Zuma’s exit: A lesson in party supremacy

Posted by News Express | 24 February 2018 | 3,297 times

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Southern Africa is one sub-continent of the larger Black Africa continent that has sparkled with impressive firsts. Principally, South Africa is a destination point for many foreign tourists who throng the multi-racial nation, because of the climate, environmental aesthetics and the presence of large varieties of animal species that are indigenous to that part of the world. South African wildlife is first among equals globally, which remarkably accounts for the unprecedented outpouring of goodwill by European visitors searching for where to go to catch fun and holiday far away from their homesteads. South Africa is rich in red wines that are brewed originally in their backyards, even as commercial and/or mechanised agricultural practices are rife.

But all these beautiful gifts of nature that characterised South Africa, the Southern Africa sub-region has in the past few weeks become the cynosure of all eyes in the area of how so well the wheel of democracy moves to the destination of the will of the majority through the mechanics of party’s supremacy.

The first scenario happened in Zimbabwe with the sweeping away only a few weeks ago of the old political war-horse of Zimbabwe – Dr Robert Mugabe and the emergence of the then illegally ousted deputy party leader, Mr Emmerson Mnangagwa as successor - who had ruled his nation with iron fists since independence from Britain in 1980.

The Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front, otherwise known as Zanu-PF, has been the ruling party in Zimbabwe since independence in 1980; and it was only when the majority of the party hierarchical leadership was no longer comfortable with the dictatorial tendencies of their then political leader, Mugabe, that he was booted out. Mugabe’s downfall was fast and furious. He almost succeeded in pocketing his political party, but for the intervention of the military, most of whose Generals fought for independence alongside Mugabe and the new president. 

Indeed, it was the popular angst generated by the dubious moves of Mugabe’s erstwhile mistress and second wife, Grace, to take over the control of the machinery of Zanu-PF and manipulate herself into the position of a successor to her 93-year-old sick husband that drew the ire of the party hierarchy, and these circumstances instigated his downfall from political grace. The disgraceful manoeuvres of his wife, Grace, led to his disgraceful exit.

The Zimbabwean newly-crowned leader followed up his emergence on the political scene by rewarding with position of vice-president the former military commander, Gen Constantine Chiwenga, who led the military’s palace coup that ousted President Mugabe from power.

Fast forward to February 14, 2018 when the African National Congress (ANC) – the ruling party in South Africa - sacked the nation’s president, Jacob Zuma, from his high office, following a spate of corruption allegations. The South African political system is organised in such a way that the party is much more supreme than the individual members, no matter their high offices.

Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma, who served as the fourth president of South Africa – from 2009 general election until his forced resignation on Valentine’s Day of 2018 – has had a chequered presidential history. Some global media organisations had already tagged Zuma as scandal-struck former president. He was asked to leave by his party, but he resisted, only to be told that the parliament will vote him out: then, he quit.

In a televised broadcast, Zuma said he was quitting with immediate effect, but also stated that he disagreed with his political family who had shoved him aside, following persistent allegations of corruption that characterised his stay in office.

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) had reported that just before Zuma left office, the South African police had swooped on the Johannesburg home of the powerful and wealthy family of Gupta, with whom Zuma had close affinity to a point that the patriarch of the Gupta family dictated who emerged as finance minister under Zuma. The scenario is similar to the well-entrenched presidential cabal in Nigeria, whose members were accused by the wife of President Muhammadu Buhari of dishing out strategic appointments to their surrogates and, are indeed, in charge of political power in Nigeria.

In Nigeria allegations against key members of the cabal embedded within the seat of power in the last three years are dismissed with the wave of hands. And the Police Inspector-General whose appointment was made possible through the benevolence of the cabal lacks the will-power to effectively carry out his job, as the South African police had consistently probed allegations of corruption even against the South African leader.

The difference also is that in Nigeria, even the anti-graft agency is embroiled in its own scam, following damaging allegations submitted as a security dossier to the parliament by the Department of State Services, which ruled the acting Chairman of EFCC Ibrahim Magu as unfit to hold the high office of the nation’s anti-corruption czar.

Politically speaking, the Nigerian scenario is shrouded in unimaginable influence peddling, and the president of the country sponsored at elections by political parties transforms overnight to become the emperor who can’t be questioned.

But in South Africa, as well as in Zimbabwe, we have seen how ANC and Zanu-PF showed us how to run proper constitutional democracy, even in the so-called Dark Continent.

Incidentally, the African National Congress (ANC) is over 100 years old, but Zanu-PF of Zimbabwe is just slightly three or four decades old, but party supremacy in those climes are so admirable. Zuma is in no way a small fry in ANC. He was a former member of the ANC’s military wing in the days of the apartheid, and rapidly got promoted to become president.

BBC, however, said: “Zuma leaves office with several scandals hanging over him and with South African economy in dire straits.”

