South Africa and Zimbabwe: Party Discipline Rises to the Occasion

Published on 18th February 2018

With two within the time in the area, Zimbabwe and South Africa,  miracle working prophets and in their prophecies  may be looking around in the Southern African Development Community in  particular, and Africa in general, to tell the fortunes of the next Vice President to rise to the top suddenly. Chances would be great with a nuclear-like parliamentary recall option. But they have to handsomely "tithe or things would be tight."

It is hard to resist the temptation that takes no time for the word to come true and in a rare window of political romance where opposition parties would be suitors and cheerleaders.

But there is a humankind and earthy method to it.

What happens to cocoa happens to coffee is the version of what is good for the goose is good for the gander. If recall is the preserve of the party in power and former President Zuma saw no evil in the mechanism, he cannot be speaking of its evil now. The wisdom is - forever hold your peace.

There was no magnanimity that victory. But this grace matters in order not to fall prey to what  Henry Kissinger said, "Power is the ultimate Aphrodisiac." You have to understand what power does or it can be a virus that thrives in lust and egos.

In September 2008, former President Thabo Mbeki was forced to resign after loosing the political battle to now resigned former President Jacob Zuma who thrilled the populace with his song and dance, "Umshini wami," which means, "Bring Me My Machine Gun" a popular and rousing anti-Apartheid tune.  

On songs, the African fashion dates to the era of the griots. At his swearing in, folks broke into a Ramaphosa song. Zimbabwean President Mnangagwa's people believe the hit song Kutonga Kwaro (How the Hero Governs)  by Jah Prayzah correctly predicted his rise to power. So they called it Kutonga Kwaro Garwe - Crocodile, the President's nick name.

Back to the issue.

Mr. Jacob Zuma was fired as President  Mbeki's Vice President. He was replaced by Mrs. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka.

In the countdown, the African National Congress (ANC) voted Mr. Zuma in as the new President of the ANC.  This redirected his way to the South African presidency after the general elections. Heads rolled. Mr. Mbeki was due to stand down after 10 years as President in 2009, but the ANC's decision-making body recalled him as President of the country. One-third of his cabinet resigned from government in solidarity with him.

Kgalema Motlanthe, an intellectual, former political prisoner trade unionist, the  then  deputy ANC president and the intellectual driving force behind Zuma was named as the Acting President -  a  "place holder" for Zuma.

In the national televised address, Mr. Mbeki told the nation that he had decided to resign after he was asked to do so by the national executive committee of the ruling ANC.

"I would like to take this opportunity to inform the nation that today I handed a letter to the Speaker of the National Assembly, the Honourable Baleka Mbete, to tender my resignation from the high position of President of the Republic of South Africa, effective from the day that will be determined by the National Assembly," he said.

In the moving speech,  Mr. Mbeki thanked the nation and the ANC for "having given me the opportunity to serve in public office during the last 14 years as the Deputy President and President of South Africa," he said.

He described public office to a marathon of long roads, steep hills, loneliness and uncertain rewards at the end, and urged South Africans to cherish the freedoms gained by many years of anti-apartheid struggle. "We should never be despondent if the weather is bad, nor should we turn triumphant because the sun shines," he concluded.

Like Mr. Mbeki, the departing President Zuma thanked all segments of the society for the privilege to serve, recalled the heroic Apartheid struggles and victories, pledged loyalty to the party, and praised its valor and values.

The similarities departed thereafter. He then questioned the political judgement of his political executioners and the morality of the catalysts.

On February 14, 2018,  President Zuma faced the nation in a televised address. These pertinent excerpts are to illustrate his thinking.

"Make no mistake, no leader should stay beyond the time determined by the people they serve. Most importantly, no leader should seek an easy way out simply because they could not face life at the end of their term without the perks that come with their political office. 

I do not fear exiting political office. However, I have only asked my party to articulate my transgressions and the reason for its immediate instruction that I vacate office. 

This was important in view of the discussions I held with the President and Secretary General of the Party that were aimed at uniting our organization, the ANC. 

It is indeed true that there was an agreement, that even if the need arises that I should vacate the office before the end of term, there is a need to have a period of transition, during which I would delegate some of the functions to the Deputy President of the Republic. 

Of course, I must accept that if my Party and my compatriots wish that I be removed from office, they must exercise that right and do so in the manner prescribed by the Constitution. 

I fear no motion of no confidence or impeachment, for they are the lawful mechanisms for the people of this beautiful country to remove their President. 

