This is a story about two speeches. The first was made last Thursday by Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas. You will remember Jonas. He is the man who turned down two bribes, one for R600 000 in cash in a bag, and another for R600-million over time.
As described in the public protector’s State of Capture report, the bribe offers were allegedly made by a member of the notorious Gupta family.
The second speech was made on Friday by a long-standing ANC leader, and now president of our republic. Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma was speaking at an ANC “cadres forum” in Pietermaritzburg.
You will remember Zuma from his interactions with the Guptas, too.
In 2013, he told parliament that the family – who have allegedly boasted about how they made Zuma’s son, Duduzane, a billionaire – were his friends, adding: “Every human being has a right to have friends.
“We are not in the state that bans people because they have friends with others.”
The two speeches reflect the quality of leadership in our country today. Some leaders stand up against graft and rot. Some leaders don’t and indeed allow it to flourish.
Some leaders focus on the big and pressing questions facing our people and our nation; others reveal their selfish, greedy and myopic interests.
Speaking at labour federation Fedusa’s national congress in Boksburg, Jonas pinpointed one of the key challenges our society needs to confront today – the “1994 consensus” is being challenged from all sides and many now believe it has run its course.
“As government leaders, we are not acknowledging that. Unemployment remains high at 26%. There’s a problem we are not dealing with,” he said.
And so the real question. What is to be done when students are rioting, the poor are getting poorer and the unemployed are growing in ever larger numbers?
All leadership should be focused on this most urgent of problems.
Zuma did not feel this is what the ANC cadres needed to hear or reflect on when he visited Pietermaritzburg on Friday and Saturday.
Instead, he focused on himself, his troubles and his position.
First, he said those people who say he is a thief are the worst thieves themselves. He said he knew them and their thieving ways but chose to remain silent.
These are the words of a president – he knows people who are breaking the law and he keeps quiet.
He did not stop there. Zuma said when he retired he would write a memoir in which he would name his enemies.
“I know who are the witches at work. It is fine when the enemy is at a distance, but when it is your friend, it is not easy because they know your weaknesses.
“At least I know who [my enemies] are and what they are doing. I am not worried.
“If I was crazy, I would make the whole of South Africa crazy as well.
“As you can see, I am not bothered. People can say whatever they want. I know what it means, where it comes from, and where it is going,” he said.
The speech continued pretty much in that vein. When he turned to the economy, he chose to point fingers and blame others. He did not offer any solutions.
Zuma lamented that South Africa was not “completely free”.
He said the party should use political power to control the economy.
He seems to forget that the ANC has been in power for 22 years and that the economy was growing at a healthy pace until he came to power in 2009.
Meanwhile, Jonas’s speech called for “exceptional leadership” in government, labour and business. “We need to deal with the growing discontent with inequality and exclusion. We must confront youth unemployment and strengthen the safety net for the vulnerable in society,” he said.
That sort of call was not on Zuma’s agenda. He was too busy looking for enemies to blame.
He told delegates in Kwa Zulu Natal: “Foreign countries I won’t mention are using huge sums of money to buy people here, to work against the ANC.”
He did not name a single paid individual. That is Zuma for you.
He lied to the nation and to parliament that Nhlanhla Nene was being deployed to the Brics Bank.
He lied about not being given a chance to answer to the public protector when he deflected and obfuscated for four hours with her, dodging straight questions.
He is lying now about foreign governments paying his alleged “enemies”.
So here is a question for South Africans. Of the two types of leader above, who do you want?
The one who lies and obsesses about his survival or the one who turns down bribes and is passionate about solving South Africa’s real problems?