SOUTH African opposition parties yesterday celebrated after Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng ruled that Speaker of Parliament Baleka Mbete could conduct a vote-of-no-confidence motion in President Jacob Zuma through a secret ballot.
Editor’s Memo: Dumisani Muleya
The court outlined conditions the Speaker must consider in her decision, but for now it is still up to her to choose what to do.
In a unanimous judgment, Mogoeng set aside Mbete’s decision that she had no power to arrange a secret ballot and said the motion against Zuma must be rescheduled. The constitution gives the Speaker the discretion on whether to hold a secret vote or not, but Mbete must take into account specific factors to advance the National Assembly’s role to ensure executive accountability and representing the best interests of South Africans, Mogoeng said. “The Speaker’s decision was invalid and must be set aside,” he said.
Mogoeng said the decision on whether votes are held by secret ballot or not must be rational, enhance accountability to allow MPs to vote according to their constitutional commitments rather than just a party line.
The Speaker must ensure the vote “is not a fear or money-inspired sham”, he said. Her power “must not be exercised arbitrarily or whimsically” and cannot be used to benefit her position or a political party.
Although Zuma said in parliament yesterday he was not worried because the opposition had failed seven times before to remove him and was now trying to concoct a majority it does not have, the truth is deep down he is troubled. Not so much because he will be voted out, but mainly because he is on the ropes.
The ANC has said it will not assist the opposition to remove Zuma as that could trigger turmoil and fuel internal strife, while precipitating its own demise, so Zuma might have a false sense of security or indeed feel secure.
However, in politics you never know. People speak with forked tongues, can act with Machiavellian deception and be ruthless.
So it would be presumptuous and even delusional for Zuma or anyone to assume he is safe.
Given that a successful no-confidence motion will need support from at least 50 ANC MPs to cross the 50% plus one threshold, it is not unrealistic for 50 MPs in a deeply divided party where opportunism and money are at play to cross the floor and vote Zuma out.
Yet given the party list electoral system, hardened loyalties and ANC’s fears of losing control of its own destiny, it is also unlikely the party will commit political hara-kiri.
Zuma has been under pressure due to his scandal-ridden tenure. South Africans have been battling him in ANC structures, government, the courts and the streets, mainly because of scandals engulfing him, the Nkandlagate, Guptagate, succession infighting and leadership failures. Although these efforts have so far failed, he is battling for his political life. His project to help his former wife Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma to be the next ANC leader and South African president largely to protect himself after power and for self-interest, is being fiercely resisted.
Compare that with Zimbabwe. President Robert Mugabe has mismanaged the economy for nearly 40 years and destroyed the country through scandalous misrule.
His regime’s record is appalling: mismanagement, corruption, incompetence, theft and economic ruin. This has left the country broke and reduced to massive rubble amid a wave of company closures, de-industrailisation and job losses.
Poverty and suffering are ubiquitous in a natural resource-rich country which used to be the jewel in Africa’s crown.
Mugabe is not seriously challenged at all, except through a few ineffective protests here and there, and flawed elections. Although environments in South Africa and Zimbabwe are different, citizens must hold their leaders to account whichever way.
Mugabe has been allowed to get away with murder — sometimes literally — for far too long.