MAYBE we will remember 2012 as a year that helped us learn exactly what type of leaders run this country.
Nkandlagate did it first, offering us a glimpse of a different crop of leaders from the iconic former president Nelson Mandela and workaholic Thabo Mbeki.
The scandal has erased the image of a nation at peace with itself, living under the glory of past victories but self-assured and remarkable.
While the 2010 Soccer World Cup outlined this picture through a series of impressions, sentimental and anecdotal, this week South Africans received the ice cold, hard facts to answer the recurrent question: what type of leaders run this country?
A letter containing genuine concerns from eminent South African clerics and an angry rebuttal from the ANC partly answers the above question.
Firstly, a group of prominent religious leaders warned President Jacob Zuma that if leaders do not act to stop the moral decay in the country, the church movement would mobilise civil society to “bring about a more healthy democracy”.
The group, including Archbishop Thabo Makgoba of Church Leaders Consultation, said in a letter to Zuma that South Africans yearn for new leadership to restore hope amid growing unhappiness about leaders who had “lost their moral compass”.
“During apartheid, some church leaders wrote to political leaders, but they often failed to listen to these voices,” they said.
“Unfortunately, we find a similar trend today, but it is our duty to speak to you even when we think you might not be listening. At this moment we believe that our democracy can be significantly improved,” they wrote.
“If political leaders do not take seriously what we are saying, we will continue to strengthen and support the church’s role within the civil society movements, especially those working among the poorest of our people to bring about a more healthy democracy.”
But ANC secretary general, Gwede Mantashe responded by saying there were sectors of society that were trying to manipulate the outcome of the ANC national conference.
“Sectors of society want a particular outcome... I don't think we should accept that," he said, adding that he was disappointed by the banking, business and clerical sectors as they were trying to change the outcome of the conference.
Talk about someone who is off his rocker. Great leaders would have called for a gathering with the clerics and got to hear the detailed side of their grievances first hand.
If the sectors that Mantashe identified want a change of leadership, then this would be the right time for the ANC to take note of this. Indeed, their leaders are not popular any more.
Furthermore, if indeed it is true that these sectors are calling for a new crop of leaders, it means Julius Malema, the former president of the youth wing, could have been right to call for regime change in the ANC.
Great leaders would have sat down, looked at this for what it is and discussed and strategised. I am not in any way suggesting that they did not do this - but the manner in which they handled the issue suggests otherwise.
It is clear that the leadership in government and the ANC is becoming very unpopular, and that this move is growing in leaps and bounds.
But what does this crop of leaders do? They show the middle finger to the country. Basically, they are telling South Africa to go to hell and they will continue to do as they please.
Now, this confirms that the country is run by people who not only have thick skins but also do not want to take advice from anyone. Their word is final.
What comprises a good society? What are our responsibilities and obligations to one another? To what extent is our humanity solely about looking after ourselves or being part of something we call society?
The clerics’ letter, opening a new chapter in South Africa’s ragged social contract, has abruptly laid bare these fundamental questions in the South African polity.
The last remnants of an approach to organising society based on a social contract have been torn to pieces.
I fear for the future of this beloved country and its children.
*Mzwandile Jacks is a freelance journalist. Views expressed are his own.