Editorial: DA calls slowly erode the ANC

Jacob Zuma's presidency lives to see another day, but the DA is hollowing out his credibility to the voters. (David Harrison. M&G)

Jacob Zuma's presidency lives to see another day, but the DA is hollowing out his credibility to the voters. (David Harrison. M&G)

  It does not matter that the Democratic Alliance’s motion of no confidence in President Jacob Zuma was defeated. It does not matter that the motion never even stood a chance in a National Assembly dominated by ANC MPs who will always toe the party line. It matters even less that Uncle Gweezy dismissed the entire exercise as frivolous. And it is means nothing that the party’s secretary general could actually be right – ANC cadres, however dissatisfied by Nxamalala, are not going to commit political suicide by taking their cues from the DA.

It does matter that the entire spectacle, repetitive and carefully orchestrated as it was, further erodes the credibility of the ruling party. Even those who see the president as the problem are left to stand by the party, even the good guys, rush to a very public defence of Zuma. The ANC is shown again to be a party that will protect its own at the cost of accountability to the electorate.

We cannot often credit the DA for political strategy that is not steeped in cliché. The party is rarely, if ever, credited for astute political strategy that responds to the real lives of South Africans. Some DA MPs sometimes leave us wondering whether they believe themselves to be Tories in the House of Commons. But these repeated votes of no confidence in the president show the party to have some strategic nous after all.

South Africans are dissatisfied with the ANC, and the ANC seems not to care.

What the DA is counting on is further eroding any trust South Africans may still have in the ANC correcting itself. The DA offers the live televised spectacle to the nation as if to say any notion of a more authentic version of the ANC existing apart from Zuma is pure fantasy.

The DA sets the stage and the ANC delivers.

Repetitive and frivolous it may be, but Uncle Gweezy would do well to understand that the spectacle comes at a cost. It is a cost that the ANC can ill afford. This year’s local elections ought to have disabused the ruling party of its complacency. Instead, the president appears more buoyant than ever. He remains the strong man.

The futility of the motion of no confidence leaves many to question the efficacy of the opposition if this is indeed their only recourse. But, with their army of researchers, analysts, consultants and maybe even a politician or two, the DA knows their repeated votes of no confidence in the president are shorn of any real significance. The DA does not necessarily want Zuma gone. Like the Economic Freedom Fighters, the DA needs Zuma at the helm of the ANC to show South Africans that an alternative must be considered. And, to do so, a spectacle must be created.

Donald Trump’s victory in the United States’ election has inspired a torrent of commentary on post-truth politics. But it’s not just a post-factual world we are negotiating. It is a world shorn of any meaning beyond short clips in which the currency of truth has been downgraded. The vote itself does not have to mean much when the spectacle of a well-delivered jibe against the person of the president will go viral.

Notice how Trump has overtaken conversation this week? It’s as though we can focus on just one scandal at a time. Days after the release of the public protector’s state capture report, the condemnation of the people she found apparently guilty of wrongdoing have faded. The spectre of Trump as the most powerful person in the world has eclipsed our own problems for now.

Meanwhile, President Jacob Zuma lives to fight another motion of no confidence another day.

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