How the CR17 hardliners brought us to a constitutional crisis
We now into the second week of the drama around what started as a SONA 2018 delivery debate, we still do not know who will deliver the symbolic opening of parliament. The latter, which for all intends and purposes are functional in a year of 2018. The African National Congress originally convened a special NEC meeting for last week which was cancelled when we were told constructive and fruitful discussions are taking place between ANC President Ramaphosa and SA President Zuma. A date originally fixed for February 17 but on Sunday night brought forward to today. As I pen this note the Special ANC NEC is underway at Irene and the Opposition with the exception of the APC readies to have their usual combined press briefing.
It is long no more a subject of SONA 2018 delivery, we are now teetering on the dissolution of parliament with early elections mooted. Need I remind you all this started with a faction of CR17 hardliners who decided to go against the 54th Conference’s resolutions on unity. Leading the charge of the CR17 hardliner is none but the Treasurer General Paul Mashatile who a week ago boasted at a Mining Indaba dinner and followed it up with a Gugulethu Church Gathering address this past Sunday, it was the undeniable intent of the ANC to recall President Zuma, he must go, we have a Ramaphosa. His choice of words confirms the venom of factional mind.
The fundamental and unanswered question in all of this mayhem and ANC initiated confusion, remains: What is the real reason why the ANC demands the resignation of President Zuma and why is it possibly going to execute a ‘recall’? Some of us who are generally accused to be Zuma supporters raised this long ago and were shot down, with grossly generalised claims of South Africa wants him gone, the sickness of
the chattering class always assuming they are SA. Yet even now Moeletsi Mbeki among others asks the same question. Can the ANC spin itself out of answering the question?
In search coherent for justifiable and sustainable answers for this fundamental question, I thought of some of the publicly advanced reasons bandied around. Among others there are those who say there has been too much corruption under his leadership. Others, cite the ruling of the Constitutional Court of March 2016 on the Secure in Comfort ‘Nkandla Saga’ as the anchor argument to claim that President Zuma has violated his office. Some have defined Zuma as the singular reason for the sum-total of all ANC problems, with a stated hope that Ramaphosa spells the opposite of what Zuma came to mean, therefore the solution. Some with an eye on 2019 considers Jacob Zuma as pure baggage, hence if they can get rid of him it will restore confidence in the ANC. Lastly some have chosen a two-centre of power notion as their overarching claim and call for resignation and ‘recall’. It is this fallacy of angels and demons that the ANC has allowed its leaders to be defined and cast in that deceives some in the ANC that their time has come, whatever that may mean.
These claims may make sense in an emotional setting around a braai, in a shebeen in a WhatsApp chat group, it simply does not translate to the actions of a rational ANC in this season as justifiable in its actions particularly since the ANC long ago took collective responsibility for the challenge of corruption which its various political
reports confirm. The ANC also did not act against President Zuma at the time of the CC ruling, it accepted his acceptance and full compliance with the findings of the CC as the final word and saw no need to bring the least of a disciplinary charge against its president at the time. It also had ample time and opportunity to use the means of the many motions of no confidence to ventilate their challenge with him continuing to serve. It therefore cannot be that the ANC claims the CC ruling as the fundamental reason for its challenge with Zuma. The ANC leadership elected by the 54th Conference cannot argue that President Zuma as its deployee failed or refused to implement any of its policies and resolutions. Therefore, this cannot be a justifiable reason.
If the subject of corruption, a CC ruling on Nkandla, or apparent defiance to implement ANC 54th Conference resolutions are not grounds for demand of resignation, perhaps the much-made challenge of two centres of power may be the justified means. However, the two-centre challenge is also a hokum argument, since the ANC lived through diverse epochs where its presidents were not the leaders of the society understood in SA presidency. The notion of the two centres of power imbibes the idea that two centres represents different realities, focus and intent hence leading to much confusion in which both the party and the country ultimately may suffer. This assumption real or not, is yet to be proven correct since we know that we lived through this in Mandela and Mbeki, Motlanthe and Zuma, we also saw this at provincial level for example Gauteng, where Mashatile and Mokonyane and later Makhura, we saw it in Free State with Magashule and the later Beatrice Marshoff, Winky Direko, etc, with very little serious challenge. Therefore, the challenge of two centres of power is less for its functional impracticality but more for its political leverage value it holds for a constituency who believes its time has come.
Since the above advanced reasons for a Zuma resignation logic is not sustainable, why then would the ANC continue with its insistence for a resignation? Perhaps we must also briefly engage the fact that some make a case of how former President Mbeki reacted as to how Preisdent Zuma is responding. When the ANC decided to give effect to what we all know was an irrational decision it simply had no guarantee that Mbeki would resign. We all know Mbeki had no need to resign the fact that he resigned was his decision and cannot be upheld as the moral standard for others. Had Mbeki opted to resist, he would have been within his constitutional rights the same a Zuma currently dispassionately is.
We ask again why must President Zuma go, the African National Congress has hitherto, given us no sustainable reason for its desire for him to resign or for his ‘recall’. We may therefore comfortably conclude it does so for nothing but factional interests in what is generally called the balance of forces reasons. It does so because it has come to appropriate the opposition led scare mongering tactics of a 2019 election loss for an outcome. Perhaps the ANC had hoped that Zuma would respond the same as Mbeki, which may I reiterate was not a standard but a personal decision.
The African National Congress for allowing the CR17 hardliners to initiate the discussion of who must deliver SONA 2018, while its president was in Davos, erred gravely and must own up to the mess of where we as a collective people find ourselves today. It is fair to accept that the ANC has no sustainable reason to either ask for a Zuma resignation or threatening a ‘recall’. The attitudes of Paul Mashatile and Derek Hanekom to cite a few confirm this entire drama is factionally laced birthed, and anti-Conference resolutions.
Until the ANC owns up to confide in us as ANC voters and South Africans we must conclude there is no real sustainable reason for the ANC to insist on a President Zuma resignation. It appears the ANC is caught between a rock and a hard place. It has allowed itself to fall for CR 17 hardliners to play it into a corner of a postponed SONA2018, possibly delayed budget speech, and a cohort of lusty opposition who has long overtaken the ANC in dictating the discourse. Caught between a combination of motion of no confidences as already confirmed for February 22, it must now lead its own motion should its NEC resolve to recall Zuma as to be actualised in a National Assembly setting, the only real place any sitting SA president can be called from high office. The ANC knows it cannot recall the president if he chooses not to resign. They know this saga will and can only end in parliament for a decision. Yet there are extended implications i.e. a plausible dissolution of parliament which will have its own set of ramifications.
The media briefing of the cohort of Opposition who made it clear they are leading the discussion and the ANC is following them, is now equally expressing zero confidence in an anticipated SA leadership under Ramaphosa whom they also accuse of being part of the claims levelled against Zuma presidency and hardly the hope for change. It appears soon even the national assembly will not exist.
Early election is not too far away as we speak. It seems the ANC will give the opposition an early Christmas gift because it will vote with the opposition on the latter’s motion, meaning history will record that the leader of society as mandated has lost its power to lead, not undone by the voters but by a slew of irrational miscalculations informed by a CR17 hardliner campaign who took it to this place in the name of Jacob Zuma. This has all the makings of a constitutional crisis.