Former president Mbeki takes aim at Zuma: Can he bring MPs to their senses before ‘no confidence’ debate?

South Africa’s former president Thabo Mbeki has stepped into discussions about a vote of no confidence to be tabled in Parliament next week. In a letter published in a Johannesburg newspaper, Mbeki is effectively urging Members of Parliament (MPs) to break ranks with the ANC and vote in the best interests of the people – rather than themselves and the corrupt clique around Zuma. It is going to take some doing for dozens of MPs, many themselves undoubtedly corrupt and with a lot to lose if Zuma goes, to act as the voice of the people rather than the voice of the political parties to which they belong. The vote of no confidence is seen as one of the few ways to set the wheels in motion to get rid of Zuma. Unfortunately, as recent events have shown, Zuma has slowly but surely recrafted the ANC and government power structures so that South Africa now looks a lot like a one-party dictatorship. Dictators have a way of clinging to power, regardless of the criticisms or challenges mounted against their rule. After a surprise reshuffle of the cabinet, in which Zuma shored up significant support for himself while pulling the plug on South Africa’s credit rating, Zuma is looking stronger than ever. The fact Mbeki has reached out to MPs through a newspaper highlights that the power bases within the ANC have shifted substantially and that it doesn’t seem possible for Mbeki and other respected struggle veterans to hold sway in the party through private conversations. – Jackie Cameron

By Thulani Gqirana, News24

Cape Town – Members of Parliament are the voice of the people of South Africa and must not act as the voice of their own political parties, former president Thabo Mbeki said.

In a letter published in the The Star newspaper, Mbeki, in reference to the motion of no confidence in President Jacob Zuma to be debated in Parliament on Tuesday, April 18, said MPs do not have to vote according to party lines.

File Photo: Thabo Mbeki speaks with Jacob Zuma at the African National Congress conference in Polokwane, South Africa, on Monday, Dec. 17, 2007. Photographer: Greg Marinovich/Bloomberg News

“It is therefore obvious and logical that Members of Parliament (MPs), each elected to this position by the people as a whole, and never by individual political parties, including their own, must act in Parliament as the voice of the people, not the voice of the political parties to which they might belong,” he said in the letter.

The ruling party has confirmed that they would be voting against the motion.

All opposition parties have vowed to vote in favour of the motion and appealed to the ANC to do the same, as the party has the majority vote in Parliament.

“This poses the question all Parliamentary parties must answer – is this what the electorate expects of its elected representatives?” Mbeki asked.

The Constitutional Court of South Africa

Mbeki said the Constitutional Court, in the March 31, 2016 judgment on the Nkandla matter, defined the role of MPs.

“It stated, correctly, that our MPs serve in Parliament as representatives of the people. They do not serve in Parliament as representatives of political parties, even as they are members of these parties.”

He said all MPs of all parties served as members because they were elected by the people of South Africa and were therefore accountable to this electorate – the people.

“There is absolutely no MP who sits in Parliament by virtue of being elected by the political party to which they might belong, including those who subsequently get elected by Parliament to serve as Head of State and government.”

This boiled down to questions the MPs should ask themselves.

“Do I serve in Parliament to promote the interests of my political party; or, do I serve in Parliament to promote the interests of the people; and, is it possible that there might be particular circumstances, and particular issues, when I consider that the interests of the party and those of the people coincide, and what actions should I take in this context?

“It may be that the current political controversy has, at last, imposed on our country the opportunity and obligation the better to define the Constitutional and moral relationship between the people and their elected representatives.”

The motion follows President Jacob Zuma’s controversial Cabinet reshuffle, which saw Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and his deputy Mcebisi Jonas being axed, among others.

This led to a downgrade to so-called ‘junk status’ by ratings agencies Fitch, and Standard and Poor’s, along with nationwide protests against Zuma.