Within the space of an hour of listening to the BBC World News of Friday, April 06, 2018, was heard the indictment of two powerful world leaders – Jacob Zuma of South Africa and Luis Inacio Lulu da Silva of Brazil – the former charged with corruption, racketeering, fraud and money laundering, the latter convicted of taking bribes.
Two days ago, former South Korean President, Park Geun –hye, (first female leader of her country) was convicted on corruption charges. The year 2017 closed with one of the longest serving, most powerful, most wealthy leaders being run out of office, President of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe (1980 – 2017).
What is clear is that, despite the noisiness of a world which would like to describe itself as “post truth” (Times Magazine on its cover of March 23, 2017, posed the question, “Is Truth Dead?”), Truth, true Truth, is alive and well. The world cannot kill Truth. Truth transcends Princes and Presidents, Prelates and Prime Ministers, old and young, rich and poor. Truth is inscribed into the very fiber of the created universe.
Indeed, Truth is a Person. And even for those who do not believe in truth personified, Truth finds, or will find, them out and judges, or will judge, them, sooner or later. We live in a moral universe and it is a bad thing to go against this reality, with impunity. The moral heart of planet earth defies human arrogance and prideful ignorance.
While all situations of moral and ethical impropriety and corruption are bad, the story of Jacob Zuma, the third President of post-apartheid South Africa – someone who fought long and bravely against this scourge – is particularly tragic. Jacob Zuma is described as “a canny politician with a populist touch”. He was seen not only as the only hope of South Africa, being “100 percent Zulu boy”, but also as “the only hope of the whole continent”.
Zuma is said to have become “more than a politician….it was as if he were a revivalist preacher or the leader of a cult”. One of his ardent supporters is quoted to have said, “This man is our messiah. He will save us”. (All quotes from Alec Russell’s After Mandela: the Battle for the Soul of South Africa, 2010). Therefore, the words of a British reporter, on Friday afternoon as he described Jacob Zuma “as a man who was considered untouchable….Not even his famous dance is likely to help him now”, was a grave signal to all of us finite and vulnerable human beings, who wield political power, that power is corruptible. That the Day of reckoning comes sooner or later; and that corrupt power will never win over Truth!
Yes, indeed, another warning shot reverberates and reaches our Caribbean shores. It explodes in the ears of our Political Leaders who may feel that they are above the law and will misuse and abuse political power to further personal agendas in the name of the people. We are reminded that power is intoxicating and the need to maintain power at all costs drives leaders to make choices that harm not only them but the people who believe in them.
The call goes out today to our leaders to use power creatively rather than destructively. Begin by learning the gracious art of genuine “power-sharing”, rather than the ugly race of power-hogging. Power sharing provides a safeguard, which all human beings need, for accountable, transparency and good governance. David Hinds, a Caribbean Political Scientist, urgently advocates that Caribbean leaders find a way of using and sharing power that will result in healthier democracies.
In closing, a plea goes out to political leaders of our Region – our very soul is at stake and a people endangered. Youth of the Caribbean, may you heed these words of someone who has walked the corridors of political power and knows its wiles and wickedness, but yet envisions a day when the choice will be made for God-driven, creative, people-centered power over corrupt, self-aggrandising power:
“The Caribbean urgently requires a new generation of power-sharers who come with a full understanding of the perils and pitfalls of power, who spend quality time dealing with his or her own addiction to power….Our region yearns for risk-taking power-sharers who are prepared to bring more and more of the regions’ people into a participatory, democratic process and who understand and accept the true Source of transcendent power” (Purcell 2011).
Truth is alive. All power will be judged whether good or bad. A Day of Reckoning is a coming!
(Joan Purcell is a former member of the 1983/84 Interim Government in Grenada and ex-Member of Parliament for the Town of St. George)