Editorial | Executive must know when it’s time to go

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Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Photo: Dan Kitwood, Pool, AFP
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Photo: Dan Kitwood, Pool, AFP


In the face of numerous scandals, a failing economy and general disaffection with his administration, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was this week forced to resign after more than 50 of his own MPs quit within 48 hours.

Although he was not the initial instigator of Brexit, it was Johnson who finalised the UK’s shameful departure from the EU.

The justification for the departure was that it would lead not only to fewer immigrants, but to greater prosperity, more welfare spending and less crowded hospitals. Instead, six years after the vote, Britain is less prosperous and more unequal. Brexit reduced the UK’s GDP by at least 1.5% even before it took full effect.

The British electorate has finally woken up to the lie and has been calling for Johnson’s head for some time. It must be emphasised that, even in the face of a palace revolt, he still dug in his heels.

READ: UK PM Boris Johnson to resign on Thursday

Credit for his departure, therefore, should not accrue to Johnson. It is the UK’s political culture that does not tolerate corruption and mendacity that should be commended for Johnson’s departure. Credit should go to structures within the British political system that have oversight on the executive, institutions that ensure that accountability exists not only in name.

Politicians serve at the pleasure of the people they are supposed to serve. If the citizenry is unhappy, or when the executive realises that it has behaved in contradiction to the letter and spirit of the constitution, or the norms and values that are the fulcrum of a democracy, the executive should bow out. It is the civilised thing to do. It is the democratic thing to do, if we are truthful in our pronounced commitment to building a country where corruption shall not be tolerated.

How we wish that culture would be instilled in South Africa, and be taken seriously. 

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