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Hanekom’s integrity and independence are not in question

The ANC has told Derek Hanekom, a former minister in President Jacob Zuma’s cabinet and now an ordinary member of its caucus in the National Assembly, to defend his “integrity and independence” in the light of a series of tweets he is alleged to have authored in the run-up to the motion of no confidence in the president. This failed, by a margin of only 21 votes, to unseat the president.

Apparently, the degree of “integrity and independence” previously displayed by Comrade Hanekom brought prestige to the ANC’s national disciplinary committee, which he has chaired with distinction.

However, the tweets in support of the motion have seemingly so undermined these sterling characteristics that he is now required to prove why he should not be removed from the chair.

The complaint by ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe has been poorly described in the letter. It is the very “independence and integrity” of Hanekom that caused him to buck the party line and encourage the caucus to vote its conscience in the motion.

These are the same qualities that brought such prestige to the committee he so ably chaired that he was reappointed to lead it for a second time.

Actually, the complaint ought to be about his party loyalty and willingness to take instructions from a three-line whip that he knows are wrong-headed and out of kilter with his conscience. Hanekom’s failure to toe the party line is what has him in trouble with its leadership, not his integrity and independence, which are as intact as ever.

His impartiality as chair of the national disciplinary committee will undoubtedly give rise to his voluntarily recusing himself from chairing any disciplinary proceedings the ANC may be so ill-advised as to bring against members who supported the motion of no confidence. But it will be ill-advised to attempt to discipline those who voted with the opposition, since they have the imprimatur of the Constitutional Court.

In interpreting the law on secret ballots in a motion of no confidence, the court ruled that MPs are not mere party apparatchiks, but representatives of the people who, given their oath to uphold the Constitution, should vote their consciences in a motion of no confidence. This is how the court put it, lest there be any lingering doubt in the ranks of the ANC:

“Members are required to affirm faithfulness to the Republic and obedience to the Constitution and laws. Nowhere does the supreme law provide for them to swear allegiance to their political parties, important players though they are in our constitutional scheme.

“Meaning, in the event of a conflict between upholding constitutional values and party loyalty, their irrevocable undertaking to serve the people and do only what is in their best interests must prevail.

“This is so not only because they were elected through their parties to represent the people, but also to enable the people to govern through them, in terms of the Constitution.”

If the reliance on his supposedly suspect “integrity and independence” in the demand on Hanekom is a stratagem to evade the effect of the binding words of the court, this tactic is doomed to fail as it will be impossible to punish Hanekom for doing precisely what the court expects of all parliamentarians when they are faced with a motion of no confidence.

If anything, those who remained loyal to the president despite the mountain of evidence against him and the disastrous nature of his leadership, are the ones who should be accounting to the public for their perfidious spinelessness. They will so account at the next general election and may well live to rue the day they chose to kowtow to the party bosses.

While free legal advice is usually worth what one pays for it, Hanekom would be well advised to give a solid and straight middle finger to the ANC. He and those who have been identified as disloyal to the party because they have remained loyal to their country should consider interdicting the ANC’s baseless harassment of them or resigning from this hopelessly compromised organisation.

• Hoffman, SC is a director of Accountability Now and the author of Confronting the Corrupt.

Article published in Business Day on 25 August 2017

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