Monday, September 22, 2008

ANC heading for Splitsville?

Maybe there is good news after all. The salvation of the country lies in having a strong opposition that will end the ANC's majority. If there is a silver lining to all of this is that an ANC breakaway party will allow a true democracy to develop and accountability to return to public life.

The past fifteen years has shown what damage a dominant political grouping can do to a country which puts its interests and preservation at the top of the agenda. Maybe now our politicians can get down to the business of looking after the people.

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President Mbeki made a dignified resignation speech. He used the opportunity to spell out the points of his Presidency for which he wishes to be remembered, and to differ with the opinion expressed by Judge Chris Nicholson in the judgment of 12 September 2008.

This judgment gave the Jacob Zuma faction the reason it had been seeking for a long time to oust President Mbeki and seize power so that they can impose a political solution to avoid Zuma having to face his day in court.

In his statement, Mbeki demonstrated respect for a court judgment, even though he has not been given a chance to state his case in court. This contrasts sharply with the response of Jacob Zuma and his followers, who only respect court judgments that are in their favour, and vilify and defy the judiciary if they are not.

The dignified way in which Thabo Mbeki handled his exit gives us hope that there will be some continuity in government between now and the next election. We must now look ahead and consider what is in the best interests of our country. Above all else, it is crucial that there is stability in government. An all out purge of Ministers, particularly those that have carried out their jobs effectively, would have disastrous consequences for delivery. This must be avoided at all costs.

The President's forced resignation is clearly motivated by the ANC's stated aim to find a ‘political solution' to Jacob Zuma's legal problems. The incoming President must make a commitment that he or she will not interfere with the National Prosecuting Authority's decision to appeal Judge Chris Nicholson's judgment or any further efforts by the NPA to prosecute Jacob Zuma for the alleged 783 bribes he received.

Mbeki's conciliatory tone belies the deep divisions in the ruling party; his ousting may prove to be the undoing of the ANC's electoral dominance. We must now show South Africa that there is an alternative to the political thuggery that has come to characterise the ANC.

The vicious way in which Mbeki was forced out by his enemies has shocked the nation. As a result, the ANC stands irrevocably divided and so do its supporters. Ironically President Mbeki spoke about the value of Ubuntu, which has clearly been denied to him by his own party.

I have long called for a realignment of politics to unite all South Africans who wish to defend the constitution and the gains of our democracy. We must stand together to resist the war-talking anti-constitutionalists that have taken over the ANC. This time is now upon us. We will redouble our efforts to bring together all those who believe in the Constitution to challenge the power hunger and power abuse of Jacob Zuma's ANC.

President Mbeki leaves a chequered legacy. His denialism of HIV/Aids and crime cost thousands of lives; he undermined his own vision of an African renaissance by siding with despots on the continent; and, by eschewing Nelson Mandela's nation-building project, he has left South Africa more divided than when he assumed office.

But, for all his faults, Thabo Mbeki must be praised for his sound stewardship of the economy. Under his watch, South Africa experienced its longest sustained period of economic growth, albeit in a benign international economic climate.

All new democracies go through periods of political turbulence. The future depends on how we react to the tumult. This is a time for bold leadership and fresh thinking. If we make the right decisions, South Africa 's democracy can emerge stronger than before. This is our challenge and we must not fail.

Statement issued by Helen Zille, leader of the Democratic Alliance.

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