Pretoria - The news from the special Cabinet meeting that sat on December 30 last year, which agreed among other things to lift the lockdown curfew, allowing South Africans to move freely – was welcomed with jubilation.
After being locked down for nearly two years, citizens could finally enjoy ushering in the new year in ways they had been used to before the Covid-19 pandemic disrupted their lives.
As we all wished and prayed for the pandemic to subside in 2022 so that life could get back to some sort of normality, I doubt any one of us ever anticipated another kind of pandemic – politicians’ disingenuity.
The new year is barely a month old, yet it feels like we’ve lived through too many of its days, thanks to Tourism Minister Lindiwe Sisulu, whose opinion piece titled: “Hi Mzansi, have we seen justice?” published on January 7, 2022, has thrown the country into a tailspin. To this day, it is a matter of speculation as to why a Cabinet minister who has been a lawmaker for more than 25 years would, without presenting any facts, attack the Constitution and insult black jurists.
It is speculative because, besides the opinion pieces, rebuttals and media statements issued in her name, she has yet to create an opportunity to address South Africans.
Address us on what she expects us to do once we’ve reflected on the message of her piece, to clarify for us what is to be gained from insulting black jurists, and, most importantly, what she is going to do to ensure we see justice since she suddenly seems to care about fighting injustice.
While it is speculative, it is totally unsurprising that unlike in 2017 when Sisulu launched her campaign for the ANC presidency with a temperate approach, she seems to be going on a full-frontal attack to ensure she secures the governing party’s number one seat come December.
The strategy of getting off the blocks first seems to be about thwarting the chances of any of her challengers in the Radical Economic Transformation faction, where she seems to be finding some acceptance and resonance.
On the other hand, and only after a full two weeks, the other main challenger to the ANC throne – President Cyril Ramaphosa – broke his silence last Thursday evening as he communicated in a press statement that he had admonished Sisulu for her opinion piece.
Ramaphosa, a man considered by some to be one who follows due process before taking any action, seemed to have had the last laugh until an unbranded statement was issued in Sisulu’s name, essentially calling the president a liar for claiming to have admonished her.
Interestingly, Sisulu’s statement also denied Ramaphosa’s assertion that she had apologised and withdrawn the opinion piece.
In the morning after the embarrassing night of ping-pong, with statements between the “admonished” and the admonisher – Sisulu now seems to have gained the upper hand, after she issued another statement blaming the president’s media team for being mischievous in the wording used in the statement.
Seemingly, after realising the undesired political and communication implications of the unbranded statement, Sisulu sought to soften the blow by scapegoating the president’s media, as they are the softest target.
Another worrying practice engaged in by politicians is that of wiggling out of troublesome situations by blaming bureaucrats, instead of accepting accountability.
In a normal society, when faced with a deepening national crisis including the effects of the pandemic, the president, the Cabinet and all other leaders across all spheres of government would demonstrate through their daily actions and decisions that the country comes first.
Alas, in South Africa citizens have to swallow a bitter pill as the sitting president keeps on choosing his party over the country. The economic outlook is not giving any sense of hope to many people whose livelihoods were desecrated by the pandemic.
The grim crime statistics fail to assure us that the SAPS and its counterparts in the law enforcement space have the wherewithal to adequately arrest the perpetrators of crime and investigate them to achieve successful prosecutions.
Knowing that millions of our compatriots go to bed hungry is gut-wrenching. The uncalculated social impact of endemic corruption continues to set us on a regressive path, creating generational debt.
All these challenges, which are structural, are exacerbated by the executive authorities charged with championing the recovery of an economy in the doldrums, who are bickering and jockeying for positions in their respective political parties while Rome burns.
They require government leaders who will ensure that the value of the Constitution is fully appreciated by citizens based on their departments delivering services optimally.
While regaining the freedom of movement is worth celebrating, as citizens we must wake up and realise that as long as we continue to choose people and parties that do not choose us, real freedom will remain elusive. Equality, social and economic justice will remain elusive.
We may have survived four waves of the Covid-19 pandemic, but if we don’t call out disingenuous politicians, they will continue to undermine us and take our votes for granted. We have a responsibility to ourselves and the next generation to recognise our collective foolishness.