"There has been much speculation about how the President of the Republic should exit his or her office. In my case, some have even dared to suggest that one's perks and post-service benefits should determine how one chooses to vacate public office. 

Often these concerns about perks and benefits are raised by the very same people seeking to speak as paragons of virtue and all things constitutional. 

Some even suggest that the relevant constitutional provisions, sections 89 and 102, in terms of which the President should be removed from office, would constitute an embarrassment or humiliation. 

For that reason, various suggestions are made to help leaders avoid this constitutional route of vacating political office without perks. 

The departing President concluded:

"Even though I disagree with the decision of the Leadership of my organization, I have always been a disciplined member of the ANC. 

As I leave I will continue to serve the people of South Africa as well as the ANC, the organization I have served all my life.

I will dedicate all of my energy to work towards the attainment of the policies of our organization, in particular the Radical Economic Transformation agenda.

I thank you, ngiyabonga."

The new President won the ANC presidency by a razor thin margin to edge out Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma who was backed by her former husband and the sitting President.

More than 4,700 delegates cast their ballot. Hardly a mandate, Ramaphosa got 2,440 votes to Dlamini-Zuma's 2,261. She campaigned on the Radical Economic Transformation agenda mentioned in President Zuma's resignation speech.

The same Honorable Speaker Baleka Mbete who presided over the recall of Mr. Mbeki would have had the onerous task to preside over the party's misfortune with a "Vote of No Confidence" to remove the then President Jacob Zuma from office on February 15, 2018  - if he had continued to ask why the rush to recall him and why it  was even necessary.

What increased the irony in the change of fortune and lonely end is how the wheels of politics turn. The date was a response to the opposition Economic Freedom Fighters' request for the motion, just moving it up from February 22.

Nothing diminishes Mr. Zuma's warrior credentials in the dismantling of Apartheid. As they say, Once a General, always one. But the politics of office is another matter. Coming on the heels of the departure of former President Robert Mugabe, twice is too many for the Southern Storm not to be lesson in Africa.

But what lesson? It is a mixed bag. 

In Zimbabwe, the battled-tested Generals and party liners were not shy in expressing their disdain for those they believe were the young and foolish, aka G40, around the then President Robert Mugabe, who know neither the agony of defeat nor the thrill of victory in the legacy won. The Generals held out as guardian of the treasure  in "Operation Restore Legacy."

Ever since, the Mnangagwa government has treaded gingerly, making sure its public respect for Mugabe is not contested. President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa assured AU Heads of State that their brother (former President Mugabe) is fine and it is his duty to ensure that the former President's legacy is maintained as father of the nation. The assurance was met with applause. 

There is an implicit African exceptionality that is traced to an ideology - whether subtle or overt. Before the coming of the "white man to civilize Africa," there was an intrinsic and more humane method to resolve issue. The western missionaries, supporting their respective colonial powers,  introduced the Maxim Machine gun in Africa  to settle disputes as when the English Anglicans fought the Catholic French in Buganda ( Uganda).  

The inventor,  Sir Hiram Stevens Maxim,  later made it plain that he had invented the weapon with the express purpose of killing men, in particular for "stopping the mad rush of savages" who the white world was set to conquer. 

The AU  addresses how to deal with military coups. But  in Zimbabwe it was not clear cut like General Fattah al Sisi led coup in Egypt.  Egypt was suspended even though al Sisi did not come to power. He later retired and  contested in a due election as a civilian.  

The Zimbabweans fortune changers were extra crafty or cunning with due diligent precision. They enabled  the atmosphere for the former President to be removed constitutionally. It is not the business of the AU to regulate intra-party ploys. If the G40 had support within the ranks of the party, the recall would not have sailed.  It would be a coup if the army seized power.  The technicality was the brilliance of the Generals.

In South Africa, no ideological purity is claimed and there is no assurance of protection for the eased out former President Zuma. It is pure and raw politics.

The ANC was more concerned with the unpopularity ratings, having suffered electoral loss in 2016 that cost it the commercial and political capitals of Johannesburg and Pretoria respectively. It was the beginning of  an unthinkable predicament for the party whose invincibility was the stuff of legend when it rode to power.

President Zuma bowed out, the stock market rose. It is unlikely that journalists would be asking President Cyril Ramaphosa about sexual stuff like a journalist tried to talk and berate President Mnangagwa into championing homosexual rights, apparently to show how different he is. The Zimbabwean President  brushed off  the  bait to be patronized. 

The anecdotal account is to depict the range of foreign interests in leadership change in Africa.

By Evelyn Joe
Courtesy: African Union Citizen Journal

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