Howard Feldman

The Cyril Affair: presidential prerequisite or time wasted?

2017-09-06 09:08
Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa. (Pic: Denzil Maregele)

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa. (Pic: Denzil Maregele)

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It’s not to say that I consider extramarital affairs to be boring. In fact, most of the time I am sure that they are lurid and fascinating and quite titillating.

I just don’t know how they do it. The politicians that is.

I swear I have no idea how they have the time, the energy and the mental capacity to keep all the balls all juggling. So to speak.

Consider the effort. It means remembering additional birthdays and anniversaries and special moments. It means being mindful as to whom you said what to, which restaurant each one enjoys, along with a list of preferences with regard to music, movies and beverages.

If one is particularly higher grade, one might even try to remember and to note hairstyle changes, along with books read and enjoyed.

I am exhausted just imagining it.

And it’s not to say that I didn’t rush to buy the Sunday Independent this past weekend in order to read about Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa’s extramarital affair.

The fact that this might well be part of a campaign to discredit the man in his fight to become the next ANC president considered, one still has to wonder if this behaviour is a prerequisite for a successful career in politics.

In my quest to establish if it’s just me who feels hopelessly unqualified to conduct such a tryst, I met two male friends for coffee. I posed the question. To be fair, one friend has a horrible sinus infection and is on high doses of Cortisone. He preferred to speak of the terrible side affects, whilst the other, a severely un-medicated ADHD sufferer could hardly retain the question long enough to answer it.

I quickly realised I would get no joy from them. So I took my latte and left my friends to seek further clarity from others.

At the table next to us was a group of three women who seemed open to an intrusion. I asked them the same question.

Their responses were pretty straightforward. “I have told my husband that he can have an affair,” said the one, “So long as he doesn’t spend one cent on her!”

The other, clearly fatigued from the weekend said, “Oh he can do what he wants. On condition he takes our five children with him.”

The third person at the table didn’t look up from her phone long enough to engage.

What is interesting to note is that the revelation of the Ramaphosa affair has been met with a yawn. The reaction is most likely that South Africans are spoilt when it comes to scandals. And one really has to offer something unique in order to get them out of bed (poor choice of phrase).

To be fair, the president himself has admitted to having unprotected sex with a young HIV positive woman who in turn accused him of rape. With that as a reference point it is unsurprisingly hard to get excited by hacked emails that reveal the deputy president had an affair some year ago. If anything, and if this is the best that they can do, it might well indicate that Ramaphosa is indeed more fitting to lead than we might have originally thought.

Of course the question that needs to be considered is this: If our politicians were to spend less time marauding through the bedrooms of the women of the country, if they spent less time using the mental (and physical) energy required to make sure that they don’t get caught – would the country perhaps be in better place?

If even half of the time was spent not double checking that the wrong WhatsApp message wasn’t sent to the wrong person, we actually might get some value for money.

The expectation that our politicians should also be of high moral standing has been irretrievably eroded. Although hardly the first, Bill Clinton taught the world that leadership and morality are divisible. His wife taught us that there is much to be gained by playing along. If we are looking for a moral compass, it’s not political leaders who will show us due north.

South African politicians are no different. And so long as they have the time to actually inspire and lead, that might well be all we can ask.

I just have no idea how they do it. 

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