Why I joined Cope

2009-02-13 00:00

Changing one’s allegiance from one party to another is never an easy decision to make, and once made, criticism and some approval will follow.

I joined the African National Congress early in 1992. I served as an unofficial member and from 1994 to 1999, I served as a formal representative of the ANC in Parliament under the presidency of Nelson Mandela.

In 1999, I requested to be released from parliamentary service. This request was granted. However, before the ANC lists were finalised, I was telephoned firstly by Mendi Msimang and later by Jill Marcus asking me whether I did not wish to change my mind and return to Parliament. I declined.

It was not too long thereafter that problems of conscience began to crop up.

• The denialism within the Thabo Mbeki-led ANC that HIV caused Aids and the failure to roll out at an early stage a programme of distribution of essential antiretroviral drugs.

• The fatuous statements and ideas propagated by the former minister of health, Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, recommending beetroot, African potatoes, garlic and other vegetables as antidotes to the killer virus.

• The failure to investigate properly allegations of corruption relating to the arms deal and the sidelining of MPs of principle, such as Andrew Feinstein and Gavin Woods.

• South Africa’s shameful role in the protection of Robert Mugabe.

• The tolerance of criminality and corruption within the ANC as evidenced by the disgraceful hero’s send-off given by ANC leaders to Tony Yengeni when he finally turned up at prison to serve his all-too-brief sentence for fraud, and the abolition of the Scorpions.

• The public infighting within the ANC. The grab for power by the Western Cape secretary of the ANC, Mcebesi Skwatsha, and his war waged against the premier, Ebrahim Rasool.

• The lack of public action taken against the 60-plus ANC members of Parliament involved in the Travelgate scandal and the cover-up by the ANC hierarchy of this whole sordid affair.

• The crass behaviour of Jacob Zuma, living beyond his visible means, betraying via adultery his several customary wives, spending millions of taxpayers’ money in trying to avoid ever having to answer to the over 700 charges of fraud, bribery, corruption, money laundering and tax evasion which are being brought against him.

And so, I terminated my membership of the ANC. The truth is that there is not much wrong with the printed principles of the ANC. It is just that they are seldom, if ever, applied.

The post-Polokwane purges, the unconstitutional dismissal of Mbeki and the vindictive vendettas being waged against past Mbeki loyalists all served to convince me that I was right to sever my ties with the ANC, which is now basically controlled by the SA Communist Party and Cosatu, with Blade Nzimande and Gwede Mantashe very much in the forefront.The attacks on the judiciary from within the ranks of the ANC leave little room for confidence that our Constitution will in the future be honoured.

This past year, I have been assisting the small but principled Independent Democrats, led by the feisty Patricia de Lille in its parliamentary work, drafting questions to ministers, analysing draft legislation and preparing reports. But the ID, while making discernible progress, is not about to give the ANC a real shake-up.

Then, in the wake of some further outrageous statements by the new ANC leadership, came Cope. This was the breakaway from the ANC that hundreds of thousands of South Africans had been waiting for.

Firstly, I was, and am, impressed by the sincere commitment of Cope to total non-racism.

Secondly, Cope’s steadfast defence of the Constitution, the rule of law, and the independence of the judiciary is of critical importance to my thinking.

Thirdly, Cope’s statement that the wholesale application of affirmative action without thought being given to the flight of skills struck a strong note with me. I believe in affirmative action, but not to the extent that underqualified people take over skilled jobs from experts, who, as a result, have been leaving the country in droves.

It is time for change. It is time to elect a government which is both honest in its work and fair to all its citizens, regardless of race or political affiliation.

One of my goals as a member of Cope will be to help establish and maintain warm relations between Cope and other parties opposed to the ANC, especially the ID, for which I hold a special affection.

A rainbow coalition is still on the horizon.

Aluta continua!

• David Dalling is a former MP and parliamentary whip.

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