#MotionOfNoConfidence: Why Did It Fail? (Part II)

Until enough black people have direct line of sight on the economy, being on the president’s side and letting the Guptas’ looting continue is the shrewdest thing an ANC MP could do; it is smarter than voting against President Zuma even in a secret ballot.

As said before, when President Jacob Zuma does something that upsets the economy, white people take to the streets and march.  There, they’re surrounded by crowds that looks representative of Mandela’s Rainbow Nation.  But South Africa is overwhelmingly black, not racially “balanced” let alone a rainbow with neat, equal colour bands.  The missing black crowds will only know what is at stake and fight for it to the extent that the economy is transformed and they have more skin in the game.

This means there are not enough black South Africans backing an accountable government today any more than there were before the Zuma faction arose, and it rose up, in part, because there weren’t enough black South Africans to hold the government accountable then.  If Zuma had lost the motion yesterday, there still wouldn’t be enough black South Africans to keep the next lot accountable because the next cabinet is under insufficient pressure by white people to ensure transformation.

Part III will explain why it needs to be white people fighting for economic transformation so that clean governance can stick (due to enough black people then having direct line-of-sight on the economy, and knowing what is at stake).

All of this means voting for a less corrupt president was much ado about nothing.  And in case you were wondering why black people who despise Zuma were changing their profile pictures into pictures of Zuma laughing yesterday, this is probably why.  Zuma is a symptom.  White people are dying to paint him out as the cause, eliminating him and declaring their work done.  That will change nothing in the long run; without a thick black middle class, South Africa will fall back into the same corruption.

“Siya, there is no way the ANC MPs thought that through in that much detail!” you may be saying.  Okay.  How much conscious thought do you put into a fist-fight?  Eating?  Dancing?  Do you keep your K53 handbook next to you when you drive just in case you forget how?

No.  You just know.  Likewise, politicians just know how politics works whether they can articulate it out loud or not.  That is why very little worries them: nothing fundamentally changes in South Africa, though a lot seems to be happening on the surface.  Lots of talking, marching and court cases.  No transformation.  Our politicians would not have to use active thought to figure out what is happening in South Africa until 100 000 white people suddenly marched for economic transformation.  Ask me about numbers, and I will tell you of an untransformed economy.

Until something fundamental changes in South Africa, ANC MPs see themselves as playing a game based on white rules.  They can never lose that game even if they are caught cheating because there are not enough white people (or the black middle class) to enforce its rules.  You can remove the Zumas, the Guptas and Bell Pottingers but until a large black middle class with skin in the game comes into existence, these crooking elements will simply be replaced with another lot like them.  Voting them out won’t be the end of the game, just a brief and unprofitable change its players, which, in the medium-term, won’t guarantee a permanent banishment of corruption.

Why, then, should these current MPs not be those players, given that before long, a group no better than themselves will fill the benches?  And the only way to ensure a stay in the game is to keep Zuma and his cabinet in the game and not replace them with another lot that will eventually turn out like Zuma but will not hire the MPs who have potentially disrupted their lives to give said new lot the opportunity to hire and fire newbies no better than they are.  The sacrifice of shaking the ANC profits absolutely no one but creates a lot of risk.  Why fire the only boss you know will hire you?  MPs jobs were not at immediate risk yesterday, but with someone other than Zuma as president, you just never know.

Make no mistake about it: those MPs know that a vote against Zuma is not a vote against the ANC.  Do not underestimate their political acumen.  They did not get to Parliament by being complete idiots.  We can throw all the civil societies, media, court cases and scandals we want at government and it won’t change a thing.  Navigating those is as simple for them as not being caught off guard when someone comes swerving from around a corner is to you.

It then doesn’t make a difference to power whether there’s a secret ballot or not because the vote may as well be secret to those who could have held the government to account but do not have direct line-of-sight on the economy to know what government is doing.

Thank you for reading, and please catch Part III.

Please share, comment and retweet: SKhumalo1987.

Book should land in mid-April next year.

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#MotionOfNoConfidence: Why Did It Fail? What’s the ANC’s Next Move? Part I

How is it possible that given an opportunity to act in secret, ANC MPs would still reveal themselves as Zuma loyalists?

Answer: the audience they’re playing to doesn’t care much about protecting Constitutional democracy, and won’t until it experientially knows and feels the connection between its interests and the rule of law.

Before explaining that further in Part II, I think it’s crucial to understand why we must anticipate the ANC’s next move.

