Mamphela Ramphele

A letter to my president: We stand at a critical moment

2019-01-28 16:30
President Cyril Ramaphosa arrives at the Indian Presidential Palace for a ceremonial reception in New Delhi, India, yesterday. Ramaphosa is on a two-day state visit to India and will be the chief guest at India’s Republic Day parade today celebrating the anniversary of the country’s national constitution taking effect. PHOTO: AP

President Cyril Ramaphosa arrives at the Indian Presidential Palace for a ceremonial reception in New Delhi, India, yesterday. Ramaphosa is on a two-day state visit to India and will be the chief guest at India’s Republic Day parade today celebrating the anniversary of the country’s national constitution taking effect. PHOTO: AP

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The culture of impunity seems to have permeated many areas of public service damaging young people's careers and their ethics and integrity. This is a tragic waste of talent, writes Mamphela Ramphele.

As 2019 rolls on we have reason to be grateful as a nation for your leadership over the last year. The sense of despair that had fallen on our faces as a people, is being replaced by signs of hope.  

You have grasped nettles many had been afraid to tackle. Moreover, you did so in a manner that respects the rule of law and fully leverages the richness of the Constitution you so deftly helped shepard into life in 1996.  

The commissions of inquiry you have set up to shine the light on some of the critical areas of capturing and undermining state institutions, have given citizens reason to once again believe that we can reclaim and rebuild our country. The dream so many, including yourself, sacrificed their youth for, and many others paid the ultimate price for, seems to be within reach again.

The swift action you took in response to the Nugent Commission on the South African Revenue Services, to dismiss the then commissioner of the Sars, signalled your resolve to act against wrongdoers in cases where enough evidence has been put on the table.

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Over the last two weeks citizens have been shocked by the extent of unspeakable horrors of impunity of Bosasa, a major government service provider. We heard how Bosasa was protected from being debarred from government contracts as far back as 2013 despite the report of the Special Investigating Unit. What more evidence is needed to justify the freezing of Bosasa's assets, contracts and relationships with state institutions? How can hard earned taxpayers' money continue to be used service contracts that are products of crime?

I will not presume to advise you about how to deal with the many public servants who are incredibly well paid, but have been double dipping by accepting monthly retainers from Bosasa and presumably other private sector companies that find it easy to buy influence in our government. The culture of impunity seems to have permeated many areas of public service damaging young people's careers and their ethics and integrity. This is a tragic waste of talent which we should urgently halt.

What is clear is that the majority of citizens who are battling to make ends meet are deeply hurt by the betrayal by leaders who belong to a party that claims to be a leader of society. We have enough resources to lift every citizen out of poverty and to provide dignified public services to ensure the wellbeing of all people. These citizens are looking to you to give them comfort that you are sensitive to their pain of betrayal, and that you will make impunity in public service history.

We stand at a critical moment in our history as a young democracy. We could seize this moment to return to the commitments we made to ourselves in the Preamble of our Constitution, or we could let the opportunity slide out of our grasp. It is the right moment for us to recommit and take steps to heal the wounds of humiliation and divisions that continue to undermine our ability to embrace the values of social justice.  

Our society can only prosper if respect for human rights, equality of all, and investment in the talents of all so they can become self-confident contributing citizens of this beloved country. These core values of Ubuntu should be the guiding light of our society. They need to be taught at home, at school (Life Orientation) in faith communities and in places of work. This would help us return from our lost ways and guide citizens make the right choices in their lives. 

Mr President, history has put you in this leadership position so you can draw on all your accumulated wisdom, including lessons from our collective mistakes as a nation, to lead us as we reimagine, redesign and rebuild our country from the benefit of our successes and lessons from our mistakes.  

Young people, women and many of those left behind over the last 25 years are ready to work together to forge a future they can believe in. The question is whether you will be bold enough to complete the wonderful work you started over the last year to make us a proud people again.

- Mamphela Ramphele is co-founder of ReimagineSA.

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.


Read more on:    bosasa  |  cyril rama­phosa  |  corruption  |  state capture inquiry
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