Friday, April 24, 2009

A tricky cohabitation

Can one respect the office of the president of South Africa even if one does not respect the person holding that position?

What impact will it have on us as a nation over the next five years that so many citizens believe their president is actually a crook who abused the organs of state to stay out of court?

There are more questions.

Should we let go of all the unpleasantness and nasty questions now that we know Jacob Zuma is our next president, sto
p pushing for judicial inquiries into the dropping of the charges against him and move on and heal the rifts in society?

Or should we keep on scratching the scabs off the wounds and
put him and his party under constant pressure to come clean on the arms deal scandal, the dropping of the charges and the parole of his buddy and benefactor Schabir Shaik?

What do we do if we as a nation get sucked into a great national or international crisis - do we unite behind our president or do we continue calling him ugly names?
Should we stop drawing cartoons of our president with a shower growing out of his head?

Should we stop calling him Love Pants or the Kangaman now that he is the head of state? Should we try and forget the allegations brought against him of involvement in the murder of ANC cadres i
n the military camps who were suspected of being spies or disloyal to the leadership?

There is a chance that Zuma will become a new person once he takes on the mantle of president and turn into a wise, visionary and principled leader committed to upholding the constitution.
It is possible, even if it does not seem likely at the moment. But until he has proved himself as a statesman and a worthy leader of all South Africans, Zuma will be viewed with substantially more disrespect than his predecessor.

We don't need to discuss the dislike of Zuma based on his ethnicity or his lack of formal education or his traditional beliefs and the fact that he has several wives. That's pure prejudice. The fact that he is a self-made man who overcame all the odds and the fact that he is completely in touch with his ethnic roots are factors that should count in his favour.

I would even argue that the charge so often levelled at him that he was a man of poor judgement because he had unprotected sex with a young family friend who was HIV-positive should not cloud our judgement of him as a president.

We have abundant examples in our own country as well as in other democracies that really good leaders often have what some would regard as weaknesses in the sexual or personal relationship department.

We will never fully know what went on between Zuma and the young woman who had accused him of rape… falsely, the court found.
I'm still not sure about my own answers to the questions I posed above.

What I am absolutely clear about, though, is that we as citizens should under no circumstances allow the ANC politicians and their cronies to get away before we've had a credible judicial inquiry into the arms deal scandal. I will be one of those who will continue to push for it at every possible opportunity.

The arms deal scandal was just too big and its tentacles reached just too far for us not to know the full truth. It not only corrupted our entire political culture, but imagine where we wo
uld be as a country today if we had used the R50-odd billion to boost education and training?

I also don't think it is feasible for any sensible citizen to pretend that we don't know that Shaik had given Zuma more than R4 million (we know it wasn't charity) and that Shaik had negotiated for Zuma to receive money from a French arms company in exchange for protection in case of an inquiry into the arms deal.

We cannot pretend not to know about the allegations that Zuma had not paid income tax on those millions and lied to Parliament about it.
It just isn't possible for us to pretend that we don't seriously suspect that

Zuma and his men had improperly twisted the arm of the National Prosecuting Authority to drop the charges against him, or that there had been serious abuse of state organs when secretly taped phone conversations landed in the hands of his lawyer.

Equally, how do we forget that Zuma had allowed his closest lieutenants to insult and undermine the judiciary when it decided against him?

And that Zuma himself had launched a scary attack on the central pillar of our constitution, the Constitutional Court?

It is going to be tricky cohabiting with such a deeply flawed president.

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