THE CONDUCT OF AN ANC CADRE IN A CHALLENGING ENVIRONMENT.
ORGANISATIONAL RENEWAL AND INTROSPECTION – WHAT IT MEANS IN OUR CURRENT CONJUNCTURE – THE PHILOSOPHY, POLICY, VALUES, ETHOS AND CULTURE OF THE ANC THAT GUIDES PUBLIC REPRESENTATIVES IN PARLIAMENT.
The honour to serve as a public servant is a privilege and it is the duty of Members of Parliament to use their privilege wisely, justly, positively, and for the good of all people.
In our quest to serve and strive for the good of all people, as public representatives, our patriotism, allegiance, and fidelity is intertwined in our daily commitments to the people and to the Republic of South Africa. It is for this reason that we have assembled for this session to dialogue, explore, question, and expand our role and our pledge as public representatives and elected leaders in order to sharpen our senses, hone our political understanding, whet our tools of public service, and focus our energies in the ability to respond to ongoing change and uncertainty.
The world as we once knew it has changed and possibly changed forever, and our power to adapt and develop resilience is the key to our integrity and survival. Change and challenge is the only constant.
The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged the manner in which we conduct our lives in real and practical ways and together with the compound effect of existing economic, health and social crises, it is sadly too often that our country’s most vulnerable people fall through the cracks. As history will tell, whether during times of relative certainty or during times of national disaster, it is the poorest people who are overlooked and escape notice.
In this time of COVID-19, South Africa and the world are experiencing extreme disruptions that test not only the strength of our democracy but the constitutional temperament of our leaders and public representatives.
We have a chance to examine the continuing inequities highlighted by the pandemic, fundamental changes that need to be addressed, and what opportunities exist to rebuild our political, economic and our social structures. It is a golden opportunity to consider our history and make sure that this time we leave no one behind.
- Comrades, in this opportunity to explore the shortcomings, scrutinise structural policy, and delve into planning for a better future, we must start the examination with ourselves.
- What is it that guides us to walk together, hand-in-hand, to pull this country and its people out of the depths of despair? Where does the strength of spirit come from to consider our country’s most vulnerable people, first, and to seal the cracks of poverty and depravation with our own bare hands?
What a world it would be if we were all born with the answers, and if the integrity of our forebears was passed through blood. We may not inherit the chromosomes of purity and principle but, comrades and leaders, we inherit a more powerful genetic code. It is in the genes of the ANC, its origin, its history, and its members, that we inherit the power of political consciousness. The ANC was, and is, a pivotal force in the transformation of African intellectualism and modernity, and the origins of African political consciousness are rooted in the organisation and its political education.
So, as we examine ourselves and our history, we discover that our past is punctuated with challenging environments for the ANC, and it is for this reason that our political education is so important.
As we strive for political education in the modern world of today, we need to understand the depth and breadth of the curriculum needed to meet objectives of cadreship development capable of making the necessary and required contribution to the progress and growth of both our movement and country. For this we need to put more thought into making enough time available for the effectual political education that is comparable and consistent with the demands of the current historical stage in our revolution.
It is important to note that political education was not just meant for an individual to be politically prepared. It is the aim of political education to arm individuals with knowledge so that they in turn could use it to further grow political consciousness, to help with the development of their fellow comrades, and thus enhance the aggregate impact on the organisation as well as communities.
As we understand it, our political consciousness is a worldview, guided by a commitment to human rights and justice, with a unique perception of power and inequity within the context of oppression and the struggle against apartheid. This political outlook and relationship with power and inequity in social, political and economic systems is an ongoing struggle today and into the future, in our quest for an equitable and inclusive South Africa for all.
But how does political consciousness and political participation intersect in a service led career such as a Member of Parliament, and what is the impact created in the way public representatives think about and act on politics and their political engagement? There are reasons to expect that our roles and duties as elected leaders can contribute at once, to the development of a political consciousness and the dexterity that is fundamental for political participation. The task and question we therefore ask of ourselves, is to explore the intersections in which our political consciousness and our political participation converge, clash, or marry, and the obstacles we face when met with divisive and incongruent guidelines.