Many are speculating that the ANC intends to recall President Zuma.  If that’s true, then the ANC’s “self-correction” will happen at a huge cost to Parliament.  When the ANC was cornered about Zuma before the vote, its defenders’ responses to media and other parties implicitly agreed that there were only two choices before the party’s MPs:

On the one hand conscience, duty towards the country and the Constitutional fulfilment of the parliamentary oath, all of which weighed strongly towards supporting the motion of no confidence.

On the other hand was (at best) the choice to keep the party united long enough to discipline its bad seeds as it saw fit later on, without letting opposition parties score points in Parliament.  This second choice would swing ANC MP votes strongly towards not supporting the motion of no confidence.

But this undermines Parliament’s reason for existing (even if those parties were just scoring points!) because it captures the power to hold the Executive accountable from Parliament to Luthuli House.  But because democracy is abstract while the ANC isn’t, stealing from democracy to shore the party up (with the whole country watching) is easier than taking candy from a baby.

This is all assuming no one from any opposition party voted against the motion of no confidence without first telling the National Assembly.  If the ANC alone rejected the motion only to support it later in another forum, it’s saying other party MPs aren’t to be trusted to propose motions in good faith for the Republic; therefore, the ANC has to protect its existence over-and-against Parliament’s mandate.  Even when the other parties are right, they mustn’t get a chance to act on it before the ANC does.

When, then, will the ANC ever let Parliament do its job on ANC office-bearers?

The ANC MPs defended this choice by pointing out “the hypocrisy” of parties that don’t deal with their wayward members and former leaders.  Whatever its merits, the weakness in that argument is that the country has already rejected those parties (and whatever hypocrisy they may or may not be guilty of) by not voting those parties in as national government.  If the ANC will not protect Parliament because doing so would be going over and above the standard supposedly observed by other parties, then the party is calling on South Africans to grade its success not against the Constitution, but on the curve in relation to how well or badly other parties deal with their leaders.   Then there is no distinction between itself and those other parties insofar as protecting democracy ahead of party interests is concerned, and who wins 2019 becomes not a question of who deserves to win, but who has the most campaign resources and funding.  From there, it is only a matter of time before who wins court cases becomes a question of who has the most money for the most expensive lawyers.  Our judiciary has been exemplary, but it cannot hold out against capture forever; South Africa needs to also do its part.

If we rejoice at a pre-2019 Zuma recall, then in the build-up to the 2019 elections the ANC will tell South Africans that it is a listening party that’s serious about dealing with corruption — but it won’t say, “we deal with corruption by undermining the democratic institutions, like Parliament, that were created to deal with it.”  Our complacence at this is a kiss goodbye to all that has not been undermined, all that has not been captured.

Although waiting on internal ANC disciplinary accomplishes the same end as a successful motion of no confidence in Parliament, it does so by choosing what can be done over what ought to be done.  It’s the politics of the pragmatically possible over principle.  It’s Machiavellianism.  In that case, all our thinking on law, principle and virtue must conform to and justify whatever the ANC say as events unfold.  Their preying on our fear of speaking up is consistent with Machiavelli’s understanding of Fortune as a woman that must be beaten and mauled into submission:

“it is better to be impetuous than cautious, because Fortuna is a woman” who “more often lets herself be overcome by men using such methods than by those who proceed coldly”.

As such, voters — I mean the good Fortune of being elected to administer public funds — is a “friend” of men who are “less cautious, more spirited, and with more boldness master her”.  If she is not subdued, she will use her courts and other pillars of democracy to walk all over rulers who are too diplomatic or “effeminate” to overpower her.

Obviously, Mduduzi Mañana has been taking notes.  So has the rest of the ANC.

How does one resist?

One does not until one has the numbers to do so.

How does one mobilise them?

The answer is in Part II.

Please share, comment and retweet: SKhumalo1987

Book should land in mid-April next year.

 

#MduduziManana: Shocking, Yes; Surprising?  Not So Much

It’s barely Tuesday, and South Africa’s high-drama news diet has already served up Higher Education Deputy Minister, Mduduzi Manana, assaulting Mandisa Duma for calling him gay.  Yet, subsequent discussions and apologies have unpacked neither the homophobia in her using the word as a slur, nor his frame of reference for clearly agreeing it was an insult.

I’ve shared before that in high school, I, too, stumbled upon that girl who used the taunt, “But you are gay” as a weapon.  Such is intended to emasculate you amongst male bystanders.  If you don’t aggressively (read: violently) disprove it, her gender be damned, you’re seen as allowing the taunter to get away with it.  This is as good as saying it’s true that you’re gay.

