Humble Marcus reminds us what SA leaders lack

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When other well-known politicians and dignitaries were being shunted to the front of election queues on Wednesday, Reserve Bank governor Gill Marcus chose to blend in with the crowd at her voting station in Arcadia in Pretoria.

Rather than draw attention to herself or her position in society, Marcus waited patiently in line like any other regular tannie would. That was until she was spotted by Business Report photographer Simphiwe Mbokazi, who briefly upset the peace.

When he could not force Marcus out of line, Mbokazi alerted election officials who were unaware of the luminary in their presence. But they, too, could not convince her that she was more than simply an ordinary citizen. About 45 minutes later she cast her vote.

What was a light occasion should have really been a moment of reflection on what we, as taxpaying citizens of the country, should demand of our leaders and the manner in which they treat us.

One can only hope that her calibre of leadership will prevail as the ANC seems set to ride out another five-year term as the ruling party.

The irony and perhaps stinging reality of the outcome was captured in a headline published by the Los Angeles Times yesterday: “South Africans vote for ANC, a party they’re fed up with”.

The country needs decisive and responsible pathfinders who acknowledge that they are merely civil servants elevated and appointed as custodians to promote and safeguard the democracy in South Africa.

Marcus, the ninth Reserve Bank governor, made history when she was appointed as the first female to the post in 2009. She turns 65 this year and her five-year term ends in November.

Filthy lucre

Bible readers are perhaps all too familiar with the saying that the love of money is the root of all evil. But nobody has paid much attention to its being possibly the dirtiest thing people hold on a daily basis.

Until now, that is.

A study by international transaction firm MasterCard and Oxford University last year highlighted that the average European bank note contained no less than 26 000 bacteria which could be harmful.

Despite this, the aura of money being the key that opens all doors makes people blissfully reluctant to treat cash handling like they would other squirmy matter.

According to MasterCard, while acknowledging the potential health hazards associated with handling cash, there is a significant “say-do” gap across Europe between people believing cash is dirty and doing something about it, with only one in five washing their hands after handling it.

The European-wide study of over 9 000 consumers from 12 countries highlighted how despite notes being ranked as more unhygienic than hand rails on public transport or communal food, such as nuts in a bar, Europeans are struggling to break the bad habit of spending dirty cash.

However, findings showed that people are more likely to wash their hands after completing other tasks such as touching an animal (46 percent) or travelling on public transport (36 percent). And the reasoning is simple, if not downright normal.

Money, in the form of tangible bank notes and coins, is the biggest form of visible economic power and of individual success that we have; it is hard for people to make and keep any negative associations with money. “We may recognise that money collects germs, but we do not connect disease or illness to the handling of money,” MasterCard’s research read.

And, the sages despair, there isn’t a straightforward solution. “While there are no firmly adopted international guidelines on handling cash during seasonal flu and winter vomiting outbreaks, it would be advisable to become more hygiene aware, especially during these times, by switching to cashless transactions.”

So, to steal from the blues, if the women and whisky don’t get you, handling cash surely must.

Edited by Banele Ginindza. Contributions from Asha Speckman.


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