History has it that a resistance movement – the ANC was predated by a number of black resistance movements – among them Umkosi Wezintaba, formed in South Africa between 1890 and 1920.

The organisation was initially founded as the South African Native National Congress (SANNC) on 8 January 1912 by Saul Msane, Josiah Gumede, John Dube, Pixley ka Isaka Seme and Sol Plaatje, along with chiefs, people’s representatives, and church organisations, and other prominent individuals, to bring all Africans together as one people to defend their rights and freedoms, in Bloemfontein, with the aim of fighting for the rights of black South Africans. 

ANC, as a political institution, in the reckoning of political historians, has formidable historical trajectories and is deeply rooted in the people, and not in a person. 

“The organisation was renamed the ANC in 1923. The organisation, from its inception represented both traditional and modern elements, from tribal chiefs to church and community bodies and educated black professionals, though women were only admitted as affiliate members from 1931 and as full members in 1943.”

The formation of the ANC Youth League in 1944 by Anton Lembede heralded a new generation committed to building non-violent mass action against the legal underpinnings of the white minority's supremacy. The youth, indeed, spearheaded the liberation struggles that resulted in the overthrow of the apartheid regime. Nelson Mandela who later became the first Black African President of post-apartheid South Africa started off in ANC as a young activist, just like Jacob Zuma, who fought the White minority rulers from within the confines of South Africa. 

In 1946, the ANC allied with the South African Communist Party, in assisting in the formation of the South African Mine Workers’ Union. Recall also that in recorded accounts of the formative stages of ANC, after the miners’ strike became a general strike, the ANC’s president-general, Alfred Bitini Xuma, along with delegates of the South African Indian Congress, attended the 1946 session of the United Nations General Assembly, where the treatment of Indians in South Africa was raised by the government of India. 

This step as captured above further enhanced the internationalisation of the anti-apartheid crusade.

“Together, they raised the issue of the police brutality against the miners’ strike and the wider struggle for equality in South Africa. The ANC also worked with the Natal Indian Congress and Transvaal Indian Congress.”

 So African National Congress is a political movement with revolutionary history behind it, and the wellbeing of the Collective supersedes the individualism of whoever emerges as elected party leader. 

But in Nigeria, the laws are so liberal that money bags can register political parties and put the certificates inside their bags only to bring them out, dust them up and hawk for aspirants during elections. Even with all the so-called constitutional checks and balances, the poor leadership of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) allows the leaders of the political parties to become bigger than the parties. The Nigerian Constitution (as amended) from section 221 down to section 229 makes provisions for how political parties ought to be administered in Nigeria. The reality is that persons who pick up the cheques for the running of these parties often become the lords of the manor who can’t be tamed by the parties, unlike in South Africa whereby party’s supremacy is impressive and nobody is above the laws governing political parties.

A typical example is what is playing out in the All Progressive Congress (APC), whereby INEC does nothing while the ruling party violates its own constitution by not holding consultative statutory conventions periodically.

Also, as 2019 general election nears, the party that produces the president who has only won one term, is usually devoid of internal democracy because elements who are greedy and selfish will fight tooth and nail to ensure that the incumbent picks up the ticket for a second terms. Those who are usually rail-roaded into party bureaucracy of the political party that wields power usually venerates the president who wields the overwhelming power of control of unaccounted slush funds, which he can willfully deploy to fix his foot soldiers to oversee the political parties on day-to-day basis. At the state levels, governors manipulate the leadership of their party branches to the detriment of the constitutional independence that the political party ought to wield. In Nigeria, the political parties are compromised to a level that the president and governors give out patronage, such as board appointments to persons manning political party offices, thereby undermining internal democracy. The widespread hunger and poverty among political party members makes them vulnerable to be bought over by those who hitherto were produced to their current offices, courtesy of the benevolence of those political parties. 

Recently, the National Organising Secretary of APC, Mr Osita Izunaso, who ordinarily is to oversee an elective convention to select presidential candidate, has openly sided with President Buhari by lamenting in a newspaper interview that his political party will die if the incumbent president fails to re-contest for a second term next year. How then can another party man have the confidence and trust to run for the position of presidency under this party? This is why Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, the erstwhile vice-president who is nursing a presidential ambition was stampeded out of APC, because the incumbent president already calls the shots within the All Progressives Congress. 

If we desire proper democracy, then we must restructure the entire country, including the political system, so individuals are compelled to submit to party supremacy no matter their level of being politically exposed. Party supremacy is crucial for the sustenance of vibrant democratic culture.

•RIGHTSVIEW appears on Wednesdays and Saturdays, in addition to special appearances. The Columnist, a popular activist, is a former Federal Commissioner of Nigeria’s National Human Rights Commission and presently National Coordinator of Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria (HURIWA). He can be reached via 08033327672 (sms only) or via doziebiko@yahoo.com 

Source: News Express

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