Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

Mbeki: MPs must serve the people, not political parties

Former President Thabo Mbeki has weighed in on the debate around Parliament removing the current president, saying MPs are not beholden to their party. Instead, they must vote according to the wishes of the people that put them there.

In a letter in The Star on Tuesday, Mbeki said: “It is obvious and logical that MPs, each elected to this position by the people as a whole, and never by individual political parties, including their own, must act in Parliament as the voice of the people, not the voice of the political parties to which they might belong.”

The letter comes ahead of the motion of no confidence in President Jacob Zuma, which will be debated after Easter, on April 18. Opposition parties have said that they will be in favour of the motion, while the ANC has said it will be voting against the motion.

In the past, this has meant that ANC MPs have stuck with their party and voted as a single block. With their majority in Parliament, this has effectively prevented any attempts to oust the president.

But Mbeki said that this is against last year’s Constitutional Court ruling on Nkandla. In that seminal ruling, the court said: “The National Assembly, and by extension Parliament, is the embodiment of the centuries-old dreams and legitimate aspirations of all our people.”

Because of this, the court said: “It is the voice of all South Africans, especially the poor, the voiceless and the least remembered.”

This, Mbeki wrote, makes it clear that MPs serve in Parliament as representatives of the people. “There is absolutely no MP who sits in Parliament by virtue of being elected by the political party to which they might belong.” This speaks to the core reason that Parliament was created, around the central hope of those involved in the anti-apartheid struggle: “The people shall govern.”

With this in mind, Mbeki concluded his letter by saying MPs need to remember that they serve the people who put them there. Not their party. They therefore need to head into next week’s vote with two questions in mind: “Do I serve in Parliament to promote the interests of my political party; or do I serve in Parliament to promote the interests of the people?”

Vote for an informed choice

We’re dropping the paywall this week so that everyone can access all our stories for free, and get the information they need in the run up to the local government elections. To follow the news, sign up to our daily elections newsletter for the latest updates and analysis.

If our coverage helps inform your decision, cast your vote for an informed public and join our subscriber community. Right now, a full year’s access is just R510, half the usual cost. Subscribers get access to all our best journalism, subscriber-only newsletters, events and a weekly cryptic crossword.

Related stories


Already a subscriber? Sign in here


Latest stories

Police identify 300 high risk areas during local government elections

Police minister Bheki Cele said they have identified the KZN, Gauteng, Eastern Cape and Western Cape provinces as high risk areas deploying a high contingent of police and SANDF

Sudanese stand ground against coup as condemnation pours in

On Monday soldiers detained Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, his ministers and civilian members of Sudan's ruling council, who have been heading a transition to full civilian rule

Cliff and Steenhuisen are wrong. Here’s why race matters in...

Both the podcast host and the leader of the Democratic Alliance believe in a toothless non-racialism that ignores the historical foundation of racism and the pain it inflicts in the present

Mission implausible for the DA’s man in Nkandla

Malibongwe Dubazane is contesting all 14 of the IFP-run Nkandla local municipality’s wards

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…