SA Today - Only the DA can stop Jacob Zuma
Helen Zille, Leader of the Democratic Alliance
9 April 2009
It has been a dismal week for constitutional democracy. In dropping the charges against Jacob Zuma for political - not legal reasons - the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) acted irrationally and unlawfully. It violated its own internal policies and it violated the law. Most seriously, it violated the Constitution.
Zuma has not proven his innocence. He has not been acquitted. He has merely been let off the hook by the NPA for reasons that have nothing to with the substantive merits of the case against him. The claim by the Acting National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP), Mokotedi Mpshe, that Zuma cannot be prosecuted because there was an "abuse of process" by the former head of the Scorpions, Leonard McCarthy, and the former head of the NPA, Bulelani Ngcuka, in determining when to recharge him, is neither here nor there. It is irrelevant. The NPA has not given any indication of how this could have prejudiced Jacob Zuma. There is still a solid case against Zuma, based on a mountain of evidence, with good prospects of success in court. The most telling aspect of this whole fiasco is that the prosecution team, which has gathered over 93,000 documents in the 8 years it has been investigating the charges, strongly opposed withdrawing the case because it still believes that it can win in court.
Another highly suspect dimension of the NPA's decision was the timing of the announcement. Jacob Zuma's trial was set down for August this year. Why would the NPA withdraw the case in April, just two weeks before a general election? In fact, it made the announcement even before it had authenticated the selective snippets of tape recordings on which it based its decision. The unseemly haste can only be politically motivated. The withdrawal of the charges gave the ANC the election boost it needed, enabling it to falsely claim that Jacob Zuma has been vindicated, and indeed that he was innocent from the start. Very few serious observers are in any doubt that by its actions, the NPA has, yet again, gravely abused due process and has allowed an institution of state that must safeguard the principle of "equality before the law" to be abused by the ruling party. When the truth finally emerges (and we will do everything necessary to ensure that it does) everyone in the NPA that has abused due process for political reasons, must face charges in court.
The DA, as the official opposition, is doing all we can to safeguard our constitutional democracy. That is why on Tuesday, we filed an urgent application for a judicial review of the NPA's decision in the Pretoria High Court. We will fight to the bitter-end, using all the legal measures available to us, to ensure that justice is served. Zuma must have his day in court, so that he can be acquitted or convicted on the basis of evidence examined and cross-examined by a court of law. All the other evidence in possession of the NPA that points to criminal conduct by McCarthy and Ngcuka must be heard in court, too. And if Advocate Mpshe and his colleagues are found to have acted unlawfully in withdrawing charges against Jacob Zuma, they too must face the music.
The DA filed its court application, not because we harbour any ill-intent towards any individual, but because this matter goes to the heart of protecting and defending constitutional democracy.
It is in the interest of every single South African (including ANC supporters) that we defend the Constitution. We are the only party that can stop Zuma and his ANC-clique from abusing their power and undermining the Constitution. Only the DA is big enough - and resolute enough - to stop Zuma from taking us down the path of cronyism, corruption and power abuse towards the criminalised state. This is the path to the notorious "failed state" so prevalent on our continent.
This is the moment for all opposition voters to realise that dividing their votes among a host of small parties only benefits the ANC. Indeed it is part of the ANC's "divide-and-rule" strategy. That is why the ANC supports the "volkstaat" policies of the Freedom Front Plus, and forms alliances with the ID against the DA. Yesterday, on the eve of a general election, the ID in George voted with the ANC against the DA on the adjustment budget, just like the ID voted for an ANC Mayor in Cape Town in 2006. Simply put, the ID cannot be trusted not to go into a coalition with the ANC.
It is time for opposition parties to learn: When the opposition is divided the ANC wins. Now, for the first time the ANC is seriously divided. We must not waste this opportunity. When the ANC is divided, the DA is the only party big enough to beat it if all opposition voters stand together. That is the lesson we must learn quickly as we go into this election.
That is why a vote for a small opposition party is not only a wasted vote. It enables the ANC to win, when they should be losing. The DA is the only party that can be relied upon to stand up to the ANC's power abuse.
The role of the parliamentary opposition is to ask difficult questions of the executive; to expose corruption and mismanagement; to hold government to account by exercising proper oversight; to think ahead; and to present alternatives on all policy issues. But most of the other opposition parties shirk these responsibilities.
In the 2008 parliamentary session, five of the small opposition parties in the National Assembly (NA) did not ask a single written or oral question, introduce a single Private Member's Bill or propose a single motion. The DA was responsible for 1 512 (or 86%) - of the 1757 written questions submitted in the NA. The DA outperformed all other political parties in proposing motions for debate. In 2008, the DA introduced 36 (or 76.6%) of the 47 motions in the National Assembly.
Our Members of Parliament diligently attend committee meetings, where most of the real oversight is exercised. The Freedom Front Plus's record, by contrast, is disgraceful. Last year, between January and August, the FF+ attended only 35 out of a total of 755 committee meetings. This makes a mockery of their claim to stand up for their voters' rights. You can't protect people's rights if you don't turn up in Parliament.
The DA is also the only opposition party with an alternative vision to the ANC, underpinned by a comprehensive set of carefully researched and workable policies. This is because we are not just an opposition party; we are a party of government.
Our open, opportunity approach to government is a non-racial approach that focuses on expanding opportunities for all. It is designed to give every South African a fair shot at making a success of their life, regardless of the circumstances of their birth. It is diametrically opposed to the ANC's "closed, crony society for some" which is about reserving opportunities for comrades.
We are showing how our open, opportunity philosophy translates into action in all the places we govern. And this is how we will take on the ANC and win: by showing that life is better for all the people where the DA governs.
The DA's non-racial approach threatens the ANC. The ANC would prefer to have a multitude of ineffectual opposition parties each representing a tiny ethnic or racial niche of voters. That way, the ANC could govern in perpetuity. That the ANC is threatened by the DA was evident in Jacob Zuma's 'divide-and-rule' tactics last week when he said that some South Africans have a greater claim to being South African than others.
Parties such as the FF+ and the Minority Front (MF) play into the ANC's hands by openly positioning themselves in ethnic "niche" markets. Other parties, like the Independent Democrats and the Inkatha Freedom Party, try to disguise their niche, but are also effectively ethnic parties, seeking to protect and advance the interests of a single minority group.
As for COPE, although it purports to be a non-racial alternative to the ANC, whether it actually subscribes to the vision of an open, opportunity society is still not clear. The party was formed by Thabo Mbeki's key lieutenants - some of whom helped refine the closed, crony model of governance when they were in power. Can they now build an alternative to this model? This election campaign has thrown up some doubts. In particular, COPE has been too equivocal for comfort about whether it will go into coalition with the ANC. Its cause was not helped when it chose a convicted fraudster in Allan Boesak to run for Premier of the Western Cape. Perhaps this is why the polls show that COPE has not emerged as the force that some analysts predicted.
The fact is that the only real non-racial alternative to the ANC is the DA. We are tried and tested, and we have an excellent track record in government. Where we are in opposition, we hold the ANC to account. Where we are in government, we are steadfastly and consistently implementing our open, opportunity-driven policies. This has resulted in a quicker delivery of better services, more transparency in government, and less crime.
With your vote, we can achieve the same successes in provincial government. We can also keep the ANC below a two-thirds majority and stop Zuma and his faction from abusing their power and walking over the Constitution. But we need your vote to do it. So don't waste your vote on a smaller opposition party. Vote DA and vote to win!