Comrades, the challenge we confront with politics and political consciousness, therefore, involves our devotion to humanity towards others, in conjunction with our dedication to promote and advance the ANC. There is a delicate art in balancing our common quest for dignity and the struggle for freedom on the one hand, with our political allegiances shaped by political forces both perverse and praiseworthy on the other. There is a certain complexity in fighting for justice and the systems and structures that uphold it, and at the same time fighting for the expression of our liberation organisation.
Our loyalties overlap, our fidelity comes into question.
We understand that as political beings, it is in our nature to develop and exercise an active critical analysis of power dynamics and to encourage informed participation that is necessary to hold ourselves and others accountable. It is important that in response to any question of morality, there is a process of self-reflection.
In this spirit, let us use, as a starting point, the oath or solemn affirmation of members of the National Assembly, permanent delegates to the National Council of Provinces and members of the provincial legislatures, who, before the Chief Justice or a judge designated by the Chief Justice, must swear or affirm as follows:
I, (name), swear/solemnly affirm that I will be faithful to the: Republic of South Africa and will obey, respect and uphold the Constitution and all other law of the Republic; and I solemnly promise to perform my functions as a member of the National Assembly/permanent delegate to the National Council of Provinces/member of the legislature of the province of (province) to the best of my ability.
(In the case of an oath: So help me God.)
This ceremony mandates office bearers to faithfully execute their roles and duties in line with the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa.
To further unpack the unique significance of this oath of Parliament, allow us to review the basic provisions of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa to which this oath was made, as stipulated:
“A Constitution is a body of fundamental principles according to which a State is to be governed. It sets out how all the elements of government are organised and contains rules about what power is wielded, who wields it and over whom it is wielded in the governing of a country. It can be seen as a kind of contract between those in power and those who are subjected to this power. It defines the rights and duties of citizens, and the mechanisms that keep those in power in check.
“The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa is the most important – or supreme – law of the land. No other law may conflict with it; nor may the Government do anything that violates it. In a constitutional democracy such as ours, the Constitution is superior to Parliament and is the yardstick by which all other laws are judged. It applies to all organs of State. The Constitutional Court is South Africa’s highest court on constitutional matters and is the body that has the final say on the interpretation of the Constitution.”
One of the most important features of a constitutional democracy, is constitutional supremacy.
The supreme status of the Constitution is set out in Section 2 of Chapter 1 Founding Provisions – entitled “Supremacy of Constitution” and says: “This Constitution is the supreme law of the Republic; law or conduct inconsistent with it is invalid, and the obligations imposed by it must be fulfilled.”
This means that any other rules, guidelines, laws, or obligations that violate the Constitution, or any conduct that conflicts with it, are not in line with the Supremacy of the Constitution and can be challenged and struck down by the courts.
The Founding Provisions also state:
In Section 1: The Republic of South Africa is one, sovereign, democratic state founded on the following values:
(a) Human dignity, the achievement of equality and the advancement of human rights and freedoms.
(b) Non-racialism and non-sexism.
(c) Supremacy of the constitution and the rule of law.
(d) Universal adult suffrage, a national common voter roll, regular elections and a multi-party system of democratic government, to ensure accountability, responsiveness and openness.
In section 3.
- There is a common South African citizenship.
- All citizens are—
- equally entitled to the rights, privileges and benefits of citizenship; and
- equally subject to the duties and responsibilities of citizenship.
- National legislation must provide for the acquisition, loss and restoration of citizenship.
Allow us for a moment to review the oath made by members being accepted in the ANC as stipulated in Rule 4.16 in the ANC Constitution:
“I, (name), solemnly declare that I will abide by the aims and objectives of the African National Congress as set out in the ANC Constitution, the Freedom Charter and other duly adopted policy positions, that I am joining the Organisation voluntarily and without motives of material advantage or personal gain, that I agree to respect the ANC Constitution and the structures and to work as a loyal member of the Organisation, that I will place my energies and skills at the disposal of the Organisation and carry out tasks given to me, that I will work towards making the ANC an even more effective instrument of liberation in the hands of the people, and that I will defend the unity and integrity of the Organisation and its principles, and combat any tendency towards disruption and factionalism.”
It is at this juncture that we can presume the overlapping of loyalty and the questioning of fidelity.
On the one hand an MP swears to be faithful, obey, respect and uphold the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa and on the other hand an MP, as an ANC member, declares that they will abide by the aims and objectives of the ANC as set out in the ANC Constitution.
