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Take the window of opportunity, Mr President

Haji Mohamed Dawjee

It's time President Jacob Zuma takes responsibility for his actions - or inaction as it were - and asks for forgiveness from South Africans.

President Jacob Zuma says he did not make use of state money to pay for his Nkandla home. (Gallo)

English poet Alexander Pope once wrote: "To err is human, to forgive, divine." In South Africa though, and as South Africans, forgiveness has become somewhat of a mundane pastime. We do it without even thinking. I'm not even sure that it is forgiveness anymore. Perhaps it's just forgetting until the next "err" pops up. Or maybe it's far worse. Perhaps we have become so accustomed to the flawed "human-ness" of our government as citizens that we are just immune to it, so we even forget to forget. And so we find ourselves stuck in a reactionary rut.

Forgiveness is not so much "divine", to use Pope's words, but just unnecessary. Because if we had to forgive things such as the lack of accountability or passing the buck just one more time, we ourselves would lose our "human-ness" and just be idiots, like in the case of the (literally) massive Nkandla debacle and its recent developments.

Perhaps you have heard about the recent statements made by President Jacob Zuma at a rally in Gugulethu? Let me refresh your memory and then you can all take to Twitter with conviction and haste.

Here is a selection of quotes as published first by a New Age article that reported on the story:

"I did not use tax payers' money" – Zuma

"They put in windows that I don't even want. Then they turn around and say this fellow used the government's money." – Zuma

"They searched and investigated and finished but they did not find anything." – Zuma

No sir. In fact "they" did find something. The public protector (let me introduce you to Thuli Madonsela), somewhere in a 400-page report that reflected statements of a compound whose windows you knew nothing about, found something.

Let's recap the findings you seem to have forgotten. The report did not find that you didn't know about a few windows, but that you were responsible for the payment of a pool made to extinguish fires, which is a lie for a pool that's just a swimming pool. It also found that you should be responsible for the payment of other tiny things, such as the chicken run, cattle kraal, visitors' centre and amphitheatre. 

But most of all, Madonsela, in a document big enough to use as a door stop at Nkandla, managed to find something bigger. She found the opportunity for you to step forward, amend your actions and do the right thing – be accountable. She found that.

And with all this talk of windows, she definitely found no reason to show you the door. Although it seems that your continued insistence on proving to an entire nation that you are unworthy of forgiveness and second chances is slowly ushering you towards one anyway. No one is saying you're lying about the windows, but let's be honest, it's going to look pretty bad when that's what you've said but all the while you're sitting on some gifted ottoman, eating cake, and only getting up to play with your wide variety of venetian blinds or whatever.

Now, as appealing as that sounds, it surely is not as amicable as at least motioning to do right by the South African public, who I can't promise will even try to forgive you. But at least you might be able to sleep better at night. After all, Pope also wrote: "No one should be ashamed to admit they are wrong, which is but saying, in other words, that they are wiser too than they were yesterday."

Go for it. In your upcoming parliamentary response to the report, take the leap.


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