Gayness is seen as letting others wield power over you (by calling you gay, for example); the idea of being dominated this way has sexual connotations I won’t go into.  Femininity is framed as weakness before others’ insults, which carries the same connotations as gayness is thought to.  The only way a man can shift being feminised (or made gay) off of himself at that point is by feminising others back.  Ergo, violence.

Verbal bullying is more complex than that, of course: the accused is belittled simply in being put on the defensive because he’s likely to become defensive.  The defensiveness is self-evident weakness, making this an instantaneous vicious cycle — a perfect political trap.  The insulted is caught off-guard and already on the back-foot.  Without violence, denialism arouses suspicion amongst bystanders until it’s vindicated through violence.

Is there a choice, besides violence?  Yes, there are two.  One can enter a spiral of helplessness and shame leading to suicide.  Bottled frustration corrodes and putrefies from within.  The other choice takes, not so much inner strength as it does patience; so much so I’m convinced it comes from a higher power.

For after the antidepressants, psychotherapists and good friends have held you back from the pit, and pulled you back again when the depersonalisation, the dissociation and the disjointedness become part of your being, or non-being, this self-exile coming from being convinced your body’s impulses are so much more evil than “normal” teenagers’ that though they still get to date, have first kisses and Matric Dances, you don’t, can’t and shouldn’t.  It all starts blending into the same muffled, colourless procession of events happening on the other side of a kilometre-thick glass separating you from anything and anyone else.

And all you can really do from there is map out the socio-political terrain that produced the teenage quadrilemma of bully/be bullied/kill/be killed.  You calmly, clinically do a post-mortem of who you used to be, the imaginary being who was willed out of existence by years of self-hate, and share the reports as opinion articles for others to read and scrutinise.  You bisect yourself, and invite others to take a look, all the while wondering whether they can really hear you since you’re having some sort of permanent out-of-body experience.

You tell them that the Donald Trump who asserts his masculinity by threatening to bomb everyone is no different from the Donald Trump who brags about molesting women, is no different from the Trump who disparages gay and transgender rights after flip-flopping on them.  The Jacob Zuma who asserts his masculinity through tribalistic othering is not an innocent bystander from the Jacob Zuma who showers after possibly non-consensual sex (otherwise known as rape) with his friend’s daughter, and that this Zuma is not surprised at another Zuma, alien to himself, who goes off-script with gay rights.

Still, the society that made “gay” a slur trusts individuals whose modus operandi is domination to willingly hand over their tax returns and account for their homestead upgrades; it trusts them to do the “honourable thing”.  And you know, you wonder if you’re changing anything or if your sense of disconnectedness derives from society’s paralysis; if your trauma is an expression of theirs.  Except you know about it, and they don’t.

The ANC makes room for Manana’s and Zuma’s behaviour.  If its MPs vote against Zuma in today’s motion of no confidence, it won’t be because of the party’s commitment to respecting the Constitutional Court’s say-so on their parliamentary oath.  Likewise, if the ANC finally caught up on Nkandla, it wasn’t because it respected the Public Protector’s constitutional mandate.  If it’s horrified by State Capture it isn’t because it respects the Constitution’s view of South Africa as a sovereign state whose integrity must be upheld by its office bearers.  If the ANC seemingly champions gay or women’s rights, it isn’t because its president or its deputy ministers fundamentally believe in these causes.  Come to think of it, the ANC doesn’t seem to believe much in the supremacy of the Constitution or the inviolability of human rights.

“When someone shows you who they are,” Dr. Maya Angelou said, “believe them the first time.”  When we hear of people in the ANC behaving as Deputy Minister Mduduzi Manana did, we should certainly be shocked and outraged; we should do everything we can to shield their victims from further harm.

But be surprised?  If we’re still surprised, then the emotional putridness has corroded and decayed the last bit of sense from within us.

Siya Khumalo writes about religion, politics and sex.

Please follow and retweet: @SKhumalo1987

Book loading, catch it mid-April 2018

#NoConfidenceVote: Some Schadenfreude to Get You Through

This article first appeared on Daily Maverick.

How did we end up with MPs who’d “suicide bomb” the Constitution on President Zuma’s behalf?  If Simon Sinek (author of bestseller Start with Why) followed South African politics, he’d probably say the explanation is biological.

