The high-profile arrests won SA’s heart. Don’t break it all over ...

Ideas

The high-profile arrests won SA’s heart. Don’t break it all over again

Our people have waited 12 years for this, and they are delighted. Therein lies a crucial lesson for our leaders

Columnist
The seven implicated in the Free State asbestos case in the Free State High Court.
Finally The seven implicated in the Free State asbestos case in the Free State High Court.
Image: Thapelo Morebudi

Do the right thing, and South Africans will love you. It is just who we are. We are generous with our praise. We are moved by people who do good for others. We don’t care what your politics are, or what your race is, so long as you are doing something positive for SA.

When Julius Malema was standing up against Jacob Zuma’s corruption and outsourcing of the country to the Gupta family, when he stood up in parliament and demanded that Zuma “pay back the money” that was wasted on building the man a mythical “fire pool” at his shoddy, tasteless palace in Nkandla, the country applauded. This was about holding those in power accountable, and the goodwill directed towards Malema and his fellow EFF parliamentarians was because virtually every right-thinking South African could see the truth.

Malema rose to the occasion, unlike the many ANC politicians – including those in power today – who chose to smile and sing along to Zuma’s Umshini Wami.

South Africans love people who do the right thing. The intelligentsia sometimes sneers at us, but we love a bit of ubuntu and a bit of honesty and we absolutely embraced Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu’s Rainbow Nation. Black South Africans embraced Francois Pienaar like a brother when he led the Springboks to victory on a Rainbow Nation theme that united the country rather than divided it. White South Africans are beaming across the globe as they lead other nationalities to a unique SA song, Master KG’s Jerusalema. In SA, Master KG is a hero, one of our greatest ambassadors.

When advocate Thuli Madonsela was holding Zuma and many other politicians to account, without fear, we loved her, we praised her, we glorified her. When the cars of the disbanded Scorpions unit drove through townships in the 2000s, young girls and boys would ululate. We love a good SA story. We revel in Caster Semenya’s success and we are absolutely delighted with Trevor Noah’s taking of New York and the US.

Do the right thing, and South Africans will show you love, generosity and will open the doors to success for you.

There is no point in politicians complaining about lack of patriotism while they steal and do nothing.

Last week was a prime example of how this country loves a good story. The high-profile arrests of politicians, businesspeople and civil servants implicated in corruption from the Free State asbestos case to Bosasa bribery led to a deluge of goodwill for the Hawks, the National Prosecuting Authority and for President Cyril Ramaphosa’s promise of a clean-up of the country. Pictures and clips of Shamila Batohi and other leaders of these institutions were shared widely. Friday was a good day, said many on social media as former benefactors of the corrupt political class in SA appeared in courts across the country.

This is what South Africans have been begging for these past 12 years. Since 2008, when former president Jacob Zuma and his cronies disbanded the Scorpions, fired upstanding civil servants in the NPA and other entities, menaced judges and cowed the voices of conscience in the state and in their own political party, there has been a hunger for some good news in the fight against corruption.

As the likes of Brian Molefe and others sneered at the nation for demanding accountability from them, ordinary citizens wondered whether justice would ever be served on the many crooked politicians and their private-sector co-conspirators. At ANC shindigs such as the January 8 Statement celebrations, these “businesspeople” would throw parties and flaunt their wealth without any care that it was well known that it was acquired through corruption.

Now the chickens are coming home to roost. And the people of SA are absolutely delighted.

For the first time in a very long time, there is a sense of movement on the fight against corruption. As the arrests progressed last week, the question was: when will the big guns, such as the much-accused Ace Magashule, have their day in court? We will see.

The key thing for our leaders is that they must learn from the happiness of the populace at these arrests. Do the right thing, people are saying, and we will applaud you and support you. There is no point in politicians complaining about lack of patriotism while they steal and do nothing. If they perform then our people will absolutely love them.

If there is no continuation of what we saw last week then the mood will remain as negative as it has been. The lesson needs to be applied across the board: give ordinary people certainty that you are serious about building factories, then they will support you with their labour to the point of making sacrifices. Show investors you are serious about reforms, and they will bring their money.

This resonates across the board. Do the right thing, and our people shall follow and applaud. As they are doing now with these arrests.