ISSUES AT STAKE: Shared values the key to successful moral appeals

A number of Ministers and Deputy Ministers have been reshuffled - PHOTO: Eye Witness News

FORMER President Kgalema Motlanthe resurrected Ahmed Kathrada’s appeal to Jacob Zuma to step down as President of the country when he read Kathrada’s letter at his funeral.

It was clear from the response of the overwhelming majority who attended Kathrada’s funeral, that his moral appeal to Zuma was widely shared.

These appeals are coming both from within, and from outside the ANC.

Up till now, it seems that these appeals have had no effect or impact. Instead it seems that the total lack of response by Zuma to these appeals only contributed to a greater sense of moral despair, and to the demoralisation of South Africans.

For any moral appeal to succeed there are a number of preconditions that must be met.

Firstly, the person making the appeal and the person to whom the appeal is directed, must share the same values.

Secondly, both parties must be willing to subject themselves to these shared values and norms.

Thirdly, the person to whom the appeal is directed should change his or her behaviour should the appeal be considered to be legitimate.

Should the person to whom a moral appeal is directed, not subscribe to the values underpinning the moral appeal, it simply doesn’t stick and is ignored.

This situation inevitably raises the question as to whether there is any compelling reason for Zuma to respond to these moral appeals.

Doesn’t he have the right to turn his back on these appeals because he simply doesn’t share the values on which these appeals are based?

This is exactly where the problem lies. The assumption made by people like Kathrada, Motlanthe and other ANC leaders, is that there is indeed a set of shared values in the ANC.

These values guided the ANC through the freedom struggle and into the new democratic dispensation and were personified by struggle heroes such as Oliver Tambo, Walter Sisulu, Nelson Mandela, Ahmed Kathrada, and many others.

It is to these shared values of the ANC tradition that people within the ANC appeal when they ask Zuma to step down. The people lodging these moral appeals are convinced that Zuma is not only contradicting these shared values, but is also actively undermining them.

However, it is not only members of the ANC who have a moral ground to stand on when appealing to Zuma.

Constitutional set of values

Our Constitution allows all South Africans to do so.

It is underpinned by a set of values that all South Africans should honour.

These values are identified as being, among others, respect for the dignity and equality of all persons, respect for the Constitution and the rule of law, non-racialism, accountability and openness.

The Constitution further dictates that the President must not only respect the Constitution and the values underpinning it, but that he should also always act in the best interest of the country.

Article 96 of the Constitution specifically places an obligation on the President not to abuse his position for private gain, and requires the President and members of the Executive to avoid conflicts of interest.

This implies that all South Africans stand on solid moral ground when they make moral appeals to the President and other political leaders to honour the common values on which our Constitution is based.

It is increasingly clear that Zuma has no intention of honouring the moral appeals directed to him by leading figures in the ANC. It is equally clear that appeals by concerned citizens from across a wide spectrum of our society will not stop him from harming the values underpinning the constitution, and the values underpinning his oath of office.

With the prospect of another motion of no-confidence in the President looming in Parliament, it is clear that such as motion has no chance of success, unless a substantial number of ANC Members of Parliament have the courage to stand up for the ethical values in our Constitution that they committed to defend when they took their oath of office.

Ronelle Ramsamy
Deputy Editor

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