Ralph Mathekga

The two silent groups in the ANC who can save the party

2017-08-14 08:38
President Jacob Zuma in attendance at the ANC caucus meeting in Parliament. (Twitter)

President Jacob Zuma in attendance at the ANC caucus meeting in Parliament. (Twitter)

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The manner in which members of Parliament voted on the motion of no confidence tabled against President Jacob Zuma says a lot more than I’ve seen reflected upon in the last few days. 

It is clear that possibly more than thirty MPs from the ANC voted in support of the motion to get rid of Mr. Zuma – in defiance of the party’s position. 

Because the motion was held in secret, it is difficult to know exactly who voted how. There are the usual suspects within the ANC who stated openly that they were going to vote against Zuma. The likes of Pravin Gordhan, Aaron Motsoaledi, Mondli Gungubele and Makhosi Khoza have openly committed to this position. 

However, as the number of ANC MPs who voted against Zuma is quite high, this makes it very difficult to know who else within the party secretly voted with the dissidents. 

This is exactly the logic of the principle of a secret vote: to make it impossible to know exactly how a person voted. 

Even if one has suspicions about how a person might have voted in a secret ballot, the principle makes it impossible for anyone to prove it. When it comes to a secret vote, all suspicions about how an individual voted are just that: Suspicions! 

Police Minister Fikile Mbalula should therefore stop trying to solve this conundrum because the secret vote was designed to deny proof about how one has voted. 

The secret vote on the motion against Zuma also tells another, more interesting story. So let’s do some basic mathematics here.

If the number of ANC MPs who actually voted against Zuma is higher than the number of the ANC MPs who openly stated they were going to vote against him then we have an interesting picture. 

This means that there is a sizeable population of MPs within the ANC who are playing a more complex political game than the open game played by the known dissidents who openly defy their party. 

There is a group within the ANC that does not say much in the public, but rather focuses on getting stuff done without attracting attention to themselves. They did not say anything openly, yet they went ahead and voted against Zuma. 

It is fascinating to try to understand this group; what’s their long-term game plan and what are their hopes? Because of a secret vote, we will never know with certainty who belongs to this group. 

Perhaps this is the group that knew their vote against Zuma will not win the day, but will unsettle him as he would be cracking his skull thinking about who these mysterious people are. 

This is the group that actually gives Mbalula some sleepless nights, and he is turning to a lie detector test.

If I were in Zuma’s shoes, I would worry more about the silent resisters than the ones who are openly defiant. Those who are silent could actually stage a coup. While this group did not incur the cost of being openly defiant, it still managed to embarrass Zuma by showing him that he is out of touch if he believes everyone who is silent in the ANC supports him.

The picture becomes even more interesting when we apply one of the rules of solving mathematical equations. The rule says whatever you do to the left-hand side, you must also do to the right-hand side. 

If some ANC MPs silently voted against Zuma, there must also be those who silently voted to support him. This is because the number of ANC MPs who voted in support of Zuma is higher than the number of MPs who openly stated that they will support him. 

There is a mystery about the MPs who did not openly state they will vote in support of Zuma in the motion, yet went ahead and silently did so. We do not exactly know who they are within the bigger group of people who voted to support Zuma. 

This balances our equation in the following manner. Within a group of those who voted in support of Zuma there are the usual suspects who openly supported the president and there are those who silently supported him. 

On the other hand, we have the group that voted against Zuma which is made up of the usual suspects who openly defied him and the silent resisters who only secretly expressed their quarrel with him by voting for his dismissal. 

What will determine where the ANC goes is the work of the silent groups on either side of the divide. They are playing a complex game and have a more complex understanding of the troubles confronting the party, despite the noise makers on both sides of the divide.
Those ANC MPs who silently voted in support of Zuma might not be trusting him because they certainly do not feel comfortable to publicly support him, yet they saved him for reasons only known to them. 

The group that silently voted against him is sending the message that while they do not want to publicly humiliate an ANC leader by stating they will vote against him, they would rather have him gone; yet they know or even prefer he does not go now because that might hurt their party.
The two silent groups within the ANC respectively have a better chance of saving the party from the two loud and attention seeking factional groups within the party. 

The beauty of a secret ballot is that we can never know who voted how. Zuma survived yet the secret vote does not allow him to know exactly how he survived. He cannot reasonably punish anyone; neither can he reward someone. He will never know which individual MP is a secret supporter, or a secret detractor. 

The nature of uncertainty brought by the secret vote has unsettled Zuma and his allies, hence they are already panicking and proposing a lie detector test. MPs should refuse being subjected to this.   

- Ralph Mathekga is an independent political analyst and author of the book When Zuma Goes. He writes a weekly column for News24.

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Read more on:    zuma  |  jacob  |  anc  |  no confidence vote  |  secret ballot


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