Our family visited some friends over the last weekend. As these things sometimes go, us males found ourselves chatting away, separately, about family, work, the economy, finance, life, sport and politics. The host planted an idea into my head, so admittedly this isn’t all mine. However, I did ask him for permission to use it, so here we go.
Basically we were discussing the Presidency of Jacob Zuma. When I was asked how I saw it, I mustered up a “Well, he hasn’t embarrassed us. He hasn’t been great, but he hasn’t been bad either. He has made some really funny decisions, especially lately, but at least he has been busy.
"At least he has been willing to admit to, fix mistakes that he has made.” To this, the host laughed and responded that we should all look up to Mr. Zuma because he achieved the ultimate – against so many odds.
There are many values that Mr. Zuma has that I do not share. As an example, I don’t believe in (or practice) polygamy. Also, after certain events that have happened to Mr. Zuma, - if it was me, I believe that I would have recused myself from ascending to the Presidency of South Africa.
Okay – enough with me standing on the soapbox. After all, it’s not my job to judge him. What is this column about? Well – it just so happens that Mr. Zuma has taught us all about achieving a goal, even with so much stacked up against him. Lets look at the significant events of the last few years, in approximate chronological order, with no substantive facts. I understand that:
1. Mr. Zuma has not completed high school
2. Mr. Zuma was imprisoned on Robben Island. Unlike some of his fellow political prisoners, he preferred to play football over studies and education
3. Mr. Zuma has (I think) five current wives, countless children and grandchildren
4. Mr. Zuma’s former financial advisor was imprisoned for having a ‘generally corrupt’ relationship with the then deputy President. He was fired after this ruling
5. Mr. Zuma had unprotected intercourse with an HIV positive lady, was tried for rape, made an unfortunate ‘shower’ comment that may never be forgotten
6. The road to Polokwane was rocky, thorny, divisive, yet Mr. Zuma won
7. The 2010 opening of Parliament speech made by Mr. Zuma was disastrous – many friends and colleagues questioned why ‘this man’ was elected as the number 1 citizen
8. Prior to, during and after his election, Mr. Zuma has continually made unachievable promises, and told everybody he meets just what they want to hear
Not all of these events are positive, fitting or becoming of a State President. However, the fact remains that Mr. Zuma overcame huge obstacles and difficulties to get to where he is. That in itself, deserves our respect.
So we can say what we want to about the man - whether we like him or not, whether we support him or not - he has taught us a valuable lesson that even in South Africa, anyone with the right goals and determination can succeed.
Some time ago, I remember reading about a belief that some Americans have – “The American Dream!” This belief indicates that anyone with the heart, with determination, and with hard work can succeed. I feel that it is a great belief and that it signals that anyone can grow up and become great.
In American history, we have seen this. People who grew up poor and destitute have risen up to become Presidents, world famous actors and prominent business people. Mr. Zuma has also shown us that the spirit of “The American Dream” is alive in South Africa. He may have chosen politics as his path, and maybe in the current socio-financial-political climate, it may be an easy, rewarding path - but we should all be encouraged and enlightened to adopt a winner’s mindset.
We should go out to achieve what we want for our lives. So, it is incumbent on us parents to share such lessons with our children. Teachers, please teach this to your learners. There’s no excuse – we can all do it. Because for a man about whom many would say doesn’t have the ‘qualifications’ or the inclination to lead this country, he certainly is. What, therefore, is your, or my excuse?