The disciplining of Ben Turok

The lengthy public drama which unfolded over the ANC’s attempt to disciple Julius Malema for bringing the party into disrepute, is still fresh in our minds. Perhaps because it remains unresolved and Malema has now acquired a second suspension after an expulsion, which he is appealing, for calling the President a dictator.

There should have been a lesson here for the ANC in terms of handling the management of members decisively and with more finesse.  The ANC has not acted on the many of the cases of corruption, misuse of public funds and poor performance of many of its members that hold public office. However it has chosen to act against the well respected, long serving MP, Ben Turok for abstaining from voting on the Public Information Bill.  Ben Turok’s differing on an issue of conscience was a greater offense to the ANC than its members stealing from the public coffers!

The ANC caucus took the decision to support the Bill, and Ben Turok did effectively defy this decision.  The ANC has always been a party, and before that a movement, that allowed for maximum debate of ideas. It is constantly at logger heads with its alliance partners for this reason. Because the ANC represents a wide range of views, it cannot be expected to present a singular view.

Our parliamentary system itself, is built to allow members of parliament the space to act on their own conscience and in recognition of the needs of their constituency, and not just in line with the dictates of the party.  Why then are MPs asked to vote in the first place, instead of simplifying the process and including single mandated votes from parties?

The closing down of the space for individual views within the ANC reflects sadly, a movement to a new type of organization, one of unflinching loyalty and silence.

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