We must not lose our sense of moral out­rage

CityPress - - Voices & Careers - Thabo Mak­goba voices@city­press.co.za Mak­goba is Angli­can Arch­bishop of Cape Town

The con­tro­versy sur­round­ing the pri­vate life of Deputy Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa, who has con­fessed to an ex­tra-mar­i­tal af­fair in the past, and the re­sponse of an East­ern Cape stu­dent to re­ceiv­ing an er­ro­neous pay­ment of R14 mil­lion, high­light the di­vi­sions in the way our na­tion ad­dresses pub­lic and per­sonal moral­ity.

When for­mer pres­i­dent Nel­son Man­dela’s ad­min­is­tra­tion de­vel­oped its Re­con­struc­tion and Devel­op­ment Pro­gramme (RDP) to com­bat poverty and in­equal­ity, Madiba also called for an “RDP of the soul” to ad­dress the na­tion’s spir­i­tual bro­ken­ness. Twenty-three years later, we have to ask whether this ob­jec­tive has re­ceived ad­e­quate at­ten­tion.

Com­ments in the me­dia in­di­cate a wor­ry­ing con­sen­sus in the po­lit­i­cal class that per­sonal moral up­right­ness is no longer a cri­te­rion for lead­er­ship in our so­ci­ety. Such tacit ac­cep­tance is wor­ry­ing, and chal­lenges re­li­gious lead­ers to do more to in­stil high moral val­ues in cur­rent and fu­ture gen­er­a­tions.

It is heart­en­ing that lead­ers such as Ramaphosa and Min­is­ter in the Pres­i­dency Jeff Radebe, who was re­cently caught up in an al­leged sex­ting scan­dal, have ad­mit­ted their wrong­do­ing. But, just as the church has in the past crit­i­cised Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma’s ex­tra-mar­i­tal af­fairs, we must be con­sis­tent and de­mand that other lead­ers re­spect the sanc­tity of mar­riage and prac­tise sex­ual fidelity.

The young stu­dent who re­ceived money in er­ror seemed to see noth­ing wrong with spend­ing it ex­trav­a­gantly and on lux­u­ries – even as other stu­dents were be­ing ex­pelled from univer­sity for fi­nan­cial rea­sons. There was far too lit­tle out­rage at her be­hav­iour in spend­ing money that was patently not hers. Worse, many on so­cial me­dia made light of the mat­ter.

Along with this de­cline in stan­dards of per­sonal moral­ity, there is a col­lapse in stan­dards of pub­lic moral­ity. In re­cent years, there has been a cat­a­logue of court cases and de­ci­sions that are in­dica­tive of our moral col­lapse: the Nkandla judg­ment, the State of Cap­ture re­port, the de­nial of a visa to the Dalai Lama, and al­low­ing Su­danese Pres­i­dent Omar al-Bashir and Zimbabwe’s First Lady Grace Mu­gabe to es­cape jus­tice.

It is shock­ing how much some lead­ers in govern­ment tol­er­ate the mis­ap­pro­pri­a­tion of pub­lic funds. We may justifiably call such lead­ers dis­ci­ples of cor­rup­tion and in­equal­ity.

We have slowly lost our sense of moral out­rage and shame – we should there­fore not be sur­prised when there is no con­dem­na­tion of glar­ing ex­am­ples of what is a de­par­ture from the val­ues that Man­dela had in mind when he ad­vo­cated the RDP of the soul.

Re­spect for the Con­sti­tu­tion, the Bill of Rights and the rule of law must be linked to the per­sonal val­ues that lead­ers are ex­pected to dis­play. The restora­tion of moral­ity as the ba­sis on which South Africans as­pire to live is part of the new strug­gle for a bet­ter, more equal so­ci­ety – it is in­ex­tri­ca­bly linked to the eco­nomic eman­ci­pa­tion of our peo­ple. We should be de­ploy­ing re­sources that are cur­rently be­ing stolen in in­sti­tu­tion­alised theft to fight poverty.

It is time to take moral re­gen­er­a­tion to the next level – fully recog­nis­ing that, for many of us, our own houses need to be put in or­der. For ex­am­ple, as a re­sult of a re­cent elec­tive assem­bly in the Angli­can Church, dis­ci­plinary steps are be­ing taken against a can­di­date who al­legedly fal­si­fied his qual­i­fi­ca­tions.

We need to do the fol­low­ing:

. The char­ter of pos­i­tive val­ues adopted by the Moral Re­gen­er­a­tion Cam­paign is per­haps a good start­ing point for re­flec­tion. Re­spect for hu­man dig­nity has been de­stroyed across all sec­tors of so­ci­ety, and these pos­i­tive val­ues can help us re­claim our ba­sic good­ness.

. All branches of the state need to recom­mit to moral and eth­i­cal val­ues. We must en­cour­age a cul­ture in which peo­ple take re­spon­si­bil­ity for the con­se­quences of their ac­tions. With­out this, no one will think it mat­ters if some­one pur­sues a right­eous life that is fo­cused less on self-preser­va­tion and more on ser­vant lead­er­ship fo­cused on the needs of our peo­ple.

. We need to re­vive the val­ues of ubuntu in pur­suance of the spi rit­ual re­con­struc­tion of all sec­tors of so­ci­ety and in the in­di­vid­ual lives of our cit­i­zens.

. We need to sup­port and strengthen the chap­ter 9 in­sti­tu­tions that seek to in­stil a sense of or­der in the stew­ard­ship of re­sources meant to com­bat un­em­ploy­ment, poverty and in­equal­ity.

. We need to teach moral­ity and ethics through­out our ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem, from pri­mary to ter­tiary level, and make it com­pul­sory in train­ing for pro­fes­sional ca­reers.

If we are se­ri­ous about restor­ing pri­vate and pub­lic moral­ity, we have to agree on the fun­da­men­tals of set­ting higher stan­dards for our lead­ers as a way of fo­cus­ing the minds of our peo­ple on achiev­ing the re­con­struc­tion and devel­op­ment of our so­ci­ety and of our souls.

Cyril Ramaphosa and Si­bongile Mani

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