Pitso overstayed welcome
IT REALLY didn't have to come to this.
Pitso Mosimane should have done the honourable by falling on his sword in October already.
His inability to read and interpret correctly the rules governing the Africa Cup of Nations not only embarrassed South Africa but drove home the point that Mosimane was not suitable to coach Bafana Bafana.
But instead of quitting, he gave the nation a series of excuses as to why Bafana were unable to qualify for the finals, even though they had had the fortune of being grouped with far weaker teams in the qualifiers.
He must have thought lame excuses would save him again on Sunday as he defensively justified Bafana's shocking 1-1 draw with Ethiopia in a 2014 soccer World Cup finals qualifier.
Fortunately for football-loving South Africans, they didn't. The suits at the South African Football Association finally found the courage to axe Mosimane.
Although Safa's action is no guarantee that our national soccer team will qualify for Brazil in 2014, or that it will make the nation proud at next year's Africa Cup of Nations tournament, which will be held here, it is certainly a step in the right direction.
Mosimane, whose tenure lasted almost two years, had long ago run out of ideas to turn our lacklustre team into world-beaters.
Far superior coaches elsewhere would not have waited for the axe to fall on them, but would have walked the moment they realised that their continued stay was hurting the progress of the national team.
The world-famous Dunga, who captained Brazil to World Cup glory in 1994, resigned as that country's coach in 2010 soon after the team failed to make it past the quarterfinals of the same tournament here in South Africa.
More recently, Josep "Pep" Guardiola, who had won every significant world club football tournament during his short stint as head coach at Barcelona, quit the club after failing to defend both the league and European Champions' League titles.
Dunga and Guardiola quit because they understood that only the best was expected of them and that when they failed to achieve the goals they had set for themselves, they would have to step down.
Mosimane, however, did not subscribe to the same philosophy.
As has become tradition in many other spheres of South African life, Mosimane held onto the job, perhaps in the knowledge that if he voluntarily stepped down, he would be forfeiting a handsome golden handshake. If indeed it was a payout he was holding out for, he may have got his way on Monday. Speculation in soccer circles is that Safa has agreed to pay him millions of rands to terminate his contract, which still had two more years to run.
But at what cost to South Africa and her chances of qualifying for the next World Cup?
The Mosimane saga highlights one of the leadership problems that are hindering our success as a nation: the refusal to step down voluntarily by those who have either failed or disgraced the office they hold.
We have seen this disturbing trend in almost all spheres of our society, from the judiciary to big business and politics.
At various levels of both the public and the private sectors, it has become common to hear of people holding onto office even when it has become abundantly clear that they are not competent for the job.
Worse are office-bearers who insist on tarnishing the image of the organisations they serve by refusing to step down, if only temporarily in order to clear their names, when serious allegations are levelled against them.
The most recent case is that of the now-suspended-now-reinstated-and-suspended-again head of crime intelligence Richard Mdluli.
Now I don't know the man, but he holds an extremely important and powerful office.
No country can afford to have one of its top policemen, especially not the head of crime intelligence, accused of criminal offences such as murder and corruption.
Mdluli may well be innocent, but surely it was clear even to him that his continued stay in the job with this cloud hanging over his head would erode the public's confidence in the police force.
Instead of employing all the tricks he has used over the past few months to avoid suspension and answering the charges in a court of law, this senior policeman should have long ago sought special leave from his bosses and used that time to try and clear his name.
Another public figure who should do the honourable thing is Gauteng MEC for local government and housing Humphrey Mmemezi.
The MEC stands accused of having abused his state-issued credit card.
So serious are allegations against him that even one of his colleagues in the provincial government is said to have called on him to step down.
Mmemezi is yet to explain why his government credit card was used to buy artwork in a suspicious transaction that involved a fast-food outlet.
He is also yet to explain why the taxpayer had to foot the bill for hotel accommodation just a few kilometres from his house.
While the matter is being investigated by the Gauteng legislature, Mmemezi should take leave of office to allow the probe to proceed unhindered.
By refusing to step down until his name is cleared, he is harming the image of the very government he claims to be serving - in the process eroding public confidence in those holding positions to which they were elected.
As a country we need to inculcate a new culture where those who have failed or shamed their office step down voluntarily without waiting to be forced to leave.
Such a culture will be possible only if we stop rewarding those who have failed us with golden handshakes.