I should start off by being very honest with you, Mr President.
I believe that honesty is a sign of respect. A leader who wants respect and wants to be better demands the truth, even when it's unpleasant. He does not ask for it to be sugar-coated or hidden from his sight. Even though, as human beings, there are few things terrify us more than the truth. Lies can be so much more … palatable. But, Mr President, I will not lie: I have not always been a fan. Nor have I become one now. It is unlikely that I ever will be. Not for lack of trying on my part – it has always been my hope that you would win me over eventually. I have always wanted you to do well as president.
Above all, I've wanted you to surprise us and do better than we thought you could. I have even scolded those who were hoping you would ruin the country (which of course you haven't). I have said that it is our duty as South Africans to want you to succeed, for if you succeed, so do we all. If you fail, we fail. It is only the foolish who would wish for that. To be fair, I wasn't a fan of your predecessor when he started, either. I remember, as a young fellow, writing a scathing letter to this publication about Mr Mbeki and his attitude towards Aids. But he gradually won me over during his first term.
We must have the courage to disagree when we do not agree. Courage to face fears – hopefully misplaced – that we could become marked men when we do not agree. It also requires courage to take being disagreed with on the chin.
I expect that you would not agree with the view that you ought to step down.
You see, Mr President, South Africans are not cynical because they want to be. Nobody wakes up, stretches and asks themselves what they should be cynical and be negative about today. They become that way because they have been driven to feeling like that. People want to believe in their leaders. It is an inherent need. That is why we become so bitter when a leader does not lead us to believe in him.
"A leader is a dealer in hope." These are the words of Napoleon.
We do not have a dealer in hope in you, Mr President, nor have you given us a vision to hope for. Our hope in you is dead. You have not ignited our imagination. You have not made us believe in a better South Africa. Yes, the media's focus on your personal life has been far too extreme. But there has been far too much to focus on. Sometimes the attention has been so extreme that you have seemed more like a celebrity instead of a president. And I say that with the utmost respect.
Of course there are some of those who will whisper in your ear and tell you not to listen to the so-called "liberal offensive" or "Polokwane grievers" – Mr President, be wary of those who tell you who your enemies should be. They are in it for themselves. Not for you. They are in it for self-preservation. You are merely a means to an end.
I know that you will say that it is up to the branches and members of the African National Congress to say whether you should or not – but please, Mr President, for the sake of the ANC itself, do not run for a second term.
Now, it's true that under your leadership the ANC's membership has increased to over one million. But what does that really mean? The ANC has managed to lose votes in every province in both elections but KwaZulu-Natal since you took over. So Mr President, have you served the ANC well? Has the ANC served you better than you have served it?
You should ask yourself whether you want to run for the sake of the ANC or for yourself. If you want to run for your sake and not of the ANC, maybe, just maybe you should reconsider hanging up your boots.
It is one thing for you to believe that you are leading us right. It is another for us to believe you are. Sometimes I do an air punch when you do something that surprises and impresses. I rejoice in it! But those moments are so few and far between that I have thrown my hands in the air in despair. I have given up on you. Mr President, do the right thing for the ANC. Even if it may be the wrong thing for you as a person. Give up power.