Mbuyiseni Ndlozi says the EFF is demanding that President Jacob Zuma own up to his wrongs.
The protest action of the EFF last Thursday has received mixed reaction from the ruling party, which can be summarised as mere reflections of a basic intellectual bankruptcy. It is a weak understanding of democracy and how it should be protected when under threat.
ANC spokesman Zizi Kodwa and secretary general Gwede Mantashe have come out proposing two things over the weekend.
On the one hand, Mantashe is proposing that Parliament must move to Pretoria, something the EFF actually put forward for discussion to Parliament just a day before President Jacob Zuma was decisively told to #PayBackTheMoney.
The EFF did this due to the cost of running state institutions. Parliament being in Cape Town means you actually maintain three houses for Zuma – in Pretoria, Cape Town and Nkandla. Ministers and their deputies must also have houses in both cities. In addition, we have the flights between these cities of not just a minister, but their staff complements as well, weekly, sometimes even three to four times a week.
But Mantashe wants Parliament to move to Pretoria so that police can respond speedily to Members of Parliament who refuse to accept non-answers from the ANC president.
This is the worst manifestation of war hunger that has come from an ANC leader of his stature.
His sense is that those police should have ignored all the laws of the country and physically removed MPs.
Kodwa on the other hand, speaking to Drum magazine, was at pains trying to reconstruct parliamentary practice. Kodwa proposes that it must be possible to expel MPs. Kodwa wants to do to the EFF what he and ANC leadership did to Julius Malema – expel us for asking Zuma to pay back the money as instructed by the office of the public protector.
It looked like a public relations nightmare of catastrophic proportions. If indeed this is their response to the EFF protest, then the ANC is out of ideas. What is of significant interest is not so much the dictatorial turn inherent in their responses
Instead we must ask how the ANC got to this point.
Before answering this question, we must first underscore a few facts: The EFF did nothing unconstitutional on that day because protest is part of a constitutional right; the EFF chose this route because Zuma had so undermined the rule of law and evaded accountability that only protest, and not violence or war, could sharply raise the public demand of the truth; the public protector found that Zuma built a private clinic, a spaza shop, a swimming pool, chicken run and a cattle kraal – all of which have nothing to do with security – using public money. These items cost the people of South Africa hundreds of millions of rand.
Parliamentary procedure, rules and decorum failed to hold him accountable. Above all, Zuma did not even stick to the deadlines of the directives of the public protector’s report. Thuli Madonsela told him to simply repay the money, and an expected lawful response to such a directive is to say when will he be paying the money.
Citizens resort to protest when a person as powerful as the president has undermined all avenues of accountability and the law itself.
Zuma, as president, has a duty to comply and protect the constitution. The painful reality that day was that the ANC failed to provide leadership or direction. And its failure is not necessarily manifested by Baleka Mbete as the presiding officer, or even by the Sergeant of Arms from whom the EFF refused to take instructions, but by the culture of undermining the rule of law steeped in ANC officials in government.
The ANC has created itself as a group of people who cannot be held accountable, where they have turned the systems of accountability toothless against its key leaders.
This is why Zuma came to Parliament, the highest legislative gathering in South Africa, still carrying the same attitude. Unfortunately for him and the ANC, this time they found a different opposition.
Together with the office of the public protector, the EFF gave South Africa a wake-up call. The EFF said no one must think of themselves as beyond the scrutiny of the people.
Zuma will face protest from the EFF benches each time he comes and does not tell us when is he paying back the money. Zuma is not above the law
* Mbuyiseni Ndlozi is the spokesperson for the Economic Freedom Fighters.
** The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of Independent Newspapers.