Graham Sell: Dishonourably Honourable – Politician self interests hurt SA

It’s the classic case of cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face. And Graham Sell asks if political parties are putting their own interests ahead of the country’s as they look to unseat President Zuma? In this insightful piece he makes reference to a John Cleese corporate training video on sales. The final point says ‘stop talking when you’ve made the sale’. And in a round about way, Sell puts the same concept to the opposition parties. He says political advantage had been gained with the Constitutional judgement but that’s where the talking should have stopped. The push to get the President impeached has created a defensive layer at the ANC, which will ultimately do things at their own pace, and most likely slowed the whole process down. “In true political style they carried on playing the game, even though they had long ago dropped the ball.” And what this ongoing circus really tells us is that none of our politicians put the country first. – Stuart Lowman

By Graham Sell*

Graham Sell
Graham Sell

It may have been entertaining watching opposition parties line up in parliament to take well-argued and extremely well-aimed pot-shots at President Zuma and the ANC, but behind the theme of all the attacks was their acknowledgement that the efforts to impeach the President were doomed to failure. In an editorial comment the following day Alec Hogg of Biznews perceptively highlights that the “ANC will Dump Zuma – but only in its own good time”.

It is widely recognised, even within the organisation, that Jacob Zuma has become a liability to the ANC. The longer he stays at the helm the more advantageous it is for opposition parties in the upcoming local government elections. President Zuma’s demise was, and remains inevitable, so why was the opposition so hasty in calling for an impeachment debate?

It beggars belief that the DA and EFF suddenly discovered altruistic streaks in their self-serving political agendas large enough for them to willingly give up this gem of an advantage. Were they really sincerely concerned that the ANC will take too long to do the right thing, or more concerned that the ANC will do the right thing too soon, before they, the main opposition, are able to milk it to their ultimate advantage?

As I suspect that the majority of politicians have altruism erased from their persona at birth, I lean towards the self-serving motive. The most effective ways to drive the ANC into laager and ensure that Jacob Zuma stays in place is to challenge the ANC to recall him, or to try to obtain his removal through the parliamentary impeachment process.

It is too generous to assume that the ANC were about to imminently dump Zuma, as he still enjoys considerable support within the organisation, but by openly challenging the ANC, the opposition have now made it a cast iron certainty that he cannot be dumped any time soon.

So, political advantage has been gained by the opposition, but at what cost to the country? The impeachment process was really nothing more than the opposition contributing towards what Standard and Poor’s Konrad Reuss describes as “political noise” that will almost certainly have a negative effect on our sovereign credit rating.

Having started the whole debacle, the ANC are not blameless in escalating the political cacophony. They turned up the volume themselves on Friday when first President Zuma, and then Secretary General Gwede Mantashe failed quite spectacularly to accept any responsibility, or pronounce upon any consequences stemming from the Constitutional Court judgement. Tuesday’s predictable outcome of the impeachment process just ramped up the volume of political noise even further, bringing us ever closer to junk status.

Sadly, and because of this, the EFF and DA are about to turn their Constitutional Court triumph for our democracy and democratic institutions into a facile and pyrrhic victory for politicians. In the 1980’s, British humourist John Cleese produced a 4-part series of corporate training videos entitled “So you want to be a success at selling?  In part 4 “Closing the Sale” one of the strongest messages was that when you have made the sale, stop talking before you say something that makes your customer rethink their decision. The EFF and DA had made their sale at the Constitutional Court, but they haven’t yet stopped talking.

What this circus really tells us, though, is that none of our politicians puts the country first. They are all so wrapped up in scoring political points in their all-consuming quest for power, that they have lost sight of their true purpose. Their true purpose is not only to uphold and defend the Constitution, but also to always act in the best interests of the country and its people.  In this, they have failed us miserably.

It most certainly was not in the best interests of the country and its people to push us closer to the potential hardship that will result from junk status, but in true political style they carried on playing the game, even though they had long ago dropped the ball.

The only thing that will make a difference to all these dishonourable “Honourables” is a change in the electoral system, the need for which is now dire.