/ 20 July 2023

Make SA great again: I care enough to keep you accountable Mr President

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President Cyril Ramaphosa at the fifth edition of the South African Investment Conference. Photo: Supplied

Dear Mr President

This is a true story. A few years ago, there was a teenage girl who did everything that one should not expect from a decent girl. She was failing all her subjects at school, bunking classes, abusing alcohol, smoking weed, doing hard drugs, sleeping around with anyone, often not even coming home at night … In short, she was a disaster happening in real-time. 

When she ended up as a wreck at the office of the school counsellor, and was asked why her mother does not discipline her when she does all these things, her response was profound: “My mother does not love me enough to keep me accountable for what I am doing.”

Mr President, I care about you — and love our country that you lead — enough to keep you accountable for what is happening. For many years I wrote about the essence that each of us takes up our own moral accountability and responsibilities with dedication, commitment and diligence in order to eradicate the moral decay in our country and to regenerate moral values in our beloved country. 

It goes without saying, this commitment of every individual to play his or her part to build moral values remains a critical necessity. 

However, just taking on our individual responsibilities as citizens cannot be where it stops, we need our top leaders to step up to set the moral tone of what to do and what is expected. It is for this reason that I am writing this note to proclaim that I am keeping you accountable for allowing the moral decay in South Africa to happen and for not doing anything substantial or setting a moral example to regenerate morality and moral behaviours. 

There are so many missed opportunities to set a moral example to the country and the leaders of the country.

I am keeping you accountable for not doing anything material about the gangsterism that is killing many innocent people and turning many communities into places where only the criminals can work around freely. 

I am keeping you accountable for accepting the state capture recommendations from Chief Justice Raymond Zondo with public fanfare, but more than a year later, not doing anything about the recommendations that came forth from the Zondo commission. Indeed, it appears that those accused through the commission’s report are being rewarded in both subtle and obvious ways. 

I am keeping you accountable for not doing anything about the crime situation, for not doing anything after the KwaZulu-Natal riots of 2021, for allowing this vandalism to continue even this week with the torching of the trucks on the N3 highway. 

I am keeping you accountable for allowing crime and corruption to escalate to the level that South Africa has been grey-listed because of money laundering deficiencies already in 2021, and not doing something to reverse this. 

I am keeping you accountable for destroying South Africa’s image in the eyes of investors as a safe haven for honest organisations and investors. 

I am keeping you accountable for sometimes expressing your shock about what is happening, yet not doing anything material about it. 

I am keeping you accountable for not appointing the people in your team who can, and want to, do something about these issues. 

I keep you accountable for not doing anything with the wonderful Bill of Responsibilities that was developed by your own government, and which would go a long way to reinstall a sense of morality and ethics in our country. Indeed, I wonder if you even know about this document. 

I am keeping you accountable for … the list goes on and on, there is just no end. Unfortunately, your track record of doing something to build our country and to be a bastion of honesty and integrity, both in word and action, over the past five years does not make good reading material.

Mr President, I do not have the authority to do anything about all these aspects that I am keeping you accountable for. You are the person with the authority to do something. Nevertheless, it is important to let you know that I still keep you accountable for all these things because I care enough about you and our country to not ignore it. 

Although it is often difficult, I have not given up on you. I know the road ahead is not simple and that there are no simplistic answers to these complex problems. 

Mr President, just start doing something about what is happening in our country. Stop talking, stop being “shocked”, nobody believes you anymore as you do not act on any of those claims. 

Do something with the Bill of Responsibilities to revive a sense of responsibility in our nation by taking up your responsibilities as president. As a nation suffering under crime, fraud and corruption, we need the hope that you can set through being a moral example.

Dear Mr President, as mere citizens, we will keep being committed to demonstrating a dedication to living and working ethically. But I keep you accountable to do the right thing, to do what you were appointed for, and to adhere to the oath that you took when you were sworn in.

I keep you accountable to be the person and leader you can be and ought to be. You can do it — you have shown it many years ago. 

I keep you accountable for helping the many honest people and people with integrity to build our country, to revive a sense of morality, to make South Africa great again. 

The people have put you in power, I keep you accountable not to forsake your people, but to be the best version of yourself that you can be, for all the wonderful people of South Africa. 

Mias de Klerk is the director of the Centre for Responsible Leadership Studies and professor in leadership and organisational behaviour at Stellenbosch Business School.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Mail & Guardian.