My parents and I were driving and listening to the news on radio. As we were listening, we noticed that the newsreader used designated political titles for all the leaders she was referring to except one. When she mentioned the President of the Republic of South Africa, she kept on referring to him as “Mr Zuma”. My parents were taken aback by this and they mentioned how shocked they were that this newsreader did not refer to Jacob Zuma as President Jacob Zuma.
Come to think of it, there is sadly not much respect in the nation for our president. I hardly hear any one put the title president before his first name. I know that the public is tired of the drama that has surrounded his presidency and perhaps struggle to see any good in him. I am also aware that the South African context is not a unique case in that there are numerous nations in the world who are not happy with their Presidents. I think of the United States of America, though there are mixed perceptions about Donald Trump, I have heard various news stations consistently refer to him as President Donald Trump.
Has the presidency title lost its “honour” in South Africa? I recall a conversation I had with my younger sister recently. I tried to make her feel guilty for not showering and changing into clean clothes. I said to her, “Please love yourself, go take a shower and change those shabby clothes, what would you do if the president came and you looked like that?” Her response, “Which president? Ours…hahahaha…I couldn’t care less.” My sister is a born free, by the way.
I usually shy away from writing and talking about politics because it’s one of those never-ending dialogues and truly speaking I prefer leaving the intricacies of political activity to the political analysts. However, I thought perhaps let me pen some of the questions that are on my mind. Maybe the President will one day speak the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
How do I feel about President Jacob Zuma? Well, I respect President Jacob Zuma because I was raised to respect my elders. I respect him as a man made in the image of God, the creator. I respect him as a human being because as a self-proclaimed Human Rights Activist, I believe that he too has inalienable rights. I respect him because my faith teaches me to pray for leaders in government.
We have seen through the media scandals how the paradox of the honourable title is losing its honour. Long before his inauguration, we were informed of the corrupt controversial relationship that President Jacob Zuma shared with Schabir Shaik. More troubling information surfaced around the President’s involvement in the arms deal.
After being inaugurated we came to learn of the various successful attempts to weaken once previously independent prosecutorial institutions for the President’s own gain. And of course, the heart-breaking revelations on Nkandla in the Public Prosecutors report.
I have read a few books on President Jacob Zuma political journey and have witnessed the various media and social media campaigns about him and these portray a very unpleasant depiction of one of “Umkhonto wesizwe’s” heroes.
Mr President please allow me to ask these questions. I know that this information is not new to you, our parliament has become a sight for entertainment. Numerous times opposition parties have asked you to account for the scandals that surround you, you remained silent and indifferent. You have been investigated countless times, found to be in the wrong and yet no justice served at the end of the day.
To me it seems like you are this super human where nothing sticks to you. I would humbly like to know – who are you really, Mr President?
I wonder what you are truly passionate about. Is it better education in our country? Is it land reform for those stripped of what was birth fully and rightfully theirs? Is it seeing a progressive economy?
When you lay down to sleep what do you think about? When you awake what is the first thing that comes to your mind? You are human after all.
I consider myself part of those who want to work to make South Africa a better country. I believe that your generation did tremendous work in giving us the baton of freedom. Yes, you fought in the struggle against Apartheid and in many ways, I am grateful for some of the opportunities that came in post-Apartheid South Africa.
But I worry Mr President that some of the decisions you have made will undo the great foundation that many of the great freedom fighters lost their lives for. I am more concerned about our generation and the next, what legacy will we leave for them? Will there be a democratic South Africa where human rights are not just words on a page but truly lived out in state institutions and where leaders are able to surrender their greed for the benefit of all, so I ask you again Mr President, who are you really?