President Cyril Ramaphosa’s years in office were supposed to have ushered in a welcome respite from the scandal-ridden tenure of his predecessor.
The Jacob Zuma years were an torrid time, with the presidency, government, the ANC and society in general mired in immorality. That period made us realise that the adage that a fish rots from the head was not simply plucked from thin air. Zuma was truly the head of a rotting fish.
But there has been no let-up of new scandals. While some of them are a hangover from the previous era, there have been shocking new cases of malfeasance, most notably the corruption regarding Covid-19 funds as scores of greedy people stole from the country’s citizens.
READ: Ramaphosa tells Parliament he will not speak about alleged robbery on his farm
Unlike Zuma, who was knee-deep in wrongdoing, Ramaphosa has hardly been touched by scandal and has projected himself as the man who will exorcise the ghosts of the “wasted decade”. Until now, that is. The controversy about the hitherto hidden February 2020 foreign currency heist on his farm has left a pungent smell around the person of the president. South Africans are convinced that their head of state is being economical with the truth when he professes that everything related to the mysterious cash is aboveboard.
On Thursday, SA Council of Churches president Bishop Malusi Mpumlwana and Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town Thabo Makgoba took the extraordinary step of jointly praying for the nation in the wake of the Phala Phala scandal. The clerics said they had been “disturbed” by the revelation of the theft and the immediate aftermath thereof. Calling for “proper and independent investigations with transparency” so that “all the truth [will] fully surface”, the men of the cloth quoted Jesus Christ’s statement that “you will know the truth and the truth will set you free”.
That these two leaders, who have a history of confronting injustice in the apartheid era and democratic South Africa (most notably against the state capture cancer) would speak in such tones should concern Ramaphosa.
READ: President Ramaphosa suspends Public Protector Mkhwebane with immediate effect
Hiding behind leaving “the whole matter of the robbery to due process” and offering to explain himself to the ANC’s integrity commission is not enough.
South Africans are hungry for immediate answers to prove that the state of rot is not going to be a permanent feature of our national life.