Former South African President, Thabo Mbeki, appeared to have the gravitas one would expect from a person in such a high office.
However, he demonstrated lamentable weakness and equivocation over the unspeakable Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe.
Given that he is not a scientist, his views on the lack of a link between HIV and AIDS were, to say the least, curious.
His government failed spectacularly in a number of areas, especially the maintenance of law and order, or even the provision of essential services, such as electricity.
But why did he resign on 21 September, 2008?
All that had happened was the ANC National Executive Committee decided it would no longer support him in parliament.
President Mbeki had had a long running dispute with the party leader Jacob Zuma, who enjoys the strong support of the Communist Party.
A case against Mr. Zuma for corruption was recently dismissed for procedural errors, with some suggestion that the President may have interfered.
But the trigger for his resignation was not the suggestion he may have improperly interfered in the case, a charge which had not yet been investigated much less proven.
It was the withdrawal of support by no more than a political party, albeit the monolith that actually runs South Africa.
Why then should he feel under an obligation to resign? None of the media reports seemed to clarify this.
To find out why, I looked up the South African constitution.
…anybody can write a constitution..
I have often said in debates that just about anybody can write a constitution. In fact, if you peruse some of them, you can see this is true.
If you look again at the dog’s breakfast of amendments which was rejected by the wise Australian people in 1999, you will see precisely what I mean.
The South African government website proclaims that “South Africa’s Constitution is one of the most progressive in the world and enjoys high acclaim internationally.”
That is probably because it is full of predictable highfalutin principles and values.
So incidentally was Stalin’s infamous 1936 Constitution.
The South African constitution was either written by power hungry politicians, naive academicians, or, as is most likely, committees consisting of both.
The Constitutional Court had a role in it, which hardly seems a judicial function.
It is sometimes described as a Westminster style parliamentary democracy.
Sadly, it isn’t.
You see there is now no South African Crown to act as a check and balance against the political branch.
Nor is there even some faux republican Crown, the sort of imitation bauble the former NSW Premier the Hon. Bob Carr would like.
South Africa removed the Crown from its constitution in 1961 after the Afrikaner dominated National Party held what they called a referendum.
…Verwoed's sleight of hand…
It was just a typically blank cheque plebiscite with one question “Do you support a republic for the Union?”
Just before the vote the Verwoed government changed the electoral law to increase the Afrikaner vote by including voters in what is now Namibia and by reducing the voting age.
The vote was still close, with only 52.29% in favour.
The people were told a South African republic could stay in the Commonwealth. The politicians had not done their homework. Or they were lying.
South Africa was however forced to withdraw when it became obvious her change would not be approved by the other members.
(In 1999, the Attorney –General did not seem to be aware of this, and when I pointed this out, former PM Bob Hawke said on a national radio programme that I was a liar. I then produced a letter from the Secretary General of the Commonwealth)
In 1983, the constitution was radically changed to concentrate political power in an executive presidency.
That continues in the present constitution, with the President impossibly both the Head of State and the Head of the Government, or as we would say, prime minister, and responsible to Parliament.
Under Article 102 of the constitution, this President who is effectively the prime minister as well, must resign if he loses a vote of no confidence.
The ANC parliamentarians, whose party usually wins an impossible 60% plus of the popular vote, will always obey their politburo.
So President Mbeki decided to resign rather than lose a vote of no confidence.
What lesson is there here for Australia?
You will find some people who neither understand constitutions nor human nature, but are quite willing to try to dictate major change to our constitution, and especially that part which works so well.
They ask why we need the Australian Crown, and those who exercise its powers, the governors-general and governors.
They believe the story put around that these viceroys are no more than useless automatons or rubber stamps.
They are not.
We can of course remove the Crown and then concentrate all power in the hands of one political party.
Just as the ANC has in South Africa.
Let’s hope that if the Australian people agree to follow South Africa, no ruling Australian party is ever controlled by a greedy set of thugs.
Or even that it is never run by centralists.
They can do a lot of damage to the country with their “we know best” mentality.
Incidentally the accession of Jacob Zuma to power, which is likely to be confirmed after the elections in April, 2009, is expected to result in even larger emigration.
According to the Sunday Times of 28 September, 2008, 63% of whites have “seriously considered” emigration, as have many Asians, coloureds (mixed race) and middle-class blacks.
Many will probably come to Australia.
Let’s hope that before they vote in any plebiscite or referendum they spare a moment to compare our constitutional system with South Africa’s.
Let’s hope they do the same before they accept the line that the Australian Crown as an irrelevance.