This week, Pemmy Majodina, the ANC’s chief whip in Parliament, wrote to senior MP Mervyn Dirks informing him about his immediate suspension and the stripping of his influential caucus role.
She told him that she was initiating disciplinary action against him following his “conduct unbecoming of a whip of the ANC parliamentary caucus, a position of leadership in the ANC caucus”.
Dirks’ big sin was that he wrote to the chairperson of the select committee on public accounts (Scopa), Mkhuleko Hlengwa, requesting a probe into President Cyril Ramaphosa’s conduct and his subsequent refusal to withdraw the request.
This followed the leaking of an audio recording in which Ramaphosa is heard telling the ANC’s national executive committee about his knowledge of the use of public funds for internal party campaigning, and even encouraging the cover-up of such activities.
The ANC has not called Ramaphosa to account for this, despite the organisation’s promises of an intensified fight against corruption. This could be attributed to the dominant faction in the party not wanting to rock the boat.
Dirks, an ardent supporter of former president Jacob Zuma and a prominent member of the so-called radical economic transformation (RET) faction, had no hesitation.
Whatever his ulterior factionalist motives, Dirks should not be crushed for holding the executive to account. That is the duty of Parliament.
As Dirks correctly pointed out in his letter to Majodina, she should indicate in writing if his letter to Scopa “is in breach of any parliamentary rules and procedures or in conflict with the Constitution of the country, which is the supreme law”, and whether the said letter is “in conflict with my oath of office”.
He also asks: “What informs the decision to instruct me not to play my oversight role?”
Civil society and all those who are committed to defending democracy and its institutions should stand up for Dirks, regardless of affiliation to Zuma and the RET faction.
They must be guided by principle and consistency.