William Butler Yeats in the The Second Coming uses religious symbolism to illustrate his anguish over the apparent decline of Europe’s ruling class. The poem is more poignant given the depressing political events in our country. Yeats said:
“Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.”
A band of hooligans determined to gang-rape the justice system and frustrate all attempts to bring Jacob Zuma to justice converged upon Esselen Park and sealed the fate of the man who had dedicated his life to the fight for the liberation of his people and for the eradication of poverty in the quest to provide a better life for all. With all his human flaws and occasional errors of judgement, President Thabo Mbeki has served his country and his people with dedication and commitment.
It was widely expected that the ANC, following the Nicholson judgement, which mischievously insinuated that the president had a political vendetta against Jacob Zuma, would act against Mbeki to settle political scores. On September 20 2008, a date to be firmly engraved in our history, Mbeki was sold by the Judases in his Cabinet and the ANC resolved to remove him from office. The decision to remove Mbeki from office was ill-considered, unconstitutional, stupid, “unfair and unjust”. It was influenced by those members of the ANC who passionately loathe Mbeki. Personal hatred and riotous emotions clouded reason and impeded good judgement.
The ANC claims that the decision was taken in the interest of healing the divisions that had plagued the party in recent period and ensuring stability in the country. On closer scrutiny it is blatantly clear that this decision was a devious scheme by ruffians within the ANC to subvert justice and shield Zuma from criminal prosecution.
The secretary general of the lynch mob in the ANC, Gwede Mantashe, said: “The biggest worry of the ANC had been the question of a reversal of the closure of the chapter that the Nicholson judgement seemed to have promised … that case, in our view, is not in the public or national interest. If the case is pursued, it will continue to be a point of division in the ANC.”
On Wednesday September 17 2008, the National Prosecuting Authority announced its decision to lodge an application to appeal against the Nicholson judgement. The following day, the Cabinet met and resolved to seek legal advice on action to take regarding false inferences contained in the Nicholson judgement. The Cabinet confirmed that at no stage did it or any member of the executive discuss this particular case or try to influence the NPA on whether it should prosecute the president of the ANC.
It is evident that the decision by the NPA, which the ANC condemned, compounded by that of the Cabinet on successive days, had emboldened the ANC in its determination to protect Zuma from criminal protection and secure his unhindered ascendancy to power. It appears from Mantashe’s utterances that the ANC saw Nicholson’s judgement as Zuma’s exoneration from serious allegations of corruption. It has been the desire of the ANC that the case against Zuma be dropped, and this had been expressed through mindless threats of violence and anarchy, as well as intimidation of the judiciary.
The decision taken by the national executive committee of the ANC may be communicated under the false pretext of trying to heal the rift within the ANC, but such a decision is a determined effort to subvert justice. Mbeki has become a sacrificial lamb to protect from criminal prosecution a man who will become president.
The Presidency issued a statement confirming that Mbeki would oblige to the resolution of the ANC when “all the constitutional requirements are met”. The ANC took its decision on the basis that the Nicholson judgement implicated Mbeki in the conspiracy against Zuma. It therefore suggests that the wilful resignation of Mbeki would be an acknowledgement of the “offence” he is accused to have committed against Zuma, and that he is the cause of the rift within the ANC.
It has been suggested that in order for the president to suffer no further humiliation, he should bow out gracefully and not defy the call to step down — that a vote of no confidence by Parliament would more devastating to his dignity and person. I believe that is utter nonsense. The president has already suffered grave humiliation at hands of his own comrades, who are driven by selfish desire to advance interests of one person at the detriment of stability of the government.
Mantashe said that the president’s removal from office would “follow with precision all the constitutional requirements to ensure that interim arrangements are in place to ensure the smooth running of the government”.
The provisions dealing with the removal of the president from office are contained in sections 89 and 102 of the Constitution. In terms of section 89(1) of the Constitution, “the National Assembly, by a resolution adopted with a supporting vote of at least two thirds of its members, may remove the President from office only on the grounds of (a) serious violation of the Constitution or the law; (b) serious misconduct; or (c) inability to perform the functions of office”.
The decision of the ANC to “recall” the president is not clear on which section of the Constitution the president would be removed from office. Judge Nicholson’s judgement insinuated that the president may have violated the Constitution and the law in respect of the independence of the prosecuting authorities, which suggests that section 89(1)(a) would be applicable; however, in terms of section 89(2) of the Constitution, “anyone who has been removed from the office of President in terms of subsection (1) (a) or (b) may not receive any benefits of that office, and may not serve in any public office”.
If section 89(1)(a) is invoked, Mbeki would be denied the protection and all other benefits afforded to former presidents. It is disingenuous for the ANC to say the decision to remove him from Parliament is neither punishment nor retribution, but the consequences of such an ill-considered decision by the ANC kangaroo court would be severe punishment to Mbeki. Even former apartheid leaders suffered no such humiliation and punishment.
I foresee no possibility of section 89(1)(c), “inability to perform the functions of office”, being invoked to remove the president, as he is not incapable of performing the functions of his office. It is only this section of the Constitution that allows the president — once removed from office — all the benefits accorded to former presidents.
There had been rumours of half of the Cabinet resigning in solidarity with the president if he did indeed leave office; the ANC had been at pains to assure the public that there would be continuity and stability in the Cabinet, and that Cabinet members would remain in their positions. It has been reported widely that another option for removing the president from office would be for Parliament to pass a motion of no confidence.
In terms of section 102(2) of the Constitution: “If the National Assembly, by a vote supported by a majority of its members, passes a motion of no confidence in the President, the President and the other members of the Cabinet and any Deputy Ministers must resign.” It is therefore logical that a motion of no confidence in the president may not be the wisest option for the ANC, given its unintended repercussions.
It would be unconstitutional and unlawful for Parliament to follow any other process to remove the president other than as provided in the Constitution. The parliamentary process referred to by Mantashe should be within the bounds of the Constitution. Both sections 89 and 102 of the Constitution would have devastating consequences for the government and for Mbeki in particular.
It is nonsensical that with a few months before the end of his term, the president has been forced to step down. It is crystal clear that the ANC was not going to allow the president to finish his term out of fear of the effects of the Cabinet’s decision to seek legal advice on their plans to see Zuma become president.
We should expect the acting president to take drastic action against the NPA and order it to curtail its attempt to appeal against the Nicholson judgement. The future of the acting national director of public prosecutions, Mokotedi Mpshe — and that of his senior prosecutors — hangs in the balance. It would not be far-fetched to predict that in the next coming weeks or months, Mpshe may be replaced by a Zuma sympathiser who predictably would drop the corruption charges.
The ill-considered decision of the ANC leaves one asking: Who is in charge of the ANC? Zuma had said he would like to see Mbeki finish his term. It is clear that he has no authority over hooligans within his movement who have prevailed over him and forced him to accept their decision to purge the president. Even the decision for a secretary general to convey this important decision to the people of South Africa leaves much to be desired. Zuma should have shown leadership and personally informed the nation of this decision.
While the political obituary of Mbeki is being scripted and published, condemned, it does not matter, history will absolve him!