The president is public property
February 5, 2010 § Leave a comment
Julius Malema said that President Jacob Zuma is “our father”, I must admit, I half expected him to complete the statement by saying “who art in heaven”. Let’s face it, the president has never done anything wrong in the history of his existence according to the Youth League and the ANC. St Zuma is saintlier than Mandela. A man who repeatedly said he wasn’t a saint, let alone a messiah. Zuma on the other hand, very few see him as one, yet the ANC likes to present him as one. I know he has never claimed to be one. The ANC seems to have sanctified and raised him to the level of a deity. Maybe we should expect to see government offices adorned with his face in stained glass windows beaming upon us. He is infallible. Every indefensible action is defended. The public and the press are publicly ridiculed for questioning the questionable. He is beyond reproach. Again, not according to him but by those who surround him. The president has said nothing to refute implied sanctification.
When he married his third wife I did not see what the big deal was all about. Let the man have his three mothers-in-law I said. It was his democratic right. Some of us applauded him for his honesty, he sees a woman he likes, he marries her. That was admirable. That was until we found out that he had fathered a 20th child according to reports, out of wedlock. Many people have children out of wedlock. There are such people within my family.
Then the ANC tells us we are being disrespectful for asking questions. Excuse me? They tell us it is a private matter. This does not work for us. Since the taxpayers pay for his wives. When Abraham Lincoln was elected president of the United States and upon arriving in Washington before his inauguration, he said, “the truth is, I suppose I am now public property”. I know fully well that many will give the easy and lazy answer “this is not America”. Of course it’s not. The fact of the matter is that he was put in office by the public. The public foots his bills. The public pays for his spouses. Therefore the public has the right to know, especially considering what an expensive affair this will be for it. As much as the ANC would like to keep him an ANC matter, he is more than a simple ANC matter, he belongs to us, the public. Whether some of the public like him or not, he is theirs. He is a property of the state. We are concerned for his health, his well-being and how he represents us before the world’s stage.
According to News24: “The state will contribute an amount equal to 17% of his salary to a pension fund and will pay two thirds of his medical-aid contribution covering his family. He will also be insured by the state for accident and life cover. When he travels on official business, he may be accompanied by his spouses — (the handbook makes allowance for spouses in a polygamous marriage) and those dependent children who cannot remain at home are entitled to accommodation and subsistence at the expense of the state. The same arrangement applies to travel abroad.” If this is what we pay for then we have the right to know. There is nothing disrespectful about wanting find out what one is paying for.
Everyone celebrates when a child is born. It is a beautiful and good thing and adds incalculable joy to the parents. Having read the president’s statement I get the feeling that he is blaming us for having had unprotected sex with a woman who is not his wife. All of a sudden, if we talk about this issue we are questioning the right of the child to exist. Not at all, we are questioning the apology you made after the rape trial (in which he was exonerated) when you apologised for having had unprotected sex. Of course we appreciate the fact that he is taking responsibility for the child, but then again, he is supposed to take responsibility.
The birth of this child is only a reflection of a lot of men in South Africa. Men who are married and father children with other women. My own father fathered a child with another woman even though he was married to my mother. Clearly, the president is a reflection of what is happening within our society. One would expect that he would try to change this, if not, at least pretend to. Having unprotected sex with a woman who is not his wife is not sending out a positive signal to the rest of our men — particularly after he apologised a few years ago for even more dangerous behaviour, unprotected sex with a woman he knew was HIV-positive at the time. Unfortunately when it comes to his partners and sex this will follow him forever — just like Zapiro’s shower. He is a clear indication of what is wrong and broken with many men in our country. Young men have few positive role models and the president is not helping. By all intents and purposes, even though he has three wives, one can’t shake the feeling that he still cheats on his three wives. That’s what this implied.
It is a pity that we rarely debate policy positions. It’s as though he were a celebrity of sorts, not a head of state. One wonders if the press should be blamed or he should be blamed for putting himself in positions where he is treated like a celebrity. He is in danger of being a celebrity president, where his contribution to the liberation of the country is but a footnote in the books of history. Does the president want to be known for everything else other than the instrumental achievements before the 2000nds? Will he be asked about his child out of wedlock and having unprotected sex after he apologised for it when he is in Davos again? Why can’t the ANC demand discipline from the president?
The best thing about the ANC is the worst thing about it. Loyalty. Loyalty at all costs it seems. The ANC’s relativism when it comes to defending its leaders is disturbing. Senior leaders are always defended even though it is clear that they are in the wrong. I’m not suggesting that people should be thrown under the bus, recognise that something is wrong, correct it and move on. The sooner you do so in public the sooner the irrelevant headlines will disappear.
This begs the question, where does loyalty lie? Is it to party first, then to nation? Or is it because the party is so powerful that the perception is that the ANC is in fact the nation? If that is the view, doesn’t the party fall into the trap of arrogance and a sense that it can do no wrong because it is the sole party that is in fact looking after the needs of the people? The ANC needs to stop running like it is still in exile, still a banned organisation. The symptoms of a secret organisation are still alive.
The problem I have with ANC is the same one Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu had while Nelson Mandela was president. He’d said that the ANC had “stopped the gravy train long enough for it to get on it” a few months into the Mandela presidency. Madiba reprimanded him on TV for this. A few weeks later Tutu was on the phone with him and said “for goodness sake, how come you can shout at me like that in public”, Mandela laughed according to Tutu.
In conclusion, I would like to agree wholeheartedly with Tutu’s words when he said: “There are those of them who don’t actually recognise people who are basically on their side, who are critical, not because we want to see them fail. It is precisely the opposite. It is to say we want to see you succeed and that is why we mention these things … there are those who are becoming … I would say dangerously hypersensitive.”