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Johannesburg - Barney Pityana, the outspoken former vice-chancellor of Unisa, has asked President Jacob Zuma to resign because of “poor leadership, moral perversion” of the country and weekly scandals.
In a letter to Zuma, Pityana said the fortunes of the country had declined on every level since 2009 and the president had to take responsibility and step aside to allow a more capable leader to take over.
“Leadership matters. I cannot go along with the idea that leadership does not matter, neither do I accept a notion habitually bandied about in the ANC, that leadership is by collective.
“There can be no collective leadership without a leader, inasmuch as there can never be a team without a captain. “A so-called ‘collective leadership’ strikes me as mob rule.”
Pityana said he had thought long and hard about his decision to ask the president to resign and had suspended judgment since 2009, when Zuma came to power.
“I have got to the point where one can no longer keep silent,” he wrote.
He predicted the country was on the precipice of a “moral cliff” where any sense of public good or virtue, loyalty or restraint was gone and the nation’s morality was in paralysis.
He also accused Zuma of being a Machiavellian who, while facing corruption and rape charges, had “wormed his way into the leadership of the ANC in 2007 at Polokwane”.
“Notwithstanding all that, the ANC was voted into power by a democratic election.
“In other words, yes, we have a leader we deserve.”
Pityana said Zuma and his government were conservative in outlook and not interested in positive criticism and were therefore afraid of any voice of opposition that there was widespread state abuse.
“Beyond that summary of life, especially among ordinary South Africans, lies a government and presidency that lack passion and sensitivity to the plight of the people.”
He said the Zuma government’s lack of passion was seen in the collapse of the education system in provinces like Limpopo and the Eastern Cape and poor health provision in Gauteng.
“The extent of absence of doctors and health professionals leading to the deaths of the innocent… the indignity of treatment at our health centres or the absence of basic medicines at clinics all suggest a government that just does not care.”
He said his letter was intended to stir up debate about the country’s political governance and to get visionary leadership with a transformative and radical policy orientation.
In September last year Pityana was blasted by the presidency for his comments at anti-apartheid activist Neil Aggett’s annual memorial lecture in Grahamstown, after he was reported saying South Africans had elected a government without intelligence. At the time Mac Maharaj, the presidential spokesman, said the comments were below dignified public discourse and intellectual engagement.
Yesterday Maharaj said he could not comment on the Pityana letter, as he had not seen it.