OPINION: Dlamini-Zuma deserves credit so let’s not play politics in times of national crises

We stand by our capable cadres especially when they are deployed to government. We will not allow sexism, racism and classism to degrade our talented, educated and capable ministers, especially when they are women, writes Buyile Matiwane and Nathan Oliphant.

Written over two thousand three hundred years ago, the third book of the Torah and Old Testament, the Book of Leviticus, introduces us to the concept and practice of a scapegoat.

Two goats were to be taken, the book explains, one to bear all the iniquities of the people of ancient Israel and their transgressions and to be set free into the wilderness.

The other to be sacrificed. The living one was the scapegoat. 

In more recent times, modern medicine has suggested that scapegoating may also take place when people project or displace in order to impose feelings of anger, frustration, impatience, fear and anxiety onto an individual or a group. 

South Africa has had its fair share of scapegoats where individuals had to bear the brunt of an angry and disappointed nation for a failing system or institution. 

When matching-fixing in cricket was exposed, suddenly everyone turned on Hansie Cronje and while many others too were involved, especially the bookies, we will forever associate match-fixing with only that one name.

Therefore when we think of challenges such as the Holocaust, apartheid, match-fixing, capitalism, corruption and of late, state capture, we can match a name to each of these.

Yet the reality is that a number of people were or are involved in these challenges. 

One could argue that after twenty-one days of level five lockdown and with our lives being altered maybe forever that people in South Africa are looking for a scapegoat. 

People are angry, anxious, fearful of the future and attracting the virus and so all these negative emotions were placed on one person.

Unfortunately, this person came in the form of Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma who was merely communicating a decision that she did not take alone.

It was a collective decision and President Cyril Ramaphosa has subsequently come out to defend her, as such. 

Suddenly people recalled her fight with players in the tobacco industry when she was minister of health. As if the announcement was part of this old fight. 

Even worst still, others, like our friends at eNCA, went on to suggest that it was the bitter lingering rivalry of the Nasrec ANC conference that had her undermining the president.

Both, the rivalry and the undermining, being far from the truth. 

Yet we understand why Dr Dlamini-Zuma was used as the scapegoat. It is certainly not about cigarettes. It is about the fact that here is a black woman successfully leading during a time of crisis. 

However, what all of this once again displays is the complete lack of understanding at how the ANC and the ANC-led government works.

Continuously, since 1994, people have tried to isolate leaders from the ANC.

They tried to divorce Nelson Mandela from the ANC and continue to speak of “the ANC under Mandela” as if it is different to today’s ANC. 

When Thabo Mbeki implemented ANC policy, again they tried to isolate him from the rest of the collective leadership especially when it came to policies such as GEAR, Zimbabwe and antiretrovirals. 

While the ANC may look back at this policies with regret and take collective responsibility for them, in its collective wisdom the ANC had judged those decisions to be the correct ones at the time and instructed its deployed cadres, including the president of the republic at the time, to implement them. 

The same could be argued with former president Jacob Zuma. Many attempt today to divorce the legacy of good that the Zuma administration implemented from the ANC.

For example, it was the ANC who called for the rolling out of antiretrovirals and a re-look at the country’s macroeconomic economic policy. 

Even with President Ramaphosa, at times, there seems to be a deliberate effort to divide the president from the rest of the collective leadership whether it is in Cabinet, the NEC of the ANC or the ANC as a whole. 

Indeed, the ANC must take collective responsibility when things go wrong. Like a family, when a child goes wayward, the family of the ANC must take corrective measures but ensure that together it is able to lead society. 

But the ANC also takes collective responsibility for the good. 

Among many others in government, the ANC had faith in Dr Dlamini-Zuma not only to send her into government in 1994 already as our first minister of health but successive democratic governments have identified her as one of the most talented and capable cadres within our movement. 

Whether as minister of health, foreign affairs, home affairs, women and youth and now cooperative governance and traditional affairs, Dr Dlamini-Zuma has exemplified what it means to be a product of the ANC.

It was for this reason that South Africa successfully nominated her to be the chairperson of the African Union commission. 

We stand by our capable cadres especially when they are deployed to government. We will not allow sexism, racism and classism to degrade our talented, educated and capable ministers, especially when they are women. 

The struggle for freedom was one where our people will lead and it is to women like Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma that our daughters look up to and say: “I want to be like her one day!”

– Buyile Matiwane is the Deputy President of the South African Students Congress & Nathan Oliphant is a Provincial Executive Member of the ANC Youth League in the North West Province

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