We must restore constitutional order

2015-02-23 15:00

If we are to restore the functionality of Parliament and hold the executive to account, it is vital that our democratic institutions be empowered to uphold the rules.

In the context of the events that have played out over the past week alone, it is unfathomable that President Jacob Zuma can claim “our democracy remains solid”, and “all our institutions are strong and functional”.

Our Parliament is clearly broken. As the chief custodian of the Constitution, the president has a duty to ensure that the supreme law of the land is upheld and protected. Yet ­instead of upholding his constitutional oath, the president has engaged in a concerted effort to undermine the Constitution from which the rules of Parliament draw their legal authority.

Restoring constitutional order goes beyond merely ­enforcing the rules of the National Assembly. This issue is about restoring the fundamental precept of the separation of powers and decolonising Parliament from the president and his cronies. The three branches of government must be able to function independently.

As long as the executive branch is subverting the authority of the legislature and the judiciary, these entities will not be able to conduct their business in service of the needs of our people and the values of our Constitution.

Paramount to this separation of powers is strengthening the institutions that engender accountability.

This implies a strong Parliament with an unbiased Speaker, the independence of the Hawks, the National Prosecuting ­Authority and the Public Protector, as well as noninterference in matters of the SA Revenue Service. It is these institutions that must serve to hold members of the executive to account.

Also, it requires that corruption, maladministration and unlawfulness result in the ­appropriate sanction. There must be consequences for injustices and not just inquiries that result in no substantive action, as has been the case with Nkandla.

The failure of the last point under the leadership of President Zuma is why the DA had to resort to the courts to see the president held ­accountable for the 783 charges of fraud, racketeering and corruption that have plagued him since before his election.

The president is a broken man and the ANC is a broken party. The sooner the South African people replace the ANC with a party that will work ­relentlessly to serve their needs, the sooner we will see the potential of our country unlocked.

We cannot allow our people to suffer while the ANC destroys our nation and the values of our democracy.

The rise of neopatrimonialism ­under the leadership of President ­Zuma has resulted in the collapse of the separation of powers that is the foundation of our democracy.

When the Speaker of the National Assembly was asked at the state of the nation address (Sona) about the signal-jamming device, she pleaded ignorance. If it is to be assumed she was indeed in the dark, the only conclusion is that she is not in control of what happens in the chamber over which she presides.

The State Security Agency, the entity tasked with the threat assessment conducted prior to Sona, has since accepted ­responsibility for the use of the device, but blamed it on a low-level technician.

This is more than just an “unfortunate incident”, as the president stated. It is a serious constitutional violation and an encroachment on the independence of Parliament by the executive. Moreover, it reflects the blurring of the lines ­between party and government.

While these constitutional infringements are tragic from an ideological perspective that venerates our internationally ­respected and liberal Constitution, the real tragedy is the ­human suffering that has occurred under the lacklustre leadership of President Zuma.

In communities across our country, from Ikageng in North West and Mogalakwena in Limpopo to Atteridgeville in Gauteng, South Africans are suffering. Crime is rife, and employment, quality education and basic services are lacking.

The ANC has lost its moral authority. Its decision to rubber-stamp the report by the ad hoc committee on Nkandla and its failure to vote to censure the president for not appearing in the National Assembly to answer oral questions is indicative of a party that no longer serves the needs of the people.

The ANC in Parliament is showing an increasing devotion to the president instead of adhering to the rule of law and the strengthening of our Constitution.

Instead of replying to the important concerns raised by the opposition, the president and ANC MPs remained silent about the real issues facing our people and the devastation of our constitutional order over the past two weeks.

The disdain shown by the president and his party for the concerns raised only served to underscore his criminally weak presidency.

Under his leadership, the ANC has derailed our democratic project to serve the needs of this one man, and trampled the ideals of men like Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu and Oliver Tambo in the process.

Maimane is DA leader

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