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In the absence of a unifying President

Oct 11 2017 06:02
Solly Moeng

My fellow South Africans,

In the absence of a unifying president who acts in strict accordance with the laws of our land, underpinned by the values of our Constitution, Bill of Rights, and all international conventions to which our country is signatory, a president who understands the fragility of the bond that keeps us together, we should take it upon ourselves to remember who we are, who we intended to be at the dawn of our democracy, and how to hold hands again to make South Africa work for all, despite the odds.

Our country needs each one of us. There is enormous talent that has been wasted on the sidelines over the last decade; talent that has been alienated from making meaningful contributions to a shared dream of creating an inclusive society and economy that we need in order to lessen the negative historic legacies of poverty, poor education, and poor access to mainstream media and modern information platforms for millions of our people.

Without access to an education that empowers – not one that keeps people perpetually under-educated and dependent on the state to feed them with food for the mind and food for the belly - we shall keep making wrong choices for our land, ending up losing many more opportunities to move to the next stage of our growth as a nation.

Poverty and lack of education remain the two main obstacles ensuring that our collective dream remains deferred. Thanks to these two obstacles, millions remain under the control of rented traditional leaders whose interests will always be in direct conflict with the needs of a modernising, thinking, society.

And without easy and affordable access to knowledge about the workings of the world they live in, millions of our people will be without the tools needed to make informed decisions about the future we share.

Too much unfettered power for the president

Enough has happened in our land, since about ten years ago, to wake us up to the error made by the founding leaders of our democracy when they housed too much unfettered power in the office of the president.

We know, of course, that their hearts were in the right place. At the time, we all had our eyes on the inimitable Nelson Mandela, whose leadership ethos remains unmatched and largely unquestioned to this day. We should not go into the future with the false belief that another leader will emerge and do the job of leading our diverse nation that is still in need of healing like Nelson Mandela did.

Even if that were to be the case, it is not worth taking a chance. Crucial conversations have to be had about ways to introduce effective checks and balances to protect South Africa from human temptations that come with too much power in the wrong hands.   

Today, we still sit with people in ministerial and other public positions of influence who would never have remained in those positions had ethical, values-driven leadership been driven from the top by a president who understands the impact of his own conduct and utterances, as well as that of the company he keeps, on the office he occupies.

Because many in our key public institutions continue to be led (for lack of a better word) by totally unsuitable people, levels of arrogance and impunity have become the order of the day. Their continued presence in those positions also means that South Africa cannot begin the much-needed journey of recovery.

The climb back will be rendered steeper by the continued fall of our country in various global rankings, whose impact is underestimated.

Political games without end

The political games have not ended. Both the Hawks and the NPA remain strangely unmoved by the crime of state capture while the minister of police, who controls the Hawks, has made a name for himself at mastering the age-old art of looking the other way from the ongoing crime of state capture, pretending it exists only in the imagination of civil society and the media.

Eskom still plays childish games with us; the SABC remains crippled by the absence of a credible board, even after one has been carefully vetted and the list of new members placed on the president’s desk for approval. Word has it that he will not approve the appointment of the new board because it doesn’t contain names of people that he can remote control.

Under Tom Moyane, the once respected South African Revenue Service has lost a great deal of taxpayer trust – a commodity it trades by - and is struggling to reach its revenue targets. Still obstinately led by the hugely unsuitable Dudu Myeni who remains in that position only thanks to the protection she gets from the president – the reasons for which remain subjects of whispers - South African Airways has remained constant only for its mediocre performance.

And having finally breached the once-solid walls of National Treasury, the frontline state capture enablers are now said to be camping outside the steel doors of the PIC. It is only a matter of time before they get in. South Africa as we have known it will never be the same after the PIC gets taken. It is just a matter of time.

But we should not give up; all of this will pass and hopefully we will live to see it.   


* Solly Moeng is brand reputation management adviser and CEO of strategic corporate communications consultancy DonValley Reputation Managers. Views expressed are his own.

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solly moeng  |  opinion

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