The famous quotation from John F. Kennedy’s 1961 inaugural address, “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country,” is fine to keep repeating and has its place in the cacophony that results from our many conversations.
But I think that in the case of South Africa, especially in these times, it should be fine for us to be asking emphatically what government will do for us, and not the other way round.
In terms of the governing African National Congress (ANC), South Africans have given blind trust, one easy electoral victory after another for 25 years, patience, tolerance, and a lot more. In this way, millions of poor South Africans have inadvertently agreed to have the goal posts shifted further into the future before the yoke of poverty weighing them down can be made lighter.
The estimated more than a trillion rands stolen during the state capture economy could have gone far to help improve their lot.
Many continue to shield this governing party even today, allowing it to blame rogue individuals for the crimes committed in its name, even when it was the party that voted on numerous occasions to stop others from removing a president who had been declared morally and ethically unfit to lead, as he had failed to live up to the expectations of high office.
ANC parliamentarians had a knife to their throats when the votes of no confidence happened; party instructions were clear that they should protect Zuma.
Arrogance and impunity continue
In a few weeks’ time, the governing party will go into an important national election with a candidate list that could, elsewhere in established democracies, be read as a political middle-finger in the faces of the electorate.
Levels of impunity and arrogance continue to reign supreme and individuals who have been singled out, implicated for serious criminal wrong-doing, are being prepared to be given more roles as “lawmakers” in the country’s next parliament.
It is unclear how people who should be spending the bulk of their time looking over their shoulders, hiding from the long arm of the law and worried about when that big knock will come to their doors, get to make laws. Who stands to benefit from the laws they will make?
Should they be elected, no one should feign
surprise when they come up with policy suggestions akin to the scramble, a few
years ago, to withdraw South Africa from the jurisdiction of the International
Criminal Court (ICC) in order to shield a known despot wanted for serious human
rights infringements. Who else would have benefitted from such a move but
political outlaws from around the African continent?
ANC leaders and spokespersons like to claim that their party is opposed to crime and that is why, they falsely claim, the ANC established the ongoing Commissions of Inquiry into state capture and other forms of criminal wrong-doing in various state-owned entities, SARS, and other levels of government.
They make this claim despite it being known that the inquiries underway came about as a result of a court order, following the report of the previous Public Protector, dubbed “The State of Capture” Report. They also make this false claim with one breath while, with the next breath, they defend the ongoing presence in our national cabinet and in their electoral list, of a slew of very dodgy characters who should have no place at all in the benches to be occupied by honourable lawmakers of our land until their names are fully cleared by our courts.
South Africans, the power is in your hands
So in the end, and assuming that the 2019 elections will be clean, fair and transparent, South Africans will get the government they deserve. If it is to be the continuation of the current one, they should expect to receive more calls for them to be patient and understand that change takes time.
They should expect to be asked to wait for two years, at least, for the Zondo Commission of Inquiry to conclude its work. The current president, they will also be told, will only present himself towards the end of the Zondo Commission’s hearings to tell South Africa what he heard and saw, therefore what he knows, when he was Deputy President under his criminal predecessor. And this begs the question; who decides the order of witness appearance in front of the respectable Deputy Chief Justice Zondo, is it the deputy Chief Justice, as Head of the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture, or is it the governing ANC and the presidency? Is the Zondo Commission the dog that wags its own tail or is it the tail that is wagged by faceless people in politics?
Furthermore, if the status quo continues, the long-suffering people of Alexanda, Lwandle, Bontheuwel, Retreat, Nyanga, Langa, Lwandle, Diepsloot, Delft, Mamelodi, Umlazi, Mpumalanga, and many other impoverished communities around the country will be asked to be patient while some R780 in public funds will be spent on the refurbishment of ministerial homes and even more on the purchase of new luxury cars for new ministers.
To divert their attention from their daily misery, some of the poor will be bussed to a stadium to take a little part in the estimated R120 million worth of festivities to inaugurate a president. They will return to their homes in the late afternoon with their fridges still empty, following a day of song and dance, with no prospect of a senior politician stopping by to hand them R400 to buy something for their children.
Africans must therefore ask what their government will do for them, and insist
on delivery, and not allow opportunistic politicians to make more appeals to
their conscience and a misplaced sense of shared guilt for more patience.
Through their vote, South Africans have an opportunity that comes once every five years to punish or to reward leadership. Whoever wins the 2019 elections will, therefore, have been chosen by the people of South Africa. The outcome of the choices that lie ahead will make our country rise again and lead, or continue into an uncertain future, led by people who have a lot to account for.