In the hurly-burly and heightened anticipation of the eighth Motion of No Confidence vote in President Jacob Zuma that took place by secret ballot on 8 August and which has subsequently set the scene for a bloody war of attrition as the ANC eats itself alive in full view of the public, we relook at the tone and significance of two key addresses given on the day. Both opposition leaders made rousing speeches, targeting a specific constituency and audience. But which will be remembered as the most persuasive and effective, DA leader Mmusi Maimane’s or EFF leader Julius Malema’s?
Until the 8 August vote it was DA leader Mmunsi Maimane who had called for and initiated the bulk of motions of no confidence in President Jacob Zuma. In 2010 COPE’s Mvume Dandala had proposed a motion that was defeated and in March 2015 Agang’s Molapi Plouamma proposed a motion which he later withdrew.
Significantly the 8 August MONC was the first time the vote took place in secret. It was also the first occasion that the EFF had written to the speaker to request a motion, this after the DA had already done so. While the EFF’s round-about way of seconding the DA’s request had no value in terms of parliamentary rules and procedures, it was deeply symbolic politically.
The two speeches delivered at this crucial moment in South Africa’s short democratic history are significant. The ruling party is at its lowest point ever in its over 100-year history, buried under a fetid pile of corruption on an eye-wateringly grand scale and implicating many in high office.
The country has reached many low points during Zuma’s presidency – after the Constitutional Court’s ruling on Nkandla for example – but had never quite sunk to the depths as exposed in the #GuptaLeaks which, have provided evidence of at least R100-billion lost to theft and corruption.
So, the key to the speeches delivered on 8 August was to read the minds of those in the ANC who are also shocked and disgusted by President Jacob Zuma and his kleptocratic cronies and to persuade them to vote against the wishes of their party and democratically oust a sitting president.
In the history of the ANC this was unprecedented.
But there was a proviso. ANC MPs could do this under the magical shield of a secret ballot.
Sure, ANC MPs had watched as their colleagues who were brave enough and had dared to speak out were vilified, attacked and even threatened with death. The waters were teeming with circling, snarling, cornered sharks.
But the moment had arrived.
History would record, history would remember.
Both Maimane and Malema were aware that the televised live broadcast of the Motion of No Confidence would be watched not only in South Africa but also internationally.
And so how one begins such an important speech is crucial and revealing.
The most famous opening line of a speech is fictitious and occurs in Act 3, scene 2 of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar when Mark Antony delivers a subversive funeral oration for the murdered Caesar
“Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ears.”
EFF CIC Julius Malema had no time to waste on 8 August.
This was not a speech that needed to be heard by the masses. Its aim was true and sure. He went straight for the jugular.
“I want to take this opportunity to thank the incoming acting president Baleka Mbete for having been courageous enough to take a decision allowing the secret ballot to take place today. Many in the ANC, including the officials of the ANC, have told her to not engage in issues of the secret ballot but to offer an open ballot. She went against the wishes of the officials of the ANC. We salute her for that. We are not here today to remove a democratically elected government of the ANC which was voted for by our people in 2014. Whether we like it or not we must at all times respect the wish of the people and that is why we are here to make it very clear that ours today is not against the ANC but against the father of Duduzane, we are here to remove Duduzane’s father because Duduzane’s father is the most corrupt individual in this country.”
It was a magnificent opening, perfectly pitched, its frequency fine-tuned to reach the hearts not only of the ANC but of those who complained that this was a “silent coup”.
It begins with the optimistic and cheeky nod to Mbete as the “incoming acting president” and then it dispels any rumour or claim that this is a vote against the ruling party, elected to govern by a majority whose wishes must be respected.
And then the political masterstroke – not President Jacob Zuma but “the father of Duduzane”. In that moment Malema metaphorically toppled Zuma as the head of a constitutional democracy and placed him as the head of a family, a dynasty, which treated South Africa as a personal playground, to be bought and sold – like José Eduardo dos Santos of Angola, like Robert Gabriel and Grace Mugabe in Zimbabwe.
Maimane, on the other hand, is much more gentlemanly, collegial and conventional. In speeches he cannot shake the sing-song of the preacher that he is outside of his political life. It is a tone that might be comforting, familiar and sincere to many but to those who do not enjoy a good sermon it grates, it reads as too rehearsed, too detached.
“Madam Speaker, Honourable Members, Comrades, Fighters, Democrats. Fellow citizens of this proud nation,” Maimane began.
