ben Turok in raising their objections by abstaining and using the media smacks of ill-discipline and will be handled internally by the ANC.”
ANC chief whip Mathole Motshekga was last night in a meeting of the party’s political committee, which includes Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe and National Assembly Speaker Max Sisulu.
ANC caucus spokesman Moloto Mothapo singled out Turok and Borman yesterday as the only MPs who did not have “legitimate” reasons for not voting according to the party’s line on Tuesday.
Borman said her conscience had not allowed her to vote for the bill.
A former DA politician serving her second term as an MP, she said while the bill was not “the evil piece of legislation it’s made out to be”, she believed it would hinder the fight against corruption.
“I prayed long and hard and I voted with conscience,” she said.
Turok said he too had acted on principle, and suggested there had not been nearly enough thorough debate and discussion of the bill or its implications within the ANC.
“I made my decision as a matter of principle. I felt I could not participate in this voting,” Turok said.
He had taken an oath, on becoming an MP, to be loyal to the country’s constitution, and his position as co-chairman of Parliament’s ethics watchdog, the joint committee on members’ interests, had involved “an examination of ethics across the board”, he said.