A former premier, Ndaweni Mahlangu, was once in hot water for publicly speaking the truth about lies versus politicians.
Instead of being commended for his boldness and honesty in saying that, indeed, politicians lie in order to stay in or acquire power, the poor politician was forced to retract his statement and apologise for it.
The difference between Mahlangu and SA’s former minister of finance, Nhlanhla Nene, was that the former highlighted that politicians and the truth do not belong to the same WhatsApp group, while the latter lied in public.
I initially reserved a tongue-lashing for Nene. But people I trust said there was, in fact, something good about Nene’s decision to step down. That’s how he accounted for his lies.
Both former government communications spokesperson Themba Maseko and Business Unity South Africa president Sipho Pityana are people you can rely on to say this because both are not afraid to speak the truth to power. Maseko and Pityana fearlessly stood up to Zuma and refused to be intimidated.
Maseko was sidelined and subsequently kicked out of his job by Zuma, while Zuma’s hounds chased after Pityana for campaigning for their hero to vacate the Union Buildings.
They separately praised Nene for setting a good example to all public representatives. Despite not having been found guilty of any wrongdoing, but realising he contradicted himself, Nene felt he must go.
You don’t have to be found guilty to resign. The mere public perception about your conduct should be sufficient for you to go – something that is lacking under SA’s black-led constitutional democracy.
It is a disgrace that the party of principled leaders such as Albert Luthuli, Oliver Tambo and Nelson Mandela would unashamedly show the middle finger to whoever is concerned about letting the suspects within it continue with business as usual, as happened for long with Zuma and others.
But Nene made it easy for President Cyril Ramaphosa and the ANC by voluntarily getting out of the way. The ANC needs to take his example as a case study if it is to regain the confidence of the people it claims to represent.
I don’t imply Nene was right in lying. In fact, the Nene episode became a lesson to all of us to simply never trust a politician with the truth. We wondered what he was up to when he earlier denied meeting the Guptas, when, in fact, he met them seven times, including at their Saxonwold compound.
A fine-looking gentleman, great suits and a great smile: a man who carried “dignity” – but his business-like posture misled us all.
We rejoiced when Ramaphosa reappointed Nene as minister of finance. Our anticorruption messiah whose “clean record” was not doubted by opinion-makers and markets, was back.
The Guptas are evil – a president and some of his Cabinet ministers had fallen because of them. However, we can still give Nene the benefit of the doubt with regards to the error of judgment on his part – especially since he has apologised for it.
Leaders who admit their mistakes and be prepared to be crucified for their sins are good leaders.
What is left now is for all the remaining Cabinet ministers and former public representatives to come clean about the roles they played to enable state capture with the Guptas.