Tshego Motaung considers God’s possible purpose in allowing President Jacob Zuma to survive yet another no-confidence debate.
As the month of August draws to a close, one cannot help but reflect on the recent no confidence debate that took place in parliament earlier in the month.
This debate stirred the nation and there was a possibility of a new president after the speaker of parliament announced that the vote would take place by secret ballot.
We have seen our president escape many arrows that were shot at him, but a fresh possibility existed that this might be the arrow that would take him down.
There were many Christians who were praying and believing that God said he would fall. Many others gathered in Cape Town waiting to usher in a new president but unfortunately they went home disappointed.
Like many others, I pondered on this matter and at the end wondered what the lesson could be in all of this.
Israel’s liberation posed a threat to Egypt
The story of Exodus came to mind and I tried to connect our current situation to it. The time for the liberation of the children of Israel who had served Egypt as cheap labour and had built their economy had come.
But this posed a serious threat to Egypt — the economy would collapse because it was sustained by having unrestricted access to cheap labour.
At the beginning of God’s confrontation of the Egyptian powers, the Egyptians were not moved but rather challenged Moses by also turning their staffs into snakes.
They tried to undermine the first few plagues until they couldn’t take any more and acknowledged that it was the finger of God.
With each plague that hit Egypt their economy was shaken. The marine industry was destroyed. One can imagine the devastation that this was and the loss of income it caused.
This was a massive blow that ought to have caused people to engage in serious conversation about releasing the slaves, but they all forgot about it as soon as the situation returned to normal.
The economy continued to be hit with each plague — crops were destroyed, livestock and people fell sick, and the source of solar power was switched off for three days, until ultimately each family lost their firstborn sons, significantly reducing the population.
As if all these losses were not enough, the entire national defence force was wiped out when Pharaoh tried to recapture the slaves.
The Bible tells us God had hardened Pharaoh’s heart.
For a long time, I wondered why a loving and merciful God would allow the heart of the king to be so hardened while people suffered.
I think Pharaoh’s heart gave way for God to also reach the hearts of the people in Egypt. Otherwise they may not have considered the matter of injustice in their land, because they were born into a system that was designed to oppress others.
God was challenging the very structures and systems that governed Egypt, and bringing attention to the foundations of injustice and inequality in their nation.
The Bible tells us that God wanted to make his name famous. Perhaps Egypt was so full of men and women of great accomplishments who did not attribute their success to God, nor acknowledge that He existed, but rather saw themselves as gods as they were idolised.
Exposing the structural flaws in South Africa
I believe this is where we find ourselves today as South Africa and that God is using our president to expose the structures that are flawed in our country, and the arrogance in our hearts to believe that we can be successful without Him.
One of the things that the motion of no confidence exposed was the weakness in our electoral system. We currently have a party-based electoral system which gives the power to elect the president to the majority party in parliament.
This was meant to be a transitional model but it has not been re-examined because it was never a problem. The current problems with our president have exposed this loophole and we need to examine how we can increase accountability in parliament — perhaps by ensuring some seats are directly elected and not from a political party list.
The other issue, which I believe needs to be addressed urgently is that of economic justice. God made sure the slaves didn’t leave Egypt empty-handed –they were compensated for the years of slavery. They had enough supplies to build a tabernacle in the desert.
It didn’t end there. God further ensured the issue of perpetual enslavement was guarded against by putting into law a command that debts should be cancelled every seven years and land be restored every jubilee (Deuteronomy 15:1-6; Leviticus 25:1-22).
His intention was to ensure that no person should become enslaved forever and that there would be no poor in the land.
This gave every family an opportunity to start afresh in every generation. But we are seeing cycles of poverty in our nation and many have resigned themselves to believing this is how it should be.
Most of our political leaders left home and families to fight in the liberation struggle, and many things went wrong. Families were broken, children grew up without their parents and this has caused pain that many of the leaders carry to this day.
From that place of brokenness and pain they were charged with stewardship of a rich country and they were required to protect the private property interests of those who oppressed them, and watch them as they enjoyed their wealth.
While I am not condoning corruption in any form, I think we must acknowledge that this is not right. It is unfair to expect that the years spent being oppressed should just be written off.
I was once asked in an interview at a mining company by a panel of white men how long I thought Employment Equity should go on for.
That made me see that they did not understand the need for economic transformation and the effects of oppression. They were already becoming irritated that they the needed to comply with this act.
So, if our focus remains on removing President Zuma, we are missing the point.
This is an opportunity to really examine the structures and system at the heart of our economy and our politics, to address injustice and inequality. We may think we have seen the worst after the eighth motion of no confidence vote, but who knows there may just be two more plagues ahead.
While many South Africans no longer have confidence in President Zuma, it seems God is still confident in Zuma as the right leader to bring us as a nation to a place of humility, a place where every knee will bow and every tongue confess, He is Lord.