Battleground 2016: Zille claims DA the only party able to deliver ‘democratic’ leadership

BY TAI CHISHAKWE - NOVEMBER 24, 2014

Democratic Alliance (DA) leader on Monday sought to score some points against her party’s opponents by claiming that the DA was the only party which is able to hold democratic elective conferences.

In an article titled, The Holy Trinity of Democracy, in her party’s SA Today newsletter, Zille says her party had demonstrated its political maturity after holding two peaceful and democratic provincial elections – one was held on Saturday in Gauteng and another one was held two weeks ago in the Eastern Cape.

Why is this even worth mentioning?

“The process of holding regular, peacefully contested leadership elections at party congresses in South Africa, is truly exceptional,” wrote Zille.

“We know that [Congress of the People] COPE, in its short life-span, could never convene a legitimate Congress (or what it calls an ‘Elective Conference’).

“And now we see the same thing happening to the [Economic Freedom Fighters] EFF.

“Heralded a short while ago as the ‘real challenger’ to the [African National Congress]ANC, the EFF is battling to hold its provincial congresses, that are supposed to precede its National ‘People’s Assembly’ in mid-December.”

She pointed out to reports that in Kimberley recently, “chaos erupted during the Economic Freedom Fighters’ Northern Cape conference, as members armed with bricks, machetes and pangas tore into each other, trashing the venue and leaving a trail of blood”.

“In Gauteng, Julius Malema disqualified one of his internal critics, Lufuno Gogoro, from running for the provincial chairmanship. Gogoro, whose supporters were also expelled from the Congress, has now hired a team of lawyers to obtain an interdict setting aside the Gauteng outcome and preventing the EFF’s national People’s Assembly from proceeding,” said Zille.

“In the Eastern Cape a disgruntled EFF faction sought to hijack their provincial Assembly, and the police were called in to deal with “an attempted coup” by those unhappy with the current leadership.

“And in the Free State the EFF has already split, with disgruntled members starting up a rival populist party called the New Economic Freedom Front.”

The ANC

The ANC, for obvious reasons, did not escape the same ridicle.

“ANC congresses are controlled by the promise of patronage from the winner to his supporters after the election. But when the ANC loses power, and is no longer able to offer jobs, contracts and other perks to hold their party together, the system will unravel,” Zille said.

“The in-fighting in the Western Cape, in the run-up to the ANC provincial congress, is so intense that controversial ex-ANC councilor, Andile Lili, claims he was shot in an assassination attempt orchestrated by rivals to prevent him from standing for the ANC’s provincial leadership at their forthcoming congress.”

How is the DA different?

“It is not because DA members are inherently better people than members of other parties. It is because we practice what we preach. We apply a simple but profound concept, universally described as constitutionalism and the rule-of-law,” said the DA leader.

“Translated into everyday language this means: we have a democratic process of drawing up our rules, and then we stick to them. This makes our party work, in many different ways. When it comes to elections, it means they are free and fair and produce an outcome we all accept, even if it is not what everyone wanted. And those who won, commit to playing by the rules, and being open to challenge at the next election.”

How it is possible

She went on to say that leading theorist on the development of democratic systems, Francis Fukuyama, is right when he says three characteristics are common to all successful democracies: the rule of law, accountability and a capable state.

“I call these the ‘holy trinity’ of democracy. It applies not only to whole countries, but to institutions and organisations as well,” said Zille.

“Whenever I mention these ideas, someone is bound to ask what relevance they have for South Africa’s problems. After all, the poor can’t eat ‘the rule of law’ or live in ‘accountability’. First deal with unemployment and homelessness, the critics say, before you talk about the ‘rule of law’.

“The answer is simple: None of our other problems will be solved unless this ‘trinity’ becomes embedded in our culture… The democratic ‘trinity’ – the rule of law, accountability and a capable state -is essential to progress, and what we call ‘delivery’.”

Zille went on to say that the DA is the only party in South Africa that can put a tick in the box next to all three attributes.

“We have our federal and provincial constitutions and our rules. They were democratically drafted and adopted. And we stick to them. No-one is above them, and no leader can interfere in their application. Leadership is ‘accountable’, and our systems are competently managed. This is our organizational equivalent of a ‘capable state’,” she said.

“At the other extreme, the EFF openly espouses what it calls ‘democratic centralism’, a euphemism for dictatorship. Julius Malema, the Commander-in-Chief, decides. If you disagree with him, you are labelled a ‘counter revolutionary’ or an agent provocateur. At best, you have a ‘white tendency’. And you are side-lined or expelled.

“This approach will be the EFF’s undoing. It is unworkable in a country with as strong a democratic ethos as South Africa.”

Chaos in Parliament

Zille writes that the National Assembly should be the point of convergence in any democracy between the three concepts: accountability, the rule of law, and a capable state.

“The real issues have been overshadowed by the televised soap opera that has had people glued to their screens recently. Few analysts have understood that the core issue at stake here is adherence to ‘the rule of law’ and the accountability of the President,” she says.

“In terms of Parliament’s rules, the President must answer questions at least once a quarter. He does not have an option. This is a key component of ‘executive accountability’ in our Parliamentary system.

“The Speaker must chair Parliament in a fair manner, according to the rules. She has no option. She cannot follow instructions from Luthuli House and allow Parliament to be abused to protect the President.

“The DA will not allow itself to be drawn into a ‘political solution’ that requires Parliament to protect Jacob Zuma from answering questions in the House. Such a deal would seriously undermine the very purpose of Parliament in our constitutional order.”