Sunday Tribune

Choosing cronyism above country betrays the dream

- Lucas Ntyintyane

ILOST R500, thanks to Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa. I made a corruption bet with a colleague. I told him the Airbus debacle would be the last embarrassi­ng moment for the Zuma administra­tion. I was so wrong.

Mthethwa had another idea. It is called the Hilton Hotel. Damn it. Mthethwa’s nights of fun left me broke and ashamed.

Mind you, many people go to bed on empty stomachs. Some police stations have no patrol cars. In rural areas, children are learning under trees.

Where are we going, Mr President? Decadence and mediocrity are two words that sum up the state of the nation today.

Cynicism and corruption abound. Our leaders are in a state of nirvana, while the masses scramble for leftovers.

There’s no biting recession for ministers, as illustrate­d by their profligate spending.

The citizenry is fed up. Voices of discontent are growing. The restlessne­ss is being fuelled by disappoint­ment and despondenc­y.

Hope is evaporatin­g fast. Anger is palpable as we witness the betrayal of a dream. We have freedom, but no joy. We have the country, but no leaders.

The change that we were promised is nowhere to be found (except for the elite).

A better life is a euphemism for lies. Only the new rulers of Luthuli House and the Union Buildings taste the milk and honey from the Promised Land.

Their world is devoid of the reality of poverty. It’s truly a country of two nations, one privileged and the other poor.

As the former New York mayor Mario Cuomo once said to then-president Ronald Reagan: “A shining light is perhaps all the president sees from the portico of the White House and the veranda of his ranch, where everyone seems to be doing well. But there’s another city… where some people can’t pay their mortgages.”

Diepsloot in Gauteng and Sakhile in Standerton epitomise that neglected city. Greed and cronyism are cancers eroding the souls of poor communitie­s.

Ruling party apparatchi­ks started the rot. Despite causing the damage, their jobs are bulletproo­f. The slackers are still running the show.

State enterprise­s are no longer models of excellence. They are extensions of the party. Poor performanc­e is rewarded with a pay increase.

Take Eskom, for example. After a year of power outages and posting a record loss of R9.5 billion, the chief executive officer was rewarded with a 26.7 percent salary increase.

The suffering public is expected to be “understand­ing” of tariff increases of 45 percent a year. It is time for Zuma to stop the slide. A failure to act will render his words hollow. Soon, no one will take him seriously.

Interestin­gly, the president has a habit of contradict­ing himself. Fickleness is his disease.

In the run-up to the general elections, he pledged to introduce a clean government characteri­sed by integrity and honesty.

Alas, a few months later he appoints controvers­ial figures in key portfolios. It was a huge blunder to choose Moe Shaik.

He is carrying too much political baggage. Moe may be a good operative, but he is not the right person to unite the polarised intelligen­ce sector.

Our president could learn from Abraham Lincoln, who appointed his rivals to key positions: New York Senator William H Seward as secretary of state, Ohio Governor Salmon P Chase to the treasury and Missouri statesman Edward Bates as attorney-general.

In failing to choose the country over cronyism, Zuma missed an excellent opportunit­y to silence his detractors. The appointmen­t of Shaik is a betrayal of that dream.

Controvers­y seems to follow Zuma’s team. They are their own worst enemies.

The daggers are out. We have front row seats to another round of the ruling party’s Machiavell­ian politics.

No one gives a damn about the electorate’s interests and needs. The public is treated like an appendix, an irritation to be ignored.

I ask again: Where are we going? From where I am sitting, the view is cloudy and crowded; the prognosis is not good.

South Africa has a choice – it can be another African disaster or a land of miracles.

In Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew was able to turn a Third World country into a First World nation.

The foundation of a great country is education and selfless leadership. Strong leadership is the missing element.

We are like a rudderless ship sailing towards an iceberg. Zuma must provide the much-needed but hitherto absent leadership.

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