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Join the PARTY, Helen et al …

So Helen Zille feels that President Zuma did a good job, except for the fact that he is not acting like an executive president, but more like a deployee of Luthuli House. Well, duh, what else is he supposed to be? For the Helen-ites out there, let me explain carefully how South Africa’s electoral system works.

First, a political party registers with the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) their interest to contest an election. At a certain time, those parties are required to pay a certain fee. The parties are then asked to submit their lists of candidates to the IEC and a panel looks at individual names and decides on their fitness for public office. Once that process is completed the IEC informs parties and publishes the final lists as consented to by the Electoral Court.

Normally, a party would have as its number-one candidate the person it proposes to become the president of the republic, should it secure majority vote.

When the IEC prints the final ballot paper, it normally puts on the name of the party, the abbreviation used by the party, the party emblem (symbol) and a picture of the party leader or number-one candidate. Through all general elections since 1994 the national ballot reflected the face of the ANC president.

Let’s look at recent history. Since 1994, the ANC has won all the general elections. So, the IEC looks at the election results and declares the seats every party gets in Parliament. The Chief Justice than declares a date for the first sitting of Parliament where all new members are sworn in. The person intended to become the president, is also sworn in as a member of parliament (MP) since the law requires Parliament to elect a person to be the president of the republic from among members of Parliament. Once that person has been elected, s/he automatically resigns as an MP, and his/her seat is taken by the next person on the party’s list.

In terms of our electoral system, it is possible for an independent person to become an MP if that person can secure enough votes. So, far, only political parties have contested general elections. That means that any person who becomes an MP, would do so representing a party in Parliament, not him or herself.

So, even the president of the country would be a person deployed by his/her party to that office. That’s why I am totally confused by Zille’s comments on the status of the president. At no stage during the ANC’s election campaign did the president say that he would do this or he would do that. The president of the country always speaks of we and us, reflecting the unitary status of the Cabinet (executive), whereas the president of the ANC would use the same terms to refer to statements of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the ANC.

No president of the ANC or of the republic since 1994 has ever spoken from an individual point of view or reflected personal viewpoints. All statements to that effect were informed by ANC policy. Under our current system nothing could happen without approval from the ANC. So, it makes sense that the president would take all issues to the NEC, where a decision is taken on how to approach those issues.

Would Zille address an issue without first discussing it in her party’s leadership structures? I don’t think so. So, why is it so wrong for the president to act in the same way? At the end of the day, Zuma has never stood in any general election, did he? The ANC won the 2009 general elections and decided that Zuma should represent the party in the office of the President of the Republic.

I think Zille et al could not really find fault with the president’s first 100 days, so they came up with a petty issue to complain about. At the end of the day, we are so used to their strategy of opposing merely for the sake of opposition.

Fortunately, we had a host of journalists, media and independent analysts all concurring that the president has done a sterling job in his first 100 days, something mirrored by a recent poll showing increasing approval ratings of the Big Man.