Zuma’s fate is in the hands of MPs who get paid for party loyalty
Much anticipation accompanies Members of Parliament when they convene on 8 August to debate the motion of no confidence in President Jacob Zuma.
Many member, probably think the following formula of words do justice to the gravity of Zuma’s continuance in office:
“You have sat here for too long for any good you have been doing. Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go.” Actually those very word were uttered by British MP Leo Amery, borrowing form Oliver Cromwell, in the momentous debate on 7 May 1940. His devastating verbal firepower was in fact aimed at his own prime minister and leader of his Conservative Party, Neville Chamberlain. At debate’s end , when the votes were counted, and not by secret ballot, Amery was joined by 42 Tory MPs -plus 36 abstaining – who voted against their own leader. Chamberlain did not survive; this close-run outcome led to the appointment of a national government led by Winston Churchill.
South Africa’s troubled present is hardly comparable to Britain’s imperiled state at the commencement of the Second World War. But bad leadership in both places, before replaced, had a lot to answer for. The point though about Amery and his fellow party rebels was that they believed good conscience rather than fast loyalty to the party was the
first call of a parliamentarian. It helped too that Amery, possessing a first-class degree from Oxford had independent wealth from his company directorships. He did not depend on the leadership’s favour to remain solvent. The reason why it is unlikely that Amery’s rhetoric -or its modern equivalent – will emerge from any ANC MP on Tuesday week was well expressed recently by University of KwaZulu Natal academic , Professor Paulos Zulu.
He advised the Moerane Commission investigating political killings in his province that several councillors were murdered because political office required ‘no qualifications’. He added, Ïf politicians especially at councillor level had to be qualified to take up their posts, murdering for positions would be greatly eliminated.”
But that is hardly confined to municipal level. Maverick ANC MP Dr Makhozi Khoza has apparently been threatened with murder ahead of the no confidence vote in Parliament. Her sin is not so much the seat she occupies but her preparedness to denounce and presumably vote against Zuma.
A cursory glance at her impressive resume suggests that the doughty doctor is highly employable in the private and academic sectors where she held positions before entering politics. But she is an exception to the rule of the rise and permanence of the professional politician. He or she depends almost entirely, aggravated by the closed list system of proportional representation, on the party to keep their jobs and doubtless outside of politics many would struggle to survive.
At the dawn of SA’s democracy, very different people with richly diverse backgrounds beyond a lifetime career in politics populated the National Assembly. The ANC members -excluded from parliament until 1994, obviously emerged from all over the career map -from the professions, the struggle, academia, trades unions and the private and
In my small caucus of 7 Democratic Party MPs -two of us had practiced as attorneys before entering politics. Of the others, teaching, public service, journalism, quantity surveying and business were their backgrounds . It was British statesman Lord Denis Healey who declared that the most important qualification for a parliamentarian was ‘hinterland’-or a depth and breadth of knowledge beyond politics to inform their judgments.
A survey of today’s MPs would reveal that most of them are career politicians, many having had no jobs outside those offered by the party. Expecting then such members to defy the party line -especially in public – is to use in the title of a war famous war movie, “A bridge too far.” This narrowing and professionalization of parliamentarians is now
almost universal. The rise of the career politician as legislator was captured by Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post. In 2014 he wrote, “There are many more people populating our state legislatures and US Congress who have never done anything outside of being a professional politician than there were even a few decades ago.”
He put the statistic in the US Congress at around one third; In South Africa, the figure is more likely around two thirds of MPs or higher. The improbable rise of Donald Trump to the presidency of the United States is in part explicable because he was a non-politician – elected by angry people sick and tired of the rise and permanence of political
But, to be perfectly fair, beyond an unhappy electorate, the one person most responsible for the election of Trump was his poorly cast opponent Hillary Clinton. For all her intelligence and vast experience ,for twenty five years before her election, she had done nothing except politics.
If Zuma survives the no confidence vote it will be triumph of loyalty over judgment. And on the problem with unquestioned loyalty, you can literally, take a page from a new book on Hillary Clinton’s failed election which saddled the world with Donald Trump.
In “Shattered- Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign”, Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes write: “After the primary loss in Michigan, Hillary needed answers from her team about what they planned to do to make sure she didn’t get blindsided again. It was hard enough to run against Bernie Sanders (and) Donald Trump…without her own team screwing things up. The one person with whom she didn’t seem particularly upset: herself. No one who drew a salary from her campaign would tell her that. It was a self-signed death warrant to raise a question about Hillary’s competence in loyalty-obsessed Clintonworld.” But, here on the southern tip of Africa, hope springs eternal. Let’s justsee if there are some brave ANC pilots in the House in a few days’ time.
Even if they have to be kamikazes.
- Featured in Sunday Times