From South Africa, Lessons in Party Supremacy

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After pussyfooting for days despite mounting pressure, South African president Jacob Zuma last Wednesday resigned from office as president, paving the way for a new leadership in the country.

While Zuma reluctantly announced his resignation after nearly the whole of the party leadership moved against him, his exit from power was yet another indication of the supremacy of political party in politics.

Zuma’s tenure was riddled with corruption scandals, including an indictment by the highest court in the land for deploying public funds for private use. His nine-year reign presented a disturbing picture of a country with a helplessly inept leadership. But he was in power for as long as his party stood by him, a support that saw him survive votes of no confidence raised in the parliament.

When his continued stay in office eroded the party’s goodwill among the people and endangered his country’s democracy, ANC acted quickly and recalled him. His demand for a transition process that could take months was rejected by party leaders.

But there are three takeaways from Zuma’s resignation. One is the fact that ANC has a breed of leaders that could speak truth to power, the kind that is lacking in most African democracies. Also, the party is imbued with discipline such that it could demand for the resignation of a President and he would be left with no option than to heed his party’s call.

And thirdly, that a political party should not just serve as a vehicle for seeking political office, but also a guide and a check on those elected on its platform, and when such elected officers deviate from the party’s manifesto, undermine the offices they occupy or endanger democracy, it should not hesitate to impose sanction. Other African countries have lessons to learn from Zuma’s resignation.