Why should we be grateful when politicians do the right thing?

The new government under Jacob Zuma is barely two weeks old, and they’ve already got a taste of the riches that await them. Newly appointed Minister of  Transport, S’bu Ndebele received a R1-million Mercedes Benz S500, some cattle and a plasma television set, at a party last Sunday, as  gifts from a consortium of contractors, who could potentially be benefactors of multi-million rand government contracts.

And it took all of four days for Ndebele to decide to hand them back, even after the President of the country said it was acceptable to receive gifts, if they were declared properly. Declared? I’m seriously missing something here. Why bother after the whole country is already aware of the receipt of the gifts. Of more concern though, is the fact that the leader of the country, Jacob Zuma saw nothing wrong with the whole thing, and made no effort to set an example for clean governance.

Now, the South African taxpayers are expected to be grateful that he did the right thing. We are expected to thank him for being honest and ethical; and the disgusting thing is that some of us did. In real democracies around the world, the citizens wait for an opportunity to exercise their right, to throw a dishonest politician out on his thieving ass. In South Africa the citizens wait for an opportunity to thank a politician for doing his job, sincerely.

Since this disgraceful episode, I have this mental picture of hastily convened meetings where our public servants are feverishly discussing innovative new ways of receiving gifts under the table, and keeping it secret from us, the “disrespectful, inquisitive” public. Are we supposed to strap in for the next five years, and grudgingly count the gifts that are accepted and “declared,” while we publicly praise these miscreants for those that are refused?

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