Respect can only be earned, Mr Zuma

Jan 15 2016 07:40
Bradford Fletcher

I AM a 27-year-old white South African man who loves this beautiful land with all of my heart and every fibre of my being.

Having been blessed with the experience of living abroad for parts of my childhood, first in the USA, the UK and then Egypt, I am grateful for the wisdom that cultural exchanges with different peoples has afforded me, but I am always drawn back home to SA and won't be leaving it again. I love our country deeply and have great pride knowing I am South African.

It breaks my heart to feel helpless as our very own 'JZ-Nero' happily burns our beautiful Rome around us, so to speak, while heartily laughing when serious questions regarding his decisions are posed to he who is ultimately accountable to us, the people. Whether the opposition addresses the president respectfully or makes a circus in parliament, Mr Zuma simply does not recognise he is in our service as the citizens of South Africa, we are not in his.

He preaches to his supporters that the youth should be taught to respect their elders and family. We as human beings can learn how to behave respectfully, but what would you have us respect? A real leader, or in fact any human being, should know that true respect is only ever earned. It's earned through our conduct in life and demonstrated in the integrity of our actions and interactions socially.

How is it that so many people cannot see that his wanton destruction of the reputation of the ANC has left that party, which has many achievements (from which it should draw greatly deserved strength and pride) a timid and paralysed feudal system that is always on the back foot, as it lurches from scandal to scandal and cover-up after cover-up to sweep aside the wreckage with each new Zuma blunder?

How do we explain this to people? My partner and I don't have large retirement investments at all, so imagine my surprise to learn that some R30 000 was wiped off those RA investments in one weekend after the finance minister debacle. For those who are retired and not tech savvy so as to have the ability to check their pension funds online, I am deeply saddened for them when they realise how much they will have lost by the next monthly payment they receive.

I have yet to check the effect on pensions now with his recent comment that "people have overreacted to his sacking  of Minister Nene". To that I say: President Zuma, if you insist that we all respect the elderly, how do you live with yourself, knowing how many of the elderly you have directly affected by erasing years of their savings? Savings they need to ensure their golden years are just that, golden.

Instead, in one after yet another self-serving, Zuma-comes-first move, you have placed the stress of financial uncertainty on these older people who toiled for many years to ensure theirs was a future of certainty and security. If you value the elderly as you claim to, step down and admit you lack the ability to shoulder the enormous responsibility that comes with the office of the Presidency of South Africa.

Deep wounds left by Zuma's exploits

In doing that, you would at last demonstrate true wisdom and, in doing so, finally earn true respect which will most definitely be shown to you by your peers and those intelligent enough to understand the deep wounds and still-healing scars many of your decisions and exploits have had on the long-term success of South Africa and so, ultimately, the prosperity of our future generations.

If you can admit your mistakes and step aside, I will be the first to give you my full respect and would be honoured to shake your hand in true admiration. Can you demonstrate the maturity this nation and the ANC so desperately need to keep this beautiful country together? I pray to the Almighty that you can, Sir, for if you continue as you have thus far, I weep for our wonderful nation's future.

Will the history books record the presidency of Jacob Zuma as another close call with catastrophe that South Africa was able to avoid when rational people saw their time was up and they were wrong, or will our fate be similar to that of our northern neighbour Zimbabwe? It is a terrifying reality that is a lot closer than  people realise. Zimbabwe wasn't utterly ruined overnight. It, too, took many years of countless short-sighted and ill-advised decisions.

How many more ill-advised decisions will President Zuma need to make before we say enough is enough? If we do nothing, we have nobody to blame but ourselves.

Naturally, the only response I can  hope to receive to this desperate plea for all of our people's best interest to be served is to label me a 'racist'. Absurd... That is without doubt the most feeble cop-out used when questions get too hard. To the ANC it's a convenient answer but to our democracy it's like a suicide bomber that rips through the unity of cultures our nation's peoples have slowly worked at building for two decades.

If I cannot express my views in a democratic nation without being labelled as hateful (which I am not), then we have no democracy or freedom at all.

My parents lived with, participated in, and presumably voted during apartheid, not me. And to be clear, we were not well off financially growing up. In fact, in 1995 my parents went through sequestration having been declared insolvent. Only by the late 1990s did their lives improve to where we could move abroad for amazing opportunities.

Is my generation and those to follow sentenced to suffer for the sins of our fathers for all time? I am mystified where this so-called white privilege is; I could not afford a university degree, nor could my parents. I got two diplomas and other short qualifications while working hard to pay for them, then once qualified, I'm discriminated against when I'm applying for employment due to my race. Black economic empowerment is vitally important, but it should not come at the expense of the disempowerment of other races, especially if we claim to be 'a non-racial democracy'. 

My father is dead now, he passed away in 2014. And just as a side note, his vote in 1994 and since was to the IFP party. And both of my parents voted 'yes', let's negotiate in the 1992 referendum. And both of them have taught me to be respectful of all races.

I'm saddened that those isolated pockets of other white South Africans who are clearly racist leave a dark cloud over us all. But if I think carefully and objectively, perhaps they are popping up now and lashing out because in their own way they feel similarly betrayed and sidelined by our government's leadership or lack thereof.

Of course, the blame they place along racial lines is utter nonsense. I don't agree with that at all and we should of course tell them off and punish where appropriate. But the precious pearl of wisdom and insight to be gained by this is that people are fed up seeing their country, currency, economy, community and ultimately the country that is the future home for their children crumbling and eroding all around them.

Whites must just put up and shut up

How are people supposed to voice their concerns if they are labelled racist? I have never gone to a protest action, not because I do not support many of them, but because I feel like white people are expected by government 'to be seen and not heard'.

What I mean by 'to be seen ' is that if you are expecting to keep the lives you have and be able to participate in daily life as we go to work, shop or go out and go home safely to our families, then just shut up and get on with whatever we tell you to do and follow with blind obedience the bad decisions we make, misguided laws we have promulgated and pay us all new taxes and levies we raise and best be grateful about it.

Heaven help us if white people dare to question or protest against any government decision. If you do that, you are quite publicly labelled as little more than a petulant, greedy child, but their preferred label is 'racist'.

Is this freedom? Is this non-racial democracy? Is this a rainbow nation if the ruling party discriminates racially? What should white people in South Africa do? Nothing? Europe certainly won't take us even if we wanted to go there. They have a migrant and economic crisis themselves. Even that suggestion is insane to me. My family's ancestors  arrived here in the late 1800s. We share a lot less cultural features with Europeans than we may believe and, more importantly, have no national identity links with Europe's nations any more.

I ask all South Africans openly now, what would you like white people to do?  What - if any - is our place in our country? And lastly, how many generations will it take to for the young white people of today and all white people to come to be separated from the sins of their forefathers in the eyes of the ANC?

What are your views on this? Let us know and you could get published.

* This opinion piece is by Fin24 user Bradley Fletcher, who writes in his personal capacity. Views expressed are his own.

Follow Fin24 on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and Pinterest. 24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

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