Zuma Watch

Zuma dictatorship revealed by himself

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President Jacob Zuma’s seriously flawed understanding of democracy was exposed by himself in parliament last week.

In a question and answer session in parliament’s so-called ‘second house,’ the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) he told members he owes them no explanation for some of his actions impacting on how the people of the country is governed.

Admittedly, the members of the NCOP who put the questions to him were not members of his party, the African National Congress (ANC), which won the right to govern. However, they remain legitimate representatives of at least a section of the people, which goes to the heart of what parliamentary democracy is all about.

How flawed and shallow Mr Zuma’s, almost mocking response, “if you want to know, you must win elections” is, is illustrated by the fact that not even the purportedly governing structures in his own party were informed about the matter under discussion.

And, we use the term “purportedly” advisedly because even the highest ‘governing’ body of the ANC, its National Executive Committee (NEC), is apparently not judged to be worthy of being informed about his reasons for the game of musical chairs with cabinet appointments.

In this regard it is telling that at least one member of the NEC, and who in the penultimate round of the reshuffle game missed the chair, Derek Hanekom, last week strongly criticised Mr Zuma’s response in the NCOP.

Speaking at yet another sub-structure of the ANC, a stalwarts' and veterans' national consultative conference, he said: “The president of South Africa has to account to the people of South Africa, who voted for the ANC and voted for the ANC with a president in mind. The president must never run away from his responsibilities as the president of all people of South Africa and his constitutional obligation to give account of what’s happening in government and to account to Parliament, which is the oversight body."

Democracy about the spirit and not the letter

 Technically Mr Zuma is correct when he claims that, in terms of Section 91 of the Constitution, he can appoint and remove members of cabinet. However, in terms of the Constitution, such appointments should also happen after “careful consideration.”

It is regarding the latter that parliament comes into the picture – being charged with the duty to oversee the actions of the executive branch, including it head, the President.

Parliament has not only the right, but also the duty to oversee the President and his cabinet. How else could they dispatch of this duty if they cannot interrogate the president on his “considerations.”

This is especially important against the dismal track record of a good number of members of cabinet in recent time. Not even the President himself seems to have been happy with their performance, considering how often he deemed it necessary to change the cabinet.

However, besides the letter of the Constitution, the spirit of it is all about transparency to make it possible for citizens to make informed choices at elections. It is especially so under the South African constitutional dispensation with its multitude of structural layers insolating those individuals sitting in parliament and the general public.

ANC NEC not without blame

Mr Hanekom put his finger spot on the problem when he further, in response to Mr Zuma’s NCOP reply said:  "If ministers and presidents and deputy presidents feel they don’t need to account to Parliament anymore, then our Constitution is under threat."

Fact is, Mr Zuma has been allowed to effectively become a dictator - if not in the letter of the word, indeed in spirit, and in practice.

And, Mr Hanekom and the other members of the ANC NEC has no other option but to say mia culpa.  It was them who allowed the situation to develop. There is no one else they can blame.

Next month’s ANC elective conference will most probably be the last change they will have to redeem themselves and their party.

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by Intelligence Bulletin Team

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