We each have a rational brain (hopefully) that functions as our “press secretary”: think Sean Spicer, Zizi Kodwa, Anthony Scaramucci or Gwede Mantashe explaining the irrational decisions we’ve made at the more animal level of our limbic brain that houses and responds to our Donald Trump shadow.  Each lie Zuma tells is limbic-brain talk intended to resonate with his own.  It’s “true”, or rather, compelling and effective at the felt level.

Likewise, pro-Zuma MPs did not ooze into the National Assembly by osmosis.  They were directly and indirectly voted in by South Africans whose basic Maslow Hierarchy concerns don’t and can’t involve upper Maslow issues like the currency exchange rate, the Constitutional Doctrine of the Separation of Powers, JSE-listed company share prices and credit rating statuses.  Those things can’t take top-of-mind priority until you’ve visibly got skin in the game.  Do you know by how much the walkable square footage at the poles of this planet has changed in the past decade?  You’re probably too busy dealing with what’s in front of you right now to develop a direct line of sight on climate change; it’s “the scientists’ problem”.

In 1994, the system designed to exclude black people from economic participation was altered to include them in voting.  Nothing was designed to give those voters direct line of sight right now on financial indicators, or put their skin in the macroeconomic discourse.  They live in a commercial wilderness colder than the melting poles, but not as cold as outside the ANC and its campaign-season blankets, rhetoric and free food.

Sustainable economic growth will require that those at the periphery of this economic wasteland be pulled in a bit at a time until a critical mass has been included and a tipping point has been reached.  Even if we exorcised the Guptas and the Bell Pottingers tomorrow morning, their replacements would slide right in and carry right on.  We need for enough South Africans to know what’s at stake.

Until then, at a limbic level, the people will only vote only for the kinds of people they can trust.  That’s not a race thing; it’s a human thing — as human as not knowing how much ice melted at the poles of the only planet most of us have ever live on.  At a limbic level those trusted and voted in will, like them, see the Constitution as a fence, a high suburban wall that keeps the status quo’s beneficiaries’ in and poor people out.  These are people who’ll agree it’s “full of demons” for making it easier to access gay rights (on paper, at least) than basic amenities.  My point is that the Rainbow Nation, gay people included, was not a stillborn; it was and is a breech birth.  Or as DA MP, Zakhele Mbele, says,

“When people lack jobs, opportunity and ownership of property, they have little or no stake in their communities”

and

“Economic inclusion is the foundation for social inclusion.”

We tried to make social inclusion the foundation for economic inclusion, and it hasn’t entirely worked.  As an indirect result, our options for president may whittle down to prejudiced rape apologist, Julius Malema, whose

“analysis of the [South African] situation is accurate, but whose calls for ‘radical economic transformation’ ignore that Broad-Based Black Economic Transformation already makes the provisions he invokes as political rhetoric to whip up populism,”

as says BEE Novation MD, Lee du Preez.  “The economic message of BEE was never politicised because to politicise economic policy while it’s barely christened by the business world is to break the gentleman’s agreement, an unspoken code of etiquette,” he further points out.  “Not troubled by those niceties, Julius punted nationalisation and expropriation as though BEE had never existed, let alone been christened, let alone achieved equality and equity when it was used properly.”

Malema’s faction previously occupied the niche the Zuma faction does now.  The only difference is the Zuma faction privatized nationalisation (read: captured) for the benefit of an elite and politically-connected few; Malema took that Molotov cocktail of limbic entitlement and hurled it from the rooftops to the masses who caught it.

But Karma, bless her soul, may have delivered a coup the grace.  The Gospel According to Juju is that Baleka Mbete was promised Deputy Presidency, but Zuma used her and dumped the baby (Parliament) on her lap.  If she poisons that child against its daddy by making the vote of no confidence a secret ballot and it passes against Zuma, he and his cabinet (possibly including the Deputy President he appointed, Cyril Ramaphosa), must resign.  Chapter 5, 90(1)d of the Constitution indicates she could then run the country for Woman’s Month as Acting President.

Who knows whether she’d use that time to pull some levers, like bribes (she learned from the best!), to manoeuvre conditions in the country in her favour for the ANC presidential race?

If I could just endure her yelling, “Order!  Order!” for what would feel like eternity, I’d consider giving my immortal soul to be the demon at her shoulder telling her to stick it back at Zuma.  Hell hath no fury and all that.

Please follow and retweet: @SKhumalo1987

Siya Khumalo speaks and writes about religion, politics and sex. Next year April, he will release a book.