Saturday, January 31, 2009

In SA, morality is not a yardstick for choosing leaders

Thou shall not get caught. That is the 11th – but not recorded – commandment. Universally, this expression refers to the question of ethics, be it in politics, religion, business or daily life.

It is the bane of morality that is the crux of how ordinary men and women should conduct themselves in the eyes of society – the greatest judge of human behaviour.

Ethics demand that politicians should be worthy, honest, helpful and answerable to the common weal. Be above suspicion like Julius Caesar’s wife.

Remember she had a dream warning him of the Ides of March?

But this is not about the great Caesar for “he was an honourable man”, as his trusted aide and betrayer Brutus described him at his funeral.

Indeed, many a hero has fallen to the sword of unethical and dishonourable conduct. History attests to that.

Traditionally, Republicans in the United States are prone to being caught with their hands in the till.

Didn’t they loot Iraqi oil during Bush’s war?

It has been chronicled that George Walker Bush turned an office at the White House into a storeroom where he kept looted Iraqi – ostensibly Saddam Hussein’s – memorabilia.

It is now legendary that this room was the same office where Bill Clinton was caught with his pants at his ankles in the infamous tryst with the then 21- year-old intern Monica Lewinsky.

Clinton is a Democrat.

Of course, the Democrats’ downfall is sexual peccadillos, the same as the Tory Party in Britain.
Presently the great debate in South Africa evolves around the moral esteem of ANC president Jacob Zuma and his deputy Kgalema Motlanthe.

Both leaders have received a great deal of media attention for behaviour that questions their sexual morality.

Zuma himself now faces a corruption trial which questions his fitness to lead the country.

In Britain, there the Labour Party, now led by Gordon Brown, also steals.

Closer to home, theft and conviction of bigwigs is not a problem.

Several prominent figures have been caught stealing or committing fraud. And this has become neither a legal nor a traditional requirement to resign from or occupy high office.

In South Africa a sense of entitlement pervades government. There is no sense of shame. There is no regard for the 11th commandment: “Thou shall not be caught” or morality is not a basis for choosing leaders.

At the start of the much-publicised Zuma rape trial in 2006, University of South Africa vice-chancellor Barney Pityana wrote in the Mail & Guardian: “To resign would be to show evidence of moral capacity and to give a veritable signal to his misguided supporters, including (then) ANC Youth League president Fikile Mbalula and Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi, and through them, to millions of young and eager South Africans, that there is something of a shame associated with rape and with corruption, and that he is prepared to take moral responsibility, as opposed to legal culpability, for the offences for which he must stand trial.

“Moral revulsion is not something the courts can impose on him. It is that which he must take upon himself if he is to be the moral exemplar he once aspired to be.”

It is therefore expedient to opt out if entrapped by the 11th commandment.

2 Opinion(s):


Brutus is a honourable man....
Speech by Marc Anthony with the purpose to swing the mood of the Rome senat against Brutus.

Joe King said...

If you want to know the true colours of a man, ask his enemies, not his friends.