“To have unembeza” is such a powerful isiZulu expression for “having a conscience”. My grandmother would be speaking in her mother tongue Setswana but would switch to the isiZulu word to make a point about the importance of having a conscience. I can hear her empathetic but firm voice cautioning: “Once your unembeza dies, you will become unteachable and unhealable.”
Looking at ANC comrades who should never have aspired to public service, I know exactly what my late granny meant. The rot and malfeasance oozes from every pore of their skin, but they hold on to public office and the power that comes with it.
The list of rogues is too long for this space but together they are an assortment of characters who, despite high salaries, don’t pay for their children’s school fees or holidays; like to throw parties but don’t pay for their booze and braai packs.
They don’t even pay for security upgrades at their own homes. They have benefactors who fund their life of luxury yet never hesitate to appropriate the struggles of the poor with slogans that begin with “Our people”. Some of these rogues are facing serious charges of corruption, bribery and fraud. They are loud, belligerent and are refusing to step down.
How many times have we heard that the ANC must be left alone to “self-correct”? A party that has failed to put a mirror to its face and has weakened public institutions cannot simply press the undo button. What a joke! We have heard numerous party officials and ministers shove their power down our throats and remind us that their party is more important than the country.
It is not surprising then that many of its compromised leaders believe that they need only show might and approval from their rowdy branches, to stay in office. Acting on principle and in the interests of the nation is a fool’s pastime, they believe.
This week we report on a possible, and much-awaited cabinet reshuffle by President Cyril Ramaphosa. We wonder whether it is designed to improve service delivery or if, like his paranoid predecessor, he is intent on securing his political survival. Our socioeconomic problems are so overwhelming that you’d think the ruling party is clear about what its priorities ought to be. But does this party see what we citizens see?
We see a party that has become arrogant and detached. We see a party that for many years has been delusional about its identity. It truly believes that the “good faction”of the ANC will prevail. How? When the party itself has benefited from corrupt tenders? How? When some of its most prominent leaders have received “gifts” or “loans” from dodgy characters and institutions?
The ANC of the past is gone. Its virtues and legacy sold to all sorts of bidders — low and high. Stepping aside may be a welcome and necessary act but it is too little too late. It cannot rebuild its moral unembeza.