ANC MPs voting for a motion of no confidence against an ANC president that was tabled by any opposition party would be tantamount to the party cutting off its nose to spite its face.
This is according to ANC national chair Gwede Mantashe, who appeared at the Zondo commission to account for ANC shenanigans during the Zuma years.
Mantashe was put under the spotlight on the ANC’s continued defence of Zuma in the eight motions of no confidence that were brought against him.
According to Mantashe, a removal of a president of the governing party at the request of an opposition party would usher in a political crisis that the ANC would never recover from.
It was a “mischief” of opposition parties to attempt to pressure the ANC to vote for its motions to remove its top leader — one that the ANC will never entertain.
Even now, Mantashe went on, the ANC will never split its vote to support any motion seeking to unseat its own president, even that brought by the ATM against president Cyril Ramaphosa should it get to be tabled before the house.
Mantashe believes that defending the head of the party is non-negotiable for any organisation that wants to have a prolonged stay in power. It was in this spirit that the ANC stood with Zuma despite the mountain of allegations against him on his alleged corrupt relationship with the Gupta family.
The ANC, Mantashe argued, was backing Zuma because it had its eye on the bigger picture of protecting itself against opposition onslaught whose intention was to collapse the ANC.
If the ANC were ever to flirt with the idea of voting with the opposition to remove its president, that would be goodnight to state power.
“An opposition may put somebody of their own, some [ANC MPs] in retaliation may vote with them and you have an opposition president.
“It is a political issue, Mr Chairperson, it is not a superficial, technical or legal issue. You cannot collapse your party and hope it will survive.”
Mantashe said it was his duty as ANC secretary-general during the Zuma years to “keep the party intact” by issuing stern instructions to MPs to stick to the party line.
Besides, said Mantashe, SA has a party political system thus MPs vote according to party line.
“In things like these of removing a president, the ANC will do everything in its power not to ever split its forces. We are a party in a party political system.”
Pushed on what remedies the ANC has to remove its wayward presidents without being told by the opposition, Mantashe said the commission must look no further than the recall of Zuma, which was an internal ANC process.
This option too was still not perfect, he said, because it causes internal divisions but was still better than a no-confidence vote in parliament.
What if the ANC moves the motion on its own in parliament?
“Taking that decision would be cutting your nose to spite your face. You are telling the world that we are good and the consequences is that you will destroy your party,” charged Mantashe adding that it is not ANC policy to be told by outside forces that their president is due for removal.
On this one matter the ANC will never allow its members to vote based on their personal conscience.
“These free votes, on certain issues maybe yes, but on political matters that affect the heart of the ANC, we cannot allow a free-for-all.
“The ANC is a political party with policies. People who go to parliament on an ANC list understand those policies and go on the basis of implementing those policies.”