Sinking ANC guns for an outspoken MP - but aren't they meant to be feisty, curious and questioning?
Vultures seem to be circling over outspoken ANC MP Makhosi Khoza. She's had death threats, her house has been picketed by the ANC Youth League, and now her party - instead of attending to the danger she and her family are facing - wants to discipline her.
The party's ire has been provoked by, among many other misdeeds, her letter to National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete asking her to allow MPs to vote with their conscience in the coming no-confidence motion against President Jacob Zuma. That's code for Mbete to allow a secret ballot, as demanded by opposition parties.
ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu says Khoza is "extremely ill-disciplined" and should be whipped. That's a downer because many were hoping the winds of change were beginning to sweep through the corridors of parliament and that Mthembu had something to do with it.
If that was the case, the guy seems to have done a volte-face. He has reverted to type.But if speaking one's mind is regarded as ill-discipline, then the party would have a roomful of suspects, including Mthembu himself. There's enough evidence to indict him. He's made disapproving noises about the Nkandla debacle, the dismissal of Pravin Gordhan from the cabinet, and is on record as saying some in the party "were looting [the state] like there's no tomorrow" - that's obviously in reference to Zuma and the Guptas.
These comments would, in the normal scheme of things, be commendable. But if Khoza has to be charged for deliberating on a subject that is clearly within her purview as an MP, so should he. There's enough for him to join her in the dock.
But Mthembu is also being cowardly. Khoza is a soft target, even a scapegoat. For instance, the MPs who wrote to the public protector - with neither the permission nor knowledge of the party - asking for the National Treasury to be investigated, have not been disciplined. When confronted, they faced him down.
But discipline is the last thing that should be associated with the ANC. They're fighting like rats in a sack. The only thing that keeps them together is their access to the spoils of power, things like cushy jobs, tenders etcetera.
Leave Khoza alone. She's a breath of fresh air. She's the epitome of what an MP should be - feisty, curious, questioning, outspoken and always enraged at the slightest evidence of wrongdoing. Others seem to have forgotten what they're in parliament for. Their abiding motto seems to be to "See no evil, hear no evil". They won't even grin or growl unless they're instructed to, and are only too happy to collect their pay cheque at the end of the month.
But this should not be about the fate of one MP. It is about the role of parliament and those who serve it. Should parliament be a tool of the governing party or is it a depository of the aspirations of the citizens, questioning and holding those in power to account?Since the dawn of our much-vaunted democracy, parliament has never come to the party, so to speak. It has not lived up to its billing. It has instead been used as a battering ram to bulldoze unpopular legislation through, shield malfeasance and incompetence and let the executive go unchallenged. MPs have been emasculated; they have neither voice nor views; they're just voting fodder.
The institution is headed by a speaker who wears too many hats; they don't always sit well on her and she's often confused as to which she's donning when she speaks. When she uttered those moronic comments about the judiciary being biased against the ANC last week, was she speaking as the speaker, the ANC chairwoman, or a presidential candidate? It's a farce. Kafka would have loved it.
If parliament was doing its job, outrages such as Nkandla would have been nipped in the bud.
The argument is often advanced, especially by the ANC, that it's the party that has sent the MPs to parliament and therefore the party has every right to control them. I think they need to check the idea and meaning of a parliament. It is meant to represent the people, not political parties. And, crucially, it is the people, not parties, who vote in elections. The electoral system doesn't give parties carte blanche to control MPs. It is merely a mechanism to send MPs to parliament to represent the people. It can, and should, change to make MPs more accountable to the people, not the party.
Parliament should be big enough to accommodate - and listen to - mavericks, free spirits and even those who at times have the inclination to tilt at windmills. It should, like the public at large, be the crucible of all sorts of ideas - not a place where MPs go to be enslaved.
Let Khoza and her ilk speak their minds. They're a credit to our democracy.