All was forgiven and the people rejoiced. Democracy prevailed and life went back to “normal” for a while
Many wish that Nelson Mandela had served a second term as president but he may well have been onto something when he decided to quit while he was ahead.
For one thing, he is still the only elected leader of a new South Africa who hasn’t left office under a cloud of controversy, criticism and amidst public demand that he get the boot.
Mbeki tried to put his best foot forward, lodging it right in his mouth, to hand the lead role to his understudy while subsequent auditions saw a new cast take centre stage.
Unfortunately, the revitalised ensemble presented their interpretation of the same story to us, the voters, an audience desperate for a new twist in an ancient and tragic tale.
As should have been expected, our optimism was unfounded and said twist never came.
Instead, we repeated past errors and will continue to do so, just like crazy people.
Last week, our current president stated that we have lost nine years but we’ve squandered far more than that. We can probably wave goodbye to even more in the foreseeable future.
You see, it’s easy, even expected, for CR to be critical of JZ if he wants to rally the masses behind him in the build-up to the elections.
Allow me to explain through a story:
On the morning of his inauguration, the president elect asked his predecessor if he had any advice on how to handle the challenging position.
“There are two envelopes in the top drawer of your desk,” replied the ageing statesman. “When you inevitably find yourself in a bad situation and believe you are in over your head, open the first and read the letter inside.”
It wasn’t long before things began to fall apart as, a few months later, supporters turned savage. While the public’s concerns and questions were legitimate, the people wanted simple but inconvenient answers that could not be given.
In an act of sheer desperation, the relatively new president reached into his desk drawer, pulled out an envelope and opened it. Inside was a handwritten note from his predecessor who, by this stage, was enjoying his golden years at the family homestead with his wives and kids.
“Blame everything on me,” read the note from the former president.
Without wasting any time, the new number one did just that and it worked like a charm.
The masses seemed to recall how bad things once were and why they had demanded change.
All was forgiven and the people rejoiced. Democracy prevailed and life went back to “normal” for a while.
Then, a few months later, things began to fall apart again.
More legitimate questions demanded similar, simple but inconvenient answers that could still not be given and the not-so-new president was running out of options.
This time he was more confident. He still had a secret weapon, another unopened envelope, just like the one that had reaffirmed his belief that the pen truly was mightier than the sword.
However, his optimism lasted until he sat down at his desk, opened the drawer, took out the second envelope and looked inside.
“Write two letters,” read the second handwritten letter.
I don’t know if JZ left CR any notes, nor do I know if CR will pen any words of wisdom when he retreats to his homestead one day.
Make no mistake, this type of blame game is sure to remain in every campaign.
It’s nothing new and nothing personal. In fact, it’s normal. It’s just politics.