The books of 1st and 2nd Chronicles in the Bible are named such because they chronicle the history of the kings of Israel. Each king’s reign was measured against the standard that was left by his predecessor. For instance King Solomon’s reign had to be contrasted against that of his much-loved and revered father, King David. Although it is not always possible to emulate a person’s personality and charisma it is however possible to follow his values.
2 Chronicles chapter 14 tells us of King Abijah who died and was succeeded by King Asa. Abijah was a God-fearing man and a warrior. Regarding King Asa his reign is summed up in this verse, “Asa did what was good and right in the eyes of the Lord his God” (2 Chronicles 14:2). In other words King Asa was not judged by factors outside of his control but by his own moral aptitude.
As South Africa celebrates 20 years of democracy we are forced to reflect on its short democratic history. The period of 1994-1999 was when we were governed by the late president Nelson Mandela and most of us felt as if we were dreaming during this time. We were the darling of the world, a paragon of virtue and offered hope to the hopeless. Mandela made us famous and taught us to love each other.
1999-2009 we saw the entrance of a philosopher in former President Thabo Mbeki. Mr Mbeki was a realist and under his tenure the dream was tempered with the realization that we have to work hard in order to achieve greatness. He once delivered a State of the Nation address under the theme ‘Business Unusual’ to drive home the point that we still have a lot of work to do. His ‘I am an African’ speech showed us that being an African was not a curse.
He pioneered African Renaissance and made Africans believe that they can be equal with other citizens of the world. Mbeki sought to correct misconceptions about Africa and perhaps was overzealous in this regard. His distrust for the West is perhaps the reason why he dragged his feet in approving the use of life-prolonging ARV’s and many HIV positive people needlessly died as a result. He was a hands-on leader who often got accused of being a control freak.
President Thabo Mbeki never finished his term because he was recalled (to use the euphemistic term) under dubious circumstances. To this day we are yet to be made privy to the spy tapes that were instrumental in his dismissal from office. After Mbeki’s was ‘frog marched’ from office we saw a brief stint of Kgalema Motlanthe who was a caretaker president until the rightful heir took his place.
Now we are under the presidency of Jacob Zuma and he continues the narrative that is the history of a democratic South Africa. For me the dream has now turned into a nightmare. The leader of the UDM, Bantu Holomisa recently made the point that Jacob Zuma is embroiled in almost every scandal that has engulfed South Africa. Even ANC veterans like Trevor Manuel and Pallo Jordan are beginning to raise a caution about the country’s current course under Zuma.
When in 20 years time we read the history of South Africa we will read about Mandela and his connection to reconciliation, Mbeki and his belief in the potential of Africa, and Zuma and the many scandals that dogged him. Our history will not be read without mentioning the Arms Deal issue, Guptas, Marikana, Nkandla, and much aberration that characterises the presidency of Jacob Zuma. We look at this time in history to remind ourselves of when we lost our bearings.
We will have to remind ourselves that never again shall we allow ourselves to sink this low. Personally I am dejected and consider that God is our only hope now. This is despite the fact that even He is being denigrated in the desperation to garner votes. Under Zuma we have seen the spectre of blasphemy raised up and also superstition and many things that are uncharacteristic of a head of state.
Look Mandela and Mbeki had their own flaws just like the different kings who led the nation of Israel but today we are seeing the refusal to take personal responsibility for mishaps. President Zuma’s ready answer for anything is ‘I don’t know or it is not my fault.’ 2 Chronicles 13:22 says, “Now the rest of the acts of Abijah, his ways, and his sayings are written in the annals of the prophet Iddo.” So are President Jacob Zuma’s.