We need new standards in political leadership

“South Africa is at a crossroads,” has become a quip many among us have pulled out of our disgruntlement backpacks in the two decades President Jacob Zuma has ridden roughshod over due process, our feelings and our shiny, resilient constitution. This phrase has once again resurfaced after Nxamalala from Nkandla set the cat among the pigeons with his midnight shuffling manoeuvres last week, with politicians, civil society and ordinary South Africans calling for this head. As MS. NOZIZWE VUNDLA reminds us, we have been here before and some of the same people who now so eloquently agitate for his removal, were silent or complicit in the face of his long game of state capture. They are not our redeemers, we need a new standard in political leadership.   

Let us not forget that the senior politicians who are speaking out against President Jacob Zuma now, sang a very different tune not too long ago, including Ms. Barbara Hogan, who accepted a post in the Zuma cabinet long after it had been established that Zuma was corrupt.

Think about that. She knew, because by then Zuma’s corruption was no longer an ANC inner circle thing, but a publicly accepted reality too, yet she accepted the post. Being fired from that post does not alter these facts. She now claims that ‘Zuma has gone rogue’ when as a senior ANC leader herself, she knows very well that there was never a time when Zuma was anything else.

These “water is wet” pronouncements from Ms. Hogan, Mr Pravin Gordhan, Mr Derek Hanekom, Mr Gwede Mantashe, Mr Zweli Mkhize, Mr Cyril Ramaphosa etc. about Pres. Zuma are most infuriating, because they indicate a fundamental disrespect for citizens’ intelligence. They (senior ANC leadership) collectively got us into this mess, where established predatory white capital and emerging predatory black capital thrive with impunity.

They (senior ANC leadership) collectively got us into this mess, where established predatory white capital and emerging predatory black capital thrive with impunity.

So why would we believe that these same people will get us out of that mess? These senior ANC people – all of them – are fighting turf wars. Not ‘our’ war, which is to make South Africa work for its citizens, first and foremost, especially the most vulnerable among us. Let’s be careful not to mistake internal ANC battles for our own battles as citizens.

So while it might feel good hearing people ‘finally’ tell us that the sky is blue, let’s not reward people who’ve let us down repeatedly over the years – starting with the shockingly weak deal that was negotiated at CODESA, that secured political freedom without economic freedom, sealing our present day reality where the economic status quo has remained largely the same, twenty plus years later! We’re so used to poor leadership, that we want to reward fish for swimming. No, let’s not do this.

If we want different outcomes in the future, we have to set new standards of leadership for ourselves – and none of this brigade that have suddenly found their voices deserves our applause or our faith that they will do better by us, now that they have finally acknowledged that the emperor has no clothes on. The ANC is the problem. Not just one man and his lackeys or his masters.

Image: Daily Maverick

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