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Zuma, Mandela and the new South Africa

Bruce Gorton | 2013-12-11 10:05:44.0
President Jacob Zuma delivers his tribute to Nelson Mandela.
Image by: SABC / AFP

One of the more interesting things I observed during the Mandela memorial service at FNB stadium was that the last Apartheid president FW de Klerk was cheered, and President Jacob Zuma was booed.

Cyril Ramaphosa called on the crowd to follow Nelson Mandela’s example and keep quiet, after all you didn’t hear him booing Zuma at the memorial service.

That says something powerful about how frustrated our nation has become with its government.

President Jacob Zuma cannot run the country – because he has lost the trust of the country.

And it wasn’t lost simply through events such as Nkandla, but through how the ANC has repeatedly treated corruption scandals, repeatedly seeking to plug leaks rather than do anything about the filth that was leaked.

When corruption is revealed within our government, what does our government do? It castigates the media for publishing the facts, and the figures it believes handed them over.

But I think there is more to the booing than that, I think those boos carried the weight they did because of the contrast between our current president, and the one that the country had gathered to mourn.

One of the common elements people spoke about with President Mandela was his gift for making them feel important, for making them feel like their concerns were worth taking seriously.

Nelson Mandela would never have said, as Zuma once did, that; "You have more rights because you're a majority; you have less rights because you're a minority. That's how democracy works."

Mandela would also have never said; "We can't think like Africans, in Africa, generally. We are in Johannesburg, this is Johannesburg. It's not some national road in Malawi."

Mandela would never have said that, because he didn’t think like that.

President Mandela was not a man of the people, he was a man of the person, able to understand that every group is but a collection of individuals, all with their own concerns and all important.

There is a basic need that inhabits every human being on this planet, a need which is often overlooked, the need to feel like you matter.

Mandela made people feel like they mattered because he believed that people matter. President Jacob Zuma can’t, because he doesn’t.

And we as a people are getting sick of being treated like we don’t matter.

That booing at FNB stadium was not a disservice to our country; it was our country expressing its dissatisfaction with the service provided by our top public servant.

We get told how our country is undisciplined, like our people are unruly children in need of a stern talking to.

The ANC will talk about how the crowd did the country a disservice, Mandela’s death has forced us to remember what it was like to have a government that considered itself the servant.

Mandela’s death forced us to remember what it felt like to have leaders who treated us like adults worth listening to.

Mandela is gone, I hope that memory remains.

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