South Africa is at the cross-roads. Does the country have any moral leadership, especially at the top to arrest the situation, and is there any hope for the Church to steer the ship in the right direction?

These questions where posed by Prof Gordon Zide, Chairperson of the SMMS Governing Council, while addressing a Project Legacy Builders’ fundraising gala dinner at the Greyville Convention Centre in Durban, on 20 May.

“The reality of the situation is that the country is at the cross roads of ethical and moral leadership as things are indeed falling apart. People continue to dance on board a leaking titanic and are not aware of the tsunami which lies ahead,” he said.

Prof Zide gave as an example of this lack of ethical leadership President Jacob Zuma who, in 2015, apologised to the nation for failing to uphold, honour, respect and to protect the Constitution, thus violating the oath he had made at his inauguration.

He said, “This was a public admission of guilt by the highest office in the land that it had breached and violated the trust which the people of South Africa had bestowed on the said office. Typical of the South African population, the response to the admission of guilt received mixed reactions, with some people calling for the President to be impeached whilst others suggested that he had done an honourable thing by apologising to the nation. The fact of the matter is that the President has, since then, failed to show any remorse and continues to run the Country with a series of blunders.”

Contrary to President Zuma’s assertion that the Church should not be involved in politics but should just pray for politicians, Prof Zide said the Church has always provided the state with an ethical compass to measure its moral rectitude and direction.

“The African National Congress (ANC) was founded in a small Methodist Church in Bloemfontein (Waaihoek) in 1912. Amongst the founder members of the ANC were Methodist ministers. The late Rev ZK Mahabane was one of the first presidents of the ANC during its formative years. It is common knowledge that some ministers of religion played a prominent role in being the voice of the voiceless, and the conscience of the nation.

“Many men of the cloth were frequently arrested and tortured by the Security Police  for standing up straight in an upside down environment and therefore standing for truth and justice in the midst of adversity. Thus it cannot be correct to argue that ministers of religion have no role to play in politics. The converse to the assertion is actually true. The church had always provided the soul and the conscience of ethical morality for the country,” Prof Zide said.

Prof Zide enumerated a number of unethical behavioural patterns in South Africa which require ethical leadership. “It is unethical for nurses at the hospitals to leave patients unattended and go on strike; it is unethical for civil servants to use departmental procurement systems to enrich themselves at the expense of government; it is unethical for members of the South African Police Services (SAPS) and Traffic Officers to accept bribes from members of the public and likewise, it is unethical for members of the public to bribe members of the SAPS and Traffic Officers and thus trying to beat the system.

“It is unethical and immoral for members of the SAPS to shoot and kill defenceless and unarmed people when they express their anger and frustration to the Government’s lack of Service Delivery, through peaceful protest-actions and demonstrations; it was unethical as it was a security risk for the South African government to have allowed the plane of the Guptas to land at the military-base in Groenkloof – a key point area,” he said.

Because of these and other glaring unethical activities, Prof Zide said, the country is on the verge of collapsing as things fall apart.

He said, “Whilst blaming apartheid has become synonymous with the present-day political space, it cannot be that the present political leadership, whenever it runs short of ideas it finds comfort in blaming apartheid for its own inadequacies. The country cannot be bondaged to apartheid forever and thereby giving it a status it does not deserve by consistently referring to it even when we could do without it. By consistently blaming apartheid, we are indirectly glorifying it and its architects are probably jumping in their graves with joy.”