Picture: CONSTITUTION HILL
Picture: CONSTITUTION HILL

While respecting our president’s willingness to testify before the state capture commission, I was most critical of his equivocation on the issue of the MPs’ oath.

Whenever he knew his views on party allegiance clashed with ethics he compared his party’s behaviour with other democracies, without reference to the fact that such democracies are losing credibility and the trust of their increasing cynical populations.

When general policy matters are being voted on in parliament MPs should follow the party line, and the whips’ job is to ensure this. But it cannot include overriding any individual’s conscience. Anyone worth considered for appointment as an MP knows the difference between right and wrong. If the subject being voted on is against what an MP truly believes is ethical and principled, they are obliged to follow the oath and vote against it, irrespective of their party's line. This is clear, and our Constitutional Court has ruled so. Democracy fails without it.

At the moment it seems that MPs are quite ready to swear this oath while knowing they will not be allowed to live up to it. The fudging of this duty is where the damage to current democracies starts. The cynical cheating that follows undermines public belief and trust in democracy.

The failure of our MPs to do what the country desperately needed over the no confidence votes regarding former president Jacob Zuma can be compared to the position of the US Republican Party. Both countries had rogue presidents motivated by their own interests, at the expense of their countries.

The Republicans supported and propagated demonstrable lies about a stolen election, having already wrongly avoided considering the evidence in a no-confidence vote in Donald Trump — not for the good of the country but simply to retain party power.

Such actions are wrong. Both governing parties allowed damage to their country, inflicted additional damage to the credibility of the democratic process, increased public distrust and further polarised the population.

Roger Briggs
Edenvale

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