In his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Steven Covey points out that, in general, “We don’t believe the world we see. We see the world we believe”. This sentiment is as valid today as when first published in 1989, particularly when viewed in the South African context of a recent vote of no confidence in Jacob Zuma. The outcome of the vote and its aftermath makes it clear that we are living in a cocoon of self-delusion, or in other words we are living in the world we believe rather than the world we see.
The no confidence motion was defeated, yet opposition parties are still claiming victory which, perversely, could be true because their prospects for 2019 are so much better if Zuma stays on as President. Meanwhile, in the background, pundits have been trying to guess the number of ANC MP’s who broke ranks and voted for Zuma to go. The fundamental problem in trying to guess the number lies with finding a sound basis for making any sort of prediction. Most pundits have assumed that, apart from 8 or 9 MP’s from a couple of pro-Zuma minority parties, all other opposition MP’s voted for his removal, resulting in a “guesstimate” of somewhere between 25 and 35 “rogue” ANC MP’s also voting “Yes” to the motion. The ANC also confirmed there were “more than 25 MP’s who voted with the opposition”
Maggs Naidu has a different take on proceedings tweeting: “20 to 30 opposition MPs voted no. At least 53 ANC MPs voted yes. That's erring on the side of caution”. Putting this together with Julius Malema’s pre-vote bragging that “60 ANC MP’s will vote against “Duduzane’s father” if the vote is secret, begs the question - was “tactical” not to mention also secret “No” voting by some opposition MP’s the real reason Zuma is still in place? South African politicians, across the political spectrum, have demonstrated time and again that political ambition will always take precedence over the wellbeing of the people, so can we trust them to tell us what really happened under the veil of secrecy surrounding the ballot? Herein lies the double-edged sword, do we believe what we see, or see what we believe?
If Maggs Naidu is to be believed, then tactical voting by elements of the opposition is responsible for keeping Zuma in place. 53 ANC MP’s voting with a united opposition would have been enough to carry the motion. Now let’s see what I believe.
- First belief - Jacob Zuma is more useful to the opposition in-power rather than out – this merely confirms what opposition parties say themselves, and is therefore the primary foundation for a strong inclination towards believing in an opposition tactical “No” vote scenario.
- Second belief - there is no such thing as an altruistic politician – their agendas are geared to personal and party ambitions with no genuine concern for the plight of our people. This further boosts my inclination towards believing in the opposition tactical “No” vote scenario.
To do this it is necessary to metaphorically follow the money. Apart from captured ministers and dim-witted ANC backbench MP’s who could never find another job that pays as much - in the ranks of the opposition, who has the most to gain from Zuma staying on as President? One obvious answer is Mmusi Maimane leader of the Democratic Alliance, and another is Julius Malema leader of the EFF. In 2019 they will both benefit from the inevitable meltdown that will hit the ANC hardest during their electoral conference in December 2017, but of the two I believe that Julius Malema stands to gain the most. With Zuma gone, Malema loses his greatest diversionary asset. While it makes for entertaining listening, his obsession with Zuma distracts us from a bottom line that the EFF has no credible policies or practical vision for the future of our country. How the EFF fare between December 2017 and the National Elections to be held sometime in 2019 will depend upon who takes over the leadership of the ANC. If it is Nkosasana Dlamini Zuma, then the EFF will no doubt slaughter a few more cows in celebration of having another couple of years to target JZ. If an ANC leader of a different faction is elected and Zuma is recalled, then Malema will have to work a lot harder to persuade the electorate that he has more substance than just empty populist rhetoric.
Another indicator that Malema may have influenced a tactical “No” vote is the difference between 60 ANC MP’s he confidently predicted would vote “Yes”, and the post-vote guesstimate of only 35 doing so. This difference equates to the 25 EFF MP’s holding seats in Parliament. Coincidence? For the mathematically challenged: 60 ANC “Yes” votes confidently predicted by Malema, minus 25 EFF tactical “No” votes, equals the net 35 post-ballot ANC “Yes” votes guesstimated by a number of pundits. Is Malema capable of such duplicity? His history as an allegedly dubious tenderpreneur with a strong tendency towards tax evasion, would suggest that he doesn’t have altruistic motives, so the answer perhaps lies in whether you believe what you see, or see what you believe.
Strategic EFF “No” voting may also explain the sudden, almost panic-stricken call by Maimane and the Desperate Alliance (as Sunday Times columnist Hogarth so presciently calls them) for Parliament to be dissolved, and early elections to be held. While this might be seen to be because of the ANC’s perceived weakness and disarray, it is also possible the DA realised the secret ballot process was nefariously manipulated. Not forgetting that Malema learned the art of manipulation at the knee of his erstwhile mentor, Jacob Zuma, he has now also deliberately misled many of his followers into believing that if the DA resigns en-masse from Parliament, it will force the early elections they are calling for. This, Malema tells them, is because the number of MP’s would then fall below the Constitutional “no less than 350” members clause, even though he knows this assertion is fallacious. It has also been soundly debunked by Constitutional expert Pierre de Vos but, unfortunately, there are still many who will see what they believe rather than admit to being duped by Malema.
Returning to the DA’s call for the dissolution of Parliament – it does have a feel of desperation to it. Maimane cannot possibly believe he can win a snap election outright, no matter how divided the ANC, so what is their objective? Is it too cynical to believe that the DA want elections while Zuma is still in power because if the outcome is coalition politics, the EFF would be obliged to ally with the DA against a Zuma-led ANC, as was the case with local government metros? Are the DA perhaps running scared that Malema and his EFF might rain on their 2019 parade by throwing their hat into a coalition ring with an “Under New Management” ANC? Do the people feature anywhere in these political shenanigans?
If you believe what you see, then you must by now accept that South African politics is only about politicians, and has absolutely nothing to do with the wellbeing of our people. Political parties are so wrapped up in their internal and external conflicts that we, the people, don’t feature unless it’s an election year. I have written many times before that our flawed electoral system promotes politics over people, but lately I have become increasingly convinced that even with a change to the system, existing political parties lack the vision to reunite South Africans under a common cause. They are responsible for the divisive politicking that has inflicted so much pain on our national psyche, and are incapable of realising the ambition entrenched in our Constitution. As far as 2019 is concerned, we are in danger of falling into the trap of believing that “anyone but the ANC” will be better for the country. This is also the trap that will allow Julius Malema to sit arrogantly on his laurels just waiting for whichever coalition partner offers him the best deal.
With at least 42% of registered voters being so disillusioned they did not bother to vote in the 2016 Local Government elections, “None of the Above” is the fastest growing segment of our electorate. This is a huge pool of potential supporters for a new movement that can tap into an obvious public dissatisfaction with the present political landscape. Add the significant numbers who vote for opposition parties, not because they necessarily believe in those parties but because they want to vote against the ANC, and there is more than enough encouragement to believe a seismic shift in our political fortunes can be made to happen.
But if you still insist on seeing what you believe, good luck with a Maimane/Malema double-act.