Comrades, to shed more light on the challenge we confront within politics, the political consciousness of a Constitutional democracy, and the possible internal conflicts that ensue, allow us to drill deeper into the Rights and Duties of ANC Members in Rule 5 of the ANC Constitution.
5.1 A member shall be entitled to:
5.1.1Take a full and active part in the discussion, formulation and implementation of the policies of the ANC;
5.1.2 Receive and impart information on all aspects of ANC policy and activities;
5.1.3 Offer constructive criticism of any member, official, policy programme or activity of the ANC within its structures;
5.1.4 Take part in elections and be elected or appointed to any committee, structure, commission or delegation of the ANC; and
5.1.5 Submit proposals or statements to the Branch, Province, Region or NEC, provided such proposals or statements are submitted through the appropriate structures.
5.2 A member of the ANC shall:
5.2.1 Belong to and take an active part in the life of his or her Branch;
5.2.2 Take all necessary steps to understand and carry out the aims, policies and programmes of the ANC;
5.2.3 Explain the aims, policies and programmes of the ANC to the people;
5.2.4 Deepen his or her understanding of the social, cultural, political and economic problems of the country;
5.2.5 Combat propaganda detrimental to the interests of the ANC and defend the policies, aims and programme of the ANC;
5.2.6 Fight against racism, tribal chauvinism, sexism, religious and political intolerance or any other form of discrimination or chauvinism;
5.2.7 Observe discipline, behave honestly and carry out loyally the decisions of the majority and decisions of higher bodies;
5.2.8 Inform his or her Branch of movement of residence to any area outside his/her Branch and report to the Branch Secretary on arriving at the new area; and
5.2.9 Challenge, within the branch, any decision taken by the branch in breach of fair and just administrative procedure. Should the BEC fail, refuse or neglect to rectify any decision so taken within 2 (two) months, a member shall be obliged to escalate his or her grievance to the REC and, failing resolution by that structure, to the PEC in an effort to resolve the dispute internally.
5.3 All members shall ensure that they are registered as voters in the constituency in which they live.
5.4 ANC members who hold elective office in any sphere of governance at national, provincial or local level are required to be members of the appropriate caucus, to function within its rules and to abide by its decisions under the general provisions of this Constitution and the constitutional structures of the ANC.
Comrades, certain gaps are exposed and possible frictions for ANC Members of Parliament arise because Rule 5 of the ANC Constitution does not allow for the consideration of important factors in line with the Constitution of the Republic,
– that an ANC MP must take a full and active part in the discussion, formulation and implementation of the policies of the South African Government;
– that an ANC MP must offer constructive criticism of any member, official, policy programme or activity of the ANC or any other party within Parliament and not only its ANC structures;
– that an ANC MP must observe discipline, behave honestly and carry out loyally the guidelines of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa and the decisions of the Constitutional Court;
– that an ANC MP must challenge, within Parliament and not only an ANC branch, any decision taken by the leadership in breach of fair and just administrative procedure within the parameters of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa.
Comrades, this juxtaposition reveals some caveats for us as public servants and asks of us some questions that hit the heart of the topic of today’s discussion on the conduct of public representatives.
- How serious do MPs take their oath when they become members of Parliament in relation to what the ANC Constitution tells them?
- How relevant are the ANC’s guidelines and the ANC’s mandates in relation to MPs’ oath of office made under the Constitution of the Republic?
- Are the oaths to the Constitution of the Republic and the ANC Constitution mutually exclusive?
- Is the ANC Constitution aligned with the Constitution of the Republic?
When we declare that the Constitution of the Republic is the supreme law of the land, we confidently state and accept that any other rules, guidelines, laws, obligations, or conduct that are not in line with it, can be challenged and struck down by the courts. This is possible because, in a constitutional democracy where power is properly shared by the executive, the legislature and the judiciary, the courts are independent and subject only to the law and the Constitution of the Republic itself.
This brings us to the doctrine of the separation of powers.
The Constitutional Court of South Africa offers an explanation of constitutional supremacy and the separation of powers:
“A crucial function of a constitution – and one of the classic features of democracies – is the division of power among the three pillars of government.
“Constitutions protect democracy by separating state power into three arms.
(a) The legislature (parliament, the provincial legislatures and local councils) makes the laws and monitors the executive;
(b) the executive (the president, deputy president and ministers) makes policy, proposes laws and implements laws passed by the legislature; and
(c) the judiciary tries cases and administers justice.
