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Politicians live up to our not so great expectations

04 September 2017 - 06:58 By The Times Editorial
Cyril Ramaphosa has seen his bedroom secrets laid bare, forcing him to admit to one affair. File photo.
Cyril Ramaphosa has seen his bedroom secrets laid bare, forcing him to admit to one affair. File photo.
Image: Supplied

There's a lot going on. It is open-letter season. It is press conference season. It is parliamentary committee season. It is investigations season. It is threats; it is heckling season. There is a lot going on.

The almost prophetic words of Duduzane Zuma in an interview with BBC Africa on Thursday foreshadow the mudslinging that will dominate the political calendar in the next few months.

Add to his list that it is also sex scandal season and we have a recipe for a titillating few months.

The latest casualty, Cyril Ramaphosa, has seen his bedroom secrets laid bare, forcing him to admit to one affair. Ramaphosa is unlikely to suffer any long-term harm from the scandal though; as a nation we have a particularly high tolerance for philandering politicians.

We no longer expect morality or good behaviour from our leaders. In fact, a politician who has not been caught in some sort of scandal is a rare find in South Africa. Instead we have developed an unofficial barometer for what is acceptable, reprehensible and fireable.

Beat up a woman in a club? An apology and stepping down as deputy minister will do, but no need to do something drastic like leave parliament. Get caught drunk-driving? We might, as with Judge Nkola Motata, let you continue to get a massive cheque from the state despite a conviction for drunk-driving. If you are Jackson Mthembu and you plead guilty you can be elevated to chief whip of the ruling party. Request C.l.i.t. from a junior staffer? Well, you can carry on campaigning subtly for party leadership as Jeff Radebe has done while we forward memes on social media about your spelling mistakes.

We don't expect much from our politicians in the way of leadership, moral or otherwise, and perhaps that is how we ended up with the current crop of captured and compromised people at the helm.

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