In a series of my tweets last evening, I pin pointed why we, South Africans, have reached these dire straits in our democracy. Playground fighting and high school petty bickering in our Parliament is common place, reaching a pique in last night’s heated events. The riot police was called in, manhandled a few MPs and forcibly removed them from the National Assembly.
That’s what it has come down to: politicians, whose jobs as MPs is to discuss and argue matters concerning our country resort to using force when it gets too heated. All of that… In defence of one man, our president.
There are two Nkandla reports: one drafted by the office of the Public Protector; the other, by Parliament’s Ad Hoc committee. Last evening, members of parliament had to discuss and vote on the findings of the Ad Hoc committee’s report (which essentially absolves Zuma of any responsibility regarding the Nkandla palace, particularly of the monetary kind.)
I read the happenings of parliament go down as people narrated it on their Twitter feed. It was horrifying honestly. South Africa’s Parliament’s official twitter tweeted the results of the vote. I can say with almost 100% confidence that those who voted “yes” are MPs from the ANC camp…
Members of opposition who serve as the public opinion mouthpiece on the Nkandla problem were obviously frustrated and disappointed in their colleagues. Anyone and everyone sees that none of this makes sense. We all read Thuli Madonsela’s report. We’ve seen pictures of Nkandla. We’ve seen a swimming pool masqueraded as a “security” “fire pool”. We can see how exorbitant these “security” upgrades were, paid by us. We can see how ridiculous the Ad Hoc committee’s report is. It’s like they analysed a different upgrade entirely. So the opposition MPs were shouting out their grievances, disregarding the instruction of the Parliamentary speaker. I agree with this unruly behaviour. The moment called for it.
Even though this is obvious, sometimes I think members of parliament need to hear this: in parliament, as a member you must vote as a representative of the South African public, not as a member of your party — leave your political party at the door. When politicking triumphs politics…
But how did we get here? Where members of parliament don’t understand their job descriptions? Where one man is defended at the expense of our democracy’s founding principles? I’m inclined to blame us, you and me, the South African public.
As a public, we’re very passive… passive participants in our democracy, relying too heavily upon structures to uphold our and this strategy is beginning to falter.
At most, we participate in national elections and exercise our democratic right to vote, which translates to the number of seats a political party gets in the National Assembly… Which is how the ANC was able to get an almost two-third majority in parliament. And with that majority, the ANC was able to do what it did last night.
Whenever the ANC exercises its might & influence outcomes to its favour, we’re quick to valiantly defend our honour by highlighting that it “wasn’t me” who voted for the ANC… Absolve ourselves at lunches, braais and on social media how these ANC power abuses are “not my fault — I didn’t vote for them!”.
But at the end of the day we are all South Africans. And the results of national elections reflect our collective decision. It is us who put the ANC yet again in this powerful position. We need to share that responsibility collectively.
Other than the ANC abusing the all-power two-thirds majority, there another reason we find our democracy in this state: our saviour complex. Whenever a problem arises, the South African public places their collective faith in something — a body/person/organisation/structure — that will be the one to solve this problem… will save us from this problem.
With the Protection of State Information Bill (AKA the Secrecy Bill), the Right2Know Campaign was our saviour.
With e-tolls, OUTA is our saviour.
With Nkandla, Thuli Madonsela & the Public Protector office.
And our usual go-to is the judiciary.
If these saviours can’t do their saving, the problem remains.
Currently, at the core of our grievances is Number 1 himself, President Jacob Zuma. Essentially, we just want him to be gone. He has caused enough damage. Yet again, with the Zuma problem we are outsourcing the solution. The simple fact is: he will not and will never resign. There will not be a successful motion of no confidence in parliament against him. Zuma is slippery and will weasel his way out of any action against him with masterful ease (for evidence, see: Nkandla)
But blogger Siyathokoza Khumalo has a workable solution, one where we’re doing our own saving: President Jacob Zuma resigns.
He doesn’t necessarily have to actually resign: for as long as we don’t regard him as our representative of our state, the job has already been done, the solution to the problem reached.
However, we must caution against falling into the reverse saviour complex: believing that South Africa – Zuma = great, all problems solved. Believing that the removal of one part will lead to the solution of a problem is a version of the saviour complex and in all its forms is what we need to stay away from.
The problem is not necessarily Zuma the man, rather what Zuma’s behaviour and those who bend over backwards, make underhand deals & bend the rules to protect him. He’s set a dangerous precedent in which those in high positions are above the law. Our actual problem is not Zuma the man — he’s replaceable — but what he continually does to us without consequences. We need to illustrate our dissatisfaction with this precedent with vigour & zero tolerance. This is why the #FormerPresidentJacobZuma and #ZumaResigns are important: we will be showing our zero tolerance approach to dismantling this precedent.
We need to set a new precedent, with Zuma as a starting point, knowing that this is just the beginning of us taking charge of our own country, discarding the saviour complex. We will be clearly showing to every future player that our country’s politics is not a game to us.
The time is now for us to steer our country in the direction we chose to go. Something needs to ignite in everyone as individuals to make this change happen. What will it take to make this change occur? I thought the Secrecy Bill was the last straw… the Marikana Massacre or perhaps Nkandla –How many straws are there left in our hands?
What’s your last straw? Last evening is mine.