Why Mulder must leave government

2012-02-18 09:09

In other democracies, President Jacob ­Zuma would be expecting Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Pieter Mulder to hand in his resignation.

We are not holding our breath. We are not that kind of democracy.

Ministers do not get fired here. The president does not always exercise his prerogative to ­appoint and “dis-appoint” ministers, to use ­Zuma’s own turn of phrase. Mulder, if he had any honour, would not wait to be pushed, but would jump on his own. Again, we will not be betting the company silver on that happening any time soon. Resigning, like being fired, is an alien ­concept in our political culture.

Let it be clear here that Mulder is entitled to the view he holds about history and is enjoined to express it regardless of how many people it makes uncomfortable. Mulder faithfully represents the voters who sent him to Parliament and, on that score alone, he is an exemplary MP.

He is not the first minister from outside the ruling party to be part of government. Nelson Mandela’s very first Cabinet in democratic South Africa had several ministers who were not ­members of the majority party.

It had IFP leader Inkosi Mangosuthu Buthelezi (minister of home affairs), Roelf Meyer (minister of provincial affairs and constitutional ­development), Dawie de Villiers (minister of ­environmental affairs and tourism) and Pik Botha (minister of mineral and energy affairs). Former president Thabo Mbeki deployed Azapo president Mosibudi Mangena as his minister of science and technology.

All of them served the government and not their parties.

Mulder should leave government not because he expresses an unpopular view. He should go ­because he does not appreciate that being a ­minister (even a deputy one) means that he should serve government rather than those who sent him to Parliament.

It is pointless having a minister or deputy whose political ­vision is so at odds with the government he serves.

Differences of opinion in a democracy are healthy and are to be encouraged. But a contrived government of national or racial unity robs voters and the government, and is a disservice to all.

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