AS I sat up in bed watching Nat Geo Wild TV channel this morning, I found myself wondering – as I always do – what goes on in the minds of all those animals that get ambushed so often, with one of them taken from time to time to be eaten by the big cats.
I wondered what mental state they find themselves in each time one of them gets taken by a lion, a leopard, a cheetah, a pack of wild dogs or hyenas. Do they simply cry and mourn a little before moving on after a parent, a sibling or new-born calf gets taken, then sigh with relief that it wasn’t them this time?
Are their minds always racing, wondering when the next attack will take place and who will be next? Have they simply accepted their plight? Are they designed to forget each ordeal within minutes after it happens and to continue their precarious existence, fully aware that their days are numbered?
What about us humans – are we also designed to simply sit there, bleat a little to express displeasure before continuing with our daily routines, accepting that things are what they are? Those of us who are not in the decision-making structures of the ANC seem completely helpless, unsure of what to withhold from government to make those who govern feel our pain, disappointment, and anger.
They do not seem to live in the same world as the rest of us; or they have simply stopped caring.
Because we do not elect our presidents directly – an anomaly that should be corrected at the next possible opportunity – we’re entirely at the mercy of those who sit in smoke-filled party structure rooms to save us from the madness happening around us, to us and to our country.
We sit there and bleat loudly enough in the hope that the party people will also wake up, for they’re supposed to be of us. We date some of them; we’re married to some of them; we work with some of them; we play with some of them but we continue to experience different daily realities from the ones they seem to live in.
This reminds me of words recently shared by a friend; words from a professor of economics in the Czech Republic. This is what he had to say about South Africa:
“The danger to South Africa is not Jacob Zuma but a citizenry capable of entrusting a man like him with the Presidency. It will be far easier to limit and undo the follies of a Zuma presidency than to restore the necessary common sense and good judgement to a depraved electorate willing to have such a man for their president.
Fear not the prince of fools, but the fools who support him
“The problem is much deeper and far more serious than Mr Zuma, who is a mere symptom of what ails South Africa. Blaming the prince of the fools should not blind anyone to the vast confederacy of fools that made him their prince. The Republic can survive a Jacob Zuma, who is, after all, merely a fool. It is less likely to survive a multitude of fools such as those who made him their President.”
The questions to all of us are the following: what then, if and when Jacob Zuma is made to leave office? Would we have learned enough from the mess that he and his people have brought upon us? Who are we going to put in place to replace him, and what are the criteria for choosing such a person? Importantly, what selection processes, eg a series of primaries, do we insist upon so that we can be sure not to repeat history?
Zuma is known for appointing the most inappropriate people in key state institutions. He has done it over and over again over the years and has even, on occasion, had to be forced by our courts to undo some of the most unsuitable appointments he has either made himself or were done at his behest. The list is too long to detail here.
Does Zuma simply lack the requisite appreciation for a good education, professional experience and ethical leadership because he cannot distinguish any of those from a calabash of traditional beer, or is he so cynical and manipulative that he will only appoint sycophants who are weak on morals and judgement because he can exercise better control over them?
Or, perhaps, does he have the attitude that if he, the unschooled, could be made president of such a potentially great country, it is not his place to prevent others like him from being appointed into key leadership positions, even if they lack the requisite specialist skills, experience, emotional intelligence and ethical leadership?
To his credit Jacob Zuma has, to date, been very consistent in his conduct. None of us can credibly claim to be surprised by anything he has done. Despite all of this, he has unconditional supporters who have willingly joined his vast coalition of the wounded and perpetual victims.
The rest of us have also been consistent in allowing ourselves to be fooled by their claimed victimhood and paranoia; we have blindly embraced their beautiful speeches, skilful dances and eloquent evocation of the pains they suffered through colonialism and apartheid.
But they were no more victims than we all were. We swallow every one of their words when, instead of admitting failure when they do fail, they point fingers elsewhere – and never at themselves.
We have embraced their lies when, in order to defend indefensible despots and to attempt breaking the rules of institutions our country is signatory to, they have claimed victimhood, pretending not to be aware that the rules apply equally to all signatories.
We shall have only ourselves to blame if we let ourselves fall for the madness again; the poetry, the dance and song, constant reminders of an idyllic precolonial Africa whose records reside only in opportunistic, selective and manipulative minds.
South Africa has everything it needs to lead again in Africa and elsewhere in the world. But it cannot do so if we keep failing to embrace the realities of the rules and standards-driven modern era and complex global context we’re part of.