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Stamping out valid criticism

Sunday Times Editorial | 2012-04-15 00:37:22.0

Sunday Times Editorial: THE reaction by officialdom to the musings of Reuel Khoza on the poor state of South Africa's political leadership was swift and nasty - as if to underscore the point he was making.

If the intention was to put business back in its box, by this weekend it appeared to have succeeded.

This newspaper canvassed many business leaders, and they were all reluctant to say anything on the matter.

South Africa has a long and proud history of stamping out dissent by business.

Remember Paul Harris - then with FirstRand - who spoke out on the crime issue? He was forced into silence by outrage from the very top.

Of course, politicians have every right to defend their turf. What is concerning is their readiness to resort to invective and personal attacks and their reluctance to provide a defence for their position on rational grounds.

A number of state officials chose to undermine Khoza, calling him a bad businessman, a Thabo Mbeki supporter and someone who is against transformation. Others threatened to take government business away from his bank.

What has been missing is a discussion of Khoza's observations - many of which are frequently made by the same political leaders who have denounced him - that there are leaders who are determined to undermine the rule of law and override the constitution, that there are signs of moral decay, and that there is little evidence of "the accountable democracy for which generations suffered and fought".

His critics have also conveniently failed to recognise his next comment - that "the integrity, health, socioeconomic soundness and prosperity of South Africa is the collective responsibility of all citizens, corporate or individual", and that we all have a duty to build and develop this nation and call to book "the putative leaders" who cannot lead.

That is indeed the right and the responsibility of people living in a democracy - more so the leading players in our economy.

It's time to play the ball and not the man.

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