I’m beginning to realise that politics can look very different, depending on the perspective from which you are looking at it. For us – the general public – it’s very easy to criticise, point fingers, make demands, etc. We are usually looking at the picture from a distance of many ‘degrees of separation’. But those who are closer to the political elite – those who have some sort of personal connection to them – might have to tread a lot more lightly.
For example, if the President was your uncle/aunt, in-law, or colleague’s relative, etc. who you might visit often at his home, an issue such as the renovation of Nkandla private residence would look different to you than it would to me: what might look like a scandal around abuse of public funds, and ignorance to inequality; might look like a family-member, friend, or acquaintance getting to upgrade their lifestyle.
The problem therein is not necessarily that there are people who are close to people in such circles, but that the rest of us are very far from those circles. Our leaders are very removed from us, and we from them.
As with any relationship; what widens or narrows that gap is (ultimately) choice. Yes, our politicians MUST make better choices, choices that come from a vested interest in the continued well-being of South Africa and all her people; but you and I MUST make better choices when dealing with the people we have influence over. Our leaders are not just politicians. They are mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, friends and colleagues; they are people.
uMuntu ngumuntu ngabantu – this maxim that we love saying means ‘a person is a person through other people’. Community does shape the identity of an individual – and if the individuals that come out of those communities are not good people; that means it is (partially) because of that community.
We need to start gearing our communities to raise better people, and ourselves to start being better community-members. Then, we will start to see some of the political problems we face in South Africa solve themselves.