When President Jacob Zuma married yet another wife, there was an outcry about his morality. Yet there was nothing wrong with him having another wife as our Constitution so determines. If we are to use the Bible as the standard bearer of morality as well, the Bible, both the new and the old Testaments do not forbid a man from having more than one wife. In fact, there is only one instant where it is forbidden. An elder of a church must be husband of but one wife, says the good book. Zuma does not lead a church, except for the so-called Broad Church of the ANC.
Just recently, we had The Spear painting which is the only thing we spoke about for a solid three weeks. The race card also came into play and the defenders of all that is black came out and shouted racism. Before that it was the case of the president fathering a child out of wedlock while he already had several wives and engaged to another. Now we are faced with the Nkandla scandal. There are some who say that the president is facing so much scrutiny and disrespect simply because he is black. This is an incorrect, divisive idea. He is simply being questioned because hardly a year goes by without the president having to deal with a personal scandal. I am loathe to say this of an older African man, but the president has treated himself with less dignity than he should have. It pains me to admit it to myself, even more so in writing.
There is a conflict that I go through as someone who masquerades as a writer, and a black one at that. (I want to state from the outset that I do not speak on behalf of black people, I am merely putting out observations here, and some may and may not agree with them.)
When I criticise the ruling party or the president I go through internal turmoil because I don't want to because I feel like I am criticising my own. My rational mind tells me not to, yet my moral judgment tells me otherwise. I feel compelled to write the truth as I see it. When it comes to opinion, what is true and isn't, it is debatable of course. We are called on to respond to our moral convictions, whether they be right or wrong. My president is black, and I am not proud of him. Do you have any idea how painful it is to say that?
There is a burden that others may not know that black people go through. When someone has done something shameful, we hope they are not black. When and if we find out that the person is not black, we sigh a sigh of relief. As crazy as this sounds, when I found out that the killer of Lolly Jackson was a white man, I was relieved. When a black person is in a high profile position, they do not just represent themselves; they carry the weight and expectations of the black race. In many ways this is unfair but it is true. Being black is not just for yourself.
This has a lot to do with the historical injustices that the black nation has undergone through history. We have been thought of as incapable, less than and incapable of attaining even half of what a white person can. So when a black person achieves, they carry the weight of blackness not to f**king it up.
It is precisely for this reason that when something bad happens we divide ourselves into two camps; one camp rallies that round and shields the accused because admitting that they have been somehow incompetent, corrupt or have been involved in wrongdoing merely serves to prove the historical prejudices of those who want to see a black person fail. The other camp says that we cannot allow the person to get away with it and prove the same historical prejudice.
Some may deny this, and some may say they only work for and represent themselves. A collective shame blankets black people when some idiotic act happens. It is precisely the reason so many of us wanted Obama to win a second term. He represented black excellence. It is impossible to explain what his second victory meant to black people all over the world. And yes Mr Commentor, I know you will mention he is half-white, but he identifies himself as black. Deal with it.
It pains me to admit to myself that my president does not represent the best of blackness. I know he has children who love him and whom he loves. There must be nothing worse and more painful for them than seeing and reading things about their father by people who do not know him personally. Yet we have to be responsible to our conscience because we are answerable to it.
There is a notion that has been put forward by a number of people around Zuma, that he is being persecuted because he is black. This is not true. It is because we are so bitterly disappointed. Blade Nzimande attempted to popularise this idea during Speargate, and now Nkandlagate, when he suggested a law, which forced people to respect the president.
Nelson Mandela was insulted on the regular, death threats and all. Yet he is the same man who said, "Those who conduct themselves with morality, integrity and consistency need not fear the forces of inhumanity and cruelty." He did not demand laws to protect him from insults, nor did he shout in Parliament to say, "You must respect me" because he conducted himself with integrity and consistency.
Everybody wants to look up to their president. No one put it better than Machiavelli when he wrote: "A return to first principles in a republic is sometimes caused by the simple virtues of one man. His good example has such an influence that the good men strive to imitate him, and the wicked are ashamed to lead a life so contrary to his example." Unfortunately the president hasn't been and isn't a good example.
Nzimande's blatant attempt to use the race card to defend the president was crass when he said: "There is a danger here … some people have crossed the line. You know of that Spear drawing? I found that the most offensive thing. And also it's an insult to black people. It's like we don't have a culture. I'm Jewish you know, I'm Afrikaans, but if you're black African you are not supposed to have a culture, and that's a problem." The problem with this is that he trivialised a lot of real issues that black people face – the idea that if a black person becomes wealthy it is because of corrupt practices or because they are unfairly favoured at the work place because they are black.
Nzimande wasn't speaking for black people, he is just using the black card for political purposes. He was speaking for power. He likes to speak about the "Liberal Offensive" against the black government. It is true that there is a bias against the ruling party when it comes to reporting. Something I find unfair at times. He reminds me a little of what Steve Biko termed "self-appointed trustees of black interest". Of course, he wrote that in a different context, writing about white liberals. In this case, it is true of Nzimande. Biko said: "With their characteristic arrogance of assuming a 'monopoly on intelligence and moral judgment', these self-appointed trustees of black interests have gone on to set the pattern and pace for the realisation of the black man's aspirations."
The idea that when a black person disagrees with the ANC or ideas set out by him has somehow been blinded by the liberal offensive is an insult to any thinking human being. Black people are not a homogenous group. Nzimande is a great thinker, he should not demean his intelligence the way he has over the past few years in an attempt to ensure that he stays close to power. Sycophancy is not a good look. I wish Nzimande could go back to applying his mind to greater things like he used to instead of wasting his mind on these trivialities.
I know some will ask why am I going on about blackness. We all want a united South Africa for a united country will prosper. Truth is we still need to build ourselves as black people. Almost 400 years of damage can't be fixed in 18 years.
There is no agenda against the president because he is black. No. Not at all. It's because there are too many unanswered questions. Just make us proud – black and proud.