The ANC’s Vote Shame

The vote tally was 229 votes in favour, while opposition MPs mustered
107 votes against it. There were two abstentions – one by an ANC MP,
Gloria Borman, the other by the United Democratic Movement’s Stanley
Ntapane.

MPs took their seats as hundreds of protesters gathered at the gates
of Parliament to register their protest and pickets took place across
the country.

Members of the SA National Editors’ Forum – editors of the country’s
major print and broadcast media – sat in the public gallery, dressed
in black to mark what the National Press Club had dubbed “Black
Tuesday”.

When the result of the vote was announced, they rose as one and left.
Journalists cleared the Press Gallery at the same time, while ANC MPs
applauded and shouted: “Bye, bye”.

Deft political footwork by the DA in concert with the IFP, Cope, the
ACDP and FF+ had the ANC caught on the back foot with an initial bid
to have the proceedings postponed.

But the effect was only to delay the inevitable and had ANC chief whip
Mathole Motshekga told by the Speaker, Max Sisulu, that he wasn’t
allowed to make speeches when he stood to object.

Parties were allowed three minutes each to make declarations setting
out their opposition.

Boos and howls from ANC MPs greeted DA parliamentary leader Lindiwe
Mazibuko when she said it was “a dark day” for the country’s young
democracy.

“If passed, this bill will unstitch the very fabric of our
constitution. It will criminalise the freedoms that so many of our
people fought for.

“What will you, (ANC MPs), tell your grandchildren? I know you will
tell them that you fought for freedom. But will you also tell them you
helped to destroy it?

“Because they will pay the price for your actions today. Let this
weigh heavy on your conscience as you cast your vote,” Mazibuko said.

“I shudder to think that the men and women who say money is being
stolen (whistle blowers) will be locked up in the name of the ANC,”
said Cope leader and former ANC national chairman and defence
minister, Mosiuoa Lekota.

“I am ashamed… (we) will not vote for this legislation,” he said.

The ANC was creating “exactly the same situation” those who fought
apartheid had confronted, when patriots were locked up and
criminalised for saying what was wrong with the apartheid state, said
the PAC’s Letlapa Mphahlele.

“You don’t have to be a foreign spy to oppose this legislation,” he
said, warning it would limit freedoms and turn the country into a
“banana republic”.

Calling on Zuma not to sign the bill, the IFP’s Mario Ambrosini said
Parliament was acting against the will of the people, who had said “in
a clear voice” they did not want it.

“What emerges out of this… is the arrogance of power. You’re killing
the messenger because you don’t like the message.”

UDM leader Bantu Holomisa said the true motivation for the bill was
not so much state security as the concerns of people high up in the
ANC for what the media was reporting.

“You must take this bill to the national working committee and
national executive committee (of the ANC), you must hear the view of
people, what they are saying outside,” he said.

ANC MP Luwellyn Landers said most critics of the bill had not read it
and wanted former apartheid ruler PW Botha’s 1982 act – which the bill
is meant to replace – to remain on the statute books, to shouts of
“That’s not true!” from opposition benches.

“(Landers) attacks PW Botha but he was a deputy minister in his
cabinet,” said IFP chief whip Koos van der Merwe, referring to the ANC
MP’s early career as a tri-cameral parliament member.

The bill has some way still to go before it becomes law: it will now
go to the National Council of Provinces, which has the power to hold a
fresh round of public hearings, take submissions and make amendments –
although it can also pass the bill as it stands.

Speaking after the vote, Sanef chairman Mondli Makhanya said editors
would work with unions and civil society to continue the fight against
the contested bill.

“All of us here, we are broken inside,” he said. “We never thought we
would come here, dressed in black, to witness the constitution of our
country being betrayed by those who built it.”

DA leader Helen Zille said: “This is not the end of the road. We will
take the bill to the Constitutional Court.

“More than a third of MPs oppose the bill, which enables us to do so
under section 80 of the constitution.

“That still holds a lot of light at the end of the tunnel,” she said.

“The fight is ongoing.”

Section 80 allows MPs to apply directly to the Constitutional Court
for an order declaring all or part of an act of Parliament
unconstitutional but one third of MPs – 134 – have to support such a
move. Only 107 no votes were recorded on Tuesday, but this is because
some MPs were absent, while some parties have seats that are vacant.

Combined opposition seats currently total 136.

The application has to be made within 30 days of the date on which
President Jacob Zuma assents to and signs the act.

Parliament is set to rise at the end of this week, so this is only
likely next year, depending on the NCOP process.

Mazibuko told MPs in the house she would lead the application if the
bill became law.

“I know the opposition benches will support us. There are enough ANC
MPs with a conscience who will do the right thing,” she said, as those
in the public gallery clapped and cheered. IFP’s MP Mario Ambrosini
missed the vote.

Asked why his name was absent from the voting minutes, which lists the
name of every MP, he said he was “probably in the toilet”. After that,
he had gone to do an interview with eNews.

His vote would not have made “much difference”, he said. – IOL