“The judiciary is unique in that it is not elected, but is independent. This means no one can interfere in the work of the Constitutional Court and the other courts in the country.
“In practice this means each arm of the state keeps watch over the power of the others. The courts can judge the actions of the legislature and the executive but cannot pass laws. The legislature can make laws but cannot hand down judgments or take executive action.”
However, the principle of judicial review in a constitutional democracy creates the impression that the judiciary has the last word whenever a dispute arises.
Comrades, we are thus presented with a further balancing act where challenges arise in ensuring that the executive does not wield its authority without being contained by the other pillars of government.
When considering an MPs’ relationship to their allegiance to the ANC, they have elected leaders appointed into cabinet, which is the very cabinet that they have sworn an oath to. However, as ANC members they swear to abide by the ANC Constitution which does not hold ANC members accountable to the Constitution of the Republic. This is where a clash of rules hits the morality of an MP and where further internal conflict can emerge. This convergence has the ability to paralyse unwitting public representatives and servants who display loyalty to ANC leadership instead of loyalty to the Constitution of the Republic.
Comrades, we must resolve this.
It is the right of an MP to be vocal, to take an active part and criticise these conflicts and issues. MPs should not be passive and their views should find resonance with the public they serve because they are the public representatives. MPs must exercise oversight, hold office bearers accountable and exercise their right to discuss any matter, with honesty in Parliamentary caucus.
MPs must open themselves to healthy political debate; to persuade others and be persuaded themselves. It is in dialogue and debate that MPs find value and arrive at a better understanding.
We can understand this from the perspective of the dialectical method which requires the capacity and skill to dialogue – the ability and willingness to exchange knowledge, interchange ideas and drive discourse. Dialectical laws ask of us not to be one-sided in our approach, and to look at things from all sides in order to generate a more rigorous and judicious method of formulating a definitive view on any subject matter.
On the one side, an argument presents a ‘thesis’ as an intellectual proposition. On the other side, an ‘antithesis’ is presented as a reaction to the proposition. Following debate and discussion, both sides may generate a ‘synthesis’ that forms a new proposition. To arrive at this point requires one to be open to receive ideologies and debates from all corners.
Comrades, indeed it is your duty to encourage and engage in critical analysis, political debate, and healthy dialogue in order to develop syntheses in Parliament that benefit all of South Africa. You have the right to discuss any matter in Parliament as outlined in Chapter 10 Part 2 of the Rules of the National Assembly, Questions for Oral Reply.
Comrades, it is through these rights, and through the rights afforded to you in Parliament to deliver questions to Ministers, questions to the Deputy President, questions to the President, and questions for Written Reply, that you have the power to represent the people that elected you and allow citizens a voice in Parliament.
If MPs and public representatives defer and have no opinion of their own, then there is the danger of compromising our constitutional democracy, of destroying democratic culture, of eroding the trust of the people, and failing our oath to uphold our commitment to the Constitution of the Republic and the people of South Africa.
As Members of Parliament, it is imperative to add value to the discourse of caucus. As public representatives, service is based on the idea that public officials perform their duties in the public interest – such elected or appointed officials are accountable to the South African people.
This is an opportune time to remember what the South African Constitution says about the role of the National Assembly in Section 42(3):
The National Assembly is elected to represent the people and to ensure government by the people under the Constitution. It does this by choosing the President, by providing a national forum for public consideration of issues, by passing legislation and by scrutinizing and overseeing executive action.
Comrades, if we are to create a democratic culture, if we are to display exemplary conduct, and respond with ethical leadership and resilience in challenging environments during times of uncertainty, then we must abide by our oaths.
It is important for us to consider that the ANC constitution is silent on enforcing the oath that MPs take as Parliamentarians and this lacuna gap may lead MPs to committing grievous mistakes.
The Constitution of the Republic sets the bar for which we should live up to and for which our renewal as a Party can be fully realised. But are we living up to that bar? It is in the exploration of the answer to that question that the reason for aligning the ANC Constitution with the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, becomes clearer.
South Africa’s future rests with our elected public representatives who act with honour, integrity and dedication for public good. Courage and conviction to engage in robust dialogue and amplify the voices of those we represent, is vital in the restoration of the prestige of our organisation. Our duty and accountability as leaders, is part of the constitutional framework of this country since its foundation, and to which our oath of office is based on.