Maimane is here acknowledging the collective moment when differences must be set aside to achieve this one goal. He borrows the ANC’s “comrades”, he acknowledges the EFF’s “fighters” as well as the democrats in his own party and in the ANC. And then “fellow citizens of this proud nation”.
His reach is wider, his intention to create a notion of a future where his party might very well be part of a government of national unity, a government where the ANC might no longer enjoy its majority. A government where the ANC will be in opposition.
Maimane lingers also for a moment doing what is correct, referring to the tragic death of ANC MP Timothy Khoza, and then again casts his political net wide. “We may represent different parties in this House, but we are united in our love for our country and our loyalty to the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa. We may have different opinions, but we are not enemies.”
Malema, on the other hand, began to work up a verbal sweat soon after his opening, reminding ANC MPs, “comrades”, that they had acknowledged they could have handled the Nkandla scandal differently.
“I want to say to the comrades in the ANC, we warned you about Nkandla and you did not listen to us when we spoke about Nkandla. In 2016 you lost some of the metros and your response was you should have acted better on Nkandla, your response was you could have handled this matter differently and you committed that you are going to improve after those outcomes. From August 2016 till to date there is no single improvement, you have degenerated further, you have become worse than before the 3 of August 2016 and now can you imagine what is going to happen in 2019 if you continue the way you are today.”
And then plunging the dagger.
“We want to say to you, we are not questioning whether the president has got powers to appoint Cabinet or reshuffle it but we have a problem with a Cabinet that gets reshuffled by people who are not elected. Because if a Cabinet is reshuffled by the Guptas then we know that the president is not longer exercising his responsibility. We are rising against the Guptas who are reshuffling Cabinet, we are rising against the Guptas who are appointing the boards in Eskom, in Prasa, in Transnet, in SABC, in SAA; we are rising against the Guptas who have ensured that our economy has been downgraded, that our economy is in recession, we are rising against those who have surrendered the people’s power into a family of foreigners, that is what brings us here today.”
Maimane on the other hand conjures Mandela’s rainbow, “all of us – black, white, Indian and coloured – want South Africa to work. To be the prosperous nation we know it can be.”
And then, perhaps unnecessarily having to justify his existence as the first black leader of the DA, Maimane takes the house on a history tour of his life, his growing up in Soweto, how he knows, understands and has suffered “the sharp end of apartheid brutality”, how he swore that one day he would “fight oppression in this country”, how he had never imagined that “one day I would be here, in this Parliament, fighting a new form of oppression – a corrupt system that keeps our people imprisoned in poverty”.
And almost as if he knows he might have lost some of his listeners at this point, he says he understands we are “tired of talking about President Zuma and the Guptas. So am I. And this is why we tabled this motion, so that we can move on from this disastrous chapter and focus on the things that matter for our people, Honourable Members.”
Maimane has his eye on the long game.
He sketches the pain and the poverty of contemporary South Africa, the recession, the belly-up economy, the junk status downgrades, the corruption. He draws citizens into the drama.
“I have met mothers who feed their children on sugar water and boiled weeds. I’ve heard of parents abandoning their babies, and I have heard of good people turning to crime out of sheer desperation. Life is incredibly hard for poor South Africans.”
And then he pleads with his colleagues the “honourable members” to take back the country from the corrupt President Zuma.
“The choice before us is not between yellow, red or blue. It is not about party politics. It is not about which party tabled the motion. Today our choice is between right and wrong. Between good and evil. Today we either do what is best for our country, or we turn our back on it.”
He reminds MPs of their oath of office, how they have promised to uphold the Constitution and the laws of the Republic.
“If we fail to use this opportunity, history will judge us harshly. And the people of South Africa may never forgive us. I hold out the hope that there are enough people in this House today who will put politics aside and do what is right for the people they were elected to serve.”
And then Maimane plays politics, naming those ANC MPs, Pravin Gordhan, Derek Hanekom, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, Makhosi Khoza, and the SACP’s Blade Nzimande, who had all spoken out against President Zuma.
Malema, on the other hand, specifically singled out two Zuma loyalists, Minister of Energy Mmamoloko Nkensani Khubayi and MP Pule Mabe as well as recently appointed Deputy Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services Stella Ndabeni.
