Mr. President, as a patriotic and loving South African, I wish you happiness on your 75th birthday! Your joyous and celebratory occasion has the potential to unite our country, yet it is juxtaposed with mass action by opposition parties and civic society.
While contemplating to write this article, I experienced a barrage of conflicting emotions that pulled me into divergent directions. Songwriter F.R. David, best describe my state of being with his 1981 European hit song; ‘Words don’t come easy to me’.
Mr. President, I’m transfixed betwixt empathy and rage of righteous indignation for you.
My empathy is rooted in the premature death of your beloved father. That paternal vacuum had predisposed you to a seven-year-old herd’s boy and had deprived you of primary-, secondary- and tertiary education.
To add insult to injury, harsh economic conditions – created by the apartheid regime – forced your widowed mother to Durban where she found employment as a domestic worker. Undoubtedly, your formative years were accentuated by parental- and emotional loss; lack of access to education and abandonment to herding.
However, Mr. President, you did not stagnate in life! You pulled yourself up by your bootstraps and became proficient in French, Russian, Portuguese, English and most of the South African languages! Under the political tutelage of President Nelson Mandela and other islanders, you studied at and graduated with distinction from the University of Robben Island! Your degree in liberation politics had accorded you the post of Deputy President and President of the Republic of South Africa!
Conversely, I’m filled with righteous indignation, because of the following reasons: You had abandoned the noble cause of morality and servitude that had given birth to the ANC. Let me fast-forward to October 1998 when President Mandela – at a Moral Summit - called upon religious leaders to become actively involved in a campaign, which would subsequently become the Moral Regeneration Initiative.
On the eve of that initiative, President Mandela said: “The symptoms of our spiritual malaise are only too familiar. They include the extent of corruption both in the public and private sector, where office and positions of responsibility are treated as opportunities for self-enrichment...”
After the 1999 national election, Thabo Mbeki became president and allocated the responsibility for this initiative to you as the then Deputy President. As captain, you were mandated to steer this honourable vessel through the boisterous waves of corruption, poor leadership, lack of accountability and service delivery, factionalism and tenderpreneurship. On 18 April 2002, South Africans from all walks of life, representing various sectors and formations, converged on the Waterkloof Airforce Base in Pretoria, to seek solutions to problems of moral decay, and to commonly work to build an ethical society.
Almost two years later, on 30 November 2004, you delivered the Opening Address of the First National Conference of the Moral Regeneration Movement at Eskom Conference Centre, Midrand. Among other things, you said, “The Moral Regeneration Movement was founded on the principles that South Africans are highly moral beings, know the difference between right and wrong, and are appalled by the symptoms of moral decay, which sometimes occur in our country”.
Mr. President, after you had been conscientised by the incorruptible minds of Nelson Mandela and company; after your elevation as custodian of the Moral Regeneration Movement; how and why did you allow corrupt leaders to poison your mind? Your moral knees weakened and you shamefully bowed down to offer sacrifices to foreign idols of corruption. You abandoned the noble teachings of your elders and went against the grain of the Moral Regeneration Movement.
The maxim of the 19th-century British historian, Lord Acton still rings true today and has significance to your presidency. He said: “Power tends to corrupt, but absolute power corrupts absolutely.” How ironic Mr. President? At political rallies you would open with the phrase, Amandla! And the audience would respond, Awethu! Rendered in English, it reads: ‘Power to the people!’ We plead with you sir, please hand that power back to the people and resign.
Who knows, maybe, just maybe – in the spirit of generosity - South Africans would be gracious and grant their elder a peaceful retirement at Nkandla!