Today’s no-confidence vote will either be a display of conscience or terror

By Mondli Makhanya

“Your conscience will not guide you, but ANC branches will.”

Those words were said by Water and Sanitation minister and senior ANC leader Nomvula Mokonyane last weekend, urging President Jacob Zuma to stand firm in the face of calls for him to do the right thing.

Conscience is overrated, was the sentiment of this citizen of high standing.

That was a few days before she went to pray for rain with flamboyant and dodgy Pastor Mboro, the self-professed prophet who was accused of sexually assaulting women during church services while promising them miracle cures.

But that is besides the point.

“If whatever structure says to me, ‘Gwede do the right thing!’ that ceases to be a call on the ANC by the way. It’s a call to me. It is an appeal to my own conscience whether I am president or [secretary-general] or treasurer-general or just a member of the [national executive committee]. It’s a call to me to appeal to my own conscience”.

That was ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe basically saying Zuma should be guided by his conscience and that nobody, not even the ANC, could force his hand.

“The ANC only intervenes when your own conscience fails to guide you.”

Those were the words of former deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe in 2003. Then still secretary-general, he was explaining why the party was not moving hastily to discipline NEC member Tony Yengeni after he had been convicted of fraud.

“Voting according to conscience doesn’t work in a political party system. We all get into the list of things and go to Parliament as parliamentarians of the ANC.”

Mantashe again, sending a strong message to ANC parliamentarians that they dare not vote with the opposition in today’s vote of no-confidence in Zuma.

As you can tell, the concept of a conscience is a big thing in the ANC, the one-time conscience of the nation. But as you can tell from the governing party’s handling of various scandals, it prefers to defy its own conscience.

Earlier this year, the ANC had a chance to have a tête-à-tête with its conscience following the party’s disgraceful behaviour over the Nkandla matter. Throughout the saga the ANC had made the defence of deceit and wrongfulness an article of faith.

The party went to the ends of the earth to paint their leader as some saintly victim and former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela as Beelzebub.

Rules were broken, institutions were vandalised, the Constitution was defiled, insults were hurled and a myriad lies were told.

In the end it was left to the justices of the Constitutional Court to whip the president and the ANC’s parliamentary deployees into line.

After society waited with bated breath for Zuma to engage with his conscience he went on national television and gave a faux apology.

The ANC leadership, which was supposed to help Zuma in this difficult task, also seemed to unable to engage with its conscience.

In communicating the National Working Committee’s (NWC) acceptance of the faux apology, Mantashe opined that “we should devise a formula of dealing with the mistakes that we are committing”.

The Mpumalanga provincial working committee went a step further, castigating religious leaders for not treating the apology as a genuine one.

“Our men and women in collar should be the first to accept the apology, especially in line with Romans 13:1-7.”

Just so that everyone knows what this passage says, this good Catholic boy will forgo his column space and quote the Good Book.

“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good.

“But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.”

Yes that was the passage.

Fast-foward to October and the release of the Public Protector’s State of Capture report. The report spelt out clearly how Zuma had allowed a gluttonous and odious family to eat deep into the flesh of the South African polity.

The immediate response of the ANC’s structures and leaders was to castigate Madonsela. It was like being back in the middle of the Nkandla saga the way the venomous and infantile insults were flying towards her.

After the NWC meeting the party issued a statement, which basically said this was no big deal and it would be business as usual.

The report was “inconclusive” and contained “no binding findings”, the high priests of the former liberation movement said.

Due to this convenient interpretation, calls for the removal of the man who had again breached his oath of office by trading away his constitutional powers and the nation’s resources for his family’s personal comfort were “premature and unfounded”, they said.

Echoes of Nkandla.

As with the Nkandla rigmarole, the party was not short of brickbats for Madonsela. The party was more incensed about the leak of the audio of Madonsela’s interview with Zuma than about the president’s sale of South Africa to most effective corruptors of the state.

Hear spokesperson and NEC member Zizi Kodwa: “There can be no justification for such behaviour. This conduct fuels a public perception that she [Madonsela] wasn’t independent and acted with impunity.”

And he used the word “impunity” to attack Madonsela and defend the president. Go figure.

Today parliamentarians will debate Zuma’s fitness to hold office with the details of his sale of South Africa still fresh in their minds.

It is understandable that party discipline and loyalty will not allow them to vote with their consciences.

But will their consciences at least guide them to speak truthfully and honestly during the debate?

Or will their consciences go into a coma, thus compelling them to drown out what they know to be true and prompting them to regurgitate the falsities that maintain a facade of party unity.

Source: City Press


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