THE BLOG
10/02/2018 07:15 SAST | Updated 10/02/2018 07:16 SAST

Dear Mr President: The Time Has Come For You To Exit

Mr President, you have failed ordinary South Africans, and that is what you did wrong.

THEUNS KRUGER/GRAPHICS24

Dear President Zuma

You are the fourth president of our hard-fought-for and beloved democratic South Africa.

You have come a long way from roaming the hills of KwaZulu-Natal as a youngster; despite your humble beginnings, you managed to make it to the top of the heap in South Africa. This is a commendable achievement and something you can certainly be proud of, for you have gone from herding cattle to hobnobbing with the who's who of the world.

There is no doubt that such achievements and the power that one has because of it, can lead to an overwhelming sense of entitlement and the belief that one can do whatever one wants to with impunity.

Mr President, from where I stand, it looks as if you have always been able to do as you please without others challenging you or calling you to task. In the few instances in which you were called to account for your actions, you were often given a pass.

This is understandable, as humankind tends to give more leeway to those people who are charming and likeable and you, sir, are certainly that. You can hold a tune and thus lead people in song, you have dance moves that captivate an audience, you have an affable smile and a "suck-your-lips, rub-your-face" routine that makes you come across as vulnerable and engenders sympathy. Thus it is not surprising that you have always been surrounded by sycophantic people willing to please you in every way.

Siphiwe Sibeko / Reuters
President of South Africa Jacob Zuma gestures as he sings to his supporters at the 54th National Conference of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) at the Nasrec Expo Centre in Johannesburg, South Africa December 16, 2017. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

It is therefore conceivable that you are truly dumbfounded with what is happening at the moment. Your comrades have joined the people of South Africa in asking you to leave the presidency and exit, stage left, as soon as possible – but you cannot understand why.

In fact, according to reports, you have asked what you have done wrong. Clearly, from your vantage point, you have been a diligent steward, arriving at places your day-planner has scheduled you to be (even if it was a few hours late), you are loyal to your friends and nice to everyone you encounter.

Mr President, I am sure that as you see it, you did everything right, for under your watch South Africa took on the challenge of the HIV/Aids epidemic. South Africa hosted a stellar Soccer World Cup that made all South Africans proud, more households now have water, electricity and sanitation, and more households can count on the government for their subsistence.

South Africa is also one of the colocations in Africa and Australia for the international effort to build the world's largest radio telescope, known as the Square Kilometre Array. So despite the general sense of nothing good happening during your presidency, you are pretty sure that you did things well.

However, Mr President, allow me to remind you of how miserable things have been while you were at the helm, and the reason why South Africans near and far are calling for your departure.

You see, sir, under your guidance very little investment was made in our country's infrastructure, resulting in the South African Institution of Civil Engineering (SAICE) giving South Africa's infrastructure an overall grade of D+, which means "at risk of failure" – E being "unfit for purpose" – in its 2017 report card. This means our water supply and waste disposal in rural areas, and our provincial, metropolitan and municipal gravel roads and bridges are in a dismal condition.

Your Cabinet musical chairs have made our struggling economy even more vulnerable.

At the beginning of the 2018 school year, there were more than 40,000 South African scholars without a desk in a school. In Gauteng, this was the third year in a row that parents and students were left stranded on the first day of a new school year. The undignified use of pit toilets at schools is still a reality almost 24 years into our democracy, in which your organisation promised a better life for all.

Mr President, as you are well aware, poverty and unemployment in South Africa have been on the rise under your presidency, which means that there were many more children going to bed hungry. Violent crime, and specifically violent attacks against women and children, have reached outrageous proportions.

Mr President, our country's policing, service delivery, revenue services and state-owned enterprises are all run by or overseen by people you have deemed competent and have appointed to serve at your prerogative; yet essential services and enterprises crucial to our country continue to fail the South African people every day, and no amount of Cabinet reshuffling could improve anything.

In fact, your Cabinet musical chairs have made our struggling economy even more vulnerable. Let's face it, sir, many of the people you have chosen to serve our country seem to have been chosen for their narcissistic tendencies, rather than their competence and talent.

Our public healthcare system is on the brink of collapse, Mr President, which is a crying shame – especially with the majority of South Africans dependent on the government for efficient and effective medical services. Any diagnosis of a medical condition is scary and unsettling, but the fear, anguish and desperation after a cancer diagnosis is raw and all-consuming.

However, a diagnosis of cancer is often accompanied by hope and promise, thanks to medical research and technological advancement. Yet for patients who are dependent on the public health system in KwaZulu-Natal, your home province, Mr President, any cancer diagnosis is (until the oncologists arrive from Cuba and India) a death sentence, no matter how good the prognosis is of them beating that beast.

Siphiwe Sibeko / Reuters
President of South Africa Jacob Zuma attends the 54th National Conference of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) at the Nasrec Expo Centre in Johannesburg, South Africa December 17, 2017. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

With you as our president, the Life Esidimeni tragedy happened, and South Africa has seen the largest outbreak of listeriosis to date.

I could list a whole range of events that have left South Africans worse off since you have been the captain of this ship. However, you probably know the list by heart and roll your eyes at the mere mention of Nkandla, Gupta or state capture. You, sir, refuse to see that you did anything wrong.

In truth, you certainly did everything right for those you care about, as your family and friends experienced unbridled prosperity and success under your watch. The only problem with that, is that as the president of our country, you should have ensured that every decision you made during your tenure resulted in a more prosperous and successful South Africa for all its people, especially the least of these.

Every day you should have got up ready to make decisions that will make a difference in the life of another little boy herding cattle, for had this been your focus, your government would have built the houses, schools, roads and dams that all South Africans need. You would have trained teachers, nurses and technicians, as well as effective and incorruptible police officers to keep South Africans safe.

Mr President, you have failed at your job because your focus was not on making South Africa a country where strong and sustainable employment is plentiful so that all its people can know the dignity of work and earning a living wage, not just an elite few.

Instead of moving forward and bringing the masses out of poverty, the country moved sideways and in many respects backwards.

Mr President, you have failed ordinary South Africans, and that is what you did wrong.

President Zuma, while you skippered South Africa, you did no better than those who led apartheid South Africa, in which only a few benefited. Your actions and your decisions also resulted in only benefitting very few, with one difference: your group is more diverse than it was under the National Party.

Mr President, you have failed ordinary South Africans, and that is what you did wrong. True leaders take responsibility for all the failures and disasters that happen under their watch. The time has come for you, President Zuma, to man up and take responsibility for the dismal state of our nation, to do the honourable thing and exit the South African political stage.

Maybe you should ponder the words of another president who is almost as unloved by the majority of his people as you are by the majority of yours: "Part of being a winner is knowing when enough is enough. Sometimes you have to give up the fight and walk away, and move on to something that's more productive." – Donald Trump

Yours sincerely,

Just an ordinary South African.