The human existence has always been enchanting, or intriguing if you wish to put it that way. Many a men have in the past elected to dedicate their entire lives studying mankind, to try and have a clear understanding of what influences their attitudes and behaviours under various conditions. Those men have written tomes and tomes of books to unravel the mystery that is man. Unfortunately like anything that comes into existence, there comes a time for it to pass; and so has the same fate befallen these men of glowing brilliance. They have come and gone in their numbers. But their passing has not meant humanity remained stagnant. Future generations have always stood to benefit. They inherited the findings and writings of these distinct men of enviable minds and followed in their brightly lit footsteps. Some have refuted the work they found while some built on the incomplete work they found; but certainly the chain of intellectual discovery has never been broken. As time went on man got more curious, eventually establishing the more formal institutes of learning were fellow men could attend to accumulate education and enhance their intellectual horizons.
Perhaps what has always troubled men of superior minds and more recently mere mortals-including yours truly-is man’s weakness to the trappings and trimmings of power. More qualified men have unfortunately made their mortal exit without ever finding a definite answer or maybe a cure for this epidemic-at least so it seems. Even men known for their remarkable strong character and high honour have found it hard to behave appropriately immediately after assuming power. Travel the world over and you shall meet no man different from the one you left behind.
In an introductory memoir to the Letters of Lord Acton to Mary Gladstone, Herbert Paul writes that ‘Lord Acton was in his lifetime dimly known to the general public as a prodigy of learning. The publication of his lectures at Cambridge was posthumous, and he was often quoted as an example of natural gifts buried under an accumulation of excessive knowledge. The image of a Dryasdust, of a bookworm, of a walking Dictionary, was excited by his name among those to whom he was a name and nothing more.’ He further writes thus of the British baron: ‘To be in his company was like being in the best of historical libraries with the best of historical catalogues. A question produced not only a direct and complete answer, but also useful advice about the books which the inquirer ought to consult.’ Therefore I am intellectually unburdened when I say that Lord Acton is one of the few brilliant men of history who came close to understanding mankind. His keen observation of his fellow man exonerates me: ‘Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.’ The past and the present continue to emphatically state that his observation was correct and nothing seems to suggest that the future will be any different.
Allow me to put this in a more familiar context perhaps I might begin to approach the walls of sense. Speaking to the media recently after the African National Congress (ANC) ran yet again with another victory-a fifth consecutive one since the dawn of a new, inclusive South Africa-the spokesperson of the people’s movement Jackson Mthembu was quoted in the media saying that they (the ANC) are not worried they might be losing support. This was prompted by the declining figures of the ANC at the polls. Their popularity has taken a knock and if the unbecoming behaviour of the ruling party is anything to go by, they will not rest until the party is completely destroyed. I weep for the ANC.
Presently the party-under the auspices of government-has resumed their infantile episode with the Public Protector Thuli Madonsela all in the name of protecting their dodgy, lousy and scandalous president Jacob Zuma; a man who is not a stranger to controversy or evading the rule of law. If memory has not betrayed you then you would remember that our incumbent Commander-In-Chief miraculously escaped prison in early 2009 only to be elevated to the highest office on the land weeks later. Who needs inspiration if you have the pride of Nkandla?
Now the security cluster ministers or more like Zuma’s lackeys are pulling all the stops to see to it that their principal is found not guilty against the report of the Public Protector, which carries weight in the eyes of the public. Despite the biting evidence that President Jacob Zuma is unfit for office the ANC still insists on turning a blind to his countless blunders and embarrassments, electing rather to keep him in power ‘by any means necessary’. This is what Acton saw when he made his claim. Once having tasted the morsels of power man can never again reconcile with the thought of relenting that power and if needs be then he would employ every method at his disposal to retain that power, be it morally ethical or otherwise. President Jacob Zuma is celebrated as a freedom fighter that helped bring down the last phase of colonialism, Apartheid; but I am afraid that history will remember him harshly as a man who plunged the state’s resources to avoid prison, amongst other things and so on.
I agree with Jackson Mthembu that the current crop of uninspiring leadership in the ruling party is not bothered that the popularity of the once revered and hailed African National Congress (ANC) of Mandela and Tambo has taken a nosedive. Power tends to disillusion men. After the announcement of the ANC’s victory by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), the people’s movement hosted a celebration rally in central Johannesburg to flex their muscle. It was evident that President Jacob Zuma does not take kindly to criticism and those who had taken him to task for his lacklustre, lousy leadership felt his wrath. He lambasted everyone from academics and analysts to print media and social media. Again power tends to disillusion men. Never once has South Africa’s president sat down and asked himself this question: Why do they say the things they say? This here South Africa is a classic case of man refusing to shoulder responsibility for his questionable actions.
After coming close to 70% in 2004 under what was the promising or perhaps glowing stewardship of Thabo Mbeki, the ANC had to scramble for 62% in 2014. Every day I wake more convinced that those men of rare intelligence are amused at our constant surprise at our fellow men’s actions. I might have missed it but they probably concluded a long while back that man is a mystery and where power is concerned, he descends further into the abyss of mystery but he will without a doubt remain an enchanting or intriguing intellectual exercise for generations to come. With all that said: I weep for the ANC. Kgotsong!