The ANC does not take kindly to being told what policies to follow by critics and the opposition. President Jacob Zuma is on record warning opposition parties on countless occasions to win the elections first if they want to have their policies implemented.
Zuma has also accused opposition parties of attempting to govern through the courts. This is in reference to the many cases his government has lost after being dragged to court by opposition parties.
In fact, ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe has even gone as far as accusing the judiciary of what he perceives as bias against the ruling party. Last year, Mantashe singled out two courts in particular: the high courts of North Gauteng and the Western Cape High Court, accusing their judges of having a negative attitude towards government.
His remarks came after government lost a few cases, including one in which the Western Cape High Court ruled that EFF leader Julius Malema was within his rights to say the ruling party was responsible for the Marikana massacre and another in which the North Gauteng High Court ordered Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir be detained in line with an international arrest warrant.
In June, at an ANC local government election campaign rally in Mpumalanga, Zuma complained about the “emerging tendency” of challenging an elected government through the courts. He claimed this undermined democracy.
“A party that wins elections must be given space to govern. Every day they go to court. They can’t argue any issue. Only the judges must argue for their point. They even threaten ‘we will go to court’. Democracy is not court,” said Zuma. He added: “It is correct ideas that must influence the citizens to support you. It’s correct policies and programmes. It’s respect, taking seriously your citizens, including the opposition.”
What he failed to understand was that in any constitutional democracy, citizens have the right to take government to court, rather than settle disputes through other destructive and unconstitutional means.
Now, Zuma’s own party is acting against his advice. Having lost several key metros, including the capital city and Joburg, the country’s economic hub, to the DA in the hotly contested August municipal polls, the ANC is nervous about the prospect of the new administration tampering with its policies.
Former executive mayor of Joburg Parks Tau has been quoted as expressing concern that some of his projects could be canned by the DA-led coalition government under new mayor Herman Mashaba.
According to City Press, Tau is lobbying smaller parties ahead of the September 14 council meeting, when the budget will be tabled and the DA’s priorities for the city are expected to be highlighted.
This is where Tau has it all wrong. The first thing he and his party were supposed to do was win the polls to allow them to effect their own policies. The fact that the ANC was rejected by the electorate in Joburg simply means whatever policies it planned to implement did not resonate with the electorate.
In keeping with their own leaders’ advice, the ANC must give the collection of parties that were endorsed by the voting public the space to govern. The ANC cannot lose at the polls and behave like it’s business as usual.
It must go back to the drawing board and do some serious introspection about why it was rejected by voters in the metros it lost. The party would do well to come to terms with the painful reality that it has been kicked out of power in these places. It must now play the role of the opposition and try to use that position to regain lost ground.
In the meantime, the ANC must respect democracy and allow the victors to govern in accordance with the wishes of the voting public.