Constitution empowers us to act

2018-02-22 06:01
house of truthThembile Ndabeni

house of truthThembile Ndabeni

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How former President Thabo Mbeki responded to his recall in 2008 served a good lesson.

Mbeki demonstrated that it was a matter of being a genuine and principled deployee of the ANC.

But the question is: What if Mbeki had refused to step down?

What would the call of the army have been is such a complex and awkward situation.

The country’s citizens, though, need not fret about the outcomes in such situations.

South Africa is not just a democracy respected across the world, it is an example in Africa when it comes to the application of democracy and its Constitution. During the struggle for liberation which, the question of the separation of powers was one of the issues that was being raised in deliberations. Under the Apartheid regime, the army was used to do dirty work of politicians.

We should have drawn lessons from the “recall” of Mbeki about the role of the army in such situations.

We need to clarify things, since democracy operates from the dictates of a book. There must be a clear-cut position between when a a ‘recall’ happens in the Constitution. The society should be informed or educated, including the army.

Citizens should be worried about what the army will do.

The army serves the state (people in general) and not the party in power or president, though he is a Commander-in-Chief. Even the army is not expected to rise against its Commander’s Commander, the ruling party and the nation.

Another factor is the powers of dismissal the head of state has against his deputy, ministers and other state officials.

The challenge is the misuse of those powers, and not against the powers. This becomes a dilemma but how is this addressed.

The notion of either or is not a solution, but attempts to bridge the two is paramount, in this instance.

We need a head of state with the powers to dismiss only with compelling reasons to do so, like compromising the government or state and the nation.

But the issue of settling scores, dismissing some in favour of others or pulling rank should not be reasons enough to dismiss.

The nation should not harbour fears that the security forces, especially the army, will bludgeon them in the instance of rogue head of state.

Ideally, security structures should serve the nation, the society and not do so at the behest of the president, regardless of the fact that he is its commander-in-chief.

Even the intelligence services and the police should serve society, the nation and not an individual.

Should the head of state disregard a recall, they must be ignored or must be challenged.

The government or the state do not belong to the head of state.

Heads of states steer the ship on a mandate from the nation, so to speak.

Therefore it is not about what the head of state wants or how they feel, but what the nation needs, wants and feels.

The ruling party needs to have a mechanism to force a deployee to step down as soon as they become a liability to the nation, and are recall, like President Jacob Zuma. Zuma’s recalcitrant stance nearly plunged the country into chaos and bloodshed. South Africa should draw a lesson from that.

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