Religion and Race – Abraham Joshua Heschel
‘At the first conference on religion and race, the main participants were Pharaoh and Moses. Moses’ words were: “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, let My people go that they may celebrate a feast to Me.” While Pharaoh retorted: “Who is the Lord, that I should heed this voice and let Israel go? I do not know the Lord, and moreover I will not let Israel go.”
‘The outcome of that summit meeting has not come to an end. Pharaoh is not ready to capitulate. The exodus began, but is far from having been completed. In fact, it was easier for the children of Israel to cross the Red Sea than for a Negro to cross certain university campuses.’
(1963, reprinted in The Insecurity of Freedom. Essays on Human Existence. 1967)
ANC General Secretary Gwede Mantashe has criticised Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng for remarks made in a lecture on ethical leadership, Mantashe depicts this as commenting on the Constitutional Court ruling on Nkandla and therefore bearing the danger of the Concourt becoming ‘populist’
It is important to realise that any lecture on ethics, referring to integrity, offering favours to friends, patronage, conflicts of interest, accountability and many other questions will raise questions about any person who performs in a manner that shows lapses in integrity. By definition we will think of Zuma even if his name is not mentioned. His ethical flaws are in our faces. We see these every day and we see that the ANC leadership is loath to address them.
But we have to talk about ethical leadership in order to avoid repeating the error of 2007 where those complaining about the leadership flaws attributed to Thabo Mbeki sought to remedy these by electing someone else without adequately scrutinising the person’s qualities. Regrettably, there is insufficient debate about what we need in place of Zuma, for it is not purely the Nkandla ruling that has led to his needing to be removed. We need to ask, beyond simply removing Zuma, what are the reasons for doing that and what are the qualities we require in whoever replaces him. We also need to state what we require from leadership more generally in order to hold a president and others accountable
Zuma loses “formal authority”- what implications?
Professor Hugh Corder, who has been writing on public law for over 30 years remarks on the Nkandla judgment:
“Whatever happens, [the president’s] formal authority has been irrevocably weakened by his misconduct highlighted in this judgment, not to mention all his other indiscretions committed over the past 15 years. In such circumstances, desperate measures may be resorted to, and we can expect some form of backlash, including further questioning of judicial authority.”
What does it mean that the President’s formal authority has been irrevocably weakened? It seems that a case can be made that he has negated the basis for occupying the office of president. Yet he is likely to still continue to occupy it.
It is true that it can be argued that political legitimacy is conferred through the polls and that the majority party may still continue to accord him that authority. But over the last 22 years no president has so clearly held office with a disjuncture between his legal standing, with the legal basis for his authority so clearly impugned. This must surely be troubling to some in the ANC leadership, though cowardice and greed would appear to have taken so firm a hold on most of them that they will let things be. I hope I am wrong.
But even if Zuma does go it has been said many times that the problem does not lie in Zuma alone and the court pointed to the complicity of others, notably the National Assembly, in his illegal actions.
But even if all these are impugned, if wrongdoing is ascribed to Zuma and all MPs, did the problems of the ANC and of South Africa start with Zuma, as the MK generals/leaders seem to imply, when they refer to “our glorious movement”, as if there is simply a need to return to an uncomplicated past? Was there not patronage and also cases of corruption before Zuma, even before 1994 and do we not need to seek a remedy that gets to the actual root of the problems, not simply by addressing particular individuals in leadership at one or other time?
Attack on Helen Suzman Foundation
The attack on Helen Suzman Foundation is shocking. Such lawlessness has been the regular experience of some grassroots organisations like Abahlali baseMjondolo and they have not enjoyed support even from supposedly left organisations like NUMSA. There is also massive repression meted out against students, notably in the formerly black universities and recently at UFS. Why it is that the forces of repression who may be the same forces who are supposed to be defending our democracy are entering the relatively elite sphere to carry out an armed attack and robbery on HSF on so heavy a scale. Is HSF so big a threat? They have been acting to remove General Ntlemeza, head of the Hawks.
Does this mean that the security forces are acting lawlessly and with whose authority? Who will defend them if it is so discovered or will they disown them? Once this type of attack starts to become bolder and enter ‘more respectable’ society it is not likely to cease and it is important that forces of civil society unite to resist attacks. Clearly this must have a link with the state. As citizens, we need to act to stop its spread.