The ANC on Wednesday used its numbers in parliament to see off an opposition motion of no confidence in President Cyril Ramaphosa’s cabinet with a comfortable 100-vote majority — but MPs nonetheless managed to land blows on the government in the mandatory debate.
The collective anger at the excesses of ministers was perhaps voiced best — and most politely — by Democratic Alliance national spokeswoman Siviwe Gwarube, who told members of the ruling party that they had not always made the best decisions but still had an opportunity to correct course.
“You can proudly tell your grandchildren that you voted in favour of the future of your country over your own political interests … you have an opportunity now to tell them that you abandoned your own,” Gwarube said.
“It [the ANC] is now littered with criminals, crooks and the most unsavoury of characters. It has long forgotten the people who elected it to govern and only cares about lining the pockets of the political elite. However, today represents a unique opportunity, not only for members of the opposition who share our view of this cabinet, but for members of the ANC who no longer want to be lampooned with the rotten apples of this bag.
“I know there are some of you who want to tell a different story, a story of courage in the face of intimidation. I know some of you want to tell a story and want to stand up and be counted on the right side of history.”
She raised how the ruling party “ruthlessly raided public money”, a point pressed by several opposition MPs who referenced testimony to this effect at the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture.
The motion was moved by the leader of the official opposition, John Steenhuisen, in response to Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation address in February and decided by open ballot.
The outcome of the vote on the motion tabled by the DA was 131 in favour, 231 against and one abstention, recalling the ruling party’s efforts to shield then president Jacob Zuma when he faced a string of votes of no confidence but held the day, thanks to a three line whip and open ballot.
A vote on a motion of no confidence in the president — the first of Ramaphosa’s tenure — did not proceed because the African Transformation Movement, which tabled it, has gone back to court in its quest to have it decided by secret ballot.
It will be rescheduled once the matter has been settled in court.
Steenhuisen said he moved his motion because the ANC was living up to the oldest joke regarding its party acronym, namely that it stood for “absolutely no consequences’ ‘.
The vote was eloquently supported by the United Democratic Movement (UDM), the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) and the African Christian Democratic Party. The Economic Freedom Fighters backed it too, but their chief whip Veronica Mente said she wished to make it abundantly clear that the party did not believe Ramaphosa to loom virtuously above the ranks of his cabinet.
“The DA motion should not try to portray Mr Ramaphosa as different from his cabinet. He is their golden boy.”
She then scrolled down the list of cabinet members to heap scorn on Police Minister Bheki Cele, for a start, among others.
Mente slated Cele for being pettily fixated with personal clashes while rape and murder were more rife than ever in South Africa and no one was safe walking the streets of the townships, women and children the least of all.
Mente then turned to Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula. She said under his leadership the rail system had been “decimated beyond recognition”, driver’s licences could not be renewed, the Gauteng toll road issue remained a mess and taxi wars were the order of the day.
Narend Singh from the IFP issued a simple plea to the president: “Put in place cabinet members that will do justice to their respective portfolios.”
UDM leader Bantu Holomisa said last July’s unrest was the worst indictment possible of the cabinet, deserving of a class-action suit by families of victims who lost their lives.
But ANC chief whip Pemmy Majodina sought to dismiss all argument as belonging to a motion filed by a party that clung to racial discrimination where it governed — listing the townships of the Western Cape — and motivated by a desire to stymie transformation.