Day of the Nothing Men
We are led by men who are in office but not in power; men who are interested in enjoying the fruits of being in office but misunderstand and squander its opportunities; men who are gripped by a victim mentality and do not know how to become agents of change.
They are nothing men. They are men of the stage: rich in talk and rhetoric, but incapable of action.
They have achieved nothing and will achieve nothing. Our children are the victims of these men's failure to be agents of change.
I speak here about the leaders of the ANC, a once majestic movement that was founded by inspirational men and women who forced - against indescribable odds - the route of history to be redirected.
We do not have such leaders now. Instead, we have leaders who have singularly failed to show leadership. These leaders do not believe that they can act.
They do not believe, in their heart of hearts, that they are in charge of this country. They are paranoid. They are helpless. They are rabbits caught in the headlights of a car rushing towards them. They are powerless, naked and afraid.
On Friday, we had the extraordinary utterances of Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe on the textbook crisis in Limpopo.
In a speech in Johannesburg, Motlanthe said the fact that books were still not delivered to children in the province seven months into the school year was a "tragic folly".
"We have to break our silence by doing what is morally right and ethically right. In this regard, the failure to deliver workbooks and textbooks is indicative of a passive citizenry whose silence is complicit in the commission of such a tragic folly.
"Ordinarily, the commission of such a failure would have prompted an active citizenry to call for action as far back as January," Motlanthe said.
This is a man who sits in cabinet meetings at least twice a month, a man who said and did nothing for six months while the saga continued, a man who continues to sit with Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga in the ANC and government meetings, and what does he do? He blames citizens for the lack of noise on this issue.
Citizens have been calling for Motshekga to be axed for months. Motlanthe and the president have fudged, defended and protected Motshekga throughout. Is this what is "morally and ethically right"?
Motlanthe is not alone in this. After a meeting of its top leaders last week, the ANC issued a statement that seemed to suggest that those who are in the government are strangers to the organisation. It was an ANC that is helpless, that does not know what, or how, to do anything. It was a tragic sight.
The statement said: "The national executive committee of the ANC also considered the lack of delivery of books in Limpopo as shocking and unacceptable, and believes that whoever is responsible must face stern action that may include criminal charges.
"The committee acknowledged that this is a serious failure on the part of the government, and of the Department of Education at both national and provincial levels."
Hello? This is the party that is in charge, and it seems, in its view, issuing a statement of condemnation is just about all it can do. We have an organisation in power that does not understand that power can and has to be used.
That is what ordinary South Africans voted for: a party and an executive that would fulfil its mandate. Power has been placed in the ANC's hands but all it has done throughout the textbooks debacle is play victim. Motlanthe, who sits at the apex of power in our country, behaves and speaks as though he is not part of the collective in charge.
The national executive committee meeting, which was chaired by President Jacob Zuma, pronounced as though it did not have the captain of the ship in its midst. It should have put him and his ministers on the spot. Instead, a statement long on rhetoric and short on detail was issued. These are symptoms of people who do not believe they have the power to act. Instead, things happen to them. They are victims.
The ANC is in the throes of a leadership succession battle. May I humbly ask a question of the party's members? What is the difference between Zuma and Motlanthe? Which one of them can do things, can act, can lead? If the textbook crisis is any indication, Zuma has failed dismally to act. Motlanthe is proving to be as much of a failure as his comrade.
It is time to go beyond rhetoric to action. We cannot afford to continue to be led by people who say a lot and do nothing, people who play victim and act helpless despite holding the keys to change in their hands. We must stop giving our votes to these nothing men.