So yesterday finally saw what many in South Africa had been talking about for a while now being debated in parliament, our confidence in Jacob Zuma to be President. My choice to use ‘our confidence’ is no mistake. Quite often in pulling our hair out, shouting at politicians on television (okay, maybe that’s just me) & lamenting over the state of politics in South Africa we tend to forget that many of these people we decry, are elected by us, are our voices, are our representatives. Anyone with the scantest knowledge of South African politics can understand why we choose to forget this fact. At the best of times, they’re merely boring, but at the worst, which is sadly quite often, they’re an unmitigated embarrassment; nevertheless our representatives they are.
This debate, a vote of no confidence, was tabled by COPE backed by the DA and supported by supported by 25% of the house, Lindiwe Sisulu kindly informed us (whilst trampling over the principles of the parliament she professed needed to be protected from ‘frivolity.’) In tabling the motion, Mvume Dandala, the parliamentary leader of COPE said, “The President of our country has let us down. He has let Africa and the world down…” Now as for letting Africa & the world down, I don’t know, but with regards to us, I know many would have to agree with that, we have been let down.
I look at my father, a 100%, proudly card-carrying member of the ANC; even he, when I needle him on Zuma, has taken to answering me with nothing more than a despairing sigh.
Alternatively, I think on how I have viewed the man myself. Views which have moved from ardent supporter (yes, you read right, ardent supporter), to disappointment as the scandals began piling up, to sad resignation at his election in Polokwane and finally to sheer anger as he happily danced and sang his way out of court without ever answering to charges of corruption.
Somehow, despite all that, upon his election as our President I was able to believe with tentative hope that perhaps, just perhaps, Zuma would prove to be the President that South Africa needed. And my hope was bolstered; the early signs seem to signify that Zuma, the most unlikely of sources, would be what we needed. All the early signs pointed that way, a largely admirable cabinet was assembled, an inauguration which to me echoed that of Mandela’s was held with an inaugural speech that seemed to have tones of both conciliation with his predecessor, Thabo Mbeki, whilst also signaling a change away from the politics of the Mbeki-era.
Despite all this, here we are, roundly being mocked around the world, at times unfairly as was seen in that odious Daily Mail piece (so vile that even our 10th, 11th & 12th provinces, Putney, Wimbeldon & Australia must have balked at it). But increasingly even the most ardent supporters find themselves struggling to defend us against pieces such as this New York Times article, which a Facebook friend said (maybe slightly unfairly to journalists) commenting on a link to it, “You know your country has problems when journalists don’t have to exaggerate.” With all this, can one blame me for feeling nothing but utter despair at what a laughing stock we have become because of this man?
So when I heard that COPE was tabling a motion of no-confidence in our dear President (a first in South Africa’s democratic dispensation) I immediately was heartened. I struggle to find another word to describe it besides ‘heartened’ as this action by COPE did just that. It brought something that had sadly come to be missing in their party, a little bit of hope.
It cannot be denied, COPE is a house beset by numerous issues and has made innumerable blunders; blunders more to be expected from the ANC, and truly needs to look to these issues if they are to not follow the path of every other ANC splintering. However, despite this COPE is in my view, first truly viable attempt at a multiracial political party. You’ll be hard pressed to find many South Africans who would deny that the politics of race and identity if not curbed quickly will be the death of our democracy (well unless you should poke your head into the ANCYL’s office after a few bottles of Veuve & Johnny Walker have loosened their tongues, I’m sure they don’t mind).
When I say COPE’s move yesterday heartened me what I mean is that, for a moment, I saw a glimpse of what I had hoped COPE would, and still believe could, be when I placed my X by their name last year. A party that would stand against ANC excess, corruption & impropriety without the racial undertones that any such attempts that the DA had (and still has) when doing the very same thing.
Something that I have seen said as a critique of the vote is, to paraphrase, “the ANC has ultimately been strengthened by it, they’ve rallied together.” I will be the first to state that the splitting up of the ANC from the broad church it is into each of its varying factions would be the one of the best thing for our democracy and yes the no-confidence vote brought an increasingly divided ANC some severely needed cohesion. But I would say, that this cohesion, will at the very best be fleeting. History has always shown attack from the outside by anyone (COPE in this instance), in no way diminishes the problems within the attacked group or nation. (How long did the Allies last after Germany was defeated? See what I mean…) Essentially, the issues within the ANC that have caused this divisiveness are still there, and will surface again soon enough.
Ultimately though, my primary point against that argument would have to be, would we be have been happy had we in a week or two been happy to find out through some leak, that a proposal within COPE’s parliamentary caucus on whether Jacob Zuma is fit to lead us had been shelved for the case of political expediency? Somehow, I think not.
Ultimately, was the vote of no confidence yesterday, political grandstanding and headline grabbing? Is COPE a party that has major issues that need urgent addressing? The answers to these particular, and many more critiques & questions would undoubtedly have to be yes. However, should COPE & yesterday’s vote be viewed in a negative light or termed, “the misplaced audacity of COPE?”
This is where I would have to disagree in the strongest of terms. For the simple reasons that for a while yesterday, something very rare happened, our parliament became just that, OUR parliament, and I for one, was proud to stand and call the COPE members, MY representatives.
NOTE: Yes, I voted for COPE, but I am not a member, nor will I ever be. To see a different point of view read the blogpost that caused me to write this post.