Former deputy minister of defence as well as health Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge believes the scheduled vote of no confidence in Zuma is a “moral dilemma [that] will test the integrity of the individual ANC MPs”.
In an exclusive interview, she told The Citizen the vote would be a “true test of character and courage”.
She should know better than most MPs what that feels like. She was ordered to resign in August 2007 by then president Thabo Mbeki, and she blatantly refused. Shortly before midnight on August 11 of the same year, Mbeki took the extraordinary step of releasing a letter firing her publicly.
“A year prior to my dismissal, President Mbeki had called me to his office and warned me not to contradict the minister on HIV/Aids,” Madlala-Routledge said.
“I defied him, and my feelings now are that, although it was a very difficult and painful time in my life, I feel proud that I did speak out,” she said, and added she felt vindicated when the ANC caucus embraced her, and she was later its chairperson and, eventually, the deputy speaker of parliament.
“As a loyal member of the ANC then, I felt compelled to protect and defend the core values, principles and policies of the ANC, which I strongly felt were being violated by the then president of the ANC and South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, and the minister of health, Dr Manto Tshabalala-Msimang,” she explained.
Madlala-Routledge is sympathetic to ANC MPs as we approach the day of reckoning. She said they also had a strategic decision to make. Would it benefit the party more to vote with their conscience or vote according to the party line? she asked.
She hinted: “They may also be opportunistic and vote with the party line, as they risk being dropped from the list after the vote.”
She agreed with political analysts who argued that ANC current challenges were not exclusively Zuma-driven.
“The issue is about whether the ANC as a whole [is] holding up its core values and putting the country and the people first.
“This is not a matter relating to one man but the organisation as a whole. For its future the ANC cannot rely solely on its struggle credentials,” she said and pointed out that if the party failed to elect leaders of moral rectitude, it may fail to govern on its own after 2019 elections.
“The issue of Jacob Zuma is giving opportunities to the opposition parties to increase their profiles and generate supporters. The ANC is not making use of their performance as opposition parties in provincial and local government to increase its support,” she lamented.
Currently a member of the group of stalwarts making an effort to use the upcoming policy conference to “introspect”, she resigned from the NEC of the ANC, but got no response. “I currently don’t get invited to meetings, so I assume that lapsed,” she said, and clarified she was not interested in joining any political party at the moment.
” [I] believe that our democracy will deepen and strengthen through our active participation, either as individuals or collectively, using the many platforms of our constitutional democracy, including voting, protesting, petitioning our public representatives, engaging in extraparliamentary politics and taking up single issues and commenting on both traditional and social media,” she said.
Madlala-Routledge, who currently works as a director of Cape Town-based NGO called Embracing Dignity, thinks the “ANC needs to modernise itself and create healthy mechanisms for leaders of integrity to emerge and gain support through contesting positions openly”.
She is, however, critical of the current party president endorsing a specific candidate.
“Jacob Zuma has not helped the process by endorsing his former wife and thereby supporting a faction, instead of giving support to all contestants and upholding the agreed ANC processes and internal democracy,” she elaborated.