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Sun Sep 25 09:12:27 SAST 2016

Taking back South Africa's second hand presidency

Bruce Gorton | 23 March, 2016 13:41
South Africa's Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa (L) and President Jacob Zuma (R) before the Sate of the Nation address at the opening session of Parliament in Cape Town, South Africa.
Image by: EPA/MIKE HUTCHINGS/POOL

If the accusations around the Gupta family are true President Jacob Zuma hasn’t just sold out, he is now second hand goods.

That is the humiliating truth about our country – positions in our president’s cabinet are allegedly being offered as bribes, and it isn’t even our president doing it.

It is the people who own him.

And the ruling party is going to do nothing about it. They have repeatedly had a chance to do something, they had one this past weekend, they've had votes of no confidence they could have joined in on; they have stood by Zuma through it all.

Cope has called for religious leaders to condemn corruption, to lead a moral regeneration of our people.

I have two problems with this – the first being that the Republicans in America are very deeply religious, and it hasn't exactly led to more moral governance whenever they've been in power.

And when we talk about morality, generally more irreligious societies tend to be better at it, so the whole premise is just a wee bit questionable.

This is not to say that irreligion leads to better morality per se, because while there is correlation causation hasn't been proved, but rather that religion seems largely irrelevant at best on whether a society is moral or not.

The second problem I have is that our problem is not a lack of moral fibre, but rather how that fibre has been woven into a rope to tie us down.

We’re loyal to crooks, we have faith in frauds, we love the hateful, and we tend to be very respectful of the disrespectable. We keep forgetting that the thing about tradition is that it is designed to maintain the status quo - that is what makes it traditional.

And the status quo is not good enough - we don't need moral fibre, we need a new deal.

Right now we have a ruling party that phrases itself as having more rights because it has more votes. We have a ruling party that says “It is the presidents’ prerogative” rather than “It is the president’s responsibility”.

That sort of top-down thinking doesn’t work for us. Respect for authority does not work for us, what we need is a shift in our thinking.

We need to see ourselves as the bosses, as the ones who say to the president, “No, you are our employee and you will run this country in our interests.”

And that has nothing to do with morality. According to most people forgiving those who trespass against us is the moral thing to do.

What we need is to stop the trespassers, and that means being willing to take a firm stand and negotiate rather than obey, to argue rather than respect, to make a deal that benefits us rather than reach a settlement that is impossible to live with.

And it also needs recognising that we own this country – that everything we destroy is something we don’t have anymore. It is a shift from thinking of the government as ruling us, towards the government as an administrative tool for our assets.

Morality is besides the point, the state of the president’s soul is irrelevant to us – what we need is a president who serves our interests not because it is the right thing to do, but because we’ll fire him if he doesn’t.

To fall for the con artist, to be robbed, to have your hopes and dreams sold to the highest bidder, that is not immoral.

What it is, is allowing things to continue in a way that conflicts with our self interests.

Until we’re willing to do stand for those self interests, the religious leaders of our nation can condemn as much as they like, they can beg and plead and threaten hell, and we will still have a second hand president.

I do not say that as a slam against religion, but rather a point of responsibility. We all have to do this, whether religious or not, because this country is ours, and thus the people we choose to run it must be accountable to us.

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