MANY years ago, when I was still a practising Christian, a pastor at one of the numerous churches I had hoped would become the spiritual home that resonated with me – one that could tolerate my endless questioning – said something I cannot forget.
In response to a question about faith, he explained it thus: “Faith is when you wake up in the morning, broke and unemployed. You know that you have to clean yourself up and go into town to knock on doors, looking for a job, but you don’t even have bus or taxi fares.
“So, you make yourself presentable and leave your home, heading with your chin up to your nearest bus stop or taxi rank. You do this with the full knowledge that your pockets are empty, but with the steadfast belief that something will happen, something will come your way to make you to get onto that bus or taxi. That”, the pastor concluded, pleased with himself, “is faith!”
If that were all I needed to remain a believer in God, I’d probably be a pastor today. But that is a discussion for another time, probably on a different platform.
Brand ANC – relying on blind faith
Let’s start with the obvious one, a political brand which is currently hogging the news headlines in South Africa and elsewhere for all the wrong reasons: the ANC.
What makes those who manage it and, presumably care about its reputation, believe so steadfastly that it will win the 2016 local government elections with comfortable numbers, despite the reputational mess it’s in and despite everything being said by the pundits?
Do they know something that everyone else doesn’t? Are they driven by blind faith? Do they have a hidden ace they intend to take out at the last minute to tip the scales in their favour?
Or do they rely entirely on the blind faith of their followers, those who always claim bizarrely to be voting for the party and not for an individual – even when that individual is the embodiment of the party and, by extension, the chief beneficiary of the perks that come with being at its helm? Is such blind faith driven by material dependency?
Brand Gupta – does Dubai really care about reputaton?
The second brand is that of the Guptas. What will become of them when they finally settle in Dubai, assuming that that is where they will lay their collective head next? Will Dubai be a landing pad for capturing all of the seven emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates (UAE)? Do people in the UAE care about reputation?
Have they been following all the media coverage around the amazing journey of the Guptas in South Africa, about their lucrative successes and embarrassing, almost criminal, reputational downfall? Have the Guptas already begun weaving their entrepreneurial tentacles around Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, he who rules Dubai, like they ostensibly had with our President Zuma?
And the people of Saharanpur, Uttar Pradesh, in India, whence the Guptas hail – have they been reading about their South African adventure in the media? Do they care?
‘Gupta brothers are saints’
The ANC and the Guptas can still rely on largesse to keep them going. The rural poor, often uneducated, do not assign the same importance to reputation as the urban educated and digitally connected do. The poor people of Saharanpur always celebrate regular visits by the Gupta brothers because of the money they spend in their city.
A local shop owner and neighbour of the Guptas, Rajkumar, dismissed all the brouhaha over the controversial family in South Africa and said of them “the three brothers are saints; whenever they come back they get down from their Range Rover and walk the streets of Rani Bazar on foot.
“They remember all the shops their father used to go to. Whether it is a paan shop owner or a tailor, they always touch their feet and thank them for service to their father. It is rare to see such humility in wealthy people. They have built many schools and colleges for girls from poor backgrounds and are building a huge temple in the city, dedicated to the memory of their father. Not only have they kept their connection with their hometown alive, they are also giving back to Saharanpur.”
Now, replace Saharanpur with Nkandla and you will understand why Zuma will always be king in that part of the country and elsewhere where government largesse, through carefully targeted tenders, business deals and grants, has touched lives.
For as long as Zuma and the ANC can continue relying on the blind faith of the poor masses who often place archaic, paternalistic traditions above our world celebrated constitution, we, the minority for whom predictable rules of engagement are important, will keep being looked at with suspicion, accused of siding with the nebulous imperialist enemy.
Clearly, South Africa will not be the true constitutional democracy so many have given limb and life for while poverty and poor levels of education are still with us. Only the enemies of true democracy stand to benefit from the status quo.