Dear ANC MPs who voted against capture: Why are you so quiet?

2017-09-07 00:19

In an open letter to ANC MPs before the recent vote of no confidence, City Press reader CatsBell wrote that in the absence of leadership from the ANC’s national executive committee, the responsibility for saving the ANC fell on the shoulders of ANC MPs. In this letter to ANC MPs who voted against capture, he argues that that responsibility has now shifted onto their shoulders.

The full letter to South African democrats is available here.

Dear ANC MPs who have voted against capture

First, thank you for voting the way that you have! There can be no South African democrat who is not grateful to you, and proud of the kind of people our country produces: people who prefer to die on their feet, metaphorically speaking, rather than live on their knees – whether it be in front of the apartheid government or the Guptas.

It’s remarkable, considering that for more than the past decade, the captors have systematically hollowed out the ANC: comrades with integrity were as far as possible replaced with people so desperate for money and positions that they limited their questioning of leaders’ decisions to “how high?”. Yet, a good number of you kept the flame of the old ANC burning against the lies and injustice.

The greatest value of your vote was that it forced the ANC leadership to acknowledge the huge pile of steaming dung behind the state-capture elephant in the living room, stinking to high heaven.

However, the effect was fleeting. The secret vote turned out to be a boon for the captors: if even 10 or 20 of you had voted against capture in an open ballot – something that was, and is, entirely possible – it would have forced the ANC secretary-general to consider disciplinary charges against many more of you than just the four he’s left with. It’s easy to depict four individuals as errant, but it becomes a different story when faced with larger numbers.

So at the moment your vote of conscience against capture is being turned into a victory for the captors. The captor camp characterise you as a “fifth column” – as traitors, in other words. Listen again to what Gwede Mantashe said about you in the press conference in which he addressed the results of the no confidence vote: you’re accused of shooting your own soldiers in the back, no less!

Yet, despite this insult from the secretary-general of the organisation to which you swear allegiance, there has been no public pushback from you, apart from the four of you who have openly voted against capture. You appear to be chastised and cowering, as if you were real traitors, scared to be exposed for your “wrongdoing”.

So what was supposed to be a stand against capture is turning into an effective warning from the captors to all potential dissenters: “Don’t mess with us.”

But it doesn’t need to be like that. It’s in your power to put the small matter of the elephant in the living room back on the agenda.

I’m not asking you to reveal how you’ve voted, although, as I’ve said in my previous letter, I believe the vote should have been open.

All I’m asking is that those of you who voted with your conscience speak out in support of those who are being persecuted for openly voting in the same way you did.

Not only is it the right thing to do, it is also, as far as I can see, the last opportunity, from within the ANC, to disrupt what seems like the captors’ march to victory in December, and to save the ANC in the process.

I see Derek Hanekom confidently tweets this in response to the remark by journalist Steven Grootes that Deputy President Ramaphosa “is in the game” for the ANC presidency:

I certainly hope Hanekom knows something I don’t, because to me it seems that the elections are the captors’ to lose. Despite many policy documents and resolutions on the subject of organisational renewal, the same kind of ANC branches that gave the captors their previous two victories are still in place. Some procedures as to how branches report their results have changed, but there certainly has not been any (much-needed) radical overhaul of the system. It’s more or less business as usual in the runup to the congress.

So from the outside it seems as if it’s you who are in the team that’s far behind in the last 15 minutes of the game, and that it can therefore not be business as usual for you.

Defending your colleagues who openly voted with their conscience does not necessarily mean that you agree with the way that they voted, only that you respect their vote of conscience in what is, after all, highly unusual circumstances – even the captors can’t deny that: citizens see what amounts to prima facie evidence of state capture in the press day after day.

When those are the issues at stake, a vote of conscience cannot be considered an offence. In the light of the Constitutional Court judgment on secret ballots, that’s probably what the ConCourt would find if presented with the matter: the interests of South Africans trump those of political parties when you’re in the service of all citizens.

It seems pretty logical to me. It may even make sense to some of those who have voted against the motion of no confidence.

And what do you have to lose? If disciplinary procedures were instituted against you for openly defending the rights of those who voted with their conscience, they will probably run until close to the end of the year, if not longer, including appeals.

Then, if democrats come to power in December, you’ll be celebrated for defending what you believed in. If captors remain in power on the other hand, my guess is that the same conscience which brought you to vote against capture will also guide you to distance yourself from an entity which no longer has anything to do with the organisation you’ve joined, apart from the name and the logo.

Your campaign to defend your colleagues could even form the basis of a new political grouping, should the December elections show that the ANC is a lost cause.

Because if the captors remain in power, conditions are likely to be very favourable for a split, in my view more so than at any time in the short history of our democracy.

Whether it is to form a new party, or to join a broad coalition fighting state capture, the potential for electoral gains is considerable. In the 16 months or so between December and the 2019 elections, South African skies are likely to darken with state capture chickens coming home to roost.

It will result in voters looking for a new home, which presents a great opportunity for the democrats that are still left in the ANC to keep the flame of the old ANC burning, albeit as part of a different political formation.

Of course, until the last vote is cast in the December elections, it’s worth trying everything in one’s power to wrest control of the organisation from the captors, no matter how slim the chances of success – the positive impact it could have on the lives of our citizens leaves one with no choice. And, who knows, perhaps the outcome will be a pleasant surprise.

It would however be short-sighted not to prepare for the other possibility.

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May 20 2018