I belong to a senior citizens group who meet most Sundays for lunch and we chat about all sorts of issues, and the banter is quick, evocative and diverse. We cover most current issues and it is always very interesting.
Today we talked about the recent proposal to make it illegal to drink and drive. This evoked a rapid-fire response from those "for" and "against", covering many aspects of this issue. One of our older members, some may call ancient, then asked us, "Please put up your hands those who have had a drink and driven?" Of course, all of the males put up their hands. We had all done it many times.
Then he asked, "How many of you have had an accident while driving after drinking". Surprisingly, no hands were raised. Not a single one.
Then he asked, "Why is that?"
Suddenly, we were aware that there must be a reason why amongst us 10 male or so who had had a drink over lunch many, many times had never had an accident.
So, our elder sage had got to the heart of the matter.
He said, "It is not about alcohol. It is about responsibility. Take our government for instance. They fail to deliver text books to young learners and nobody takes responsibility. No one stands up and says, 'it was me'. They don't fill our potholes, they don't paint our road-markings, they don't bill us correctly. They steal our taxpayers money.
"They say they don't have the money, yet, the Auditor-General's report, reports more than R 2 billion stolen from the fiscus in the last year. Is there a responsibility "breathalyser" for civil servants? I have not heard of one".
This kind of stunned us. Suddenly the conversation changed. Now the conversation was about how government could legislate fewer civil liberties for their citizens, while not taking responsibility for their governance responsibilities.
"Surely", someone remarked, "Does this not create a cauldron of discontent that must spill over into many unhappy citizens, like in 1976"
We all agrees that the government was treading a dangerous line.
In the end we all agreed that as long as our government was not able to take responsibility, and demonstrate a responsible attitude, then trying to legislate against the freedoms of its citizens, was like a crying and wailing child trying to get its own way.
Demonstrating the responsibilities that you demand from citizens ought be the preserve of good governance. Passing innate legislation against your citizens, where you demonstrate a serious lack of responsibility yourselves is not only ineffectual, but is self-defeating, because you will be found out.
That is why you need large cavalcades of black vehicles to accompany you on trips between Johannesburg and Pretoria, while you "shlurp" your Dom Perignon. We are not blind, we are now becoming colour blind, and so are those who blindly voted for their now inebriated governors.
Responsibility is not something that our government, either understands or demonstrates. Yet they have the audacity to invent legislation that will be largely ignored or ineffectual. It will only be when our governors obey their own laws and demonstrate the kind of leadership that their citizens choose to emulate, because it has outcomes that are to the benefit of all.