"If the president had executed his responsibilities and respected his oath of office we would not be here today. We will never call for removal of an elected president who respects his oath of office. So, stop misleading yourself. Stop telling yourself a lie. Your vote is secret. Your conscience will remain with you. You know we are telling the truth. We want to say to honourable Nkensani,you are doing very well in the energy department but we are unable to do so because of the things you said during Nkandla. You are writing your own history as you sit here, even when you are going to perform better in future we will have difficulty because of the wrong history you have written. All of you sitting here individually, honourable deputy president, you are writing your own history, you will be judged accordingly. To the history you have written for yourself. Stella Ndabeni, Pule Mabe. Protect your future Stella by voting the father of Dudzane out of power. ANC vote Zuma... (mic is cut)”
Maimane, placing the event in a broader context, reminded MPs that there were many outside of Parliament who had called for President Zuma to step down. There were the 101 party stalwarts, he told them. Even former President Thabo Mbeki had exhorted MPs to “act in Parliament as the voice of the people, not the voice of the political parties to which they might belong”.
And then Maimane ended with Mandela.
“Honourable Members. I know what Nelson Mandela would have done in this House today. And you know it too. He once said: ‘May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.’I am asking you today to overcome your fear, to show courage when the people of this country need you. I am asking you today to vote for hope. The hope that we can defeat the corruption that oppresses our people. The hope of a prosperous nation at peace with itself and the world. The hope that we can make South Africa a better place for our children. If we do the right thing today, we will give our children a brighter future. Vote for your hopes, Honourable Members, not your fears. Do the right thing. Vote with your conscience, and remove this corrupt and broken President from office.”
So which of the two hit the sweet spot?
Which of the two was the most effective perhaps in persuading those renegade ANC MPs to vote with the opposition parties?
If you are looking for an uppercut to the head, a blow that would fell the enemy, then we must go with Malema’s brilliantly delivered, short and well aimed punch.
Malema knows the ANC, understands its DNA, it runs through him. He knows its secrets and its skeletons and his speech was aimed at his former comrades. And in that sense it would have unsettled some, angered others, but it hit home.
We don’t want to destroy your beloved ANC, we want to protect it from the father of Duduzane.
But in the long run, when young South African historians return at some future date to unravel this moment in time, these last days in the attempt to excise the rottten President Jacob Zuma, then it is Maimane’s speech that will give them a deeper insight into the wider issues at hand in South Africa and how, in 2017, the country stood at the brink of a possible new political dawn where the ANC, riddled with disease, would simply not be able to “self-correct” and whither into insignificance in the very near future.
Either this or those who support Zuma will continue to undermine the Constitution and we will all live in a very different country that we have not yet quite been able to imagine.
And for this reason, both these speeches will go down in history as a reminder that South Africa’s young democracy was and is a constant work in progress and that in 2017 it was in the capable hands of a young generation who had so much hope. DM
- Marianne Thamm
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Racism in the Democratic Alliance is real, claim senior black people in the party, who add that nothing will change until DA leader Mmusi Maimane breaks ranks with the white men running the show behind the scenes.
“I feel powerless when my activists come to me and say they are victims of racism from senior people in the party, who say they should be grateful that the DA keeps them busy because otherwise they would probably be out stealing and killing people somewhere,” said one constituency leader. “I mean, what is that?”
These allegations were hinted at last week by the party’s former parliamentary leader, Lindiwe Mazibuko, who last week wrote a hard-hitting column in Business Day criticising “a culture that isolates black members and leaders” and “the almost exclusive dominance of white males within the party’s ‘brains trust’?”.
Now, several black DA leaders and members have revealed their own experiences of racism in the party and of the so-called puppet masters behind Maimane.
The Mail & Guardian interviewed 10 black DA members, five of whom hold leadership positions. All said they had experienced repeated incidents of racism in the party.
“We just live with it [racism],” said one national head office staff member. “We talk about it amongst ourselves, but are too scared to report it because we don’t want to lose our jobs or be victimised further.
“Even if you report it, nothing will be done anyway.”
When contacted for comment, Maimane’s office denied the racism allegations. “We are not going to give oxygen to nameless and faceless individuals who make unsubstantiated claims behind the cloak of anonymity,” said DA national spokesperson Phumzile van Damme.
“We have a strong culture of robust internal debate and they are welcome to raise any matters through the relevant party structures.”
Maimane, who has been on a drive to confront racism in the party, has dismissed Mazibuko’s comments, saying she was “speaking in her own capacity”.
But a DA representative in a provincial legislature disagreed, saying Mazibuko was speaking on behalf of the “voiceless and scared” when exposing internal racism in the DA, because the party tended to brush complaints aside.
