By Dr Wallace Mgoqi
This expression is used to say that a process or course of action has started and that it cannot be stopped or changed. For instance, once we sign a contract, the die is cast and there is no turning back.
So it was in our policy, that whilst we started our democratic project very well indeed in the 90s, with credible leaders such as late and former South African statesman Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, along the line, later, a new crop of leaders derailed the democratic process by opening the flood gates of state capture and corruption, thus betraying the trust of ordinary people , who had ensured that they win every election, since 1994.
At this point they decided that they as leaders came first before the people. Within their ranks – the mantra was: “It is Our Turn To Eat.“
From 2009 , in particular, there was wholesale restructuring of government departments, all for purposes of making room for looting of state resources, removing officials in the bureaucracy, who were considered rigid, however , competent they were, replacing them with deployees, who had neither the skill nor the right attitude to serve the people – they came in order to help themselves as much as they could.
In some cases, statutory institutions such as the Commission on Restitution of Land Rights, for example, were restructured by ministerial decree, without seeking parliamentary approval and amendments to the act, removing commissioners, who had been appointed through a parliamentary process, replacing them with pliable departmental officials, who knew nothing about the land restitution process.
And sadly, parliamentary oversight failed to pick this up and it went on unabated to this day, there was only one commissioner left, the chief land claims commissioner – no respect, whatsoever, for the rule of law. Any wonder then that the land restitution process was delayed and went off track?
When the decision was taken to put the leaders’ interests first , ahead of the well-being of the citizens, the die was cast, and there was no going back.
Everything that happened hereafter was about serving the interests of the leaders first, and the rest would take care of itself. Wind was sowed and now we are reaping the whirlwind.
There is a book that tells the story of Lot, a nephew to Abraham, who was not only self-centred, he was mean-minded, sordid-minded, self-seeking, with constant temptations, wherever he went. This nephew took it upon himself to choose first which piece of land was going to be his, and his uncle could take whatever was left, and he chose what in his eyes was the best piece of the land, not standing back, and gave preference to the person who had caused him to be there in the first place.
“What a man chooses, and how a man chooses, when opportunities and alternatives and choices are put before him – nothing more surely discovers/exposes a man than that.“ [Alexander Whyte – 1836- 1921]
In South Africa, having regard to what we have gone through , we cannot countenance leaders with Lot’s spirit that says :“I will choose first what is best and you last, whatever is left“.
Allegorically speaking, we could say Lot represents the mean-spirited leadership during the state capture and rampant corruption era, and Abraham represents the citizenry of South Africa, used as cannon-fodder during every election, and thrown away thereafter, until the next. This band of actors has over the years developed a thick skin to what the intelligentsia is saying, precisely because of their reliance on the unsuspecting and innocent masses of our people, who read no newspapers, nor watch TV screens where their scandals are exposed .
Now that the Zondo Commission Report in all its volumes is out and we know what went on behind closed doors in the corridors of power, we can also say the “die is cast“. We can no longer go back to trusting leaders, who have taken the liberty to betray our trust in them, we must show them the door, to go, holus bolus, with none left behind. As Minister Blade Nzimande was once said:
“ There is no honour among thieves “.
They behave in the same mean-spirited, hard-hearted, mean-minded , sordid-minded and self-seeking way, without an exception.
There is no leadership at all.
Look at a time when 21 children died in tragic circumstances, where intoxicating drinks were had, the leader of the country, instead of giving leadership, by saying as that the primary responsibility lies with parents of children to ensure that their children know which places they may or may not visit, and the time they must observe to be home, until the time has come when they reach the age of maturity, instead of allowing people to blame everybody they care to blame.
The leader of the country throws an empty bone, for the nation to debate the increase of the age when children may be allowed to drink, burdening, the already-burned police force to monitor what goes on in taverns. The basics are clear: that it is the responsibility of every parent to teach and train their children in basic commands, when they sit, when they stand, when they walk, they lie down and wherever they are, so that they may know what is right from wrong.
Fortunately, there are still parents, in the nation, who bring up their children the right way, as a result they progress well in life, and take their rightful places, in the professions, and other vocations of choice, we take our hats off to these parents! We are proud of them.
When we ignore, or neglect or undermine the primacy of the role both parents ought to fulfil in the discipline of a child, we will be promoting dereliction of duty. More importantly, not only that, but also destroying the future of the child. It was not always like this in the African community, hence the expression that “the child belongs to the village, it takes the village to raise a child”.
This ensured that the child was raised properly, knowing that every adult could discipline them when they saw them misbehaving, without a fear that they would be reported to the police and be arrested. The child is never an adult, it relies on the guidance of the adults.
The president, with respect, is disingenuous in inviting a national debate on the increase of the age limit for drinking alcoholic drinks, he simply lacks the boldness as a leader to tell parents the only truth that ‘it is the primary responsibility of parents to guide and discipline their child, because it has always been like that from time immemorial’. There is nothing to debate, but only a duty to comply with the existing standard and norm. The late Father Trevor Huddleston, in his book , Naught For Your Comfort, writing in the nineteen sixties wrote: “The tsotsi (social deviant) is the supreme symbol of a society which does not care”, reinforcing the notion that it was always the collective social responsibility to raise a child, in the self-enlightened interest of society.
Those who have complied with this duty, despite all the difficulties they had to face, will tell you how sweet it is to see their child scaling the heights of progress, with gratitude to their parents, precisely because of what they invested in the child. Matthew Mead [1629 – 1699 ] has this to say on the matter:
“Every duty done in uprightness and sincerity, reflects some comfort upon the soul. In keeping the commands, there is great reward not only for keeping them – but in keeping of them. As every flower, so every duty carries sweetness and refreshing with it.”
One of the richest traditions in African culture we can be proud of is that this duty of raising a child was not just left to the nucleus family, the entire village saw it as their collective responsibility. Why must we depart from some of these rich traditions, in favour of modernity in everything. Some things must remain, while others change, as they must.
Tomorrow, we are going to boast that as South Africa we are the first to change the age limit for allowing children to take alcoholic drinks, a hollow and pyrrhic victory, as in Pyrrhus, King of Epirus over the Romans in the Battle of Asculum 279 BC E, destroyed much of his forces, forcing the end of his campaign.
It is said that a pyrrhic victory is a victory that inflicts a devastating toll on the victor that it is tantamount to defeat. Such a victory negates any true sense of achievement or damages long-term progress – is that what we are aiming at as South Africa and as the Continent of Africa as regards the future of our children?
The die is cast – we can only move forward, there is no going back for us now!
Mgoqi is the chairperson of AYO Technologies Ltd. He writes in his personal capacity.