Max du Preez

Don't let Jacob Zuma define who you are

2017-07-18 08:04
High school pupils carry SA flags to commemorate Youth Day in Soweto on June 16 this year. PHOTO: Cornell Tukiri / Anadolu Agency / Getty Images

High school pupils carry SA flags to commemorate Youth Day in Soweto on June 16 this year. PHOTO: Cornell Tukiri / Anadolu Agency / Getty Images

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South Africans should urgently escape the paralysing grip of depression and pessimism lest it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Let’s snap out of it, dammit!

Economists, political scientists and scenario planners are reluctant to acknowledge a nation’s mood as a factor that can have a significant influence on national affairs.

They play it safe and only look at statistics, policies and official decisions.

They are wrong.

Indexes of investor and consumer confidence are themselves significant indicators of national sentiment.

Optimism, like pessimism, is infectious and can have a meaningful impact on national politics and the economy.

The private sector is sitting on a mountain of cash, reportedly around a trillion rand, that they are too nervous to invest right now.

A new spirit of enthusiasm and optimism can change that, and so economic growth can be stimulated and jobs created.

(Perhaps we should, like Bhutan, the United Arab Emirates and India have done, appoint a Ministry of Happiness to look after the psyche of the nation. And while we’re at it, a Ministry of Tolerance.)

If you only focus on the Zuma government, the incapable civil service, corruption, state capture and populist rhetoric, you will get seriously depressed.

But in my memory the national political leadership of South Africa has only once been in harmony with the attitudes and demeanour of the citizenry.

It was not the case with the apartheid governments of John Vorster, PW Botha or FW de Klerk, nor was it the case with Thabo Mbeki or Jacob Zuma.

The brief Prague Spring under Nelson Mandela between 1994 and 1999 was the closest we got to it.

If you open your mind and your eyes, you will realise that there is still a lot more of Mandela in most of us South Africans than of Zuma.

But, I’m often asked, what can we with no influence on the ANC inner circle do? Where do we find inspiration to feel good about our future again?

Start with your own life. Consolidate, reboot, refresh, get your own house in order. Make yourself doom and gloom-proof.

Renew your relationships with your life partner, your family, friends, colleagues and neighbours.

Look after your health, abandon bad habits, become more active, rediscover nature, spend more money on breakaway weekends and holidays than on earthly belongings.

Live in tolerance, sharing and love. Be a good citizen.

Make your world bigger rather than hiding in a claustrophobic laager. Explore a bit more.

If you are healthy, happy and secure in your own life and your environment, the problems we face in the country suddenly look a lot smaller and less depressing and you will have much more energy.

I heard Shaun Pollock say on television yesterday that he had learnt during his successful cricketing career that when he had a technique problem, he didn’t review videos of himself making those mistakes, but rather videos where he was at his best to see what he did right.

We should do that as a people.

Instead of wallowing in the muck with Jacob Zuma and the Guptas, we should remember what we were like when we were at our best: the 1994 elections, the 1995 Rugby World Cup, the 2010 Soccer World Cup, Mandela’s funeral in 2013.

We’re experiencing another moment right now where there is the potential for citizens to focus more on what they have in common than on what divides them: the national revulsion in state corruption, state capture and the power of the Gupta family over those in power.

Most South Africans feel angry and ashamed and demand their national pride and self-respect back.

We should use this crisis productively and increase our civil activism.

All hail to our independent media, especially those under-appreciated investigative journalists, and to our judiciary for standing firm.

We can take a lot of inspiration from how ordinary citizens across racial and class divisions have already mobilised against the present rot at the top.

Don’t expect much leadership coming from the Union Buildings or Luthuli House.

The ANC is in a total mess and will probably be paralysed until at least 2019.

But there is more to us South Africans than Luthuli House, the present government and Jacob Zuma.

They don’t define us, just as Donald Trump doesn’t define the American nation, and we should not allow them to stop us dreaming of a brighter future for all South Africans, of imagining a new society.

Not only dreaming, but dreaming big, and more than dreaming, actually doing, so they would follow us rather than us following them.

South Africa can still become a winning, just nation, despite the politicians.

We have it in us. 

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Read more on:    jacob zuma  |  proudly south african  |  state capture  |  anc
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