Nothing was more embarrassing than our head of state being booed in the presence of world leaders at Nelson Mandela's memorial service last week. This incident has divided the country as much as it expresses divisions within the ANC's ranks. There are those who share the shame of the public humiliation; others claim that Zuma got his just desserts.
For me this is plainly the "chickens coming home to roost" and an exemplification of the "poo wars" against the Democratic Alliance in the Western Cape. When opposition to the legitimate government becomes inhumane, brutal and disgusting, the very people who carry them out in the name of freedom of expression and the right to protest, themselves become inhumane in the process. This is Ubuntu (person is a person because of another person) in reverse - when ANC members demean those who disagree with them, they themselves become demeaned.
Eight years ago already I warned that unless the ANC stops cultivating and encouraging this kind of behaviour against the official opposition, it will boomerang when they least expect it. And so the disdain for the President happened, in full view of the entire world at the most inopportune moment. CNN and the BBC seemed to feast on this show of "gladiatorial combat" likened to a Roman amphitheatre with their endless replays on global television.
The first such open display of disapproval happened in 2005, when Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ncguka attended a mass rally at a stadium in honour of National Women's Day. She endured merciless booing, her declining popularity coinciding with the nation's increasing disaffection with President Thabo Mbeki.
I remember how duplicitous the SABC was in broadcasting the event excluding the booing, while eTV showed the masses protesting against her presence. In my column I mentioned this, and the SABC responded, saying that their cameraman was not there, at which point eTV showed that the SABC cameraman was indeed there.
My exposé resulted in the sacking of the Director of Communications.
I digress. This international display of public humiliation should be a wake-up call to President Zuma and the Cabinet, that the very people who cheered former President Thabo Mbeki at the memorial, were the same people who booed him out of office. Those who booed Zuma will boo every other ANC president unless the Party radically transforms itself from the vampire state to one that respects its citizens and cares for the poor.
The poor might vote for the ANC; but the poor are not blind; they see what is going on around them and will vote with their voices and feet when their basic needs are not met. The death of former President Nelson Mandela might have taken Nkandla off the front pages of our media but that is only temporary.
This presidential scandal has not been erased from our minds and soon again we shall demand action. When the nation even doubts the date and time of the death of their first democratic president, then the ANC should seriously re-examine what kind of legacy they are leaving behind for a country that is struggling to find its identity and soul.
Mandela's departure is a wake-up call for us to get back on track and to live according to the inimitable Constitution our founder left behind as a reminder of the great nation we could be.
Our Dearly Departed, to quote Harry Truman "made history and not the other way around. In periods where there is no leadership, society stands still. Progress occurs when courageous, skillful leaders seize the opportunity to change things for the better."
Let's hope President Zuma imbibes the spirit of Madiba.
This article first appeared in Die Burger.
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