Baleka will probably make the right decision, for all the wrong reasons

Her upcoming ruling on the secret ballot is not as simple a matter of 'right and wrong' as the opposition would make you think.

We’re still waiting without much hope on Baleka Mbete to “do the right thing” and let the no-confidence vote in President Jacob Zuma be done secretly.

She’s at least making a bit of a show of pretending to think about it, but hey, miracles can always happen and she might surprise us. If she does, it will be a dramatic departure from everything we’ve come to learn about her over the years.

That said, a secret ballot is probably not a great idea. Mbete is likely to rule the vote must again be done publicly, but doing the right thing for all the wrong reasons is nothing to applaud.

Her reasons are likely to include the simple fact that most of the ANC’s great unworthies want to cling on to their jobs for another two years and certainly won’t feel too confident about that if there’s a secret ballot.

If Zuma goes, our whole cabinet of ministers and deputies will have to go with him. Obviously that sounds like a great bonus, almost like a Verimark ad telling you “But wait, there’s more!” Even so, how we achieve that outcome should be nearly as important as simply achieving it.

Mbete will probably also be concerned about what might happen to her personally should she rule the vote must be done secretly and Zuma survives. That is a scary man, particularly if – like almost everyone in the ANC – you have a few smallanyana skeletons he happens to know everything about.

So Mbete will probably go for the safe option and Stand By Her Man. Again.

Before you leave an angry comment, read on

Saying I would like the vote to be open doesn’t mean I don’t want Zuma to go. I’ve been waiting for this waking Zuma nightmare to end for years. But he should be voted out openly, because that’s the least he deserves. For every bad decision, every good person in our public service he fired or otherwise removed, every deal struck in the dark with the Guptas and the Russians, for the mountain of evasions and lies, Zuma needs to be able to look his Brutus in the eye as he is stabbed on the Senate floor (so to speak).

And if Zuma being booted out is to be the start of a new and rejuvenated government in South Africa, then that needs to happen with confidence.

The recent experiences of the DA and EFF in Mogale City should also give the opposition some pause for thought.

The former DA mayor, Michael Holenstein, was removed at the start of last month in a motion of no confidence that was conducted by secret ballot. The DA had opposed the vote being done secretly and the ANC had, quite rightly, accused them of hypocrisy.

Holenstein had lasted for only six months and the result was the narrowest of wins for the ANC, with a 39-38 result in its favour. That meant one of the opposition council members must have voted with the ANC because the ANC only has 38 seats. The DA apparently subjected its councillors to lie-detector tests to uncover the truth (which was ridiculous, by the way).

The troubles in that council have continued, since the opposition was confident the new municipal government would not be able to pass its budget and would thus be dissolved – but then the EFF unexpectedly voted with the ANC. This enraged the EFF head office, which will now apparently be disciplining its members for voting with the enemy.

Those EFF councillors said they were merely “voting with their conscience” because they thought the budget was pro-poor and thus in line with the EFF’s objectives.

It was then the EFF leadership’s turn to be accused of hypocrisy, as “voting with their conscience” is precisely what they’re asking ANC MPs to do against Zuma in the National Assembly.

All this secrecy in chambers that determine the fate of millions of South Africans cannot be good. We need representatives who know what they believe in and are willing to stand or fall for it, and be judged for it accurately by history.

In 2003, then British prime minister Tony Blair faced a major revolt from his Labour MPs against the invasion of Iraq. He needed the support of Conservative MPs to make it happen. No one on those green chairs in London was hiding, and today it’s easy to go back and see who supported Blair’s disastrous idea and who was against it.

In the UK, MPs have to be voted into office by their constituencies. In their wisdom, when South Africa’s system of government was fathomed in the 1990s, our founders felt our system of party-dominated politics would be a better idea. So, admittedly, in parliament we do lack that direct sense of accountability to the everyday person on the street.

All the same, that shouldn’t be enough of an excuse. The outspokenness of someone like Dr Makhosi Khoza should not only inspire those ANC MPs who agree with her, but shame them in their continued silence.

If Julius Malema is right and there are about 60 ANC MPs ready to vote against Zuma, then they should make their intentions clear now, just as Khoza has. If they do that, then the remaining MPs will understand the jig is up, and the momentum could shift dramatically against Zuma. We might find that Zuma is then voted out by almost every MP, as he should have been years ago already.

Treating MPs who want to do the right thing as if they are naughty children with a dirty little secret is simply the politics of the pathetic.

Charles Cilliers, digital editor

Charles Cilliers, digital editor

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