Below is a brief interview Political Analysis South Africa’s Stephanie Naidoo had with Hon. John Steenhuisen on the DA motion calling for early elections as per Section 50(1) of the Constitution, which will be debated in the National Assembly today, 5 September 2017. Hon. John Steenhuisen is the Chief Whip of the Democratic Alliance (DA) in the National Assembly as well as a Member at Joint Standing Committee on the Financial Management of Parliament, Alternate Member at the Ad Hoc Committee on the Review of the Powers and Privileges Act and Ad Hoc Committee on Police Minister’s Report on Nkandla.
Interviewer: What is the context of the motion for early elections to be debated by Members of Parliament?
Hon. John Steenhuisen: Obviously, falling on the vote of no confidence earlier this month, it is clear that the ANC is capable of removing President Zuma from Office, and therefore we believe that on that day they (the ANC) took ownership of him and that the only way for us to solve the problem, is for there to be an early election. This Parliament, has essentially failed in its most basic duties in terms of the Constitution; What are those? Firstly, electing the President – well, we have elected somebody who has violated his oath of Office.
Scrutinising and overseeing Executive action – well, we failed in that, in both Nkandla and various other cases in which the President was found guilty. This Parliament has not held him accountable, nor is it able to hold Ministers accountable – it is not even able to get straight answers out of the Ministers and the President when they appear in Parliament.
And thirdly, passing Legislation – well, this year’s Legislation agenda in Parliament is going to be one of the worst in the history of post-democratic South Africa. We have done nine pieces of Legislation, four of which were tabled in 2015. So clearly, the people are being sacrificed as the ANC tears itself apart, and their factional battles play-out, not only on the ground in places like KwaZulu-Natal, but in the Caucus rooms and Committee rooms of Parliament, where the people’s business is now being put on the back-burner as the internal factionalism plays out.
In your opinion, will the other opposition parties support the motion on this basis?
Well, it is neither here nor there, whether they support the motion at all. Parliament, also, according to its constitutional function must be a national forum for debate on important issues. Having supported other parties, does not negate you bringing a motion to Parliament. Obviously, we would hope that other parties would support it, particularly given the fact, that Mr Malema, Mr Holomisa and Mr Lekota have, on separate occasions during the course of the last year, called for Parliament to be dissolved and for fresh elections to be held.
The media has reported that the DA’s motion is solely to satisfy the Party’s interests; and opposition parties have taken the stance that it is a unilateral decision by the DA, and that they will not support it for that reason; of course, this is speculation. What is the DA’s response to this?
There is no party permission required from any other party to do what the Parliament and the Constitution empowers them to do, which is bring matters for debate. Where, for example, the EFF did not consult anybody when they tabled their motion calling for the Constitution to be amended to allow for expropriation without compensation; I did not hear the cry from the media in that instance, where there was very much a unilateral decision taken there. Opposition parties do not have to move in lockstep – if you look at the Preamble to the Constitution, it says that we have a multi-party democracy; if we have this “amorphous blob” that was just the opposition, I do not think that we would be giving effect to a multi-party democracy. We have a variety of parties, thirteen of them, represented in the National Assembly, precisely because they are elected by different constituencies, to raise different issues at different times; they do not need to march in lockstead. Obviously, where we can cooperate on matters, it is good and well, but that should not stop any party from bringing something they feel is important for the nation, to be discussed in this forum for debate.
If the motion is unsuccessful, or if the debate of the motion is not successful, what action will the DA be pursing to address the issue?
We will continue to do whatever we can to bring and affect change for South Africa. Far too many of our people, 9.3 million, do not have the dignity of work; far too many graduates are not able to find a job and are standing on the street corners, holding signs, begging for work; far too many of our mothers have to put their children to bed at night, hungry, while feeding them with grass and sugar water just to survive. The truth is, life has gotten way too hard, for far too many South Africans, and we will continue to do whatever we can, both inside and outside of Parliament to bring chance that South Africa so desperately needs.