/ 11 August 2017

Opposition’s show of unity is masking its cracks

The motion of no confidence against President Jacob Zuma displayed tension between party and conscience.
The motion of no confidence against President Jacob Zuma displayed tension between party and conscience.

Even after uniting to receive support from at least 25 ANC MPs in a motion of no confidence against President Jacob Zuma, fractures have emerged in the opposition.

In the National Assembly this week, the Pan Africanist Congress and the National Freedom Party did not support the motion, with Congress of the People leader Mosioua Lekota warning ahead of the vote that the opposition was “divided down the middle”.

The starkest difference, however, seemed to centre on how to proceed after the motion failed. On Thursday, the Democratic Alliance submitted a motion for Parliament to be dissolved, a move that has not been supported by some of its newfound allies.

On Twitter, Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema accused the DA of bluffing. He said Parliament would be automatically dissolved if more than 50 MPs resigned, and challenged the DA MPs to resign en masse.

But the DA’s Phumzile van Damme disputed Malema’s claim, saying a quorum in the National Assembly was 201 seats and, with the ANC holding 249, even a mass resignation by opposition parties would not be enough to dissolve Parliament.

“In fact, all the resignation of opposition MPs would achieve is an ANC that can do as it pleases, with no opposition to hold it accountable,” she contended.

Constitutional law expert Pierre de Vos agreed, saying the vacancy of all opposition seats would have no effect on Parliament’s ability to function. “Parliament can basically decide how big the size is. Whether people take up their seats or resign, that is neither here nor there. That only comes in when you decide if there is quorum in the House and you need 50% to have a quorum. So, even if all the opposition MPs resign, it still would have no effect,” he said.

Lekota bemoaned the PAC’s abstention from voting in the no-confidence motion.

“These abstentions mean they are only ruling themselves out of history. No voters are ever going to vote for a party that, when a critical issue came up, they said: ‘No, we will not take part’, ” he told the Mail & Guardian.

In Nelson Mandela Bay, internal fighting between DA mayor Athol Trollip and his deputy, the United Democratic Movement’s Mongameli Bobani, will soon culminate in a vote on a motion of no confidence against Bobani. The relationship between Trollip and Bobani is on the brink of total collapse, with the mayor seemingly spearheading the move to have his deputy unseated.

DA leader Mmusi Maimane was angrily reprimanded by coalition partners last month after the party held a briefing to celebrate a year since taking control of three key metros in the 2016 municipal elections. Maimane was berated for sidelining the parties that had helped to bring the DA to power.

The most evident fracture in Gauteng has been in Mogale City municipality, where the ANC removed DA mayor Michael Holenstein through a motion of no confidence.

Maimane recently told the M&G that the DA felt betrayed by EFF councillors in Mogale City who voted with the ANC after Holenstein’s ousting, allowing the ANC to pass its budget. “We were more than just disappointed; we felt that it betrayed the trust that was there. Keeping the ANC in power amounts to voting for corruption. And in this instance they were helped by the EFF.”