A DA federal executive member added: “It makes me angry when I bring up issues of racism and I’m told we need to focus on elections and things that will win us votes.”
The 10 party members elected to remain anonymous, citing directives from the party’s upper echelons to avoid race issues and focus on the economy, education and jobs.
“People in the party are saying racism is not important when you bring it up, as if it’s something not to be discussed or spoken about,” said the member representing the DA in one of the provincial legislatures.
Many of the 10 are concerned about the influences behind Maimane’s actions.
The federal executive member said: “Time will tell if Mmusi will change the DA for the better. For him to make fundamental changes, he needs to stop depending on certain people. The brains trust are his advisers and these are the people driving the party, so he won’t get the outcomes he wants if this group stays in place.”
The constituency leader added: “I have no faith in Mmusi’s leadership. His advisers are very satisfied with the way the DA is currently.”
Who is in the ‘brains trust’?
The “brains trust” – a term coined by Lindiwe Mazibuko, the former Democratic Alliance parliamentary leader and now a Harvard fellow – refers to a dominant group in the party that sets the agenda and advises the party leader, Mmusi Maimane. But who are they? The DA members the Mail & Guardian spoke to this week narrowed it down to nine.
He is the DA’s federal chairperson and its spokesperson on rural development. Trollip lost his parliamentary leader position to Mazibuko in 2011. He has been described by DA members as the caucus leader of Maimane’s brains trust.
He scoffed at assertions that he was pulling Maimane’s strings and said: “First, I’m the chair of the party and Mmusi’s right-hand man. That doesn’t make me a puppet master and those who make such claims are disconnected with the workings of the party. Lindiwe Mazibuko’s comments are problematic and racial themselves and her advisers are no different to Mmusi’s.”
Trollip added that his focus was on helping to build a nonracial party and “it doesn’t matter who the leader is”.
He is the DA’s chief whip in Parliament and party members regard the former DA leader in KwaZulu-Natal as Maimane’s right-hand in the House, despite Trollip’s claim to that title.
He also ran Maimane’s campaign in the run-up to the elective congress when he stood for the national DA leader position following Helen Zille’s resignation. His fiery temperament has played out on several occasions during House sittings and on social media.
When asked to comment on claims that he was a member of the brains trust, he said by SMS: “How professional. No comment.”
Davis served as the DA’s executive communications director before becoming a parliamentarian. He oversees the basic education portfolio. Davis has publicly clashed with Mazibuko, and was on former leader Zille’s side.
He is Maimane’s chief of staff and formerly served as the DA leader’s counsel in Parliament.
As the DA’s chief executive, Boughey is regarded as Maimane’s go-to man on the operational side of the party. He is also one of the DA’s election strategists.
His response to being labelled a member of the brains trust: “I am the [chief executive] of the DA, and as such the operational head of the organisation. My job is to implement and operationalise the decisions taken by the political leadership, which is a diverse grouping.”
Asked how he would factor in the race rows that have tainted the party’s image for the DA’s election strategy, he said: “Mr Maimane’s recent speech on race set out very clearly our position on race, and how we are committed to diversifying our party even further, and to ensuring that we have effective redress and a growing economy to ensure that we achieve substantive equality.”
Moakes resigned as the party’s chief executive at the end of 2014, saying he wanted to spend time with his family. He made a return a few months later and is now the DA’s chief strategist.
As the DA’s federal executive chairperson, Selfe is seen as the organisational head of the party.
He is a former national leader of the DA and was succeeded by Zille. The party under Leon was known for its “fight back” campaign and perceived as primarily a home for white voters.
He spent three years as South Africa’s ambassador to Argentina. Leon has returned home and has remained active in commenting on the party’s direction, particularly criticising the decision to endorse black economic empowerment policies.
Maimane’s predecessor as DA leader, Zille began to turn around the party’s image and increase its diversity. But she became increasingly unpopular towards the end of her term, getting embroiled in Twitter spats, making problematic comments on race and allegedly coming down hard on young black leaders, such as Mbali Ntuli and Mazibuko, when they differed with her.
Zille, Selfe, Moakes and Davis did not respond to requests for comment. – Ra’eesa Pather & Nelly Shamase
Nelly Shamase is a former KwaZulu-Natal media manager for the DA.
A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Hill-Lewis and Leon did not respond to requests for comment. This was incorrect. The M&G apologises for the error.