Listening to South African President Cyril Ramaphosa this week, I realised once again the biggest problem in the world, and indeed our nation. And it just so happens to coincide with this weekend.
The two big things he addressed were individual responsibility (amidst the Covid-19 pandemic) and gender-based violence (probably the most powerful message on the issue ever uttered by any political leader in this country).
It’s an understatement to say Ramaphosa and his government have been under the microscope since the Corona Virus arrived on our shores and since lockdown was enforced. However, it’s worth noting that overall, even critical thinkers have resigned themselves to the fact that government has done the best it could under the circumstances. There have been hiccups along the way (I mean, no one in recent history has done this before!) and in true South African style, we don’t do that “Keep Calm” thing. Every conversation, news article, social media post or analysis is just so flippin raw and unfiltered in this nation that it’s no wonder we’ve become as resilient as we are.
But let’s get back to the president’s leadership. To me, it seems to have taken an enormous amount of presence of mind to be able to guide South Africa thus far through this recent period. Other world leaders have buckled and fumbled their way to answers and action, but his leadership was decisive. Now I’m by far some sort of political or governmental expert, but to me, Ramaphosa stands head and shoulders above everyone else. Not only for South Africa, but also as chairperson of the African Union. He’s looked after the continent.
I like Cyril. He has an inclusive sense of humanity when he speaks, and he can call things out that need to be. The abuse of women and children was the big issue this week.
As he spoke, I was once again confronted with one of the big problems that has existed for so long. Yes, it’s the violence. Yes, it’s the alcohol. But to me, ever more so – it’s also the fatherlessness of the nation. For the first time in a long time, it felt like there was a dad talking. Yes, Ramaphosa is a leader, but it was the feeling of fathering and a nation being fathered that stood out for me as he spoke this week. It’s that feeling of security brought about by someone who is strong and competent.
There’s been a lot of noise around many issues recently.
Lots of kids having tantrums.
Ramaphosa, like a good father, speaks to it: “These concerns are understandable and reasonable…”
And re-directs it: “Yet, even though the risk of infection is greater, it is by no means inevitable….”
And like a good father, he speaks to those in the wrong:
“It is with the heaviest of hearts that I stand before the women and girls of South Africa this evening to talk about another pandemic that is raging in our country – the killing of women and children by the men of our country.
These rapists and killers walk among us. They are in our communities. They are our fathers, our brothers, our sons and our friends; violent men with utterly no regard for the sanctity of human life…
… By looking away, by discouraging victims from laying charges, by shaming women for their lifestyle choices or their style of dress, we become complicit in these crimes. I once again call on every single South African listening this evening to consider the consequence of their silence.”
Every now and again, I find myself saying thank you for the inspired leaders I know. They’re in my community and they have influence into some of the areas of my life. Pastors, educators, social service people… there are some absolute gems who I know in my little corner of the world. They are (from a biased and an unbiased point of view) world class.
Right now, I’m grateful once again for Cyril. I wouldn’t like to hold together all the tension of truths that he has to, and yet he does it with poise and competency. It is refreshing to see in today’s wayward world.